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Bickmore on the WSJ response

Filed under: — group @ 24 February 2012

Guest commentary from Barry Bickmore (repost)

The Wall Street Journal posted yet another op-ed by 16 scientists and engineers, which even include a few climate scientists(!!!). Here is the editor’s note to explain the context.

Editor’s Note: The authors of the following letter, listed below, are also the signatories of“No Need to Panic About Global Warming,” an op-ed that appeared in the Journal on January 27. This letter responds to criticisms of the op-ed made by Kevin Trenberth and 37 others in a letter published Feb. 1, and by Robert Byer of the American Physical Society in a letter published Feb. 6.

A relative sent me the article, asking for my thoughts on it. Here’s what I said in response.

Hi [Name Removed],

I don’t have time to do a full reply, but I’ll take apart a few of their main points.

  1. The WSJ authors’ main point is that if the data doesn’t conform to predictions, the theory is “falsified”. They claim to show that global mean temperature data hasn’t conformed to climate model predictions, and so the models are falsified.
  2. But let’s look at the graph. They have a temperature plot, which wiggles all over the place, and then they have 4 straight lines that are supposed to represent the model predictions. The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising. The lines for the next 3 IPCC reports are very similar to one another, though. What the authors don’t tell you is that the lines they plot are really just the average long-term slopes of a bunch of different models. The individual models actually predict that the temperature will go up and down for a few years at a time, but the long-term slope (30 years or more) will be about what those straight lines say. Given that these lines are supposed to be average, long-term slopes, take a look at the temperature data and try to estimate whether the overall slope of the data is similar to the slopes of those three lines (from the 1995, 2001, and 2007 IPCC reports). If you were to calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions would very likely be in that range.



    Comparison of the spread of actual IPCC projections (2007) with observations of annual mean temperatures

    That brings up another point. All climate models include parameters that aren’t known precisely, so the model projections have to include that uncertainty to be meaningful. And yet, the WSJ authors don’t provide any error bars of any kind! The fact is that if they did so, you would clearly see that the global mean temperature has wiggled around inside those error bars, just like it was supposed to.

    So before I go on, let me be blunt about these guys. They know about error bars. They know that it’s meaningless, in a “noisy” system like global climate, to compare projected long-term trends to just a few years of data. And yet, they did. Why? I’ll let you decide.

  3. The WSJ authors say that, although something like 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing “significant” global warming, there really is a lot of disagreement about how much humans contribute to the total. The 97% figure comes from a 2009 study by Doran and Zimmerman.
  4. So they don’t like Doran and Zimmerman’s survey, and they would have liked more detailed questions. After all, D&Z asked respondents to say whether they thought humans were causing “significant” temperature change, and who’s to say what is “significant”? So is there no real consensus on the question of how much humans are contributing?

    First, every single national/international scientific organization with expertise in this area and every single national academy of science, has issued a statement saying that humans are causing significant global warming, and we ought to do something about it. So they are saying that the human contribution is “significant” enough that we need to worry about it and can/should do something about it. This could not happen unless there was a VERY strong majority of experts. Here is a nice graphic to illustrate this point (H/T Adam Siegel).

    But what if these statements are suppressing significant minority views–say 20%. We could do a literature survey and see what percentage of papers published question the consensus. Naomi Oreskes (a prominent science historian) did this in 2004 (see also her WaPo opinion column), surveying a random sample of 928 papers that showed up in a standard database with the search phrase “global climate change” during 1993-2003. Some of the papers didn’t really address the consensus, but many did explicitly or implicitly support it. She didn’t find a single one that went against the consensus. Now, obviously there were some contrarian papers published during that period, but I’ve done some of my own not-very-careful work on this question (using different search terms), and I estimate that during 1993-2003, less than 1% of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate change was contrarian.

    Another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2010 (Anderegg et al, 2010), looked at the consensus question from a different angle. I’ll let you read it if you want.

    Once again, the WSJ authors (at least the few that actually study climate for a living) know very well that they are a tiny minority. So why don’t they just admit that and try to convince people on the basis of evidence, rather than lack of consensus? Well, if their evidence is on par with the graph they produced, maybe their time is well spent trying to cloud the consensus issue.

  5. The WSJ authors further imply that the “scientific establishment” is out to quash any dissent. So even if almost all the papers about climate change go along with the consensus, maybe that’s because the Evil Empire is keeping out those droves of contrarian scientists that exist… somewhere.
  6. The WSJ authors give a couple examples, both of which are ridiculous, but I have personal experience with the Remote Sensing article by Spencer and Braswell, so I’ll address that one. The fact is that Spencer and Braswell published a paper in which they made statistical claims about the difference between some data sets without actually calculating error bars, which is a big no-no, and if they had done the statistics, it would have shown that their conclusions could not be statistically supported. They also said they analyzed certain data, but then left some of it out of the Results that just happened to completely undercut their main claims. This is serious, serious stuff, and it’s no wonder Wolfgang Wagner resigned from his editorship–not because of political pressure, but because he didn’t want his fledgling journal to get a reputation for publishing any nonsense anybody sends in.[Ed. See this discussion]

The level of deception by the WSJ authors and others like them is absolutely astonishing to me.

Barry

PS. Here is a recent post at RealClimate that puts the nonsense about climate models being “falsified” in perspective. The fact is that they aren’t doing too badly, except that they severely UNDERestimate the Arctic sea ice melt rate.


262 Responses to “Bickmore on the WSJ response”

  1. 51
    Doug Proctor says:

    What is unfortunate for both society and scientific certainty, is that the prior 34 years of climate changes lie within the boundaries of both CAGW narratives and solar-dominant theories. As time and ARs have progressed, the less alarming forecasts are becoming more likely, with sea-levels rises, as well as temperature rises, dropping to moderate – but still higher than skeptical – positions. In order to attain the catastrophic levels of 6* and >2 m of sea-level rise by 2100, within the next decade multiples of current warming and melting rates must occur. This looks unlikely if today is a reasonable predictor of the near-future.

    The Earth’s fate hangs in the balance, with Man a minor bit of flesh to be wiped from the scene. That is how the alarm is given to drive the significant economic, political and lifestyle changes that are proposed to deal with the “pollutant” CO2. Without the catastrophic outcome, the uniqueness of CO2 as a villian disappears. The radiative properties, especially the water vapour feedback, in the essence of CAGW cannot exist. “Normal” heating and cooling cycles gain in credibility as the superpowers of CO2 wane.

    Error bars on both sides: nature is still within the error bars. Nature is at the low end of the CAGW scenarios, however, over the past 10 years. How many more years will it take to falsify one or the other side? I think 3: due to the linear nature of CO2 growth, the potential disconnect between temperatures and sea-levels will be significant by 2015 if current trends continue. This does not mean that CO2 is off the hook, but that the natural elements have more impact than they are supposed to have in CAGW/IPCC theory. And you can’t have it both ways. If nature can defeat CO2 powers, but you say that, relative to CO2, nature is weak, then you have a Catch 22.

    The models are either certain and the science, settled, or they are not. CO2 is dominant, or it is not. If unknown, i.e. subtle, natural variations stop CO2 effects, and an 18-year trend is not in the vision, then the models, the science and the power of CO2 are misunderstood. The science is then not settled, the outcome not certain and the threat to the world either overblown or simply indeterminable at this time.

    Don’t worry,all you who hope to correct Man’s ways through CO2 control. The Precautionary Principle still applies, though the force of argument is less. Just mind that some political leaders don’t use the Precautionary Principle against your causes. Considering the expense and the trouble to come through CO2-based legislation, changing the world’s governments, social behaviour and individual freedoms are very large, dangerous and expensive operations that might, on a Precautionary basis, be considered too harmful to continue.

  2. 52
    dhogaza says:

    Would you disagree with Barry Bickmore that the predictions were “way off”?

    Yes, actually.

  3. 53
    dhogaza says:

    Anteros:

    I think you have mixed up the future and the past. The predictions the FAR made were for the future. You linked to a graph going 110 years back into the past.

    And up to the present as of the time the SkS article was published, showing a nice in-bounds match going 20 years forward of the FAR projection.

    “future” for FAR was 20 years of history for the graph I linked.

    I’m sure this is far to subtle for your brain to understand.

    I don’t care.

    The non-brain damaged people here will understand.

  4. 54

    #43–Anteros, you are not making any sense. Perhaps your insistence on the word ‘prediction’ is confusing you?

    Yes, I read that you took that term from FAR; but the graphs in the SkS post, which I took from your link as posted above, show simulations starting at 1850 and running through 2100. They are thus both ‘hindcasts’ and (whatever FAR may have called them in 1990) projections.

    I insist on “projection” because that is in accordance with current usage; implied is that fact that projections assume certain conditions, and if–as in the case of the radiative forcings assuming in FAR–those conditions do not materialize, results will differ. That’s the central point that the SkS post is making; and you say you understand it–”the reason for the over-estimation in FAR is clear enough. I don’t think there’s much controversy over it…”

    I really don’t understand why you say that the post didn’t deal with the FAR projections/predictions. That’s exactly what Graph 2 is, and according to the text, Graph 3 is a digitization of the same curves done by the SkS writer. Do I really have to Google up FAR and compare?

    Sigh. OK then…

    Chapter 6, page 190.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/far/wg_I/ipcc_far_wg_I_chapter_06.pdf

    “The choices made for these projections…”

    Hmm. Guess that “prediction was the FAR term” thing was erroneous.

    Boy, that graph in Figure 6.11(a) sure looks like the one from the SkS post…

    Anteros, after checking back with FAR you make still less sense than before. Sorry, but there it is–you’re wrong about the terminology, and you’re wrong about SkS not dealing with the projections as given in FAR.

    Still, I did learn something; the experiments that were the subject of all this weren’t ‘straight out of the model,’ if I’m reading FAR Chapter 6 correctly; rather, the model output was used to drive a simpler parameterized model of the oceanic response to get the actual temperature projections.

  5. 55
    Susan Anderson says:

    It seems pretty clear that some people are pretty edgy about reading anything on SkS or, for the matter of that, here, and believing it. They feel they need to handle it with care, or they will be polluted.

    I hope you (Sharf and Anteros, who seems a mite more open-minded, which ain’t sayin’ much) will consider the possibility that it is the closed mind about legitimated sources that is the problem, and not the recommended sources. You also need to read Mike Mann’s book with an open mind, or other stuff like that.

    If you could, for a moment, put yourselves in the shoes of scientists who do this for a living (having dedicated their lives and a considerable amount of education and hard work to arriving there) trying to be patient and provide information to a person who is, essentially saying, “eek, a mouse” to them about real information, you might make some progress.

  6. 56
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    Anteros @ 11:02pm,

    You write: “You say they are scenarios, the IPCC says they are predictions.
    I’m sorry to say I have to go with the IPCC version.”

    Well, they actually call them projections if you want to be picky. But let’s be honest, you haven’t read the IPCC report, otherwise you’d know that the word scenario is used far more frequently than the word prediction, as in this sentence, “This result compares reasonably well with the estimate of 55% obtained by running the box diffusion model of Section 6.6 with similar scenario of radiative forcing and a climate sensitivity of 4°C for a doubling of CO2 (see Figure 6.7 later).”

    Also from IPCC: “Also shown (Figure 6 11) are projections of future climate change using radiative forcing from IPCC Business-as-Usual and B-D emission scenarios, for values of the climate sensitivity AT2x equal to 1.5, 2.5 and 4.5°C”

    I’m not sorry to say I have to go with the IPCC and not your flawed interpretation.

    In fact, Anteros, the word prediction is used only twice in that chapter, and the sentences it occurs in do not include numbers.

    You also write: “The SkS article is very clear in not mentioning any predictions at all. Are we talking about the same article?”

    I don’t think we are anymore. I’m talking about the article you linked.

    PS – I apologize for typos in quotes from IPCC, the OCR isn’t perfect.

    PPS – Got the captcha wrong last time, so sorry if this is a duplicate posting.

  7. 57
    RaymondT says:

    @Barry Brickmore. You wrote: If you were to calculate the slope of the data WITH error bars, the model predictions would very likely be in that range.
    But the model predictions have even greater error bars so which slope of the model prediction (which model) do you use to compare ?
    The problem of model verification reminds me of the debate between Judith Curry et al. and Hegerl et al. on the attribution study of the IPCC report (Figure 9.7 in AR4). If I understand corrrectly, J.A. Curry and P.J. Webster in their paper: Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster, Bulletin of the American Society 2011) argue that climate models underestimate long term natural variations. G. Hegerl, P. Stott, S. Solomon et F. Zwiers wrote a reply paper also in BAS stating that the model predictions were within the error bars of the data. Eventually Judith Curry stated that the error bars were too large to really say whether or not the climate models can predict natural fluctuations. Comments anyone ?

  8. 58
    simon abingdon says:

    #38 John P. Reisman “What you are saying is let’s wait till it gets worse.”

    After years of unnecessary and premature surgery this approach (Managed Surveillance) is now the preferred treatment for prostate cancer.

  9. 59
    Peter says:

    Doug Proctor- you sound like a repeat performance from the WSJ. I suggest you check into paleo climate records on sustained levels of C02 at the current level of 394ppm- go back to the Pliocene, or beyond that the Miocene- it was a very different planet. Lat time C02 levels where around 800ppm- in the early Eocene the planet was ice free and alligators where in Greenland.

    [edit - less speculation about motive please]

  10. 60
    MARodger says:

    Anteros @20 started a bit of an altercation running down this thread. His was a call for honesty, congratulating Barry Bickmore for describing the FAR being “way off” and criticises SkS for an item that “seems to exceed the deceptions of the WSJ article by an order of magnitude.
    I am inclined to strongly disagree with Anteros’s assertion to the point of calling him badly wrong. Whether they contain ‘deceptions’ or not, I would argue that the WSJ letter is the more excessive in its mis-representations.

    In fig 5 of the SkS item linked by Anteros, the IPCC FAR temperature rises are graphed at what appears to be approx 0.20 deg C / decade. Yet fig2 of that SkS item (& IPCC FAR fig 6.11b) approximates to 0.23 deg C / decade. (Note that these graphs fig 2 & fig 6.11b were never intended for such detailed analysis.)
    A difference of 0.03 deg C / decade would be noticeable on the SkS fig 5 but not to the extent of undermining the SkS conclusions. Indeed the difference would be likely unnoticeable in SkS fig 2.

    The WSJ graph differs from the SkS graph in using HadCRUT3 rather than GISS. The deficiencies of the former are well documented. Over the two decades in question, the HadCRUT3 record has dropped behind the GISS record at a rate of something like 0.018 deg C / decade.
    Further the FAR temperature rise as graphed in the WSJ letter is something like 0.30 deg C / decade, a value significantly more difficult to support.
    (One could also discuss the validity of the manner of the IPCC lines being positioned on the WSJ graph, being fixed to abnormally warm years & with IPC AR 2,3&4 plotted past the temperature record.)
    All this does not amount to “an order of magnitude” difference in error/mis-representation/deception although that difference of 2.5 – 3 times the mis-representation applies to the WSJ not SkS. (Note the WSJ letter is not free from other mis-representations.)

    Barry Bickmore likely pronounced IPCC FAR “way off” without considering that the WSJ graph may have been even more “way off.” SkS is being very generous describing the IPCC FAR as “very accurate.” However, given the assumptions made within FAR, the accuracy it did achieve is remarkable.

  11. 61
    Robin Levett says:

    @simon abingdon #58:

    #38 John P. Reisman “What you are saying is let’s wait till it gets worse.”

    After years of unnecessary and premature surgery this approach (Managed Surveillance) is now the preferred treatment for prostate cancer.

    Because many more men die with prostate cancers than of prostate cancers; and prostate cancers are sufficiently slow-acting that delay has less implications for the outcome than unnecessary premature treatment.

    The best evidence is that the longer we wait before doing anything about anthropogenic CO2 induced global warming, the more warming we lock in and therefore the worse the outcome – and the greater the dislocation caused to our civilisation in trying to adapt to the warmer world we have caused. The prostate cancer model is not helpful…

  12. 62
  13. 63
    dhogaza says:

    If I understand corrrectly, J.A. Curry and P.J. Webster in their paper: Climate Science and the Uncertainty Monster, Bulletin of the American Society 2011) argue that climate models underestimate long term natural variations…

    Eventually Judith Curry stated that the error bars were too large to really say whether or not the climate models can predict natural fluctuations. Comments anyone ?

    If you’re right, the second claim by judith contradicts the claim she made with Pj Webster in the Uncertainy Monster paper. I’m so disillusioned by Curry that I’m not going to bother to verify your conclusion. It sounds like just about what I’d expect.

  14. 64
    Bob F says:

    As a former Wall Street Quant, all I have to say is, this is some pretty poor quantitative analysis on the part of the WSJ. If you analyzed financial trends as poorly as the climate trends were analyzed here, you would lose your shirt. Oh wait a minute… that’s exactly what happened to so many Wall St. professionals in 2008.

  15. 65
    Anteros says:

    Unsettled Scientist (and others)

    Firstly, you could all direct your questions at Prof’ Bickmore or query why he says the FAR predictions are “way off”. In agreeing with him I’ve given a link to an SkS article which claims something very different.

    U.S. you say

    And another graph of the IPCC 1990 temperature predictions along with a superimposed observed temperature (Figures 4 & 5).

    This is the heart of the matter and fundamentally not true. It is also the reason why SkS do not use the word prediction once in the whole article – they would be obliged to actually refer to the FAR prediction, which they do not.

    The deceptive graph (fig 5) is not a graph of the 1990 temperature predictions. It is something made up by SkS – what the FAR temperature predictions might have been had their emissions scenario not been wrong – which it was. They have not, in any way, shown a graph of the IPCC 1990 temperature predictions – that would have ruined their article completely!

    To get a rough idea of the reality of the FAR prediction, look at the graph Prof’ Bickmore discusses above and from which everyone can see clearly that the FAR prediction was way off. Compare that to the SkS figure 5 and I’ll leave it to you to describe what you think they’ve done. Perhaps you’ll agree with SecularAnimist @ 3

  16. 66
    Marco says:

    Anteros, Kevin McKinney has provided a link to the relevant chapter in the FAR, and a simple search shows that the word “prediction” features twice in some basic text, but the chapter consistently uses “projection” when referring to the various scenarios (see figure 6.11, page 190). In fact, the word “projections” is even in the TITLE of the relevant section!

    Your claim about SkS is therefore, to put it mildly, just plain wrong.

    Moreover, SkS DOES show a graph of the 1990 temperature “predictions” (in reality projections). It is Figure 2 in the blogpost:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/FAR_projections.png
    They then made a new figure that uses the best estimate (climate sensitivity 2.5 degrees per doubling), added the confidence interval, and added the data for GISTEMP resulting in Figure 3:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/IPCC_FAR_Since_1880.png

    Figures 4 and 5 have been made with the measured forcing. You call that deceptive, I call that appropriate. In essence it shows that it is not the model that is so bad, but rather the BAU in FAR was not the BAU as we have seen.

  17. 67

    Anteros,

    I object strongly to your use of words like “deceptive” in reference to the SkS author or post.

    The SkS article is very clear in stating what it is presenting. There is nothing deceptive about it… it is perfectly clear, unless you choose not to read the text.

    They say, before presenting figures 4 and 5 (emphasis mine):

    However, as noted above, the actual GHG increase and radiative forcing has been lower than the IPCC BAU, perhaps because of steps taken to reduce emissions like the Kyoto Protocol, or perhaps because their BAU was too pessimistic.

    Regardless of the reason, we’re not really interested in how well the IPCC scenarios projected the GHG changes; we want to know the accuracy of the model temperature projections. We can take the observed atmospheric GHG changes into account, and see what the model would look like with the up-to-date estimates of the GHG forcings from the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (Figure 4).

    Unless someone has a serious reading deficiency, it should be clear to them that the SkS article is saying that they are showing what those predictions would look like if the proper GHG changes had been taken into account (i.e by removing the flawed emissions scenario and replacing it with a reflection of what really happened).

    Why is this so difficult for you to understand, or accept?

    Please stop (immediately) with the accusations of dishonesty on the part of SkS. Your own inability to understand and read is not a reflection on their character, and your projection of malfeasance on their part is insulting and unsupported by the facts.

  18. 68
    Gator says:

    Re Curry and the uncertainty monster. It seems to me that the paper Foster and Rahmstorf (2011)demonstrated that the major causes of “natural variation” could actually be quantified and corrected for. We may not be able to predict what these will do in the future with great certainty, but we can identify and remove their influence from the overall climate response. This mightily decreases any uncertainty we might have on what CO2 is doing to the climate response — it is doing what models say it should be doing based on physics.

    F & R did what scientists do when faced with uncertainty; Curry does what a propagandist does.

  19. 69
    Dave123 says:

    Anteros,

    As I think Gavin noted above and I can confirm from my own experience in modeling elsewhere… you use a model by giving it a scenario to run. The validity of the scenario is a separate question from the validity of the model.

    There is no one claiming (nor should they be) that they can forecast human activity, (CO2 emissions, particulate emissions), or volcanic activity. We don’t forecast weather to predict ENSO with any certainty. These things are what we give a climate model as part of the the scenarios it runs, the run parameters.

    If the FAR group got their scenarios wrong, so what? For me the question is what the model does when given the right scenario. Is there some reason you believe that having made a bad choice of scenarios back then matters?

    So I see no contradiction between Professor Bickmore using FAR with its original scenarios vs latter IPCC models running with theirs, vs SkS giving the FAR model the actual circumstances that happened in the future of the FAR model. Nor do I see any deception. I do see what I think is an arbitary and bizzare standard being set by you.

  20. 70
    Dave123 says:

    No one has responded to Doug @51. Maybe there is bad past history. But I’ll bite anyhow, hoping I’m not feeding a troll. What solar dominant theories? Who has published GCMs and corresponding scenarios with solar dominant theories and what do they predict? How well do they hindcast? Reference(s) please!

    For that matter, how does a solar dominant theory account for the hottest La Nina year on record? (2011)

    And finally, GCMs do not model solar activity. Solar activity is a scenario component. If the sun suddenly drops its output and the earth cools… this is an unpredictable event that in no way damages the credibility of GCMs.

  21. 71
    Susan Anderson says:

    Apologies for misspelling Scharf. Glad to see you’re coming to learn from the experts. Hope you don’t let your ego and self-conviction get in the way of checking out what is going on here.

    I’d love a clear definition of the qualifications and/or educational disciplines needed to continue to develop in climate science. We are getting a lot of faux “experts” with top honors from other fields (Stott, for example). I know it’s impossible, as climate science is a relatively new discipline and encompasses so many different areas of expertise, but a partial list would do.

    Things like paleoclimatogy, water resources, weather/meteorology, geology … even the social scientists, anthropologists, historians, to figure out where historical anecdotal and physical evidence might be found, how the brain works and why it is so stubborn, the list goes on. Stephen Schneider’s on the IPCC and he and Mann on their formation and work show how various disciplines were pulled in.

    We are getting an awful lot of physicists outside the field (and the old emeritus problem, but not all emeriti have ego and perception problems) and mathematicians who claim they know everything. The layperson is confused by this, and will take (sometimes hoary) eminence as authority.

    Among other problems, many of them have a reductionist view that limits the interface with an ever-changing and fascinating world, a point of view that is a handicap for a scientist trying to understand and describe the real world.

  22. 72
    Anteros says:

    Dhogaza @ 52 & 53

    You say you “would” disagree with Prof’ Bickmore. Please do then, and perhaps you could say to him exactly what you said to me – on the grounds that I agree with him -

    I’m sure this is far to subtle for your brain to understand.

    If he is not around you could try Gavin, who (reasonably) agrees with me about why the FAR predictions were wrong.

    To others -
    Some of you are still insisting that the FAR didn’t make predictions. This is tedious – the SPM and Overview both have a central statement saying We predict and the prediction is that if few or no steps are taken to limit GHG emissions, there will be 0.3 deg of temperature rise per decade [1 degree C specified by 2025] This not a projection, it is a prediction (which makes SkS’s use of projection as very very dubious)

    Someone mentioned that the ‘model’ was not wrong. I – and Prof’ Bickmore – claimed that the prediction was way off. It was. If you’re not interested in that, then fine. It was what was presented as the best science could offer to the leaders of the world – that unless significant steps were taken to reduce GHG emissions there would be a temperature rise of 0.3deg per decade, which as Gavin notes, was wrong. You can offer up the 0.2 deg per decade but that lower limit of uncertainty was made with a sensitivity of 1.5deg/2xCo2. I don’t think many of you want to go there.. and remember that even after 22 years the Gistemp trend is still below that 0.2degC per decade.

    You can talk about why the prediction was (or its model inputs were) wrong, but the FAR made a central prediction for the world’s leaders to consider. It was way off, and accepting that it was so is the first step to making better predictions.

  23. 73
    Susan Anderson says:

    That is, books by Schneider and Mann. The former is:
    Stephen Schneider, Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth’s Climate

    It is among other things an insider picture of early IPCC work, and IMNHSO a “must read” particularly for those who would like to or fail to comprehend the work and role of the IPCC. Scientists are not white knights, but at the higher levels they tend to be intelligent as well as smart, and they work hard to find ways to create understanding and work with that understanding.

    Mann, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (yes, I know nobody here needs this info, but just in case)

  24. 74
    Chris Colose says:

    Of course, Judith Curry says the op-ed “hit the nail on the head.”

    How surprising. I wasn’t too nice about that on her blog.

  25. 75
    guthrie says:

    Anteros #71 – actually, we want to go wherever the evidence leads. I’m looking forwards to knowing more about the heat absorption capabilities of the planet, especially with the amount of energy taken up melting ice in the Arctic.

  26. 76
    Dave123 says:

    Anteros,

    What is your opinion of Foster and Rahmsdorf (2011), which seems to me to show that 5 major temperature tracking groups show about 0.2 C/decade from 1980 to 2010?

  27. 77

    #58 simon abingdon

    Simon, I truly look forward to the day when you cease your focus on non sequitur arguments and focus on relevance.

  28. 78
    David Lewis says:

    The devolving neaderthals deniers scored just because the WSJ published their gibberish. Murdoch owns the WSJ. Maybe all he cares about is whether he sells more papers. Its hard to believe he actually wants to cause a civilization threatening crisis, but its becoming easy to believe he could care less if he did.

    I would find what the authors of the article did as astonishing as Bickmore does, but I’ve been contemplating similar things for more than twenty years. The first time I realized there were people capable of doing things like this I experienced the horror that our species cannot survive.

  29. 79
    Chris R says:

    This is an interesting puzzle. For what it’s worth here’s my opinion:

    Barry Bickmore said:

    “The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising.”

    This is clearly a correct statement given that projection.

    Now the line is what the model produces given specified forcings. I think SKS show that the specified forcings were out and that once adjusted for, the line (projection) agrees well with observations. So my conclusion; the forcings were out, but the model was correct. Compared to getting the model correct (a hard task in itself) getting the forcings correct into the future is an almost insurmountable problem. We will hit this issue again throughout this century.

    I see what you mean regarding the words projection and prediction, I’ve had a similar problem recently with a paper that was published in the publication “Doklady Earth Sciences”. The paper concerned was entitled “Predicted Methane Emission on the East Siberian Shelf.” However upon reading it (AFTER paying £35 for the privilege >:| ), it became apparent that whilst the paper’s title refers to ‘prediction’, and that word is used many times throught the paper; as I understand it, this isn’t what they’re doing: The paper uses scenarios of methane emission and considers the radiative/temperature impacts of these scenarios. So I conclude that this is a ‘lost in translation’ issue; where they say _prediction_ I understand them to mean _projection_ because scenarios are involved.

    I’m not a qualified scientist, just some bloke who reads the science, so my understanding may be wrong. But in my opinion if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it’s a duck, even if someone calls it a goose. So when I read ‘prediction’, and I see that models and scenarios are involved, I interpret the word as ‘projection’ because I understand a projection to be a combination of model + assumptions.

  30. 80
    MARodger says:

    Anteros @71
    You seem rather keen to agree with people. You say more than once that you agree with Barry Bishmore & @64 you say we should direct our questioning at him. This is of course a cop out.
    Barry Bickmore stated “The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising.” He made no big thing about it. You on the other hand do make a big thing out of it. That is going well beyond agrement with him.

    Your “way off” line in the WSJ graph is inappropriately used to test the IPCC FAR temperature projections/predictions or whatever they are.
    IPCC FAR is saying there will be an average rise of 0.3 deg C / decade over the whole century. The 1 deg C rise 1990-2025 would average 0.28 deg C / decade. The 1990-2010 rise shown on fig 6.11 is 0.23 deg C / decade.
    SkS fig 5 gives 0.20 deg C / decade & Sphaerica @66 explains why there is a variation (as does the SkS item if folk read it properly, unlike me @59). This small variation from FAR fig 6.11 (& from SkS fig 2) seen in SkS fig 5 is thus explained if not justified.

    What remains entirely unexplained or justified is the far larger variation exhibited by the “way off” line in the WSJ graph.
    As you seem to be in strong support of it, perhaps you could oblige.

  31. 81
    Ron Broberg says:

    Be careful of binary positions regarding IPCC modeling.

    The following is a graph of “model projections” of global temperatures as depicted in the IPCC AR4.
    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/figure-ts-26.html

    And here is the same chart with updated observations.
    http://www.rhinohide.org/gw/publications/ipcc/ar4/img/ts26-updated-2011.jpg

    The added observations are HadCRUTv3 and are only ‘hand-fitted’ to the chart via an image editor.

  32. 82
    simon abingdon says:

    #76 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation)

    Hi John, good to hear from you again. simon

  33. 83
    Turboblocke says:

    John West @ 8 said “According to the IPCC AR4 individual realizations graph above, the global average temperature has been below the average of the ensembles for about 6 years with varying degrees of variance.”

    This assumes that average of the ensembles will give the average global temperature (anomaly). However, there is no valid reason to believe that. In fact given all the possible outcomes it is extremely unlikely that it would happen.

  34. 84
    Jeffrey says:

    I have several questions concerning the model from the first IPCC assessment report. Bickmore states that “The line for the IPCC First Assessment Report is clearly way off, but back in 1990 the climate models didn’t include important things like ocean circulation, so that’s hardly surprising.” However, the error range was not shown for this model in the WSJ article either. Has the averaged surface temperature trend left the error range for this model? Moreover, how do newer averaged models compare to the first IPCC model in their ability to hindcast? Finally, other than ocean circulation what factors have changed the models the most since 1990?

  35. 85
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    Anteros @64 writes, “This is the heart of the matter and fundamentally not true. It is also the reason why SkS do not use the word prediction once in the whole article – they would be obliged to actually refer to the FAR prediction, which they do not.”

    You’re simply wrong. I assumed you had carefully read the SkS post you linked, as well as the IPCC FAR, since you are critiquing them, but it appears my assumption was incorrect. Simply using the search function of a web browser will allow one to see that your claim that the word prediction is never used ev once in the SkS article is false. Further, as I pointed out, the word prediction is only used twice int he relevant chapter of the 1900 IPCC report.

    More the point, I started studying climatology after the CRU email controversy. In reading the complete emails for myself I realized that focusing on this word play is not used to illuminate the science, but rather to obscure it. I will no longer play this Scrabble game with you. I’m here to discuss the substance of the science, not get into tiresome semantical arguments.

    If you wish to have a serious and engaging discussion, and you claim that SkS is misrepresenting the FAR, please don’t just state it, provide a citation. Please point out the relevant graphs, or lines and provide the pages from the IPCC FAR. Continuing this nonsense about the word prediction is not productive or meaningful.

    PS – again, sorry if I dupe, keep messing up on recaptcha.

  36. 86

    RaymondT @57

    So was it legitimate for the WSJ authors to say that trends don’t match the data, or not? The answer is NO. The question of model testing in general goes way beyond that question.

    From my point of view, it seems like there are any number of ways for the models to get the right answers in the short term for the wrong reasons, so if the models do happen to be off significantly at some point, it wouldn’t surprise me. It may just mean that certain short-term effects (aerosols, ocean circulation, whatever) are treated incorrectly. In the long term, though, the final state of the climate is already constrained by paleoclimate data, with which we can look over much longer time periods, where those short-term effects can’t play much of a role. Yes, there’s uncertainty there, too, but it’s of a different type. And guess what? The paleoclimate data tells us that it’s very improbable the climate is so insensitive that we don’t have to worry about cutting emissions. People like Dick Lindzen can only come to the conclusions they do by ignoring this entire field.

  37. 87
    Hank Roberts says:

    > simon … prostate

    Sounds like a “they’re all going to die of something else anyway, why rule out that are profitable in the short run” approach.

  38. 88

    It is true that the FAR SPM uses the term “prediction” more than does Chapter 6 of the Assessment Report itself. And it appears, looking at the SPM, that that is the source of the exact graph reproduced in the SkS post we’ve been discussing. (For some reason, it goes back to 1850, whereas the version in Ch. 6 goes back only to 1875.)

    (By the way, the FAR SPM can be found here.)

    Nevertheless, by whatever terminology, it was made clear in the FAR discussion–and revisited in the SkS piece reviled by Anteros–that correspondence between predicted/projected temperatures and observed would depend critically on the evolution of emissions and other factors affecting GHG concentrations.

    In the event, the Scenario A emissions pathway did not materialize–thankfully. Needless to say, that leaves the corresponding result in FAR untested–not refuted, as Anteros claims.

    SkS tries to draw conclusions about the FAR models, relatively crude as they were, by taking into account the actual forcings. As has been pointed out, they explain what they do, and why. I fail to see anything deceptive in that–unlike the WSJ piece.

  39. 89
    observer says:

    An earlier poster wrote “The devolving neaderthals deniers scored”

    It seems to me that using terminology such as neaderthals misleads and confuses without any countervailing benefit. I believe that best way to counter the WSJ op-editorialists is to assume that they are sincere and to try to understand why they take the position they do and what actions one could take to allow them to become better and more accurately informed.

    One may be better able to influence the debate if one thinks of them as really smart guys who observe various facts reach the conclusions that they state.

    For example, one of the signers, Ed David, is a member of both the NAS and the NAE (elected at about age 40–41) and was director of research at Bell Labs. It is highly likely that he is extremely smart. Similarly, Harrison Schmitt got his BS from Cal Tech, his PhD from Harvard. I could probably go on down the list with similar observations, but I happened to know something about the background of these two.

    Dumping on these guys rather than trying to understand why they say what they do may make one feel good but it looks a little tacky, and, as best I can tell does not advance the ball.

    Observer,

    PS, it is usually spelled neanderthal

    [Response: You may know something about the background of "these two," but you're hardly giving a complete picture of Ed David's career. In fact he left Bell Labs way back in 1970, and after a few other things (like being Nixon's science advisor) he wound up as head of research for Exxon, from 1977 to 1986. He hardly qualifies as a disinterested physicist. And anyway, this is a guy who was born in 1925, hasn't been involved in any real research since around 1970, and has never had anything significant to do with the core areas of physics necessary to understand climate science. OK, so maybe Ed David did something significant in science or engineering 40 years ago, but I hardly see that that is prima faciae evidence that his sweeping pronouncements about public policy today deserve to be taken seriously. --raypierre]

  40. 90

    I believe that best way to counter the WSJ op-editorialists is to assume that they are sincere and to try to understand why they take the position they do and what actions one could take to allow them to become better and more accurately informed.

    They are well informed. Nobody with those kinds of credentials can claim that they are uninformed in this matter. They’re disbelief is a matter of faith.

  41. 91
    deconvoluter says:

    Susan Anderson

    A most interesting series of comments on this and the previous thread.

    While we are on the subject of personalities, I wonder if P.W. will remember one of the sixteen signatories to this op-ed? I was interested to see his name there. He is not an extremist like Lubos, but my guess is that he may have limited his spare time reading. All I have seen from him ,since Oxburgh, are bits of Wegman, McIntyre, Akasofu and Pat Frank. Thats not a balanced set of experts from whom a a beginner can obtain a good overview of the subject.

  42. 92
    Ron Broberg says:

    Jeffrey @ 83, I too would like to see compiled information regarding the evolution of climate models and their comparative strengths and weaknesses.

  43. 93
    flxible says:

    Ron Broberg – You might check the Index link at top of the page which will yield this list, or the ‘Category’ link to the right, which finds this post by Gavin. Maybe not as much detail on the design as you’d like,but enlightening.

  44. 94
    dbostrom says:

    I too would like to see compiled information regarding the evolution of climate models and their comparative strengths and weaknesses.

    Try this:

    Climate Models and Their Evaluation

    For a broader brush, try:

    A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

  45. 95
    Russell says:

    89:
    “They are well informed. Nobody with those kinds of credentials can claim that they are uninformed in this matter”

    A few years ago , I encountered WSJ Opinion editor and occasional science commentator James Taranto at a Harvard journalism seminar.

    To illustrate a point, II afterwards handed him my copy of that week’s Nature which had an article on the matter.

    He examined it with some astonishment, turning the pages to and fro as we conversed, until I asked him the obvious question- had he ever laid hands on a copy before ?

    He replied that he had not.

  46. 96
    Lotharsson says:

    I believe that best way to counter the WSJ op-editorialists is to assume that they are sincere and to try to understand why they take the position they do and what actions one could take to allow them to become better and more accurately informed.

    There is some data that should allow you to test that assumption for at least one signatory. Read the Brian Angliss open letter to Burt Rutan (after the first WSJ Op-Ed), and all of the comments.

    Note the copious comments that provide better and more accurate information to Rutan, and measure the evolution in Rutan’s positions (both in comments there, and in the WSJ Op-Ed that is the subject of this thread).

    I’m rather interested in your conclusions regarding your assumption as it applies to this signatory.

  47. 97
    Chris Crawford says:

    I’d like to take a few moments to respond to Doug Proctor’s post at #51. I won’t cover everything, just a few items to demonstrate why I believe that this reasonable-sounding post is in fact way wrong. Let’s start with the first sentence:

    the prior 34 years of climate changes lie within the boundaries of both CAGW narratives and solar-dominant theories.

    This is not true, unless Mr. Proctor is referring to some oddball ‘solar dominant theory’. Solar output has not been shown to correlate with surface temperatures. Even if you factor in some sort of delayed response, you still don’t get any correlation. Moreover, the changes in solar output that we have observed are not large enough to cause the changes in temperatures that have been observed.

    The second sentence:

    As time and ARs have progressed, the less alarming forecasts are becoming more likely, with sea-levels rises, as well as temperature rises, dropping to moderate – but still higher than skeptical – positions.

    This is not how I perceive the data. My perception is that we started off pretty conservatively and have been driven by the data to ever more pessimistic assessments of the situation. Can you offer some sort of basis for your statement?

    Third sentence:

    In order to attain the catastrophic levels of 6* and >2 m of sea-level rise by 2100, within the next decade multiples of current warming and melting rates must occur.

    I see no basis for this statement; it’s certainly possible to fit a number of curves with positive second derivatives to the data for temperature and sea level, all of which would yield those high levels. As yet there remains considerable uncertainty, but it is incorrect to suggest that these scenarios have been rendered unlikely by current evidence.

    Fourth and fifth sentences:

    The Earth’s fate hangs in the balance, with Man a minor bit of flesh to be wiped from the scene. That is how the alarm is given to drive the significant economic, political and lifestyle changes that are proposed to deal with the “pollutant” CO2.

    It’s interesting that opponents of ACC are always connecting the politics with the science. Let me remind you that, in a rational polity, the facts drive the policy, not the other way around. FIRST you obtain the best information you have about the true situation, THEN you decide what, if anything, you’re going to do about it. I suggest that we focus our attentions on the science in this venue; after all, the authors here are scientists, not politicians. The scientific evidence that climate change presents a serious threat to our future well-being is now quite strong. How we respond to that threat, however, is a different matter.

    There follow a number of vaguely-phrased sentences that are difficult to figure out; then comes this statement:

    How many more years will it take to falsify one or the other side? I think 3: due to the linear nature of CO2 growth, the potential disconnect between temperatures and sea-levels will be significant by 2015 if current trends continue.

    I disagree that any period so short could be decisive. After all, the relaxation time for the heat content of the oceans on this scale is something like 30 years. We already have 30 years of data showing undeniable temperature increase; in that sense, the basic question of temperature rise has been solidly answered in the affirmative. In any case, whatever happens in the next 3 years will do nothing to change the situation either way. If we get three decades of deviation from existing pattern, then we can treat that as serious evidence against the ACC hypothesis. So far, though, the evidence favors ACC.

    There are again some vague statements, but then comes this:

    The models are either certain and the science, settled, or they are not. CO2 is dominant, or it is not.

    No. In science, nothing is ever certain or settled. There’s always room for new evidence to change things. However, the great preponderance of evidence supports the ACC hypothesis. Certainly in terms of the level of certainty we need to take political action, it’s safe to say that the we have solidly established the fact that inaction is more dangerous than action; at this point, the question is, how rapidly and how strongly must we take action?

    A few sentences later we come across this:

    Don’t worry,all you who hope to correct Man’s ways through CO2 control.

    I can’t recall anybody here who fits your description. The people here are scientists who are exploring a scientific question. I can never recall seeing anybody who had an apparent political motive for supporting the science of ACC. I can recall seeing lots of people here who had an apparent political motive for denying the science of climatology.

    Considering the expense and the trouble to come through CO2-based legislation, changing the world’s governments, social behaviour and individual freedoms are very large, dangerous and expensive operations that might, on a Precautionary basis, be considered too harmful to continue.

    I have certainly NEVER seen any comments here recommending regime change in any country. Indeed, I have seen very little discussion of the specifics of any legislation to address climate change. Yes, there has been a little, but it is swamped by the discussion of the science. Yes, the adjustments humanity might have to make in order to reduce CO2 emissions could well be expensive. We must balance the costs of action to prevent serious climate change against the costs of inaction. The current scenarios all project costs running into many trillions of dollars; already we are seeing annual costs in the hundreds of billions. It therefore seems appropriate to consider preventative measures on the same order of magnitude in cost. The details, of course, are the subject of a very different debate.

  48. 98
    J B says:

    Further to the illustrative explanations in Barry’s original post, when pointing out to Joe Public (and even to non climatologically-specialised scientists) the misrepresentations of the likes of Monckton and the Wall Street Journal’s 16, Alden Griffith’s excellent analyses are worth referring to.

  49. 99
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mr. Proctor is referring to his own explanation; look up “doug-proctor-climate-change-is-caused-by-clouds-and-sunshine” for the long version. It’s got its own discussion forum already in progress. It’s not related to the WSJ topic.

  50. 100
    Jeffrey says:

    Thanks number #93, this was just what I was looking for minus a discussion of the models in FAR.

    [Response: At the time of FAR (~1989/90), there were very few transient simulations with GCMs (Hansen et al, 1988 was pretty much it). 2xCO2 simulations were a little more plentiful. So all the transient projections used much simpler models with variable CS, ocean mixing etc - but that didn't have any 'weather'. - gavin]

    I have a few new questions perhaps someone can help me with. Considering that models are based on ‘tuned’ physics based predictions, why was the physics not able to predict that the deep ocean would store heat from a net energy gain to our climate over the last decade?

    [Response: Models are tuned based on climatology, not based on predictions. But your question is not really clear - models do predict that you will have period of surface temperature slowdowns and that this is associated with anomalous fluxes of heat into the deep ocean (Meehl et al, 2011) - but these events are a function of the weather noise/ (i.e. unforced variability), not a direct response to a (relatively predictable) forcing. - gavin]

    Is this observation changing the physics that the models are based on?

    [Response: Not really. The physics of the ocean models are being improved all the time, but because of observations of specific processes (eddy related mixing, deep overflows etc.), not because of the transient behaviour. To see why that is, try and think of some piece of physics in the ocean code that one might change that would affect the transient or the internal variability without changing something in the base state for which we have more information. It's really hard, if not impossible. - gavin]

    Moreover, while I understand the constraints on tuning within the modeling process, does it not allow for bias withing the process on the part of the tuner. I understand the the tuning is to create better simulations both in hindcasting and in predicting current phenomenon but is it not possible to have two vastly different sets of tuning both collapse towards better simulation ability?

    [Response: It's conceivable that multiple tunings might have similar skill for the climatology, though in practice it is very difficult to find them (approaches like a 'perturbed physics ensemble' will likely help, but this is enormously computer intensive, and is not being done on systematic basis yet). But again, note that the tuning is done with respect to the average conditions, not the transient response. - gavin]


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