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Just the facts?

In the wake of the appalling mass shootings last weekend, Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the pre-eminent scientist/communicator in the US) tweeted some facts that were, let’s just say, not well received (and for which he kind of apologised). At least one of the facts he tweeted about was incorrect (deaths by medical errors are far smaller). However, even if it had been correct, the overall response would have been the same, because the reaction was not driven by the specifics of what was said, but rather by the implied message of the context in which it was said. This is a key feature (or bug) of communications in a politicized environment, and one that continues to trip up people who are experienced enough to know better.

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Koonin’s case for yet another review of climate science

We watch long YouTube videos so you don’t have to.

In the seemingly endless deliberations on whether there should be a ‘red team’ exercise to review various climate science reports, Scott Waldman reported last week that the original architect of the idea, Steve Koonin, had given a talk on touching on the topic at Purdue University in Indiana last month. Since the talk is online, I thought it might be worth a viewing.

[Spoiler alert. It wasn’t].

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The best case for worst case scenarios

The “end of the world” or “good for you” are the two least likely among the spectrum of potential outcomes.

Stephen Schneider

Beware the worst case scenario

Scientists have been looking at best, middling and worst case scenarios for anthropogenic climate change for decades. For instance, Stephen Schneider himself took a turn back in 2009. And others have postulated both far more rosy and far more catastrophic possibilities as well (with somewhat variable evidentiary bases).

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References

  1. S. Schneider, "The worst-case scenario", Nature, vol. 458, pp. 1104-1105, 2009. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/4581104a

The Climate Scientists are Alright

Filed under: — group @ 22 January 2019

Guest commentary from Eric Guilyardi (IPSL) and Valérie Masson-Delmotte (IPSL/IPCC)

[This is a translation of an article in Le Monde (Jan 11).]

In recent weeks in France, there has been a profusion of articles about the “climate scientist blues” (Le Monde 21/Dec, JDD 9/Dec, France Info 26/Sep), which has apparently affecting them “scientifically”. This follows a spate of similar articles in the US and Australian media (Esquire, 2015; The Monthly, 2018; Sierra Club Magazine, 2018). But what is the point of knowing the mood of scientists, or whether so-and-so is optimistic or pessimistic?

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NOAA-thing burger officially confirmed

Filed under: — gavin @ 6 January 2019

Back in February 2017, I wrote about the tediously predictable arc of criticisms of the Karl et al (2015) paper, and in particular the comments of John Bates at Judith Curry’s blog.

an initial claim of imperfection spiced up with insinuations of misconduct, coordination with a breathless hyping of the initial claim with ridiculous supposed implications, some sensible responses refuting the initial specific claims and demolishing the wilder extrapolations. Unable to defend the nonsense clarifications are made that the initial claim wasn’t about misconduct but merely about ‘process’ (for who can argue against better processes?). Meanwhile the misconduct and data falsification claims escape into the wild, get more exaggerated and lose all connection to any actual substance.

The outcome was easy to predict:

the issues of ‘process’ will be lost in the noise, the fake overreaction will dominate the wider conversation and become an alternative fact to be regurgitated in twitter threads and blog comments for years, the originators of the issue may or may not walk back the many mis-statements they and others made but will lose credibility in any case, mainstream scientists will just see it as hyper-partisan noise and ignore it, no papers will be redacted, no science will change, and the actual point (one presumes) of the ‘process’ complaint (to encourage better archiving practices) gets set back because it’s associated with such obvious nonsense.

But I missed out the very final outcome which I should have been able to predict too: a report, commissioned from learned experts, who spent months poring over the details (including more than 600,000 emails!) and in the end, concluding there was nothing significantly wrong in anything Karl et al did.

That report has now been made public. [Update: apparently this happened in December]

In it the authors make some sensible recommendations to clean up the thicket of conflicting requirements at NOAA for publishing science papers, they spot one mistake made by Karl et al (submitting to Science the day before the NOAA internal review was officially completed), but overall find no substance to the allegations of “thumbs on the scale”, no improper interference by politicians, no rush to publish to influence political discussions, no data tampering, no missing archives. Nothing.

But there is one curious revelation. It turns out that the person in charge of the NOAA internal review about which John Bates was so concerned was…. John Bates!

And even more curiously:

“The MITRE Committee learned that the internal review, later criticized by Bates, was conducted and approved under his own authority. The MITRE Committee found no evidence that Bates ever mentioned this fact in his blog, email, or anywhere else in his discussion of the matter in public.”

Did he mention this to David Rose or Judith Curry in private perhaps? If so, you’d think that they would have publically said so. If not, it adds one more misrepresentation to the pile.

What a colossal and counter-productive waste of everyone’s time.

References

  1. T.R. Karl, A. Arguez, B. Huang, J.H. Lawrimore, J.R. McMahon, M.J. Menne, T.C. Peterson, R.S. Vose, and H. Zhang, "Possible artifacts of data biases in the recent global surface warming hiatus", Science, vol. 348, pp. 1469-1472, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaa5632

Scientists: Resolve to Protect Yourself from Harassment in 2019

Filed under: — group @ 6 December 2018

Guest commentary by Lauren Kurtz

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) protects the scientific endeavor from anti-science attacks. Since our founding in 2011, we’ve assisted hundreds of scientists with issues ranging from invasive open records requests to death threats.

As part of this work, our staff will be at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting from December 10-14, offering free legal services to scientists and leading sessions on how to get involved in the policymaking process and how to be an expert witness.

For those who won’t be at the meeting — and with 2019 around the corner — we put together a list of suggested New Year’s resolutions for scientists. Adopting these best practices will help you reduce your risk of being harassed or attacked.

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Cracking the Climate Change Case

I have an op-ed in the New York Times this week:

How Scientists Cracked the Climate Change Case
The biggest crime scene on the planet is the planet. We know the earth is warming, but who or what is causing it?
Emilia Miękisz

Many of you will recognise the metaphor from previous Realclimate pieces (this is earliest one I think, from 2007), and indeed, the working title was “CSI: Planet Earth”. The process description and conclusions are drawn from multiple sources on the attribution of recent climate trends (here, here etc.), as well the data visualization for surface temperature trends at Bloomberg News.

There have been many comments about this on Twitter – most appreciative, some expected, and a few interesting. The expected criticisms come from people who mostly appear not to have read the piece at all (“Climate has changed before!” – a claim that no-one disputes), and a lot of pointless counter-arguments by assertion. Of the more interesting comment threads, was one started by Ted Nordhaus who asked

My response is basically that it might be old hat for him (and maybe many readers here), but I am constantly surprised at the number of people – even those concerned about climate – who are unaware of how we do attribution and how solid the science behind the IPCC statements is. And judging by many of the comments, it certainly isn’t the case that these pieces are only read by the already convinced. But asking how many people are helped to be persuaded by articles like this is a valid question, and I don’t really know the answer. Anyone?

European climate services take an important leap forward 

An important milestone was passed during the second general assembly of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which took place in Berlin on Sept 24-28 (twitter hashtag '#C3SGA18'). The European climate service has become operational, hosted by the European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts (ECMWF).


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Harde Times

Filed under: — gavin @ 4 April 2018

Readers may recall a post a year ago about a nonsense paper by Hermann Harde that appeared in Global and Planetary Change. We reported too on the crowd-sourced rebuttal led by Peter Köhler that was published last October. Now comes an editorial by three members of the Editorial Board (Martin Grosjean, Joel Guiot and Zicheng Yu) reporting on what the circumstances were that led to the Harde paper appearing.

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References

  1. H. Harde, "Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO2 residence time in the atmosphere", Global and Planetary Change, vol. 152, pp. 19-26, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2017.02.009
  2. P. Köhler, J. Hauck, C. Völker, D.A. Wolf-Gladrow, M. Butzin, J.B. Halpern, K. Rice, and R.E. Zeebe, "Comment on “ Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO 2 residence time in the atmosphere ” by H. Harde", Global and Planetary Change, vol. 164, pp. 67-71, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2017.09.015
  3. M. Grosjean, J. Guiot, and Z. Yu, "Commentary", Global and Planetary Change, vol. 164, pp. 65-66, 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2017.12.023

Alsup asks for answers

Some of you might have read about the lawsuit by a number of municipalities (including San Francisco and Oakland) against the major oil companies for damages (related primarily to sea level rise) caused by anthropogenic climate change. The legal details on standing, jurisdiction, etc. are all very interesting (follow @ColumbiaClimate for those details), but somewhat uniquely, the judge (William Alsup) has asked for a tutorial on climate science (2 hours of evidence from the plaintiffs and the defendents). Furthermore, he has posted a list of eight questions that he’d like the teams to answer.

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