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Transparency in climate science

Good thing? Of course.*

I was invited to give a short presentation to a committee at the National Academies last week on issues of reproducibility and replicability in climate science for a report they have been asked to prepare by Congress. My slides give a brief overview of the points I made, but basically the issue is not that there isn’t enough data being made available, but rather there is too much!

A small selection of climate data sources is given on our (cleverly named) “Data Sources” page and these and others are enormously rich repositories of useful stuff that climate scientists and the interested public have been diving into for years. Claims that have persisted for decades that “data” aren’t available are mostly bogus (to save the commenters the trouble of angrily demanding it, here is a link for data from the original hockey stick paper. You’re welcome!).

The issues worth talking about are however a little more subtle. First off, what definitions are being used here. This committee has decided that formally:

  • Reproducibility is the ability to test a result using independent methods and alternate choices in data processing. This is akin to a different laboratory testing an experimental result or a different climate model showing the same phenomena etc.
  • Replicability is the ability to check and rerun the analysis and get the same answer.

[Note that these definitions are sometimes swapped in other discussions.] The two ideas are probably best described as checking the robustness of a result, or rerunning the analysis. Both are useful in different ways. Robustness is key if you want to make a case that any particular result is relevant to the real world (though that is necessary, not sufficient) and if a result is robust, there’s not much to be gained from rerunning the specifics of one person’s/one group’s analysis. For sure, rerunning the analysis is useful for checking the conclusions stemmed from the raw data, and is a great platform for subsequently testing its robustness (by making different choices for input data, analysis methods, etc.) as efficiently as possible.

So what issues are worth talking about? First, the big success in climate science with respect to robustness/reproducibility is the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project – all of the climate models from labs across the world running the same basic experiments with an open data platform that makes it easy to compare and contrast many aspects of the simulations. However, this data set is growing very quickly and the tools to analyse it have not scaled as well. So, while everything is testable in theory, bandwidth and computational restrictions make it difficult to do so in practice. This could be improved with appropriate server-side analytics (which are promised this time around) and the organized archiving of intermediate and derived data. Analysis code sharing in a more organized way would also be useful.

One minor issue is that while climate models are bit-reproducible at the local scale (something essential for testing and debugging), the environments for which that is true are fragile. Compilers, libraries, and operating systems change over time and preclude taking a code from say 2000 and the input files and getting exactly the same results (bit-for-bit) with simulations that are sensitive to initial conditions (like climate models). The emergent properties should be robust, and that is worth testing. There are ways to archive the run environment in digital ‘containers’, so this isn’t necessarily always going to be a problem, but this has not yet become standard practice. Most GCM codes are freely available (for instance, GISS ModelE, and the officially open source DOE E3SM).

There is more to climate science than GCMs of course. There are operational products (like GISTEMP – which is both replicable and reproducible), and paleo-climate records (such as are put together in projects like PAGES2K). Discussions on what the right standards are for those projects are being actively discussed (see this string of comments or the LiPD project for instance).

In all of the real discussions, the issue is not whether to strive for R&R, but how to do it efficiently, usably, and without unfairly burdening data producers. The costs (if any) of making an analysis replicable are borne by the original scientists, while the benefits are shared across the community. Conversely, the costs of reproducing research is borne by the community, while benefits accrue to the original authors (if the research is robust) or to the community (if it isn’t).

One aspect that is perhaps under-appreciated is that if research is done knowing from the start that there will be a code and data archive, it is much easier to build that into your workflow. Creating usable archives as an after thought is much harder. This lesson is one that is also true for specific communities – if we build an expectation for organized community archives and repositories it’s much easier for everyone to do the right thing.

[Update: My fault I expect, but for folks not completely familiar with the history here, this is an old discussion – for instance, “On Replication” from 2009, a suggestion for a online replication journal last year, multiple posts focused on replicating previously published work (e.g.) etc…]

* For the record, this does not imply support for the new EPA proposed rule on ‘transparency’**. This is an appallingly crafted ‘solution’ in search of a problem, promoted by people who really think that that the science of air pollution impacts on health can be disappeared by adding arbitrary hoops for researchers to jump through. They are wrong.

** Obviously this is my personal opinion, not an official statement.

295 Responses to “Transparency in climate science”

  1. 251
    nigelj says:

    AB @241

    “If CO2 concentration and temperature increase, it is because of deforestation 1) increasing daily thermal amplitude, 2) releasing H20 & CO2 gas into the atmosphere, and 3) diminishing the creation of natural clouds’

    No matter how many times you assert this doesn’t make it true. You provide no data or calculations or links to some research paper on the matter. The IPCC has looked at data and calculations and concluded the factors you mention are a small part of gloabl warming, and fossil fuels are the main issue. Its almost in the realms of arithmetic, its fairly basic to calculate emissions from different sources and the dufferences are very significant.

    I have no idea why this website goes on publishing your cranky, unproven dogma. It seems naive to me to give you publicity. People have a right to express views, but when it becomes repetitive, spamming, and fails to back the view with something of substance, that is another matter. But what do I know.

  2. 252
    nigelj says:

    Mal Adapted @245, one addendum. I’m not really into punishing people over this thing either, but the lawsuits against fossil fuel companies make sense to me. They misrepresented certain things, and there have to be consequences for that.

  3. 253
    barn E. rubble says:

    218 Ray Ladbury says:
    25 May 2018 at 9:55 AM

    Ray Knucklehead

    ” . . . I think one would be appropriate in asking the potential recipient what they plan to do with the data and whether there is a reasonable expectation that they will publish and whether their publication will advance the state of knowledge in the field.”

    I would think that if one publishes a scientific study, one should be both willing and able to defend it. Here’s my paper. Here’s my data and code. Have at it. It shouldn’t matter who asks for your data and code or what their motives might be. If it’s solid, it’s solid. Would it not be better if no one could find a problem with it? I don’t understand the thinking behind allowing only selected viewers to see your stuff. If it’s available to one person, it should be available to all. Why not?

    SN Ray says:
    “It is clear that you don’t understand the motivations of science.”

    Actually I do, very well from many fields of study. Please quote directly from something I’ve written that would suggest otherwise.

    SN Ray:

    “Of course, everyone wants to be right, but more than that, they want to understand their object of study. So the mere fact that another group might prove you wrong is not a sufficient deterrent that it would cause data not to be shared.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    But then, Ray dives deeper:

    “The biggest obstacle to obtaining datasets the denialist community faces is not that climate scientists fear being proved wrong, but rather the fact that denialists don’t publish.”

    Perhaps a quote or three from Phil Jones would be appropriate here. However, the article below sums it up fairly well. It’s “about data sharing, transparency, and United States Department of Energy funding.” I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. Or at least the bits you can understand. I can help you with the bits you don’t understand.

    https://talkingabouttheweather.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/phil-jones-offers-myriad-reasons-for-not-sharing-data/

    Again, you’re running out of time to comment directly on the EPA’s proposed rule. Comments close May 30th.

  4. 254
  5. 255

    ab, #229–

    Easy to criticize the form, but still escaping from the facts.

    Sorry, ab, but I think it’s the facts escaping you.

  6. 256

    barn, #237–

    I can’t fully comprehend how you wrote, “. . . it would likely be made available to another set working in the same (or a related) area.” as to now mean, ” . . . whereas I had said that in principle at least, access to the data is generally available to anyone with a good-faith reason for needing it.”

    Sigh. You sound a tad prickly there, barn (and more so, elsewhere in the comment.) But let me try to clarify.

    Here’s the deal: in the first sentence, “another set” refers to a posited *second* group of researchers–for example, ones intending to replicate a study. In the second sentence, I more explicitly recognize the possibility that the second set may not be the *last* set–that is, that there could be a third, fourth, and so on. To me, the possibility was already implicit in the first sentence, but I was fleshing the idea out a bit in the second quoted sentence.

    (Frankly, I’m not sure why this seems difficult; but then, that was the whole story of my doctoral dissertation–me writing something that seemed completely obvious, and my advisor finding it, if not utterly impenetrable, then at least challenging to parse.)

    That aside, if you do have concerns with the new EPA proposed rule the public comments closes May 30th. Make your opinion known to those that might matter…

    Why would you assume that I haven’t? Though I will admit I have–or rather, could have had, had I not discarded them–whole files full of missives from assorted politicians, saying, essentially, “Thank you for writing; your views are extremely important to me. However, I’m going to do the exact opposite of what you suggest.”

  7. 257

    ab, #241–

    You can have zero emission of fossil fuels and still have global warming and climate changes. That is what most climate scientists clearly do not understand.

    That is probably the silliest thing you’ve written yet, ab, and there was already some serious competition for the title among your previous brain children. Dude, does the term “paleoclimatology” ring any bells for you?

  8. 258
    ab says:

    zebra @186, @213, @242,
    Consider two identical tall cylinders, each with an open top and a valve at the bottom, starting with equal levels of water. Periodically we pour a fixed quantity of water into each, and then open the valves, one for say 4 seconds and one for 5.

    After multiple cycles, what will we observe about the water level in the cylinders and the flow rate when the valves are opened?

    This example is irrelevant physically, because there is no such physical process that is differentially constrained by time in nature. That’s why I said it was an intellectual game.

    Now, consider a blackbody receiving a fixed amount of energy every second. This blackbody will radiate back the same amount of energy, uniformly distributed from its own surface, creating fluxes of energy paired with its surface.

    In the case of a plane, it will create two fluxes: one at the top, one at the bottom. If this plane receives 890 W, it will thus create two fluxes of 445 W in opposite directions.

    Consider this plane is a one square meter plane, and you’ll have two output fluxes of 445 W m-² for a total input flux of 890 W m-².

  9. 259
    ab says:

    nigelj @251,
    You provide no data or calculations or links to some research paper on the matter:
    “If CO2 concentration and temperature increase, it is because of deforestation 1) increasing daily thermal amplitude, 2) releasing H20 & CO2 gas into the atmosphere, and 3) diminishing the creation of natural clouds”

    I already provided it for thermal amplitude (1) in the message you answer to, (2) is just an obvious consequence of deforestation that is very well documented, and (3) is also published as a result of CERN’s CLOUD Project.

    The main cause of surface warming is deforestation, by a high order of magnitude, and it acts not only on surface warming but on the whole water cycle. GHG regulations are just a distraction from that fact.

    Kevin McKinney @257,

    So that’s why 97% of climate scientists think that fossil fuels combustion cause global warming when they just pollute the air ?

    Global deforestation causes global warming, and there has been more anthropic deforestation on Earth in the last two centuries than ever before, with modern industrialization.

    Very strange that nothing about it is ever mentioned in IPCC reports or in scientific papers. Like if the greenhouse dogma has blinded most of climate scientists thanks to the help of a huge propaganda and billions of dollars to fund greenhouse researches, but nothing else…

  10. 260
    barn E. rubble says:

    RE: 256 Kevin McKinney says:
    27 May 2018 at 10:41 PM

    “(Frankly, I’m not sure why this seems difficult; but then, that was the whole story of my doctoral dissertation–me writing something that seemed completely obvious, and my advisor finding it, if not utterly impenetrable, then at least challenging to parse.)”

    Sigh . . . I now fully understand your adviser’s issues. Perhaps clarity the first time might help. Denying what you wrote &/or trying to explain that you meant something other than what you wrote, probably doesn’t help. Good luck in your future endeavors.

  11. 261
    nigelj says:

    AB @259

    I disagree competely. You have not posted any tables of numerical data and calculations proving any of your claims.

    The link you quoted is some research paper about gases and consequent particle nucleation. The abstract says nothing about formation of clouds. You appear confused by the fact that the organisation is called CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets)

    Perhaps you are thinking about claims about cosmic rays significantly influencing clouds, but this is not accepted science, and if they are valid they should be causing a cooling effect over the last decade, which clearly isn’t happening. So such cosmic ray influences can’t explain global warming in recent decades. Its simple logic.

    Changes in extremes of daily temperatures caused by deforestation are not the same as a warming effect over time, and such diurnal changes alone can’t drive global warming and changes in atmospheric circulation.

    And removal of forests is a small factor in climate change. The changes caused to atmospheric CO2 levels by deforestation are small relative to fossil fuels, and you have been given published references on this which you have not been able to refute. Its basic enough material to calculate which is why the IPCC has arrived at the conclusions it has. Until you publish your own calculations you are contributing nothing but empty assertions.

    Forests cause both warming and cooling effects due to transpiration and reflectivity, depending on the type of forest so it tends to cancel out. So deforestation doesnt have much effect in that sense.

    I think you are crank paid to spread ignorance, and this website is naive indulging you.

  12. 262
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wait, wait, “ab” you can check what you beieve, that would save you from posting some falsehoods.

    deforestation ….
    Very strange that nothing about it is ever mentioned in IPCC reports or in scientific papers.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=aire%3Aipcc.ch%2F+deforestation

  13. 263

    ab 259: Very strange that nothing about it is ever mentioned in IPCC reports or in scientific papers. Like if the greenhouse dogma has blinded most of climate scientists thanks to the help of a huge propaganda and billions of dollars to fund greenhouse researches, but nothing else…

    BPL: There is a vast scientific literature on deforestation and it IS mentioned in the IPCC reports. Have you read them?

  14. 264
    Mal Adapted says:

    ab:

    Very strange that nothing about it is ever mentioned in IPCC reports or in scientific papers. Like if the greenhouse dogma has blinded most of climate scientists thanks to the help of a huge propaganda and billions of dollars to fund greenhouse researches, but nothing else…

    Ah, ab falls back on conspiracism, the science-denier’s last resort. Some motivated conspiracy monger told ‘him’ (gender indeterminate) that governments spend “billions of dollars to fund greenhouse researches, but nothing else”, therefore it must be true.

    Admittedly, activities like maintaining dense global networks of scientific instruments on land and sea, and putting generations of increasingly sophisticated remote sensing platforms in orbit, are beyond the resources of all but a few national governments. Of course, the data they gather are equally available to, for example, the theistically motivated pseudoskeptics at UAH and the genuinely skeptical REMSS team.

    We expect DK-afflicted deniers to overlook such confounding factors, but how do they then leap to the conclusion that climate science is fatally biased? Even assuming nefarious intent by every government employee involved in funding for climate research, how difficult can it be to grasp that the incentives and rewards for earth scientists differ crucially from those for biomedical specialists?

    Now, it’s painfully evident to RC’s climate realists that ab is at best a ‘Google Galileo’, to whom the modern culture and practice of science are alien. His mistrust of the consensus of climate experts is thus perhaps understandable, but why does he trust whomever is telling him “greenhouse dogma has blinded most of climate scientists”? I, for one, suspect not even ab knows the answer to that.

  15. 265
    ab says:

    nigelj @261,

    A bit of research and you would have found that CERN’s cloud project explicitly states that the significance of the related papers is that trees are responsible for natural cloud formation via the release of biogenic compounds within the atmosphere, so deforestation diminishes the production of natural clouds.

    CLOUD experiment has shown that biogenic vapours emitted by trees and oxidised in the atmosphere have a significant impact on the formation of clouds, thus helping to cool the planet.

    CERN experiment sheds new light on cloud formation

    And also that deforestation has a net mean warming effect from 1-2°C on temperate regions up to 10°C in tropical regions.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7603/figures/2

    Hank Roberts @262, Barton Paul Levenson @263,

    I’m sorry but I find nothing into the IPCC reports about the historical global deforestation of the last two centuries, and particularly the XXth century… where virtually all anthropic tropical deforestation has taken place. Nothing about variability in available surface for photosynthesis either.

    Mal Adapted @264,

    It is not conspirationism, it is a fact that more than one billion of dollars per day are invested into greenhouse gases mitigations and researches… Such huge amount of money can only bias scientific research, and it is why so many articles on the question have been published… Thousands and thousands of laboratories are working in this direction where the money is. No one told me that, I just see what happens with my own eyes and brain.

  16. 266

    Barn, #260–

    Denying what you wrote &/or trying to explain that you meant something other than what you wrote, probably doesn’t help.

    Thanks for the good wishes and suggestions. In turn, let me offer the thought that accepting explanations offered in good faith with a modicum of grace is often helpful, too.

  17. 267

    ab, #259–

    So that’s why 97% of climate scientists think that fossil fuels combustion cause global warming when they just pollute the air ?

    No, they think that because they understand the physics involved in great breadth and depth, and because there is voluminous evidence supporting that understanding.

    But they also understand that other factors can affect climate as well. And obviously, this is one of the very few times in Earth’s history that fossil fuel burning has been a cause of global warming, and the first time that it is anthropogenic combustion–barring specific evidence surfacing to support Gavin’s Silurian Hypothesis, any sort of sentient combustion.

    (The end-Permian hothouse, PETM, may have involved fossil fuel combustion in the form of the Siberian Traps volcanic outbreak burning massive amounts of coal, according to one theory of that event at least. One must understand the term ‘fuel’ in a non-teleological way if you’re going to count that event as precedent for today; but I think that’s within the bounds of English usage.)

  18. 268
    barn E. rubble says:

    RE: 266 Kevin McKinney says:
    29 May 2018 at 5:48 PM

    “In turn, let me offer the thought that accepting explanations offered in good faith with a modicum of grace is often helpful, too.”

    I thought I did. My apologies, if that wasn’t clear.

  19. 269
    Mal Adapted says:

    ab:

    it is a fact that more than one billion of dollars per day are invested into greenhouse gases mitigations and researches

    If you’re genuinely skeptical, ab, you’ll document your implied assertion that it’s distributed contingent on predetermined findings. From the documentary evidence for the ‘Koch Club’ long-term investment strategy – not ‘conspiracy’ – it’s quite clear what investors expect for their money.

    Another fruitful line of thought concerns the disappointing (from the funders’ PoV) scientific results obtained with K-Club funding, even though all the money in the K-Club’s deep pockets is available to guarantee favorable results. You, and maybe even I, might be tempted by that kind of money, but could the expert consensus for AGW be so lopsided if climate scientists were so easy to bribe? Yet regardless of what you may have heard at third hand, I know at first and second that few choose a research career in the earth sciences for the remuneration.

  20. 270
    nigelj says:

    Ab @256, ok fair enough deforestation has an effect on clouds. The previous link you gave was paywalled and said nothing in the abstract. You gave it to us and I can only go on what you post, not second guess you.

    However The IPCC has reviewed all the research and calculations and found that deforestation is not the primary cause of climate change, its burning fossil fuels. Until you provide your own calculations you are largely time wasting, and have nothing to show. Who are we going to trust? Experts who have reviewed the matter or some unknown guy called AB who writes huge volumes of obvious nonsense on basic physics, and provides no calculations?

    And remember the effects of aerosols are generally known,uncertainty does not mean having no idea.

    And try and remember much of the deforestation happened before the modern global warming period from 1980 onwards! So it’s very hard to reconcile deforestation with the data on recent warming, it just doesn’t fit at all. Deforestation only makes sense as one contributing factor.

    “It is not conspirationism, it is a fact that more than one billion of dollars per day are invested into greenhouse gases mitigations and researches… Such huge amount of money can only bias scientific research, and it is why so many articles on the question have been published… Thousands and thousands of laboratories are working in this direction where the money is. No one told me that, I just see what happens with my own eyes and brain. ”

    Governments have spent millions on research, not billions, so stop trying to conflate different things to do with research and mitigation. Fossil fuel and business interests have spent millions as well.

    The fossil fuel industry has the money to spend virtually unlimited ammounts if they want. In 2014 United Sates and Canadian fossil fuel companies alone made $257 billion dollars.

    http://priceofoil.org/profits-oil-gas-coal-companies-operating-u-s-canada/

    You know why theres less sceptical research published? Not many climate scientists can find evidence that natural causes are responsible for the recent climate change or find fault with the established greenhouse gas theory. Papers have been published arguing natural causes are responsible for the recent warming, but they are weak science, and journals are reluctant to publish constant repetition of the same things.

    And much of the science that is published by governments is on existing climate effects and potential impacts they are numerous so theres a lot of research like this.

    So theres no bias as such. The only bias is in your paranoid imagination.

  21. 271
    JRClark says:

    265 ab says: “It is not conspirationism, it is a fact that more than one billion of dollars per day are invested into greenhouse gases mitigations and researches… Such huge amount of money can only bias scientific research, and it is why so many articles on the question have been published… Thousands and thousands of laboratories are working in this direction where the money is.”

    I saw a report a little while ago now that claimed 16,000 (?) climate science related Papers were published during 2017 alone. I am uncertain if this number is correct and have no interest in doing research to work it out for myself.

    But even if the number is even half that amount it does logically suggest to me (people being people) that not all of those papers were really necessary. What % I do not know. What % was solely derived from govt funding and taxation by which nations I have no idea. Nor who to ask.

    Based on my obscure memory alone I believe near a decade ago mid-2000s there about 2,000 papers (?) being published each year on average. In the 1990s a few hundred per year. Given it;s a serious issue and governments keep asking for answers and more information obviously the numbers have increased. But a doubling in a few years to 16,000/year appears more than a tad excessive it sounds quite extreme. Though I do not know how to objectively judge this either.

    Mind you, the numbers of papers being published has zero relevance to the validity of the science that underpins global warming and climate change. I’d prefer rather too much info and less than necessary. Besides $1bln day is peanuts (if that $ is accurate.)

  22. 272
    Astringent says:

    ab,#265

    ‘More than a Billion dollars per day?’ Where do you get that set of made up figures from? US ‘climate’ expenditure is about 20 billion per year, EU is spending about 20 billion, China maybe 30. I doubt that the rest of the world is contributing more than another 50 billion. And of that 140 billion at least 85% is basically in the form of green energy subsidies and similar measures. Research into climate science is a pretty small element.

    Given that US oil, gas and coal subsidies are about the same size, or by several measures, larger, than climate spending why, in any case, should bias work one way? I’m fairly sure a peer reviewed, validated and replicated study that debunked climate change woulds get a nice dollop of industry sponsorship, probably even a Nobel prize, and I’m fairly sure most scientists in the field would love to be proven wrong, if you could show that you had found a new non-magical, as yet unknown, and reversible mechanism that explains our species negative environmental impacts

    If scientists chased money rather than truth we would all be working in really profitable fields like sneaker design – the athletic shoe industry is worth about the same in the US as all climate related expenditure. Perhaps you could move to the ‘realtennisshoe.org’ site and lecture Nike on all the things they have ignored in their research? Don’t bother any reading or study I am sure your brain is big enough to contribute new and profound sole designs.

  23. 273

    ab, #265–

    I’m sorry but I find nothing into the IPCC reports about the historical global deforestation of the last two centuries, and particularly the XXth century…

    Here, LMGTFY:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter11.pdf
    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/sres/land_use/index.php?idp=151
    http://web2.uconn.edu/cyberinfra/module2/assets/Class4/Hurtt11-UCONN2.pdf

    Man, I’ll never get that 30 seconds of my life back! But that’s OK, and there’s a lot more, so let me know if you need further help.

    Oh, heck, Google is like salted peanuts. Let’s not forget the IPPC special report from 2000 on land use and forestry:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/sres/land_use/index.php?idp=0

  24. 274
  25. 275
  26. 276
    JR says:

    270 nigelj says: 29 May 2018 at 10:03 PM
    “So it’s very hard to reconcile deforestation with the data on recent warming, it just doesn’t fit at all. Deforestation only makes sense as one contributing factor.”

    I do not believe that is an accurate way to put it. Because it is not hard to reconcile deforestation affects and the data. I don’t have time to chase up specific papers or the IPCC reports so these will have to do.

    Deforestation accounts for around 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities – this is more than global emissions from transport.
    https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/2014/10/13/deforestation/

    From logging, agricultural production and other economic activities, deforestation adds more atmospheric CO2 than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/deforestation-and-global-warming/

    According to the best current estimate, deforestation is responsible for about 10 percent of all global warming emissions. (Where did that 10 percent figure come from? Follow the link) We need to protect tropical forests from deforestation and degradation if we want to reduce emissions to the levels needed to protect the planet against the worst global warming impacts.
    https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/solutions/stop-deforestation/tropical-deforestation-and-1.html

    10% or 18% ? Maybe look it up yourself and check it again.

    Fossil fuel use in electricity generation is also only one contributing factor. All factors combine no matter what their % is to produce the current and future warming potential. Those % are continually changing. During recent el nino existing forests contributed equiv ~3ppm of atmospheric CO2 during 2015/16. They were not deforested nor partially cleared, they simply spewed CO2 into the atmosphere under severe heat stress and the lack of rainfall.

  27. 277
    ab says:

    The effects of tropical deforestation on climate go well beyond carbon”, says Professor Deborah Lawrence, “[it] causes warming locally, regionally, and globally, and it changes rainfall by altering the movement of heat and water.

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/deforestation-in-the-tropics-affects-climate-around-the-world-study-finds

    Just everything that the IPCC reports is not at all concerned with, or has totally omitted…

    The narrow focus on carbon emission is just a misrepresentation of the role of deforestation in surface warming, and of the role of forests in climatology.

  28. 278
    Fred Magyar says:

    ab @ 277 says:

    “The narrow focus on carbon emission is just a misrepresentation of the role of deforestation in surface warming, and of the role of forests in climatology.”

    First a disclaimer, I’m not a climate scientist though I do have some background in the biosciences and as a native Brazilian have closely followed the severe pattern of droughts in southern Brazil and am aware of some attempts at making a linkage between that and Amazonian deforestation. I have also spent considerable time in the Amazon region, so I am not unconcerned with the ecological consequences of large scale deforestation for agriculture and mining purposes in that region.

    I went ahead and read the article at the link you provided and also looked at the other linked article in it and the abstract of the paper in Nature linked therein: https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2430

    I also looked up and found quite a few references in the IPCC reports referring to the effects of rainforest deforestation on both local and global climate with the consensus being that it contributes about 11% of current global warming. Yes, modeling has shown that a total removal of the entire rainforest system would indeed have very drastic consequences and would be equivalant to doubling the entire amount of carbon emissions since the 1850’s. Though as bad as things are that isn’t about to happen anytime soon.

    BTW, I also entered the url of the Nature paper into an AI science research assistant, called IRIS, https://the.iris.ai/ to further explore relevant papers in the literature.

    It returned this: ‘Effects of tropical deforestation on climate and agriculture’,’I’ve identified 237 related papers and grouped them by concept.’

    Of course I haven’t yet read them, but it should provide some interesting reading and food for thought.

    So in conclusion, I’m not quite sure if your characterization of there being a narrow focus on carbon emissions vs deforestation is an accurate one. It seems rather clear that while deforestation is a serious issue and should in no way be ignored or minimized, the major focus should still continue to be on the consequences of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels as this is quite clearly the main driver of current climate change.

  29. 279
    nigelj says:

    JR @276, your numbers and copy and paste discussion looks correct to me, and deforestation is a huge problem imho. However my ‘point’ was that ab is wrong to blame climate change’entirely’ or ‘largely’ on deforestation.

    If you look at deforestation, most of this was in the period 1960 – 1990, and most of the modern global warming has been from 1980 – 2018, so on that basis deforestation doesn’t correlate so well, and is at best a contributing cause. Graph below:

    https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=graph+of+deforestation&rlz=1C1CHBD_enNZ744NZ744&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=hWxYvEmrR8nSsM%253A%252CFhk423f2xeyd2M%252C_&usg=__PFKXbpxz3GjCFGZhwIVQbnbppY8%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjU6IL1kbHbAhUDiLwKHamkA9kQ9QEIKzAB&biw=1079&bih=555#imgrc=hWxYvEmrR8nSsM:

  30. 280
    nigelj says:

    AB @277, utter rubbish. The IPCC talks about regional and global deforestation, and numeorus references have been given to you elswehere on this website. You may not like their conclusions, but its a lie to say they dont address the issue.

    You are truly delusional. Don’t forget to take your pills.

  31. 281
    ab says:

    nigelj @279,
    most of the modern global warming has been from 1980 – 2018

    Graph + Deforestation

  32. 282

    #277, ab–

    Just everything that the IPCC reports is not at all concerned with, or has totally omitted…

    ‘How shall I critique thee? Let me count the ways…’

    OK, first, your story presents the quoted result about the non-carbon-related effects of deforestation as a ‘new thing,’ and is datelined 2014. The underlying study, by Lawrence and Vandecar, was first published online December 18, 2014, and may be found here (abstract and references outside the ‘paywall’):

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2430

    Given that AR5 was out in 2013, on the face of it, it would be foolish to blame the IPCC for being ‘unconcerned’ about a result that had not existed when the most recent report was written. But let’s come back to that point later.

    Second, your comment seem to suggest that the IPCC is somehow negligent or erroneous in focusing on the greenhouse gas forcing aspect of climate change. However, that is its brief: while it may (and does) consider any aspect of climate science, its mission at the end of the day is to advise and support the UNFCC, which exists to respond to the evident fact that humanity has changed, and continues to change, the radiative properties of our shared atmosphere. Responses to this fact are by definition political; but the fact itself is firmly science-based–your denial of that science, ab, notwithstanding.

    Third, I want to go a bit deeper with regard to point #1. I pointed out the incoherence of blaming the IPCC for ignoring a ‘new study’–but of course even new studies have bibliographies citing older work. So, the question arises, did ‘the IPCC’ willfully ignore all that older work, thereby meriting the censure you cast their way?

    I thought a good place to cross-check that would be the working group II report, as it focuses on climate impacts. It does concentrate primarily on those affecting *human* societies, and so there is no chapter dealing with forests per se. However, a lot of the research cited in the bibliography of Lawrence & Vandecar (2014) has to do with the Amazon, so I turned to the regional chapter on Central and South America. That chapter is available here:

    https://ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/WGIIAR5-Chap27_FINAL.pdf

    Now, an exhaustive cross-check of the bibiographies of Lawrence & Vandecar, on the one hand, and AR5, wg II, Chapter 27, would be a much larger task than can be attempted here: the former cites 120 references, while the bibliography of the latter would, I estimate, run well over 500 cites, beginning as it does with Abad-Franch et al. (2009), p. 1545, and concluding with Zullo et al. (2011), p. 1566. So, obviously, I’m not going to do that.

    But a bit of quick scanning is nevertheless instructive. Three quick results:

    1) My first question was, how deep into the Lawrence & Vandecar bibliography do you have to go before you start to find overlaps? Quite a bit deeper than I expected, as it turns out.

    Partly that’s because a lot of the early Lawrence & Vandecar cites are old–modelling studies from the 1990s that would not have been included in AR5, which like all the Assessment Reports, tries to paint a picture of the *current* state of the art. Partly it’s because of the incongruent physical scope: studies of South Asia or global deforestation issues probably wouldn’t be in Chap. 27, while tropical disease or food security risks in South America wouldn’t be in Lawrence & Vandecar.

    I had to go all the way down to #55 to find an overlap:

    Oyama, M. D. & Nobre, C. A. A new climate-vegetation equilibrium state for tropical South America. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 2199 (2003).

    The second author is listed as lead author of 3 references in Ch. 27. For brevity, I won’t go through those, only noting that the second is titled ” ‘Tipping Points’ for the Amazon Forest,” which sounds pretty darn germane. (See p. 1559.) And it’s lucky that I spotted that one, as I was only systematically considering lead authors.

    2) Ch. 27 does cite clearly relevant papers for the topic we’re considering, aside from the example just mentioned in point 1. For example:

    Malhi, Y., J.T. Roberts, R.A. Betts, T.J. Killeen, W. Li, and C.A. Nobre, 2008: Climate change, deforestation, and the fate of the Amazon.
    Science, 19(5860), 169-172.

    Hmm, there’s C.A. Nobre again! Or:

    Aide, T.M., M.L. Clark, H.R. Grau, D. López-Carr, M.A. Levy, D. Redo, M. Bonilla-Moheno, G. Riner, M.J. Andrade-Núñez, and M. Muñiz, 2013: DeDeforestation and reforestation of Latin America and the Caribbean (2001-2010). Biotropica, 45(2), 262-271.

    That one’s about halfway down the first column on the first complete page of references (p. 1546), so you don’t have to go very deep in Ch. 27 to find material relevant to ab’s concern. That’s not anomalous, either, since in the column you find a pair of relevant papers from lead author P.A. Arias:

    Arias, P.A., R. Fu, C.D. Hoyos, W. Li, and L. Zhou, 2011: Changes in cloudiness over the Amazon rainforests during the last two decades: diagnostic and potential
    causes. Climate Dynamics, 37(5-6), 1151-1164.

    Arias, P.A., R. Fu, and K.C. Mo, 2012: Decadal variation of rainfall seasonality in the North American monsoon region and its potential causes.
    Journal of Climate, 25(12), 4258-4274.
    (N.B.: Remember that Ch. 27 focuses on South & Central America, so one can infer from its inclusion in this chapter that Arias et al (2012) must involve South America somehow–most likely through the sort of teleconnections that are an important focus of Lawrence & Vandecar.)

    3) Amusingly, Lawrence & Vandecar (2014) actually cites AR5, wg I as their 8th reference:

    IPCC Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013).

    Gosh, those out-of-touch blind IPCC fools, ignoring everything but their own pet theories!

    Well, I’ve taken far too long, either for my own time management exigencies, or for the patience of readers here. But I think it’s clear that the IPCC is not ignoring deforestation in *all* its dimensions, regardless of ab’s presumptions.

  33. 283
    Mal Adapted says:

    nigelj:

    AB @277, utter rubbish. The IPCC talks about regional and global deforestation, and numeorus references have been given to you elswehere on this website. You may not like their conclusions, but its a lie to say they dont address the issue.

    You are truly delusional. Don’t forget to take your pills.

    Medication might or might not alleviate a thought disorder (i.e. bug, design flaw or feature) in a virtual identity. IANAP, but I take virtual ‘ab’ to model the large class of real-life deniers who are simply intolerant of uncertainty and ambiguity. My volunteer straw man (hey, he piped up here) wants simple explanations for events and conditions in his life. He is sure any unhappy situation has a singular ‘true’ cause, rather than a chain of ultimate and proximate causes, ramifying and anastomosing out of the Big Bang. He presumes his cognitive motivations are implicitly virtuous, and that his private moral code inheres in the universe. Magical thinking appeals to him, ‘deep time’ is over his virtual head, and his treatment of evidence is naive and strongly confirmation-biased. Consequently, he quickly reaches firm conclusions without regard for their epistemic justification. He is cognitively invested in his idiosyncratic ideas, and acts personally offended when challenged by virtual realists.

    Like the paradigmatic actor in the Tragedy of the Commons, straw-man ab appears to feel he’s entitled to what he wants at the price he’s willing to pay for it, with no liability for hidden or deferred costs. Scientists, far as he’s concerned, are obliged to meet his needs, and he judges them harshly when they don’t. Consequently, his engagement with science is antagonistic. He feels justified in dismissing arguments made without adequate regard for his feelings. Even when he’s the one who obtains them, he assumes unsatisfactory results evince someone else’s incompetence and/or malfeasance.

    Straw-man ab’s yearning to the contrary, science is a cultural adaptation for explaining and predicting ‘reality’, i.e. what’s true whether we like it or not, by trying really hard not to fool ourselves. Scientific culture elevates rigorous empiricism and disciplined mutual skepticism, and scientific training enables students to recognize the multiplicity of causes for all observations and the irreducible uncertainties around all predictions. It’s the only reason science is more effective* for the purpose than hepatoscopy. Science doesn’t know everything, it just knows some things with constrained confidence. Even so, it’s as good as it is and no better!

    In my profoundly humble opinion, a scientist can’t be sufficiently humble before nature without adopting the mediocrity principle. The space-time continuum verifiable with our senses (i.e. ‘creation’), though terrifyingly vast, is neither benevolent nor malevolent, but merely indifferent to our feelings. Science compels straw-man ab to acknowledge that he just isn’t special, nor are his family IRL, his species (me either, duh), his planet, not even life itself. Sadly, straw-man ab appears resolutely determined to be fooled. As as a sensitive UM (‘unredeemably mediocre’) virtual guy myself, I hope it makes him feel virtually better. Let’s give him a big hand and thank him for playing. Whether he likes it or not, he’s a straw man for the rest of his virtual life ;^).

    * Assuming aggregate adaptivity ‘I’ is quantified by well-supported evaluation of (I=PAT) through time, with justified expansion of zero or more terms. BTW, ‘I=PAT’ was never intended as more than a mathy heuristic device. Y’all make of it what you will. I didn’t invent it and I don’t need to defend it.

  34. 284
    nigelj says:

    ab @281 you have simply posted a graph of ongoing deforestation in the amazon. Nobody denies this is happening, but 1) its too small to explain global climate change and 2) as I pointed out MOST of the deforestation globally occurred around 1960 – 1990 and the warming period is more 1980 – 2018, and 3)its hugely isolated from hurricane formation at sea.

  35. 285
    nigelj says:

    Mal Adapted @283, I’m not that convinced your analysis applies to Ab. He seems like a scientific crank possibly with some political baggage. He fits the definition of crank perfectly. Or perhaps your analysis is part of it.

    (My comment was a bit blunt and reflects my frustration when people misrepresent what the IPCC says).

    But your theory about people wanting simple explanations most assuredly applies to a large group of deniers, and is full of insight, and I will shamelessly borrow some of your views and readings!

    I made a comment a couple of days ago on this very same over simplification issue over at SS on a recent article, New Research May 21, fyi.

  36. 286
    ab says:

    Kevin McKinney @282,
    your story presents the quoted result about the non-carbon-related effects of deforestation as a ‘new thing,’ and is datelined 2014.

    Given that AR5 was out in 2013, on the face of it, it would be foolish to blame the IPCC for being ‘unconcerned’

    Indeed, it is not a new thing… It is very well know, common sense, and documented in the scientific litterature since the XIXth century.

    the IPCC is somehow negligent or erroneous in focusing on the greenhouse gas forcing aspect of climate change

    The IPCC interpretation of climate change is purely based on a dominant hypothesis or theory, which is nowadays “climate forcing” or “radiative forcing”, though at its beginning, thirty years ago, the IPCC was simply talking about the “greenhouse” gases theory.

    But even before the creation of IPCC, the major role of vegetation on climate was already modeled:

    In the 1970s, Brazilian scientist Eneas Salati shattered the long held dogma that vegetation is simply the consequence of climate and has no influence on climate whatsoever. Amazon Tipping Point

    That long held dogma however has been well alive in IPCC reports AR1 until AR5 and is still well alive apparently in AR6 too.

  37. 287

    ab, if you think that the IPCC reports hold that vegetation “has no influence on climate whatsoever” you are certainly mistaken.

    As one random example, not the famous Trenberth-Kiehly diagram, which I’ve linked previously, and which goes back to (IRRC) 1998 in its original incarnation. (That would be between the second and third reports, I think.)

    You’ll note that there’s a significant energy flow from the surface labeled “evapotranspiration”. Transpiration is, of course, a plant process.

    Similarly, researchers have repeatedly investigated the albedo effects of various vegetative surfaces, as well as accounting for CO2 fluxes. If you were to look, you could probably find some examples yourself.

  38. 288
    Al Bundy says:

    Mal laughably claims that few choose tla career in the Earth sciences for the renumeration.

    AB: Dude, they get to work in a cinderblock office! UPPER middle class wages after a mere decade of intense post secondary work spent luxuriously dining on Ramen noodles. And surely a massive 10% (a total guess) get a job in the field.

    Dude, they’re obviously money grubbing scum.

  39. 289
    ab says:

    Mal Adapted @283,
    Scientific culture elevates rigorous empiricism and disciplined mutual skepticism, and scientific training enables students to recognize the multiplicity of causes for all observations and the irreducible uncertainties around all predictions.

    According to you, what is warming the more Earth’s surface:

    1) Near-extinction infrared radiation from the ground that are radiated back by the atmosphere onto the ground

    2) Global deforestation that increases, in the radiative budget, incoming solar radiation and infrared radiation from the ground.

    3) The success of commercial portable barbecues in the XXth century

    PS: as a little hint, only two of them may significantly warm the surface, though one much more than the other.

  40. 290
    mike says:

    don’t forget to feed and water the trolls

  41. 291
    ab says:

    nigeljs @285,
    But your theory about people wanting simple explanations most assuredly applies to a large group of deniers

    Is there any simpler/simplistic and even reductionist explanation than the one saying that “diabolic”, pollutant, invisible, microscopic, trace carbon dioxyde causes global warming and numerous catastrophes to come due to climate change ?

    Doesn’t this simplistic explanation satisfy the large group of people denying that what they eat (animal based foods) is the first cause of environmental destruction, global deforestation, species extinction, air, soil and water pollution, climate change, but also non-communicable diseases, causing billions and billions of dollars in collective costs every day ?

    Economically, the whole agro-chemical industry and most of the pharmaceutical industry are negative externalities of the animal-based agro-industry.

  42. 292

    ab, #291–

    Doesn’t this simplistic explanation satisfy the large group of people denying that what they eat (animal based foods) is the first cause of environmental destruction, global deforestation, species extinction, air, soil and water pollution, climate change, but also non-communicable diseases, causing billions and billions of dollars in collective costs every day ?

    No.

  43. 293

    Those under the impression that Scott Pruitt is a sincere advocate of transparency in science or anything else may wish to consider this data point:

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/06/judge-orders-epa-to-disclose-any-science-backing-up-pruitts-climate-claims/?comments=1&post=35454291&mode=quote

    After all, what harm could there be in simply providing the scientific evidence that CO2 is *not* a primary agent of climatic warming in today’s world? But the EPA refuses to do so, even after a FOIA request, forcing PEER to sue to obtain the information.

    Judge Howell disagreed with [EPA arguments], calling the Agency’s objections “hyperbolic” and saying claims that PEER’s FOIA was unclear “both misplaced and troubling.”

    “The agency asks ‘how is one to even know precisely what documents one relies on in forming one’s beliefs?’” the judge wrote in her brief. “As the plaintiff points out, however, nothing in the FOIA request seeks information ‘about Administrator Pruitt’s beliefs or how they were formed.’” Instead, the FOIA only requests any agency documents that the administrator relied on to formulate his public statement.

    The judge also called it “particularly troubling” that the EPA argued that evidence for a factual statement by the Administrator can be unknowable. “EPA’s strained attempt to raise an epistemological smokescreen will not work here to evade its obligations under the FOIA,” Judge Howell wrote.

    The judge also accused the EPA of engaging in “a thinly veiled effort to make the request more complex and burdensome than it is.”

    Howell concluded: “When the head of an agency makes a public statement that appears to contradict ‘the published research and conclusions of’ that agency, the FOIA provides a valuable tool for citizens… Compliance with such a request would help ‘ensure an informed citizenry, vital to the functioning of a democratic society.’”

  44. 294
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks Kevin, good pointer.

    Of course we know the document Pruitt relies on to formulate his policies. He’s made no secret of the source he relies on.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=pruitt+EPA+bible+Jesus

  45. 295
    Hank Roberts says:

    It’s no secret what document Scott Pruitt has relied on when forming his beliefs.
    Same one VP Pence relies on.

    You can look this stuff up.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Scott+Pruitt%27s+beliefs