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One year later

Filed under: — gavin @ 20 November 2010

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.

442 Responses to “One year later”

  1. 101
    manacker says:

    @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

  2. 102
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  3. 103
    CM says:

    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.

  4. 104
    Snapple says:

    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”?

  5. 105

    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.

  6. 106

    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.

  7. 107
    Snapple says:

    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]

  8. 108
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  9. 109
    Steve Metzler says:

    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.

  10. 110
    Dan H. says:

    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]

  11. 111
    Witgren says:

    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.

  12. 112
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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?

  13. 113
    SecularAnimist says:

    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.

  14. 114

    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.

  15. 115

    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.

  16. 116
  17. 117
    CTG says:

    #100 Max Anacker

    Google site:ipcc.ch uncertainty

    About 2,200 results

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

  18. 118
    John says:

    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?

  19. 119
    John says:

    @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.

  20. 120
    manacker says:

    @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

  21. 121
    Paul Tremblay says:

    @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.

  22. 122
    Witgren says:

    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.

  23. 123
    Paul Tremblay says:

    @ 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?

  24. 124
    manacker says:

    @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]

  25. 125
    John says:

    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?

  26. 126

    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

  27. 127
    Chris says:

    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.

  28. 128
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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!

  29. 129
    manacker says:

    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

  30. 130
    SecularAnimist says:

    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”.

  31. 131
    manacker says:

    @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

  32. 132
    Michael W says:

    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

  33. 133
    Dan H. says:

    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.

  34. 134
    Isotopious says:

    Here Gavin, this page has some excellent climate patterns:

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

  35. 135
    manacker says:

    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

  36. 136
    manacker says:

    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

  37. 137

    #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.

    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

  38. 138
    dhogaza says:

    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.

  39. 139

    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.

  40. 140

    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.

  41. 141

    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.

  42. 142

    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.

  43. 143

    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?

  44. 144
    Dan H. says:

    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.

  45. 145
    manacker says:

    @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

  46. 146
    manacker says:

    @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

  47. 147
    Sir says:

    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

  48. 148
    Ken Coffman says:

    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.”

  49. 149
    Paul Tremblay says:

    @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.

  50. 150
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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