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CRU Hack: More context

Filed under: — gavin @ 2 December 2009

Continuation of the older threads. Please scan those (even briefly) to see whether your point has already been dealt with. Let me know if there is something worth pulling from the comments to the main post.

In the meantime, read about why peer-review is a necessary but not sufficient condition for science to be worth looking at. Also, before you conclude that the emails have any impact on the science, read about the six easy steps that mean that CO2 (and the other greenhouse gases) are indeed likely to be a problem, and think specifically how anything in the emails affect them.

Update: The piece by Peter Kelemen at Columbia in Popular Mechanics is quite sensible, even if I don’t agree in all particulars.

Further update: Nature’s editorial.

Further, further update: Ben Santer’s mail (click on quoted text), the Mike Hulme op-ed, and Kevin Trenberth.

1,285 Responses to “CRU Hack: More context”

  1. 751
    manacker says:

    Doug Bostrom (741)

    You asked for my thoughts on the temperature record and the side effects of increased atmospheric CO2.

    The globally and annually averaged land and sea surface temperature record is a bit of a mess, with all the possible UHI distortions, ex post facto corrections, variance adjustments, etc., but it’s what we have, so I cannot argue with that.

    It shows that we have gone through several multi-decadal warming/cooling cycles (about 60 years per total cycle) since the modern record began around 1850, with an underlying warming trend of around 0.04°C per decade, as we have emerged from a generally cooler period ending in the 19th century, called the Little Ice Age.

    It takes a bit of a “leap of faith” to discern a direct correlation between this record and the record of atmospheric CO2, which began in the late 1950s, and has shown a steady increase.

    It has been said that the late 20th century warming period cannot be explained by the climate models without anthropogenic forcing, but this is not very conclusive, inasmuch as neither the equivalent early 20th century warming nor the late 19th century warming can be explained by the models.

    There are apparently still many things that climate scientists do not understand about what drives our climate, which I can accept. After all, they are only human.

    One side effect of increased atmospheric CO2 seems to be an increase in the growth rate of certain crops and trees, which is probably not a bad thing.

    Ocean acidification (technically a misnomer, since the ocean is alkaline and it is actually a miniscule reduction of oceanic alkalinity we are talking about) does not worry me very much since the observed changes are quite small (plus very difficult to measure at all) and some studies have shown that stabilizing feedback processes may have acted to reduce the ocean-alkalinity and carbon dioxide fluctuations in the geological past.

    In looking at the optimistically estimated total fossil fuel deposits on our planet, I see that these could cause an increase to slightly below 1000 ppmv in the atmosphere when they have all been consumed (150+ years from now?), and I also see that without the inclusion of positive (or negative) feedbacks from model simulations, this would result in a theoretical GH warming of around 1.3°C at equilibrium, so I am not too concerned about that either.


  2. 752
    manacker says:

    Doug Bostrom

    Your attempted booby trap backfired, Doug. As I have already told you, I have no opinion whatsoever on the “Medieval Acidification Period”, which you cited, but there are Google references to this, including this study from Sweden.



  3. 753
    manacker says:

    Timothy Chase (742)

    You asked:

    “Actually I believe the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report has been recommended to you previously. Have you gotten around to reading it yet?”

    Yes. Intensively. Long before blogging here.

    It is an interesting “sales pitch” for the AGW premise, with a lot of projections based on computer model simulations and other good stuff showing that it has warmed over the 20th century, that sea levels have continued to rise over the entire period, that Arctic sea ice has shrunk since satellite records started in 1979, etc.

    But this is not conclusive evidence, based on empirical data derived from physical observations, to support the premise that AGW (caused principally by human CO2 emissions) is a potentially serious threat, and that is what I requested SA to provide.


  4. 754
    CM says:

    Now the thread’s getting literary, I actually have a highly topical reading tip for when you have an hour to kill: Ibsen’s Enemy of the People.

    Not one of his best, but in light of the current backlash against climate scientists, the satire seems rather acute and the characters easy to put faces on. It’s got the naive public-spirited scientist with an intemperate pen, the weather-vane liberal journalist, the ‘compact majority’ spokesman who is all for the environment but ready to disbelieve in any science that might cost home-owners money, the conservative oligarch who will stop at nothing to protect vested interests, and the twisting of the most innocent private information into proof of wrongdoing. Oh, and the drunk crank spouting nonsense at the town meeting, which certainly sounds familiar.

  5. 755

    Hank, interesting point about the Lewis quote–I’m rather an amateur Lewis scholar myself, and I don’t recall ever reading that quote anywhere. And I’ve read just about everything he ever wrote.

    Since he taught philosophy and was an expert at formal logic, it’s very unlikely he would ever have made an “always” statement like that. Just doesn’t sound like him.

  6. 756
    Deech56 says:

    Max, Mencken also wrote, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

  7. 757
    CM says:

    Kate (#729, re: “grafting”), I left a couple of pointers on your blog to pertinent previous responses by Mike and Gavin inline in these comments:

  8. 758
    Theo Hopkins says:

    On “tricks” and “hide the decline”.

    Somewhere (now lost) RClimate linked to a Nature article (paper?) on the divergence of tree ring data and observed recent temperatures. I could only access the abstract, and to my pea brain, I couldn’t make head nor tail of the abstracts _and its conclusion_. Perhaps I was having a bad hair day.

    Could someone explain in their own words?

  9. 759
    Frank Brunner says:

    @Hank 674: [[You have missed an important civics lesson, Max. Representatives are elected to make informed choices, not to be puppets of whatever idea is most popular momentarily.

    And that’s why any representative democracy has divided powers–to moderate the short-term notions that can arouse people to do stupid and execrable things.]]

    This is a sound argument for why governments should do nothing in response to the climate change hysterics, nee global warming hysterics.

    Climate change is the most popular idea around right now. It’s a short term-notion that can arouse people to do stupid and execrable things. I think, however, that you seek to tar the other side of the argument with the popular brush.

    That reminds me of when Mary Pipher published “Reviving Ophelia,” accusing MTV of perpetrating all sorts of reprehensible self-image crimes against young girls. In fact, MTV was politically in 100% agreement with Pipher.

    I may be reading you wrong, but you seem to be missing the fact that climate change is the popular notion. In the US, the political left, always sympathetic to your larger-government means-ends and sometimes sympathetic to your statistical arguments, is in control of both legislative branches, the executive branch, and four or five ninths of the judicial branch. They were put there, albeit indirectly in the case of the judicial branch, by popular vote.

    Please stop implying that the fossil fuel industry is popular.

  10. 760
    Liam says:

    You’ve stated that the “hide the decline” email was taken out of context, and now Steve McIntyre has put it in context in his latest post on Climate Audit. It looks pretty serious to me. Any comments on that?

    [Response: He’s not seeing the wood for the tree rings. There were three reconstructions at that time – each representing slightly different targets (hemispheric means vs. land-only, summer vs. annual temps etc.), and had been calibrated differently. As you can see from the draft figure, they didn’t at first appear coherent – that is clearly a problem (which is what they were talking about). Is that a real incoherence though? or is it because of the slightly different treatment in the calibrations? That required more work to see, and much of it was, in fact, because of that. Very little of the discussion being picked over by CA has anything to do with the post-1960 issue in the Briffa data. The greater number of reconstructions in the AR4 (figure 6.10) obviously give a better sense of the structural uncertainty in these things which you couldn’t get with only 3 of them. – gavin]

  11. 761

    Frank, you appear to have missed something yourself.

    That is, you appear to think that the mainstream climate science is a short term, popular idea.

    The reality is that it is a much more mature, firmly-rooted scientific theory than you imagine. The first paper on the greenhouse effect (not yet so-called) dates to 1824; CO2 and H2O were first identified as the primary substances involved in 1861; and the first mathematical model of CO2-driven atmospheric warming dates to 1896.

    A more comprehensive account–beautifully done, with hyperlinked text–is “The Discovery of Global Warming.” It is found here (as well as under the “Science Links” on the RC sidebar.

    Twenty “classic” papers on climate science, starting with Fourier 1824, can be accessed at this site:

    I hope you’ll check these sources out; you’ll be much better equipped to assess whether or not there are, in fact, “climate change hysterics”–and, if there are, WHO they are.

  12. 762
    Barbara A. Slavinsky, PhD says:

    Mister Brunner,

    What planet have you been living on? Climate change has been a deep concern among scientists for over half a century.

    Many industry/large corporation interests have been quieting, smearing, distorting, falsifying, etc., the scientific empirical evidence that we are in a global warming crisis, and finally, the popular notion the corporations have created is being disrobed.

    We are happy to receive creatures from other planets. Perhaps you can educate us on why there is no global warming on our planet, as we educate you on why our planet is in serious crisis, where we have a moral obligation to the children (and their progeny) that we have created.

    Earth humans, including scientists, may not always put things logically, especially if they are paid off to falsify information (yes, Earth humans have many faults).
    But we have, fortunately, been able to overcome, in many instances, the frailty of Earth humans, because we do have science which has been working pretty well: it has landed us on our Moon, taken satellites far to the edges of our Galaxy, and provided us (and you) with the computers we are using.

    There is something interesting in your gross assumptions about left-wing politics v. the un-tampered with scientific evidence that has, fortunately, been winning out.
    Perhaps there are certain different conditions on your planet that you could compare with us to help us with our serious problem.

    No need to apologize, as we humans have our frailties, we can accept an honest mistake from you, come to terms with the truth of Earth’s global warming, and, I hope, either learn from you, or, perhaps, give you information that may prevent the same sort of global warming from happening on your planet.

    Live long and prosper, Mister Brunner,
    Concerned Citizen of the U.S. of American, and of Earth

  13. 763
    CM says:


    I’m wondering what kind of evidence you’re demanding that the IPCC does not already provide in spades. It rings odd to require conclusive evidence … from physical observations… that a threat is potentially serious. With an unprecedented threat, truly conclusive evidence will surely be available too late, when the threat has become actual. Requiring that kind of evidence to take action sounds like poor risk management. So, sorry if this has been asked before, but how about you spell out, “fossil rabbits in the Precambrian”-style, what kind of evidence might actually satisfy you?

  14. 764
    Phil. Felton says:

    manacker says:
    11 December 2009 at 4:08 AM
    Timothy Chase (742)

    You asked:

    “Actually I believe the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report has been recommended to you previously. Have you gotten around to reading it yet?”

    Yes. Intensively. Long before blogging here.

    It is an interesting “sales pitch” for the AGW premise, with a lot of projections based on computer model simulations and other good stuff showing that it has warmed over the 20th century, that sea levels have continued to rise over the entire period, that Arctic sea ice has shrunk since satellite records started in 1979, etc.

    But this is not conclusive evidence, based on empirical data derived from physical observations, to support the premise that AGW (caused principally by human CO2 emissions) is a potentially serious threat, and that is what I requested SA to provide.

    No you’re weaseling and doing a ‘bait and switch’. SA posted about “anthropogenic causation” for which you demanded evidence. SA provided that evidence, but now you say that you asked for evidence that “AGW (caused principally by human CO2 emissions) is a potentially serious threat”, which you did not!

  15. 765
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Please stop implying that the fossil fuel industry is popular.”

    They’re well funded and loud, however.

    And both parties are bought and sold. There are SOME hold-outs for the old ways of honour and probity, and that is on BOTH sides, but they are very much the minority.

    So the more money you have, the bigger voice.

  16. 766
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I understand the fears of “libertarians” about government action to address climate change. I worry about the government controlling my life, too.”

    I take it that each and every libertarian is a volunteer in the army, so that they don’t have to rely on government intervention in the protection of their country.


  17. 767

    “Both sides are bought and sold?”

    Hmm. Who’s buying the mainstream science–or rather, “what” are the funders buying from mainstream scientists?

    If it’s honest work and analysis, no problem. Certainly, there can be (and are at times) research “fads”, but that’s a far cry from the Heartland Institute offering cash for any anti-AGW paper, as they are documented to have done.

    The fact that contrarian papers do continue to get published shows that you needn’t hew a party line just to survive–no matter how much umbrage at the most egregiously bad science was revealed by the hack. It doesn’t appear to me that the mainstream science is “bought and sold” in the negative sense.

    I do agree that transparency is needed; it’s a truism that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and while I think that standard has been met, by and large, in the purely scientific realm, there is perhaps an analogy to that in the sociological realm. That is, it may well be that climate science is going to have to operate in a metaphorical glass house, going forward. The claims of the significance of that research are very large; the consequences are extremely grave; and people need to be clear on their basis, validity and limitations. That does seem both fair and inescapable.

    Unfortunately, the conduct of the anti-consensus argument has been anything but transparent; rather, the strategy has been to muddy the waters at every opportunity. As “CFU” says, they’ve been “well funded and loud.” Not to mention unscrupulous.

  18. 768
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Hmm. Who’s buying the mainstream science–or rather, “what” are the funders buying from mainstream scientists?”

    That was in response to someone talking about the politicians.

  19. 769
    Rod B says:

    Max (750), I’m with you on most things but have to demur on a secondary point about “people as a whole.” Never underestimate the stupidity of a crowd nor the potential irrationality/insanity of a large group.

    [Response: Or indeed of an individual. – gavin]

  20. 770
    Leighton says:

    Re # 766 (Completely Fed Up)

    I would love to explain to you how thoroughly your comment (rhetorical question) misunderstands libertarian views. But undoubtedly Gavin would rule that OT. I’m mindful that you’re “completely fed up” with viewpoints lacking in a factual basis, but please try to consider that the issue can be bi-directional.

  21. 771
    Geoff Wexler says:

    BBC Radio 4’s investigation into the hacked emails.

    The Report by Simon Cox (30 mins.)

    It will be here, for about 6 more days.

    My immediate reaction.

    1.It is supposed to be based on 3,000 messageses. I have seen that figure before, does that exhaust the list? Is that consistent with the size of the hack in Mb?
    2. First impressions are what stay in most people’s minds and it starts with strong allegations attributed to moderate and extreme critics. Not of all these are mentioned again.
    3. It does allow space to both sides .
    4. The various topics are run consecutively with little or no flags between, so that the listener can easily get confused. Judith Curry is quoted being critical.but will the listener know whether she is talking about the recent instrumental records or the hockey stick constructions and if the latter which ones? This affects the meaning. She argues that this will affect climate models and hence future projections of warming.
    5. Uncritical use of populist proxies for temperature such as vineyards and skating on the Thames.
    6. “Squabbling between climate camps”. I think this referred to arguments betwwen different hockey players rather than those contrarians who are playing a quite different game.But it was not made clear.
    7. Any ambiguity is bound to be exploited. I hope the pending university enquiries will try to avoid this in their final reports.
    8. There was reference to a piece of spin (from the past)near the end. I don’t approve of that, but it has nothing to do with the science or with anything sackable.

  22. 772
    Rod B says:

    Completely Fed Up (765), and can I conclude this is why Congress routinely beats the hell out of the oil companies?

  23. 773
    manacker says:

    CM (763)

    Tou wrote: “I’m wondering what kind of evidence you’re demanding that the IPCC does not already provide in spades.”

    Sorry. It is up to the supporters of the AGW premise that (a) the observed global warming is principally caused by human emissions of CO2 and (b) that this is a potentially serious threat to choose and present empirical evidence, based on physical observations, to support this premise.

    IPCC has demonstrated that it has warmed since 1850 in multi-decadal spurts, that sea levels have risen since the tide gauge record started, that Arctic sea ice has melted since 1979, that atmospheric CO2 has risen since Mauna Loa measurements started, etc.

    This is largely based on good, solid physical observations.

    But IPCC has not been able to show conclusively based on empirical data (as opposed to climate model simulations) that the climate changes were caused by the increased CO2 or that these are a potentially serious threat.

    And that was my point.


    [Response: So basically you are insisting that attribution is impossible, and therefore nothing can ever be done. Why do I say that? Because the attribution of singular events absolutely requires some kind of model for you to have an idea of what would have happened absent the proposed cause. For a neutral example, explain to me how you would attribute the two year cooling event caused by Pinatubo without some kind of model. How do we know it wasn’t just internal variability? – gavin]

  24. 774
    manacker says:

    Rod B (769)

    Or of a well-meaning, but misdirected, government (check C.S, Lewis quote).

  25. 775
    Patrick 027 says:

    Oh…, Max –

    “(check C.S, Lewis quote).” – so it is physically impossible for there to ever be a problem that requires government action?

    “It is up to the supporters of the AGW premise that (a) the observed global warming is principally caused by human emissions of CO2” [and CH4, etc, minus net cooling of aerosols, etc.] “and (b) that this is a potentially serious threat to choose and present empirical evidence, based on physical observations, to support this premise. ”

    Done and Done.

    Sorry it may have gone over your head or wasn’t on TV when you had it on. But it can’t be up to ‘us’ to force people to listen to us when we speak, etc. We can’t be largely responsible for other’s ignorance and/or stupidity.

  26. 776

    Max #717 Read further down in the comments at the link you gave, to find out what may really be going on… But my point was different: the dollar amount hardly matters. If corporations are not paying their full tax rate, then the other taxpayers are picking up an extra share of the cost of government. So then, WHATEVER a corporation spends money on — shoes, shorts, shirts, anti-global warming think-tanks and policy entrepreneurs and propaganda, perhaps — is being subsidized by the other taxpayers.

    This argument is no more arbitrary than your argument, with the exception that it is how most economists would look at it, I think. As the corporations might say, “It’s all coming out of your pocket, anyway.”

    And it is separate from your OTHER misconception in this same argument, i.e. that the intentions of the climatologists are “pro” global warming in the same way that the denialists are “anti.”

    No real scientist, nor anyone else in their right mind, wishes that global warming were true.

    Their basic question is why the temperature hockey stick matches the CO2 hockey stick. Radiation physics sounds like a good reason.

    If you can prove another forcing, bring it on.

    Denialists make TWO faulty attributions: one about climate forcings, the other about scientists’ motives.

  27. 777
    Greg says:


    I’m no scientist, so take this with a grain of salt.

    Do you not regard the absorption of infrared radiation by greenhouse gases (such as CO2, H2O, CH4, etc.) as a physical basis for anthropogenic global warming? This physical basis was hypothesized over a hundred years ago by Svante Arrhenius, and has been confirmed (albeit not as he hypothesized) by analysis of changes in outgoing longwave radiation between now (or at least recent years) and the 70s.

    Incoming and outgoing radiation is all that significantly impacts the Earth’s total heat content. What is it that you believe makes up for CO2’s absorption of outgoing radiation? How does the heat content of the Earth remain the same despite changes induced by anthropogenic gases?

  28. 778
    RaymondT says:

    I am mostly skeptical of the interpretation by the economists of the “projections” of 1.5 C to 6 C warming in 2100 shown in IPCC reports. In their risk analysis the economists have to put a price on the uncertainty in the climate models. These models have shown that they have some qualitative ability of predicting warming trends in the upper troposhere and cooling of the stratosphere but have not been tested in their ability to quantitatively model temperature on a multi-decadal scale in order to directly show the sensitivity to long term CO2 radiative forcing on global temperature. My understanding is that we do not have good numerical simulations of the multi-decadal climate over a few decades. Using initial ocean temperature and salinity measurements, which are only starting to be available, and the boundary radiative forcings, climatologists should be able to obtain real estimates of the effect of the CO2 forcing in 10 to 20 years which would be the time required for the ocean temperatures to equilibrate. My question then is how do explain to economists the uncertainty in your climate models ? And to the economists, how do you then put a price on that uncertainty ? It seems somehow that the risks have been greatly exagerated by the media since I just got an email from a journalist in charge of a scientific radio show claiming that the risk of AGW is the survival of the species !!!

  29. 779
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Comment by manacker — 11 December 2009 @ 3:53 AM

    “Your attempted booby trap backfired…”

    Oh, my. An attempted booby trap! You appear to see conspiracies everywhere.

    This of course is coming from the person who said in reference to AGW: “Use your common sense. It’s all a hoax.”

    A hoax. All of it. GRACE, tide gauges, tree rings, atmospheric C02 content, sea surface temperature, species population shifts over latitude and altitude, ocean acidification, ice thinning/retreat, expansion of the atmosphere, the whole kit and kaboodle. All a hoax, maintained in near perfect secrecy despite the participation of thousands of persons.

    Stop for a moment and consider your appearance, Max. You’re quite capable of humiliating yourself without any assistance from others. You do it frequently here, in public, voluntarily. Nobody need shove you; you jump willingly into your role.

    “I have no opinion whatsoever on the “Medieval Acidification Period”, which you cited, but there are Google references to this, including this study from Sweden.”

    To be precise, I did not “cite” the “MAP”, I made it up, out of whole cloth. The “MAP” is a joke. Apparently desperate to maintain your hermetic detachment from reality, it seems you scurried away to Google without pausing to consider the absurdity of the term and found many spurious hits. The conflations included the usual scattering of crumbs allowing you to construct a superficially plausible reason why the MAP (if it had existed) was yet another comforting precedent for why we should not worry about AGW.

    The article you mention describes the historical pH record of lake sediments during a period spanning the Middle Ages and beyond. Careful reading reveals no actual “MAP” concept, of course.

    I should not really be surprised that “coincidence” is a foreign concept for folks who can’t discern the convergence of multiple independent streams of theory and observation into a single overarching conclusion. The mystery is how the same people can see all of that and yet come up with the more unlikely premise of a giant global conspiracy, a “hoax” of absurd proportions. It’s suggestive of some kind of sad pathology.

  30. 780
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 773

    If the energy from the increase of GHGs in the atmosphere didn’t do anything, where did the energy go? and how did it go there without doing anything? manacker is postulating at least one other energy source. What could those possibly be? One of them has to be big enough to swell the oceans by thermal expansion. An energy source that big and persistent would have to be noticed.

  31. 781
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 772

    “Completely Fed Up (765), and can I conclude this is why Congress routinely beats the hell out of the oil companies?”

    If this is torture, nail me to the wall.

  32. 782
    Deep Climate says:

    At the request of a couple of readers, I’ve taken a closer look at McIntyre’s ludicrous assertion that he has “discovered” the “context” for “hide the decline”.

    This so-called Climategate is really getting out of hand, isn’t it?

    Steve McIntyre has published allegations – twice now – that an internal IPCC authors’ debate about the inclusion of Briffa’s tree-ring reconstruction in a key figure from the 2001 WG1 Third Assesement Report was driven by concern about the post-1960 “decline” in tree-ring widths, a decline that showed a marked divergence with the instrumental tempertaure record. McIntyre even claims that lead author Michael Mann worried that showing the series with this decline would give “fodder” to “skeptics”.

    But even a cursory examination of the emails in question shows that the discussion was really about other aspects of the reconstruction, specifically obvious discrepancies between Briffa’s reconstruction and the other two under consideration over the major part of the reconstruction’s length. Thus, once again, McIntyre’s speculations are shown to be utterly without foundation. Even worse, McIntyre left out intervening sentences within the actual proffered quotes in what appears to be an unsophisticated attempt to mislead.

  33. 783
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the political left, always sympathetic to your larger-government means-ends, has control …

    Your politics doesn’t change the physics or the biology.
    You post endless PR and never seem to learn anything about the science.

    We’re trying to educate people across the whole range of political notions.
    Making political decisions without understanding what science can tell us got us to the current situation.

    Look at what happened to the codfish ; that’s what politics does by ignoring the science.

    You think the fisheries biologists were leftists? They wanted some fish left, that’s all.

  34. 784
    john byatt says:

    just wondering if the repeated call “we want the truth” in the emails
    is perhaps taken out of context. must agree though , having debated creationists for over 12 months to have their creation science crap removed from science sections of regional libraries {beat them} i find the current discourse oh so similar , what dont they understand about “start here”

  35. 785
    manacker says:

    Kevin McKinney (767)

    “If it’s honest work and analysis, no problem.”

    I agree.

    We just have to watch out that we do not assign moralistic “good and evil” labels to the various studies of all sorts and conclusions that are out there.

    We also have to watch for “agenda driven science” from both camps.

    Most of all, we have to avoid falling into the trap that Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd C. Blankfein fell into when he proclaimed, “we are doing God’s work”.


  36. 786
    manacker says:

    Gavin (773)

    “So basically you are insisting that attribution is impossible, and therefore nothing can ever be done.”

    No, Gavin. Definitive attribution may not be possible today, but that does not mean that it could not be so some day in the future, as there are scientific breakthroughs and/or we learn more.

    Just my take on this.


    [Response: Ok, so go through the steps that are sufficient to prove (to you) that Pinatubo caused two years of cooling – that was well within limits of internal variability, and you wouldn’t want to be using some lame correlation/causation argument of course. This is a serious request. – gavin]

  37. 787
    CM says:

    manacker (#773),

    If I understand you correctly, you say you don’t have to spell out what proof you require since it’s up to “supporters of the AGW premise” to come up with proof for their position. But enough such proof has already been provided, and passed scrutiny by an intergovernmental review panel, that this position is now the mainstream scientific consensus. You personally may not be satisfied, but frankly, noone is obliged to prove this to your personal satisfaction. If you would require people to make that effort, I think the onus is on you to first convince us that your standard of evidence is a reasonable one. I’m not convinced. At the very least, you need to state clearly what that standard is, so you cannot simply move the goalposts as we go along.

    It seems we have two issues: (1) attribution of observed climate change to man-made emissions (2) potentially serious nature of future man-made climate change. Let’s stick with attribution for now.

    To come at this from a slightly different angle than Gavin’s inline point (superfluous as it may be): I think you are making a false opposition between “empirical observations” and “climate model simulations”. Perhaps I misunderstand you, but you seem to claim that the IPCC attributes recent climate change to CO2 based on models, not observations. But attribution as discussed by the IPCC is about both: testing observed spatio-temporal patterns of climate change for consistency with modelled patterns. What is un-empirical about that?

  38. 788
    kevin king says:

    John Mashey.
    Only 15 years i’m afraid but enough that I can recognise
    sloppy software when I see it. I never said agile
    was a new concept. Just like IOC and dependency injection
    it’s been around along time and wasn’t invented by Google.
    Perhaps you’re right and I don’t appreciate the
    difference between software development and code
    researchers write to analyse data. But it does sound and
    look somewhat cavalier and amateurish particularly in
    this case.

    I guess it was drilled into me to annotate code and
    use sensible naming conventions but then I
    started coding using strongly typed languages on Solaris boxes
    in medium sized teams.

    I would suggest that doing the simple things first
    makes doing the more difficult things easier.
    I automate as much as I can and start off every project
    thinking this way. Another important point is not to reinvent
    the wheel every time you start a new project.

    Surely at some point the guy who coded the stuff that has
    been leaked/stolen will have to hand the code over to
    somebody else or at least explain to his colleagues what it does?
    I gave a presentation this week to a large group of people
    at an international telecommunications company
    who are looking to implement a global solution using ROC.
    Part of the job involves communicating ideas and doing it
    in a clear and logical way. The presentation will end up
    as one of the artifacts in the delivery of the final solution.
    How would the hacker who put this code together do this? Okay I forgot…he would tell
    them to start from scratch in order to understand the algorithm….

    I think this is probably enough said on this issue. We’re
    neve going to agree.

  39. 789
    manacker says:

    Barton Paul Levenson

    The C.S. Lewis quotation:

    Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    apparently comes from “God in the Dock”, p. 292. See:


  40. 790
    David B. Benson says:

    RaymondT (778) — Read Peter Ward’s “Under a Green Sky”. That actually happened in the remote past and could happen again; the potential risk is indeed existential.

  41. 791
    SecularAnimist says:

    manacker quoted C.S. Lewis: “It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”

    Yeah, that’s what the robber barons are always telling us. Funny thing about that.

    In any case, working to stop global warming has nothing whatever to do with being a “moral busybody”.

    It has to do with preventing human civilization from collapsing into ruin during the lifetimes of people now living.

    If that offends your “libertarian” sensibilities I don’t know what to say to you.

    “Give me liberty or give me death” was the cry of a patriot.

    “Give me liberty or give six billion people death” is the cry of a sociopathic idiot.

  42. 792
    JLS says:

    David, on your (669)

    [The science supporting atmospheric CO2 == AGW is impeccable, thoroughly researched, and eseentially all done by 1979. Please read the summary of..

    Outcomes are already dismal in areas depending upon glacial meltwater. In addition, we are already seeing some of the 1 K predictions from Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”…]

    If I may point to the 1979 BASC Assessment post-analysis:

    Summary and Conclusions
    “…However, we have not examined anew the many uncertainties in these projections, such as their implicit assumptions with regard to the workings of the world economy and the role of the biosphere in the carbon cycle. These impose an uncertainty beyond that arising from our necessarily imperfect knowledge of the manifold and complex climatic system of the earth…”

    On the science, at least as of 1979 it appears to be not as thorough and fully baked as those at the cusp of controversial decisions would like to see. Difficult to defend weighting as the default, and thus not “impeccable” from an OR POV. OTOH, in a field rife with stellar simulations yet less than scintillating data provenance, the bar may need to be of another order epistemologically and IIRC this can be factored.

    On the onset of probable dismal outcomes, which are always of great political concern, if these can be risk-assessed as positively predicted (preferably of strong experimental domain) or at least highly correlated with converged analytical product derived from prior simulation output then you have a case defensible from a systems standpoint.

    So focus on the latter, if it does the trick for you. As I’m beginning to see compelling arguments for climate modelling when done competently, it would for me.

  43. 793
    Hank Roberts says:

    > On the science, at least as of 1979

    Have you learned anything since 1979?
    Do you imagine the climate researchers have not?
    Pick your favorite 1979 study.
    Put its cite into Scholar and read what’s new.

    Meanwhile, watch for Manacker’s response to Gavin about Pinatubo, a comparable challenge.

  44. 794
    JLS says:


    on your (675):
    [Wrong. Anthropogenic causation has been empirically confirmed…]

    At which point my old lament interjects – sadly we cannot expect a holistically-devised experiment at scale, whereas an uncontrolled one we already have…

    […Outcomes are already “emerging dismally”… …All of this is already happening, rapidly, as a result of the anthropogenic global warming.

    If it isn’t already too late to stop it, then if we wait for things to get any more “dismal” than they already are, it surely will be too late.]

    We can learn much reviewing the lessons of those who first encountered the need for analytic approaches to decision-making upon confronting existential threats in bounded conditions under great uncertainty. These were the think-tank fellows who had to “think the unthinkable” and deal with the possibility of unrestrained nuclear warfare. They had it much worse – the “data” sources were in opposed territory and enemy gatekeepers were motivated to mask and obfuscate their processes and undo the work of the “collectors” and back-end analysts through covert and propaganda means. But through systematic examination of the weaknesses in their premises, in the scenario fudges and questionable data, they were able to engender better-grounded decisions as a result.

  45. 795
    JLS says:

    on your (664)

    [If you’re not familiar with Spencer Werts “The Discovery of Global Warming” page, I’d encourage you to spend some time reading it.]

    I’ve learning much, the theory section where much of the advanced physics is nicely explained is particularly useful. And the links appear updated. Thanks!

  46. 796


    For Lewis’s apologetics, the best are probably Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and Miracles. For fiction, his best work is the practically unknown “Till We Have Faces,” but his Narnia and Outer Space series are also good. For his professional work, “The Allegory of Love” is tough but rewarding, as is “Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama.” “The Discarded Image” is the best introduction to the scholarly medieval worldview I’ve ever read.

  47. 797

    Max: It takes a bit of a “leap of faith” to discern a direct correlation between this record and the record of atmospheric CO2

    BPL: Look again:

  48. 798
    isotopious says:


    While manacker is busy with homework, can Real Climate prove that internal variability is unforced?

    Please note, you wouldn’t want to be using some lame ‘no cause, no effect’ argument of course.

  49. 799
    Rod B says:

    Gavin (769), that’s true, of course. But a large crowd going insanely stupid is much more likely, even if no one individual in the crowd is otherwise sane and not stupid.

  50. 800
    Ron Taylor says:

    Manacker your argument in 773 sounds very much like the arguments of the tobacco companies that there was no proof that smoking causes lung cancer. There as here, the argument carries the implicit assumption that “proof” means 100% certainty. That is a mathematical concept, not a scientific one.