One year later

I woke up on Tuesday, 17 Nov 2009 completely unaware of what was about to unfold. I tried to log in to RealClimate, but for some reason my login did not work. Neither did the admin login. I logged in to the back-end via ssh, only to be inexplicably logged out again. I did it again. No dice. I then called the hosting company and told them to take us offline until I could see what was going on. When I did get control back from the hacker (and hacker it was), there was a large uploaded file on our server, and a draft post ready to go announcing the theft of the CRU emails. And so it began.

From that Friday, and for about 3 weeks afterward, we were drafted into the biggest context setting exercise we’d ever been involved in. What was the story with Soon and Baliunas? What is the difference between tree ring density and tree ring width? What papers were being discussed in email X? What was Trenberth talking about? Or Wigley? Or Briffa or Jones? Who were any of this people anyway? The very specificity of the emails meant that it was hard for the broader scientific community to add informed comment, and so the burden on the people directly involved was high.

The posts we put up initially are still valid today – and the 1000’s of comment stand as testimony to the contemporary fervour of the conversation:

I think we did pretty well considering – no other site, nor set of scientists (not even at UEA) provided so much of the background to counter the inevitable misinterpretations that starting immediately spreading. While some commentators were predicting resignations, retractions and criminal charges, we noted that there had not been any scientific misconduct, and predicted that this is what the inquiries would find and that the science would not be affected. (Note, the most thorough inquiry, and one that will have to withstand judicial review, is the one by EPA which, strangely enough, has barely been discussed in the blogosphere).

Overall, reactions have seemed to follow predictable lines. The Yale Forum has some interesting discussions from scientists, and there are a couple of good overviews available. Inevitably perhaps, the emails have been used to support and reinforce all sorts of existing narratives – right across the spectrum (from ‘GW hoaxers’ to Mike Hulme to UCS to open source advocates).

Things have clearly calmed down over the last year (despite a bit of a media meltdown in February), but as we predicted, no inquiries found anyone guilty of misconduct, no science was changed and no papers retracted. In the meantime we’ve had one of the hottest years on record, scientists continue to do science, and politicians…. well, they continue to do what politicians do.

  1. Kate:

    Thanks for the link, Gavin!

    I appreciated your context in the early days of “climategate”. I am still fairly new to the world of climate science, and last year I was still in high school. The combination of spending most of my time studying or applying to universities, as well as my lack of scientific experience, made understanding papers and knowing what to look for challenging at best. When the media started yelling about fraud (as John Cook says, the approximately 132nd “final nail in the coffin of AGW”), it was incredibly helpful to have explanations and links to further context over here.

    It’s easier now, and RC has been a real help to me as I learn more about the topics I hope to research one day too. The posts here are written in accessible language, without oversimplifying the science, and are some of the most thorough, well-cited, and objective articles in the blogosphere (as much as I’m sure the so-called “skeptics” like to claim otherwise). Please keep it up!

    Regards
    Kate
    http://climatesight.org

  2. sharper00:

    The problem (for people who think climate science is all fraud etc) is that “Climategate” is a fixed and unique event in time. It’s certainly had a negative impact on the public perception of climate science over the last year but the further the event moves in the past the less effective it becomes.

    I think the ultimate legacy of “Climategate” is to leave the AGW skeptic community with a terminal case of email addiction. Having almost completely with the science most of the prominent skeptics seem to be completely focussed on getting more emails to quote mine/feed their addiction. Private emails written by people in unguarded moments are priceless when it comes to presenting individuals as mean or intolerant and who cares about science produced by mean/intolerant people?

    Meanwhile reality continues to produce data in an unmistakeable pattern. As mentioned in the post 2010 is one of the hottest years on record and Arctic/Greenland ice continues to melt.

  3. Snapple:

    I never paid attention to global warming until Climategate. This scandal made me take a closer look, and I believe the scientists, not the denialists.

    I can’t understand all of the science, but I can see that the denialists mischaracterize what scientists say.

    Calling the scientists greedy liars reminded me a lot of the KGB’s AIDS propaganda campaign.

    I wrote about Climategate on Nov. 28, 2009. I am sure there is plenty of naivte in this article, but I did write:

    “I am going to reserve judgement until all of the data from the CRU becomes available to scientists because this scandal seems like a clasic case of kompromat.”

    I also wrote about these “patriotic” Tomsk hackers who attack sites the Kremlin doesn’t like.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2009/11/russias-hacker-patriots-embarrass.html

    About a week later, the British media speculated about Tomsk hackers and possible Russian involvement.

    I still think that there is Russian involvement here because Gazprom’s foreign business partners become their lobbyists.

    “Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.”—“Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters” (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

    This seems like the Oil-for-Food corruption.

    I hope the scientists won’t let the campaign of persecution intimidate them. We need these scientists to speak up. I think Russian scientists also study global warming and would like to speak up for their own people, but they live in Russia.

    I notice that, with the exception of a few very elderly scientists, Russian scientists don’t join in the propaganda against our scientists. The Russian propaganda has to quote non-scientists like Andrei Illarionov, a Putin adviser who worked for Chernomyrdin.

    Cuccinelli even quotes these Gazprom/Kremlin propaganists in his suit to the EPA.

    I now have a lot of suspicions when I see that Attorney General Cuccinelli, whose dad is a gas lobbyist with “European” clients, is attacking the scientists and even quoting propaganda from a Gazprom-owned newspaper in his EPA lawsuit.

    I write to Cuccinelli’s deputy with my questions, but he never answers. I have been writing for months. They do’t even say one word, and I voted for him.

    I think we need to know who is giving our politicians money to run for office and to fool us into voting for them so they can help these corporations that persecute our scientists by telling lies about them.

    I believe the scientists, and I want someone to investigate the Cuccinelli family’s secrets. The Attorney General is supposed to be working for the public, not the interests of fossil fuel companies and maybe even foreign, government-controlled companies who funnel money for their propaganda through their American business partners.

    Virginians fought a revolution because they didn’t want to be ruled by a foreign tyrant. Cuccinelli says President Obama is like King George, but I think that Cuccinelli is like King George.

    I voted for Cuccinelli because I didn’t understand what he represented, but don’t believe a lot of these denialist Republicans any more.

    I hope our government is trying to find out if political donations from foreign entities are being disguised as payment for “professional services” to cooperating American businesses.

    Probably this is illegal. I hope our government agencies don’t let us down.

  4. Larry Saltzman:

    I feel strongly that scientists no longer can just do what scientsts do, which is science. Scientists now have to become media savy and shrewd in ways that were never necessary in the past. It is naive to think the e-mail “problem” is over. The Congressional witch hunts start in January and scientists are the target. The know nothings in Congress will not care if you win the rational debate, they only care if they can make climate change science look bad to the public.

  5. Roger Albin:

    Like the other posts on this site, RealClimate’s responses to Climategate were articulate, measured, and firmly based on scientific reality. An impressive contrast to MSM. Thanks.

  6. Edward Greisch:

    It would be lovely to have the emails on the server of the real criminals, the ones who cracked into the CRU server. While waiting for someone to crack that one or the Koch Oil Co server, there is still: “Video proof David Koch, the polluting billionaire, pulls the strings of the Tea Party extremists”
    http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/14/video-proof-david-koch-the-polluting-billionaire-pulls-the-strings-of-the-tea-party-extremists/
    or
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JjQxPJOAfg&feature=player_embedded#!
    The Koch brothers own Koch Oil Company.

    When are they going to catch the crackers?

  7. Adam R.:

    I think the ultimate legacy of “Climategate” is to leave the AGW skeptic community with a terminal case of email addiction.

    Working as I do in the skeptic-infested world of engineering, I can attest to this. The email kerfuffle has supplanted the “They were predicting cooling in the ’70s!” myth in messages from colleagues moved by the urge to jab my well known climate sensibilities. As far as they are concerned, “Climategate” nailed AGW’s coffin shut, and not a hundred official inquiries could open the box and make the dead walk. The victory of the dis-informers could hardly have been more complete if genuine malfeasance had been uncovered.

  8. Thomas:

    I think the lasting legacy of Climategate will be to make scientists more wary of what they write in private, and this is not a good thing.

  9. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    And yet another link in the chain:

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/climategate

    Economics: Balancing Economies
    October Leading Edge: The Cuccinelli ‘Witch Hunt”

    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

  10. Eli Rabett:

    Eli’s take on the hacking has been that the primary legacy will be to drive home the Niemoeller lesson to scientists, many of whom have thought that they could sit out the attacks on Mann, Santer, Jones and others. The lesson that still has to be learned is that someone who attacks you in the Wall Street Journal is not your friend at AGU.

  11. Jim Redden:

    As you have, and others continue to point out, the mischaracterizations, and out of context pluckings of quoted bits from the purloined emails, were mostly used to support dubious narratives that wrongly promotes doubt.

    The pre-Copenhagen timing of the event, and the instant lies that emerged as talking points by those who had an agenda to derail climate science remains particularly both disappointing and disheartening to the state of some human beings moral compass.

    The whole scheme manifold reeked of a sophisticated orchestrated preplanned disingenuous affair—conducted by those smart enough to both know better and the truth.

  12. Dave Berrt:

    There is one element of the e-mail kerfuffle that I haven’t seen addressed, and that is the cultural clash between the use of e-mail in academia (until, perhaps, the last few years) on the one hand, and the use of e-mail in business on the other.

    When e-mail was invented, it was used for private conversations within the academic community. I recall being introduced to e-mail as a CS undergraduate in 1981; this was well before commercial services were available (in the UK, at least). E-mail messages were transient, informal and unofficial. Later on, disk space became cheaper and messages were stored for longer, but the culture was by then well established.

    Sometime later, e-mail became widely used in the commercial world. Here, messages were just electronic versions of memos and letters. They were more likely to be regarding as a formal part of communications. If a company was involved in lawsuits (as companies in the USA routinely are), or was investigated for wrongdoing, e-mails were treated in the same way as other written documents.

    This difference of cultures persisted for a long time. It certainly persisted well into the 1990’s, when some of the “climategate” messages chosen by sceptics were sent. These days, the “business” e-mail culture has become dominant.

    My guess is that many of the people reading the leaked e-mails would not be aware that they were written in a different work culture from the one they themselves have experienced. Does this seem true to others, or I am misjudging the situation?

  13. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #10 Eli,

    Thank you.

    What an amazing illustration. I had heard it before, but never knew the back story. That was illuminating and powerful, and a lesson we should all be considerate of.

  14. Rod B:

    Kate (1), just for the record, I am a skeptic and have pretty much the same opinion of RC that you do.

    I do admire your gumption. Keep up your endeavors and thirst for knowledge.

  15. Harold Pierce Jr:

    Adam R says: “Working as I do in the skeptic-infested world of engineering,…”

    Engineers who design HVAC systems for buildings, large complexes of these such as shopping malls, factories, warehouses, etc study long-term local weather data so they can select the proper equipment for maintaining a comfortable interior enviroment for the inhabitants and workers. Thus, they might find the local weather data is at odds with the claims of the climate scientists suchas those relating hot years and warming trends.

    Some engineers spend most of their time in the field and have not experienced any noticable change in climate, that is to say the pattern of weather is about the same over the long term, for example, engineers who work on oil exploration and production platforms out in the ocean. Incidently, oil companies keep detailed records of weather and climate data which are used for their maritime and world-wide operations. Perhaps this is the resaon they are skeptical about the claims of the climate scientists.

    You might check out “Global Warming: a closer look at the numbers” by chief engineer Monte Heib at:

    http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/greenhouse_data.html

    This article has been cited on many blogs, but I find there are suspicious numbers in Table 1 for the emission of GHG’s from natural sources. He didn’t exactly say where he obtained these numbers but only gives reference to the CDIAC and to the IEA’s “Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change” whose reports cost $400 each for non-members. He also didn’t state what model of the climate he used for these calculations or the specific humidity.

    Monte Heib is a mapping engineer whose is employed by the WV Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training.

    [Response: You are right to be suspicious. The numbers are very wrong. And despite them being shown to be wrong over and over again, they are still quoted by the credulous. Credit to you for not to falling for it. – gavin]

  16. Sufferin' Succotash:

    My regards to Snapple(3.) for acknowledging that voting for Cucinelli was a mistake. Not many people at any place on the political spectrum seem willing to admit to errors nowadays. Let that be a lesson to all of us!

  17. Woobaka:

    I ditto Snapple’s (#3) first remarks. I was never seriously interested in climate science (don’t get me wrong, I believed there was a threat and done what I could to cut my personal emissions, and as a fresh into the field ecologist, it was a field I was likely to deal with given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of natural sciences).

    “Climategate” intitially rang alarm bells for me, and as a result I investigated what was going on. It didn’t take long before I was completely unconvinced by the “skeptics”. I suspect Snapple and myself are not alone, and that “climategate” actually contributed a great deal to getting people involved in countering “skeptic” nonsense on all sorts of fora.

  18. Adam R.:

    Harold Pierce Jr@15 Adam R says: “Working as I do in the skeptic-infested world of engineering,…”

    Engineers who design HVAC systems for buildings, large complexes of these such as shopping malls, factories, warehouses, etc study long-term local weather data so they can select the proper equipment for maintaining a comfortable interior enviroment for the inhabitants and workers. Thus, they might find the local weather data is at odds with the claims of the climate scientists suchas those relating hot years and warming trends.

    That’s my field, as it happens, wherein I inhabit the arcane corner known as direct digital control systems.

    MEs, who have to account for degree days in their designs, should all know better, especially given the fact the professional organization, ASHRAE, acknowledges the fact of anthropogenic climate change and promotes green building standards to abate emissions. Nevertheless, many MEs I’ve met are staunch deniers, and explain ASHRAE’s position as “just politics”. How the hell that explains it in present day America, I have no idea.

  19. Donald Oats:

    Thanks for the year of commentary on the CRU affair; it is so hard to get beyond sound-bites and the denierati in Australian media, so sites like RealClimate are invaluable for “hearing” it from the scientists at the coalface.

    Last year in Australia we had politicians touring around with professional deniers (I am not happy to call them sceptics as they are not) sowing confusion in the hope of reaping votes for “their side”. The good news is that some climate scientists have come back from the field and headed into the bush to explain their work and the uncovered data in plain english – hopefully this will go some way to countering the buffoonery of the politicians who previously toured the bush towns.

    Keep up the good work on this site, it is appreciated.

  20. Oxford Kevin:

    Thank you Gavin for providing the context. A lot of the information you provided I know that myself and others used on news websites like the Guardian in the UK to push back against the skeptics.

    The format of this blog though didn’t always make things easy because I would often remember having read something in the comments which I needed for a response and it wasn’t always easy to find it using searches amongst the thousands of comments. After a while I did start capturing some of the stuff in a private wiki but I missed a lot of stuff in the early stages that I never had time to go back and collate. A pity because there is a huge amount of useful stuff in the comments of the blog entries on swifthack.

  21. Isotopious:

    The impression I got from the CRU emails was that the scientists were ‘defending AGW at all costs’. And it gave me the feeling that in a hypothetical scenario, even if the scientists had data that falsified AGW, they would unlikely share that info.

    I know that’s unlikely to be true, but I think that’s what many people may have sensed, a bit like the feeling of “being cheating on”.

    So although no wrong doing was found, no one believes you now? Can’t blame them?

    [Response: You greatly overestimate how many people care about this, or even remember it. For people already predisposed to not want to believe the science, it strengthened their conviction (confirmation bias in action), but for most everyone else, they shrugged it off. If people want to jump to conclusions without assessing the weight of the evidence, they certainly can be blamed when they come to erroneous conclusions. I’m happy to point people to the evidence and the studies, but while you can lead a contrarian to science, you cannot make them think. They have to do that for themselves. – gavin]

  22. Lou Grinzo:

    First and foremost: Let me give all of the climate scientists of the world a standing ovation, especially those who are making an effort to communicate with the public. There is no more honorable profession than teacher, and right now we lay people desperately need the most effective educators we can find regarding this topic.

    Second, I hope everyone here thinks about this theft of e-mail and how it’s been twisted by the deniers in their public statements. This has never been a battle of competing scientific theories; it has always been a public relations conflict between scientists seeking to improve our understanding of a very complex and critically important subject and a group of people who want to resist accepting and acting on that knowledge because of ideological and/or financial reasons. In other words, don’t be lulled into thinking that the deniers can be overcome purely by the depth and quality of scientific findings. If that were true, the deniers would have drifted off into history by the early 1990’s.

    Finally, let me urge everyone, yet again, to read (or re-read) Merchants of Doubt. It reads like a horror story in places, but sadly it’s true.

  23. lucia:

    Gavin–
    My visitors always ask and I can’t answer: Was the break-in to the WordPress Admin area only? Or did they hack onto the hosted account on the server?

    [Response: They used something to directly access the backend mySQL database (to export the password/user details to file prior to erasing them in the database) and to monitor logins to the ssh account. Neither of these things are standard WordPress functions. I conclude therefore they must have hacked both, though the actual entry point is obscure. – gavin]

  24. DavidCOG:

    Fascinating read, Gavin. Thanks.

    > I think we did pretty well considering…

    You did an effing brilliant job. Kudos to you all.

    So pleased that Prof Jones came back and is working again.

  25. Isotopious:

    I too shrugged it off, because I knew it was rubbish. However, in conversation with others, many with a scientific background did not like what was inside those emails, and felt it was terrible. However, that was not always the case, many experienced folk did not like the witch hunt that followed, and thought that was terrible also.

    You are however ‘defending AGW at all costs’, no? That’s what it looked like to me, a group of very passionate scientists…

    What happened to being dispassionate, Gavin?

    [Response: Where did I ever claim to be dispassionate? Strikes me as a very odd thing to want. Nothing worthwhile ever gets done without passion – whether that is developing a climate model, building a house, writing a novel, or running a blog. And no, we are not defending ‘AGW at all costs’, but rather defending scientists from being personally abused as part of someone else’s war on the potential policy implications of that science. None of us signed up for that when we did our PhDs. – gavin]

  26. Sou:

    At times I expect it must be hard to keep up the motivation for this site. Spending a day at the beach, or otherwise relaxing must be a great temptation.

    So I have to add my heartfelt thanks for providing invaluable information in a digestible manner. The articles and the comments have greatly helped my learning, and prompted me to contribute to discussions on the matter in other fora. The inside knowledge you shared in the light of the scandal of the stolen emails was a primary source for refuting the nonsense written on blogs and in the mainstream media.

    Realclimate.org is not just a site to learn about climate change and global warming. It’s a must read for anyone who loves learning about science. Particularly for those of us who don’t have the time or depth of knowledge to get all our science information from journals.

    Thank you so much for keeping the site going for so long, and hopefully for a long time to come. Many of us visit here regularly and we always learn something new and important.

  27. Isotopious:

    Sorry Gavin, but this time you are wrong. Whether you are passionate about your climate model or experiment is irrelevant to its outcome.

    [Response: Sure. when did I claim the opposite? – gavin]

  28. John Coffee:

    Gavin, I believe you meant to say “not defending ‘AGW at all costs'”, rather than what you wrote in #25. Better correct it quickly or some skeptic will get a hold of it and post it on the web for all to see.

    BTW, great site with informative articles!

    [Response: ;-) thanks. – gavin]

  29. Rattus Norvegicus:

    As someone who accepts the consensus (after more than a little research and actually reading key papers) the initial reports in the denialosphere worried me. Because of this decided to take a look at all of the emails. So last year over the Thanksgiving weekend (a four day weekend and the end of November here in the US) I read or skimmed every email in the whole damn dump attempting to characterize them. I would say that >~90% of them were reasonable scientific discussion of how to present results for the IPCC, discussions about ongoing research, etc. A few dozen were discussions about the FOI requests from McIntyre and his minions or just expressing general frustration with the denialists. Another few discussed ongoing article reviews or opinions about articles which had recently been published but which the researchers felt were substandard and should not have been published. This last class has been characterized as “undue interference with the peer review process”, but what they really were are just expressions of frustration with certain editors at some journals.

    The only one I found disturbing was Jones’ request to delete emails relating to the IPCC AR4 chapter on paleoclimate. However, the vast number of emails in the dump which would have been responsive to David Holland’s request seems to argue for the fact that none of the emails were deleted, except from the recipient’s inboxes. The ICO office’s finding that Holland should have be supplied with these emails (and which the CRU still held, until the backup server was seized by the police) shows that these emails were not destroyed. The manner in which individuals manage their inboxes and how they manage their emails is generally not under the control of the institution, but the backup policy is.

    Email Culture.

    I’ve been using email since the early 1980’s… In those days the internet was known as “ARPANET” and email was what was known as “source routed”. An ugly scheme utilizing what was known as bang routing or source routing. This meant that addresses would look something like: someserver!anotherserver!yetanotherserver!targetserver!user. Email in those days was unreliable (much worse than the USPS) and it might take days (I’m not kidding) for a message to be delivered, usually via UUCP. The introduction of UUNET in the late 1980’s revolutionized and made it usable for the majority of users who were not on the ARPANET or who lacked a connection to internet through anything other than a 19.2Kb modem (and this was fast, back in the day).

    Still it seems to me that email has always been a rather informal means of communication in the academic and engineering world and remains so today. If you could have seen some of the flames I sent off about the design of the cache when I was a company working on it’s first Intel based machine you would have seen how easy it was to mine quotes. Sometimes there was context provided, but most of the time shared knowledge was assumed. Lots of emails started with “You are wrong about…”. Sound familiar? And if you could have seen some of the emails sent amongst the software engineers complaining about the stupid designs of the ASIC people… (BTW it all got sorted out and and the resulting design was quite good, but a lot of heated argument led up to the final decisions on how things would be done).

    At least in the engineering and academic communities email remains an informal means of communication and I think that shows up clearly in the dump. I have never worked on the business side of a large organization, so I cannot comment of the standards of communication used there. I will say one company I worked for had a strict document retention policy (designed to thwart patent infringement discovery motions) which automagically deleted any emails over 60 days old. Perfectly legal as long as it was uniformly enforced. NOTE: I do not know how US discovery laws relate to UK FOI/EIR laws…

  30. lucia:

    Neither of these things are standard WordPress functions.
    No. They are not at all standard wordpress functions.

    That’s what I wanted to know. There was a known vulnerability to wordpress near the time of climategate, but this sounds like it’s not related to that.

    Thanks.

  31. Isotopious:

    [Response: Sure. when did I claim the opposite? – gavin]

    The answer to this must be another question:

    Have you ever challenged the AGW theory?

    [Response: Now that is an interesting question. It depends very much on what you think ‘AGW theory’ is of course. For the extremists who think that it means that CO2 is the only thing causing climate to change, then of course – I have worked on trying to understand paleo-climate changes, ocean variability, solar influences, volcanic effects etc. which they would presume are a challenge to their caricature. If you mean the mainstream IPCC view (i.e. most of the warming in recent decades is due to ghgs – and I note this is not a theory, but rather a result), I have certainly been part of the groups who have been trying to see how robust that claim is to improved understanding of aerosol physics and chemistry, improved resolution of solar effects etc. So I think the answer must be yes. If you have a different conception of what ‘AGW theory’ is, let me know. -gavin]

  32. Balazs:

    Dear Gavin,

    Climategate is obviously disturbing in many ways. I used to consider e-mails just as personal as making phone calls. Therefore, any of their use (let it be antitrust trials against corporations or ridiculing scientists) is like wiretapping without search warrants. Nevertheless, climategate will have long lasting effects. It was obvious from start that there will be no serious criminal charges (which would have been clearly bogus) or any misconduct identified by the inquiries (which would have been questionable given the illegality of the hacking of e-mails). This does not mean that AGW will ever fly as high as before.

    Proponents of catastrophic climate change (including yourself and your boss James Hansen) made a number of critical mistakes in the last twenty years. You overblow the risks and underestimated the costs of combating climate change. I would like to hope that you and many other scientists, who are proposing immediate actions are better scientist than economists, and your science is more robust than your understanding of the economy.

    The assertion that climate change can be stopped by increased energy efficiency and moving toward renewables missed out the fact that the primary driver of growing fossil fuel in the next several decades will be driven by the need to provide electricity to 1.5 billion people, who currently live without it. While 2 billion people in the develop world might be able to restructure their life around wind mills, solar panels and biofuels, such a solution would leave out 4-5 billion people from modern life. If you have heating or air conditioning in your office or at home and you take any form of transportation (including subway) to get to your office, you are already addicted to energy beyond your allowance based on your own science.

    While climategate might have marked the tipping point bringing down AGW, the forces behind it have nothing to do with big business or tobacco type confusion of the public understanding, but the recognition in the developing world that the current negotiations about limiting carbon emission is denying them from modern life. Somebody on this blog speculated that the hacking was carried out by some Russians with links to Gasprom. This might be true, but I won’t be surprised, if in the not too distant futures, we would start to see papers published by scientist from China or India disputing catastrophic climate change. They will be students educated in the US using American tax payers’ money. They will take climate models from NASA-GISS, NCAR or MIT and tweak them until they will get the results they want to show. They will publish in Chinese and Hindi, but they will sit on future IPCC panels as their countries’ delegate and insist on including those papers regardless, if you or anybody in the Western world are able to understand the details of their claims.

    I hope, my comments won’t discourage you and you will keep up with the work at Real Climate (which is definitely falling behind in traffic compared to a number of skeptic blog that I keep an eye on along with RC).

  33. Bob Sell:

    Gavin, Ditto #26. I could not have expressed my appreciation for the work you do as well as “Sou” has done. Thanks.

  34. Paul Tremblay:

    @balazs 132

    You write “Proponents of catastrophic climate change … made a number of critical mistakes in the last twenty years. You overblow the risks and underestimated the costs of combating climate change.”

    Do you care to actually cite specifics where Gavin has overblown the claims, or do you think merely stating so counts as proof? It strikes me that, unable to refute the solid science behind AGW, you revert to wild, vague claims that amount to little more than a rant.

    You claim that “increased energy efficiency and moving toward renewables [would] leave out 4-5 billion people from modern life.” What is your evidence of this?

    You also write that the downfall of AGW will be when students from China and India will “will take climate models from NASA-GISS, NCAR or MIT and tweak them until they will get the results they want to show.” It’s hard to make sense of this comment. You think that foreign students will use bad science (“tweak [the models]..until they get the results they want to show”) in order to refute good science? Do you think that these students will actually stop the earth from warming by such manipulation? Nor can I understand why you think people of the Western world won’t be able to understand the claims of these students. Obviously, if the papers are important enough, they will get translated. I can’t believe that scientific knowledge would be hindered because of a language barrier in this day in age.

    You hope that Gavin won’t get discourage by your comments and keep working on RC, which you add triumphantly, gets much less hits than the denial sites. Gavin as worked tirelessly on this site for a number of years, so I doubt one ill-informed post will make him lose heart. As far as this site getting less traffic, that doesn’t make it less valuable. Keep in mind that the denialist sites didn’t get the climate gate story right; Real Climate did.

  35. Isotopious:

    31

    As long as you are attacking the theory to the same degree you are defending it, you are doing a good job. I sincerely hope this to be the case. Some, however, may find that position hard to swallow after reading some of the CRU email correspondence, which was the point behind my original post. Cheers.

  36. Donald Oats:

    The whole notion of climate changing for any reason is something that most people don’t really think about, until it is mentioned in a newspaper or somewhere else. Then the thought is: “Well, climate is always changing, and that includes the time before humans; ergo, humans aren’t the cause.” This is pretty much the starting point for creating sceptics among the bushies in Oz, as far as I am able to ascertain. The only way to counter that – in a deeper way than a short rebuttal – is for field scientists in a span of disciplines to tour the outback/rural towns, and to give a straight up-and-down account of their research, and its relevance regarding AGW.

    While it is great to see that some field scientists – fieldwork garners respect among the rural folk as it demonstrates commitment to truth in a way straight computer modelling cannot – are in fact touring now, I think that their respective institutions need to step up to the plate and provide a dedicated sabbatical for doing precisely this sort of outreach work. Something like six months free of office and teaching responsibilities would do it. While on tour it should still be possible to write up publications and the like. How about it, universities?

  37. Typical Joseph:

    In the words of Van Storch:

    “I have been often in the crosss-fire of alarmists and skeptics, two politicized gangs of climate activists – who often have something useful to say, but who are conditioned by their respective loyalties to their “agendas”, while not being too much interested in providing the cold and impassionate science needed to come up with reasonable and acceptable climate policies.”

    Or, to be more philosophic, Reinhold Niebuhr:

    “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.”

    Kind Regards

  38. Bart Verheggen:

    Hulme’s piece in the Guardian is thoughtful, though he does give climategate perhaps too much credit in having had a positive influence in the end. I wrote a reply to his editorial here:
    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/mike-hulme-on-the-impacts-of-climategate/

    As to your in-line reply in 21, Gavin, I think you may be underestimating the effects on the public. Besides the obvious confirmation bias at work in people already negatviely predisposed towards climate science, I think there were many people who didn’t have a strong opinion either way who didn’t like what they read in the media and in the emails. This was of course partly due to the spin put on it by the media and the blogosphere, but from the shift in public opinion for example or comments/questions from newbies to the climate debate I think it is clear that this episode had quite some effect on how people perceive the science, and not only on contrarians.

  39. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Balazs 32: Proponents of catastrophic climate change (including yourself and your boss James Hansen) made a number of critical mistakes in the last twenty years. You overblow the risks and underestimated the costs of combating climate change.

    BPL: What part of “drought will increase until harvests fail all over the world and human civilization falls” did you not understand?

  40. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Iso 35: As long as you are attacking the theory to the same degree you are defending it, you are doing a good job

    BPL: Should astronomers spend as much time attacking heliocentrism as defending it? Do you think all issues are unsolved and 50-50 forever?

  41. The Ville:

    Isotopious:
    “However, in conversation with others, many with a scientific background did not like what was inside those emails, and felt it was terrible.”

    There is a difference between being offended and something actually going on. If only well mannered people were employed, a large chunk of the population would be unemployed.

    I personally have sent emails to people I know that are critical of others, emails are used like that. The fact that someone else would interpret it as being ‘terrible’ doesn’t really have a lot of credibility when those that think it is ‘terrible’ do the same themselves.

    Emails are used as a form of communication that is somewhere between vocal and written communication, where vocal communication is commonly informal and written communication is considered formal. If some amateur media types (bloggers etc.) think that email is the same as writing a research paper, then they do not understand the media they use, at least they don’t in an intellectual way.

    There is a lot of history that dictates how we perceive different types of communication in the ‘West’ (using cold war terminology). You have to go back to Greek culture and the way the Catholic church developed to understand it.

  42. Snapple:

    One person wrote that I have noted the possibility of Russian involvement.

    In his suit to the EPA, Attorney General Cuccinelli cites a somewhat edited RIA Novosti translation of an article in Kommersant (Business). Kommersant is owned by a very powerful Gazprom-connected mogul named Alisher Usmanov. He is one of the richest people in the world, and in my opinion this is because he used his KGB connections to steal so much when communism fell.

    I won’t say too much because he sues everyone. But here is his photo and some information.

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/11/russian-mogul-alisher-usmanov.html

    Cucinelli is using a Russian-based Uzbeki gangster’s newspaper as “proof” that our greatest scientists are manipulating their research.

    Cucinelli’s dad is a career gas lobbyist. He has “European” clients. I keep e-mailing Cuccinelli’s deputy my questions, but he doesn’t respond. I think it is very possible that Cuccinelli is servicing his dad’s clients.

    Russian experts know this sort of thing is going on. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty writes:

    “Moscow is skillfully advancing its interests in the West, not through intelligence but business, often supported by crafty industrial espionage, influence-buying, and under-the-table deal-making…

    In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.”—“Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters” (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

    Cuccinelli has called on us Republicans to be revolutionaries because Obama is supposedly like King George. Well, I think Cuccinelli is like King George, and it has made me revolt–against him.

    I see this shameless subversive brandishing Alisher Usmanov’s Kommersant/Gazprom/Kremlin propaganda as “proof” that our scientists are greedy liars right in an American court.

    You scientists could point what I am saying out in your newspaper op-eds. I have all the links on my site.

    Kommersant is owned by Usmanov, a powerful Gazprom operative; Kommersant attacked the scientists; Cuccinelli is quoting the RIA Novosti version of the Kommersant article as “proof” of scientists lying.

    Those are documented facts. I think a lot of ordinary people in the Tea Party would be very surprised to learn that Cuccinelli is citing a Russian mogul’s newspaper. Usmanov went to the school in Moscow for the spies and diplomats. He was on the Soviet “Peace Committee.” That was KGB.
    Many details of Usmanov’s biography point to his connections with the security structures. Much of what the KGB and its post-Soviet structures do is get other people to spread their propaganda, and money talks.

    Tell who Cuccinelli’s source is—Andrei Illarionov in Usmanov’s Kommersant.

    Illarionov was a Putin adviser. He worked for Chernomyrdin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and then the head of Gazprom.

    This is a case of all roads leading to Gazprom…

    There is also a short booklet by Roman Kupchinsky called “Gazprom’s European Web.”

    Read it:

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/11/roman-kupchinsky-gazproms-european-web.html

  43. The Ville:

    Isotopious:
    “As long as you are attacking the theory to the same degree you are defending it, you are doing a good job.”

    That makes no sense at all and is the mistake that the popular media makes.
    It implies the same should be done for all science and that people can pick and choose the theory they think is correct.
    That isn’t how our universe works!

    Ultimately there is only one ‘answer’ (albeit probably an extremely complicated one with plenty of complexity and flexibility) and others have to lose out.

    There isn’t a vote for how our environment or universe works.

  44. Anand:

    “What was the story with Soon and Baliunas?”

    The story with Soon and Baliunas makes the Team look horrible. One can rewrite history, but not what is written in the emails.

    Why are there no detailed accounts of the most contentious issues in the emails – from the people who wrote the emails – instead of generalized platitudes like “it was written in haste”, “bravado”, “poor taste” etc?

    Doing so might bring over more than just the converted to your side, and even open some doors for reconciliation.

    [Response: You are not going to get much ‘reconciliation’ while you continue to make up stories. S+B was a first and foremost a breakdown in the peer-review process at a journal where a contrarian editor published a paper that used a ridiculous methodology and came to unjustifiable conclusions which were politically ‘helpful’. The other editors at the journal were so embarrassed at this and at the failure of the publisher to deal with the situation, that six of the them resigned. This was (and remains) unprecedented. A claim that this reflects badly on people who were not involved in any of these missteps is disingenuous in the extreme. How could such a situation not reflect badly on the standards of that journal? – gavin]

  45. Deech56:

    Balasz @32 wrote, “Proponents of catastrophic climate change …” First of all, what Paul Trembley wrote @34. Second, the term “catastrophic” in the context of a scientific blog is ill-defined. Does it mean a lower climate sensitivity? Minor effects from a 3 or more degree temperature increase?

  46. Anonymous Coward:

    Lucia,
    Gavin didn’t say the attackers didn’t get in through WordPress, only that other things were affected as well. Being able to run PHP code on a server is a pretty good start if you want to take control of the system. SSH is very resilient to outside attacks in comparison as long as you use strong passwords (or keyfiles).

  47. Richard Zurawski:

    The comment that “scientists do”, is one that is crucial. Yes scientists must do what they do, but in light of the vast, gaping hole that the media is when it comes to science, scientists must do much more now. The media, newspapers, TV, radio and internet, have off loaded the responsibility of providing science of all sorts to their readers, listeners and viewers. Science has a low priority in the media and in most cases moves too slowly to be of any interest in the spectacle laced media need for “stories”. Its only spectacle and hyperbole that matter in the modern media. The competition for ratings means we can expect even more is the coming months and years. Scientists must now take on the added burden of becoming skilled and learned in how the mass media works and the ramifications of leaving the interpretation of their work to the under science-educated reporters and broadcasters. Hopefully something good will come of this “climategate” nonsense, especially if it motivates scientists to understand that they must consider the media, always.

    Great article Gavin.

  48. Sy:

    ‘I hope, my comments won’t discourage you and you will keep up with the work at Real Climate (which is definitely falling behind in traffic compared to a number of skeptic blog that I keep an eye on along with RC).’

    And how many of these skeptic sites (or climate blogs like Climate Progress) are written by people who work full time in addition to their blogging? Of course it’s easier for guys who are retired (McIntyre/Watts) or who are paid to blog (Romm, Morano) to generate a vast volume of material compared to a group who are blogging in their free time, on top of having jobs to do.

    And in the blogosphere while more material doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic, when you have a blog like RC which goes weeks at a time without a new post it will probably generate less traffic than one as prodigiously updated as WUWT or CP.

    Given that the RC group do some really important work in their day jobs though, that’s just the way it’s going to be.

  49. Snapple:

    The poster Donald Oats writes about the denialists in Australia.

    The Russian-based Uzbek mogul Alisher Usmanov has invested in mining in Australia. This has been widely reported in the media and noted in his Wikipedia.

  50. David Kidd:

    A year on from “Climategate”I would like to thank this site and those that contribute articles and information to it for their steadfast commitment to delivering detailed and accurate information and not falling into the temptation to match the strident tone of the denialist echochamber. Please pass my thanks to all involved especially those publicly named in the Media. I dont want to clutter up their innboxes but they do need to know that a lot of people are grateful to them and to the authors contributing to this site.It has been useful to me at various times during the past 12 months when to the average person it seemed, from the lack of alternative views, that the allegations were most probably the truth. Thank you everybody for being a “Thin red line” of truth and reason.
    Yours sincerely,
    David Kidd

  51. SteveP:

    @ Balazs 32
    Yes those poor people in the undeveloped world without electricity, without central heating, without air conditioning. Without poorly filtered re-circulated air, without stirred up mold spores, without over dry air in winter. Without wallet parasites in the form of oil companies and utility companies. Without overflowing coal ash sludge piles and oil spills. Without death defying commutes to work periodically interrupted by having to crawl past wreckage and ambulances. Without children stuck in virtual computer fantasy games murdering enemies all day long.
    And how do many of us spend our vacations, our free time? Getting as naked as we dare and going to the beach? Or driving to a forest and forsaking as many modern amenities as we are able to in an activity called “camping”?
    I would say that the idealization of a powered “modern” society is highly over rated. Third world people who might long for its benefits are probably not told of its many disadvantages.
    You have of course heard the story of the indigenous man wistfully telling how, before the “white man” and his “civilization” came, their lives consisted of hunting and fishing all day and making love to their woman into the night. Leave it to whitey to screw up an idyllic world such as that with his clothes, industrialization,electic lights and drive for money.
    Food for thought.

  52. CM:

    Gavin said:
    > I think we did pretty well considering

    Ah, British understatement. You rocked.

    “Climategate” set a new standard of depravity in public debate on the science of climate change. Somehow you made it a teaching moment for setting a new standard of integrity instead.

  53. Jim Ramsey:

    Gavin,

    Did the police actually try to figure out whole stole the E-mails? Even better, did they follow the money and figure out who payed them to do it?

  54. BillD:

    About the passionate versus dispassionate scientists–I want to say that I am excited about my experiments but go into a very dispationate even somewhat paranoid mode when analyzing my own data. I am very critical. Often I am amused when people citing one of my papers push interpretations further than I would go myself.

    So, I expect that Gavin would agree that scientists need to be very critical and dispassionte when analyzing their data. When writing the scientific paper, we want to show, in an objective way, the strengths and limitations of our study. However, scientists need to be passionate about their field of study and work in general. In my view, climate scientists have presented a moderate, well reasoned view of the risks of our current path. As an ecologist, who does research on populations, my intiutive expectation is that world human populations will be reduced to <10% of current values over the next 200-300 years and the results will not be pretty for human suffering and democratic ideals. It's especially upsetting that it will take 1000's of year for CO2 levels to fall to early industrial levels. Our political system typically deals with a 1-2 year outlook, which makes it very difficult to act on longer term threats. I have two grandchildren and I would like to feel that they and their children will not judge us too harshly.

  55. adelady:

    Iso-35. What on earth has science got to do with “attacking” and “defending” a theory?

    Science is not, and never will be, the same as a coach urging on the members of a debating team to ‘attack’ or ‘defend’ arguments regardless of their intrinsic worth.

    Scientists may not bother with nice manners or diplomatic language when criticising poor science, but that is not the same thing as arguing a point for the sake of arguing. It is possible, even desirable, to debate around a scientific topic. But you should never mislead yourself or others into thinking that the debate _is_ the science. It’s not.

  56. HotRod:

    BPL: What part of “drought will increase until harvests fail all over the world and human civilization falls” did you not understand?

    Er …. none of it.

    SteveP #51 – that’s just weird and patronising. Watch what the Indians, Chinese, sub-Saharan Africans are actually doing, not what you would like them to be doing in some Robert Louis Stevenson. Be real.

    On Climategate my opinion, fwiw, is that it ‘legitimised’ people who had no especial reason to mistrust the science, like me, had a tendency to mistrust some claims seized on, quite understandably, by Greenpeace and other advocacy groups, questioned the certainty in impacts, and were mistrustful of the Kyoto/Copenhagen mitigation policy response actually working or having any material impact.

    So a strange effect, given that Climategate had nothing to do with any of that, and, I fully agree, left the (WG1) science quite unchanged and intact. But it has meant somehow that it is now legitimate to critique the policy response, without critiquing WG1 – a healthy separation imho.

  57. The Wonderer:

    Thank you Gavin. I am curious whether you think there is any hope that the perpetrators will be caught, and if the resources in trying to catch them have been adequate.

    [Response: I have no idea. My guess is that no-one is likely to be caught unless the perpetrators show their hand again – perhaps because they are frustrated that nothing much has changed. It must be an interesting dilemma for them. – gavin]

  58. Hank Roberts:

    I’m curious whether y’all have heard of other copies of material from the stolen files being hacked into or left with other computer sites. I realize often sites don’t want to admit they got hacked and just erase whatever got left, while trying to figure out how it got in there.

    I’m also curious if anyone followed up the earliest claim apparently from the thieves that what they distributed was a “random sample” out of some larger volume of material — both whether more was stolen, and whether what got distributed did appear to be random or selected.

    Third question, is any pattern apparent in the continuing attempts made to disrupt and distract conversations about this subject?

    I realize much can’t be talked while there’s an ongoing investigation. But I’d wonder if a pattern of site visits using anonymous routers or sock puppets might show where interest in the subject is continuing to come from.

  59. simon abingdon:

    #44 Anand

    The story with Soon and Baliunas makes the Team look horrible. Never mind Soon and Baliunas. What about [edit]

    [Response: If you want to raise a specific issue, do so. Links to “but what about climategate? GW is a hoax!” type sites are not interesting (or welcome). – gavin]

  60. Ray Ladbury:

    Isotopious,
    You clearly do not understand how science works. One challenges a theory every time one does an analysis or experiment that attempts to verify a prediction of that theory. Gavin does so whenever he incorporates new physics or data into his climate model.

    It is, rather, the denialists who do not challenge theory, as they produce no new science, data or ideas.

    It is certainly not unreasonable to defend a scientific theory against an unscientific or even anti-sciengific challenge, is it?

    Or do you contend that there are data that contradict the theory? If so, what?

  61. rb:

    that Gavin seriously believes that the effect of Climategate was “confirmation bias in action” for those who don’t agree with the “consensus” says more about Gavin than anyone else.

    The “investigations” were transparently not rigorous or even relevant to the issues. It is a shame that Gavin can’t admit this when on any cursory examination that conclusion is obvious. You lose serious amounts of credibility in pretending otherwise.

    What I also find noteworthy is that there is almost no dissenting opinion in the comments here. Why is that?

  62. Brian Dodge:

    “Never mind Soon and Baliunas”

    Pay no attention to the Koch brothers behind the curtain.

    Riiight.

  63. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    that Gavin seriously believes that the effect of Climategate was “confirmation bias in action” for those who don’t agree with the “consensus” says more about Gavin than anyone else.

    The “investigations” were transparently not rigorous or even relevant to the issues. It is a shame that Gavin can’t admit this when on any cursory examination that conclusion is obvious. You lose serious amounts of credibility in pretending otherwise.

    Can anybody parse these sentences for me? I can’t seem to find any content.

  64. pete best:

    Some people seem to take issue with climate science being mainly done by proxies and hence this leads to much uncertainty and little certainty as detailed in the IPCC reports. No one alive today will be alive in 2100 (pretty much anyway) so its a really big ask to ask for action when its freezin cold outside and the heating from gas and oil keeps it all at bay.

    Climategate was another good attempt to derail the science along with many other attempts to do so. However if science worked by committee as politics do and minds/opinions could be changed then fine but science is and never will be like that. Still its all delaying tactics and they are working so long as the media classes keep on printing it all.

    Its hard to think that anyone would commit us to a warmer world but printing news stories but politics and journalism are like that. Its all up for grabs.

  65. pete best:

    Re #61 becuase we have all read around and followed the science for years and cant see any serious malpractice going on. Several committee reports have been produced clearing any wrong doing and no peer reviewed papers have been with drawn. So what would we be dissenting ?

  66. Mike Roddy:

    Snapple, thanks for the Russian links, they will help in my upcoming Climate Villains piece that includes Cuccinelli.

    Russian oil criminals and the Koch brothers appear to be the ones behind the CRU hack and the attempted breakin at the University of Victoria. These were professional operations, well funded and leaving few traces except a very important one- the emails were loaded onto a Russian server. Koch (with long historical ties to Russian oil companies) and Gazprom had the means, the motive, and the opportunity.

    This won’t be proved, because oil companies have too much power in both governments to allow for the release of relevant evidence. An independent investigator would be murdered. We should be aware that we are talking about some of the most evil and malignant men on earth, whose distortion and persecution of scientists counts as one of their more casual crimes.

    These people can only be defeated by fighting them, through humiliation and well publicized outrage. Scientists are disinclined to do this, but the stakes are too high this time. We need you to be heroes as well as brilliant men and women.

  67. Scott A Mandia:

    Climategate was a tactical error by those that wish to deny the science or to delay action. Their illegal action woke up a sleeping bear. Scientists are now engaging with the media and the general public more than ever to set the record straight and they will not stand by watching one of their own being attacked. They have the truth, they have the passion, and now they have the numbers.

  68. Brian Dodge:

    rb thinks “..that conclusion is obvious.” but wonders why “…there is almost no dissenting opinion in the comments here.”

    Maybe when your observations don’t fit your theory, you should reconsider your theory, however difficult.

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith.

  69. Sphaerica (Bob):

    68 (Brian Dodge),

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith

    Excellent quote. I need to save it.

  70. Daniel J. Andrews:

    @61 rb:
    What I find noteworthy is that on evolution sites there is almost no dissenting opinion that the earth is over four billion years old. Why is that?

    Do you have anything other than hand waving, and accusations of cover-up among (or stupidity, incompetence) among the several investigations and numerous investigators? Maybe if you didn’t do a “cursory examination” fed to you by ideologues, you might have something of interest that hasn’t been debunked several hundred times by independent bodies.

  71. Ray Ladbury:

    rb says, “What I also find noteworthy is that there is almost no dissenting opinion in the comments here. Why is that?”

    Because most of us are reasonable and understand science…unlike you?

  72. JCH:

    Climategate’s swagger is quickly fading to its only lasting significance, which will be its place in alphabetical order.

    Look for it between Billygate and debategate. You remember those gates, right?

    Meanwhile:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/?report=global#year-to-date

  73. Peter Backes:

    It’s been deeply frustrating to me and probably many others that RC and the climate research community have had to defend the (legal) actions they have taken during the course of their work while the criminal perpetrators of ‘Climategate’ have gotten off scott-free and have not had to justify their actions in any way.

    Gavin deserves a Nobel Prize in the new category of ‘BS Debunking’.

  74. Barton Paul Levenson:

    TJ 37: “I have been often in the crosss-fire of alarmists and skeptics, two politicized gangs of climate activists – who often have something useful to say, but who are conditioned by their respective loyalties to their “agendas”, while not being too much interested in providing the cold and impassionate science needed to come up with reasonable and acceptable climate policies.”

    Or, to be more philosophic, Reinhold Niebuhr:

    “Frantic orthodoxy is never rooted in faith but in doubt. It is when we are unsure that we are doubly sure.”

    BPL: So I guess it ticks me off when idiot ideologues try to revive geocentrism because I’m not really sure the Earth orbits the sun.

    Epic fail, bub. Try again.

  75. Barton Paul Levenson:

    I’m having trouble finding a publisher for “The Case for Global Warming.” Could someone who has published a nonfiction book on climate change please contact me? My email address is levenson1960@gmail.com

  76. Andy S:

    Plenty, maybe too much, has been written about the content of the stolen emails and the way that certain comments appear damning only if taken out of context and seen through distorting filters. Less attention has been paid to the dogs that didn’t bark in the night-time. The more extreme contrarians must have been disheartened by what was not in the hacked private messages, as RealClimate noted a year ago:

    More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socia-list/communist/vegetarian overlords.

    The conspiracy theorists came away empty-handed and this was surely the best shot they will ever get at proving their case.

    Also missing was any evidence that working climate scientists were in any way concerned in private about the content of the more scientific contrarian criticisms. To be sure, Jones expressed his frustration with the time-wasting harassment of some of the FOI requests; but it must have been a disappointment, for example, for McIntyre to discover that the “team’s” publicly-expressed lack of concern about the significance of his criticisms was not a bluff but a true belief.

  77. Didactylos:

    How about we look on the bright side?

    “Life is quite absurd / and death’s the final word”

    Climategate does have one very significant upside that hasn’t been discussed. The media are fickle. They can’t just stand idly by and applaud truth. They need struggle and tension; they build up, they knock down – they want to be involved, to be in the driving seat of history.

    Journalists were getting tired of playing the science side. They had tried all the positions they could think of: serious debate, horrible warnings, alarmism, mitigation, geoengineering, adaptation. There are only so many climate specials you can do before it gets dull.

    So climategate gave them a refreshing change. They got to say immoderate things, and smash down their idols, and fill column inches.

    And what happens next? The idols get dusted off, put back together, regilded and restored. Now that “attacking the climate scientist” has been done, it’s old news. Nobody except Fox and friends will be interested in a repeat performance.

  78. Typical Joseph:

    “BPL: So I guess it ticks me off when idiot ideologues try to revive geocentrism because I’m not really sure the Earth orbits the sun.”

    Yes, it’s exactly that simple.

    Now, can we please get back to speculating about shadowy Russian oil oligarchs, this is a science blog after all.

  79. One Anonymous Bloke:

    Your mail thief made me sit up and take notice, and when I did, I tried to understand the science (thanks Gavin et al, I’m glad someone understands it better than I), but more importantly it helped me understand the politics. There is a certain irony in the fact that the Tea Party seems to be funded by Russians. If only Stalin had thought of that!

  80. John:

    #21 – I appreciate the point you make in your comment Gavin. However, it reminds me of this quote: ‘Most people can’t think, most of the rest won’t think and only a tiny minority of people do think and think accurately’. These are probably those convinced of AGW.

  81. Isotopious:

    The goal of science is to get an answer. The issue is that it remains (for the large part) unresolved.

    That “most of the warming in the last several decades is very likely due to humans”, is still an interesting question in my view.

    However, BPL @39 thinks to challenge the result is the same as asking whether the earth is flat, Donald Oats @36 is happy for the issue to never be resolved, and it is completely lost on Ray Ladbury @60 that if climate models did a good job of internal climate variability, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  82. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    I guess scientists will continue to do what scientists do.

    From this post and comments, it would appear that nobody noticed the election results of Nov 2.

    Adelady 55 pointed out that there is science and there is talk about science. However, there is also talk about what to do about science, and this latter business has been started by scientists but not handled well, in my view. As a result, the election tells us that nothing real is going to happen – – again, in my view.

    The surprising thing that I have learned here is that espoused dedication to solving global warming evaporates when confronted with doing action that would upset established ecosystems; even though climate change threatens far more disruption of these established ecosystems.

    Thus Galbraith’s message comes full circle. When confronted with a need to change (the ecosystem one knows), effort goes to proving it is not necessary – – or to change much of anything, for that matter.

  83. calyptorhynchus:

    One year of almost complete media failure…

    Wait a minute, one year of almost complete media failure following the previous 25 years of almost complete media failure to communicate climate change.

  84. adelady:

    Andy@76 Disappointment? Maybe you’re right. I’d not thought this through before.

    We all know it’s more annoying to be ignored than it is to be disputed or criticised. How _humiliating_ to find that people weren’t even discussing your work, let alone worrying that it might overturn or undermine their own conclusions. That could stir up some vitriol.

  85. Didactylos:

    “That “most of the warming in the last several decades is very likely due to humans”, is still an interesting question in my view.”

    Nope.

    It’s a really stupid question.

    For two reasons: 1) it’s already answered, and 2) even if you try looking for a different answer, you won’t learn anything useful.

    How about a far more useful question: “How much of the warming in the last several decades is due to humans?”

    We have answers to this question, too – but there is still enough uncertainty for interesting contributions to be made here. But I’m guessing you won’t be one of those making useful contributions, Isotopious. Not if you insist on tilting at windmills.

  86. CM:

    Mike Roddy (#65),

    Please be careful about accusing named persons of criminal acts without evidence.

    Snapple (passim),

    I have appreciated the background information you’ve posted on connections between Russian fossil fuel interests and various attacks on the science.
    *But* I wish you’d rein in the speculations, and the repeated postings of the same suspicions/insinuations in comment threads on this site whether or not it’s on topic. This site is, after all, about the science and the evidence.

  87. Foobear:

    If by “no misconduct was found” you mean that the boards of inquiry consistently THRASHED Phil Jones and Co. for their culture of secrecy, then sure, no misconduct was found.

    Gavin – please stop defending bad behavior by climate scientists. If you want to cultivate a reputation for honesty, you have to *stop pretending* that the boards of inquiry never said anything bad about Phil et al. Until then, RC.org will remain known for its bias.

    [Response: My point all along is that this revealed nothing about the science that changes any conclusion that exists in the literature. However, even on the first day I said that the way that the FOIA requests were dealt with was ill-advised, and I have not defended that. As someone who is equally the target of FOIA requests, I am very conscious of the issues surrounding them (though they are not as clear cut as some of the commentary assumes). Scientific misconduct is a very specific thing – it is not the same as being unhelpful or rude to persistent critics. No scientific misconduct has been, or will be, found. – gavin]

  88. Didactylos:

    “culture of secrecy”?

    Foobear is too, too funny. Can we keep him? Please?

  89. dhogaza:

    Foobear:

    Gavin – please stop defending bad behavior by climate scientists

    Lots of people behave badly in their jobs. If their employer doesn’t mind, and if they break no laws, then it’s nobody’s business and not in any way, shape, or form a substantive issue.

    Newton was an ass, by all accounts. So what?

    This is all you people have? Climate science is a hoax because you thinks some people behave badly?

  90. Ray Ladbury:

    Isotopious says, “The goal of science is to get an answer.”

    Well that confirms my diagnosis. No Isotopious, the goal is not an answer, but rather understanding. With understanding you can get LOTS OF ANSWERS.

    You don’t even understand enough about science to realize how good climate science is.

  91. calyptorhynchus:

    Further thought:

    I was reading recently about one of the early explorers (was it Bougainville?) When his ships arrived in Tahiti it was soon discovered that an iron nail would pay for sex with a local woman. The sailors began tearing the ships apart for the nails and it was looking like the entire expedition would be marooned on the island with their disassembled ships. The only thing that prevented this was the leader ordering anchors to be raised and leaving.
    Sounds like a pretty good analogy for now, only now there’s no leader to give the order to up anchors for us to sail away from our addictions.

  92. CRS, DrPH:

    Thank you, Gavin and all on RC. I strive for accuracy in my own science, and believe in a warming (and acidifying) scenario. However, when this email event happened, I felt that the world shifted under my feet, as I’ve worked for 25+ years on methane mitigation technologies, including some that were incorporated into the UN CDM. I saw all of this work literally vanish. However, one year later, I’m much more confident.

    We’ve survived despite the political changes, and now I’d enjoy for skeptics & proponents of AGW to hash this out! Personally, I believe that the ocean acidification scenario is far more menacing and immediate than warming, as this is threatening the ocean’s food web as I type this. However, we have also learned that “panic mongering” to the public is counterproductive, so we need to focus our efforts. More accuracy, shorter-term forecasts, demonstrable science and honest discussions about what this portends to the world community, leaving the hyperbole behind.

    In the past year, I’ve met Dr. David Archer and Dr. John Holdren, viewed a stunning presentation on cloud feedbacks by Dr. Joel Norris of Scripps Institution, and discussed climate disruption with many in politics, academia, business and the lay community. Let’s work towards sharpening our presentation skills and avoid arguing, the truth will win out. Cheers to all at RC.

  93. dhogaza:

    CRS:

    We’ve survived despite the political changes, and now I’d enjoy for skeptics & proponents of AGW to hash this out!

    What is a proponent of AGW? Is that sort of like being a proponent of gravity? photons?

  94. Isotopious:

    I’m glad you have highlighted the issue of understanding, Ray. We understand the models do not simulate known modes of climate variability. So why use ‘em if they don’t work? To build your understanding? You must have a very sound ‘understanding’ by now, after decades of models that still don’t work. Truly amazing.

    [Response: Which known modes do you think models don’t simulate? I’m curious… There is of course a big difference between an incomplete or an imperfect simulation and no simulation at all. – gavin]

  95. Snapple:

    CM-

    I let the scientists discuss the science, but I have a degree in Soviet Studies and understand Russian influence operations pretty well. I know a good deal about Soviet-era propaganda operations against scientists and have had some modest successes in this field.

    Climate science is under attack by political operatives, not scientists; just fighting with science will not win the battle unless ordinary people see who the scientists’ opponents really are–wealthy fossil fuel interests and the Russian petrostate.

    Cuccinelli is an elected official whose actions and family biography suggest that he may be corrupt, not misguided. If we don’t ask him questions, we will never get answers. And if we ask him questions, and we never get answers, then we are entitled to our reasonable suspicions.

    Even Tacitus only made a circumstantial case that Nero burned Rome.

    As for Alisher Usmanov, he is a Gazprom offical with an education and career that strongly suggest an affiliation with the KGB. I read the trash his newspaper Kommersant published about the British scientists.

    http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1293467

    This is not science; this is the power and wealth of the Russian petrostate. Still, even Kommersant couldn’t come up with a scientist to serve as a mouthpiece. They only got the booby prize—Andrei Illarionov. Russian scientists may have to be quiet, but they evidently aren’t for sale.

    Usmanov’s newspaper is an organ of the Russian government, and that is why it can publish attacks on Russia’s foreign intelligence service. In case anyone had doubts, the recent attack on the SVR exposes the government’s hand behind the facade of “respectable” Kommersant.

    Cuccinelli cited the RIA Novosti version of the Kommersant attack on the climate scientists in his brief to the EPA.

    The so-called “evidence” in this ridiculous document is newspaper articles, not scientific articles.

    http://www.oag.state.va.us/PRESS_RELEASES/Cuccinelli/Joint%20Motion%20to%20Remand%20VA%20filed%20with%20clerk%204_15_10.pdf

    None of this is speculation. These are facts I read in the Russian media and in Cuccinelli’s own brief.

    The great experts on Russia and Gazprom write:

    “Moscow is skillfully advancing its interests in the West, not through intelligence but business, often supported by crafty industrial espionage, influence-buying, and under-the-table deal-making…

    In Western Europe, Moscow has operated by making lucrative arrangements with foreign energy companies that become de facto lobbyists for the Kremlin within their own countries.”—“Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters” (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)

  96. dhogaza:

    We understand the models do not simulate known modes of climate variability.

    No, we don’t, and actually they do.

    Gavin, a leading modeler, answered you, so I guess the basic issue here is …

    Are you interested in learning? You seem to have Gavin’s ear, so there’s a great opportunity for you to do so without enrolling in a graduate program, if you choose.

    But my impression is that you’re more likely to be one of those who will lecture the experts on their field, presuming you know more than them, simply because you disagree with them.

  97. Rod B:

    dhogaza, you realize of course that there are serious questions whether or not photons exist, and General Relativity, taken to its rarefied extremes implies that gravity doesn’t exist…..

  98. David Klar:

    Realclimate has been an excellent resource for understanding and predicting climate. The use of climate models to help understand and predict how environments worldwide will be affected should be applauded by all. The deliberate, dishonest attacks on reputable climate scientists by anonymous cowards has failed and is just another example of denialism emptiness. Denialistas have no alternate climate models that can stand up to peer review, so they attack climate scientists.

  99. Philip Machanick:

    Gavin et al.: Thanks again for keeping going through all this. My personal response: a petition to allow others the option to express support for the right of scientists to work without harassment, and a talk I developed debunking the so called skeptics, which I presented to several audiences.

  100. MarkB:

    I admire the patience of Gavin and other scientists here. They’re working in a field that inevitably gets attacked because of the political implications of what the science indicates, and there are many hoping to make a buck or a name for themselves by engaging in such behavior. Such attacks will wax and wane, but they will continue to varying degrees over the next few decades, as long as the political and ideological motivation exists.

  101. manacker:

    @Balazs

    Your statement (#32) has been challenged on this thread.

    However, I’d have to agree with most of your statement as far as the impact on IPCC’s credibility of Climategate and the revelations of IPCC errors (as has Dr. Judith Curry).
    http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/03/reversing-the-direction-of-the-positive-feedback-loop/

    Subsequent inquiries have essentially cleared the AGW climate science per se, even if there may be some who feel that these have simply been whitewashes by insiders or like-minded reviewers.

    You are right that there will be no criminal charges. Even withholding data from FOI requests (or destroying them) is not a criminal offense unless it can proven to have been willful (which is almost impossible to do).

    I would also agree that the risks associated with AGW have been overblown (unsubstantiated predictions of rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers, loss of African crops or Amazonian rain forest, higher incidence and severity of severe weather events, etc.).

    It also appears to me that the costs of mitigation have been understated, as you wrote. Here we have, as one example, the Stern Report (which has been challenged as too optimistic on “mitigation” costs, and too pessimistic on negative economic impact if no “mitigation” is undertaken). One challenge here:
    http://environment.yale.edu/files/biblio/YaleFES-00000260.pdf

    The latest IPCC report itself (AR4 WG3) contains a lot of mumbo-jumbo about CO2 stabilization scenarios with carbon costs of $20 to $100 per ton of CO2, but not much else about real cost (or benefits) to humanity – or, more importantly, about who will pay for these “carbon costs”. At 30 GtCO2 per year today, this “carbon cost” would amount to between $600 billion and $3 trillion annually. Lots of money, no doubt. And for what?
    .
    Even more basically, I have also concluded (as has Dr. Curry) that the scientific uncertainties (specifically in AR4 WG1) have been understated.

    As Curry said in a recent interview in Scientific American:

    Scientists haven’t adequately dealt with the uncertainty in their calculations and don’t even know with precision what’s arguably the most basic number in the field: the climate forcing from CO2 – that is, the amount of warming a doubling of CO2 alone would cause ithout any amplifying or mitigating effects from melting ice, increased water vapor or any of a dozen factors.

    Things get worse, she argues, when you try to add in those feedbacks to project likely temperature increases over the next century, because the feedbacks are rife with uncertainty as well. “There’s a whole host of unknown unknowns that we don’t even know how to quantify but that should be factored into our confidence level.”

    As an example, IPCC concedes, “cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty”, yet all models cited by IPCC show strongly positive feedback from clouds (enough to raise the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity by 1.3C on average).

    Finally, I also believe that there has been a politicization of climate science which has been unhealthy, most likely due to the obscene amounts of money involved in what has become a multi-billion dollar big business, and that this has resulted in an IPCC “dogma”, as Dr, Curry has described it recently.

    The entire framing of the IPCC was designed around identifying sufficient evidence so that the human-induced greenhouse warming could be declared unequivocal, and so providing the rationale for developing the political will to implement and enforce carbon stabilization targets. National and international science programs were funded to support the IPCC objectives.

    These are strong words, not by a “right-wing” ideologue or a “climate denier”, but by a climate “insider”, which confirm what you have written, and which should be read carefully by the climate scientists representing the so-called “mainstream” view.

    Max

  102. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B.@97
    [edit]
    Rod, if anything exists, photons exist, and I am sorry, but your characterization of general relativity is just laughable. Find me one physicist who has published serious work and shares your point of view.

    Rod, all your protestations to the contrary, there are some things we DO KNOW:
    1)Photons exist
    2)Gravity exists
    3)CO2 is a greenhouse gas

    There’s a good start.

  103. CM:

    Snapple,

    I don’t doubt that you have some insight into Russian affairs and the new uses of dezinformatsiya. Much of what you write here chimes well enough my own very dated (Yeltsin-era) field experience and general reading.

    Your facts may be fine but you sometimes you seem to be seeing, and implying, connections between those facts at the drop of a hat. Someone mentions Australian climate-change deniers, you immediately put two and two together with a Russian mogul with some investments there. I think you could do with some critical feedback to refine your argument, but you won’t find it here; this site brings together a different kind of expertise.

    As for the merits of circumstantial evidence, well, Climategate was an attempt to sell a conspiracy theory about climate scientists by endlessly repeating sensational allegations based on the flimsiest circumstantial evidence. The deniers had to fall back on this because they have no credible scientific argument left.

    As for the possible conflicts of interest of Cuccinelli Sr. and Jr., kudos to you for digging into them, and please update us if you get an answer. But you don’t need to keep re-raising the question here. We got it.

  104. Snapple:

    Not one newspaper or climate scientist has raised the issue of the elder Cuccinelli’s career as a gas lobbyist and the son’s agressive persecution of the scientists.

    Not one newspaper or climate scientist has told the American people that Cuccinelli is quoting RIA Novosti’s version of Kommersant’s attack on the climate scientists.

    I saw that same citation in one of those petitions to the EPA, too. Maybe someone should look through those footnotes. I only looked at one petition.

    Why doesn’t the EPA say “We don’t put much stock in what the Gazprom mogul Alisher Usmanov publishes in ‘respected’ Kommersant”?

  105. Barton Paul Levenson:

    BPL: What part of “drought will increase until harvests fail all over the world and human civilization falls” did you not understand?

    HotRod 56: Er …. none of it.

    BPL: Let me know if you want to learn about it and I’ll try to give a clear explanation here.

  106. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Iso 81: That “most of the warming in the last several decades is very likely due to humans”, is still an interesting question in my view.
    However, BPL @39 thinks to challenge the result is the same as asking whether the earth is flat

    BPL: It is at this point. We have 114 years of AGW theory which has been backed up by increasing amounts of evidence for most of that time. It’s not an open question, and disputing it is, indeed, very much like maintaining that the Earth is flat.

    Eventually you have to decide when the evidence is enough. I did that a long time ago. You still haven’t. 97% of climate scientists have. They’re not still disputing whether the miasma causes illness or whether the Neptunists have a better model than the Plutonists. Eventually you reach a conclusion and move on.

  107. Snapple:

    CM-

    You write:

    “Climategate was an attempt to sell a conspiracy theory about climate scientists by endlessly repeating sensational allegations based on the flimsiest circumstantial evidence.”

    The BIG LIE works pretty well, and it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    The KGB lie about AIDS being made by Pentagon scientists to genocide blacks is still being repeated, even though the KGB admitted to an audience of university students that they spread this lie. and this admission was reported right in Izvestia.

    But the scientists aren’t even repeating a FACT: Cuccinelli’s EPA brief is citing a Russian newspaper owned by a Alisher Usmanov, a Gazprom official. It’s big news when Usmanov wants to buy the British team “Arsenal,” but it’s not news when he trashes British climate scientists. This is a man with a very troubling history.

    Some countries don’t allow him to enter.

    You write:

    “Someone mentions Australian climate-change deniers, you immediately put two and two together with a Russian mogul with some investments there.

    Usmanov probably doesn’t just have “some investments” in Australia.

    He would not be a billionaire for a New York minute if he didn’t collaborate with the Kremlin’s political operations. He has run “peace” committees, a KGB bank, etc.

    He owns companies because the Russian government owns him. He will have political assets in Australia, not just financial assets.

    Perhaps the scientists should read the booklet titled Gazprom’s European Web.

    http://old.ua-energy.org/uploads/library/analitics/FULL_GazpromsWeb.pdf

    There are also books on this topic. Here is one by a Russian studies scholar.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195398637/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0195340736&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=07QHCM63KVSJJ2AB9S6E

    [Response: I think the point is, that you have made this point a number of times. Perhaps we can stay a little more on topic. – gavin]

  108. Ray Ladbury:

    Isotopious: \known modes\? And just precisely what would these \modes\ be? Are you one of those wankers who think that if you phrase things vaguely enough, you won’t be proven wrong?

    The models have a very long track record of success:

    http://bartonpaullevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

    And in reality, complex models are not needed to demonstrate the reality and severity of climate change. Arrhenius analysis was practically back of the envelope. Tamino has illustrated important aspects of climate change with a simple two-level model.

    Finally, you utterly fail to understand the purpose of scientific modeling (why am I not surprised). It is in fact understanding of the system. As George Box said, “All models are wrong. Some models are useful.” Climate models are VERY useful, not least because they allow us to establish at least some limits on parameters such as climate sensitivity. Without models, we would still face a credible threat but would be flying blind in addressing it. Repeat after me: Uncertainty is not our friend.

  109. Steve Metzler:

    On a related note, I’m quite sure that a lot of readers here will be interested in the progress that has been made lately over at Deep Climate in deconstructing the Wegman Report. Not only has a significant portion of the text been found to have been plagiarised (with intentional distortions):

    John Mashey on Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report

    But now it turns out that the statistical ‘analysis’ was also plagiarised:

    All that Wegman did was re-run McIntyre’s code verbatim, with *McIntyre’s saved-off data sets*:

    Replication and due diligence, Wegman style

    And… the upturning ‘hockey sticks’ that were supposedly generated by extracting PC1 from McIntyre’s ‘trendless red noise’ were in fact a hand-picked group of 100 from the 10,000 that McIntyre generated. The icing on the cake is that Wegman assumed the red noise was generated using the AR1 algorithm with a parameter of .2, when in fact McIntyre’s code shows that it was ARFIMA, which has a much higher persistence (more akin to AR1(.9)).

    The climate auditor finally gets audited himself. How ironic. The chickens come home to roost.

    These two damning findings are likely enough to justify a call for the Wegman Report to be retracted, and it is the plank on which Cuccinelli’s latest witch hunt against Mann rests.

  110. Dan H.:

    BPL,
    Comparing global warming to a flat Earth or the sun orbiting the Earth is rather humorous. That “most of the warming in the last several decades is very likely due to humans”, is a rather vague statement, similar to Doran’s question, “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.” While 97% of climatologists may agree with that statement, it says very little about global warming. What human activities? How much will they change global temperatures?
    Using vague statements, throwing out meaningless numbers, and claiming that your detractors believe that the Earth is flat, does not lead credence to your argument. While you may be convinced, that does not mean that everyone else is, or should be.
    I do not think anyone would argue that crop failures will increase if droughts increase. But arguing that droughts have increased during the 20th century at the same time that harvests have increased is a little contradictory, don’t you think? You may want to compare the droughts of the 20th century with past centuries to get a better comparison.

    [Response: Please don’t start down a line of ‘correlation implies causation’ – it is never a convincing argument. Many things happened over the 20th Century and simplistic comparison of trends over that period is simply not informative unless you are going to take all of those other things into account as well. – gavin]

  111. Witgren:

    I think on the whole, Climategate didn’t change the playing field all that much, except to alert scientists to the depths to which their opponents might be willing to stoop. Those already predisposed to deny AGW grabbed Climategate and ran with it, those that already know better did not. About the only thing that changed is some fence-sitters might have finally tipped one way or the other. But I think that it was all one-way in that respect – I think some of the more clear thinking fence sitters were turned off by the hacking and illegal/unethical nature of the hack and by the subsequent twisting of out-of-context words. For other fence-sitters, I think it probably just reinforced a “pox on both your houses” viewpoint that they probably already had as an excuse not to commit.

  112. Ray Ladbury:

    Dan H., there are certain aspects of climate science that are as undeniable as the shape of Earth–e.g. that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    Denial of these aspects makes one a loon.

    There are other aspects that are very nearly as certain–e.g. that CO2 sensitivity is between 2.1 and 4.5 degrees per doubling. Denial of these with no good evidence to the contrary (and there is, at present, no good evidence to thecontrary) merely makes one a crank or a contrarian.

    The problem is that these facts all by themselves are sufficient to make climate change a potentially serious threat. And when you have a serious threat, the first step of any risk mitigation process is bounding the risk.

    You can accuse Barton of being alarmist, but that misses the point. The point is that there are no credible upper limits on risk from climate change. And when ther are no credible upper limits, then risk avoidance is the only credible strategy. So if you want to limit level of effort, then tell us convincingly (i.e. based on evidence) how bad things can get. If your evidence is convincing and your limit is lower than Barton’s–hey, great, you win. And nobody will be happier that Barton was wrong than Barton. Until then, how about playing the risk mitigation game by the rules?

  113. SecularAnimist:

    One year later, if you look at any comment page on any blog post or article about global warming on any general-interest site, you will find it inundated by a torrent of comments from denialist zombies, all triumphantly proclaiming with borderline-illiterate, copied-and-pasted boilerplate prose that “Climategate” showed the world that AGW is a hoax, and that the handful of liberal-elitist so-called “scientists” who are perpetrating it in return for the millions of dollars that Al Gore is paying them (out of the billions he is making from carbon credit trading as he conspires with the IPCC to become dictator of the Earth and crush capitalism and liberty) have all been revealed as politically-motivated corruptors of science, but fortunately the “true science” of Monckton and other “true scientists” is now reaching the people, thanks to courageous public servants like Inhofe.

    That’s not a parody. If anything, the reality of “grassroots” denialism is even more bizarre and demented than that — and seething with hatred as well. (I shudder to think of the comments that the moderators of this site must have to filter out.)

    And oh yes, also a year later, CO2 emissions are expected to reach their highest levels in history, growing by 3 percent over the prior year, a faster rate of growth than the average 2.5 percent per year over the last decade.

  114. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Dan H 109: “Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.” While 97% of climatologists may agree with that statement, it says very little about global warming. What human activities?

    BPL: Burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, mostly.

    DH: How much will they change global temperatures?

    BPL: Between 2.1 and 4.5 K per doubling of CO2.

    DH: Using vague statements, throwing out meaningless numbers, and claiming that your detractors believe that the Earth is flat, does not lead credence to your argument.

    BPL: Please specify the “meaningless numbers” I have used.

    DH: While you may be convinced, that does not mean that everyone else is, or should be.

    BPL: True. What means that everyone else should be is that that is where the evidence points.

    DH: I do not think anyone would argue that crop failures will increase if droughts increase.

    BPL: Huh? What? Do you realize what you wrote here?

    DH: But arguing that droughts have increased during the 20th century at the same time that harvests have increased is a little contradictory, don’t you think?

    BPL: I couldn’t care less. That’s what the observations say. Deal with it.

    DH: You may want to compare the droughts of the 20th century with past centuries to get a better comparison.

    BPL: I’ve got data for 1870 to 2005 so far. That pretty well encompasses the time I’m living in, and for that matter, the time my great-grandparents were living in.

  115. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Dan H 109: But arguing that droughts have increased during the 20th century at the same time that harvests have increased is a little contradictory, don’t you think?

    BPL: It would be, if drought and good harvests were the only variables involved. They aren’t. Duh.

  116. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Thanks, Ray. :D

  117. CTG:

    #100 Max Anacker

    Google site:ipcc.ch uncertainty

    About 2,200 results

    Yeah, right, those darn scientists never talk about uncertainty.

  118. John:

    BPL: What part of “drought will increase until harvests fail all over the world and human civilization falls” did you not understand?

    Could you point me to the stats that show an increase in drought in the past 30 years compared to a long term historical record?

  119. John:

    @51
    SteveP says:
    21 November 2010 at 7:20 AM

    Of course you would not be able to post that comment without our powered modern society.

  120. manacker:

    @BPL

    You asked:

    What part of “drought will increase until harvests fail all over the world and human civilization falls” did you not understand?

    Actually, it’s the “will” (future tense, indicative).

    The sentence would have been more corrected if stated as follows:

    “drought might well increase until harvests could fail all over the world as projected by our models, which could then conceivably have a serious impact on human civilization, provided, of course, that our model input assumptions are correct”

    Get the difference, BPL? Express some “uncertainty” (when you don’t really know what is going to happen, as is obviously the case here).

    Max

  121. Paul Tremblay:

    @Max 101

    There is a lot of misinformation in your post, which I don’t have time to discuss right now. (For example, Judith Curry hardly has a good record in evaluating the science.)

    However, one can tell how dishonest your post is by this: “Finally, I also believe that there has been a politicization of climate science which has been unhealthy, most likely due to the obscene amounts of money involved in what has become a multi-billion dollar big business, and that this has resulted in an IPCC ‘dogma’, as Dr, Curry has described it recently.”

    Not only is this claim unsubstantiated (and laughable as well), but it amounts to a generic fallacy.

  122. Witgren:

    Dan H. (110) –

    Harvests have increased despite increased drought largely because of increased mechanization of agriculture, which allows for much more area to be put into production, and also because of increased use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which increased yield sufficiently to compensate for droughts.

  123. Paul Tremblay:

    @ Max 101

    “The entire framing of the IPCC was designed around identifying sufficient evidence so that the human-induced greenhouse warming could be declared unequivocal, and so providing the rationale for developing the political will to implement and enforce carbon stabilization targets. National and international science programs were funded to support the IPCC objectives.’

    And while I have a little time: maybe you could post some proof for this bizarre conspiracy theory?

  124. manacker:

    @CTG

    2000 expressions of “uncertainty” in about that many pages of confidently projected disaster?

    (Even worse than the AR4 WG1 backup report in downplaying uncertainty is the more widely read AR4 WG1 SPM summary).

    Sorry, Dr. Curry is right when she states that uncertainties have been understated, both in the data about past climate and the model-based projections for the future.

    As she stated in the recent Scientific American interview:

    There’s a whole host of unknown unknowns that we don’t even know how to quantify but that should be factored into our confidence level.

    False overconfidence is a problem. If it is being used to “sell” a premise, it becomes a serious problem.

    Max

    [Response: The thing about ‘unknown unknowns’ is precisely that they are unknown. So how they can be figured into any analysis seems a little mysterious. However, a point you might want to think about is the increasing likelihood of finding out about these unknowns the further climate gets from the range in which it has been sitting these last few thousand years. – gavin]

  125. John:

    As this is about climategate, one thing that has bothered me as a member of the public used to working with data from various sources and locations.

    the harry read me file, it seems to me to be deeply unsettling as a record of how the climatic data were processed.

    Gavin, am I wrong to worry about the description of process in that file?

  126. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Could you point me to the stats that show an increase in drought in the past 30 years compared to a long term historical record?

    It’s pretty easy to find this stuff, you type in keywords, results appear.

    Here is one result.

    Here is an alternative data set, just in case you have problems with the primary data sets, or in case you want to try working the problem yourself. Here is a recent discussion on the various data sets, models and results

  127. Chris:

    Thanks to the group at Realclimate for all that you did after the email theft malarky, and all that you continue to do.

    And at the risk of being corny (and without doubting the contribution from the rest of the team). Special thanks to Gavin; it’s a wonder you get any work done.

  128. Ray Ladbury:

    Max,
    I’ve tried to get you to see this before: UNCERTAINTY IS NOT YOUR FRIEND!!!

    If climate sensitivity is 2 degrees, climate change consequences could still range from serious to severe. This is just barely possible. OTOH, if we go to the other end of the probability curve for climate sensitivity, the edge on that uncertainty knife is a whole helluva lot longer and sharper. Science! Yer doin’ it wrong!

  129. manacker:

    Gavin

    Thanks for your comment to my 123.

    Yes.

    “Unknown unknowns” are difficult to quantify, but higher levels of uncertainty can be indicated (verbally or statistically – as you know much better than I do) when such “unknown unknowns” are likely to be present.

    Considering “the further climate gets from the range in which it has been sitting these last few thousand years” means that we should have a fairly firm idea of this range. But, unfortunately, this appears to be one of the “unknown unknowns”, to which Curry was referring.

    Max

  130. SecularAnimist:

    manacker wrote: “I also believe that there has been a politicization of climate science which has been unhealthy, most likely due to the obscene amounts of money involved in what has become a multi-billion dollar big business …”

    You are inarguably right that the ONE BILLION DOLLARS PER DAY IN PROFIT — not revenue, but profit — that the biggest businesses in the world, the fossil fuel corporations, are raking in from business-as-usual consumption of their products is absolutely their motive for politicizing climate science by funding denialist frauds and cranks and obstructionist politicians.

    Whether ONE BILLION DOLLARS PER DAY IN PROFIT is an “obscene amount of money” I cannot say, but I would tend to the opinion that protecting those profits with a generation-long campaign of deceit, denial, obstruction and delay that may well have already condemned billions of human beings to suffering and death, and the Earth’s biosphere to a wave of mass extinctions and ecological collapse, is indeed “obscene”.

  131. manacker:

    @Secular Animist

    One billion dollars per day in profit (of all fossil fuel companies) is a lot of money, to be sure.

    This includes companies that call themselves “green” and have supported carbon caps (such as BP) or those who are plowing some of these profits into R+D to develop alternate fuel sources (like ExxonMobil and Chevron).

    Five to ten times that amount in prospective (direct or indirect) carbon taxes is an even greater amount of money.

    Is either amount “obscene”? A moot point. Are corporate profits inherently more “obscene” than taxes on humanity? Or are they both about the same? A good socio-political and philosophical question.

    As far as a

    generation-long campaign of deceit, denial, obstruction and delay that may well have already condemned billions of human beings to suffering and death, and the Earth’s biosphere to a wave of mass extinctions and ecological collapse

    that sounds like a bit of unsubstantiated hyperbole to me.

    Sorry.

    NO SALE.

    Come back down to Planet Earth.

    Max

  132. Michael W:

    SecularAnimist, I use fossil fuels and their products daily. Their utility to me is invaluable. Simplest explanation being best, the fossil fuel profits represent their value to people rather than their enslavement of people.

    In the interest of levelheadedness, would you be able to comment on the benefits of fossil fuels to human welfare?

    -Michael

  133. Dan H.:

    BPL,
    I understand that is what you believe. I was asking about the 97% of climatologists to which you referred. I do not think you can speak for them. That is the meaningless number.
    As far as droughts, you do realize that droughts have been a much bigger problem in the past than today. Saying they will increase is pure speculation, and not actual data.

  134. Isotopious:

    Here Gavin, this page has some excellent climate patterns:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climatology

  135. manacker:

    Ray Ladbury

    You write (correctly) that “uncertainty” is not my “friend”.

    I’d agree. It is also not your “friend”. In fact, it is nobody’s “friend”.

    But ignoring (or underplaying) it (to sell a pitch?) is a problem, as Dr. Curry has pointed out.

    Max

  136. manacker:

    Ray Ladbury

    2xCO2 CS of 2C could represent a minor problem, as you write

    4.5C would be a greater problem, as you also write.

    10C would be a disaster.

    1C or lower would be no problem.

    That’s what “uncertainty” is all about, Ray.

    Max

  137. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #128 Max Anacker

    Unknown unknowns are not ‘difficult’ to quantify, they are impossible to quantify.

    The unknowns are not in the models, That is why for example the ice in the Arctic is melting faster than models predict. That is why the sea level is rising faster than the AR4 models can predict.

    The unknowns are a zero in the model, they are not quantifiable, therefore they can not be ‘factored’ in to anything. Curry’s statement really just didn’t’ make sense.

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  138. dhogaza:

    manacker:

    2xCO2 CS of 2C could represent a minor problem, as you write

    4.5C would be a greater problem, as you also write.

    10C would be a disaster.

    1C or lower would be no problem.

    That’s what “uncertainty” is all about, Ray.

    Where exactly is the uncertainty in your statement of blind faith?

    “1C or lower would be no problem” … “2C could represent a minor problem” (but not a serious one).

    etc.

    Curry makes the same mistake of stating that “unknown unknowns” means things might be better than scientists expect … while she makes it clear that she’s certain “unknown unknowns” couldn’t possibly make things worse.

  139. Barton Paul Levenson:

    John 118: Could you point me to the stats that show an increase in drought in the past 30 years compared to a long term historical record?

    BPL: I’ve just submitted a paper about this to J. Clim. I define a series F from NOAA data–the fraction of Earth’s land surface in “severe drought” or worse (PDSI <= -3.0) in a given year. That figure was 6% in 1870, 12% in 1970, 31% in 2003, and 21% in 2005. It's very volatile, but the trend is sharply up, especially in the past 30 years. I estimate that F will reach 70% by 2050-2055, at which time global human agriculture will collapse, taking large-scale civilization with it.

  140. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Max 120: Get the difference, BPL? Express some “uncertainty” (when you don’t really know what is going to happen, as is obviously the case here).

    BPL: The uncertainty is entirely in WHEN it will happen, Max. It WILL happen, since nothing effective will be done about AGW. We’re not the last generation, but we are very much the next-to-last generation. It’s our children and grandchildren who will be shooting it out with the neighbors over who gets the scraggly patch of green tomatoes growing next to an outhouse.

  141. Barton Paul Levenson:

    max 123: uncertainties have been understated, both in the data about past climate and the model-based projections for the future.

    BPL: What makes you think uncertainty is on your side? You think if the model estimates are off, the actual figures HAVE TO BE LOWER??? I have news for you–there’s a fifty-fifty chance they could be HIGHER. Uncertainty is nobody’s friend.

  142. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Dan H 132: I was asking about the 97% of climatologists to which you referred. I do not think you can speak for them. That is the meaningless number.

    BPL: It’s a poll result.
    Scientists Agree Human-Induced Global Warming Is Real, Survey Says
    ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) –
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090119210532.htm
    “…Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role.”

    Dan H: As far as droughts, you do realize that droughts have been a much bigger problem in the past than today.

    BPL: Details, please.

    Dan H: Saying they will increase is pure speculation, and not actual data.

    BPL: No, it’s a projection based on emissions business as usual and the fact that I have a good idea what drives the severe-drought fraction. I have a paper about it submitted to J. Clim. at the moment.

    BTW, Dai at NCAR got very similar results with a completely different method. I used statistical analysis. He used an ensemble of GCMs.

  143. Barton Paul Levenson:

    max 135: 2xCO2 CS of 2C could represent a minor problem, as you write
    4.5C would be a greater problem, as you also write.
    10C would be a disaster.
    1C or lower would be no problem.

    BPL: And you’ve got a 5% chance of the actual figure being outside 2.1-4.5 K, which means a 2.5% chance that it’s really low. And you want to bet humanity’s future on that?

  144. Dan H.:

    BPL,
    Of course those who believe in global warming would show the highest response. You did realize that 82% of scientists believed that man has contributed to the temperature rise. Once again, the question was vague, and assuming those who answered yes, support the entire global warming theory may just be wishful thinking. This is not a confirmation in the belief in global warming, and should not be used as evidence of a consensus.
    Sorry, I cannot read your mind about what you think is a good idea which drives droughts.

  145. manacker:

    @BPL

    Your certainty (140) that massive GH warming WILL happen is based on faith in the models to be able to project what COULD happen PROVIDED the assumptions made are correct.

    If the assumptions are too optimistic (i.e. sensitivities are actually greater than assumed) we COULD (not WILL) have more warming than assumed.

    If the assumptions are too pessimistic (i.e. sensitivities are actually lower than assumed) we COULD (not WILL) have less warming than assumed.

    All depending on a myriad of other (unknown) factors (some of which may be “unknown unknowns”), including natural forcing and variability, etc.

    So we basically do not disagree with Dr. Curry’s assessment. Right?

    And “WILL” (future indicative) is a poor choice of words to use. “COULD POSSIBLY” or even “COULD LIKELY” might be better (since the fact is, nobody really knows for sure what WILL happen).

    Max

  146. manacker:

    @BPL

    We are beginning to spin our wheels here in our discussion of “uncertainties” and “unknown unknowns”, but you just wrote (143)

    you’ve got a 5% chance of the actual figure being outside 2.1-4.5 K, which means a 2.5% chance that it’s really low. And you want to bet humanity’s future on that

    Your “5% chance” is an assumption, which, itself, includes a certain amount of “uncertainty” and could well be kicked in the head by “unknown unknowns”

    That is what Dr. Curry is telling us, BPL. Listen to the lady.

    As far as “betting humanity’s future” that is a bit hyperbolic here. With or without AGW, “humanity” will survive and (most likely) even thrive, as it has over the past and certainly is today in comparison with 100 or 200 years ago (when the climate may have been a smidgen harsher). I am not as pessimistic as you appear to be, BPL.

    But we are drifting into philosophy and “Weltanschauung” here, I’m afraid.

    Max

  147. Sir:

    Right after the hacked emails were made public, I had an email exchange with Judy Curry. Following is that exchange.

    My email to her.
    I heard you on NPR last night talking about the hacked emails. You seemed particularly disappointed that there seemed to be some pressure to keep some papers from being peer reviewed and kept out of the IPCC. I believe the most prominent email quote used is as follows:

    “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Xxx and I will keep
    them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is”

    On the surface, this seems to be against the scientific process and against full disclosure; however, what would you recommend doing if the papers involved are bad science and bad research? Do you want them included? Science is not a democracy. We should not give “equal time” to competing theories if it is bad science. “Equal time” is what the creationist want. Should we put creationist papers in journals dealing with evolution if they are not based on science?
    I have been following this episode on http://www.realclimate.org and there has been a lot of discussion. In one response to this specific email, Gavin Schmidt posted the following:

    Nobody actually gets to do that (redefine peer review), and both papers discussed in that comment – McKitrick and Michaels (2004) and Kalnay and Cai (2003) were both cited and discussed in Chapter 3 the IPCC AR4 report. As an aside, neither has stood the test of time. – gavin]

    Bad papers clutter up assessment reports and if they don’t stand up as science, they shouldn’t be included. No-one can ‘redefine’ what the peer-reviewed literature is. – gavin]

    The paper and journal in question were indeed a scandal. But the scandal was that it was ever published. Six editors of the journal resigned in protest at the publication, not because of pressure. – gavin]

    Ms. Curry’s response
    Thanks for your email. Who would you like to be the judge of what a bad paper is? A scientific rival that is in a position of power as editor? Many bad papers get published, at least some that don’t stand the test of time. Let the peer review process play itself out without undue influence from people with an agenda that is either political or personal ego, and then assessments (like the IPCC) will sort out the important contributions, but this doesnt’ work if the people doing the assessments are inserting their personal political agenda or have their scientific egos too wrapped up in the outcome. That is my perspective.
    I also agree that the main scientific conclusions of the IPCC wouldn’t change as a result of this. But these emails are a HUGE blow to the public credibility of climate research

    My response to her
    I appreciate your response. I agree that the emails are a huge blow to the credibility of climate research. That is why I believe that when anyone discusses them in a public forum, the full story should be told. In this case, rather than just regretting the apparent attempt to suppress the papers, the fact that the papers in question were included in the IPCC report should be pointed out. The papers were not suppressed, and this fact is important to lessen the huge impact. It might also be useful to point out that in a peer review process, there may well be differences of opinion about what is and is not a good paper. That is what peer review is about.

    You asked whom I would like to be the judge. My answer is peers, and that is exactly what was happening. Some peers were saying these papers were not good science. The fact that 6 resigned would indicate strong feelings on the subject. I don’t know who the 6 were, so I don’t know they had an agenda other than trying to stop the inclusion of what they viewed as bad science. I don’t know if it was bad science or not, but in the peer review process and even in the assessment of groups like IPCC there will be emails and minutes of meetings that if hacked and made public, would seem to be trying to block a point of view. It is almost certain that there is not full agreement on every paper submitted, and every email will not contain the full argument as to why a given paper should or should not be included.

    She did not respond to my last email

  148. Ken Coffman:

    Dear Philip M. I would love to see the reference to back up this statement in your presentation:

    “CO2-driven warming can be demonstrated in the lab.”

  149. Paul Tremblay:

    @manacker

    >>Your “5% chance” is an assumption, which, itself, includes a certain amount of “uncertainty” and could well be kicked in the head by “unknown unknowns”

    All science contains “unknown unknowns,” including evolution and gravity. We didn’t not build bridges because Newton didn’t know what Einstein did. As John P. Reismann points out “Unknown unknowns are impossible to quantify, making Curry’s statements meaningless.

    In post 101, you write that the cost of mitigation would amount to “between $600 billion and $3 trillion annually” This statement is based on “unknown unknowns.” Economics has a much more dismal record of prediction than science, yet you state it with certainty. Yet, even if you provided a mountain of evidence, I could always point out that the “unknown unknowns” undermine your conclusion.

    (That’s to mention nothing of your conspiracy theories on how science has been bought off.)

    Ultimately, you and Curry are just playing a game that borders on nihilism.

  150. Ray Ladbury:

    Max,
    I should not have to tell you this, but confidence intervals most certainly are NOT assumptions. They tell us what the most likely range of a parameter is based on the data.

    You, on the other hand ignore the established uncertainties and posit much larger ones…based on NO data, NO analysis and No clue.

    You sound like nothing so much as a teenager saying, “Well, the telephone pole could have fallen down in front of the car. It coulda!” Get some empirical or theoretical basis for your claims. Then we’ll talk

  151. Rick Brown:

    manacker @135

    But ignoring (or underplaying) it [uncertainty] (to sell a pitch?) is a problem . . .

    Ignoring or underplaying uncertainty would be a problem, but I’ve yet to see any real evidence of it in the literature or the IPCC reports.

    Exaggerating (overplaying?) uncertainty in an attempt to undercut the need to address AGW, which is your pitch, is a serious problem, one for which you provide abundant evidence.

  152. manacker:

    @Ray Ladbury

    150

    confidence intervals most certainly are NOT assumptions. They tell us what the most likely range of a parameter is based on the data.

    C’mon, Ray. They tell us what the assumed most likely range of a parameter is based on the assumed data.

    Your assumption that I posit much larger ones…based on NO data, NO analysis and No clue is based on (well, you said it) “NO data, NO analysis and No clue”.

    In fact, though, Ray, it’s based on empirical data derived from actual physical satellite observations (how inconvenient) by Spencer et al. on net cloud feedbacks or Lindzen + Choi on the Earth’s energy balance, which both point to an insensitive climate with a 2xCO2 CS of somewhat below 1C.

    Now you may not “like” these data (and I can fully understand that), but they are out there, Ray, like ‘em or not.

    Max

    [Response: Oh please. Spencer doesn’t show that at all – in fact his latest paper indicates that he thinks it can’t be done using short-term radiation fluxes. And he didn’t like Lindzen and Choi either (along with everyone else), so pretending that they are all in some agreement is nonsense. Both of them clearly want to find evidence for a small sensitivity – but neither have. And more importantly, neither ever spend any time dealing with the plentiful evidence for the mainstream view. Funny that. – gavin]

  153. manacker:

    @Rick Brown

    It goes both ways, Rick (151). IPCC projects that AGW may cause alarming warming, but there is a considerable amount of “uncertainty” in the IPCC projections, as Dr. Curry has told us.

    Are they understated? Are they overstated?

    Since IPCC is specifically in business to “sell” us a political message of the dangers of AGW and the need for remedial action, I think the likelihood of understatement is far less than the likelihood of overstatement. What do you think?

    Overplaying the threat to emphasize the need for immediate painful action is no different from underplaying the threat to avoid immediate painful action.

    What counts is the “return on investment” of the proposed “immediate painful action”.

    I have seen no “actionable proposals” for immediate painful action, which make any kind of sense. Have you?

    Pardon me, but don’t trot out the IPCC AR4 WG3 report; it contains no “actionable proposals” – i.e. specific actions, which could be undertaken with a specific global warming benefit and a specific cost.

    Instead it just mentions a “carbon cost” of between $20 and $100 per ton of CO2 emitted, which would be around $600 billion to $3 trillion per year at today’s level, without going into the nitty-gritty detail of exactly who should pay this rather large chunk of money to whom and what specific impact it would have on our climate.

    Once you can point to these specific “actionable proposals” we can discuss the cost/benefit analysis of each, to see if they are good investments. Until then, it’s all just empty political talk (i.e. “reduce CO2 emissions to X% of what they were in year Y by year Z”) with no “actionable proposals” of how to get there, what these would cost and what amount of warming they would avert.

    Max

    PS Don’t tell me that no matter what the cost/benefit analysis shows, the actions are necessary to save our society, our environment, most existing plant or animal species or our planet. Come with specifics instead.

  154. Bart Verheggen:

    The overriding theme of what came into clearer focus as a result of “climategate” is that disagreements about climate change are not so much about the science, but rather about a clash of underlying values, ideas (e.g. related to risk perception) and ideals. Scientists are caught in the middle of this trying to defend the science against various distortions (while also having their own values, ideas and ideals of course).

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/climategate-lessons-learned/

    This is my attempt at a more dispassionate look at the changes that resulted from this sorry affair.
    A more opinionated piece on what was so scandalous about the hack (assuming it was a hack) is here:
    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/climategate-scandal-that-wasnt-and-scandal-that-was/

  155. Steven Sullivan:

    manaker,

    Parroting something Judith Curry wrote doesn’t necessarily make it any more coherent, or true.

  156. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Dan H 144: This is not a confirmation in the belief in global warming, and should not be used as evidence of a consensus.

    BPL: 97% of climatologists agreeing isn’t a consensus? What kind of standard are you using? The Ivory Soap version?

  157. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Max 145: Your certainty (140) that massive GH warming WILL happen is based on faith in the models to be able to project what COULD happen PROVIDED the assumptions made are correct.

    BPL: No, it’s based on knowing the physics involved. I don’t need the models. I have an article coming up about that, too, in Advances in Space Research.

  158. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Max 146: Your “5% chance” is an assumption

    BPL: No. It is a measurement. You need to crack an introductory statistics book, Max.

    Max: As far as “betting humanity’s future” that is a bit hyperbolic here. With or without AGW, “humanity” will survive

    BPL: Sure. Maybe as much as 1% of the population in 2050 will still be alive in 2100. The species will still be here, certainly.

    Max: and (most likely) even thrive, as it has over the past and certainly is today in comparison with 100 or 200 years ago (when the climate may have been a smidgen harsher). I am not as pessimistic as you appear to be, BPL.

    BPL: You’re not as well-informed, either. Once advanced civilization falls, it will be a damn long time before it arises again. Our own civilization has already used up all the easily available fossil fuels, metals, and useful plants and animals, and the oceans will be dead. The cattle, sheep, and pigs will go when the famine hits. Horses and other creatures will follow before we turn on each other. Can you imagine trying to build a high-tech civilization without A) horses, B) cattle, C) good farmland, D) copper or iron or tin, E) fish, or F) plants like the willows we get aspirin from and the cereals we make bread from? Do you really expect future humanity to “thrive” after a global harvest failure?

  159. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Ken Coffman 148: Dear Philip M. I would love to see the reference to back up this statement in your presentation:
    “CO2-driven warming can be demonstrated in the lab.”

    BPL: I’ll describe the lab setup you’ll need. You’ll actually perform the experiment, right?

    You need a box of IR-transparent glass filled with carbon dioxide. Put a thermocouple in the box and connect it to the appropriate interface to a thermometer. Put an IR lamp of known luminosity against one face of the glass; put a photometer at the other. Turn off all other lights and wait until the room is at an even temperature. Estimate the warming that will come from the lamp itself.
    You will observe the following effects:

    1. The IR will be absorbed by the carbon dioxide.
    2. The carbon dioxide will get warmer.
    3. The room will get slightly warmer than it would from the IR lamp alone. To verify this, run the experiment without the box and photometer, using just the IR lamp and the thermocouple/thermometer. Better yet, use ten rooms with and ten rooms without.

    Voila.

  160. Snapple:

    [edit – too far OT]

  161. MightyDrunken:

    I think what “climategate” and even the whole debate on climate change shows us is lessons in human psychology. The evidence for bad science and nasty scientists in the emails were weak. Yet people use it to confirm their already held beliefs (either way), even if their belief was one of mad extreme.
    How the media portrayed all this was dreadful but expected, it’s quite depressing. I really like Didactylos comment #77 as I think it’s 100% true. We see this everyday in the media as they write story after story of a sports person or other celebrity. First they are good/bad, then the media show “their other side” etc.
    Some trigger in the near future will present the opportunity for the media to swap sides again, this time behind the climate scientists. For awhile.
    Therefore whenever the media present you in a story, expect to be misrepresented at some point and don’t take it personally.

  162. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #131 Max Anacker

    Let’s take your argument on another path toward the Nth degree.

    How obscene is the tax on your body for aging? I mean, you pay for your life with cellular degradation. That’s a ‘tax on humanity’ that you are paying for the benefit of living.

    If you think such a tax on humanity is obscene, do something about it. Either figure out a way to keep your body alive forever, or stop paying the tax.

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  163. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Max 153: Overplaying the threat to emphasize the need for immediate painful action is no different from underplaying the threat to avoid immediate painful action.

    BPL: How do you “overplay” the death of most of humanity and the end of large-scale advanced civilization?

  164. Ray Ladbury:

    Wow, Max, did you even read Spencer’s paper? Or Lindzen & Choi–and their subsequent revision after their initial paper was eviscerated? ‘Cause your interpretation of them is “surprising”?

    Max, I rather doubt you have the mathematical literacy to compute a simple average. There are very well tested and accepted methods for computing probabilities and their confidence intervals. Maybe you ought to learn some of them.

    All I can say is that I’m glad you are on the other side.

  165. Hank Roberts:

    Barton, John, Max specializes in what he’s doing. Look at his work elsewhere.

  166. Ken Coffman:

    Thanks for your proposed experiment, BPL. Can we agree that this equivalent experiment was (unintentionally) performed by Roslyn M. Gleadow1 et al here:

    http://www.biolsci.monash.edu.au/staff/gleadow/docs/gleadow-2009-cassava-online.pdf

    “Mean day⁄night temperatures, measured at 5 min intervals, were (±1SE)
    28.5 ± 0.2 C⁄ 19.2 ± 0.1 C in each greenhouse chamber.
    The CO2 concentration was measured continuously with a Vaisala Carbocap IRGA GMT222 and fumigated as required between 06:00 and 18:00 h daily. The resulting mean concentration of CO2 in each greenhouse (ppm ± 1SE) was 359 ± 2, 546 ± 1 and 709 ± 1.”

  167. SecularAnimist:

    manacker wrote: “IPCC is specifically in business to ‘sell’ us a political message of the dangers of AGW and the need for remedial action”

    That’s a lie.

    And a really, really stupid lie at that.

    Perhaps you forgot which site you were posting on? The “UN black helicopters” stuff doesn’t really work here.

  168. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Hank, thanks for the tip, I recall his work here in RC from the past as well

    I highly recomend Rays #169

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/11/sea-level-rise-the-new-york-times-got-the-story/comment-page-4/#comment-191781

    response to my #168

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/11/sea-level-rise-the-new-york-times-got-the-story/comment-page-4/#comment-191777

    ust to tickle the humerus ;)

  169. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Actually, I don’t think Max Anacker would recognize the first rule of economics if it ran him over in an oil truck.

  170. Rod B:

    Gavin (152) (and Ray): while admitting his period is too short for bona fide trends, Spencer says, “…would correspond to a rather trivial 0.6 deg. C of warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2…” and “but as averaging times get longer…. translates to about 1 deg. C of warming for a doubling of atmospheric CO2)… ” as late as 2008. Has he refuted that recently? Or why do you say he doesn’t say what he says?

    [Response: Spencer and Braswell (2010): “Although these feedback parameter estimates are all similar in magnitude, even if they do represent feedback operating on intraseasonal to interannual time scales, it is not obvious how they relate to long‐term climate sensitivity.” – gavin]

  171. Rod B:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation), what exactly is the first rule of economics that max (and I guess me…) misses?

  172. Ray Ladbury:

    Ken Coffman@166,
    Unlikely. If I were looking at factors that affect plant growth, temperature is one of them I would control for–and the stability of the temperatures reported would indicate this was the case.

  173. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Rod W. Brick

    It has been phrased many ways, but it is oft repeated in economics classes:

    There is no such thing as free.

    aka. everything has a cost

    Translated into direct libertarian construct:
    Liberty has a cost.

    Military: Freedom isn’t free.

    Democracy, republicanism, dictatorship, Keyensianism, expansion, production, work, play, food, breathing, living, et cetera.

    In other words, no matter what you are talking about, there has to be a cost or a trade off somewhere.

    You can’t transmogrify anything from one form to another without a cost, an exchange, a transfer of energy.

    Or as my economics teacher once said, if someone gives you something for free, don’t forget that someone paid for it.

  174. Walter Pearce:

    #173, John P. Reisman,
    Yes, Manacker and Brick recognize neither the free services nature provides nor the “externalities” fossil fuel use imposes. They just don’t want to capture true costs and values…

  175. Bill Woolverton:

    “BPL: And you’ve got a 5% chance of the actual figure being outside 2.1-4.5 K, which means a 2.5% chance that it’s really low. And you want to bet humanity’s future on that?”
    My understanding is that the studies show that the chances of a sensitivity lower than 2.1 K are less than a sensitivity higher than 4.5 K.

  176. Ken Coffman:

    I completely agree with you, Ray. How did they control the temperature to counteract the significant warming from increased CO2 concentration? I’d love to know. Generally you control the temp in a greenhouse by opening vents to increase circulation, but that option is not available in a greenhouse where you’re trying to set the CO2 concentration to a specific value. They couldn’t use an air conditioner, because that needs outside air. I suppose they could modulate the insolation with screens or something, but that would skew the experiment by adding another variable…you wouldn’t want to do anything to change the light on the leaves.
    How did they do it?

  177. Ray Ladbury:

    Ken Coffman, I don’t see the problem. If you keep the temperature above amb-ient, heating would not pose a significant problem. And running chilled water through radiators, you could effectively cool a small greenhouse quite nicely.

  178. flxible:

    @174: Yes, Manacker and Brick recognize neither the free services nature provides nor the “externalities” fossil fuel use imposes. They just don’t want to capture true costs and values ..

    Because I suspect, they recognize “wealth is the result of exploitation”, which is another way to look at the “free lunch” capitalism promises.

  179. manacker:

    @BPL (158)

    To put it very mildly, I believe you are grossly exaggerating the projected consequences of a few hundred added ppmv of atmospheric CO2 over the next century.

    Maybe James E. Hansen would support a part of your “doomsday scenario” but IPCC certainly does not go that far.

    But, hey, everyone to his own belief, BPL.

    Max

    PS We have discussed and re-discussed this point ad nauseam, so I do not believe it makes any sense to repeat it any more. If you have something new you’d like to discuss (that relates to the topic of this thread), I’d be glad to engage. Otherwise bye-bye!

  180. CM:

    Ken #176, the warming in an actual greenhouse is dominated by trapping of hot air (prevention of convection). Secondarily, there’s trapping of IR by the glass walls/roof. The radiative effects of elevated CO2 in the greenhouse aren’t going to be significant. (The heat given off by the burning of gas to produce CO2 might, though.) And yes, you could use an air conditioner if you particularly needed to; they exchange heat, not air.

    Are you just here to play games with us, or do you have a point you plan to make?

  181. manacker:

    @Gavin

    Re ur comment 170. Yes, Spencer & Braswell were very cautious about whether the observed short-term negative feedback from clouds translates into the same net negative feedback on a longer-term basis, as you pointed out.

    Since this study, however, Spencer has published additional work, more specifically relating to the longer-term effect.

    In this report, he concludes, based on Aqua and TERRA satellite observations:
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/research-articles/satellite-and-climate-model-evidence/

    The bottom line from the model and observational evidence presented here is that:

    Net feedbacks in the real climate system — on both short and long time scales — are probably negative. A misinterpretation of cloud behavior has led climate modelers to build models in which cloud feedbacks are instead positive, which has led the models to predict too much global warming in response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

    So the question of climate sensitivity is still open.

    Max

    [Response: Wishing for it doesn’t make it so. Don’t you wonder why Spencer’s statements in papers are so much more constrained than on a blog? Something to do with having to convince reviewers and editors that the conclusions need to be drawn from the actual results and not be in contradiction to all the other evidence perhaps? – gavin]

  182. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #178 flxible

    Just a few points: While I do understand your perspective, Capitalism itself is not the prime suspect. But to see that you need to look at the other suspects that were present at the scene of the crime.

    Capitalism in its most healthy form is based on the transparency of market function thus allowing market considerations such as exploitation to be a part of the construct. Though long term thinking in this area of market function is a new paradigm in many ways, the bigger culprit is in oligarchical and plutocratic influence that reduces or eliminates the market transparencies that are needed for such healthier function of the market system.

    The world really is a big market system. The atmosphere trades with the oceans, the biosphere trades with the atmosphere and oceans, the minerals trade with the biosphere.

    Just a big market place really.

    Now that we see the functions of the market and our impacts, we need to adjust our view so that we are considerate of the long term in relation to the short term and adjust our shopping habits ;)

    But there is no free lunch.

    Pretending there is (a free lunch) also has a cost.

    Economics: Balancing Economies
    October Leading Edge: The Cuccinelli ‘Witch Hunt”

    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

  183. Kevin McKinney:

    @165–“Barton, John, Max specializes in what he’s doing. Look at his work elsewhere.”

    Yep. Soon as I saw the “Manacker” handle on the list of comments, the only unknown was precisely which detail would be picked over.

  184. Ken Coffman:

    CM, I don’t want to misquote you…you’re saying that doubling the CO2 concentration in a greenhouse won’t lead to a 1.5 to 6 (give or take) degrees C temperature increase?

    [Response: The issues are completely distinct. Why should the global mean sensitivity apply to a greenhouse? – gavin]

  185. Phil Scadden:

    Gavin, an update on the latest Spencer & Braswell would probably be a good RC article.

  186. Dan H.:

    Max,
    I agree. The issue of climate sensitivity is still open. Some seem to think otherwise. Spencer is not the only one believing that clouds represent a negative feedback, and the possibility of a negative cloud feedback would dramatically reduce many of the quoted sensitivities. The IPCC listed 1.8/CO2 doubling before cloud feedback was included. I do not think this is merely wishful thinking, but good scientific procedure to accurate portray this factor.

    [Response: Sure, but it is also good scientific procedure to look at the plentiful evidence that climate sensitivity is higher than that derived from top-down measures that implicitly include all feedbacks. It isn’t just a case of adding in one thing at a time. – gavin]

  187. CM:

    Ken #184, yup. If you’re not just here to play silly games, these recent posts might help clear up the confusion.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/a-simple-recipe-for-ghe/
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/08/the-key-to-the-secrets-of-the-troposphere/
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/09/introduction-to-feedbacks/

  188. Kevin McKinney:

    #184, #187–

    Ken, it may possibly help to know that Fourier, when he deduced the existence of what would later come to be called “the greenhouse effect,” didn’t know what the physical mechanism was, precisely. He was able to infer more or less what was happening in general, and to calculate a heat budget, but didn’t know what, exactly, about the atmosphere was “trapping heat.” He used the simile of the “heliothermometer,” an instrument somewhat similar to a miniature greenhouse; but the mechanisms of the two are unfortunately not the same.

  189. SecularAnimist:

    Dan H. wrote: “Spencer is not the only one believing that clouds represent a negative feedback, and the possibility of a negative cloud feedback would dramatically reduce many of the quoted sensitivities.”

    Meanwhile:

    Study could mean greater anticipated global warming

    Current state-of-the-art global climate models predict substantial warming in response to increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The models, though, disagree widely in the magnitude of the warming we can expect. The disagreement among models is mainly due to the different representation of clouds. Some models predict that global mean cloud cover will increase in a warmer climate and the increased reflection of solar radiation will limit the predicted global warming. Other models predict reduced cloudiness and magnified warming.

    In a paper that has just appeared in the Journal of Climate, researchers from the University of Hawaii Manoa (UHM) have assessed the performance of current global models in simulating clouds and have presented a new approach to determining the expected cloud feedbacks in a warmer climate.

    Lead author Axel Lauer at the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at UHM notes, “All the global climate models we analyzed have serious deficiencies in simulating the properties of clouds in present-day climate. It is unfortunate that the global models’ greatest weakness may be in the one aspect that is most critical for predicting the magnitude of global warming.”

    To study the clouds, the researchers applied a model representing only a limited region of the atmosphere over the eastern Pacific Ocean and adjacent land areas. The clouds in this region are known to greatly influence present climate, yet current global models do poorly in representing them. The regional model, developed at the IPRC, successfully simulates key features of the region’s present-day cloud fields, including the observed response of clouds to El Nino. Having evaluated the model’s simulation of present-day conditions, the researchers examined the response of simulated clouds in a warmer climate such as it might be in 100 years from now. The tendency for clouds to thin and cloud cover to reduce was more pronounced in this model than in any of the current global models.

    Co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes, “If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate, then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see.”

    Emphasis added.

  190. sambo:

    @Gavin’s Response (186)

    When you say the top down measurements, are you talking about the satelite data sets (to calculate climate sensitivity)? Would you give a quick description of how the different timescales could be taken into account? For instance I would guess that cloud cover and formation/dissipation would be quite variable over short timescales but must “average” (not in a statistical sense mind you).

  191. flxible:

    JPR@182 yes, Manacker and Brick are [some of] the “main suspects”, yearning for that “free” lunch . . . . because they recognize “wealth is the result of exploitation” as I said.

  192. manacker:

    @Secular Animist

    Key word in your highlighted summary (189) is the first one: “IF”.

    A small word with a very large significance.

    Max

  193. manacker:

    We won’t resolve here whether the net cloud feedback is strongly positive, as per all the climate models cited by IPCC or strongly negative, as suggested by the satellite observations of Spencer & Braswell.

    But we must agree that this makes a very big difference.

    IPCC calculations attribute 1.3C of the 3.2C average 2xCO2 climate sensitivity to a strongly positive cloud feedback, so it is clear that a net negative cloud feedback would have a major impact on the 2xCO2 CS.

    Do clouds act as a “natural thermostat” by reflecting more net energy out to space with warming or do they increase net warming by enhancing the GH effect?

    That is the big unresolved question that no one here can answer for sure.

    As IPCC stated in its AR4 WG1 report:

    Cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty.

    Max

  194. Ray Ladbury:

    Max, there’s a really big problem with your “clouds will save us” Hail Mary. The climate sensitivity is constrained to be around 3 degrees per doubling by about a dozen independent lines of evidence. If you look at the evidence, it is actually remarkable that the favored value for all of these lines of evidence is right about 3. What do you suppose the chances of that are if the sensitivity were substantially less. The fact is that if CO2 were significantly less, then Earth’s climate wouldn’t look like Earth. Let me know when you’ve figured out a way around that, will you…or when you have some evidence…or when you have a clue.

  195. Rod B:

    Gavin (170), thanks for the response and link.

  196. Rod B:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) (173), Thanks.

    Walter Pearce, quit making up crap about what you think I say and believe — evidently with no evidence other than what’s in your behind. For the record, I think externalities should be costed. I just think it out to be done smartly with accounting finesse and not stupidly with an ineffective sledge hammer and snow plow.

  197. Rod B:

    flxible, HA! Capitalism promises free lunch???? I know; the debble made you do it…

  198. manacker:

    @Ray Ladbury

    All you have written (194) sounds great, but it does not change the fact (as IPCC has conceded):

    Cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty

    And, until this “largest source of uncertainty” is cleared up, we just won’t know whether your conclusion of a 2xCO2 CS of 3C is right or Spencer’s conclusion of a 2xCO2 CS of around 0.6C is right, will we?

    And that, Ray, is what Dr. Curry means by “uncertainty”.

    Max

    [Response: Or maybe 5 deg C – that’s what’s called being honest. Plus you still haven’t said how you reconcile 0.6 deg C with the history of paleo-climate. Explain the LGM if you can. It is not that we know nothing about sensitivity, despite you ignoring all of it, in order to grasp the straw of uncertainty. – gavin ]

  199. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #191 flxible

    I understand you point. Important to be aware that everything exploits everything else though. Context is key. It’s over exploitation we need to worry about.

    Max Anaker

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/richard-lindzen

    Unfortunately the evidence is pointing the other direction.

  200. Barton Paul Levenson:

    HR 165: Barton, John, Max specializes in what he’s doing. Look at his work elsewhere.

    BPL: Then how in hell did he get the idea that a confidence interval is an “assumption?”

  201. Barton Paul Levenson:

    BPL: And you’ve got a 5% chance of the actual figure being outside 2.1-4.5 K, which means a 2.5% chance that it’s really low. And you want to bet humanity’s future on that?

    BW: My understanding is that the studies show that the chances of a sensitivity lower than 2.1 K are less than a sensitivity higher than 4.5 K.

    BPL: Well, you’re probably right about that, it’s probably not a homoskedastic distribution. Of course, that makes my point even more forcefully.

  202. Barton Paul Levenson:

    max 179: To put it very mildly, I believe you are grossly exaggerating the projected consequences of a few hundred added ppmv of atmospheric CO2 over the next century.

    BPL: You believe all kinds of interesting things, but that particular one doesn’t really conform to reality. I have studied this question in depth. You haven’t. I’m right, you’re wrong. Sorry about that.

  203. Walter Pearce:

    #196, making up crap.

    Rod B., 12 August 2009:

    “As a skeptic, I’m very concerned with society-bending and massively costly mitigation efforts being implemented with the current confidence (my view) in AGW science.”

    Gee, where DID the idea come from that Rod B. doesn’t appreciate environmental values and fossil fuel externalities?”

  204. JBL:

    @BPL 200: Hank refers not to knowing the science but rather to spreading misinformation. He’s gently suggesting that you not waste your time arguing with someone who is here to mislead others rather than to share knowledge.

  205. Dan H.:

    Secular linked to a good research paper which agrees with the Spencer & Braswell report on the effect of clouds on climate, but disagrees on the effect of temperature on cloud formation.

    Both papers have concluded that an increase in clouds will have a cooling effect; the reflected sunlight will exceed the trapped radiation. S & B stated, as have others, that a warming world will increase cloud cover due to greater water evaporation and condensation. Alex Lauer argues the opposite; that a warming world will decrease cloud cover.

  206. Kevin McKinney:

    @200: BPL: Then how in hell did he get the idea that a confidence interval is an “assumption?”

    What JBL said–though I’d have put it that reading for comprehension isn’t really what Max does.

  207. Ray Ladbury:

    Max,
    OK, let me draw you a map. In order for sensitivity to be significantly below 2.1 degrees per doubling:

    1)Current climate models would have to be not just wrong, but utterly wrong. This is not a problem you could fix with a few parametric tweaks. You would have to come up with a completely different model. And of course, you’d have to explain why the current models (which are dynamical physical models) get so much right if they are so wrong. See:
    http://bartonpaullevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

    2)You could not explain the onset of the last ice age or its end.

    3)There is a mountain of proxy data that could not be understood that is currently well understood under current models.

    4)You could not make sense of the instrumental record.

    5)You could not explain the response of the atmosphere to large volcanic eruptions.

    6)You could not understand why the planet did not cool more in the 1945-75.

    And that is just for starters. You cannot simply take a dataset–and one with lots of systematic errors–and say, “Oh look, everything we know must be wrong.”

    As to Judy Curry, I don’t know if you noticed, but her expertise is in hurricanes. Her knowledge outside of that narrow domain is–to be charitable–thin. She also seems quite weak on the scientific method. I don’t think she qualifies as an authority.

  208. Rod B:

    Walter Pearce (203), no, that is the smart vs. stupid distinction…

  209. Didactylos:

    BPL said (to Max): “You believe all kinds of interesting things, but that particular one doesn’t really conform to reality. I have studied this question in depth. You haven’t. I’m right, you’re wrong. Sorry about that.”

    Let’s run that one more time: “I’m right, you’re wrong.”

    And that’s why you don’t get any respect, BPL. Serious people disagree with you. People who aren’t deniers or faux sceptics.

    Pretend you are infallible if you want. But it’s a sure-fire way not to get taken seriously. Every over-excited alarmist makes our task harder.

  210. Didactylos:

    manacker said: “but it does not change the fact (as IPCC has conceded)”

    manacker, something has to be the largest source of uncertainty. Your argument that because uncertainty exists, we can’t rely on the result is just moronic. It depends on the size of the uncertainty, and here we already have some good bounds on the uncertainty.

    Maybe if we study clouds a whole lot more, something else will become the largest source of uncertainty. It really doesn’t matter. Uncertainty is always with us.

    It irritates me no end when deniers like manacker pretend that scientists or the IPCC are “conceding” things that are perfectly obvious and widely accepted.

  211. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Every over-excited alarmist makes our task harder.

    Who’s ‘our’ as in ‘we’ or ‘us’. Let me explain to you who ‘i’ am, the sop called over-excited ‘alarmist’, who is simply reciting verifiable results to ‘you’. I am someone who understands what science is and how it works, someone who has a basic world class university education in the hard sciences, someone who has participated in the space, computer and software revolutions in our society, someone who has read extensively up on hard science subjects since before the computer and software revolutions, someone who figured out how to type keywords in the search bar after the software revolution, and thus, someone who has extensively read up on the hard science subjects at hand after the software revolution, and thus someone who is intimately familiar with the many and evolving scientific methods at the disposal of anyone who cares to read up on the subject, and also someone who has at my fingertips all of the current results available.

    Now let me tell you what this ‘alarmist’ has to say to you. You and your children will be royally screwed on this planet if you don’t get up off your butts and do something about the PROBLEMS that confront you real soon.

    Take it or leave it. It’s in print. From a fiscal point of view, it’s happening now, in real time. From a weather point of view, you’re talking years. From a climate point of view, you have a decade, or two, at most.

  212. Walter Pearce:

    #208 “…smart, stupid, massive, society-bending, ineffective…”

    There’s seemingly an endless supply of straw men emanating from this Brick’s behind.

    Here’s Rod B. on 12 August 2009:

    “Accountants have to (and properly so) work only with things that can be specifically enumerated. Economists ought to be able to extend themselves beyond the numbers, but too often do not. The process is a little like a company preparing a business case. Often the best input (pro and con) of a business case is something that can not be put into numbers. Yet those inputs are usually not allowed as business leaders usually are very uncomfortable with decisions that are based on stuff other than that which can be counted. “Marketing says we can capture 13.7% of the market in 20 months and sell 1,233,901 widgets” gets a lot more acceptance (and often proves to be wildly incorrect) than, “the market is new, can’t really be quantified, but we feel we can sell a ton.” Economists suffer the same inhibitions all to often.”

    Rod B, 23 November 2010:

    “For the record, I think externalities should be costed. I just think it out to be done smartly with accounting finesse and not stupidly with an ineffective sledge hammer and snow plow.”

    What’s really stupid is that 20 years ago we missed the opportunity to apply the precautionary principle in a measured, evolutionary way. Thanks to the muddled or outright contradictory thinking — intentional or not — exhibited by the Rod Bs and Manackers of the world, bringing externalities into the equation will be all the more abrupt and costly.

  213. Rod B:

    Ray, a deviation in the non-feedback forcing equation assumption with a major deviation with the cloud/vapor highly uncertain assumption and I suspect the global net sensitivity changes noticeably. You are overly impressed with the fact that all models use essentially (though not exactly) the same assumed parameters and get, WALLAH!, near the same answers. I know you don’t like “assumption” applied to something you believe came down from the mount chiseled in stone, but we can’t reconcile that.

    The ice ages had temperature change leading CO2, at least in the primary instance, so is not the same as the current situation. Can scientists none-the-less draw reasonable inferences here? Sure. But reasonable inferences do not equate to cocksure unquestionable absolutism.

    By the mountain of proxy evidence are you referring to the half-dozen or so trees from times past? Or what makes up the mountain? [Curiosity: same mountain where the above assumptions came from?)

    The most annoying, to me, is when one questions one aspect of the warming theory, you twist it and claim he denies (not just questions) every piece of the theory (as in “Oh look, everything we know must be wrong.”), which of course can’t be true, and therefore he has to be completely wrong. It is a non sequitur retort.

    So, the head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology (like Mann at Penn State) with a PhD from U of Chicago has thin knowledge, weak in the scientific method, and not any authority?? [edit – calm down]

  214. Sir:

    198 manacker said
    And, until this “largest source of uncertainty” is cleared up, we just won’t know whether your conclusion of a 2xCO2 CS of 3C is right or Spencer’s conclusion of a 2xCO2 CS of around 0.6C is right, will we?

    Haven’t we already had .6c warming and we have only increased CO2 by 30% since 1890?

  215. Hank Roberts:

    BPL, Max specializes in capturing climate threads with faux-naive confusion; if you reply in any thread, it will soon devolve around him; ‘oogle “Manacker Monologue” for him doing it over at Bart’s for example. He’s very good at it.

  216. humanpersonjr:

    Everyone knew what the inquiries would find.

  217. Bob (Sphaerica):

    213 (Rod B),

    You completely missed the point of Ray’s post, and completely misunderstood most of what he said, and then you appear to get angry at him as a result. This by itself highlights how poorly you understand the situation and the arguments.

  218. Hank Roberts:

    Incomprehension as a tactic: http://www.searchlores.org/schopeng.htm

  219. Didactylos:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I was addressing BPL, who claims that human civilisation will “collapse” globally by 2050.

    Yes, we must act now. But persuading people to act now by misleading and manipulating them isn’t really a clever idea.

    Thomas, I have no idea what you hoped to prove with your link. So far as it addresses short-term global warming impacts, it is pure idle speculation, and I don’t see how that trumps existing global warming impact assessments for the next century. Those are quite bad enough, without making stuff up.

  220. Ken Coffman:

    Okay, here’s a sad confession for you. Once you guys start talking about things outside the troposphere, I tune you out. I’m very interested in our surface temperature and tend to look at things with large thermal mass—things like water…and earth to some extent. I also look at things that can store and release huge amounts of energy, like water’s phase changes. I think about all the components of TSI (not fully discovered yet) and cloud feedback (oh, what a mess that is). I think about things like gray-sphere adaptations of Stefan–Boltzmann’s law.

    The stratosphere seems like an interesting place, but I don’t spend much time there. To the extent that you can say it has a temperature, I’d say it’s very cold. But, it’s rarified, so it has no significant thermal mass. There’s not much there so it won’t interfere with IR radiation much. Between us friends? Let’s just call it vacuum and live with any tiny errors this simplification introduces.

    For the errors in my simplification, I’m happy to learn something new. However, there is so much chaos, error and uncertainty in the big factors, I think it’s pointless to argue over the tiny factors.

    If you ever wonder why your clamor falls on deaf ears when you’re talking to many of us in the engineering community, I have done my best to explain. I hope you appreciate it. You’re welcome.

    [Response: Your problem is not that you in the engineering community, but that you personally don’t want to understand what climate science is saying. If we say that there is a good piece of data somewhere that allows to distinguish between two possible hypotheses, someone (engineer or not) who was interested in those hypotheses might ask for us to explain it a little more, or show the relevant evidence. Someone who has already made up their mind would respond that wherever that somewhere was, it can’t be interesting and that we should talk about something else. Which one fits best with your response? – gavin]

  221. Maya:

    Didactylos, you and BPL are both posters to whom I pay particular attention when reading on this site. You’re both well-reasoned, and you can back up what you say. Yes, BPL is more aggressive in his speech, but I can’t ever remember him actually being wrong when he was insisting he was right, although I’m sure it has happened. And, as has been pointed out before, alarmING and alarmIST are not the same thing. His presentation may not sit well with you, but in my not-that-humble opinion, such voices as his are also necessary in the discussion (not just here, the discussion in society as a whole) to be assertive, to tell it like it is, to not pull punches.

    Maybe this is sort of OT, but on the other hand, the whole Climategate thing was about speaking out, when to do it, and when not to do it.

  222. SecularAnimist:

    The reactions to BPL’s comments regarding the likely collapse of human civilization by mid-century are interesting — especially those from commenters who accept the reality of AGW and understand the factors (e.g. the impact of widespread, prolonged, intense drought on agriculture; the collapse of oceanic fisheries; the loss of fresh water supplies for billions of people) that inform BPL’s comments.

    Basically, I don’t see much in the way of substantive objections. It seems to be more about a psychological unwillingness to accept the possibility that human civilization has no future.

    Personally, I would LOVE to hear a plausible, convincing argument that the scenarios that BPL envisions won’t happen.

    Because at this point, I can’t really think of any.

  223. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I was addressing BPL, who claims that human civilization will “collapse” globally by 2050.

    Civiliazations collapse. I cannot think of a single human ‘civilization’ in the past 10,000 years besides our own current version, that did not collapse. What makes you think our current civilization is exempt?

    My next question is collapse from what, since I’ve already established that according to human holocene history it will inevitably collapse.

    Collapse from climate change? Collapse from deforestation? Collapse from barbarian invasion? Collapse from heavy metal poisoning? Collapse from volcanic eruption and tsunami? Collapse from asteroid or comet impact?

    Most previous civil collapses resulted in dieoffs related to things like agricultural collapse from climate change and deforestation or invasion.

    I’m pretty sure BPL was talking about collapse from climate change, and I have already pointed out to you that collapse from overpopulation, war, famine and financial bankruptcy is already well on its way to inevitable completion, with an estimated timeframe that is well before mid century.

    You can only do things like print money and emit carbon for so long.

  224. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Did, in one of his frequent moods: Let’s run that one more time: “I’m right, you’re wrong.”
    And that’s why you don’t get any respect, BPL. Serious people disagree with you. People who aren’t deniers or faux sceptics.
    Pretend you are infallible if you want. But it’s a sure-fire way not to get taken seriously. Every over-excited alarmist makes our task harder.

    BPL: On this particular issue, I’m right and he’s wrong. I didn’t say I was infallible. I was just saying he was wrong. Kind of like you whenever you try to analyze me.

    I don’t get any respect? Monday I met with Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) to talk about my climate research. I’m about to have two articles published in peer-reviewed journals. I have a successful writing career. I correspond with people like Jim Kasting, Aiguo Dai, and Kevin Trenberth. So who is it that isn’t giving me respect, at least with regard to my knowledge of climate science? Aside from you, I mean.

    [Response: Can we all just tone it down a little? Backbiting among commentators is neither interesting nor edifying. – gavin]

  225. Barton Paul Levenson:

    I said I wasn’t going to answer Rod again, but…

    Rod: WALLAH!

    BPL: It’s VOILÀ. French, meaning, “See there.” Used by stage magicians when they display something.

  226. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Hank 215–Point taken. I didn’t understand what you meant at first. Sorry about that.

  227. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Did: was addressing BPL, who claims that human civilisation will “collapse” globally by 2050.
    Yes, we must act now. But persuading people to act now by misleading and manipulating them isn’t really a clever idea.

    BPL: Unless I’m just telling them the truth. My current best estimate for collapse is 2050-2055. Mean figure 2052, s.d. 0.66 after 10,000 runs of the simulation. See my upcoming article in J. Clim. for details.

  228. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Ken Coffman 220: The stratosphere seems like an interesting place, but I don’t spend much time there. To the extent that you can say it has a temperature, I’d say it’s very cold. But, it’s rarified, so it has no significant thermal mass.

    BPL: Actually, the stratosphere has about 20% of the mass of the entire atmosphere. Big thermal mass, actually. Use the same composition as the troposphere (it’s about right except for ozone, which is a very minor constituent), and use 0.2 x 5.14e18 for the mass, 1004 J/K/kg for the specific heat at constant pressure.

  229. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Secular–I have to agree with you. I would LOVE to see good evidence that I’m wrong on this. I don’t WANT civilization to collapse. I probably won’t live to 2052, but other families will. And, of course, the collapse could come earlier, since my analysis *only* covers the drought problem.

    Without high-tech civilization, I’m dead. Multiple medical conditions.

  230. Anonymous Coward:

    I #227 supposed to be a joke?

    I hope you’re not trying to turn RC in yet another doomer blog (perhaps it would be time to take this elsewhere) but you haven’t even defined “collapse” so there’s no way to tell what you’re talking about. People often write about the Chinese civilization and so on as if such civilizations didn’t collapse. The kind of basket cases Jared Diamond famously wrote about obviously qualify as collapses but some of you are apparently using borader definitions. That or you’ve got to be kidding…

  231. Ken Coffman:

    Very well, Mr. BPL. I’m listening. The stratosphere, with at least 2 orders of magnitude more volume than the troposphere, has 20% of its mass. That means there’s not much density. I’m making large errors if I equate “not much density” to “very nearly no density”? There’s a big difference between radiating through the stratosphere and radiating though empty space? Really?

  232. CM:

    Ken Coffmann #220

    > Once you guys start talking about things outside the troposphere (…)
    > The stratosphere (…) won’t interfere with IR radiation much (…)

    I must have missed something. Where did the stratosphere come into it? I can’t see anybody mentioned it before you did. What’s the point you’re trying to make?

  233. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I hope you’re not trying to turn RC in yet another doomer blog (perhaps it would be time to take this elsewhere) but you haven’t even defined “collapse”.

    If you truly want to discuss civilizations and doom, if would help if you could educate yourself a little about it, rather than blowing off those who have.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization

    Anyone can work through the list and discern the reasons and methods of their collapse, but I’ll just list a few for brevity. The Olmecs, Aztecs, Mayans and Incas were destroyed by Spanish invasion, and most people will agree that was accompanied by war, barbarism, chaos, disease, slavery and ultimately buccaneering. Their remnants were eventually merged into modern civilization. The Greeks were conquered by the Romans bit by bit, and they eventually fell to Germanic barbarism and Christianity, exemplified by the ‘Dark Ages’. Heavy metal poisoning and deforestation and silting of the harbors are also often implicated. The Minoans were destroyed by natural disaster, in their case a point disaster of catastrophic volcanic eruption and tsunami. Babylon (Mesopotamia) in the fertile crescent was ultimately destroyed by simple climate change – desertification, accompanied by invasion and starvation. That didn’t change much until the discovery of oil in the region. The list goes on and you can further refine to empires.

    The point that your so called ‘doomers’ are making is that modern civilization is inextricably linked to global trade, that is now dependent upon both the printing of endless amount of money representing a finite amount of natural resources, and the emission of essentially endless amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide representing a finite amount of natural buffering rate and capacity, and a nearly exponential growth of human population, which is demonstrably unsustainable barring any near term technological breakthroughs. The previous technological breakthrough making this stunning modern population and economic growth possible, is the invention of oil, gas and coal mining and its controlled combustion.

    The only near term technological innovation on the horizon that can replace this is direct solar energy conversion, which depends on technological breakthroughs in condensed matter physics, and/or low cost space flight, which doesn’t seem possible in the current climate of corporate, religious and militant fascism, and the resulting anti-science backlash that necessarily accompany the socioeconomic cults they represent.

    If you’ve got a solution to this paradox, I’d love to hear about it.

  234. manacker:

    @Gavin

    Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Yes, it [2xCO2 CS] could be 5C, as you write. One does not need to move very much further down the correlation with the observed feedback parameter to arrive at a 2xCO2 of “infinity”.

    Paleo-climate studies are great.

    But the data are, by definition, a bit sketchy. Then there are the rather simplistic assumptions that we know all there is to know about our climate. The last glacial maximum can be explained quite simply by significantly colder temperatures, which cannot be definitively explained, unfortunately, due to the many “unknown unknowns” to which Dr. Curry alluded.

    My point is simply: two renowned climate scientists (among others): Lindzen and Spencer, have both concluded that 2xCO2 CS is well below 1C (although they disagree on how much below 1C). Both based their conclusion at least partly on recent satellite observations (rather than on long-ago paleo-climate reconstructions).

    Why should their assessment not be included in the overall assumed range, as a part of the “uncertainty”?

    Max

    PS Gavin, you may not wish to respond again, as our exchange is, admittedly, becoming a bit repetitive.

  235. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Why should their assessment not be included in the overall assumed range, as a part of the “uncertainty”?

    Because numerous recent papers point out many (some of them major) flaws in Lindzen et al. as described here.

  236. Brian Dodge:

    “Many of my e-mails have been maliciously taken out of context, another effort by those assaulting my career.”
    Jack Abramoff

    according to wikipedia
    “Abramoff was a top lobbyist for the Preston Gates & Ellis and Greenberg Traurig firms and a director of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, and Toward Tradition. He was College Republican National Committee National Chairman from 1981 to 1985. He was a founding member of the International Freedom Foundation.”
    “Abramoff pled guilty on January 3, 2006, to three criminal felony counts in a Washington, D.C., federal court related to the defrauding of American Indian tribes and corruption of public officials.”

    http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jack_abramoff.html – they uncharitably place Abramoff in the author category “criminal”.

  237. manacker:

    @Thomas Lee Elifritz

    Good analysis (233), as far as I’m concerned.

    Modern civilization is inextricably linked to global trade – absolutely

    Printing of endless amount of money – definitely a time bomb

    [Consuming] a finite amount of resources – maybe, with caveat below

    Emission of essentially endless amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide – not really, Thomas, because of the “finite amount of resources” (i.e. fossil fuels) mentioned above. All the optimistically estimated fossil fuel reserves on this planet would just barely get the atmospheric CO2 level up to around 1,000 ppmv some day in the distant future, so it is not “endless”.

    Agree that energy from fossil fuels has enabled human population and affluence to reach their current levels – but there are still billions who live in poverty and (as a result) procreate too rapidly and this problem must be addressed.

    Fossil fuels will only last around 150 more years unless their consumption is slowed down and their use eventually limited to non-combustion applications, such as chemicals, fertilizers, etc.

    Solar energy may play a major role in moving the world away from its dependence on fossil fuel based energy, as you say, but so can nuclear fission (including fast-breeder technology using thorium to essentially eliminate the spent fuel problem), nuclear fusion and some as yet unknown new technology we haven’t even dreamed of yet.

    I am basically not a “doomsday” pessimist (like BPL), but I agree with you that we must be prudent in our use of the resources we have, we must eliminate waste and pollution, we must figure out how to give the billions of impoverished humans a basic energy infrastructure, so they can pull themselves up from abject poverty, malnutrition and disease, and we must definitely stop printing endless amounts of “funny money” to pay our bills.

    Max

  238. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B., I realize that posts on “climategate” tend to bring out the wilfully ignorant, anti-science ideologues, but as long as you’ve been hanging around here, you have no excuse. Climate sensitivity depends on how much an amount of energy put into the system gets amplified by feedbacks. It does not depend on the source of that energy (at least to first order). If the sensitivity for CO2 is low, then it must also be low for changes in insolation, sulfates… The problem is that you don’t get a climate that oscillates in and out of ice ages if that is the case. You don’t get a climate that cools dramatically in response to a large volcanic eruption.

    Moreover, climate models are very delicately balanced and highly constrained. There are not a lot of knobs one can twiddle. Now climate sensitivity is one of the most sensitive quantities in terms of determining climate behavior.

    As to the mountain of evidence, here is a good place to start:

    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/papers-on-climate-sensitivity-estimates/

    It’s part of the mountain of evidence. And as to where to look for evidence of low sensitivity…well, there isn’t any convincing evidence, really, is there?

  239. Ray Ladbury:

    Didactylos and Anonymous Coward,
    Look, why not play the game of science the way it’s supposed to be played? Rather than labeling Barton alarmist for telling you the conclusions of his analysis, why not go over it and see where specifically you think it is wrong? I suspect that the analysis might be pessimistic. We’ll have barely seen 1.5 degrees of warming by then in all likelihood. However, I do know Barton is a careful person who usually is not given to making rash statements. I also know the period from ~2050-2100 is critical, as it is likely the period when human population will crest and place maximum strain on the planet’s productive capabilities and its ability to heal from damage. I think it is quite possible that we could permanently degrade the planet’s ability to support life in this period. Barton is at least trying to assess whether this is a credible threat.

    I think it deserves a bit more consideration than a cry of “Alarmist!”

  240. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    I have no idea what you hoped to prove with your link. So far as it addresses short-term global warming impacts, it is pure idle speculation, and I don’t see how that trumps existing global warming impact assessments for the next century. Those are quite bad enough, without making stuff up.

    Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate – making stuff up.

    Be very very nice to these people. Sure. Uh-huh.

  241. Brian Dodge:

    “There’s a big difference between radiating through the stratosphere and radiating though empty space? Really?” ROFLMAO

    The radiation is going through 20% of the CO2 in the atmosphere – you REALLY don’t think that’s any different from empty space? It’s also not going through 20% of the water vapor in the atmosphere – can you explain why that’s important?

  242. Rod B:

    Walter Pearce (212), thanks for repeating my post where I was making a case for externalities getting into the costing. Funny though, it sounds like your using that post to show me doing just the opposite, and somehow blaming me for the lack of externalities in the current system of accounting. But maybe that’s just my perception….

  243. Rod B:

    Bob (Sphaerica) (217), I read Ray as stating six points that might have to be shown different from convention before anyone could even question sensitivity. I responded to three of them, and then made comments on two of his assertions. I’m not sure how I might have misread Ray’s comment; can you be more specific?

  244. Rod B:

    BPL, Gavin said to hold down the grammar, but thanks loads.

  245. Rod B:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz, thanks for the link of an example of Krugman making stuff up.

  246. Didactylos:

    [edit – enough is enough]

  247. Didactylos:

    Thomas: perhaps we are talking at cross-purposes.

    You are wasting your time treating me as an enemy, because I am already perfectly aware of the possible future of the planet.

    Collapse is very likely, if we continue with BAU. But a global collapse? Maybe in the end, but a simultaneous catastrophic global collapse is very, very unlikely. Western civilisation isn’t a monolith. Nor is the west the region under most pressure. Additionally, rich countries have resources to deal with crises. I’m not naive. I’m aware that as economies break down, other economies that depend on them will suffer, and quality of life will be reduced. But that’s a long way from a collapse. Humanity is adaptable, after all.

    This subject deserves careful thought, not bald and unconvincing claims of total collapse by 2050. Claims that significantly detract from the business of *changing* BAU, and that give ammunition to those trying to paint all climate scientists as alarmist.

  248. VeryTallGuy:

    Ken Coffman @220

    Please don’t traduce all of us qualified engineers so casually.

    I would expect an engineer, if believing the stratosphere to be unimportant, to quantify the effects of the stratosphere, perhaps via an energy balance at the tropopause and the corresponding balance at the top of the stratosphere, with references, to justify that it is, in your words “vacuum”, but for “tiny errors”.

    Any chance of coming back with the quantification and references ?

    Then we engineers can judge whether you’re correct, or just making it up.

  249. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Ken Coffman: That means there’s not much density. I’m making large errors if I equate “not much density” to “very nearly no density”? There’s a big difference between radiating through the stratosphere and radiating though empty space? Really?

    BPL: You said this meant the stratosphere had low “thermal mass.” It doesn’t. Do you understand what the term means?

  250. Snapple:

    The Voice of America has an article about climate science, the upcoming Cancum meeting. The article quotes quotes John Abraham.

    http://www.voanews.com/english/news/environment/Climate-Change-Debate-Continues-for-Scientists-Politicians-News-Media-110486429.html

  251. Anonymous Coward:

    I agree with Didactylos (#244).

    Ray Ladbury writes that we should approach collapse scientifically. But these are not hard science questions. While one can make models based on assumptions (Limits to Growth), I think a rational approach would be to gather data first. If you’re intersted in “collapse” (whatever you mean) then I think you should look at the historical cases in which collapse happened under stress as well as cases in which collapse didn’t happen.
    Can any of you famine doomers tell me which was by your estimation the most severe non-collapse historical episode you looked at? Severity could be judged (just a suggestion) by the estimated demographic impact of deaths caused by malnutrition and related causes (epidemics, violence and so on).
    But perhaps we should discuss this elsewhere. There’s already lots of electronic meeting places dedicated to doomer talk…

    I notice with amusement that kooky monetary theories seem to be popular on both sides of the “climate fence”.

  252. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B., I find it astounding that you can look at all the evidence constraining climate sensitivity and call the fact that sensitivities in models reflect this an “assumption”. Is the value of the gravitational constant an assumption as well? How about the value of the electron’s charge?

    Rod, rule 1 in science is that you can’t ignore evidence. I think the only thing that keeps you from being a denialist is that you refuse to even look at the evidence in the first place!

  253. Alan Millar:

    238 Ray Ladbury says:

    ” Climate sensitivity depends on how much an amount of energy put into the system gets amplified by feedbacks. It does not depend on the source of that energy (at least to first order).”

    How true!

    238 Ray Ladbury says:

    “And as to where to look for evidence of low sensitivity…well, there isn’t any convincing evidence, really, is there?”

    How not true!

    When we try to guess the future climate sensitivity to an increase in radiative forcing why don’t we look at the most obvious, undisputed and calculable increase in radiative forcing from the Earths past and present?

    The Sun has been increasing its radiative forcing on the Earth by a measurable rate. Therefore, in say the last 500 million years, radiative forcing on the Earth has increased by about 5%. So, seeing as you state the Earth is quite sensitive to such increases, we have seen a large increase in the Earths temperature have we? Err……… No!

    We have seen no increase. In fact most scientists think that the Earth has actually cooled over that time.

    So the absolute FACT is, not hypothesis, is that the Earth has shown a negative feedback to increased radiative forcing and has done so for hundreds of millions of years.

    So, if you are going to speculate about a possible positive feedback to radiative forcing, it is you who has to give evidence to overturn this observed and unchallenged fact. When exactly did the Earths feedback sign change? What were the factors involved? What were the magnitudes? What were the various combinations and interactions?

    I hope I don’t get the usual ‘just because we don’t know everything, doesn’t mean we know nothing’ response.

    Alan Millar

    [Response: I love the way that people who spend a huge amount of time criticising attempts to work a global history of climate change over the last few hundred years suddenly presume that we know everything necessary to understand climate change from 500 million years ago. What was the global temperature then? What was the CO2 level? or methane? or surface albedo? Is it possible that just perhaps we might have more information about the ice age 20,000 years ago? Or that information from the Holocene might be more relevant for today’s climate? Who knows… – gavin]

  254. Ray Ladbury:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz,
    You do know what an Opinion piece is, don’t you?

  255. Radge Havers:

    If we’ve learned anything from the CRU hack and years of political discourse on climate science, it’s that it’s very easy to enable the willfully thickheaded. You have to be aware that language which may seem perfectly innocuous to you is dog whistles to deniers and only servers to justify their yapping. (They are, after all, legends in their own minds.) True, you may never convince most of them of anything, but you can keep them off balance, or at least make an effort not to make fertile ground their ravings.

    Or am I the only one disturbed by the trend of this thread?

    reCAPTCHA: New Cloggs
    Oh boy!

  256. Anonymous Coward:

    Gavin responded to Alan Miller above with a snark but, if sensitivity was more clearly defined, we would be spared much confusion.
    There is confusion over timescales (see “Hansens says sensitivity is 6C per doubling, not 3C”).
    And confusion about whether sensitivity includes carbon cycle feedbacks is also rife, on RC comment threads and elsewhere.

    Alan, it stands to reason that, over millions of yeats, atmospheric CO2 concentration might be a strong negative feedback to solar forcing. The rate at which atmospheric/oceanic CO2 is aborbed by sediments over very long timescales should be a function not only of CO2 concentration but also of temperature. I refer you to Ray Pierrehumbert’s upcoming book for instance. But this has nothing to do with sensitivity.

  257. Alan Millar:

    253
    “Response: I love the way that people who spend a huge amount of time criticising attempts to work a global history of climate change over the last few hundred years suddenly presume that we know everything necessary to understand climate change from 500 million years ago. What was the global temperature then? What was the CO2 level? or methane? or surface albedo? Is it possible that just perhaps we might have more information about the ice age 20,000 years ago? Or that information from the Holocene might be more relevant for today’s climate? Who knows… – gavin]”

    I am not critical of work our climate scientists do. It is one of many important element in our attempts to improve our understanding of the Universe and how we might possibly influence things to our benefit.

    I am critical of some of the certanties expressed by some of them in the light of a very incomplete understanding of the total science at this moment in time.

    Climate is best understood over very long periods of time. This current short period, during which we have discovered how to measure the Earths temperature fairly accurately, will not be able to be spotted by man looking back many thousands of years in the future if he uses todays techniques. It will be invisible ‘noise’ hidden in whatever long term trend we are currently in.

    What is that long term trend? Well using you more upto date periods of the current ice age and the holocene all I see is a long term cooling trend, not warming. The glacial periods over the last few hundred thousand years have been steadily getting colder. The temperatures in the Holocene peaked thousands of years ago and are now cooler. Yes we have seen some warmer temperatures since we started to measure fairly accurately. However, that is considerably less than one degree over that time.

    Now if we had a ‘settled’ climate science perhaps we could explain that increase with some certantity. However we don’t, because if we had settled the science we could answer every single climatic question that anyone cared to raise. Clouds, aerosols, the role of the Oceans etc etc etc.

    Heck, we can’t even explain the 1910 – 1940 warming satisfactorily and we here and measuring then!

    It is not the science anw work I am critical of it is the hubris!

    Alan Millar

    [Response: The hubris is that you think that one very uncertain data point and a whole load of righteous indignation overturns every thing that the science community has actually found. And you are very wrong on this new point too – the geochemical changes that humans have unleashed already will be visible in the geologic record for millions of years (cf. the PETM). – gavin]

  258. Ray Ladbury:

    Didactylos, While it is true that effective water management could ameliorate some of the effects of drought, such efforts depend critically on either
    1)social engineering–e.g. getting millions of land owners to reduce runoff so aquifers can (eventually over hundreds of years) recharge
    2)expensive, long-lead and disruptive infrastructure projects on a scale not previously dreamed of.

    It may already be too late for the aquifers, and when they are gone, they are gone for good. That would spell the end of farming in America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains, as well as dramatically decreasing yields in regions like the Punjab.

    And as to the building of dams, their benefit has often been far less than promised. Some, including Hoover, the Aswan, etc. have actually resulted in more water being lost. And even if they yielded all the promised benefits, is it feasible to carry out such large-scale projects on such a short timescale–and in the face of a changing climate that makes predicting their efficacy nearly impossible.

    I’m afraid I agree with Barton that the critical period for human civilization will be from 2050 to 2100 or perhaps 2150. It is not merely climate change that dictates that span. Climate change’s worst effects will likely not be felt for a couple of hundred years. Rather it is the combined effects of a population well beyond Earth’s carrying capacity, climate change, resource depletion, the end of cheap and easy energy and environmental degradation. If we don’t have a handle by 2150 on all these issues, nature will take matters in hand. Moreover, any attempts at recovery will take place in an environment where degradation is ongoing and worsening. So, I would really not say that I am more optimistic than BPL, merely that my pessimism is more delayed.

  259. Ray Ladbury:

    Alan Millar, Wow. Just Wow. That may just be the dumbest thing I’ve seen on the Internet! Take 4.5 billion years of history of an astoundingly complicated system. Consider a single factor, ignoring huge changes in all the other factors, and draw sweeping conclusions that contradict everything that experts who actually understand the system have learned.

    The Dunning-Kurger is strong in this one.

  260. Didactylos:

    [edit – enough is enough]

    Really?

    [Response: Yes. I am not interested in having comment threads just devolve over and again into two of three people shouting at each other. If anyone involved was actually bringing any actual data to the issue, or referencing studies or actually listening to each other it would be a different thing. Both you and BPL need to take some time off, eat some turkey or tofurkey and not spend so much time worrying about what is said 200 comments in on an RC thread. I know I will. – gavin]

  261. Alan Millar:

    256 Anonymous Coward says

    “Alan, it stands to reason that, over millions of yeats, atmospheric CO2 concentration might be a strong negative feedback to solar forcing. The rate at which atmospheric/oceanic CO2 is aborbed by sediments over very long timescales should be a function not only of CO2 concentration but also of temperature. I refer you to Ray Pierrehumbert’s upcoming book for instance. But this has nothing to do with sensitivity.”

    Hi Anon

    I am sorry but historic evidence has everything to do with the question of the Earths climatic response to an increase in radaitive forcing. You gave some ‘might be’s’ as to what has caused the Earths negative response to long term increased radiative forcing.

    Well I certainly agree it has to be ‘something’ or a combination of ‘somethings’ as we have direct evidence as to the fact. Exactly ‘what’ is the question? If you don’t know, how do you know whether these processes have stopped or changed in some way and if they haven’t then we will surely continue to cool in the long term. We are certainly still seeing cooling in the medium term.

    We seem to have a very very short term warming but without a settled science I just cannot understand why anyone would accept that as incontovertable evidence of the Earth having a quite high positive feedback to increased radiative forcing. Seems madness to me.

    Alan Millar

    [Response: That you equate scientific results that you don’t like with ‘madness’, is extremely eloquent. – gavin]

  262. Rod B:

    Ray, When was the last time physics changed the charge of an electron? The CO2 forcing factor’s last change was a few years ago.

    You do negate my retort, though. It is logically impossible to challenge any of your six points if you define them as being axiomatic and sacrosanct.

  263. Hank Roberts:

    > responded to Alan Millar … with a snark

    Alan Millar claims to define climate sensitivity with only two insolation data points 500 million years apart.

    That deserves a boojum.

  264. Alan Millar:

    259 Ray Ladbury says :-

    “Alan Millar, Wow. Just Wow. That may just be the dumbest thing I’ve seen on the Internet!”

    Well you need to get out more Ray!

    259 Ray Ladbury says :-

    “Consider a single factor, ignoring huge changes in all the other factors, and draw sweeping conclusions that contradict everything that experts who actually understand the system have learned.”

    That ‘single factor’ is the sole, ultimate source of all the radiative forcing on the Earth! So rather important would’t you say?

    A lot of the other factors are just feedback to changes in the ‘single factor’ in any event.

    I haven’t been drawing ‘sweeping conclusions’ I have just quoted an unchallenged fact, the Earth has had a signicant increase in radiative forcing over the last 500 million years and has not warmed. My conclusion is that, over this period, it is a fact that the Earth has shown negative feedback. Do you dispute that?

    If you are one of the experts who fully understand the system perhaps you will explain with details and facts when exactly and what caused the Earth to change its feedback sign to a positive one.

    Alan Millar

    [Response: Could it possibly be that the responses to a forcing over a few decades might be different to those operating over half a billion years? Nah…. – gavin]

  265. Didactylos:

    “If anyone involved was actually bringing any actual data to the issue, or referencing studies”

    I already brought out the evidence truck at Tamino’s fine blog. BPL wasn’t interested. But really, how much evidence do you need on either side just to accept that there isn’t any absolute certainty about BPL’s pronouncements? If he were just a little more circumspect and reasonable, I really wouldn’t have any problem about whatever he personally feels is most likely to happen.

    “or actually listening to each other”

    I’m listening. I can’t speak for anyone else. Some of the replies certainly indicate a lack of willingness to read past the preconceptions.

    “eat some turkey”

    Why on earth would I do that?

    “not spend so much time worrying about what is said 200 comments in on an RC thread”

    I considered that. I considered that very carefully, *before* opening my big mouth. And you know what? I’d prefer to squash BPL’s fantasies now, rather than wait until he turns them into peer-reviewed published “gospel”, and suddenly Fox News (and more reputable outlets) are quoting him as saying that the world is ending, and Watts and friends are having a field day with “climate alarmism”.

    You have seen how small over-statements get blown out of proportion. Do you really want to see what happens when someone totally jumps the shark?

  266. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B.@262,
    No, Rod, the confidence interval for climate sensitivity tightened–meaning we know it better–the favored value remained identical. Might I suggest that if you learned the difference, you might have a better understanding of why climate sensitivity is pretty well fixed.

  267. Deech56:

    One year later? I remember the monumental effort by Gavin and crew moderating and responding to comments here over what for many of us was the Thanksgiving break.

    What we have learned is that the science did not change. We had a warm year and the ice melted.

  268. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #257 Alan Millar

    Your don’t have enough scientific understanding and context to understand why your are epitomizing yourself as a model for hubris.

    Think about it this way, and I’ve used this style of allegory before, but it certainly seems appropirate here:

    If one person hits you in in the face and you don’t know why, and another person hits you in the face and know exactly why, just because you can’t figure out why the first person hit you does not mean you don’t understand why the second person hit you.

    Study attribution:
    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/attribution

    The hubris is all yours (as indicated by your overconfidence in your lack of understanding) Alan, time to wake up.

    #261 Alan Millar

    Study

    Natural Variation
    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/natural-variation

    Natural Cycle
    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/natural-cycle

    and reread Attribution
    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/attribution

    #263 Alan Millar

    Study Forcing
    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/radiative-climate-forcing

    Economics: Balancing Economies
    October Leading Edge: The Cuccinelli ‘Witch Hunt”

    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

  269. Susan Anderson:

    Come on, please, please stop sniping it’s boring. In general, I find the Dr. Schmidt’s response has very little snark, while making this point:

    “suddenly presume that we know everything necessary to understand climate change from 500 million years ago. What was the global temperature then? What was the CO2 level? or methane? or surface albedo? Is it possible that just perhaps we might have more information about the ice age 20,000 years ago? Or that information from the Holocene might be more relevant for today’s climate?”

    I have been seeing a lot of attack the questioner as a method of hiding fudging and fluffing, starting long before Judith Curry, no doubt, but coming forward to my attention then. Gavin was mildly humorous, which given the provocation, seems like gentle treatment to me.

    The factual questions remain, and will continue to need to be answered, for those making boilerplate fake skeptic assertions or creating their own clever version of same, no matter how sciencey.

    On the whole, I’m with BPL, perhaps somewhere between him and Ray Ladbury (for whose critical eye I give great thanks, very helpful I find), though there are times I think the beginning of real serious consequences could be 20 or 30 years, or even less. (Full disclosure: I live 5 feet above big high tide in heavily populated Boston and have been photographing the frequent storm surges which are still quite manageable, but pretty regular now as compared to decades ago.)

    Thomas Lee Elifritz, thanks also for good words and helpful information.

  270. Susan Anderson:

    Oh, and Kate (comment 1), your work is quite fantastic! You are 18?!!!! (link at comment 1)

    Your measured and careful comment moderation is a wonder as well.

  271. Walter Pearce:

    Re: 242 “…just my perception.”

    In one post Rod B. advocates looking beyond the numbers, in another he wants strict numbers-based accounting. Anyone who believes words mean something can see the conflict there.

    There’s an interesting discussion to be had on how to incorporate externalities that can’t be strictly quantified. Do Rod B. or Manacker have an intellectually honest approach to climate risk they’d like to advocate?

    Not holding my breath…

  272. John Pollack:

    #258 Ray Ladbury
    “It may already be too late for the aquifers, and when they are gone, they are gone for good. That would spell the end of farming in America’s breadbasket, the Great Plains…”

    While I’m in general agreement that droughts represent a serious part of the climate change problems, the role of irrigation is a severe overstatement. America’s breadbasket includes the Great Plains, but also the Corn Belt, extending east as far as Ohio, between roughly 39N and 44N latitude. A lot of it isn’t irrigated now. The western Corn Belt extends into the Great Plains, mostly Nebraska. That part can still be irrigated by the Ogallala Aquifer. The rest of the aquifer, mainly south of Nebraska, is being depleted rapidly. There is still irrigation, but a lot of dryland farming. The main dryland crop, and quite successful, is wheat.

    My conclusion is that crop yields will decline in the Plains as the aquifer is exhausted, but agriculture will continue. Drought itself is more of a concern, but the last serious drought to affect a large part of the breadbasket was in 1988. Droughts are actually becoming less frequent in recent decades, and flooding more frequent. e.g. http://www.inhf.org/magazines/2010/fall/2010magfall-images/INHF-Fall2010mag-Flooding-Skopec-web.pdf

    In fact, I’m troubled that the climate models generally seem to show an increase in Midwestern U.S. droughts, but the empirical trend is the reverse. Of course, it could just be some sort of multi-decadal fluctuation, but it makes me wonder if something is missing from them in this instance. Handling of convective rainfall? Underestimating narrow moist plumes entrained into cyclonic systems?

  273. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Let me summarize why I keep saying collapse is coming.

    Dai et al. (2004) painstakingly collected a time series of the Palmer Drought Severity Index for 1870-2002, later extended to 2005. They used grid squares 2.5 degrees on a side extending from 75 North to 60 South, which covers 92% of the planet.

    I created a time series from that data (with Dr. Dai’s instructions). F is the fraction of Earth’s land surface in severe drought (PDSI <= -3.0). That fraction was 6% in 1870, 12% in 1970, 21% in 2005, after peaking briefly at 31% in 2003. It's a highly variable series, but the trend is clearly up.

    I showed that F is statistically related to past F, temperature anomaly, anomaly squared (that's the scary part), and SOI. I accounted for 72% of the variance 1870-2005. I used statistical techniques to rule out spurious correlation.

    I then wrote a simulation, including an SOI simulation, assuming the IPCC SPES A2 scenario (what we get if nothing effective is done about AGW), and using a climate sensitivity λ = 0.75 K/W/m^2. I ran the simulation 10,000 times to get a good sample.

    F always hits 70% in the 2050-2055 time frame. That's the threshold at which I assumed global agriculture collapse completely. Maybe that's wrong. Maybe it's 90%. Maybe it's 50%. I'd be interested in any arguments on the subject.

    My conclusions seemed alarmist even to me. Then Dr. Dai brought out an article using an entirely different method (he used an ensemble of 22 GCMs plus a drought model, I used pure statistical analysis). And he got essentially the same conclusions.

    The most immediate serious threat from AGW is drought. Harvest failure. No food.

    I say it "will" happen rather than "might" happen because A) most of the US just elected the village idiot to congress, which means two more years of inaction, delay, and rollback of pollution controls. B) China, India, and Russia also show no real interest in cutting coal use. C) We may be very close to tripping one or more of the geophysical feedbacks, e.g. methane clathrates in seabed sediments and permafrost, that will instantly make the problem so much worse we won't be able to do anything to stop it.

    So I'll continue to say that IF nothing serious is done about AGW–which is what I expect–civilization WILL collapse in this century, probably roughly around 2052.

    Deal with it.

  274. Ray Ladbury:

    John Pollack,
    Thanks for the clarification. I agree, of course, and should have been more clear. My motivation in mentioning aquifer depletion was primarily that they are not renewable–when they are gone, water will never again flow through that rock. Also, tapping aquifers has been an important factor in expanding agriculture into marginal lands globally. I suspect that this will have a significant effect in the future just as global population crests around the 10 billion mark and as drought severity accelerates.

  275. Brian Dodge:

    @John Pollack — 25 November 2010 @ 10:58 PM “…the role of irrigation is a severe overstatement.”

    http://www.ksre.k-state.edu/irrigate/OOW/P10/Dowgert10.pdf
    “USDA statistics show that 17% of cultivated crop land in the United States is irrigated. Yet this acreage produces nearly 50% of total US crop revenues. According to the FAO the approximate 1,260 million ha under rainfed agriculture, corresponding to 80% of the world’s total cultivated land, supply 60% of the world’s food; while the 277 million ha under irrigation, the remaining 20% of land under cultivation, contribute the other 40% of the food supplies.”

    Irrigation, or the lack thereof, has a disproportionate effect on food supply. One reason is that timing of moisture availability is critical – 2 inches of slow rainfall when a crop is sprouting, and another inch each week while it’s growing is beneficial; not enough enough water to sprout the crop in the spring followed ten inches of rain one day halfway through the growing season is catastrophic. On demand irrigation gives control over timing and rate.

    http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/full-report/national-climate-change#key4
    “In much of the Southeast and large parts of the West, the frequency of drought has increased coincident with rising temperatures over the past 50 years.”

    “Many types of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and regional droughts, have become more frequent and intense during the past 40 to 50 years.”

    “”One of the clearest precipitation trends in the United States is the increasing frequency and intensity of heavy downpours. This increase was responsible for most of the observed increase in overall precipitation during the last 50 years.”

    Intense flooding rainfall events don’t contribute much to relieving drought, and often cause reductions in agricultural output, as your link showed.

    Climate changes caused by global warming impose multiple stressors on agriculture – for instance, in addition to the drought/flood problems, warming has already been observed to decrease rice productivity by shortening the growing season. see the previous discussion at http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=4881#comment-186487

  276. Anonymous Coward:

    BPL,
    First off, let me tell you that I’m glad people are looking at the risk of massive drought. I’ve been supporting people who work on small-scale agriculture in arid regions because that’s long been a concern of mine.

    Now, as to the doomer stuff…
    What is the hypothesized causal link between the fraction of the Earths’ surface in “severe drought” and “global agriculture collapse”? What’s your definition of “global agriculture collapse” to begin with? Going by my understanding of the words, I don’t know that there’s ever been such an event so I have no idea what data you could be using.
    If we’re merely speculating, aside from the WMDs which potentially have a global effect, I don’t see what could possibly bring about a global collapse of agriculture since we’re not talking about an integrated system.

    There’s no reason to get hysterical about US elections as the “village idiot” has been elected over and over again for decades and obviously has little say in important policy decisions.
    From a nationalist point of view, China, India and Russia have currently no reason to cut on down coal use. The day the superpowers decide on a game plan, India will have to comply with whatever it’s told. China is not in a much better position. And TPTB in Russia seem to be the kind of people who would be willing to negociate.

  277. Radge Havers:

    Anonymous Coward @ 276

    “the ‘village idiot’ has been elected over and over again for decades”

    Please fill in the gaps for me. How precisely is this not a problem?

    “The day the superpowers decide on a game plan, India will have to comply with whatever it’s told. China is not in a much better position. And TPTB in Russia seem to be the kind of people who would be willing to negociate.”

    Um, BPL’s claims may need backing up; so do yours.

    “Karl Rove – who was George W. Bush’s chief spin-doctor – boasted this year: ‘Climate is gone.’ He meant it is off the political agenda, but in time, this statement will be more true and more cursed than he realizes.”
    There won’t be a bailout for the earth

  278. Dean:

    In years gone by, when there was a regional drought and agriculture had a very bad year in that area, the effects were mainly local. With a global food market now, a drought in any area that has enough financial resources to go on the market to fill their need, which now includes both India and China, means that the price supply and demand effects are virtually global. One serious drought in one populated region could force food prices up seriously everywhere else.

    The first result of such an experience, if it lasted a while, would be the end of the global trade in food, as countries still producing enough food would not allow their food prices to rise for long because other countries are having problems growing enough food. This could result in famine if exporting countries decided that hoarding is better than trade, as I expect would be likely.

    I read recently in Natl Geo that for the last five years per capita food production globally has been declining, by a very small amount admittedly, but it nonetheless was an important inflection point for a trend of increasing per capita food production that goes back many decades. The article did not try to attribute to population vs climate or other growing conditions.

    The global agriculture industrial system, including distribution, is very fine-tuned in a way, and very susceptible as well. I think that the tipping point is if food prices rise significantly for a couple of years. That long and exporters will probably be forced politically to start shutting down exports. And this scenario could result initially from a relatively localized shortage that otherwise might be manageable, at least in the short term.

  279. Anonymous Coward:

    Dean,
    Historically, countries under rationing or stricken by famine have been known to export food. Governments have other considerations than the well-being of the populace. Allied governments have also been known to set up exclusive trade agreements between them. There’s therfore no reason to expect the international food trade to shut down. It wasn’t shut down on either side during WWII for instance.
    Food trade is not necessary for agriculture anyway. I don’t know what the “global agricultural industrial system” is exactly but I guess it may cease to function as it did for the past 60 years or so for any number of reasons.

    Food prices can go up and down for a number of reasons unrelated to population, climate or growing conditions (see what happened to prices in 2008).
    Grain production is currently not exclusively used for human consumption and this provdies a buffer against any moderate production shortfalls as a rise in food prices would increase the fraction consumed by humans.
    Food production is currently artifically depressed in some locales in a bid to keep prices up while subsidies are keeping prices down in others. Sometimes opposite policies apply to different foodstuffs in the same locale.
    This isn’t an idealized “free market”.

    Hadge,
    The point is that the “village idiot” thing is a structural problem unrealted to any particular election outcome. There was no “bailout for the earth” before the Dems lost so what is new?
    I’m not going to discuss geopolitics here but there’s no ground for panic on that front either. India and China were never supposed to move away from coal at this stage. It’s the US who was supposed to do so according to the original Kyoto deal (Russia is still well within its target).

    Moderators, do tell if further discussion of the potential impact of drought trade is unwelcome!

  280. Rod B:

    Gavin (257), I am disappointed that you fell back on the old non sequitur that if one questions some aspect of climate change they are denying everything in AGW theory and therefore are prima facie wrong. It doesn’t stick. [edit]

    [Response: Why do you want to waste time imagining what I think and then criticising it? My point was precisely the opposite, that the existence of open questions (such as the faint young sun paradox) does not affect questions on which far more information is known. Does the uncertainty in who your great-great-grandmother was imply that you don’t know who your mother is? People who insist that the (as yet unknown) resolution of an issue trumps all existing knowledge are behaving in an illogical way. This might work fine as a rhetorical strategy, but it has nothing to do with raising real issues. – gavin]

  281. Rod B:

    Ray, IIRC, the UN says that if the present trends hold the world’s population in 2150 will approach half of what it is today, peaking somewhere around 2070 — predominately as a function birthrates.

  282. Ray Ladbury:

    Anonymous Coward says, ” There was no “bailout for the earth” before the Dems lost so what is new?”

    What is new is the attitude of the majority toward science. If a party accepts empirical evidence as primary, there is hope of convincing them to act (regardless of the suppleness of their spines). If they respond to empirical evidence by launching witch hunts against the scientists, then I think prospects for gathering more evidence–let alone positive action–are rather more limited.

  283. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B.,
    Best estimates I’ve seen suggest a crest in human population in the 2050-2100 timeframe. All of these estimates depend on assumptions–among which are continued economic growth, increased urbanization and increased education of women (which gives the strongest negative correlation with fertility).

    All the estimates assume fertility decreases to ~2 by about 2050 and that population crests about a generation and a half after that. None of them take into account potential population collapses due to famine, disease or decreasing environmental quality–for the simple reason we do not know how to accurately forecast these conditions. Then there is the question of how much damage we do to the planet’s carrying capaicty in supporting such a large human population.

  284. Paul Tremblay:

    @Max 234 “The last glacial maximum can be explained quite simply by significantly colder temperatures, which cannot be definitively explained, unfortunately, due to the many “unknown unknowns” to which Dr. Curry alluded.”

    The word “alluded” brings up the very problem with Curry’s and your argument. If Curry can’t state specifically what the “unknowns” are, then she is bringing up philosophical problems, not scientific ones. Merely alluding to something means bringing in into an argument without actually exploring it in detail. Curry seems to do this a lot, bringing up supposed problems and denigrating the work of climate scientists without really thinking through her position. Posters on sites such as this one engage in such sloppy thinking all the time, but I find it shocking that a climate scientist does so. For this reason, many here don’t take Curry’s criticism too seriously.

    >>Lindzen and Spencer, have both concluded that 2xCO2 CS is well below 1C (although they disagree on how much below 1C). Both based their conclusion at least partly on recent satellite observations (rather than on long-ago paleo-climate reconstructions).

    But neither scientists does so in a peer-reviewed journal, specifically because their argument does not agree with the facts. Gavin already pointed this out. Anyone, including good scientists, can make extravagant claims outside the realm of science. Keep in mind the great Kepler believed the spheres emitted heavenly music. We don’t accept his claim simply because he was great scientist.

    So how about providing some real science to back up your claims instead of becoming repetitive, Max?

  285. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    What’s your definition of “global agriculture collapse” to begin with?</i.

    Geologically instantaneous loss of the immediate availability of the carbon and hydrocarbon fuels necessary to sustain it. Presumably the sun will be still shining, but any large asteroid or comet strike could disrupt that instantaneously as well.

    I don’t see what could possibly bring about a global collapse of agriculture since we’re not talking about an integrated system.

    I certainly am, since the means necessary to sustain a global human population many times the Earth’s natural agricultural carrying capacity is exclusively carbon and hydrocarbon combustion. That’s ‘integrated’.

    No fuel, no food, except for those who can produce their own. That’s far less than the seven to nine billion humans currently inhabiting the Earth. When you have layoffs of billions of people because a financial collapse has caused chaos in the markets and very few people can find viable jobs, then agriculture is almost immediately going to be rendered unable to feed them, because they will have no money with which to purchase their food and those agricultural institution requiring profits to function will fail.

  286. Barton Paul Levenson:

    AC 276,

    By global agricultural collapse I mean at least one year in which nobody has a good harvest. World stored food supplies are a nice, Biblical number: about forty days. It only has to happen once for civilization to collapse.

    Think about it: Six weeks of increasingly unruly ration lines. Attempts to extend it by slaughtering all the livestock and mass-producing food from algae and weeds. Then the announcements that no more food is available. Riots. The urban squirrels, pigeons, and rats disappear overnight. Then the cats and dogs go. Then people turn on each other. We’ve got strong social taboos against cannibalism in this culture, but in severe famines, people eventually eat other people, and even, in the last extremity, themselves. There are some pretty gruesome stories from Ireland in the 1840s.

  287. Toby Thaler:

    233, 239, 260, etc.: Concerning causes and consequences of the relationships between science, economics, politics, etc. I.e., What is the “prognosis” for our civilization?

    I think it is clear that what we call “Western Civilization” has become in essence a global system. There are very few places that are not tied in to the global economy, which is at core a capitalist “world-system.” I suggest that if people want to opine on the future of our civilization in response to and as a result of climate change (resulting in turn in large part from our economic activities—there are dozens of articles and studies on this point) they should read up on the subject. The trajectory will be determined not only by climate change, but also by how the governance systems and social structure responds. And wihtou understanding how we we got to the present moment and

    I like Emmanuel Wallerstein’s 2004 “World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction”; a concise description of the 500 year development of the capitalist world-system and how it functions today. (For other perspectives on social systems analysis, try Jurgen Habermas, Niklas Luhmann and numerous others that can be found quite easily if you take the time to look.)

    A similar exercise concerning how people tend to talk past each other on these blogs could start with a reading of George Lakoff’s classic work (e.g., “Moral Politics,” 2001), as well as Wallerstein (“Overcoming the Two Cultures: Science versus the Humanities in the Modern World-System,” 2004).

    As to the initial question, I do not profess to be more than an advanced amateur (I’m a public interest environmental lawyer and policy analyst), but it is clear to me that the benefits from following the precautionary principle would far outweigh any downsides. These actions would consist primarily of large reductions in per capita consumption of energy and other resources. And over time a reduction in the capita (population) itself. Those actions in turn would mean the end of capitalism (which is by definition grounded on unsustainable growth), and large changes in how our lives and economies are organized. They will be difficult to accomplish before “collapse” since people generally are fearful of and resistant to change. And since the end of global capitalism would mean the end to the large corporations, they are in “to the death” mode. They may be amoral (and immoral), but they’re not stupid.

    The only losers of such a paradigm shift would be the tiny percent of extremely wealthy humanity who own/benefit from the “world system” as currently constructed. And their “loss” would really not be a loss in the long run, at least not for their descendants, who might actually thank them to give up their greed sooner rather than later.

    Along with a number of other posters, I would like to chime in with a hearty appreciation to RC as well. It’s one of the few blogs grounded on the best available science, with moderators and numerous posters who are capable of countering the wrong-headed BS coming from the denialists. 113 has it right; the level of fear & anger out there is staggering, and in themselves indicate to me a serious fraying of the fabric of our social networks. Please keep it up, Gavin et al.

  288. Patrick 027:

    Those actions in turn would mean the end of capitalism (which is by definition grounded on unsustainable growth),

    Or those actions could save capitalism in a sustainable version.

  289. Patrick 027:

    There are some pretty gruesome stories from Ireland in the 1840s.

    Or post WWII, China (children were exchanged so that parents wouldn’t have to eat their own children)

    Worth mentioning that had the British rule overall some decency (or had the Irish been allowed a more diverse diet, or had the potato crop been more genetically diverse itself??, or had the potato never contributed to a population increase in the first place???) or Mao a willingness to learn about reality (or others a willingness to communicate it rather than fake pictures of impossible bounty), these famines could have been prevented or at least reduced.

  290. Rod B:

    Gavin, I just read you 257 response differently. I have no worthwhile difficulties with your explanation in 280.

  291. manacker:

    Paul Tremblay

    Thanks for your 284.

    Let’s go though it point-by-point

    You wrote:

    The word “alluded” brings up the very problem with Curry’s and your argument. If Curry can’t state specifically what the “unknowns” are, then she is bringing up philosophical problems, not scientific ones.

    Curry was actually quite specific in the Scientific American interview. Let me quote:

    The uncertainty lies in both the data about past climate and the models tat project future climate. Curry asserts that the scientists haven’t adequately dealt with the uncertainty in theor calculations and don’t even know with precision what’s arguably the most basic number in the field: the climate forcing from CO2 – that is, the amount of warming a doubling of CO2 alone would cause without and amplifying or mitigating effects from melting ice, increased water vapor or any of a dozen other factors.

    Things get worse, she argues, when you try to add in those feedbacks to project likely temperature increases over the next century, because the feedbacks are rife with uncertainty as well” “There’s a whole host of unknown unknowns that we don’t even know how to quantify but that should be factored into our confidence level.” One example she cites is the “hockey stick” chart showing that current temperatures are the warmest in hundreds of years. If you are going to say that this year or that decade is the hottest, you had better have a good idea of what temperatures have actually been over those hundreds of years – and Curry, along with many skeptics, does not think we have a good handle on that as the scientific community believes.

    This is pretty specific stuff, Paul.

    The “unknowns” have been specifically identified as

    · the 2xCO2 climate forcing without any feedbacks,
    · the net “amplifying or mitigating effects” from feedbacks and
    · the temperature of the past several hundreds of years

    As to Spencer and Braswell or Lindzen and Choi, I have not seen any attempted rebuttal to the former. I have seen three blog rebuttals to L+C, which we could discuss here if you would like (and Gavin would permit).

    Your point of “peer review” does not impress me too much, so let’s leave that out of the discussion.

    Suffice it to say that one of these critiques of L+C was by Spencer, who took issue with the L+C calculation method and concluded that the estimated 2xCO2 CS of 0.4C was too low (Spencer’s estimate was 0.6C).

    Max

  292. John E. Pearson:

    291: “Your point of “peer review” does not impress me too much, so let’s leave that out of the discussion.”

    This is idiotic. Why? Because peer-reviewed papers are necessarily correct? No. Because peer review sets the minimum standard for what is worth discussing. WIthout peer review it is not science. It is blog science. Huge difference. In blog science idiots can say anything and screech and howl that they be answered. To publish in the top peer-reviewed journals you have to present reasoned arguments which are not obvious nonsense.

  293. Patrick 027:

    Re Max – I looked at some of Spencer’s writing once, but it’s been awhile. Dare I (as this may not be the appropriate place, but anyway) suggest – perhaps you could summarize Spencer’s evidence and logic?

  294. John Pollack:

    Brian Dodge @ 275

    Thanks for some more specific numbers regarding irrigation. I’m after a more nuanced view of where the danger lies, and this helps.

    I do stand by my statement that and end to irrigation would not mean an end to agriculture in the Great Plains, rather, decreased yields. As one of your articles states, dryland agriculture in Nebraska has yielded over 100 bu/acre of corn in recent years. Not as good as 150-175, but enough to feed a lot of people.

    In the context of discussing famine, I think it would be most useful to talk about calories grown, rather than the monetary value of the food. The irrigated valleys of central California, for example, produce lots of high-value fruits and vegetables. The grains and soybeans grown predominantly in the central U.S. are less valuable per acre, but calorie dense. Right now, most of those calories go through animals before we get to eat them, or, in the case of ethanol, into internal combustion engines.

    Of course, it will be generally true that irrigated land will grow higher value food in monetary terms, since that’s what justifies the extra investment in irrigation.

  295. manacker:

    Barton Paul Levenson

    Your “nightmare scenario” – one year (almost) without crops, with resulting major famines – could happen if we had a sudden major global cooling, as was feared back in the 1970s.

    Some solar scientists tell us that we are headed for another major cooling similar to that of the LIA, but who knows if they are right?

    Max

    [Response: Lot’s of people know that it’s wrong (or at least extremely unlikely). – gavin]

  296. Snapple:

    The girlie magazine Pravda makes this claim about global cooling, but their “expert” is a blogger named Gregory Fagel, a 9-11 “Truther.”

    http://english.pravda.ru/science/earth/11-01-2009/106922-earth_ice_age-0/

  297. Snapple:

    That Pravda is not the current version of the historic Copmmunist Party Pravda, by the way.

    Besides writing moronic pseudo-science about global cooling, Gregory F. Fegel publishes his a 9-11 Truther conspiracy theories in the Russian tabloid Pravda (8-22-08):

    “A preponderance of evidence shows that the highest officials of the Bush Administration, in collusion with many other officials from the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, FEMA, NSA, NORAD, New York City officials, air-traffic contollers, airline executives, controlled demolitions experts, computer graphics technicians, media executives, and others together planned and committed the horrible attacks of 9/11/2001 against the Pentagon and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The 9/11 attacks were immediately blamed on some bogus ‘Arab highjackers’, a half dozen of whom were later confirmed to be still alive, and therefore innocent, after the 9/11 attacks.”

    9-11 Truthers typically cite a lot of crackpot engineering and junk science to “prove” that President George Bush masterminded 9-11.

    Most people laugh at the far-fetched conspiracy theories of the Truthers, but lately the brain trusts in the Truth Movement have been spreading global warming denialist pseudoscience.

    Gregory F. Fegel’s Pravda article was even praised by writer Noel Sheppard in the “conservative” publication Newsbusters (1-11-09). To the non-scientist, perhaps Gregory Fegel’s article sounds like science, but what do qualified scientists who have studied global warming say about this 9-11 truther’s “scientific” theory? Do changes in the earth’s orbit (and variations in solar activity) trump all that extra C02 that is warming the earth? “Science writer” Fegel seems to assume that changes in the earth’s orbit will trump man-made warming. Is there any science to back up this assumption?

    Skeptical Science, a site that says we should be skeptical about the claims of global warming denialists, has addressed the unscientific argument that we are heading into an ice age. According to scientists:

    “The warming effect from more CO2 greatly outstrips the influence from changes in the Earth’s orbit or solar activity, even if solar levels were to drop to Maunder Minimum levels….

    …[T]here is no ice age around the corner. To those with lingering doubts that an ice age might be imminent, turn your eyes towards the northern ice sheets. If they’re growing, then yes, the 10,000 year process of glaciation may have begun. However, currently the Arctic permafrost is degrading, Arctic sea ice is melting and the Greenland ice sheet is losing mass at an accelerating rate. These are hardly good conditions for an imminent ice age.”

    http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/06/gregory-ffegel-9-11-truther-is-on-thin.html

  298. Ray Ladbury:

    Max excretes: “Some solar scientists tell us that we are headed for another major cooling similar to that of the LIA, but who knows if they are right?”

    We-ell, given that we still have pretty low levels of solar activity AND this year stands a reasonable chance of being the hottest on record (or at least a statistical tie), I’m gonna say probably not.

  299. Anonymous Coward:

    BPL,
    Apparently you’re talking about a situation in which the output of global agriculture essentially drops to zero. This would require not only extreme drought in every significant agricultural region simultaneously but the depletion of all major aquifers as well as all major rivers (no more high-altitude snow and glaciers?), lakes and dams. That and little desalinization. But you aren’t projecting such a scenario, right?
    There are obviously more than 40 days of food stocks. Your data may refer to the grain stocks declared by some governments or something. The EPI claims about 80 days of grain supplies based on USDA numbers which obviously do not measure the full extent of stocks held by all actors either.
    You also neglected to consider that the onset of severe droughts affecting 70% or more of the globe (something which I am skpetical about but let’s accept it for the sake of the argument) can only be slow, allowing people to adjust their stocks. Furthermore you assume an equitable distribution of stocks, which is of course preposterous.
    Finally you went with an unrealistic scenario for how people and institutions would react to a famine. You write about “ration lines” but that is not the most efficient way to distribute food and, under rationing, even “40 days” of food supplies could last at least 4 months. By and large, people do not “turn on each other” in the face of adversity (even when they resort to eating the dead). Perhaps you should critically examine how you got to believe such a thing.

    Even if the likelyhood of a sudden and extreme shortfall of global agricultural output is extremely low (as I estimate), the problems associated with chronically insufficient output remain. In a drier world, billions could well be chronically severly malnourished (mainly for lack of purchasing power) while a large minority lives (relatively) well. Not only would that be undesirable from a humanitarian point of view but this would also create or increase a number of sanitary and security risks which could well further hamper agricultural productivity.
    A downward spiral over decades involving chronic famines, epidemics, a protracted economic crisis, all kinds of violence and a diminishing ability to invest or even maintain existing infrastructure is a serious enough risk. But, historically, such crises have generally been followed by recovery at a lower population density rather than some kind of final collapse. The mid-21st century situation will be unprecendented in a number of ways however.

    Ray Ladbury,
    You seem to be subscribing to model for interaction between science and policy that Pielke criticizes. I’m sorry for the scientists who are being persecuted but I’m afraid there are more important obstacles to effective mitigation.
    While I would rather have a dinner party with politically-correct legislators than the likes of the late senator Helms, policy and not rhetoric is what ultimately matters. My understanding is that the longstanding US policy of inaction (or window-dressing) with regards to climate change mitigation has been bipartisan and has not been based on ignorance. The Senate vote against Kyoto was unanimous. Clinton and Gore have reportedly pretty much stated that Kyoto was unacceptable. Do you think that is because US politicians at the time were singularly unaware of the scientific evidence?
    So far as I know, the Democratic Senate of 2008-10 didn’t even attempt to pass or ratify anything of consequence so I don’t know why one would have expected better from the current Senate, no matter the outcome of the election.

  300. John Pollack:

    BPL @ 286

    Diminishing global food stockpiles are already a concern. I can see where climate change will help set up a severe shortage. Subsurface water available for irrigation is decreasing. Surface water for crops is decreasing in a lot of areas due to increasing drought and decreasing snowmelt and glacial melt available when needed.

    In addition, we could be setting up for coordinated agricultural failures through weather teleconnections. Ideally, one would want agricultural production between major surplus areas to be negatively correlated or uncorrelated, so that a failure in one area is compensated by a surplus somewhere else. However, if ocean temperature anomalies are enhanced (e.g. by increasing meltwater from Greenland affecting the north Atlantic) this could result in correlated unusual weather worldwide. Since crops planted tend to be the best for normal conditions in any area, unusual weather means lousy yields.

    That said, the global food supply pipeline is hardly uniform. It’s not as if everyone will run out at once. Poor areas in chronic deficit will go first. Rich areas with surpluses might have to switch their diet. Soy burgers and fried corn mush, anyone? That would be very difficult, but would beat going hungry.

    My guess is that the political turmoil and wars resulting from reduced supplies is what would get most people, before the food truly ran out.

  301. Ray Ladbury:

    AC,
    Agricutltual failure does not entail yield dropping to zero, it merely means that agricultural output falls far short of the ability to support population–both locally and globally. Look at the political unrest that accompanied the food shortages in Mexico and Africa in 2007. Now imagine that playing out with ten times the severity and on a global scale.

    Also, I am not so naive that I think Democratic politicians are friends of science. They do, however tend to support efforts to gather data, while in recent years, Republicans have been hostile not only to policy actions to ameliorate climate change, but even to gathering data (viz. the saga of the DISCOVR satellite). When you have a party where the majority reject the scientific fact of climate change, what prospects do you see for progress in climate science?

    The unfortunate fact is that politicians of both parties do not understand science. This reflects the ignorance of the electorate. However, it is beyond question that one party in American politics has been far more hostile to science than the other–be that science evolution, stem cell research or climate science. FWIW, I am not a flaming liberal. I am much more comfortable with the fiscal conservatism of old-style New England Republicans. However, I am at present unable to vote for any Republican, not matter his/her personal qualities, because the party has declared war on physical reality.

  302. Anonymous Coward:

    Ray,
    I was referring to BPL’s “Six weeks of increasingly unruly ration lines. … Then the announcements that no more food is available.”. That semms to be be predicated on 40 days of stocks and output falling to zero (as well as other indefensible assumptions).
    Famines and food riots usually happen in spite of a perfectly adequate output and not because of insufficient output at the global level. Even at the regional level, since WWII local famines caused by insufficient local output have been few and far between (and political obstruction was a contributing factor).
    As pointed out by at least one other commenter, global agricultural output is currently well in excess of the the amount needed to support the population and could be increased on relatively short notice as well should governments decide to build stocks or commit to reducing malnutrition.

    You presume much when you say that politicians in general don’t understand science. While there seem to be a number of willful idiots in the profession, sticking to the scripts handed by the leadership and telling audiences what they want to hear seem to be reasonable career moves for a politician. Better to pretend you don’t understand an inconvenient fact than to tell why your patrons and colleagues would rather ignore it I guess.
    Regardless of the politicians’ antics, is any single country investing anywhere near the amount of money that the USA is investing in climate science? I don’t know but I doubt it. Does anyone have consolidated figures on who employs climate scientists (or even scientists in general) by the way?

  303. frank -- Decoding SwiftHack:

    Gavin and others:

    About SwiftHack, do you have any thoughts on the arrangement of the Yamal-related stuff in the FOI2009.zip archive? It seems the contents of FOIA/documents/yamal/ were pulled together from several different sources, while the other directories seem to be straightforward data dumps.

    And, any additional context on what the data files really mean will be appreciated.

    frank

  304. Toby Thaler:

    288 in response to my 287: “Or those actions could save capitalism in a sustainable version.”

    It’s a matter of definitions. Many use the word to describe both multi-national (or ‘world-system’) corporatism and small scale business economy. While they have similar “free market” attributes, the former leans toward fascist politics, while participants in the latter tends to be libertarian. We need to be clear as to what we’re referring to when using words with such huge and flexible meanings and associations. Control over investment of large proportions of a societies’ wealth is a key indicia of capitalism to which I refer; if the system does not have this element, then I prefer to call it something else.

    But the real bottom line argument is (I believe) that most economists agree that an essential element of capitalism is the accumulation of wealth. By definition this is not an economic model that is sustainable over time. See Wallerstein.

  305. Ray Ladbury:

    AC says, “As pointed out by at least one other commenter, global agricultural output is currently well in excess of the the amount needed to support the population and could be increased on relatively short notice as well should governments decide to build stocks or commit to reducing malnutrition.”

    I think this betrays a lack of understanding of how agricultural yields have increased. It has a whole helluva lot more to do with prodigious application of petrochemical based fertilizers and fertilizers and tapping aquifers for irrigation than it does with government policies. And by 2050, petrochemicals and water resources will be severely strained. There is also the fact that moving food around the globe will be a lot less feasible as fuel prices skyrocket. The green revolution was essentially a way of averting food insecurity by turning petroleum into grain and soy beans–both of which also suck up LOTS of water. And with fisheries collapsing and unlikely to recover, we can’t turn there for relief.

    AC: “You presume much when you say that politicians in general don’t understand science.”

    Really? You ever talk to these guys? Most of them couldn’t write down Newton’s Laws, Ohm’s law or even tell you how DNA works. Most of them are lawyers of businessmen with neither understanding nor interest in science–as evidenced by the fact that the Congress disbanded its own office of scientific advisors the Office of Technology Assessment. I’m sorry, but when you have legislators justifying their opposition to climate science by citing the Book of Genesis or supporting teaching of creationism alongside evolution in the biology classroom, it is difficult for me to see how you can call the Congress a science-friendly body.

  306. Didactylos:

    Okay, suppose we buy into BPL’s completely indefensible (and undefended) claims of agricultural collapse.

    Let’s look at developed countries in temperate climates:

    # Countries that produce considerably more than they consume
    # Countries that will be among the last to suffer from climate effects, and that may benefit from slightly increased temperatures and increased precipitation
    # Countries that currently consume way, way more than is needed to sustain life

    How are these countries going to suddenly collapse at the same time as countries that are in less favourable situations? It’s a complete non sequitur.

    Now, if BPL were talking about regional collapse, that might make sense. But he’s not.

    I keep searching for any hint that BPL has considered anything beyond his own drought research. Water management? Socio-economics? Trade? Positive offsets of climate change? Regional differences? Not a single hint of anything like this.

    I say it again: the actual projected effects of climate change are quite bad enough (see the Stern Review) without making stuff up.

  307. manacker:

    @Patrick 027

    You ask me (293) for a summary of “Spencer’s evidence and logic” (presumably with regard to net negative cloud feedback with warming, clouds as a possible natural forcing factor and resulting impact on the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity).

    I’d suggest you read his studies – it’s all in there.

    Max

  308. Ray Ladbury:

    Didactylos,
    I don’t think it is fair to claim that BPL’s contentions are indefensible or that he has not defended them. Have you stopped to consider the extent to which current agricultural productivity depends on petrochemical fertilizers, etc., and that these are going to become scarcer as the period in question approaches?

    I don’t think BPL is contending anything like simultaneous collapse. However, regional collapse coupled with significant strain in the rest of the world will have disastrous consequences in itself. As I’ve said, I cannot comment in detail on BPL’s contentions. I suspect they are perhaps a bit pessimistic. However, there can be no question that this will be the period of maximum strain on the productive capacity of a planet that is already under severe strain.

  309. Hank Roberts:

    Didac, BPL, this is way off-topic, but I suggest you could both look at
    http://www.energybulletin.net/51368 — a review of Bottleneck by William R. Catton, Jr. — then have a discussion (somewhere). After agreeing, elsewhere.

  310. Anonymous Coward:

    Ray,
    I’m not going to argue with the doomer line on agriculture and oil on RC. So I’ll just give you a couple of pointers and leave it at that:
    1 – Grain markets were largely globalized at the end of the 19th century when emissions from fossil fuels were a small fraction of what they are today. Grains do not require refrigeration or just-in-time delivery. Most of the costs of food transportation nowadays involve transporting intermediary products and finished goods across large distances by trucking to save marginal amounts over the price of packaged products which are then sold to consumers at an enormous premium compared to bulk grain (by the kcal/$ metric).
    2 – The energy expended in agriculture is relatively small and could easily be sustained in the face of an energy crunch as evidenced by the fact that retail, refrigeration, cooking, catering and so on uses about 5 times more energy (a very rough figure subject to cultural differences and so on) in industrial countries. The price ratio is similar. The ratios would be much larger if you considered only grains on the one hand and products made from grains on the other as raw grain is much less energy-intensive than animal products for instance. a random up-to-date reference from the Wikipedia: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/ERR94/

    You are for some reason imagining a false dichotomy between government policies and technology. Food availability is a national security issue. Following the world wars, many governments (and those of North America, Europe and Japan in particular) have heavily intervened in the agricultural sector which remains highly distorted (as compared to most sectors) to this day in spite of the more recent rollback inspired by free-trade ideology. In the mid-20th century, the development and the widespread application of modern agricultural technologies was a focus of government policies.

  311. David B. Benson:

    Anonymous Coward @310 & others — Please do read
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.81/full
    from which I quote: “This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.”

  312. Paul Tremblay:

    @Manacker 291 “This is pretty specific stuff, Paul.”

    You quote Curry from the *Scientific American* article. But you dishonestly left out what came immediately after:

    ==Start Quote==

    Many climate scientists find these complaints unfair. They say the IPCC has been upfront about uncertainties all along—that the reports explicitly cite areas where knowledge is lacking. It would be scientifically irresponsible to give flat answers to questions such as “How much will it warm?” or “How much will sea level rise?” Instead the experts give ranges and confidence intervals and the like. More important, other scientists part ways with Curry over how significant those uncertainties are to the final calculation. Yes, the most basic number in climate science is not known with absolute precision, agreed Stanford University’s Stephen H. Schneider in a conversation shortly before he died in July. But it is only uncertain by a few percent, which simply is not enough to skew the projections significantly. Other effects, such as whether clouds will accelerate or retard warming, are much less certain—but here people like Schneider point out that the lack of precision is laid out by the IPCC. (Schneider was the one who persuaded the IPCC to systematize its discussion of uncertainty a decade ago.) For that reason, Curry’s charges are misleading, her critics say. “We’ve seen a lot of strawmen from Judy lately,” Schneider said. “It is frankly shocking to see such a good scientist take that kind of a turn to sloppy thinking. I have no explanation for it.”

    ==End Quote==

    I pointed out her sloppy thinking before because I had seen evidence of it when she posted on this very blog, defending a poorly reasoned book, and then claiming she made no such defense. It was pretty shocking. She has done the same thing with her accusations against climate scientists and the IPCC.

    You write “Your point of “peer review” does not impress me too much, so let’s leave that out of the discussion.” I know it would be convenient for you to dictate the terms of a debate in this dishonest way, but let me re-emphasize: Spencer’s et al.s objections do not even meet the basic requirements of peer reviewed science, which is why we dismiss them out of hand. John Pearson sums up the problem with your position in 292, and I don’t feel it necessary to repeat it.

    When Patrick027 challenged to sum up Spencer’s argument, you become absurdly dismissive. Could you please be more specific and cite real science, or are you just playing a game?

  313. Barton Paul Levenson:

    AC 299: By and large, people do not “turn on each other” in the face of adversity

    BPL: I take it you were not in New Orleans after Katrina.

  314. Barton Paul Levenson:

    AC 302,

    What part of “there won’t be enough food to go around” did you not understand? And it’s 80 days rather than 40? Great! So it takes 12 weeks for the world to die instead of six. Yo, the year is 52 weeks long, remember? We DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH FOOD STOCKPILES to keep humanity going once all the good farmland is gone.

    ALL of it. My prediction is that 70% of the Earth’s land surface will be in SEVERE drought by 2050-2055. What condition do you think the rest will be in?

  315. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Did 306: suppose we buy into BPL’s completely indefensible (and undefended) claims of agricultural collapse.

    BPL: Gavin, if he can say things like this for several days without drawing any censure from you guys, I’m damn well going to reply.

    Did, I gave my reasoning. That was a “defense” by any reasonable criterion. If you want to say it wasn’t an adequate defense, or had holes in it, or included mistakes, you can say that, though you’d damn well better be prepared to point out what those mistakes are. You haven’t done that, you’ve just said “It won’t happen” and loaded me with abuse. FYI, I am a scientist because I have a science degree and do scientific research. I am not a professional scientist, nor did I ever claim to be one. Why do you feel you have to run me down every time you disagree with something I say? What is wrong with you?

    [Response: Ok, that’s it. Both of you, no more on this or it will just be deleted. Take a break, think about something else, and try to ponder how to have more constructive discussions next week. – gavin]

  316. manacker:

    @Paul Tremblay

    You are moving the goal-posts, Paul (312).

    The Curry quotations from Scientific American stand, regardless of the commentary later made by the journalist (Michael D. Lemonick of Climate Central Inc.), in which he quotes Harold Shapiro and the late Stephen Schneider, which you have quoted.

    Since you first criticized Curry’s comments as too non-specific, I thought I would simply point this out to you.

    Curry has specifically stated that there is considerable uncertainty regarding:

    – 2xCO2 GH impact excluding any feedbacks
    – net “amplifying or mitigating” effects from feedbacks
    – temperatures over the past several hundreds of years

    This has nothing to do with opinions of Schneider or Shapiro as quoted by Lemonick later in the article.

    Max

    [Response: For the first there isn’t much uncertainty at all. These calculations are very simple. For the other two, no-one has ever claimed there is no uncertainty, so that is perfectly mainstream. – gavin]

  317. Ray Ladbury:

    AC, you are ignoring the extent to which those very government policies increased dependence of farming on petrochemicals, water from deep aquifers and relatively fragile hybrid seeds. All are vulnerable points in the system. If we are to address potential risks to future civilization, we need to address these weak points, and at present I see no consideration of them.

  318. Ray Ladbury:

    Max, Judy’s expertise is in hurricanes. She has made it abundantly clear that her depth of understanding outside of this field is microscopically thin.

  319. Isotopious:

    Gavin @ 316.

    Are you suggesting the overlaps are unimportant, because of the “water vapor concentration is a feedback not a forcing” assumption?

    [Response: Not related in the slightest. – gavin]

  320. manacker:

    @Ray Ladbury (318)

    Judy’s expertise is in hurricanes

    What’s yours?

    Max

    PS Actually, she heads the “School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences” at Georgia Tech.

  321. Dan:

    “PS Actually, she heads the “School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences” at Georgia Tech.”

    That is close to being a non-sequitor. Being the head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences” says absolutely nothing about her area of expertise. As a example: A climatologist headed the Department of Meteorology and Oceanography at my graduate school. He knew relatively little about oceanography.

  322. flxible:

    PS Actually, she heads the “School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences” at Georgia Tech.

    Actually she is theChair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, which says nothing about her “expertise”. Might indicate she’s chosen politics over science?

  323. Ray Ladbury:

    Max, what determines her expertise is what she has published. I’ve never claimed to be a climate expert. (My own expertise is radiation effects in semiconductors–particularly applying probabilistic risk assessment to that field. ) However, I am not challenging the experts or the evidence, so that is irrelevant.

    Judy’s position is neither consistent with evidence nor with expert opinion–and she’s given no evidence she is familiar with either.

    A department head need have no expertise whatsoever in the subject matter of his/her department. It is a purely administrative position. Jeebus, didn’t you ever go to college?

  324. Paul Tremblay:

    >>The Curry quotations from Scientific American stand, regardless of the commentary later made by the journalist (Michael D. Lemonick of Climate Central Inc.), in which he quotes Harold Shapiro and the late Stephen Schneider, which you have quoted.

    What kind of a response is that? If the quote by Curry stands, then naturally, so does the quote by Shapiro and Schneider. Specifically, Shapiro and Schneider point out that Curry engages in sloppy thinking, since the IPCC did and does admit the uncertainty, despite what you claim. That becomes ridiculously clear with just a superficial reading of the IPCC report. It boggles my mind how you and Curry can somehow claim otherwise.

    I would expect a poster on a blog to engage in obfuscation in these matters, but Schneider and Shapiro are absolutely correct to call such behavior from the chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences shocking.

  325. Daniel Bailey:

    Re: manacker (307)

    Recent studies indicate potential positive feedbacks from clouds:
    1. Observational and Model Evidence for Positive Low-Level Cloud Feedback. Science 24 July 2009: Vol. 325 no. 5939 pp. 460-464 DOI: 10.1126/science.1171255

    Available here.

    2. Influence of Arctic sea ice extent on polar cloud fraction and vertical structure and implications for regional climate. JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 115, D21209, 9 PP., 2010 doi:10.1029/2010JD013900

    Available here.

    3. The Impact of Global Warming on Marine Boundary Layer Clouds over the Eastern Pacific—A Regional Model Study. Journal of Climate, 2010; 23 (21): 5844 10.1175/2010JCLI3666.1

    Science Daily article on it is here.

    Co-author Kevin Hamilton concludes,

    “If our model results prove to be representative of the real global climate, then climate is actually more sensitive to perturbations by greenhouse gases than current global models predict, and even the highest warming predictions would underestimate the real change we could see.”

    The Yooper

  326. Isotopious:

    [Response: Not related in the slightest. – gavin]

    Fine. What about the mechanical advantage of CO2 ?

    Question: If the CO2 was restricted to the first 5km of the lower atmosphere, would it work better with regards to warming the surface? How about 1 meter off the ground, etc?

    (sorry about the laymanist terminology).

    [Response: You have it backwards. The greenhouse effect only works if there is a temperature difference between the surface and the atmospheric emitter. Thus the more absorbers/emitters there are in cooler parts of the atmosphere, the bigger the impact. So for maximum effect you’d put all of the GHGs/high cirrus in the upper troposhere. – gavin]

  327. Ray Ladbury:

    Max and many others (including Judy Curry) misunderstand the nature of scientific uncertainty and its relation to engineering and policy. First, uncertainties are not arbitrary. They are determined by the amount and quality of evidence. Based on evidence, the 90% CL for climate sensitivity is 2.1 to 4.5 degrees C per doubling. This means there is only a 5% chance that the evidence to date could be so skewed that the actual value could be outside this range. It does not mean that there is ANY evidence for a lower sensitivity–there is not.

    Second, what matters is risk–the consequences of a threat times the probability of it being realized. The consequences even at the low end of the 90% CL are significant. The consequences at the high end of the 90% CL are severe. If we go beyond the 90% CL, on the low side, there is still non-negligible risk, and the consequences on the high side are unbounded (that is, civilization likely fails). When risk is unbounded, the only acceptable mitigation strategy is to avoid the threat being realized. The only way we know to do that at present is to decrease CO2 emissions. This is simply standard risk mitigation.

  328. manacker:

    @Paul Tremblay

    Just for the record, Gavin has agreed to two of Curry’s points on “uncertainty”

    For the first [2xCO2 GH impact without feedbacks] there isn’t much uncertainty at all. These calculations are very simple. For the other two [net “amplifying or mitigating” effects from feedbacks and temperatures over the past several hundreds of years] no-one has ever claimed there is no uncertainty, so that is perfectly mainstream. – gavin

    I’ll cede to Gavin on the first point being less “uncertain” than the other two, so we apparently have no disagreement.

    Max

  329. Isotopious:

    Thanks Gavin. How far out will you find CO2? All the way to the Exosphere?

    [Response: There is a small amount of photolytic destruction of CO2 above the mesopause, so it starts to decrease above that, but nothing above the stratosphere makes much difference climatically, just not enough mass. – gavin]

  330. Hank Roberts:

    SciAm article about Curry

    Max’s version; Gavin commented on it

    Curry’s own words

  331. Ray Ladbury:

    Oh, no, Max. There is still considerable disagreement,because Gavin knows how to treat scientific uncertainty, and you do not. The uncertainties on the other quantities are well defined and KNOWN. They say that your sanguinity has less than a 5% chance of being right. You’d know that, too, if you’d ever taken a science class.

  332. Paul Tremblay:

    @Max 328: “Just for the record, Gavin has agreed to two of Curry’s points on ‘uncertainty'”

    No one is debating that, though, and you appear to play the same game as Dr. Curry in using uncertainties to disparage climatologists. Earlier you wrote “I have also concluded (as has Dr. Curry) that the scientific uncertainties (specifically in AR4 WG1) have been understated.” That simply is not true, and nothing you have posted since has backed up this claim.

  333. dhogaza:

    I’ll cede to Gavin on the first point being less “uncertain” than the other two, so we apparently have no disagreement.

    There’s a difference in the perfectly mainstream uncertainty expressed, say, by the mainstream science position that sensitivity almost certainly lies in the range 2-4.5C per doubling of CO2, and the touting of “uncertainty” as a reason to be certain that there will be almost no warming at all …

  334. Rod B:

    Ray, my earlier retort didn’t pass muster, so I’ll shorten it — since you keep with it. You have lots of chutzpah and little evidence behind your assessment of Curry.

  335. ghost:

    Some random thoughts, all IMHO of course. RE: BPL 273, I suspect the way the U.S. would/will “try” to compensate for creeping large scale ag decline/failure is to do what we always do with synthetic practices in natural situations–try to turbocharge our way out of it. So, what will we try to do that “sounds good” and feeds the capitalism gods? Build massive arrays of greenhouses and canning facilities in what we imagine are suitable regional locations. (Oh, the political football that siting process would be!) The idea being that we can feed many more people by skipping the animal middleman, while making a bundle for the kind of agribiz that would be required to do such a thing (has to be private sector, can’t have the guvment do it). Grain production probably doesn’t mix with greenhouses, so I suspect that a fair chunk of what (expensive) grain is grown probably goes to the high-return liquor industry–which should be nearly a mandatory staple if things get bad enough. Would mega-scale internal growing work? I dunno; it would require at least better engineering than what we do now. A promising and prolific tomato-growing greenhouse complex in central Nebraska was destroyed by a not unusual hailstorm there, something about hailstones, glass construction, and forgetting that the two don’t mix. Someone above mentioned widespread cessation of food exports, and that seems to me like a given. Every country for itself, a bit like the deep mine survival plan in Dr. Strangelove. I don’t know what our food production and genetics might be like in 40 years, but it seems it might not be long before we have to begin thinking of sellable excuses for avoiding doing anything substantial toward being prepared in time.

    John mentioned Nebraska dry land corn production numbers, which likely is from about Phelps County eastward. You generally will not see anywhere near those yields in the drier further-west areas. (Most of Iowa doesn’t irrigate routinely, and their “dry land” corn yields probably are about what optimal Nebraska irrigated land yields. Whether Iowa/Illinois/Indiana c/would switch to irrigation if needed is another question.) The current case is that dryland corn production is not attempted in substantial acreage in areas that don’t get adequate average annual rainfall. Essentially, the bulk of Nebraska dryland yields are equivalent to yields from sub-optimal irrigation. So, under the hotter -> drier idea, it seems to me we would have to shift the drier/lower yield line eastward. I don’t know that there is a further-east area that is naturally too wet for corn, so I would expect average yield to decline. I would “expect” cereal grain production to creep eastward in substitution for corn. Also, amb-ient temperatures presumably also would be higher, which likely would affect corn yield/vitality in two, maybe three ways. First, we could expect generally higher evaporation rates, so the rain that is there doesn’t go as far (more impetus for no-till/min-till). Tied to that is the risk of severely dry conditions between rains–dry soil conditions with temps in the 80s likely is harder on corn plants than dry conditions with temps in the 90s, up to the limit, and depending on the growth stage. Drought-stressed corn often is aflatoxin corn, which means it maybe is okay for ethanol. Higher amb-ient temps certainly can affect the decomposition rate of organic matter, but I wonder if it would be enough to affect min-till/no-till practices. One thing I wonder is what the state of in-storage corn drying would be in a warmer setting. On one hand, a person might expect less need for post-harvest drying because of what we would hope is a later frost scenario (allowing longer in-field dry down time, and requiring less in-bin drying.) On the other hand, it seems that weather perturbation from climate change could scramble the first frost dates and lead producers to continue high-moisture early harvesting and drying practices. Enhanced pest issues might present a fourth risk with drier growing conditions, but that can be a complicated dynamic. It’s a good question whether drier weather conditions reduce the risk of crop-killing hail; I haven’t investigated that.

    On an RC site-related topic, it’s odd that many RC articles seem to draw a couple of steadfast deniers, often different people or at least different handles for different articles. It’s like ‘RC has a new article up–you guys that drew the short straw, get over there and begin the circus.’ One amusing bit to me is that most of the contrarian posters not only appear to misunderstand/fail to comprehend the science behind the climate topic du jour, but they also appear to misunderstand/fail to comprehend the science that would have to support their favorite crackpot theory as well. Right now, this appears more fashionable with KurryKlowns, but maybe that’s because it’s the most recent carnival to blow through town. The dynamic reminds me of a dude who figures he can learn Swedish merely by hanging out some with his Swedish neighbor. He asks the neighbor to say something in Swedish, the neighbor complies, and he has no idea what the neighbor says. Disappointed, he tries the same thing with his Chinese neighbor on the other side. Well, he doesn’t understand a thing she says to him either, but he decides to prefer Chinese because he likes Chinese take-out food better than Swedish take-out food.

  336. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B.,
    I need provide no “evidence”. Judy has been doing a wonderful job of demonstrating her lack of understanding all by herself. The most recent example can be found in her assessment of the Michaels vs. Santer “debate”. She was the only one who didn’t think Michaels got drubbed.

    The quickest way for a scientist to look like an idiot is to comment outside their area of expertise. You will note that I confine myself to relatively elementary aspects of climate science where I as an amateur feel comfortable. I leave the heavy lifting to Gavin, Jim et al. Judy not only doesn’t understand much of mainstream climate science, she doesn’t even know enough to realize she doesn’t understand.

  337. Radge Havers:

    Some more food for thought? Apparently coming out tomorrow.

    “…Bob Watson, former head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and now chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As he put it: ‘Two degrees is now a wishful dream.’

    Researchers such as Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office, calculate that a 4C rise could occur in less than 50 years…”

    in the Guardian

  338. John Pollack:

    ghost @ 335

    I would have thought it difficult for somebody to be more cynical than myself over the prospects for industrial agriculture in the corn belt under deteriorating climate conditions. However, you’ve succeeded brilliantly with your subsidized greenhouse and grain liquor scenario! Are you another Nebraskan living in the belly of the beast?

    In my experience as a weather forecaster, the highest frequency of crop- killing hail tends to be found just east of the dry line. Under current conditions, that’s typically western or central Nebraska. I would expect that frequency to go down and move east under hotter and drier conditions, as there are fewer storms, period. However, elevated thunderstorms atop a layer of hot dry air are great producers of severe downburst winds, which can also lay a crop or a greenhouse low.

    The mid 1930s are an interesting case study. The mean position of the dry line can be approximated by the monthly mean pressure maps that can be found in Monthly Weather Review. In 1934 and ’36, it looks like the dry line was pushed into Minnesota and Iowa, extending from a thermal low in North Dakota. That summer thermal low these days is most often found in southeast Colorado. 1937 demonstrated another disaster mode for the corn in northeast Nebraska. On the particularly hot and windy day of August 15, the corn was killed outright. I suppose that irrigation could save some of it now, given a repeat of the same conditions.

  339. manacker:

    Ray Ladbury

    You talk about “defined uncertainties”.

    Sounds nice, but to me the key point about “uncertainties” is that they are not “defined”, even if we would like to delude ourselves to believe that they are.

    I can recommend “The Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb, for a good description of this dilemma.

    Example (from Dr. Curry): Do “feedbacks” cause net “amplifying or mitigating” effects?

    In one case, AGW is no real problem; in the other it could represent a significant problem.

    Therein lies the uncertainty, Ray.

    Max

    [Response: No, therein lies the misrepresentation. Your implication that the median estimate is at zero feedback, is false and misleading. The best guess is that feedback is significantly positive as you well know. This kind of misrepresentation no doubt works well in other venues, but please at least try to maintain at least a little intellectual integrity here. -gavin]

  340. manacker:

    @Hank Roberts

    Thanks for links (330).

    After going through them. it looks like SciAm article about Curry, “my version” of this (with Gavin’s comment) and “Curry’s own words” all agree – namely that IPCC has not adequately dealt with “uncertainty” on some very key points.

    [Response: Really? Please stop putting words into my mouth in order to make your point. If you have to twist things to fit your narrative, maybe, just maybe, you (and other readers) might realise that perhaps your narrative is not anything close to the truth? You’re a smart person, so why do you mortgage your intellectal integrity so cheaply? – gavin]

    Curry mentioned three specific areas of “uncertainty”, but Gavin has pointed out that the 2xCO2 GH effect without feedback is less “uncertain” than the net “amplifying or mitigating effects” from feedbacks or the temperature record of the past several hundreds of years, and I can accept that this is so.

    Max

  341. Brian Dodge:

    @ ghost, John Pollack about irrigation, corn production, etc

    “To investigate the effect of irrigation on agricultural productivity corn yields from 1900 to 2008 was compared for the rain irrigated state of Illinois averaging over 30 inches per year rainfall and the dryer state of Nebraska with less that 15 inches rainfall on average. To make up for the lack of rainfall, over the last 30 years irrigation has increases in Nebraska from 30% of planted corn in 1966 to over 80% of planted corn in 2008.”
    Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Central Plains Irrigation Conference, Kearney, NE., February 24-25, 2010
    Available from CPIA, 760 N.Thompson, Colby, Kansas
    THE IMPACT OF IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE
    ON A STABLE FOOD SUPPLY
    Michael F. Dowgert Ph. D.
    Market Manager Agriculture

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/t0551e/t0551e07.htm has a table which shows the Water Utilization Efficiency for some crops, in terms of kg yield per cubic meter of water. If all other factors – soil fertility, drainage, fertilization, degree days, total insolation, etc – and those factors will be the same only in small adjacent areas – then the yield is mathematically related to how much water is available to the crop. See also http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2007am/techprogram/P34750.HTM

    Farming is an economic activity; decisions on how much water, fertilizer, pesticide, and other inputs to apply depend on the expected price of the crop, the cost of the inputs, and the overhead. The 20% of unirrigated corn in Nebraska is likely profitably grown on farms where the mort _gage is paid off, there is a feedlot or distillery close by, there’s less local competition and reservoirs of pests, and/or the local microclimate has higher than average rainfall. There are spreadsheets and other computer programs available to help farmers analyze the various factors.

    Most of the crops that are irrigated are high value, for human consumption. see http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/ircropbar.html

    according to http://www.ers.usda.gov/statefacts/us.htm
    Total farmland ha 3.7e8
    subtracting the amounts in existing uses,
    Cropland ha 1.6e8
    Woodland ha 3.0e7
    Pastureland ha 1.6e8
    Land in house lots, ponds,
    roads, wasteland, etc. ha 1.3e7
    Farmland in conservation or
    wetlands reserve programs ha 1.5e7,

    leaves fallow farmland ha 1.5e8 (As a point of reference 60,000 sq mi = 1.55e7 hectares)

    About 13 percent of US cropland is irrigated. Economic considerations are part of the reason that so much farmland is fallow – growing a legume green manure crop one year of rotation and plowing it in will often decrease the fertilizer needs/cost and improve yields/returns in subsequent crops enough to more than offset the lost productivity of a fallow year. Fixed nitrogen costs about $1000/ton; an acre of legumes can fix 150-200 lb of nitrogen.

  342. Bob (Sphaerica):

    It will be interesting to see how all of the people who felt that the CRU hack was the noble act of a heroic whistle-blower now react to the publication of sensitive diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks.

  343. Ray Ladbury:

    Max,
    Most of the uncertainties in climate science are well known and characterized. Some are larger than others, but the net result–e.g. climate sensitivity–is well constrained. The problem, Max, is that you just don’t get an Earthlike climate unless you have significant positive feedback on energy changes in the system. You don’t get ice ages, or if you did, they’d last forever. Instead, we get the dynamic climate that we see on this planet. No one has been able to develop a self-consistent model of Earth’s climate without significant positive feedback or without a significant sensitivity for added CO2. These two factors are inextricably intertwined with each other and with every aspect of the consensus model. And what is more, they are supported by all the evidence available.

    This isn’t a matter of twiddling other knobs to make the model work. If CO2 is not a significant player or if climate sensitivity does not feature significant positive feedback, then everything we know about Earth’s climate is wrong–and it becomes extremely difficult to explain why a wrong model works so well.

  344. Paul Tremblay:

    Max: “After going through them. it looks like SciAm article about Curry, ‘my version’ of this (with Gavin’s comment) and ‘Curry’s own words’ all agree – namely that IPCC has not adequately dealt with ‘uncertainty’ on some very key points.”

    That’s complete nonsense. How you got from admitting and quantify uncertainty, to not adequately dealing with it really boggles the mind.

  345. ghost:

    John, Y, I spent some time in that neck o’ the woods. Good info on the hail conditions.

    Brian, I think “we,” at least I, probably figure that crop subsidies would be in high vogue if the conditions get bad enough, so the crop production micro-econ might be skewed when that time comes. As an aside, the NE irrigated proportion changes probably correlate roughly to maturation of the EtOH subsidy effect, bubbly land prices (higher value > easier to borrow, or higher price forces a rat race to profitability), maybe some rainfall pattern changes (just an uneducated guess on that one, John probably knows that answer right off), and probably correlates highly with corn prices, bumped by the EtOH demand. That’s good info you gave there, and it helps underscore for me the pitfalls of corn-based EtOH. It doesn’t require a very sharp pencil to see how much resources, fossil fuels, soil condition/erosion, tax dollars, and groundwater (for the much pivot-irrigated land) are behind the moonshine push. I probably now have wandered entirely OT :)

  346. Alan Millar:

    343 Ray Ladbury

    “No one has been able to develop a self-consistent model of Earth’s climate without significant positive feedback”

    Apart from the Earth itself apparently.

    Is there some sort of cognitive dissonance going on here?

    We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years and yet the Earth has actually cooled over that time.

    It is a fact therefore that the Earth has shown a net negative feedback over that period. Must have or we would be warmer with a neutral response and very much warmer with a significant positive response.

    So Ray how do you get from the Earths temperature 500 million years ago to todays temperature, whilst all the time the Earth has been displaying a “significant positive feedback” to the increased forcing?

    Alan Millar

  347. Jeffrey Davis:

    Curry’s comments about the science seem to me to fall either into the trivially true or purposefully confused camp. Into those she interlards remarks about the non-scientific aspects of the scientific community that depend upon taking the Hadley email hack a) as if the remarks were as toxic as the denialist press presented and b) as if the Hadley group were congruent with the entire universe of the IPCC. Rhetorically, she uses the trivially true statments to lend credence to her wowzers.

    As has been pointed out, to get there she squeezes certain words — like uncertainty — until they squeak. And for drama she creates a Pilgrim’s Progress narrative of the naif who has discovered Sin. And to seal the deal, she doesn’t mount a positive argument about where the science has gone wrong or what specific conclusions need to be set aside. Instead she alludes to larger problems.

    Science is done in the trenches, not on Olympus, and Curry, despite all her po’ mouthing, has set herself up as an Olympian arbiter. If she has problems with details, she needs to write up a paper with the same specificity and rigor that she claims is missing. If her paper withstands scrutiny, she’ll have done Science. Period. Instead of Journalism.

  348. manacker:

    @Ray Ladbury

    No one has been able to develop a self-consistent model of Earth’s climate without significant positive feedback or without a significant sensitivity for added CO2.

    This may well be so, Ray, but this is an “argument from ignorance”, i.e. “our models cannot explain past climate changes unless we introduce ‘a significant sensitivity for added CO2’”.

    It assumes, in my opinion erroneously, that we know all there is to know about what makes our planet’s climate behave as it does.

    The argumentation fails if there are unknown natural factors, which could have contributed significantly to past climate changes. (Back to Judith Curry’s “unknown unknowns” argument.)

    Max

    [Response: But it isn’t as if we don’t know that CO2 has a radiative effect. One can always posit that the fairies did it, but there are actually two things the fairies have to explain – why things changed the way they did, and secondly why increasing GHGs are not having the predicted effect. A pretty tall order actually. – gavin]

  349. SecularAnimist:

    Must read:

    Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!

    “In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world.”

  350. manacker:

    @Paul Tremblay

    Your 344 is beginning to become repetitive:

    How you got from admitting and quantify uncertainty, to not adequately dealing with it really boggles the mind.

    The SciAm interview states:

    Curry asserts that the scientists haven’t adequately dealt with the uncertainty in their calculations…

    Seems quite clear to me, Paul.

    Max

    [Response: That is indeed her assertion. It is unclear to what extent it is supported by anyone else. I, for one, do not agree. – gavin]

  351. Steve Metzler:

    For Ken Coffman #220:

    I know other readers have already responded to your what-happens-in-the-stratosphere-doesn’t-matter statement, but here’s the relevant article on RC (and I’m pretty sure no one else has mentioned it, because I couldn’t find the word ‘saturate’ in any of the comments so far):

    A Saturated Gassy Argument

    The takeaway bit:

    What happens if we add more carbon dioxide? In the layers so high and thin that much of the heat radiation from lower down slips through, adding more greenhouse gas molecules means the layer will absorb more of the rays. So the place from which most of the heat energy finally leaves the Earth will shift to higher layers. Those are colder layers, so they do not radiate heat as well. The planet as a whole is now taking in more energy than it radiates (which is in fact our current situation). As the higher levels radiate some of the excess downwards, all the lower levels down to the surface warm up. The imbalance must continue until the high levels get hot enough to radiate as much energy back out as the planet is receiving.

    Any saturation at lower levels would not change this, since it is the layers from which radiation does escape that determine the planet’s heat balance.

    Words worth remembering.

  352. SecularAnimist:

    manacker wrote: “It assumes, in my opinion erroneously, that we know all there is to know about what makes our planet’s climate behave as it does.”

    gavin replied: “But it isn’t as if we don’t know that CO2 has a radiative effect.”

    Indeed, manacker’s “opinion” is not, in fact, that it is erroneous to “assume” that “we know all there is to know” about climate. (And of course, no one in the world would argue that “we know all there is to know” about climate, so it’s not clear who it is that manacker claims is making this “error”.)

    No, the real “opinion” manacker has stated ad nauseum in his comments here, is that we “don’t know” things that we actually do know.

    And that is not really an “opinion” — it is a plain falsehood.

  353. Sir:

    Alan Millar 346

    “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years and yet the Earth has actually cooled over that time.
    It is a fact therefore that the Earth has shown a net negative feedback over that period. Must have or we would be warmer “

    This is an extremely general statement and may or may not be correct depending on your starting point of “500 million years ago.” Read The Long Thaw by David Archer. He goes through the sun/earth cycles including precession, obliquity, and eccentricity showing that the solar input to the earth can vary significantly over long periods of time. He also discusses the carbon cycle and how natural systems both take up and give off CO2. Feedbacks have been both positive and negative. The earth is believed to have had at least one period where it was almost completely covered in ice. The age of the dinosaurs, 250 mya, was warmer than now, but we have had several ice ages since then. So, how do you decide whether we have warmed rather than cooled. Looking at any two points in time that far apart does not tell you much about the long term trend nor the current climate trend.

  354. Hank Roberts:

    Shorter Manacker: ignoramus ignorabimus
    _________
    ‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. We are aware of all Internet traditions.

  355. Ray Ladbury:

    Max: “but this is an “argument from ignorance”, i.e. “our models cannot explain past climate changes unless we introduce ‘a significant sensitivity for added CO2’”.”

    No, Max, it is an argument from success. How likely do yu think it is that the models would be as remarkably successful at explaining behavior over a broad range of conditions and over millions of years if they were drastically wrong? And for CO2 to have a small sensitivity, they would have to be drastically wrong.

    Max, the fingerprints of a long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gas are all over the paleoclimate. The fingerprints of positive feedback are undeniable if you look at the evidence.

    You want us to prove there’s nothing we could have missed. That’s not how science works. Rather we construct the best model we can and then see how it stacks up against the evidence and against it’s own predictions. By this criterion–the only one that matters in science–the consensus model of Earth’s climate is astoundingly successful.

  356. Kevin McKinney:

    Alan Millar, #346–

    “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years and yet the Earth has actually cooled over that time.”

    No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.

  357. Alan Millar:

    356 Kevin McKinney

    “No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.”

    I think you need to consider that statement more carefully.

    There is only one source of radiative forcing on the Earth and that is the Sun and its output. Unless, that is, you know of another source.

    The greenhouse effect is not a radiative forcing effect in itself it only magnifies the sole source of radiative forcing ie the Sun’s output.

    I don’t know of any challenge to the fact that the Sun has and will contiue to increase its output and therefore the radiative forcing effect on the Earth.

    Significant long term increase in radiative forcing combined with a significant positive feedback response to such forcing should not lead to cooler temperatures should it?

    Of course people put forward various ideas why it has cooled and of course it has to be for a reason or multiple reasons the question is what are they exactly?

    If you cannot define this exactly then how can you have any certainty that the Earth’s generic response to an increase in radiative forcing is a positive one?

    [Response: With respect to the climate sensitivity that we are all talking about, changes in volcanic activity (which change CO2 and sulphates etc), the evolution of land plants, the variation of continental position and the creation/erosion of mountain ranges all lead to radiative forcings over this time period. The question is what the “net” forcing is. – gavin]

    Alan Millar

  358. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Alan Millar 346,

    The carbonate-silicate cycle is indeed a long-term stabilizing feedback. But it is not the only feedback in the system, and it takes hundreds of millions of years to work. Given an increase in greenhouse gases–which we’ve got–water vapor feedback is positive, no question. Ice-albedo feedback is positive. Cloud feedback we don’t know but is probably positive according to the most recent research. Time scales, man, pay attention to the time scales.

  359. Rod B:

    Sir (353), sure sounds like a bit of actual uncertainty to me, which is the debated point

  360. Isotopious:

    On the issue of uncertainty, the thing that bothers me the most is the AR4 result. For example:

    “The simultaneous increase in energy
    content of all the major components of the climate system as
    well as the magnitude and pattern of warming within and across
    the different components supports the conclusion that the cause
    of the warming is extremely unlikely (<5%) to be the result of
    internal processes."

    "It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that recent global warming is due
    to internal variability alone such as might arise from El Niño."

    "…together with evidence that the second half of the 20th century was
    likely the warmest in 1.3 kyr (Chapter 6) indicate that the
    cause of the warming is extremely unlikely to be the result
    of internal processes alone."

    Source: Chapter 9 Understanding and Attributing Climate Change

    Yet Wikipedia states:

    "the mode of variability with the greatest effect on climates worldwide is the seasonal cycle, followed by El Niño-Southern Oscillation…" and "Mechanisms that cause the oscillation remain under study"

    I don't understand. How can it be "extremely unlikely"?

    [Response: Because we know what impact El nino has on global temperature, and we know what El nino has done over the last century, and we find that the using ENSO to predict the temperature *trend* is completely unable to explain it. – gavin]

  361. Isotopious:

    So what your saying is that even though the cause is under investigation, we have a good idea of its effects on temperature.

    Reminds me of the gravity analogy: The cause remains under study, but we can predict its outcome.

    Arrg but you can’t predict El Niño in the same way we do gravity! Well enough for a complex system? Who’s to say? Sounds extremely uncertain.

    [Response: This has nothing to do with prediction. We already know what ENSO has done, and we know that it can’t explain the temperature trend. Not uncertain at all. – gavin]

  362. Alan Millar:

    358 Barton Paul Levenson

    Don’t get me wrong Barton, I agree that the Earth’s immediate response to an increase in radiative forcing is very unlikely to be negative.

    However, the fact is, history shows us that the long term response and feedback has been negative and in the absence of any evidence that there has been a change, I assume that will continue.

    It is the uncertainty of how long it takes for the negative effect to kick in that concerns me. In the meantime yes there could be a positive feedback response but what is the strength and how long does this effect last?

    Again what bothers me is the uncertainty factor about this, at the current stage of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate systems which is a long long way from being complete.

    The short term sensitivity question has been conclusively settled by models, (most of which use different assumptions eg about aerosols etc) which are adjusted to match just one 30 year period, according to some people.

    Well I don’t buy it at this stage Barton. These models can’t match the 1940-1975 period or the 1910-1940 periods without explanations and assumptions based on unproven hypothesis.

    I don’t like how some scientists throw comments around about these periods which they know have huge uncertainties surrounding them.

    Eg

    The 1910-1940 period is often explained by low aerosols and rising solar activity. When in fact aerosols rose dramatically in that time and though solar activity stopped rising and levelled off in the 1950s it levelled at a higher overall average than the 1910-1940 period.

    Some of these scientists know (as shown in the ‘Climategate’ e-mails) that these explanations are not satisfactory but publically maintain an air of utter confidence in the models and the sensitivity question.

    I do not have the same confidence. I don’t know of any single climate model that has shown much skill in its forecasting rather than its backcasting. My mum always said that two wrongs don’t make a right and tend to agrre with philosophy.

    Alan Millar

  363. Isotopious:

    It has everything to do with prediction, that’s what science IS. Why do you do a good job of predicting the seasons? Or gravity? Are you suggesting that if the seasons were random, they would be unable to cause a trend? You are unable to do a good job of internal variability, you don’t know whether it deterministic or not, but in either case, it been rule out!

    I still don’t understand.

    [Response: Huh? This makes no sense at all. I thought we were discussing the attribution problem. This is not an issue for what is to come in the future, but rather explaining what has happened in the past. The issues you are now mentioning have nothing to do with the question you originally raised. Go back to the beginning and try and see if you can phrase your question more clearly since I have not succeeded in answering you in the slightest. – gavin]

  364. Sir:

    Alan Millar 357

    “I don’t know of any challenge to the fact that the Sun has and will continue to increase its output and therefore the radiative forcing effect on the Earth.”

    The output of the sun and the radiation impacting the earth are two different things. Based on the milankovitch cycles , the earth has been receiving less radiation for the last 9000 years not more. These cycles are thought to have triggered the switch between glacial and non glacial periods.

    http://deschutes.gso.uri.edu/~rutherfo/milankovitch.html

    “The influence of these cycles on insolation (INcident SOLar radiATION) at different latitudes has been calculated by Berger (1991), and Laskar (1993). Below is Berger’s solution for 65 degrees north latitude from the present to 1 million years ago. In the Northern Hemisphere, peak summer insolation occurred about 9,000 years ago when the last of the large ice sheets melted. Since that time Northern Hemisphere summers have seen less solar radiation.”

    Where do you get the idea that the sun’s influence has been steadily increasing its radiative forcing effect on the Earth?

  365. Ray Ladbury:

    Alan Millar: “However, the fact is, history shows us that the long term response and feedback has been negative and in the absence of any evidence that there has been a change, I assume that will continue.”

    I’m sure that will be a great comfort to the descendents of todays cockroaches and other species that survive the current wave of mass extinctions. As Keynes said, “In the long run, we are all dead.”

    What matters for our species is the response of the climate on decadal to centennial timescales–and that is warming out as far as can be projected.

  366. Isotopious:

    I’m just attacking the “extremely unlikely” bit of the attribution problem I noted above. My question:

    Are you suggesting that if the seasons were random, they would be unable to cause a trend?

    No trend? Yes? You wanna go and pull a Tamino? The anomalies add to zero! NO trend!

    And no brains either.

    [Response: There I was thinking we were actually having a conversation. Oh well. – gavin]

  367. Ray Ladbury:

    Isotopious,
    What matters is the net effect on the energy of the system and the timescale during which this effect takes place. El Nino adds a significant amount of energy to the system on a very short timescale. It is followed by a La Nina or neutral conditions, and the extra energy radiates away into the inky blackness of space. In effect, the ENSO doesn’t add energy because of that ‘O’–it’s oscillatory. Go back and crack a differential equations text–an oscillatory term produces oscillatory behavior, not monotonically rising behavior.

    Adding CO2 is different. Energy is continually absorbed into the system until the temperature rises enough to shift the Planck curve high enough that energy radiated out is equal to energy in.

    You have to consider the sorts of effects a driver can produce in the system. That is how you see the fingerprints of CO2.

  368. NoPreview NoName:

    Sir: “Where do you get the idea that the sun’s influence has been steadily increasing its radiative forcing effect on the Earth?”

    That is well established, but the rate is far too slow to affect current climate change. You need tens of millions of years to get anything notable.

  369. Paul Tremblay:

    Max “Your 344 is beginning to become repetitive:”

    Really? I think most posters here would see it the other way around. You quote an article that that states “Curry asserts that the scientists haven’t adequately dealt with the uncertainty in their calculations…” No one has ever denied that Curry believes this. Certainly I didn’t. What I strongly disputed is your bizarre claim that “‘my version” of this (with Gavin’s comment) and ‘Curry’s own words’ all agree – namely that IPCC has not adequately dealt with ‘uncertainty’ on some very key points.”

    Gavin and most climatologists agree on the uncertainties that Curry names. In fact, they have openly quantified these results. That is a huge difference from not dealing with them adequately. To support your argument, you made a huge leap from the fact that scientists acknowledge the uncertainties on the one hand, to the accusation that they don’t deal with them adequately on the other. Nothing that Gavin said supported your conclusion.

    These posts wouldn’t be so repetitive if you hadn’t already made Curry into some kind of Galileo and decided to defend her at any cost, ignoring the science and the facts to do so.

    So how about you stop playing games, Max, and state a specific area of uncertainty that climatologists have not dealt with adequately, rather than endlessly repeating Curry’s vague and wrong assertions from one article. That means not just pointing out uncertainty, but showing how the science has “understated” (your word) it, or not dealt with it adequately?

  370. Hank Roberts:

    > [to Alan Millar] Where do you get the idea that
    > the sun’s influence has been steadily increasing

    He already told us.
    He took two data points
    millions of years apart,
    and drew a line between them.
    A straight line.

    He’s pulling our legs here.

  371. Isotopious:

    Thanks for the advice Ray.

  372. manacker:

    @Ray Ladbury

    We are going around in circles here, Ray.

    Models are only as good as the input, as I am sure you and Gavin will both agree.

    And there is always “uncertainty”, especially in a field, like climate science, that is still in its relative infancy.

    My point is simply: If we are uncertain whether there is an (as yet unknown) natural forcing of our climate, which has been at least partly responsible for the observed recent and past short and longer cycle time oscillations of our climate, then we might have to revise our notions on 2xCO2 climate sensitivity.

    [Response: No, because constraints on sensitivity don’t come from the 20th centuary record. – gavin]

    The logic “our models can only explain this if we include an anthropogenic forcing” is, by definition, an “argument from ignorance”, because it assumes that we know all there is to know about all natural forcing factors.

    [Response: No again. If we were simply saying that there is a trend in temperature and a trend in factor X, therefore they must be connected, that would be an argument from ignorance. But what we actually have is a change in a physical property that has been known for 100 years to impact climate, for which accurate predictions were made of the magnitude of the effect 50 years ago, and whose changes since in fact mire than adequately explain much of what has happened. In your misplaced zeal to find ‘uncertainty’ you pervert a triumph of scientific reasoning into a argument for ignorance. Indeed, you wouldn’t even contemplate this with any other science – the observation that people who eat more get fat would apparently mean we are ignorant if the calorific value of food, or the fact that we can land a rover on mars means we don’t understand gravity. This is mendacious nonsense, and just because you are parroting lindzen does not give you a free pass. – gavin]

    If you are certain that this is the case, then you can argue that the logic is valid; if not, you cannot make this argument.

    So it’s really all about “uncertainty”.

    But I truly believe we have beaten this dog to death, Ray, and will not resolve our difference here.

    But it has been interesting blogging with you (as always).

    And thanks to Gavin for his commentary, as well.

    Max

  373. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    I just returned from a week in Budapest which kept me in development mode full time on some system upgrades and did not have time to keep up with the thread, but unfortunately now, I’m back :)

    #258 Ray Ladbury

    Re. Alan Millar

    He has seems to be influenced by the dark side.

    #346 Alan Millar

    You state in response to Ray’s #343:

    “Apart from the Earth itself apparently.”

    1. Can you show me the paper that the earth submitted for peer review?

    2. You state: “Is there some sort of cognitive dissonance going on here?” Please understand that pretty much everyone knows you are juggling red herrings in the thread.

    3. Re. your consideration of “significant positive feedback” Define ‘significant’ with parameters first. Since you have stated “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years”, thereby indicating you know with significant confidence that you are making a correct statement, please share with us just how much the radiative forcing has increased, and point us to the peer reviewed papers so we might take a look at them and what the peer response was?

    Did you read the links I pointed you too? Do you now recognize that just because you don’t know why the first person hit you in the face, does not mean that you can’t know why the second person hit you in the face?

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  374. Snapple:

    This Wikleaks scandal reminds me a lot of Climategate. I googled Wikileaks and Climategate and saw a video of that Wikileaks guy talking about Climategate. This is not a real recent video; it predates this current scandal.

    He was being prompted by another man when he talked about Climategate. What is going on here? The Wikileaks guy seems to be admitting he released Climategate e-mails, then he complains indignantly that he is being accused of being a conduit for the FSB.

    Do you think this is a real video or manipulated? I never really knew about this Wikileaks last year, and I don’t remember them being involved in Climategate. What is going on here?

    http://vodpod.com/watch/3986650-wikileaks-comment-on-climategate-fight-with-the-truth

  375. Barton Paul Levenson:

    AM 362: The short term sensitivity question has been conclusively settled by models

    BPL: Empirical paleoclimate analysis comes up with similar numbers.

    AM: …which are adjusted to match just one 30 year period, according to some people.

    BPL: Unfortunately, those people are liars. GCMs are not adjusted to match ANY climate period. They are not statistical models, they are physical models. They start with the world as it was in, say, 1850, and use physics alone to advance them to the present time and beyond. They achieve superb matches with the actual temperature records anyway.

    AM: Well I don’t buy it at this stage Barton.

    BPL: Or don’t understand it. Your incredulity is not a useful argument.

    AM: These models can’t match the 1940-1975 period or the 1910-1940 periods without explanations and assumptions based on unproven hypothesis.

    BPL: Nothing unproven about them.

    AM: I don’t like how some scientists throw comments around about these periods which they know have huge uncertainties surrounding them.

    BPL: Because they can quantify those uncertainties.

    AM: The 1910-1940 period is often explained by low aerosols and rising solar activity. When in fact aerosols rose dramatically in that time

    BPL: Which aerosols? What’s your source? Volcanoes were unusually quiescent during that period.

    AM: and though solar activity stopped rising and levelled off in the 1950s it levelled at a higher overall average than the 1910-1940 period.

    BPL: So what? You can’t take a high, steady input and get a flat output followed by a steeply rising curve. If the increase in sunlight had been significant, you’d get the biggest effect right away, and it would level off as it approached a plateau. That’s not what we see.

    AM: Some of these scientists know (as shown in the ‘Climategate’ e-mails) that these explanations are not satisfactory but publically maintain an air of utter confidence in the models and the sensitivity question.

    BPL: The “Climategate” emails were part of a disinformation operation (literally; the Russians helped), and were presented to condemn CRU. Three investigations have totally cleared them of any wrongdoing.

    AM: I do not have the same confidence.

    BPL: You’re not a climate scientist.

    AM: I don’t know of any single climate model that has shown much skill in its forecasting rather than its backcasting.

    BPL: Look again:

    http://BartonPaulLevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

    AM: My mum always said that two wrongs don’t make a right and [I] tend to agr[e]e with [that] philosophy.

    BPL: So do I. How does that apply to climate science? I don’t see the connection.

  376. Snapple:

    That first video evidently came from here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W17dW_aJEwU&feature=youtube_gdata

    There are new comments on here from some informed people, but the video seems to have been posted during the summer.

    I don’t know when this was filmed.

    I hope the owners of Real Climate will look at this because I never knew anything about this supposed Wikileaks angle. I really hate all this kompromat, because the dirt always sticks even if later a fuller picture emerges. Most people just believe what they hear first.

    Powerful business, political, and media interests went after these scientists and tried to make them look bad.

    These “leaks” are crimes. They are stealing. If the government did these crimes without probable cause and a warrant it would be a crime, and the papers would attack them for exceeding their authority; yet, the media use these stolen documents in a really hyped-up way.

    [edit – no personal attacks please]

  377. Bill:

    re #368. Not sure about that, remember we were told by Al Gore all about ‘tipping points’!! ( No, dont delete it, a little humour is required on here from time to time…)

  378. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #372 Max Anacker

    – If you have the gun involved in a crime

    – and you have done the ballistics test,

    – and it matches the gun found at the scene of the crime,

    – and the gun is registered to a person,

    – and there was gun shot residue found on the persons hand the day of the shooting,

    – and there was a motive for the person with the gunshot residue on their hand to commit the crime,

    – and witnesses on the scene have identified the person as the shooter,

    – saying that it is an argument from ignorance that he is ‘very likely’ guilty is illogical.

    In this case it is very hard to establish reasonable doubt. You can claim that 31,000 people and a even a few scientists disagree with the evidence of the crime, but that does not change the reality of the chain of evidence and the conclusions drawn from that.

    This fact does remain, you, nor the jury was at the scene of the crime so you can never know for sure if he actually did it, right?

    Or are you saying we should open all the prison doors and let everyone free because courts can never really be certain of anything because there is always uncertainty?

    Your argument is simply illogical and in the context of the evidence quite absurd, though I prefer ‘ludicrous’, and a few others.

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  379. Ray Ladbury:

    Max says, “We are going around in circles here, Ray.”

    I’ve noticed you say that a lot after having your rhetorical ass handed to you in a bag.

    Max: “Models are only as good as the input, as I am sure you and Gavin will both agree.”

    No, Max, the models are only as good as their predictions. And climate models have an impressive record of success.

    http://bartonpaullevenson.com/ModelsReliable.html

    It is the successful predictions that justify the input, not the reverse. This is where you fail to understand scientific modeling. The goal is to include the fewest influences you can that you know to be extant and to constrain them as well as data allow. There are effectively no free parameters to twiddle. Given the limited freedom in the models, it is microscopically unlikely that the models will make successful predictions if the underlying physics is wrong–or if there is an important missing factor. What is more, a well-mixed, long-lived greenhouse gas gives a unique signature in the paleodata and in the current climate (e.g. stratospheric cooling concurrent with tropospheric warming). Sorry, Max, there are simply no responsible scientists who contend seriously that sensitivity is significantly below 2 degrees per doubling (even Schwartz admitted as much in his revision).

    Come back any time you’d like to continue your education.

  380. Kevin McKinney:

    #357–

    Gavin really answered this inline already, but Alan Millar, you wrote:

    “No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.”

    I think you need to consider that statement more carefully.

    There is only one source of radiative forcing on the Earth and that is the Sun and its output. Unless, that is, you know of another source.

    No. The Earth also radiates. (Hemingway reference intentional.)

    The particulars of that process also constitute “radiative forcing.” You’ve only been looking at one half of the picture.

  381. Kevin McKinney:

    Damn, the blockquote endtag got busted, somehow. Reposted:

    #357–

    Gavin really answered this inline already, but Alan Millar, you wrote:

    “No, we don’t. “Insolation” and “radiative forcing” aren’t the same thing.”

    I think you need to consider that statement more carefully.

    There is only one source of radiative forcing on the Earth and that is the Sun and its output. Unless, that is, you know of another source.

    No. The Earth also radiates. (Hemingway reference intentional.)

    The particulars of that process also constitute “radiative forcing.” You’ve only been looking at one half of the picture.

  382. Rod B:

    Gavin (372), you say “…constraints on sensitivity don’t come from the 20th century record.” I’m confused because I though it did in fact come (mostly) from past records.

    [Response: Are you saying that you think the past only consists of the 20th Century? I’ve heard of young earth creationists, but that is extreme even compared to them. – gavin]

    Or am I mixing up sensitivity with forcing? Later on you say, “… we actually have… a change in a physical property that has been known for 100 years to impact climate, for which accurate predictions were made of the magnitude of the effect 50 years ago, and whose changes since in fact more than adequately explain…. ” That sounds like a factor that has been adjusted based on the records of the past 50-plus years. Or did I misread this?

    Disclaimer: I think there is much physical uncertainty in the non-feedback forcing equation in that it is mostly based on physical historical observations in a highly constrained and relatively short term environment, and minimally based on known analytical physics.

  383. Rod B:

    BPL says in 375, “….GCMs are not adjusted to match ANY climate period. They are not statistical models, they are physical models. They start with the world as it was in, say, 1850, and use physics alone to advance them to the present time and beyond. ”

    Hogwash! (Well maybe not totally but very near…) Much of the physics that goes into the models is a result of either statistical historical observations or simplified analytical physics because we don’t know the gory specifics of the underlying actual physics. Your literal words are accurate but what you are trying to imply from them is not.

    [Response: BPL is right. Just because measurements have been taken historically that inform climate model parameterisations, does not mean that climate models are tuned to the historical record. To be clear, measurements of the relationship between clouds and vertical updrafts have been taken over many years, and that has been used in cloud modelling, but the exact sequence of clouds and vertical updrafts is not used to constrain model trends. – gavin]

  384. Hank Roberts:

    “… radiative forcing is a direct measure of the amount that the Earth’s energy budget is out of balance.”
    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/explained-radforce-0309.html

    Not the same as insolation.

  385. Alan Millar:

    381 Kevin McKinney

    “No. The Earth also radiates. (Hemingway reference intentional.)

    The particulars of that process also constitute “radiative forcing.” You’ve only been looking at one half of the picture.”

    One half of the picture???

    Are you talking about the solar energy the Earth receives and re-radiates?

    You surely cannot be talking about the energy the Earth supplies itself to its energy budget ie about 0.03%. Hardly “one half of the picture” is it! All the other energy and radiative forcing the Earth has it receives from the Sun.

    Alan Millar

  386. Alan Millar:

    375 Barton Paul Levenson

    Regarding the 1910-1940 problem and the assumptions and meme that certain scientists have been content to become established whilst privately knowing that they are not the answer and huge uncertainties remain. You said :-

    “Nothing unproven about them.”

    “Because they can quantify those uncertainties”

    “Which aerosols? What’s your source? Volcanoes were unusually quiescent during that period.”

    About rising solar output you said :-

    “You can’t take a high, steady input and get a flat output followed by a steeply rising curve. If the increase in sunlight had been significant, you’d get the biggest effect right away, and it would level off as it approached a plateau. That’s not what we see.”

    Well as far as aerosols go yes vulcanism may have been fairly low but sulfate aerosols, notwithstanding, rose very sharply from 1900 as established by the Greenland ice cores. Not surprising really as the industrialisation of the NH was proceeding at a frantic rate during this period.

    The ‘Climategate’ e-mails made clear the real unresolved uncertainties that this period creates.

    From: Tom Wigley
    To: Phil Jones
    Subject: 1940s
    Date: Sun, 27 Sep 2009 23:25:38 -0600
    Cc: Ben Santer

    “It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip,
    but we are still left with “why the blip”.

    Let me go further. If you look at NH vs SH and the aerosol
    effect (qualitatively or with MAGICC) then with a reduced
    ocean blip we get continuous warming in the SH, and a cooling
    in the NH — just as one would expect with mainly NH aerosols.

    The other interesting thing is (as Foukal et al. note — from
    MAGICC) that the 1910-40 warming cannot be solar. The Sun can
    get at most 10% of this with Wang et al solar, less with Foukal
    solar. So this may well be NADW, as Sarah and I noted in 1987
    (and also Schlesinger later). A reduced SST blip in the 1940s
    makes the 1910-40 warming larger than the SH (which it
    currently is not) — but not really enough.

    So … why was the SH so cold around 1910? Another SST problem?
    (SH/NH data also attached.)”

    Alan Millar

  387. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B.: “Hogwash! (Well maybe not totally but very near…) Much of the physics that goes into the models is a result of either statistical historical observations or simplified analytical physics because we don’t know the gory specifics of the underlying actual physics. Your literal words are accurate but what you are trying to imply from them is not.”

    And the value of the electric charge is determined by statistical analysis of thousands of observations of oil drops, plastic spheres…. So shall we throw out all of microelectronics since it is also based on models?

    Rod, a statistical models is parameterized such that the values of the parameters are optimized to give the best agreement with the data being modeled. In a dynamical physical model, the constraints come from data other than that being modeled. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE!!!

  388. Ray Ladbury:

    Alan Millar, OK, look at it this way–what we are getting from the Sun is not so much Energy (joules) as power (Joules/s). If Earth does not shed power as rapidly as it receives it, it must heat up, no?

    If there were no ghgs, the blackbody spectrum radiated by Earth would ensure equilibrium. Now greenhouse gasses take a big chunk out of that spectrum. Exercise to the reader: How must the system respond?

  389. Hank Roberts:

    Alan Millar, “forcing” is the imbalance.
    Insolation is the amount coming in.

    If you choose your own meanings, the words can mean anything you want (to you). That results in impenetrability.
    If you use defined terms, other people will understand you.

    Sit in your bathtub.
    Turn on the tap, plug the drain. Incoming but no outgoing — forcing.
    When the water is at the level you want, remove the plug and put your hand over the drain partway, til the water level is not going up or going down.
    Incoming matches outgoing, in balance — no forcing.

    http://forio.com/simulation/climate-development/index.htm

    This isn’t simple, isn’t obvious, isn’t intuitive.

    See http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.168.3725&rep=rep1&type=pdf

    “… a stock can rise even if the inflow is falling (obviously, when the inflow, though falling, remains above the outflow). A nation’s debt grows even as it reduces its deficits. Of course, you may say. Yet many people find such behavior highly counterintuitive. When asked, for example, about global climate change, most people don’t understand that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, already higher than at any time in the past 400,000 years, would continue to rise even if emissions fell to the rates called for in the Kyoto protocol—because current emission rates are roughly double the rate at which greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere by natural processes, while Kyoto calls for much smaller cuts. Most people believe that stabilizing emissions near current rates will stabilize the climate, when in fact stable emissions would guarantee continued increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and a further increase in net radiative forcing, leading to still more warming. These errors are widespread even when people are explicitly told that current emissions are roughly double the natural uptake rate (Sterman and Booth Sweeney 2002).”

    — from “All models are wrong: reflections on becoming a systems scientist”
    John D. Sterman, Jay Wright Forrester Prize Lecture, 2002

  390. Steve Metzler:

    Hank Roberts (#389):

    That quote by Sterman and Sweeney is full of win (unfortunately). It so simply explains the dire situation we find ourselves in in just a few sentences. So simple, and backed up with so much empirical evidence. And yet, the contrarians write massive volumes of utter drivel in an effort to convince the jaded and largely uninterested public how it cannot possibly be true.

  391. Rod B:

    Gavin, I agree with your in-line comment in 383. I was critical of BPL’s hyperbole because he was trying to get us to infer that all we put into models are measured initial conditions of 1850 or so and a raft of very long, exact, and complex physical equations taken right out of the finest textbooks and then we all sit back in awe at the evidently God-given answers.

  392. Rod B:

    Ray (387), I never thought, said, or implied that we’re talking about statistical models. We’re talking of physical models. My assertion is that the physical models require inputs that are more than just pristine complex equations.

  393. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #346 Alan Millar

    You state in response to Ray’s #343:

    “Apart from the Earth itself apparently.”

    1. Can you show me the paper that the earth submitted for peer review?

    2. Re. your consideration of “significant positive feedback” Define ‘significant’ with parameters first.

    3. You state: “We know for certain that the Earth has received a significant increase in radiative forcing in the last few hundred million years”, thereby indicating you know with certainty. Please show how you achieved ‘certainty’ as to just how much the net radiative forcing has increased (in W/m2), and provide links to the peer reviewed papers and responses so I and others might be able to ascertain the validity of your statements?

    4. Show how that explains or properly models natural cycle and recent changes without human influence, or with if you can.

    Or are you just making up stuff to appear as if you know what you are talking about?

    In your post #357 you state:

    “If you cannot define this exactly then how can you have any certainty that the Earth’s generic response to an increase in radiative forcing is a positive one?”

    This statement combined with your statement in #346 (point 3. above) implies that you would not make statements unless you know exactly how everything works. Please do share with the scientific community your scientific findings through the peer review process so we may all be enlightened by your certainty.

    Or are you just making stuff up to make so as to appear as if you know what you are talking about?

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  394. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod,
    My point is that climate models are no different than any other physical model in this regard. The fact is that the forcings and feedbacks are constrained INDEPENDENTLY, making fortuitous agreement extremely unlikely and accurate prediction even moreso. The fact that the models have a strong track record of success suggests very strongly that they are not entirely wrong–and if the planet did not feature 1)positive feedback and 2)a significant sensitivity for CO2, the models would have to be entirely wrong.

  395. Snapple:

    Can someone who runs this blog look at that video of the Wikileaks guy I posted above? He seems to be taking credit for Climategate, but I never saw that before.

    Does anyone know what this is about? Did anyone see this reported in a major media source?

    Do you think this tape is authentic?

  396. Anonymous Coward:

    John Reisman and the others piling on Allan Millar,
    The question was legitimate, no matter how dishonest or clueless the questioner. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faint_young_Sun_paradox which is more about the early Earth than 500 million years ago but it should be enough to show Allan Millar is not making stuff up (well, not always) and is quite right to say that there is evidently an overwhelming negative feedback. But it doesn’t look like this negative feedback matters much for our purposes since it’s not been acting fast enough to prevent the PETM for instance.
    Rather than Allan Millar making stuff up, the problem comes from the fairly widespread notion (even among regular RC commenters who should know better) according to which sensitivity is some kind of physical constant, “the Earth’s generic response”. It’s not. If sensitivity was used to describe the actual system as opposed to partial models, its value would vary depending on the initial conditions and the timeframe.

  397. Ray Ladbury:

    AC@396, Certainly the faint young sun paradox is a legitimate field of inquiry. Looking at Earth’s temperature then and now and trying to determine anything about feedback in the present epoch is either disingenuous or astoundingly dumb.

  398. Hank Roberts:

    AC, I think you’re making that up. I’ve don’t recall any commenter here appearing to believe that ‘climate sensitivity’ is a physical constant.

    It’s always described as a range of probability derived from the assumptions used — some theoretical, some paleo study — for the time described.

    It’s not something like gravity that could be determined precisely for all time. If you see anyone appearing to think that, jump on them with all four feet to show them the error. I would.

    As Sterman’s piece cited above points out, one that’s intuitively very difficult for most people.

  399. CM:

    Snapple,
    Assange is talking nonsense. The stolen emails were hacked into this site’s server first, and were downloadable from Tomsk for the first days of the affair. Had Wikileaks sprung them, Wikileaks would have published them on their own site first. I’m not sure which is the most distasteful, fencing stolen private correspondence to the world, or falsely claiming credit for it so you can frame yourself as the victim of a British secret service disinformation plot. But I’m pretty sure which is the most ridiculous.

  400. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    en addendum,

    The only constant in the universe is change.

  401. Rod B:

    Ray,are you saying the inputs for the different climate models are INDEPENDENT (your emphasis)? Like in near random variance? Other than detail variations around the edges of this or that parameter of this or that algorithm, the inputs are pretty much the same for all models. Unless the system programmer screwed things up badly, the output from all of the models are going to look very close. That by itself does not indisputably prove much.

    I don’t think (and never said or implied) the models are “entirely wrong.” I think they are mostly right (‘mostly’ here is way more than 50%), quite good, and useful. But certainly not irrefutably perfect or God-given as Barton (and others…) would have us believe. Nor are the inputs pure physics, as opposed to a pile of short cuts, generalized assumptions, and estimates or guesses (which might be very logical…) made by human scientists to fill in those areas where the physics is just a bit deficient or unknown.

  402. Anonymous Coward:

    Hank,
    Sensitivity has been likened to the gravitational constant in this very thread:
    “I find it astounding that you can look at all the evidence constraining climate sensitivity and call the fact that sensitivities in models reflect this an “assumption”. Is the value of the gravitational constant an assumption as well? How about the value of the electron’s charge?”
    I agree sensitivity isn’t an assumption and I don’t think the commenter who wrote that is confused but that wasn’t just a poor analogy. Here’s another quote, from that knowledgable commenter:
    “Based on evidence, the 90% CL for climate sensitivity is 2.1 to 4.5 degrees C per doubling. This means there is only a 5% chance that the evidence to date could be so skewed that the actual value could be outside this range.”
    Again, I don’t disagree with the sentiment but the wording could well confuse less knowledgable readers. Instead of your “range of probability” which I think is a good way to put it, the quote refers “actual value”, again as if it was a property of the physical system, as if we would finally know the “actual value” the day the good people at Mauna Loa get a 550 pmm reading on atmospheric CO2 or something.

    I would rather not name the names of some well-meaning commenters who seem to be truely confused. I would have to mine other threads which I don’t want to do either. But I’ll give you a hint: they tend to be more alarmed than most by the “target atmospheric CO2″ paper and other writings of Hansen.

  403. Sir:

    396 Coward
    I checked out the Wiki article you linked. It referred to the astrophysical expectation that the Sun’s output would be only 70% as intense 4 billion years ago. First, this was an expectation and it is inconsistent with the fact that there was liquid water at the time. Second, it was 4 billion years ago. This evidence gives no support to Alan Millar’s firm statement that the Sun has and will continue to increase its output and therefore the radiative forcing effect on the Earth. Until there is a good citation for this speculation, he is making it up. In addition, as has been pointed out before, there is a difference between the sun’s output and the radiative forcing effect on the Earth due to the Milankovitch cycles. Finally, there is little relevance to the sun 500 million years ago to what will happen in the next few hundred years.

    [Response: While it is true that the 500 million year time scale is not the most direct way to look at what is going to happen in the next hundred years, it isn’t fair to dump all of that information as being ‘made up’. The sun is a main sequence star and astrophysicists have a pretty good idea of their evolution from studying all the differently aged stars we can see. A main sequence star does become brighter over the billion-year time periods as it uses up it’s hydrogen and makes helium. It will eventually use up all the hydrogen and become a red giant (some 5 billion years from now), and which point any planet-bound descendants are toast. Trying to work out why the Earth was not a Snowball for earlier periods is an interesting field of study (involving greenhouse gases, continental configurations, aerosols, atmospheric chemistry, evolution etc.), but the mere fact of uncertainty in this does not support either Millar’s point nor yours. – gavin]

  404. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #402 Anonymous Coward

    I believe you are mistaken. It is not a comparison, it seems more analogous.

    The point is that there is good and useful knowledge in these areas.

    You can try to spin it to your purpose as you desire, but spin is still just spin.

  405. Hank Roberts:

    AC, climate sensitivity _for_conditions_now_ is understood pretty well by most commenters here (and by Hansen and by the hosts at RC).

    None of them think climate sensitivity is a universal constant like gravity or electron charge — but it’s something that can be figured out and that’s
    analogous if you ignore the fact that deep time is awfully deep.

    Climate sensitivity will come out different when the details like the state of the ocean circulation, the exposed rock and weathering rates, and what lives in the oceans changes. No question. Evolution of plankton changed climate sensitivity hugely.

    That doesn’t matter now, unless ocean plankton changes drastically with the current unprecedented rate of ocean pH change from adding CO2. Ooooops.
    Gravity is not susceptible to human meddling, as far as we know.

  406. Ray Ladbury:

    Anonymous Coward,
    The value for CO2 sensitivity at any given time is in fact a single value, with actual probability function a delta function at that value. The probability distribution with 90% CL from 2.1 to 4.5 K/doubling and favored value of 3 is in fact a subjective probability that reflects the state of our knowledge.

    Also, my reference to the value of G or electron’s charge was meant to emphasize that these values too are empirically determined by analyzing large amounts of data. It is identical to the case for CO2 sensitivity being independently constrained by data.

  407. Sir:

    Gavin,
    Point well taken. I was pilling on. However, my main point to Millar is that contrary to his assertion that there must have only been negative feedback while the sun was warming, there have been both positive and negative feedbacks in response to the sun increasing and decreasing its radiative impact on the earth caused primarily by the Milankovitch cycles over the last 400,000 years.

  408. Anonymous Coward:

    Hank,
    “Conditions” may become significantly different than today’s even before breaking 550ppm. I don’t know that we have a good handle on the potential implications. Going by the uncertainty regarding the impact of Groenland and Antarctica on SLR, we seem to be pretty much in the dark with regard to the timeline especially.
    What I’d like to know is the timeframe in which the assumptions underpinning the consensual sensitivity range are likely to remain valid and what might be the impact of future emissions on that timeframe.

    Ray,
    The value of the gravitational constant can be determined experimentally. The validity of such a determination can be tested.
    What does it mean to say that sensitivity is an “actual value”? It would seem to imply there is an objective value that can be discovered somehow as opposed to “a subjective probability that reflects the state of our knowledge”.
    When you write “at any given time”, do you mean to say that sensitivity has a meaning separate from the time required for the system to come into equilibrium?

  409. Hank Roberts:

    AC — nonsense; read James Annan’s work for example.
    ‘charney sensitivity’ — the difference between short and long term.

    How could the physical condition of the planet changed enough to “significantly” change the sensitivity in decades? — we’d be toast.

    Or of course we’d have been saved by a miracle if it were in the other direction. Won’t happen. Not physically credible.

    What could happen? We won’t open the Isthmus of Panama, or build a mountain range, or double the amount of photosynthesizing plankton (though we could cut it in half, credibly enough).

    You’re making this up. It’s nonsense. You’re just saying “something could happen to make it not so.”

  410. Hank Roberts:

    Ray, don’t take it to the extreme that lets it be easily mocked.

    Yes, “CO2 sensitivity at any given time is in fact a single value”
    but remember — it’s determined AFTER the fact.

    It’s the temperature difference when radiative equilibrium is attained again after a change in the forcing.

    Whether you get a big methane burp or not changes the result.
    That’s one source of the uncertainty. Time will tell.

    Whether you get a big change in ocean plankton changes the result.
    That’s another source of the uncertainty. Time will tell.

    We know a lot of the forcings within reasonable limits.
    We know a lot of the feedbacks.
    We don’t know for sure which feedbacks will go how far.

    Worst case in the past — PETM.
    But that excursion started from a very different world than this one.

    Do we expect to cause another PETM excursion?
    We hope not. We don’t know if we will.

    So yes, climate sensitivity is a distinct, single number.
    It is going to be computed by the Earth, in real time.
    The number will be determined after the fact.

    Actual scientists should correct the above.
    It is at best doggerel.
    W

  411. Hank Roberts:

    What you also need to remember — in real time, in real life, climate sensitivity is not for a 2x change in greenhouse gases. Climate sensitivity is the actual change in temperature after a single pulse of extra forcing, whatever it is — that starts the planet’s temperature rising by delaying release of heat to space; the temperature of the planet rises until radiative equilibrium (heat going out at the top of the atmosphere) once again matches incoming energy. Ding, take the number please, calculate change in temperature for observed change in greenhouse gas. That’s the sensitivity.

    Then there’s a long, long, slow, slow decline in both greenhouse gases and temperature as biogeochemical cycles, the long slow ones, remove the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, then do something with them that puts the carbon back into longterm sequestration.

    So during that time you could calculate the sensitivity for a given _decline_ in greenhouse gases.

    CO2 as Alley reminds us is the one big control knob on this process.
    http://www.agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml

  412. Ray Ladbury:

    OK, I can see that my comment about subjective probability was not understood. Let’s try again.

    What I meant was that for a given climate at a given time, CO2 sensitivity cannot assume any value in the range 2-4.5 K/doubling. It is in fact only one value, with the real probability distribution represented by a delta function at that value. The broad quasi-lognormal-shaped distribution we are familiar represents our knowledge of the sensitivity. And just a G is measured, climate sensitivity is also measured. It has uncertainties, but so does our determination of G. What matters is how well we know those uncertainties, and given the fact that we have so many independent lines of evidence that pretty much agree on the range of possible values, we know climate sensitivity quite well.

  413. Hank Roberts:

    > like to know … the timeframe in which the assumptions
    > underpinning the consensual sensitivity range are likely
    > to remain valid and what might be the impact of future
    > emissions on that timeframe.

    Fair question, one for a real scientist. But it’s been
    asked and answered. Good place to begin:
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2006/03/climate-sensitivity-is-3c.html

  414. Kevin McKinney:

    #385, Alan Millar–

    “Are you talking about the solar energy the Earth receives and re-radiates?”

    Yes, that is precisely what I am talking about. “Radiative forcing” includes the specifics of how Earth re-radiates or otherwise disposes of the solar energy coming in.

    (To be just a bit less terse, I’m throwing in the “otherwise disposes of” to allot a heading for things such as albedo effects, which may involve bypassing absorption in the first place, and so not technically come under the category of “reradiation.” Such things as land use changes or aerosol concentrations can nevertheless be associated with an equivalent value termed “radiative forcing.” See Gavin’s list–or the Summary For Policymakers, which tabulates this, IIRC.)

  415. Anonymous Coward:

    Hank,
    You wrote “AC, I think you’re making that up. I’ve don’t recall any commenter here appearing to believe that ‘climate sensitivity’ is a physical constant.”
    How else do you interpret Ray’s #412?

    Yet I’m supposed to be making up something else. What exactly I can’t tell.
    I’ve read the report of the Charney committee but I can’t make sense of your quip: “‘charney sensitivity’ — the difference between short and long term.”
    The thing is, the actual slow processes do not wait until the faster processes reach equilibrium before having an effect. I don’t know how much overlap there is and, as I stated earlier, going by the lack of reliable SLR forecasts, it seems I’m not the only one in the dark.
    You ask “what could happen?”. As I hinted at, if enough ice melts on Groenland and Antarctica, it will have an effect on albedo and possibly oceanic currents. Something else which should be obvious is that vegetation affects albedo. And it seems there may be widespread severe droughts in a warming world. I guess there are other, less intuitive processes which also change the fixed conditions assumed by models.
    You link to a James Annan blog post but I don’t understand what it’s got to do with the issue at hand.
    The best data that could constrain sensitivity applies to climates colder to slightly hotter than the current one (at best). The post-doubling climate is a bit of an unknown territory.

    You say “climate sensitivity is a distinct number” that “is going to be computed by the Earth”. Is that some kind of thought experiment (akin to Laplace’s daemon) or do you (or Ray) think that number could conceivably be observed in practice in spite of the Earth’s rergettable tendency to change confounding variables on overlapping time scales.
    I guess you’re assuming that sensitivity would remain constant over the time necessary to reach equilibrium but that’s not sufficient. You’d also need it to remain constant between “experiments” (as with the gravitational constant) to show that the number which was measured is not a random point in a distribution but fixed value.
    Is there any physical reason to believe climate sensitivity is a single number as opposed to a range of probabilites to being with? There seem to be random unforced variations and I would therefore also expect forced variations to be somewhat random. Clearly the randomness is contrained but that doesn’t imply that there is an “actual value” underpinning the contraints.

  416. Hank Roberts:

    I think Ray understands that climate sensitivity is an estimate, until the final number is in; your “… remain constant over the time” is a misunderstanding; there’s no abstract “climate sensitivity” that one can hope to influence or adjust or change, no dial.

    Sensitivity is the _end_result_ of a given pulse — a fixed amount added to the system — of CO2 or other forcing — in a given world.

  417. Hank Roberts:

    BPL’s list of sensitivity estimates:
    http://bartonpaullevenson.com/ClimateSensitivity.html

  418. Hank Roberts:

    ps: on topic for a change:
    http://shewonk.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/climategate-one-year-later-much-ado-about-next-to-nothing-much/

  419. Anonymous Coward:

    Hank,
    I’m not saying sensitivity can somehow be adjusted (now that would be neat!). It would however be possible to affect the temperature at which radiative equilibrium happens after a pulse by the way.
    I’m saying there’s no “final number”. Perhaps this is somewhat of a moot point since I don’t see how this “final number” could be pinned down precisely if it existed.

    The “end result” of a given pulse is arbitrary, not only because definitions of sensitivity are arbitrary but also because radiative equilibrium is transient, subject to seemingly (partially) random processes and slowly changing “conditions”. You’d have to be able to correct for all the other stuff that’s happening in the system to know exactly when the effect of your pulse is fully realized.

  420. Ray Ladbury:

    AC,
    No, climate sensitivity is not arbitrary. Ultimately it is determined by the temperature required to return to equilibrium–that is, the power under the new emission-spectrum curve equal to incoming power. For any particular beginning point of the climate, that is pretty well deterministic. What is “an estimate” is our knowledge of it.

    What is confusing is the fact that there are some “estimates” that use slightly different definitions of sensitivity–e.g. the Charney sensitivity, which does not include every possible feedback. The Charney estimate is probably a slight underestimate of the actual climate sensitivity.

  421. Hank Roberts:

    AC, that’s what they do. See the papers and Annan’s blogging for how it’s done. There’s a “final number” from each period in the past that’s been studied, within the limits of the work done. You’re not still arguing about the “force of gravity/electron charge” notion are you? The people who put that analogy forward weren’t claiming a physical constant like the speed of light, and you must realize that by now. It’s well beaten horseburger.

    Repeating of blog philosophy won’t get you past the old exchange

    Emil du Bois-Reymond: “Ignoramus, ignorabimus”
    David Hilbert: “Wir müssen wissen — wir werden wissen!”

    “We don’t know, we can’t know” versus “We must know — we will know!”

    We do know within a confidence range sufficient to know we do have a concern, an immediate problem we began causing decades ago, overdue for intelligently designed response. And it’s up to us, it won’t be done for us.

    That’s what the science conversations are about. If you want to say the science can’t be done, standing in the way of people doing it just wastes everyone’s time.

  422. SecularAnimist:

    Re: climate sensitivity.

    My sense as a non-scientist following this issue, is that the biggest uncertainty and the source of the potentially nastiest abrupt problems, is the ecological effects, as opposed to the relatively “mechanical” effects that I understand climate models to represent.

    Some of which ecological effects we are already seeing (corals, phytoplankton, pine bark beetle, etc), and which I would like to see discussed by relevant experts here more often.

    I think it more likely than not that a plausible AGW “Pearl Harbor” moment might not come as something like the sudden catastrophic collapse of a huge chunk of Greenland or Antarctic ice, but the sudden catastrophic collapse of a major ecosystem.

  423. Jeffrey Davis:

    re: 419

    “to know exactly”

    People squeeze words like “exactly” and “uncertainty” awfully hard.

    No practical action depends upon exactness and certainty.

  424. flxible:

    I think it more likely than not that a plausible AGW “Pearl Harbor” moment might not come as something like the sudden catastrophic collapse of a huge chunk of Greenland or Antarctic ice, but the sudden catastrophic collapse of a major ecosystem.

    Watching the politics, it seems much more likely humanity will end with a whimper than with a bang.

    CAPTCA agrees: circle forthill ;)

  425. Anonymous Coward:

    Hank,
    Blog sophistry notwithstanding, there are fundamental disagreements here.
    Ray claims sensitivity is “pretty well deterministic” while the underlying system is not (so far as I know, that’s not controversial outside of RC comment threads). Ray’s claim is counter-intuitive but, if you’ve got references showing that the non-deterministic aspects of the system don’t affect the response to forcings or simply quantifying Ray’s “pretty well”, I’d appreciate them.
    You apparently believe, unlike Ray, that sensitivity is not deterministic (you stated it could only be known after the fact) but could nevertheless be measured precisely. And I figure (I’m not particularly confident in my reasoning here) that precise measurements can not be done because there are non-deterministic confounding processes.

    I’m not standing in the way of people doing science (how would I do that?). Please give the paranoia a rest. And I’m not saying any of this is relevant to mitigation policies either.
    I’m looking at well-known physics (the lower the albedo, the stronger the H2O feedback for instance) which implies that, even if there were no discontinuities (see #422), sensitivity should change on the timescale needed for the oceanic temperatures to respond to a forcing. That in no way implies that sensitivity can’t be constrained or something.

  426. Hank Roberts:

    > sudden catastrophic collapse of a major ecosystem.

    Almost nobody noticed when that happened.
    http://www.actionbioscience.org/environment/olson.html

  427. Ray Ladbury:

    AC: “I guess you’re assuming that sensitivity would remain constant over the time necessary to reach equilibrium but that’s not sufficient. You’d also need it to remain constant between “experiments” (as with the gravitational constant) to show that the number which was measured is not a random point in a distribution but fixed value.”

    AC, this simply is not true. If it were, then biology, meteorology, geophysics, Solar physics… would all be impossible. What matters is understanding what the changes can be and whether they are important. Fortunately, in the case of climate sensitivity, many of the important feedbacks are not highly variable on decadal timescales. And the advantage of the Charney sensitivity is that it includes the feedbacks that tend to be relevant to those timescales. It does no good to throw up one’s hands at complexity–better to roll up one’s sleeves.

  428. Hank Roberts:

    p.s.: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-11/nocs-egw111010.php

    This is an example of paleo work determining a climate’s sensitivity to CO2 change. Note it’s _a_ climate’s sensitivity, that particular climate including the geology over the time.

    Rate of change matters; doubling CO2 in 200 years will overwhelm some feedbacks that were working when nature doubled CO2 in 400,000 years.

    If aliens were causing this change, Earth would unite to stop the attack.

  429. Anonymous Coward:

    Ray,
    I’m not aware that “biology, meteorology, geophysics, Solar physics…” require assuming that arbitrary properties of non-deterministic systems can be reduced to fixed values. Nor does climatology of course.

  430. Bill:

    Hank, as people who follow the science will understand, this is true. But, what do the scientists on here want done about it ? What needs to be done over what timescale? Its no good keep repeating the science which most people on here have already heard and well understand.place

  431. Ray Ladbury:

    AC, don’t confuse weather with climate. Weather is not deterministic. Climate responds to small changes in a predictable fashion. And THAT is not controversial. And oceans equilibrate (at least in the first few hundred meters) on decadal timescales. Is it seriously your contention that climate sensitivity is significantly different (e.g. outside the 90% CL) since 1980? What in your opinion has changed in that time to such an extent.

    Does it mean nothing to you that all the diverse lines of evidence wind up pointing to a sensitivity in the same range? Surely that ought to give you something to think about?

  432. Anonymous Coward:

    The difference between weather and climate is arbitrary. That doesn’t mean the distinction is unfounded, just that the exact same processes drive both and that there is no physical boundary between the two. It seems there usually are negative feedbacks on unforced variations so that one would expect the unforced variations to be less between 30 years periods than between years. But less doesn’t amount to zero.
    There’s for instance the 1940-1975 (or something like that) period. It’s long enough to be climate by the standard definition but how can you explain it if you assume the climate to respond in a deterministic fashion to “small changes” (not sure what you meant there, quantatively)?
    Th extent to which climate is predictable is somewhat controversial… or at least it was a few years ago when credible scientists were discussing the issue on RC. There are people who would try to use that relative unpredicability as fodder in their crusade against reason but denying the unpredictability in the hope of taking away one of their arguments is just as irrational.

    Going by the IPCC models, the oceans “equilibrate” over centuries and surface temperatures would be expected to climb slowly as a result (see AR4). If you take that away from your definition of sensitivity, I guess it should be possible to narrow the range of plausible values.

    So far as I know, there’s no indication (albedo for instance) that there has been a major change in sensitivity since 1980. But I can’t rule it out.
    Recall that Hansen has apparently seriously contended that a runaway H2O greenhouse would be probable if unconventional fossil fuels were fully exploited. So sensitivity would at some point change from some range around 3C to more than 500C per doubling! I don’t give that contention much weight but I don’t know that less dramatic discontinuities can be ruled out such as the ones which might lurk in the paleo record (PETM for instance if the hypothesized temperature spike isn’t fully explained by methane or some other external forcing).
    If one was to use Hank’s definition according to which sensitivity is a variable property of the physical system which can only be determined after equilibrium is reached, if follows that we can not know if there was a recent discontinuity in sensitivity. A discontinuity in the physical system 100 years from now would retroactively change sensitivity up to the point at which CO2 concentration was half its pre-discontinuity value. I do not care for such games (spooky effect from the future!) so I would prefer to define sensitivity as a range of probabilities reflecting our understanding of the physical system.

    What the lines of evidence tell me is that, as I stated earlier, the “actual” sensitivity range is likely within the range the evidence is pointing to. Duh. While the “actual” range would likely be smaller, it does not follow that it would be small enough that reducing it to a single value would be a good approximation.

  433. Hank Roberts:

    > Hank’s definition

    -my- definition? Nonsense. I looked that up; it’s not mine.

    > 1940-1975?

    Perhaps you missed all the prior discussion because it’s usually called 1940-1970. Try http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Arealclimate.org+“1940-1970″

    (the double quotes may get mangled, but you know what to do)

  434. Ray Ladbury:

    AC says, “The difference between weather and climate is arbitrary.”

    OK, now you are just being silly. I’m sure Gavin would be shocked to find the he was just a meteorologist. Dude, I suppose you consider day trading, playing the lottery or betting on the ponies to be equivalent to serious investing, too.

    AC, we have something in common. Neither of us has a fricking clue what you are talking about.

  435. David Miller:

    AC, I’m not following you at all in #432. I’m not sure if you’re babbling, trolling, like to hear yourself talk, or are just confused.

    When, for example, you say something like:

    Recall that Hansen has apparently seriously contended that a runaway H2O greenhouse would be probable if unconventional fossil fuels were fully exploited. So sensitivity would at some point change from some range around 3C to more than 500C per doubling!

    you’re not making sense at all.

    Hansen suggested that a runaway greenhouse effect could start from as little as around 20 w/m^2 (that’s from memory, don’t quote me on it). How you get from 20 w/m^2 to 500C per doubling is a big mystery to me.

    What you seem particularly confused about is whether ‘climate sensitivity’ is a constant or not. Let me attempt to clear up some of the confused talk that’s been going on about that…

    First, as I understand it, ‘climate sensitivity’ is not a physical constant like the charge on an electron. It’s generally regarded as how much the Earth warms, on average, for a doubling of CO2e.

    When you start looking very closely at that number you have to start asking ‘over what time frame’, because different parts of the environment warm at different rates. Land first, deep ocean last. Everything else somewhere in between.

    Second, no one around here will treat it as a simple constant simply because of the Earth system feedbacks. There’s the simple water vapor issue that turns the 1.2 degrees per doubling of just CO2 into something closer to the 3 degree estimate, but that’s pretty much instantaneous. As other parts of the environment warm other feedbacks kick in. For example: Warmer winters mean pine bark beetles don’t die off, forests die because of the beetle, lightning starts fires, and carbon sequestered in forests goes back to the atmosphere. Permafrost melts and carbon stored for millenia is turned into methane. Warmer soils break down organic matter faster. There’s a long list of things that add CO2e to the air as the climate warms.

    What this means, AC, is that we can’t determine an exact value for climate sensitivity after the fact because we can’t hold CO2e levels steady for a century or more to determine what it would be. It’s a moving target.

    Lastly, as Ray often points out, we don’t really need an exact number to decide whether we should do something about it or not. 2C would be extremely bad because of the other feedbacks – a few of which I mentioned. And it would also be extremely fortunate if sensitivity were really that low – the data is centered around something very close to 3 degrees, not 2. We need to start about 20 years ago if we want to do something about it before we run into real problems.

  436. Hank Roberts:

    > doubling … 500 degrees C
    Hilarious. And the temperature on Venus proves what to you? Never mind. We know you’re having us on. The references are for anyone coming along later:
    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/papers-on-climate-sensitivity-estimates/

  437. Anonymous Coward:

    David,
    I don’t know how Hansen’s runaway works obviously (does anyone?) so I assumed it works like the standard theoretical runaway. I didn’t go from W/m^2 to C. I went from the mass of the oceans to a temperature since that’s what determines the temperature after a runaway. What makes a runaway is that the feedback from the condensating GHG becomes effectively infinite. Hence the grotesque sensitivity. It’s not spread out over the 20W/m2 (or whatever) because sensitivity accelerates fairly brutally as you get close to the runaway point. Still, I agree >500C per doubling might have been excessive… perhaps 450C for the final doubling would be more like it. Not that the exact number matters.

    As to the rest of your comment, I have no issues with it other than the “no one around here” bit so I must be confused about something else.
    I was saying (among other things) that, even if you could hold CO2e levels steady for 1000 years, you couldn’t determine an exact value for sensitivity by observing the response of the physical system.

  438. Snapple:

    CM writes:

    “Assange is talking nonsense. The stolen emails were hacked into this site’s server first, and were downloadable from Tomsk for the first days of the affair. Had Wikileaks sprung them, Wikileaks would have published them on their own site first. I’m not sure which is the most distasteful, fencing stolen private correspondence to the world, or falsely claiming credit for it so you can frame yourself as the victim of a British secret service disinformation plot. But I’m pretty sure which is the most ridiculous.”

    I don’t think this is right.

    I saw a link to those files on a blog comment a few days before it was on Real Climate.

    I didn’t understand what I saw except in retrospect, and the blog comment was removed shortly after. The file introduction did make it clear it was something stolen that was personal correspondance. I didn’t look at too much after I realized that. I didn’t like that someone put private e-mail on the Internet and boasted about it.

    I am pretty sure this file was already making the rounds on blogs on about November 14. Real Climate was hacked on Nov. 17, I think.

    As for the British secret service linking Assange to the FSB, I wrote that I thought Climategate might be some Russian operation a week before the British papers or the UN talked about the possibility of a Russian role.

    I’m nothing to do with the British secret service, and I never knew about Wikileaks.

    I just think Climategate was just like Russian kompromat, and I noticed the Russian press was very quick on the Climategate story. That’s what they do to people in Russia all the time–they publish some embarrassing, compromising secret.

    One year later, we still don’t know who stole the e-mails, who spread them on the Internet, and who put them on Real Climate and the Tomsk server.

    The files were also on some other servers.

    I hope the authorities know more.

    Wikileaks does have information about how the Russians are bribing politicians with their oil money. That’s not exactly news. Maybe people read it because it’s a “secret,” but lots has been published about how the Russians are corrupting politicians.

    What the authorities know about that is a lot more than what appears in State Department cables. That would only be the tip of the iceberg.

  439. Ray Ladbury:

    AC, you are talking nonsense. You need to go back and look at how feedback works in climate science. You seem to have this idea that climate is metastable and balanced on a knife edge. ‘Taint so.

    Gavin, perhaps another tutorial on feedbacks, sensitivity, etc. Since climate depends on AVERAGE behavior, it is actually behaves fairly consistently for small changes in forcing. Go back and look at the barious sensitivity studies and ponder what it means that they all yield about the same favored value for forcing and consistent confidence intervals.

  440. Hank Roberts:

    Shorter AC: ignoramus ignorabimus
    ——————-
    ‘Shorter’ concept created by Daniel Davies and perfected by Elton Beard. We are aware of all Internet traditions.

  441. NoPreview NoName:

    @Hank Roberts, #411

    That Alley lecture was really good. I particularly liked the graph showing that high cosmic ray flux had no observable affect on climate.

  442. David Miller:

    AC says in #437:

    I was saying (among other things) that, even if you could hold CO2e levels steady for 1000 years, you couldn’t determine an exact value for sensitivity by observing the response of the physical system.

    That’s just wrong. If you could hold the CO2e level steady, somehow, for 1000 years you’d get the value of the millenial response.

    The rest of your post is still nonsense. I have no idea where you’re coming up with a sensitivity 100x what anyone else has ever mentioned.

    I’d strongly suggest that before you post more things like I don’t know how Hansen’s runaway works obviously (does anyone?) so I assumed …. that you find out how Hansen’s runaway was posited to work.

    You might also read a little on the current state of climate research before thinking you know how a standard theoretical runaway works. Go to the realclimate home page, click on ‘start here’ and read for a good long while.