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Bending low with Bated breath

Filed under: — gavin @ 22 December 2018

“Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness…?”

Shylock (Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 3)

As dark nights draw in, the venerable contrarians at the GWPF are still up late commissioning silly pseudo-rebuttals to mainstream science. The latest, [but see update below] which no-one was awaiting with any kind of breath, is by Dr. Ray Bates (rtd.) which purports to be a take-down of the recent #SR15 report. As Peter Thorne (an IPCC author) correctly noted, this report is a “cut-and-paste of long-debunked arguments”. I’ve grown a little weary of diving down to rebut every repetitive piece of nonsense, but this one has a few funny aspects that make it worthwhile to do so.

When they go low, we go “sigh…”.


Peter wrote a short rebuttal himself and notes a remarkable display of chutzpah by Bates. Bates quotes a line from the AR5 SPM:

It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.

And then states “This statement did not necessarily attribute all the observed post-1950 warming to anthropogenic effects”. This is of course true. You actually need to read the next line for that:

The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.

But instead of noting that (or the substantive discussion in Chapter 10 that supported it), he claims that

In contrast to this caution, SR1.5 portrays all the global warming observed since the late 19th century as being human-induced (see Figure 1). This major departure from the Fifth Assessment is presented without any rigorous justification.

This is categorically, absolutely, and totally, untrue. The starting point for SR15 is actually exactly what was in AR5 together with more recent literature. Now, this is not the first time that someone has apparently “misunderstood” these lines. I had a substantial back and forth about them with Judith Curry a few years back (see here, and here). [Unsurprisingly perhaps, she thinks Bates’ report is an “excellent analysis“].

It gets better (and by that I mean worse). Bates then comments on Figure SPM1 of the SR15 and says:

The agreement shown in the figure between the observations (with interannual variations smoothed out) and the mean of the climate simulations (produced by global climate models; GCMs) is close, suggesting that strong confidence can be placed in both the indicated acceleration of the warming and its modelled anthropogenic origin.

… except that, this isn’t what is shown in Fig SPM1 at all. Instead, alongside the observations is an estimate of the attributable warming to anthropogenic effects from Haustein et al. (2017), which is not the ‘mean of GCM simulations’ in any respect.

Fig SPM1 from the IPCC SR15. No CMIP5 model data at all.

It gets even better. Later in Bates’ article, he is quite enamored by the climate sensitivity results of Lewis and Curry (2018) but doesn’t seem to realise that their results assume that all of the trends since the 19th Century are forced. The exact conclusion he rails against in the first section!

The other paper he likes for it’s climate sensitivity work is his own somewhat obscure effort (Bates, 2016), which argues for an ECS near 1K, despite the clear evidence that the planet has already warmed up by that, with a net forcing substantially less than 2xCO2, and with an ongoing energy imbalance (as evidenced by observed increases in Ocean Heat Content). This, to be gentle, is pretty much impossible.

Ocean heat content changes NOAA NODC

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the estimate of OHC that he mentions. He instead pulls another sleight of hand by referencing a result from Laloyaux P., et al. (2018). This is a paper presenting a new (and impressive) coupled data assimilation scheme from ECMWF, but Bates grossly misrepresents the results. The figure he shows is first panel from their figure 10:

Ocean heat content changes in 10 year simulations of the new CERA system over different depths. The drifts in the early decades are an artifact of the coupled model system.

He uses this to claim that “the natural variability of the global SST is greater than had previously been estimated”, when a) this doesn’t show SST (though it is related), b) much of the variance pre-1980 is unphysical model drift, and c) the increases in the full depth OHC actually match direct observational estimated (which is unsurprising since this is a data assimilation exercise).

The rest of the report goes from the sublime (just kidding) to the ridiculous (e.g. using a paper by Nicola Scafetta as an authoritative (!) source – anyone heard of autocorrelation or over-fitting?) and cherry picking the few datasets that minimise current changes. He cut-and-pastes a figure from John Christy that we have oft criticised before. He misreads the climate model tuning paper by Hourdin et al (2017) to claim that all CMIP5 models tuned their results to match the 20th Century trends [Narrator: they did not]. But even if it actually were true, it still wouldn’t impact the results in the first figure he attacks because that doesn’t show the CMIP5 models at all. He appears to be unaware of this.

Overall, this is basically a dialed-in work-for-hire. It’s incoherent, inconsistent, a little bit funny and adds nothing to our understanding of the science behind the SR15 report, or indeed any aspect of the attribution issue.

Since I started with a Shakespearean quote, I’ll finish with another one that is more apropos:

It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5

Update Jan 2019: The original report from Bates (here) has now been replaced with one that tries to fix the more egregious errors, er… I mean that makes “clarifications that arose in the context of discussions with colleagues”. Lol.

References

  1. K. Haustein, M.R. Allen, P.M. Forster, F.E.L. Otto, D.M. Mitchell, H.D. Matthews, and D.J. Frame, "A real-time Global Warming Index", Scientific Reports, vol. 7, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-14828-5
  2. N. Lewis, and J. Curry, "The Impact of Recent Forcing and Ocean Heat Uptake Data on Estimates of Climate Sensitivity", Journal of Climate, vol. 31, pp. 6051-6071, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0667.1
  3. J.R. Bates, "Estimating climate sensitivity using two-zone energy balance models", Earth and Space Science, vol. 3, pp. 207-225, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2015EA000154
  4. P. Laloyaux, E. de Boisseson, M. Balmaseda, J. Bidlot, S. Broennimann, R. Buizza, P. Dalhgren, D. Dee, L. Haimberger, H. Hersbach, Y. Kosaka, M. Martin, P. Poli, N. Rayner, E. Rustemeier, and D. Schepers, "CERA-20C: A Coupled Reanalysis of the Twentieth Century", Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, vol. 10, pp. 1172-1195, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2018MS001273
  5. F. Hourdin, T. Mauritsen, A. Gettelman, J. Golaz, V. Balaji, Q. Duan, D. Folini, D. Ji, D. Klocke, Y. Qian, F. Rauser, C. Rio, L. Tomassini, M. Watanabe, and D. Williamson, "The Art and Science of Climate Model Tuning", Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, vol. 98, pp. 589-602, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00135.1

69 Responses to “Bending low with Bated breath”

  1. 51
    nigelj says:

    Kurt Olney @50

    “Al Gore and Bill Nye the science guy are horrible promoters for anthropogenic global warming or climate change.”

    I’m a liberal and even I admit Al Gore is not ideal:) But he doesn’t have horns growing out of his head and there are many popular books on climate change by other people not involved in politics.

    And Scott Pruitt was insufferably arrogant. There is a lot of arrogance around.

    “It appears that all climate research is funded by the government.”

    Well the other options are pretty limited. Its not something google or amazon would fund is it, and oil companies have that thing called “a conflict of interest”.

    “If you are certain about AGW and the models are correct, then is it possible to create a model that predicts collective human behavior with certainty? If not, then, then it seems like we are looking at the wrong end of the horse.”

    Climate models do not require modelling collective human behaviour as a general rule, only CO2 emissions (etc) and what that does to the atmosphere. In other words modelling collective behaviour would be useful, but is not essential and is a red herring argument.

    You are of course right its hard to model collective human behaviour. Economics models should be modelling collective human behaviour, and do an awful job of it. They make huge and questionable assumptions on how groups behave. But this is a field where its important to model human behaviour.

  2. 52

    KO 50,

    Anyone who mentions Al Gore in a climate debate automatically loses.

  3. 53
    Victor says:

    47
    Kevin McKinney says:

    Victor, #45–

    “I made essentially the same argument some time ago on this forum, only to be dismissed.”

    KM: Not “dismissed”–elaborately and repeatedly debunked in detail, as explained in multiple ways by multiple respondents, and supported by numerous specific references.

    Unsurprisingly, that ‘argument’ is still wrong today.

    V: The same argument is restated in the paper under consideration here, by Dr. Ray Bates, a physicist with a Ph. D. in meteorology and a long long list of peer-reviewed publications (see http://www.raybates.net/scientific-publications.html). What are YOUR qualifications, Kevin?

    And yes, I know, we must take “natural variation” into account when assessing the raw data — but that does NOT mean the raw data can simply be ignored. Nor does it mean that the various attempts to make the data “come out right” can be regarded as evidence — these are theoretical constructs, very far from being proven; actually they have no meaning at all unless one assumes ahead of time that CO2 levels actually do have a significant effect on global temperature trends. In other words they are based on circular reasoning.

    And yes, the many and various attempts to “debunk” the significance of the actual data in favor of that sort of very dubious “reasoning” has never made much of an impression on me. It is, in fact, always possible to introduce additional complicating factors over and above the actual evidence, in an effort to bolster a failing hypothesis. This is why Occam’s Razor is so important. I’ve made that point over and over but trying to be reasonable on this blog is like trying to maintain a sane conversation at the Mad Tea Party.

    Oh, and by the way, Bates has responded very convincingly to Peter Thorne’s attack: https://www.thegwpf.org/bates-reply-to-thorne/

    [Response: “convincingly” depends of course on the level of gullibility. – gavin]

  4. 54

    Victor, #53–

    What are YOUR qualifications, Kevin?

    Hmm, what was that you were saying about ad homs, Victor?

    But I’ll play: my formal qualifications are just about identical to yours. So I guess that’s a wash–or would be, if you weren’t the one making ‘extraordinary claims.’

    But what the heck–I’ll see your Bates with a Gavin Schmidt, and raise you 859 contributors to AR5, WG 1.

  5. 55
    nigelj says:

    Victor says “And yes, I know, we must take “natural variation” into account when assessing the raw data — but that does NOT mean the raw data can simply be ignored. Nor does it mean that the various attempts to make the data “come out right” can be regarded as evidence — these are theoretical constructs, very far from being proven; actually they have no meaning at all unless one assumes ahead of time that CO2 levels actually do have a significant effect on global temperature trends. In other words they are based on circular reasoning.”

    Who is ignoring this raw data? Not scientists. The raw temperature data is adjusted to remove problems like stations being moved, urban heat island influences etc.

    The adjusted global temperature data adjusts temperatures DOWN overall, which should remove any suspicion that scientists are inflating anything to exaggerate warming. Why cant you see this, because its been pointed out enough times? It’s what convinced me that adjustments are reliable. In a few specific countries adjustments are upwards, but for the world as a whole its downwards! You can see it plainly below:

    https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-data-adjustments-affect-global-temperature-records

  6. 56
    Mal Adapted says:

    Gavin, inline to #45:

    No-one disputes that there is internal variability and other forcings apart from GHGs. That Bates (and apparently you) think that is relevant is extermely telling. The fact is that these effects have fingerprints that can be quantified and looked for in the real world. And every time people have done so competently they find that they are not responsible for the long term trends. It’s not hard.

    A gob-smacking rhetorical tactic AGW-deniers share with Evolution-deniers is to insist that the scientific consensus doesn’t address the deniers’ claims, even when a scientist directly presents verifiable evidence that their false. This is consistent with denial in the psychological sense, “in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.” Talking to such people must be as frustrating for climate scientists as it is for evolutionary biologists.

  7. 57
    Victor says:

    #55 nigelj: “Who is ignoring this raw data? Not scientists. The raw temperature data is adjusted to remove problems like stations being moved, urban heat island influences etc.”

    V: I have no problem with such adjustments. As should be clear from my reference to “natural variation,” I was referring to the data as presented AFTER reasonable adjustments have been made. I.e., the sort of data presented in the SR15 report itself. When failure of THAT data to support the AGW dogma has prompted efforts to make additional, dubious adjustments, based, for example, on the attribution of post 1940’s cooling to the effects of industrial aerosol pollution. Speculations regarding such effects are not the same as actual evidence, but are treated as such by “scientists” eager to adjust the evidence to fit their theory.

    In any case, Bates’ complaint was based on the failure of the SR15 report to even
    acknowledge the earlier cooling, at a time when CO2 levels were beginning to soar, by conveniently selecting a starting point of 1960, thus giving the false impression of a steady increase in temperature as CO2 levels rose.

    #54 Kevin: “But I’ll play: my formal qualifications are just about identical to yours. So I guess that’s a wash–or would be, if you weren’t the one making ‘extraordinary claims.’”

    V: Well, first of all, I do happen to have considerable scientific training, though largely focused on the social sciences, such as linguistics, semiotics, ethnomusicology, psychology and anthropology. Do you? Secondly, the comparison was between you and Bates, since he presented essentially the same ‘extraordinary claims.’ You might think it easy to dismiss anything I write, but dismissing someone with Bates’ credentials is a different matter entirely.

  8. 58
    Svt says:

    Gavin, you said: “The fact is that these effects have fingerprints that can be quantified and looked for in the real world”. Can you point me to any resources that discuss the fingerprints of internal variability?

  9. 59
    MartinJB says:

    Victor, to be clear, you have NO experience in the physical sciences, but that’s not why your argument about mid-century cooling can be dismissed. It is dismissed because, as has been explained to you on multiple occasions, it’s wrong. It’s wrong when someone with no relevant credentials makes it. It’s wrong when someone who should know better makes it. Your persistence in this is not to your credit.

  10. 60
    zebra says:

    #57 Victor,

    Having tried to explain the philosophy and principles/rules of science to Victor in the past, I don’t expect this to have any effect, but it seems worth clarifying a common misconception.

    Ockham’s Razor does not tell us what a “correct” explanation is, it is a pragmatic rule to optimize the process of discovery. Certainly, it doesn’t mean “the simplest answer is always right”. Rather, it tells us to work with the explanation that has the fewest assumptions.

    So in the case of a period of lower temperatures, we consider two alternative explanations.

    1. Quantum physics is wrong about the absorption of radiation by CO2 molecules in the atmosphere.

    2. Industrial aerosols are reducing insolation.

    But, we have laboratory evidence that aerosols reflect energy, and that CO2 molecules absorb it. So, which explanation requires fewer assumptions?

    That is, which one requires us to demonstrate yet another phenomenon which is not now part of established physics?

    Number 2 is not at all a “speculation”. It is exactly how science is supposed to work; we explain things based on what we know, and we avoid introducing new concepts for which there is no evidence.

    So, even when we may be approximating the actual quantitative effect, this is clearly the explanation most likely to yield further correct results. That’s what Ockham is telling us.

  11. 61

    Victor, #57–

    Again with the “dismissing” meme?

    You really don’t pay attention, do you?

    And yes, that is itself a rather dismissive comment. But an accurate one, sadly.

  12. 62
    nigelj says:

    Victor @57, we know that when a volcano erupts, the climate cools quite sharply for about a year, due to sulphate aerosols reflecting the suns energy. So given there was a surge of sulphate aerosols from industry after the 1940’s why wouldn’t that also have a cooling effect? Obviously it would, and a great deal of in depth science and hard evidence backs this up.

    As explained at least a dozen times (literally) mid century cooling is easily explained by sulphate aerosols from coal fired power plants, and this effect dissipated by the 1970’s with a) the introduction of appropriate air flltering on the power plants and b) concentrations of accumulating CO2 became substantial enough to overwhelm much of the cooling aerosol effect.

  13. 63
    nigelj says:

    Victor since you have done psychology you should be familiar with confirmation bias etc, because you sure practice a lot of it.

  14. 64
    Dan says:

    re: 57.
    “Well, first of all, I do happen to have considerable scientific training,”

    Well that certainly proves that you have not learned a thing and owe an apology to all those who attempted to teach you. Because you have clearly shown time and time again that you have absolutely no clue or understanding of the scientific method. It has been explained to you many times as it should have been taught to you when you were 12 years old. Yet you failed to learn it. Between you and Mr. KIA the hate enabler, it is classic intellectual laziness. Textbook, actually.

  15. 65
    MA Rodger says:

    Dan @64,
    You think the troll Victor Grauer of Pittsburgh owes his teachers an apology? Myself, I think he should demand his money back, perhaps with additional payment for damages. His teachers have obviously wasted the time of a hopeless student and left said student with the understanding that he had sucessfully undergone “considerable scientific training,” something which is evidently not the case.

  16. 66
    Dan says:

    re:65.

    MA Rodgers, yes, your point is well-taken. However, I would say the teachers wasted their time more than wasting the time of a hopeless student who did not want to learn.

  17. 67

    V 57: failure of THAT data to support the AGW dogma has prompted efforts to make additional, dubious adjustments, based, for example, on the attribution of post 1940’s cooling to the effects of industrial aerosol pollution

    BPL: Whether you like it or not, aerosols in the high atmosphere cool the ground. We have empirical confirmation of that from volcanoes, and we have it from polluted cities. It’s not a tortured attempt to shore up “the AGW dogma,” it’s a legitimate inference from the ramping up of industry for World War II and afterward. Deal with it.

  18. 68
    Mal Adapted says:

    Dennis N Horne:

    There is a difference between appealing to authority and deferring to a consensus of experts.

    Just a reminder: a consensus is not part of doing science, it’s a consequence of doing it right.

    Bates may be a big gun but his ammo is all blank. That’s why he targets the fools who march with the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

    Good comment. As an encyclopaedic non-expert, I don’t know anything but what actual experts tell me. As a rule of thumb, the greater the percentage of experts who tell me the same thing, the more confident I am in the knowledge. The problem is to know who the experts are. For that, I draw on the scientific meta-literacy I’ve acquired as the son of a science professor in a college town, and in my formal education to the ‘semi-doctoral’ level in natural sciences. I was only briefly employed as a scientist before finding an easier way to make a living, however, so I’m at most an over-educated layman. Even so, I know my background isn’t common. I support Nielsen-Gammon’s call for shifting public education in science from shallow literacy to deeper meta-literacy.

    I do, OTOH, disagree with Mr. Horne that “consensus is not part of doing science’. I’d say rather that peer consensus is part of the ‘intersubjective verification’ requirement for scientific progress. Consensus is what cements new justified knowledge into the accumulating foundation for further discovery. Without it, every peer-reviewed report would have to recapitulate all prior work on the topic since Newton, who knew he stood on the shoulders of giants (plural) himself. AFAICT, consensus is essential to scientific progress. When AGW-deniers – and I don’t think Mr. Horne is one – say “consensus isn’t science”, we know they’ve been fooled about how science actually works.

    Finally: as I said earlier, IMHO science is successful to the extent that peers don’t let peers get away with fooling themselves. Genuine climate experts are those who publish their own work and review that of their peers, whom they know by the quality of their work. Gavin Schmidt is eminently qualified to decide who his peers are. We the public must also consider the larger world science is embedded in. Long-term RC regulars are fully apprised of the GWPF’s origins and purposes as a propaganda mill on behalf of fossil fuel billionaires. I presume that most trained, disciplined scientists know enough to shun the GWPF, and am glad some see fit to share their judgment with us. Once again, thank you, Gavin!

  19. 69
    James Charles says:

    Does anyone know if this is correct?

    ” . . . our global society has combusted more fossil fuels in the past 25 years than ever before in history and yet the IPCC report neglected to include the last ten years of emissions in it’s calculations.”

    And,

    ” . . . it takes between 10 and 30 years for CO² that we emit to begin to trap solar heat at the CO²’s maximum potential. Australia’s current heatwaves are being caused by CO² from combustion as far back as 1989.”

    Thanks.