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Climate Crisis — 70 Comments

  1. I am closing this to further comments. Too much Ad hominem (I am probably guilty of that myself! Live and learn…). If you want to continue this discussion, start you own blog…

  2. Pat:

    What an utter and total distortion of what I said anywhere about science. Where once did I intimate that science should lie? What are your ideological driven motives that you would suggest the same?

    Let me ask you point blank about the following:

    Are observed CO2 levels rising in the atmosphere? Are the Keeling data accurate?

    Is there anything wrong with the data that shows we are now spewing 8 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere right?

    Are the data concerning the observed rise in global temperature accurate (you said that they were in your article)?

    So, as you point out correctly in your article, we have a correlation of known facts. And yes we shouldn’t assume causation from that. But at the very least, as reasoned thinkers, shouldn’t we entertain the fact that our actions might be one of the causal factors? Can you bold-faced argue that you know for sure that we aren’t contributing to global fever? If you say, “yes” to that one, you my friend are distorting the facts to suit your agenda. Because, as you rightly point out in your article, scientists are not sure at present.

    Given these facts, “naysayers” have the larger ethical issue to contend with. By distorting the data and the state of current knowledge and suggesting that, “Houston, we don’t have a problem and thereby leading public policy into a position of “do-nothing till you hear from me” you might be exacerbating what most researchers in the field agree is a serious problem threatening our survival.

    Aren’t you in the least curious to see how the experiment might turn out, if we attempted to find cleaner sources of energy, thereby halting the progress of CO2 emissions? And aren’t you curious to see whether, in time, we could lower the global fever? Or are you firmly wedded to your current position that there is nothing to worry about and that all the hype is nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by the greens (socialists?)? Despite your stance on the sanctity of your scientific motives, that would be most unscientific of you.

    Barry

  3. Barry, you wrote (August 3, 2008 at 6:26 am), “How is agreeing that we have a problem in our production and use of non-sustainable energy and that while we don’t have all the answers, a modification of our behaviour is likely in order a misuse of science?

    But that wasn’t what you were suggesting, Barry. When you wrote this …

    “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change should we decide that the planet is warming and/or that the planet is being polluted (and you haven’t argued that we aren’t having an impact on the quality of air and water globally). The strategy for change would be the same…

    … you were suggesting that raising a false alarm about CO2 would be a good thing because it would induce changes we should be making anyway.

    That is wrong on two levels, ethical and programmatic. The ethical problem is twofold. First, your method seriously corrodes the integrity of science. You’re suggesting that scientists lie about a problem with CO2 in order to induce the population to sustainability. Once scientific integrity is gone, how do we get it back? After all, if scientists can lie about your agenda, why can’t they lie about another’s? We’ve all gotten wroth about George Bush’s government attempting to jigger the science about abortion. But they are presumably just as sincere about their ends as you are. So, how do you justify your lies and not yield the ethical ground to them as well? And how will you convince the population the second time around, if there is a real crisis, that this time, you’re not lying?

    We’ve seen time-after-time that large-scale disputes involve science — about silicone breast implants and disease, about vaccines and autism, about abortion and later fertility, yes, about smoking and cancer, evolution and creation, and on and on. If scientists are caught lying about CO2 and climate, and the integrity of science has been hijacked, how will such critically important disputes be adjudicated?

    Second, is you’re proposing that lies are acceptable in service of the greater good. But what is the greater good? Who decides? Your method is exactly that ends justify means. And if you argue that in your particular case this tactic is justifiable, that excuse rests entirely on your subjective judgment that the outcome of the lies will be as you predict they will be. But there are always unexpected consequences, and your powers of prediction are unlikely to be correct because the wrong answers greatly outnumber the right ones. Further, actions taken in the context of an untruth are hardly likely to be the correct actions for a real problem with decidedly different parametric solutions.

    The programmatic problem is that reducing CO2 emissions, apart from reducing coal burning, will have very little impact on pollution abatement. Burning oil, gasoline, and natural gas is not especially problematic because the sulfur and the NOx are already removed from the exhaust stream. Instead, large amounts of money will be spent on expensive alternative energies with their own environmental problems (conveniently overlooked presently), and on sequestering CO2. These will remove the surplus prosperity that could have been used to abate real pollution.

    And so as I see it, your ends justifying means approach is actively destructive, both to our civil society and to the global ecology.

    You wrote, “And where are you going with the conclusion that this reasoned position leads the horrors of Nazism? This seems to be the height of fear-mongering.

    I didn’t write that, Barry. I wrote that ends justifying means is the method of ideologies, including Nazism and Socialism. Here’s what I wrote, “The rights of the proletariat was the end that justified the peacetime murder of about 150 million people during the 20th century. Not to mention the torture of millions more in gulags. Nazism was horrid and Socialism, if anything, was worse. Both were ideologies, and in both ends justified means.

    So, it’s not that ends justifying means leads to Nazism, it’s that ideologies always use ends justifies means. Ideologies always provide all the justification for any means to self-aggrandizement.

    A second response to your sentence above is that your position is not reasoned. It’s merely justified.

    You wrote, “We can make good decisions in the absence of all the facts and we can be cognisant that we aren’t being swayed by destructive ideologies. You raise here a straw man argument at best.

    We can indeed make decisions absent all the facts. We cannot, however make good decisions absent any good reason. Even if a given decision turns out to be correct, it will have been so on the same grounds someone makes the correct decision to buy some particular lottery number. Fortunate happenstance.

    You’ve ignored the point about the relict Medieval forests, Barry. You’ve ignored that Roman-age artifacts are now found at the edges of some Alpine glaciers.

    U. E. Joerin, et al. (2006) “Multicentury glacier fluctuations in the Swiss Alps during the Holocene” The Holocene, 16, 697-704

    Partial Abstract: “Subfossil remains of wood and peat from six Swiss glaciers found in proglacial fluvial sediments indicate that glaciers were smaller than the 1985 reference level and climatic conditions allowed vegetation growth in now glaciated basins. An extended data set of Swiss glacier recessions consisting of 143 radiocarbon dates is presented to improve the chronology of glacier fluctuations. A comparison with other archives and dated glacier advances suggests 12 major recession periods occurring at 9850- 9600, 9300-8650, 8550-8050, 7700-7550, 7450-6550, 6150-5950, 5700-5500, 5200-4400, 4300-3400, 2800-2700, 2150-1850, 1400-1200 cal. yr BP.

    Those last two date ranges encompass Roman and the Medieval times.

    You’ve ignored that climate models have been tested and found unable to reproduce Earth climate. How is your position reasoned?

  4. Pat:

    I have looked at your rather long entry above, and while I am not going to respond to each and every item, I will provide some comments on points that I think you’ve got it wrong.

    My suspicion of your motives in presenting a thoroughly confusing article on climate change, in a popular general circulation magazine, was nothing more than my built in cheater-detection mechanism going off. Perhaps not scientific, but their it is. I wanted to know the answer to a basic question; when so many agree in the general trend within the science, why does someone disagree?

    Some possibilties:

    1. They are a paid informant – someone is paying for a favourable opinion. And it’s not like this doesn’t happen in this field on a regular basis.

    2. The person has really found something here. I didn’t reject this possibility in looking at the argument, seems reasonable that the model might be inaccurate. I’ve reserved judgement on this one (my son is in the earth science program at Waterloo so I’ll pass the article along to some of his profs who are studying climate change to get their opinions). I rejected, however the claims being made on the findings; that is that the whole of the body of findings needs to be discarded as junk science. How did we get here from there? More reasonable is the position that maybe the paradigm needs to be corrected and the models re-tested.

    3. The person is really committed to being right. This too is a problem for us humans. You’ve levelled this one my way a few times in this discussion – the old ideology argument.

    4. The person has some cognitive or psychological difficulties that make it difficult for them to test reality. This one is not likely at issue in this case.

    Pat, I asked you a fair question given the nature of your article, its complexity and the sweeping conclusions being made. I want to know if you were being funded to write the paper. Your refusal to answer, rather than provide a straight answer, got my suspicions raised even further. Had you said Exxon, I think it would have meant people would have to be more cautious about the conclusions being drawn in the article. I know that you’ve said that isn’t very scientific thinking, but there’s where you are mistaken. This type of evaluation of data is entirely within the reasonable approach for lay-people suggested by Carl Sagan in his Baloney Detection Kit – know the sources and is there corrobaration.

    Inductive versus deductive reasoning

    Inductive reasoning: we start with observations and build hypotheses. From specific instances we infer trends and general principles. Since Carl Popper this approach has gotten a bad rap, but it is still acceptable a one approach of many to many scientists.

    Deductive reasoning: we start with a hypothesis and look for a test that can falsify it. If the data falsify it, then the hypothesis is incorrect and, therefore, can be rejected.

    There is nothing wrong inherently in using inductive reasoning as one of the approaches. It only becomes a problem when you don’t do deduction as well. Your criticism of my approach as inductive, is just name calling. I know you’ll say you didn’t call me these things that you were just labelling the behaviour etc. But there is a tacit implication being made in the way you bandy these things around.

    Pat, you have suggested quite frequently here that by drawing the conclusion that increased CO2 production, observed climactic changes and observed ecological events (ice-caps melting etc.) are anthropogenic, people are being ideological. Can you explain why with the same set of observations, your conclusion that global warming is NOT due to our use of fossil fuels, is not also an ideological stance? I would argue that it is even more ideological than the conclusion of most climate researchers. It is a view that is being held DESPITE the evidence.

    You seem to hold the ideological belief that climate researchers who hold the view that global warming is man-made are chicken-littles, that they are misleading us or that they have ulterior “green” (socialist?) motives. I know you haven’t come right out and said that in so-many words, but the feeling tone of what you write is that you think there is some large scale deception going on.

    By the way, your off-hand characterization of Saul’s work as , “fatuous sociological cherry-picking” is contemptuous. I tried to convey some of the thesis of a 300 page book and I perhaps didn’t do it as well as I might in two paragraphs. He would agree with you that ideology keeps us from being clear-sighted, he further observed that corporatism is the new ideology and I can assure you he has a firm grip history through his study of the classics.

    Now, I really have to get back to cleaning the garage before my wife gets home. And let me head off a criticism that is likely to come my way sooner or later. My field of study is psychology and I almost reacted to the “sociological cherry-picking” personally. I know you folks in the so-called “hard-sciences” like to look down on us in the social scientists. But I’m hardened to it, my son the earth scientist daily likes to remind me that what I study is”pseudoscience”.

    Barry

  5. Pat:

    What’s this need about correcting people’s grammar in blog posts all about?

    You have written quite a bit of stuff here. I don’t have time to reply in detail to it. Your article has provided the impetus to do a lot more reading on the subject, so I thank you for that. In the scheme of things, though, I’ll be surprised if Pat Franks’ article in Skeptic magazine will make much of a dint in the climate science community – for the most part I suspect they are quite aware of the limits of their methods. That is not to say that the science is junk-science, only that there are methodological problems in any science.

    I think we have gotten off track here so let me review some of the observations in climate science that are causing people to be a tad concerned about that state of planet earth.

    Observed Climate Changes:

    1. Greater number of warm spells (heat waves) in N.A. since 1950.
    2. Fewer cold spells in last 10 years since records have been kept.
    3. Increased numbers of severe amounts of precipitation in recent decades.
    4. Regional droughts on the rise throughout N.A.
    5. Substantial increases in the number and intensity of tropical storm activity – increased sea temperature the likely cause
    6. Northward shift in the tracks of strong low-pressure areas over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (This trend is covered well in Calvin’s book and indicates that global warming is shifting the patterns of ocean currents.)
    7. More extreme height of waves in Atlantic and Pacific oceans, likely due to increased severity of storms.

    Major Indicators of Global warming:

    1. The average observed surface temperature of the earth (measured on land and sea) has increased by 0.6 in 20th century.
    2. 20th century likely the warmest century in 1000 years.
    3. Temperatures have risen more rapidly in last 8 km of the atmosphere (where you’d expect to find greenhouse effect and not greater sun intensity as the likely causal factor).
    4. Global snow and ice cover has decreased substantially in past substantially (both alpine and polar ice decreases) since the 1960’s
    5. Increase in sea levels by .1 and .2 meters in 20th century.

    Increased of CO2 emissions

    1. Rise from 312 ppm in 1958 to 375 ppm in 2005. That is a 20% increase in 4 decades. The data comes from Dave Keeling’s research at Mona Loa. It’s referred to as the Keeling curve and is a well documented finding. To suggest that a) the CO2 rise is “natural” and that it has nothing to do with man’s activity and that it won’t likely result in global rises in temperature is to run counter to the established theory of greenhouse warming. Simply put, you increase the levels of CO2 (or any greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere and you will heat things up.

    2. Global carbon emissions from fossil fuels have increased exponentially between 1850 and the start of the 21st century (see Marland, G., T.A. Boden, and R. J. Andres. 2007. The increase is from near zero in 1800 to 8 billion metric ton in 2004, with the biggest rate of increase occurring since 1950. This just happens to coincide with some of the climate changes noted above. It’s frankly absolute nonsense to suggest that there isn’t a link here and that it doesn’t need to be taken very seriously.

    3. It is here where Pat’s observations about the model of temperature change have some relevance. One of the approaches that has been taken in the field is to effect a comparison between various data projections. What would the trend line look like with or without man’s contribution (after all us pumping 8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year may indeed be trivial). The findings of the modelling have shown that the best fit model is that the rising of the earth’s temperature is best predicted when man’s contribution is left in the equation. Pat I think that what you are saying is that the models confuse precision with accuracy and that we should therefore reject the findings out of hand. But I think that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    We still have the observed man-made production of 8 billion metric tons of CO2 per year to account for, and we still have various climactic and ecological changes happening that are changing the balances of which life on the planet depends. Imply that I’m an ancient if you like, but at a crime scene like this, I’m going to start my investigation with the guy with the carbon stained hands. Yes, your observations about the model are important and we need to correct the methodology, but we don’t abandon the investigation when we have a prime suspect in the room.

    Barry

  6. Re: Barry, August 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Barry, you wrote, “I’m sorry that you have taken offence with my remarks.

    I didn’t take offense, Barry. You have no personal knowledge of me and so your personal disparagements are groundless. I was dismayed that after so much conversation, you would end at your start position, namely with an unfair and prejudicial claim that my conscious intent is to obscure.

    My intent was to look as rationally as I could the issues being presented through the articles in Skeptic magazine.

    Was it? Then how did you end with an irrational view of my intentions? And on what rational grounds did you maintain it after our conversation here? In your first post, you wrote that you understood the “argument about accuracy and precision” in my Skeptic article. If you understood that, then you should have understood that the IPCC is misrepresenting precision as accuracy. And that didn’t give you rational pause?

    (By the way, I have corrected the name to “Center” from “Project”.)

    The grammatical errors are still there, though.

    You wrote, “To be honest, I think that both your article and Calvin’s article fail in that they are written by people who are not experts in the field being reported on…

    I can’t speak for Calvin, of course, but my article was on error analysis, not on climate science as your argument would require. I am quite qualified to write something on sources of error and their magnitude. Virtually all scientists would be so-qualified.

    …and neither of the articles were accepted for publication through peer review.

    Did you read the Acknowledgments? It lists all the people who volunteered to review the article prior to submission. At least five of them were highly qualified professionals; three of them were climate physicists. Not only that, but Skeptic sent the article to two further climate scientists who reviewed the article prior to a decision for acceptance. I was required to produce a detailed response to their comments, and did so. The Skeptic article was as well peer-reviewed as most articles published in science journals.

    …In Calvin’s article, however, there has been some attempt to review data presented by scientists who are experts in the field.

    It’s an involuntary irony you should write that, given the extensive references to the climate science literature in both my article and in the SI. Look again. Was that selective blindness an indication of your rational intent?

    You wrote, “I have maintained in this discussion from the outset that I have not been convinced that whether the models of global warming are accurate or not makes much of a difference on the ground.

    I know. You make complex conclusions based on inductive generalization. Just as the ancients decided that the sun rotated around Earth, because, after all, it ineluctably floated across the sky. The moon, too. And the planets, and the whole universe.

    But science doesn’t work like that. In science, evidence takes its meaning only from a falsifiable theory. I’ve pointed that out to you several times. It’s not a mistake, and it’s not a triviality. It’s the central part of the methodology. And you continually ignore it, presumably because it’s so easy to grasp the linear trend of CO2 and temperature (except, of course, that this so-compelling trend has been missing in action for 10 years now).

    The entire basis to suppose excess CO2 is dangerously warming the climate rests on climate models. But if climate models are unreliable then there is no reason to suppose they are right in making that connection. And if there is nothing in the observable behavior of Earth climate to suppose that anything untoward is presently happening, then your entire alarm is empty.

    Your position is indistinguishable from chicken-littlism, Barry. It has no rational merit.

    Direct observations of what is happening to things in the real world are much more relevant to what, in practice, needs to happen.

    And how do you interpret what is happening by “direct observations“? Is preferential assignment by Barry Cull sufficient? Because that’s all it is, Barry.

    You have called this an ideological view and quite frankly I think this is patently unfair.

    That’s a mischaracterization. I reacted to this, in your previous post: “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change …The strategy for change would be the same,…

    I called that an ends justifies means view, and so it is. And then I pointed out that ends justifying means is typical of ideologies. I didn’t write your inductivism is ideological. I didn’t even write that your views were ideological. I wrote that your implicit ends justify means argument is one that is used by the ideological. Please be more careful.

    And by the way, the strategy of removing CO2 will not be the same as a clean-up of pollution. The former will involve sequestering CO2, which will be enormously expensive, it will involve forced emission reductions, which will be impoverishing, and it will involve cap-and-trade which will reward inefficient economies and enrich the financial class. None of these are calculated to do anything to abate pollution, and we already know that poverty exacerbates both pollution and population.

    There is little controversy that glacial ice is melting both in the alpine and polar regions of the world, weather patterns are becoming more erratic and the biosphere is losing species at an alarming rate.

    If that’s due to warming, and the warming isn’t due to human-produced CO2, then what should be done about it? And, of course, we have it on good grounds from your fiat judgment of the meaning of direct observations that the warming is due to human-produced CO2. Does it worry you at all that glaciers melted back during the Roman Warm Period, too? In the Alps, at least as far back as they are now; perhaps more. In the Andes as well. And we’ve already been over the relict Medieval forests in the Canadian Far North. Presumably, that knowledge doesn’t bear your rational consideration.

    This isn’t ideology, it is observable and it is really happening.

    Ideology shows up in the interpretation, not in the facts. How are you coming to a judgment that human-produced CO2 is causing these facts?

    In addition to these things, the amount of CO2 production has increased because of global levels of industrialization. We know that increased CO2 levels result in more heat energy being trapped within the atmosphere.

    Do we know that? How do we know that? How do you know that the energy produced by CO2 radiant absorption won’t show up in more energetic turbulence and convective heat loss to space? How do you know it won’t show up in a slightly more vigorous tropical precipitation? How do you know it won’t induce slightly greater cloud cover?

    Are we 100% certain that all of the rise in global warming is due to man’s activity? No. Are we reasonably certain that at least some of it is and that by reducing our dependence on Big Oil and Gas we can stabilize and perhaps reduce some of the delirious effects? Yes.

    That last is also “No,” Barry. Here’s an expert view for you: D. H. Douglass, et al. (2007) “A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions” International Journal of Climatology 10.1002/joc 1-9

    They tested the predictions of 22 state-of-the-art climate models, looking for the predicted signature of AGW in the tropical atmosphere. Here’s a bit of their conclusion: “We have tested the proposition that greenhouse model simulations and trend observations can be reconciled. Our conclusion is that the present evidence, with the application of a robust statistical test, supports rejection of this proposition. … [T]he models are seen to disagree with the observations. We suggest, therefore, that projections of future climate based on these models be viewed with much caution.

    Did you notice that sentence? “The models are seen to disagree with the observations.” So the models that predict human-caused global warming predict things that are not observed. You’re the “direct observations” guy. What now? Believe anyway?

    Here’s another one: D. Koutsoyiannis, et al. (2008) “On the credibility of climate predictions” Hydrological Sciences–Journal–des Sciences Hydrologiques, 53(4) 671-685. This, from their abstract: “Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.

    That is, climate models are unreliable. They are unable to say that human-produced CO2 will do anything noticeable to climate. They are unable to predict the evolution of climate. Climate is not well understood and the relatively small energy inputs from increased CO2 could go somewhere else than in temperature. And in fact, there is nothing particularly anomalous going on with Earth climate. That means there is no objective basis whatever for your claims about human-caused climate warming, for Al Gore’s claims, or for the alarmist bugling from the IPCC and its allied scientists.

    You wrote, “Where we perhaps disagree Pat, is on the value of science as an endeavour.

    Science is your only hope to objectively establish your claim about CO2 and climate, Barry. If you disparage it, you’re left with nothing except personal subjective opinion. Is your personal opinion meritorious enough to change the course of civilization?

    I think the matter is taken up well by Ricard and Thuan in their book “The Quantum and the Lotus”. In discussing the relationship between the scientific and the Buddhist world views, the authors point out that our understanding of the world is enhanced through the application of the scientific method. Ricard, the Buddhist philosopher, brings the question of what we know back the central question of how it serves our ability to improve the quality of our lives. Using scientific data in a way that insists that we must be 100% certain before we act may ultimately make us more sure of what we know, but if we fail to act in a crisis of global proportions, how has it served us?

    Sorry to say, that argument is a red herring. The central issue is that science never claims 100% certainty in anything, including in factual truths. Hence reported uncertainty limits. And if there is a crisis of global proportions, what good does it do to close off debate about the cause through an insistent ignorance? That’s what’s going on with respect to AGW. No one knows but many, including you, have jumped to an insupportable conclusion. And willy-nilly, you’re so sure of your mongered conclusion that any polemical excess is enmoralized in pursuit of your end.

    In other news, in every venue including the opportunity for creative introspection and the production of humane values, science has improved the quality of our lives better than has any religion, including Buddhism, and the religions had a several thousand year head-start.

    You wrote, “And Pat I agree with you that unwavering adherence to ideology is dangerous.

    I’m glad to read that. So, explain to me again how it is that after our long conversation, and my attempts to clarify the analysis for you, you ended up concluding that my conscious intent is to obscure and confuse? Was it not-ideology that induced your not-change of mind?

    A number of years ago there was a wonderful book written by John Ralston Saul called “The Unconscious Civilization”. The central theme in the book is that as a society we no longer foster disinterested observers (perhaps one of the philosophical trends in the “enlightenment” that led to the creation of universities). In fact, Ralston Saul argues that the ideology of “corporatism” has made disinterest a hard philosophical position to take. Big corporations have big interests at the heart of all decisions that they make. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here by the way, people within the corporations may indeed have the best of motives in mind – the fact is the survival of the corporate entity just takes over. Corporatism, it is pointed out, makes it nearly impossible for us to make decisions that are in the public good. We can choose between Pepsi and Coke, but are unconscious to the decisions that really matter in our lives.

    Corporations, in the sense you and John Ralson Saul apparently mean, are merely human organizations motivated by a common economic agenda. But corporations are much broader than economics. They are any group of people organized to a common agenda. Armies are incorporations. So are Temple-states. So is Greenpeace. So was the Roman Senate. So is the Roman Catholic Church. So is Iran’s Mullahcracy. Every single organized human group with a specific group-end is a corporation. Every single one of them works for self-preservation. Every one of them rewards group-think. All of them corporately put public good second to their own survival.

    Modern economic corporations are bringing nothing socially new to modern life, except the increased efficiency of advertising and mass communication. But every ancient stele boasting of the glory and conquests of King Ishblah carried the same intent, less efficiently done.

    Corporations don’t control people’s thinking, no matter that they try. Most people act in their own perceived best interest. They always have and always will — so long as Earth is populated by wild-type humans. Frankly, Saul’s thesis, presuming you have conveyed it accurately, is mostly fatuous sociological cherry-picking. It’s as though human organizational history didn’t exist.

    You wrote, “There is another ideology that is problematic, I think. Let’s call it the ideology of scientism.

    Here we go. I could see that coming.

    The basic ideology here is that somehow science can be applied to all areas of our understanding.

    Just for fun, apart from your own personal experience, relate to me some understanding you have and can communicate without benefit of science.

    This is, of course, just not so – there are things that are unknowable,…

    Are you telling me that you have an inventory of all that is knowable, and can pronounce about what is out of bounds? Because that’s what your assertion means. To suppose that some things are unknowable is to claim to know the intrinsic bounds of knowledge. But no one can know that. No one can know even if such a possibility exists.

    for example, how did the universe get here?

    Suppose I answered that I don’t know. Would that indicate such knowledge is forever unattainable? More generally, at what level can ignorance be said to be irremediable? As we are always speaking from ignorance concerning what we do not yet know, how is it possible to claim that further knowledge concerning those things is forever unattainable? It’s ignorance speaking to ignorance. Your proposition of the inherently unknowable is unsustainable on analysis. The entire proposition of the knowable is necessarily open-ended.

    And the universe? Quantum mechanics says that it began from a spontaneous fluctuation below the Planck limit, as allowed by Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Limit theory. Try googling Andrei Linde and the Kandinsky Universe.

    I’m not suggesting that we fill the void with speculation or fanciful religious myths, we just have to realize we can’t know the answer.

    As noted above, that position is ignorance arguing for continued ignorance. It’s intellectually unsustainable.

    Scientism suggests that we will gain 100% certainty in our understanding of things through objective means.

    So far, I have seen no signs that view is not true, with the necessary caveat about 100%. Science is methodologically modest. And after reading complaints about scientism in many places and times, I’ve decided that its motivational force, largely among philosophers, is a resentment that philosophism has been overturned by objective knowledge, and among Humanists, its motivational force is largely a recrudescent hostility in evidence from the earliest days of science. I suspect Humanist resentment arises partly because the opportunity for egotistically felicitous opinion-spinning has been so thoroughly curtailed by the advent of fact-based thinking.

    I have a limited knowledge of quantum physics, but I understand we are increasingly learning that subjective realities play a large part in altering the nature of “reality”.

    That understanding is wrong. Apart from the physical imposition of political and personal action, subjective realities play zero part in the evolution physical (what you call natural) reality. Most such claims rest upon ignoring that quantum processes can go backwards in time.

    You wrote, “Science is a human endeavour ultimately. Let’s not reify it and try to make it something that exists outside of that context.

    Science is a human endeavor, it’s true. However, objective knowledge lies outside of subjective human meanings. Objective knowledge carries its own autogenic meanings. As a practical matter, if that were not true nothing would work. As a theoretical matter, theories written in mathematical language, or using strict terminologies, are invariantly monosemous. So far our examination of the universe, out to about 13 billion light years now, shows this to be true.

    It is little more than a method of knowing – the application of reason to a problem.

    It is much more than application of reason to a problem. You applied your reason to AGW and have come up with an entirely incorrect conclusion. The lesson is that your assumptions are wrong. You assume inductive generalizations produce reliable conclusions, and that correlation proves causation. Reasoning from that, you have made serious conclusory mistakes.

    Look at the reasoning applied by Thomas Aquinas. It’s a hugely rational corpus, nevertheless full of deductive nonsense. Reason alone is not enough. Reason needs analytical (not naive) falsification to make it into science. Analytical theory means a logically self-consistent rational construct, using necessary approximations, that makes falsifiable predictions. Not the ad hoc assertions of an invented claim (i.e., the moon is made of green cheese), but the deductions from a self-coherent and testable hypothesis. All the approximations are open to refinement or disproof. Likewise the ladder of logical steps in the hypothesis.

    Science is open to the cold winds of entirely unanticipated fact. Its potential propositions cannot be deduced from initial premises. It has no initial premises or axioms. It does not assume the universe is understandable or orderly. It merely proceeds methodologically. It is an open system and is not limited by Godel’s Theorem.

    But it is still a human activity and any findings need to be considered in light of questions about who is interested in the outcome of the findings.

    And what findings in light of a falsifiable theory are governed by someone’s desires and expectations? Can you provide a single example of such a case? Go ahead and ask anyone you like for an example of expectations governing a falsifiable result in science.

    This is especially important when the findings will influence public policy. Of course, all the other safe-guards within the scientific method need to be met as well such as replication of the results and peer review etc.

    You need to distinguish between fraud and science, Barry. Fraudulent science is subject to suspicion of the kind you mention — who benefits. There have been far too many examples of scientific fraud. But valid science is as indifferent to who benefits, as nature is indifferent to who lives and who dies.

    You wrote, “(By the way Pat, just one more issue I should raise here. It says in the Skeptic by-line that you are the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Don’t you think this is a tad misleading when your field of study is not directly that of climate change?

    How is that any more misleading than the biography you have on your web-site? Did you mention your professional expertise to misleadingly give your essays a spurious import? If not, why should you suspect me of such a motive for providing mine? Skeptic always asks for an author biography. That’s mine. If anything, it was comparatively brief.

    I suspect that if your field of study were, indeed, climate change, we’d have seen some of those articles referenced in the paper.)

    The Skeptic article is about error analysis not about climate. Your qualm is irrelevant. It would be irrelevant in any case. Science is not Humanities or hermeneutics in that it does not produce ratiocinations dependent for standing on the reputation of the author.

    Scientific arguments are judged on their own merits.The Skeptic article deserves no less than that, and I expect no more than that. So far, in the criticisms I’ve encountered, that standard has rarely been met and not yet at all here.

  7. Yes, and my students like the Baloney Detection Kit (BDK) as well, only I put my own degenerate slant on it – I call it the BSDK!!

    Barry

  8. Thanks, Barry, for your comment! You are much more patient in your responses than I have gotten… Thanks also for more details on what consensus means (corroborating evidence from various sources) and the distinction between relying on authority vs. experts. I’ll check out the Carl Sagan Baloney Detection Kit you recommended… (I love the name of that kit already!)

  9. Tom:

    It is a difficult position to be in to defend any ideology and I wouldn’t expect a rational person to even try. After all wouldn’t that make one an ideologue?

    To evaluate scientific evidence in even one field is a life’s work. We are now faced with the challenge of making sense of many lifetimes amount of knowledge. When it comes to applying knowledge to issues of public policy, such as our use of finite resources and large-scale disruptions in the biosphere, I am going to have to rely on experts. There is no way that I can get up to speed in climate physics to be an expert myself; it took me this long just to scratch the surface of one discipline – psychology.

    I must take some short-cuts, as distasteful as that may seem to the purely scientific in us all. To evaluate claims I must rely on some reasonable approaches. (By the way, I teach my students these techniques – and they come from a pretty good source, Carl Sagan). One of the things Sagan suggests is a reasonable strategy is to seek out independent confirmation of the facts. Right now in the climate debate their appears to be a high level of consensus of at least the basic facts. And I’ll say it again, those who are the naysayers, as William Calvin points out, do little to add any new data, rather they spin data researched by others in a politically (and economically) palatable way.

    The argument some will raise in this strategy is that scientists (and the rest of us) have been fooled before. Yes, we have. In my own discipline we have been swayed at least twice by claims that in the long run didn’t hold up. The Freudians (a pseudoscience if ever there was one – see Crews) and the behaviourists (good science, overreaching, however, in its claims – see my response to Schlinger in Skeptic). In time, however, science self corrects. If the majority of climate scientists are even partially correct doesn’t it make sense to test their theory further? What would be wrong with developing fuel sources that are more environmentally friendly? If the results are positive, we gain by lowering the CO2 emissions and thereby lower the earth’s temperature to safer levels. If the results are negative, we gain from having lowered our dependence on fuels that give off toxic, if not temperature raising by-products. That’s not pseudoscience, it’s just good applied science principles.

    One more point I need to quibble with you about, Tom. An argument to authority is not the same as relying on expert opinion to make a good decision. I liken it this way. When I go to my doctor and with her knowledge and training she tells me to quit eating fatty foods and exercise more because my health is suffering, I’m likely to take her advice – she is after all an expert in her field of study. If on the other hand, she tells me that as a doctor (by position of authority) that I must believe her when she gives advice, I’m likely to be quite skeptical of the claim. Experts are only experts as long as the data holds up; authority appeals to other qualities that go beyond the data.

    The 4 out of 5 dentists statement, by the way makes this point wonderfully. The “authority” here is that they are dentists, we must believe them, right? No, of course not – they are not referencing any real data. The only thing they have is the fact that they agree. Where’s the beef? Climate scientists don’t just have agreement in a TV poll, they have collected real data, real observations, and those data are leading them to an hypothesis. That’s very different than saying, “we’ve taken a survey and 4 out of 5 agree. ” “Agree on what and why”, you might ask.

    I remember another authority about 35 years ago getting on television with an argument that swayed a lot of minds. His name was William Shockley (inventor of the transistor – remember those?) And was he advising people on the importance of solid state circuitry? No! He was advising folks to keep the races separated sexually, because the result would mean a degeneration in the Caucasian intelligence from interbreeding. It took an expert in human genetics, Gerry Hirsch, to discredit Shockley and the data (mostly that of Art Jensen) upon which Shockley was basing his racist claims.

    Barry

  10. Please don’t make me defend capitalism, Barry! ? I am uncomfortable with that. I wasn’t making a comparison—my point was only that “scientific socialism” (Marx) wears the mantle of science, and thus public policy in that society does not differ in principle from science. Where the system fails is that the institution which upholds public policy is inherently conservative, while science is inherently liberal and progressive. One cannot run the other. We have seen that science flourishes in an open society. Capitalists aren’t the only ideologues who suppress free inquiry.

    You wrote:

    “I am aware of the argument to authority. I only would like to see the data
    analyzed by someone who has direct knowledge of the field. I want an “expert”
    to inform me, or at least reference to the bulk of the data being generated.”

    If one is going to examine conclusions with a critically rational eye, one should know what theory the results support, shouldn’t one? One may not understand all the research, and still comprehend the theory and its implications.

    I dismiss your suggestion that a bio line introducing a magazine article is an argument from authority. You and Rachel–you may correct me if I have misread or misinterpreted–have accepted the conclusions of a consensus of climate scientists simply because they are experts, i.e., authorities. When I was a kid, I read that 4 out of five doctors prefer Lucky Strike.

    Tom

  11. Tom:

    Just a point I failed to raise in your comments.

    Don’t you think the statement, “Patrick Frank is a Ph.D. chemist with more than 50 peer-reviewed articles.” (see: http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/featured_articles/v14n01_climate_of_belief.html), isn’t an appeal to authority? It’s the same as saying, “Wayne Gretsky, hockey’s Great One, now has something to say about just how great (your favourite brand of soft drink here) is for your general health and fitness.” You’re pointing the finger in the wrong direction when you suggest someone here is appealing to authority.

    Barry

  12. Tom:

    Don’t you think it is a little myopic to think that capitalism (or any other ism) is free from the human problem of deceit, delusion or misuse of data? Motives that create attachments to outcomes exist within all systems that one can live in. There is no doubt that the misinformation campaign waged by Big Coal and Big Oil has something to do with the large profits to be had. As you have rightly pointed out, this has little to do with science.

    I am aware of the argument to authority. I only would like to see the data analyzed by someone who has direct knowledge of the field. I want an “expert” to inform me, or at least reference to the bulk of the data being generated.

    Barry

  13. Barry Cull wrote

    “Science is a human endeavour ultimately. Let’s not reify it and try to make it something that exists outside of that context. It is little more than a method of knowing – the application of reason to a problem. But it is still a human activity and any findings need to be considered in light of questions about who is interested in the outcome of the findings. This is especially important when the findings will influence public policy. Of course, all the other safe-guards within the scientific method need to be met as well such as replication of the results and peer review etc.”

    That science is a human endeavor does not at all imply that scientific conclusions are not independent of a social agenda (“…questions about who is interested in the outcome…”). The only political system I know of in which public policy is not independent of scientific research is Marxist (“scientific socialism”). As we see, however, the embodiment of “scientific” principles in the Marxist-Leninist state are perversely controlled by ideology (with such results as Lysenkoism, e.g., a consensus at one time among Soviet scientists). Science that is not independent of a social agenda is not science, and should not pretend to be.

    And to this:

    “(By the way Pat, just one more issue I should raise here. It says in the Skeptic by-line that you are the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Don’t you think this is a tad misleading when your field of study is not directly that of climate change? I suspect that if your field of study were, indeed, climate change, we’d have seen some of those articles referenced in the paper.)”

    Barry, you do understand argument by authority, do you not?

    Tom

  14. Pat:

    I’m afraid you are losing me when you make thiskind of statement:

    “Here’s my objection to that. It’s a hidden ‘ends justify means‘ argument. If intentions justify means, who is to choose the ends? Today it’s ecology, tomorrow, what? The rights of the proletariat was the end that justified the peacetime murder of about 150 million people during the 20th century. Not to mention the torture of millions more in gulags. Nazism was horrid and Socialism, if anything, was worse. Both were ideologies, and in both ends justified means.”

    How is agreeing that we have a problem in our production and use of non-sustainable energy and that while we don’t have all the answers, a modification of our behaviour is likely in order a misuse of science? And where are you going with the conclusion that this reasoned position leads the horrors of Nazism? This seems to be the height of fear-mongering. We can make good decisions in the absence of all the facts and we can be cognisant that we aren’t being swayed by destructive ideologies. You raise here a straw man argument at best.

  15. Pat:

    I’m sorry that you have taken offence with my remarks. My intent was to look as rationally as I could the issues being presented through the articles in Skeptic magazine. (By the way, I have corrected the name to “Center” from “Project”.)

    To be honest, I think that both your article and Calvin’s article fail in that they are written by people who are not experts in the field being reported on and neither of the articles were accepted for publication through peer review. In Calvin’s article, however, there has been some attempt to review data presented by scientists who are experts in the field.

    I have maintained in this discussion from the outset that I have not been convinced that whether the models of global warming are accurate or not makes much of a difference on the ground. Direct observations of what is happening to things in the real world are much more relevant to what, in practice, needs to happen. You have called this an ideological view and quite frankly I think this is patently unfair. There is little controversy that glacial ice is melting both in the alpine and polar regions of the world, weather patterns are becoming more erratic and the biosphere is losing species at an alarming rate. This isn’t ideology, it is observable and it is really happening. In addition to these things, the amount of CO2 production has increased because of global levels of industrialization. We know that increased CO2 levels result in more heat energy being trapped within the atmosphere.

    Are we 100% certain that all of the rise in global warming is due to man’s activity? No. Are we reasonably certain that at least some of it is and that by reducing our dependence on Big Oil and Gas we can stabilize and perhaps reduce some of the delirious effects? Yes.

    Where we perhaps disagree Pat, is on the value of science as an endeavour. I think the matter is taken up well by Ricard and Thuan in their book “The Quantum and the Lotus”. In discussing the relationship between the scientific and the Buddhist world views, the authors point out that our understanding of the world is enhanced through the application of the scientific method. Ricard, the Buddhist philosopher, brings the question of what we know back the central question of how it serves our ability to improve the quality of our lives. Using scientific data in a way that insists that we must be 100% certain before we act may ultimately make us more sure of what we know, but if we fail to act in a crisis of global proportions, how has it served us?

    And Pat I agree with you that unwavering adherence to ideology is dangerous. A number of years ago there was a wonderful book written by John Ralston Saul called “The Unconscious Civilization”. The central theme in the book is that as a society we no longer foster disinterested observers (perhaps one of the philosophical trends in the “enlightenment” that led to the creation of universities). In fact, Ralston Saul argues that the ideology of “corporatism” has made disinterest a hard philosophical position to take. Big corporations have big interests at the heart of all decisions that they make. I’m not suggesting a conspiracy here by the way, people within the corporations may indeed have the best of motives in mind – the fact is the survival of the corporate entity just takes over. Corporatism, it is pointed out, makes it nearly impossible for us to make decisions that are in the public good. We can choose between Pepsi and Coke, but are unconscious to the decisions that really matter in our lives.

    There is another ideology that is problematic, I think. Let’s call it the ideology of scientism. The basic ideology here is that somehow science can be applied to all areas of our understanding. This is, of course, just not so – there are things that are unknowable, for example, how did the universe get here? I’m not suggesting that we fill the void with speculation or fanciful religious myths, we just have to realize we can’t know the answer. Scientism suggests that we will gain 100% certainty in our understanding of things through objective means. I have a limited knowledge of quantum physics, but I understand we are increasingly learning that subjective realities play a large part in altering the nature of “reality”.

    Science is a human endeavour ultimately. Let’s not reify it and try to make it something that exists outside of that context. It is little more than a method of knowing – the application of reason to a problem. But it is still a human activity and any findings need to be considered in light of questions about who is interested in the outcome of the findings. This is especially important when the findings will influence public policy. Of course, all the other safe-guards within the scientific method need to be met as well such as replication of the results and peer review etc.

    (By the way Pat, just one more issue I should raise here. It says in the Skeptic by-line that you are the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers. Don’t you think this is a tad misleading when your field of study is not directly that of climate change? I suspect that if your field of study were, indeed, climate change, we’d have seen some of those articles referenced in the paper.)

    Barry

  16. Given what followed, the sentence, “In my opinion, tribalism and population are the two great 21st century problems.” should have been, ‘In my opinion, population and tribalism are the two great 21st century problems.’

  17. I looked at your so-called summary comments, Barry. They show that you remain mired in your original and scientifically mistaken AGW inductivism unmoved by any relevant thing I’ve written here, and still unfairly accusing me of attempting to sow a falsely based confusion.* No more than that.

    *”… Frank has done his best to bog us down in a the minutiae of statistical modelling …

    You have mistakenly described the points made in my article, and I did no statistical modeling in the article or in the SI. You didn’t mention having had a conversation with me, much less outlining what we expressed. So, calling the paragraphs you’ve written there “summary comments” is hardly justifiable.

    Further, how about if you include that you’ve discussed the topic here with me along with a link to our conversation on Rachel’s blog so that your readers can evaluate my purported excesses for themselves. Do the professional ethics of “Education” demand that sort of transparency?

    It’s the ‘Stanford Linear Accelerator Center,’ by the way, and on line 1, it’s now the last but one issue of Skeptic so maybe you should just refer to volume 14 no. 1. On line 5, “conclude” should be ‘concludes,’ and on line 6, “trend” should be ‘trends.’

  18. Barry, thank-you for your gentlemanly post. The civil grace you showed there has been relatively rare in my experience defending the Skeptic analysis. Indeed, if you’re willing to believe me, I didn’t even have you in mind when I wrote that “small minds” sentence.

    The concerns expressed in your second paragraph are true worries. Apart from global warming, there are real concerns about the global environment, all stemming from over use. We use about 1/3 of all arable land for farming, and we’re over-fishing the seas. Too much run-off is still polluted and there are still large plumes of contaminants off river deltas. Much of the blame for that can be placed on population and poverty. We need less of both, but the way things work, poverty will have to be the first of the dyad to go. People don’t seem to limit their reproduction until they’re comfortable. Maybe all the TV that comes with middle class status is an effective, if unheralded, contraceptive. 🙂

    I agree with you about greed and tribal interests, too. Evolution has primed us for that, and it’s likely there isn’t another species that would behave differently were it to become conscious and culturally obligate. The magic of humans is that with consciously rational thought, we can actually rise above our evolutionary endowment. From tribal sociality, we can think our way to a general ethics. This is what happened during the Enlightenment. In my opinion, tribalism and population are the two great 21st century problems. I see religion exacerbating both of them; the first through enforced fertility, and the second through ideological tribalism. Between you, me, and our two readers, I think Islam is *the* ideological threat of our times. Western Europe especially is in big trouble. Most Christians have been raised in an Enlightenment culture. They have had their worst teeth pulled. Neither is true for most Muslims.

    You wrote, “But alas, my skepticism makes me suspicious of claims where companies stand to make substantial profits from the findings.

    As you should be. There is no doubt that economics drives viewpoints. But the threat of tendentious arguments is not enough to dismiss all arguments. Sometimes arguments made by corporations will be right. And viewpoints are driven by more than economics. By ideology, for example. It’s no surprise that the worst murderous outrages of the 20th century were ideology-driven, rather than economics-driven. And the greatest murders were sentimentalized in the name of the people. From that perspective, I no longer see corporations as particularly bad actors. By-and-large across the 20th century, with fits and starts they have accommodated themselves to lawful regulation without indulging the mass murder that political ideologies have done.

    So, please be skeptical of everyone’s arguments. Every group entity has an ax to grind, and that ax mostly has to do with the group’s self-preservation and self-aggrandizement. I think environmental groups are driven largely by ideology. Ideology-driven thinking is not rational. It is merely internally logical.

    This is where the real power of Enlightenment fact-based thinking comes to the fore. All arguments can be evaluated on their own objective merits, no matter the sentimental vestments organizationally displayed. In principle, if the audience is rationally attentive, no one can get away with anything. So, self-aggrandizement notwithstanding, a group will have to face objective judgment and stand or fall on its inherent merit. That’s a utopian vision, perhaps, but as it’s based on the application of objective knowledge rather than ideology, perhaps it’s achievable. I work for that.

    I agree with you that environmental groups do wonderful things. I support my local CalPirg group and in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live there is a very active open space movement. Redwood City, next door to me, is just now restoring old salt ponds to salt marsh on the bay, which will attract lots of birds and become part of the Pacific flyway. These are all good things. I just object to the diversion, by environmental groups, of the ‘original sin’ idea to the human race in general. The din of “unworthy” is incessant. This is an ideological disdain that I think is very corrosive, and estranges people from their own civilization. This is a tragedy considering that civilization is the world’s only carrier of Enlightenment values; the same values that arguably produced environmental consciousness.

    You wrote, “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources.

    Let me give you an example of where the grip of ideology has brought us. Take a look at the “Dust to Dust” study here: http://cnwmr.com/nss-folder/automotiveenergy/ It’s at the bottom of the page, file #7 of the 11 files for download.

    Crediting that study, hybrid vehicles are far more polluting, overall, than any small or mid-range internal combustion car. The major reason is all the pollution and manufacturing costs represented by their nickel electrode batteries. The savings in gas and the lower CO2 per mile driven statistic is just a feel-good chimera, because the CO2 produced over the life of the hybrid vehicle, from manufacture through use and to eventual disposal, is greater than for conventional vehicles. My 32 mpg Ford Focus is more ecologically worthy than any hybrid. But everyone has been moved to think sentimentally instead of rationally about CO2 and in the name of ecology has bought into an idea that actually produces more waste. It’s like after having bought into an ideology of humility and gentle restraint, the Catholic Church went on to produce arrogation and horror.

    And here’s another thought that I never see discussed. People speak of wind and tidal power as though they are eco-friendly. But wind power removes wind. One gets downwind stasis where there once was heavy air flow. And tidal power removes energy from the tide, and so where once there was heavy flushing there will be still water. What will be the cost to land and marine ecosystems adapted to dynamic conditions when the dynamics is replaced by stasis?

    On a large scale globally, one might see most of these dynamic land and marine ecosystems disappear if wind farms and tidal power stations spread extensively. And as birds are killed at pretty steady rates by wind farm propellers, how many fish will be killed when caught in currents sluicing though tidal turbines? How many seals? Where will fixed mollusk beds get their nutrients if the tides no longer bring in renewed water? I’ve never seen this discussed in all the talk about sustainable power. Similar qualms could be raised about organic farming.

    The only really sustainable power we have is fusion, and that seems to be forever 20 years off. The only current source of power that will materially reduce CO2 and, far more importantly, reduce coal burning in the relatively short term is nuclear fission. We should all be working to make that as safe as possible. Apart from returning to the pre-industrial dark, and granting much less carbon burning, fission is our only immediate option failing a *huge* break-though in the efficiency of solar power.

    Finally, you wrote, “I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change should we decide that the planet is warming and/or that the planet is being polluted (and you haven’t argued that we aren’t having an impact on the quality of air and water globally). The strategy for change would be the same…

    Here’s my objection to that. It’s a hidden ‘ends justify means‘ argument. If intentions justify means, who is to choose the ends? Today it’s ecology, tomorrow, what? The rights of the proletariat was the end that justified the peacetime murder of about 150 million people during the 20th century. Not to mention the torture of millions more in gulags. Nazism was horrid and Socialism, if anything, was worse. Both were ideologies, and in both ends justified means.

    If reducing fossil fuel burning and saving ecosystems are a good in themselves (and I agree they are), then the argument can be made on its own merits. It is *not* justifiable to promote a mass-scale abuse of science to get one’s way, no matter how pure one’s motive. The reason is that ideological thinking accepts no bounds. Tendentious justification of ecological morals today permits tendentious justification of religious morals tomorrow. The political psychology is the same, and it’s nothing except extremely dangerous.

    And I do think there has been a mass-scale abuse of science in promoting human-caused global warming. Some scientists have freely chosen to show certainty and be publicly hyperbolic where they should have shown diffidence and been publicly modest. The deepest ethic of scientific integrity has been systematically violated. The whole thing is, in my opinion, scandalous; the worst scandal in science, ever. Worse than Lysenkoism because the scientists involved have not been coerced by Stalinist politics.

  19. Pat:

    I sincerely appreciate the clarification that you provided regarding your comments on “small minds” and accept that you weren’t directing them my way.

    The debate about man’s contribution to global warming will go on for some time, I suspect, as people like yourself and other scientists try to get a handle on environmental issues that face our times. I only hope we can develop the wisdom to do what we can to lessen our impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems. One of the challenges that we will face in this, is our own species record for greed and tribal interests at the expense long-term global interests.

    I apologize for insinuating that you may have a vested interest in the report you have produced. I know that this is not very scientific behaviour. And in a world where everyone played by the “rules” of science being cognizant of vested interests would not be necessary. But alas, my skepticism makes me suspicious of claims where companies stand to make substantial profits from the findings.

    On the last point Pat, I agree that $6B is a lot of money. In relative terms, however, it is a pittance. Think of what you wrote, the greens grossed $6B, compared to one company’s profits of $40B. The comparison you made here is a little unfair. The more fair comparison would have been the Big Greens’ total take to that of the take of all Big Oil and all Big Coal. By comparison the “profits” of Big Green would be “laughable”. But as you and I both know, Big Green does not, for the most part, reap profits; the money is used to create sustainability projects like the World Land Trust’s (http://www.worldlandtrust-us.org/supporting/index.html) and Coolearth’s
    (http://www.wildernessproject.org/members_join_nativetrees.php?gclid=CNP24LzX7JQCFQ4hnAodjXNgqw)
    initiative of buying forest lands and putting them into the public domain where they are protected.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the point you make that investing time and energy going down the wrong line of investigation is a waste of time and resources. I am unclear, however, what the difference would mean in behaviour change should we decide that the planet is warming and/or that the planet is being polluted (and you haven’t argued that we aren’t having an impact on the quality of air and water globally). The strategy for change would be the same – search for means of getting around, producing and distributing our food and heating our shelters in more global friendly ways. This all adds up to reducing our dependence on oil, gas and coal to sustainable levels and in to developing alternative and less damaging energy sources. And if that experiment results in a lowering of the earth’s mean temperature (or not), then we will have learned something that amounts to a scientific fact. In the meantime we will have reduced the toxicity of the earth’s atmosphere. Would you be opposed to running that kind of experiment?

    Thanks for a great discussion of the issues Pat, despite a few flare-ups of ego along the way.

    Barry

  20. Maybe it’s because a Demetri I know missed the last two dance classes… I did search to see if this is a known problem with WordPress but so far haven’t found much (only a reference to slow connections and a hint on where else comments might get stuck but I didn’t see any non-approved comments there either). I’ll add it to my things to figure out list (along with the more-tag issue on custom pages). Thanks for your patience with this!

  21. Hmm, I missed one tinyurl and the post got through anyway. The mystery deepens. Maybe the secret is that WordPress doesn’t like Demetris Koutsoyiannis, because it wouldn’t take a post that featured only the one tinyurl that pointed to his paper. That must be it. 🙂

  22. RtB, Part 3

    I’ve tried a couple of times with this part, now, and it won’t post with even *one* tinyurl So, what I’m going to do is remove the colon (:) from all the URL addresses, and add the word “colon.” Anyone who wants to check out the referenced site can please repair the address. [I have replaced the word “colon” with the actual (:), this way no repair is needed. And, of course, this is the only thing I changed in the comment! – Rachel]

    Here goes, part 3

    You wrote, “Anyway, this conversation for me is over – and you have convinced me only that modeling may have some problems that need to be addressed to affect its accuracy.

    Demetris Koutsoyiannis and his group have just published a study showing that state-of-the-art climate models have no predictive value. His article is open-access (free of charge), and you can get it here: http://tinyurl.com/5hr82v The abstract is right on the site, so that can be read directly.

    The entire basis for saying, first, that climate is warming dangerously, and second, that humans are responsible, rests on the validity of climate models. The entire basis. If climate models are thoroughly unreliable (and they are, and will be for the foreseeable future), then there is no reason to think we’re in any unusual danger. The usual weather disasters will happen, but none of that will be ascribable to human agency.

    What we know of the past climate history of Earth indicates that nothing unusual is happening now with climate. The modern warmth is not unusual, and the rate of 20th century warming is not apparently unusual. Climate has evidently warmed and cooled just as much, and just as fast, if not more and faster, in the past. I’ve posted links here on Rachel’s site, that have data showing that.
    You wrote, “Any contradictory evidence that I’ve read so far has come for Big Oil and Big Coal…

    That is the canard spread by Big Environmentalism. You never addressed the $6.6 billion, Barry. Is that enough to warrant venal motives? Why is $6.6 billion laughable? That’s a lot of money. ExxonMobil earned $40.6 billion last year. http://tinyurl.com/2wxklw That means environmental groups earned 16% as much as ExxonMobil did, in a record year for the world’s 2nd largest company (http://tinyurl.com/5sxn9p), and do so every year. They also earned more than half as much as Toyota http://tinyurl.com/5wgsub the world’s number 2 auto company, and closing.

    That’s big money, and it makes you laugh. It seems to me that your laughter is studied.

    I didn’t bring up the “conspiracy issue.” I made an obviously ironic political analogy. You took it seriously and made an issue out of it. That marks your attitude about them, not mine.

    If you want to read a critical analysis of the political corruption of climate science, look at Prof. Roy Spencer’s new book, “Climate Confusion.” Spencer is a climate physicist of high standing at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and responsible for the satellite global temperature data.

    He has a web-site discussing how Earth has a kind of thermostat: http://tinyurl.com/yqzhu8 It’s his professional opinion, fully supported by the science, that there is no large CO2-climate problem.

    I have to finish with this observation, and of the several people I’ve conversed with on this site, Rachel is the only one I know of who has honored the process by actually checking my sources.

  23. So far, so good 🙂

    RtB, Part 2

    You wrote, “You are convicted in your ideas and you criticize others for being skeptical of them – not once have I read a comment from you where you entertain the idea that you might also be mistaken.

    Let’s see you find one single quote anywhere, with link, showing that I’ve criticized anyone merely for being critical of my analysis. In fact, let’s see you find one quote, with link, where I’ve been personally critical of anyone, period. Let me reiterate, in your case, that criticizing the behavior is not criticizing the person.

    I’m ready for the Skeptic analysis to be shown wrong. But so far that hasn’t happened. I worked very hard on that analysis to get the details right. So far as I can tell — and I thought very hard for months about this — everything in there is correct, with references to the peer-reviewed literature. Why should I entertain the idea that the analysis is wrong? I can’t find any errors, and I’ve looked very hard for them. Others have looked as well, including my reviewers, and I’ve actively engaged criticism on several blogs. Rachel is witness to that. So far, no one has demonstrated an error. That’s not arrogance on my part. That’s just how science works. If one is wrong, it can be demonstrated without ambiguity.

    You wrote, “Even a casual observation of the effects on the planet of man’s activity would belie the argument that everything is okay and the we can continue the way we have been.

    I have never suggested that humans haven’t degraded ecosystems, nor have I argued that everything is OK. We do have real pollution and degradation issues. But we should pay attention to the ones that really call out for repair and abatement. What good does it do to expend large efforts on a non-issue, if it steals time and resources away from doing something of obvious benefit and need?

    There are no known deleterious effects from human-produced CO2. There are well-known deleterious effects from, for example, deforestation in Amazonia, in Africa, and in India especially, and from strip mining. So, why should we spend large sums of money sequestering CO2, which would be for no known benefit? It would leave us with far fewer resources to mitigate strip mine wastes and replant forests, which would be of great benefit.
    …..

  24. Let’s see if it’s possible to post in parts, with no more than two URL’s per part. Here we go:

    Reply to Barry, Part 1

    Barry, in your previous post you wrote, “Your reluctance to be transparent about whether your work was supported by interested parties speaks volumes to would-be detractors who are too willing to suggest that you have something to hide.

    To which I replied, “I should govern my behavior out of concern for the deviations of small minds?

    Eschewing honest debate for personal attack is not large-minded. It’s not even medium-minded. It’s small-minded. You wrote that I would be attacked because I refuse to yield to innuendos of biased support (which amount to vile innuendos that I am a paid liar). My reply was directed to the people who make such innuendos, and neither you nor your name were anywhere included. You are only there if you elect yourself to be among those who substitute personal attack for honest debate. That would be by your own choice. I certainly didn’t put you there.

    Likewise, I wrote that using personal attack instead of critical argument when addressing a question of science is unprincipled. I also pointed out that your insistence on fishing for that opportunity is likewise unprincipled. Nowhere did I write that you were unprincipled. That is, my comments were directed to the behavior and not to the person. Because that behavior is indeed unprincipled — that is, it could not have been directed by a principled personal ethic — then clearly some recovery of ethics is warranted.

    Neither amounted to character assassination because neither addressed your character.

    You wrote, “In light of the other research that is out there, I don’t think you’re argument [in Skeptic] is all that convincing.

    That’s not how scientific presentations are properly judged. They’re judged on their own merits, and not by “other research.” Unless someone can show my analysis is itself false, then it continues to stand no matter the other research. In fact, anyone can go to the literature — I’ve given plenty of pointers in the endnotes — and see for themselves whether, for example, the IPCC shows physically meaningful uncertainty bars.

    Anyone can check for themselves whether the CMIP cloud reproduction is indeed as the Skeptic analysis displayed. If all of that pans out, other climate-model arguments in favor of AGW are called into question, no matter that they’re in reputable journals and no matter that they are in great number. If General Circulation Models are generally unreliable, then it doesn’t matter if there are 100 studies based on them, or a million. They’d all be uniformly unreliable.
    …..

  25. Hi, Pat: Unfortunately, it’s not in the spam filter… I really don’t like this disappearing comments “feature”! I’ll try to find out if there’s something I can do about it… In the meantime, can you try to repost, please? Thanks! And sorry for all this inconvenience… I have increased the number of allowed URLs to 5 since the real spam comments tend to have lots of URLs. I’d rather delete the occasional spam comment than have real comments disappear… Let’s see if that helps any…

  26. Hi Rachel, I posted a reply with 5 tinyurls (gulp) and it disappeared. If it’s not in your spam filter, please let me know. Thanks 🙂 Please go ahead and delete this post, if you like.

  27. Pat:

    Talk about character assassination! Thanks for the feedback on my ethics and the smallness of my mind.

    Pat, I read Skeptic too- and I have read your article. In light of the other research that is out there, I don’t think you’re argument is all that convincing. You are convicted in your ideas and you criticize others for being skeptical of them – not once have I read a comment from you where you entertain the idea that you might also be mistaken.

    I have no vested interest in the outcome of this debate – I am a disinterested party. I only am concerned that we get it right given the stakes involved for the future of our children and grandchildren. Even if the effect of man’s industry is not as great as some would suggest, doesn’t it make sense to limit the size of our global footprint, rather than to suggest that our impact is negligible? Even a casual observation of the effects on the planet of man’s activity would belie the argument that everything is okay and the we can continue the way we have been.

    Anyway, this conversation for me is over – and you have convinced me only that modeling may have some problems that need to be addressed to affect its accuracy. That being said, the icecap is disappearing – scientists with strong multidisciplinary knowledge (one example, Jarred Diamond) agree that this in large part is due to man’s activity and that corrective action needs to be taken. Any contradictory evidence that I’ve read so far has come for Big Oil and Big Coal who have a major investment in deluding themselves and the public. (Green NGO’s monetary stakes are pittance by comparison and it is laughable that you would try to suggest otherwise).

    Just one more point – check back in this discussion and see who brought up the conspiracy issue. It wasn’t me – you used the rhetorical device of right-wing conspiracy as a diversion in one of the earlier posts. Your point was actually lost on me and I made the mistake of responding to it and trying to make light of the comment.

    I need to learn more on this topic – agreed. I plan to read William Calvin’s book “Global Fever” next. His analysis of alternate energy sources provides a good place to start in correcting our reliance on nonsustainable sources.

    Barry

  28. Thanks, Pat, for sharing the experiment results! It’s good to know that long URLs might cause a problem in WP – it sounds like posts with those are rejected completely (i.e., I don’t even get to moderate them). I am glad using TinyURL worked…

  29. Rachel, I tried an experiment, and think the problem with posting occurs when a URL is too long. The post then just disappears. The one I changed had 71 characters, and the tinyrul address for the same site was 25 characters. With that change the post went through, while before the change, twice the post just disappeared into the ether. Maybe someone who knows WordPress can parse the problem. Thanks for your patience.

  30. Barry, you failed to clue into the substance and missed the serious point that radical CO2 emission controls and cap-and-trade will likely drive manufacturing and high-tech industry overseas, cripple the economy, impoverish the middle class and render desperate the poor, all the while enriching CO2 futures traders. Instead, you’ve zeroed in on a political irony and invented a focus on conspiracy theory — perhaps indicating what most attracts your attention?

    With respect to the remains of previous forests, Nichols wrote that, “The northernmost limit of trees (or tree-species) is often represented in Canada by dwarfed individuals of white spruce or black spruce (Picea glauca or P. mariana) in what appear to be clonal groups in sheltered locations such as river valleys or lake shores.” He mentions specifically, “Ennadai and Yawed lakes (61-63 N, 98-101 W) in the District of Keewatin, Northwest Territories.

    If you want, you can get your own copy of his paper from the journal “Arctic” here: http://tinyurl.com/5jxf9q and read for yourself. Look for the title, “Historical aspects of the northern Canadian treeline.”

    Otherwise, you can just read the very accessible comments on the climatesci link I provided, where Nichols discusses his work.

    You wrote, “We only disagree on whether [global warming] is due to human industry.” That is not where we disagree. We disagree on whether global warming can be assigned, by means of a valid climate science theory, to human-produced greenhouse gases.

    My position is very explicit, and is explicitly made in Skeptic. It is that climate physics, as expressed in General Circulation Models, is too unreliable to assign causality to the climate warming we have observed.

    Human-produced GHGs may be largely responsible for the current climate warming, or they may not. No one knows, and presently no one *can* know. No one knows whether the CO2 we have produced will detectably warm the atmosphere at all. So far, it has not. Emphasis on “detectably.” From what I’ve read, the climate-temperature effect of human-added CO2 is likely to be small.

    Greenhouse gases are a fine candidate for study. But that’s not what has happened. Greenhouse gases have promiscuously been judged guilty, virtually by fiat, and subsequently demonized. CO2 is widely and unqualifiedly derogated as a pollutant, when it is fundamental to our entire ecology; flora and fauna alike. This state of affairs has been vigorously promoted by environmental groups, uncritically transmitted by the media, and encouraged by the IPCC.

    You wrote, “I don’t want to quibble with you, but observations that are controlled, that always show that A precedes B, that B always occurs in the presence of A and that no other variable consistently predicts B, is what we know to be causation.

    No, it is not. Induction does not allow a conclusion of causality. ‘A invariably precedes B’ at most invites investigation. Assignment of causality in science only comes from a falsifiable physical theory.

    Newton’s theory predicted the motions of planets and the ballistic trajectory of all objects in motion; it needed no radiation theory to make falsifiable predictions.

    Thank-you for retracting the equation of professional ethics with personal privacy. Will you now also retract the comment that I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Or will you also embrace the evidentially consistent extension and also state publicly here that the obscure complexity of climate physics does, “little to convince [you] of anything other than [climate scientists are] trying to pull the wool over [your] eyes.“? Your third choice is to admit to a willful prejudice.

    About your central issue: Couldn’t it also be stated that (paraphrasing your rhetorical devices), ‘There has been considerable effort by climate change alarmists to influence public opinion. Many, if not most of the environmental organizations receive funding from sympathetic donors and foundations, and have a vested interest in the outcome of the influence they can exert on public policy.‘ Could not that statement be as viably asserted by your right-wing analogue?

    Public policy and public perception are positive feedbacks. A pliant public policy lends official authority to environmentalist assertions. A public frightened by alarming stories ensures a continuing flow of donations and grants to environmental organizations. That flow amounts to billions of dollars per year, every year. In 2006, environmental groups got 6.6 billion $, according to the the American Association of Fundraising Counsel, as reported by the National Park Service:
    http://tinyurl.com/6sb82j

    Is $6.6 billion a year, and rising, enough to warrant your suspicion of a vested interest in promoting alarm about the climate? Should the incessant lobbying of environmental groups be granted purity of motive? Are you willing to entertain the notion now also regarding alarm-promoters that, “someone is on the take for their opinions“? Why not? The big money is there.

    Your argument about the cholesterol myth pays no heed to the lag between social momentum and progressive scientific knowledge. If, today, it’s thought that cholesterol is not so strong a causal factor in cardiovascular disease, it remains true that cholesterol was suspected of a strong causal influence for the previous 30-40 years, based on good evidence at the time. Pharmaceutical companies responded to calls for ways of treatment. Now they market their products, ethically researched, ethically proven in careful trials, ethically prepared to high standards. So, what? These trends have a momentum and it’s not surprising they should continue for awhile into a time when increasing knowledge changes conclusions. If statins are not needed, they’ll fade away. Doctors merely have to do their jobs and stop prescribing them. What is there to be so moralizing about? There’s so much thoughtless moralizing going on in socio-politics these days, that I sometimes think righteousness is an end in itself for many.

    You wrote, “Now, looking at the politics of the science of global warming…

    Your argument about politics leaves out the motivational rewards of ideology, even as it by-passed the symmetry of monied interests. It is mostly the environmental left that has engaged the demonization of their opposition, exemplified here by your clear-conscienced use of the pejorative “deniers.” Skeptics of AGW are regularly vilified and demonized in a conscious program of character assassination. Use of this tactic is asymmetric, and is rarely employed by those skeptical of AGW and never systematically. Regular use of discrediting ad hominems is the hallmark of the righteously ideological. It is the hallmark of of dishonest debate. It is the hallmark of abusive politics. It is the hallmark of the evidentially weak position. It is the hallmark of the modern environmental movement, and it reveals them to be ideologically driven and methodologically dishonest. The same tactics are classically used by religious extremists.

    You wrote, “Science is a human enterprise. Let’s not elevate it above its social, political and economic realities.

    Science as method is our only source of culturally independent knowledge. It provides the only knowledge that will be true anywhere in the universe. If you want to debate the cultural relativism of scientific knowledge, go ahead and line up your duckies. They won’t survive exposure.

    You wrote, “Unfortunately, that decision [to refuse to discuss “funding”], in itself, is a political act and, in as much, can be interpreted negatively

    Interpret it as you like. Personal interpretations have no necessary external meaning. Your position supposes that everything is politics, just as prelates suppose that everything is morals. The arguments are structurally identical, and are equally self-serving. As they use that judgment to claim interpretive authority over all human activities, so you apparently claim a like universal interpretive authority. Both judgments are trivially true and equally irrelevant, because all such interpretation is no better than opinion. And yet, like those prelates, you want to impose your interpretations. In either case, it’s ideological tyranny.

    You wrote, “your plea to consider the data on purely scientific grounds rings hollow when we realize that science resides within the human-derived systems.

    And your argument is mere posturing because the meaning and validity of scientific analyses are independent of all human opinions. Scientific statements inhere their own meanings, independent of what anyone may think about them. Science as method and knowledge is acultural and monosemous. Figure it out, Barry. The analysis in my SI is true, or not, on its own merits, no matter whether I was paid or am an independent worker. There’s no room to win a debate in science by tarring an opponent’s personal character. That doesn’t mean politically frantic people won’t try.

    You wrote, “Your reluctance to be transparent about whether your work was supported by interested parties speaks volumes to would-be detractors who are too willing to suggest that you have something to hide.

    I should govern my behavior out of concern for the deviations of small minds? Let the accusations be made. My responses will be to the point. People who make empty personal slurs end up discrediting themselves. I’ve stated my principles and can defend them rationally. Your insistent fishing for a means of character-assassination toward discredit of scientific content is unprincipled. In my opinion, this is evidence of a surrender to the poisonous political climate produced by environmental ideologues; a surrender that has subverted your ethical sense. I think you should objectify your culture and so recover your person and your ethics.

  31. Hi Rachel — my post in reply to Barry may have disappeared into your spam filter. Please, and thank-you. 🙂

  32. I’ll be quiet for a while since my parents are visiting from Germany, which is keeping me rather busy… I am hoping to have a little break tomorrow morning to catch up but I’ve not made any more progress in Chapter 8. I am slacking on my homework 😉

  33. Pat:

    Well that is a relief! I failed to clue into your use of irony and missed the point you were making about conspiracy theories. Relevance?

    Anyway, you make some assertions that someone more knowledgeable than I on trees above the tree line dating back only 800 years. I have been by canoe into the far north and I have seen the clear demarcation between the boreal forest and the barren lands. Where exactly have these trees been found?

    Okay, we agree that global warming is happening. We only disagree on whether it is due to human industry. I think, if I understand your article, there are a myriad of possible causal factors to consider as candidates. Don’t you think we should begin with the proximal factors first when setting out our causal model? The rise of human industry and the concomitant production of green house gases into the atmosphere seems a very likely candidate for study. I don’t think you are arguing that the human production of green house gases is trivial; are you?

    I don’t want to quibble with you, but observations that are controlled, that always show that A precedes B, that B always occurs in the presence of A and that no other variable consistently predicts B, is what we know to be causation. And given enough observations we can, as much as is possible in this very complex universe of distal and proximal causal factors, make causal statements. Remember, Newton accomplished this with the theory of gravity, long before we could measure radiation sources with any degree of accuracy.

    You are right in suggesting that it was unfair of me to suggest that withholding data from public scrutiny is on the same ethical plane as not divulging one’s funding sources. I apologize for my indiscretion here. I should have been more careful in my comments.

    The issue for me is this. There has been considerable effort by climate change deniers to influence public opinion. Many, if not most of the deniers, receive funding from companies that have a vested interest in the outcome of the influence they can exert on public policy. I think it, therefore, a fair question to ask at the outset whether someone is on the take for their opinions. No clearer is this the case in the “cholesterol myths”, where the entire medical profession has been hoodwinked into putting 50% of the North American public on statins – a $25B annual take for the pharmaceutical industry.

    Now, looking at the politics of the science of global warming, who stands to gain by proving they are right? The gains to those who support the deniers is obvious – increased profits, or at least no substantial decrease in profits. What do the “greens” have to gain by comparison? Certainly not profits, since the advocacy is for lowered levels of consumption and a rethinking of how we allocate the planet’s resources. Political? It is interesting to note that green policies are advocated by groups on both the right and left of the political spectrum. I suppose there is the reputation of the scientists involved, since they have staked their careers on their findings. But that’s a common factor that must be addressed by all scientists and their work, so I can’t see that being more or less a vested interest for both sides of the debate.

    Science is a human enterprise. Let’s not elevate it above its social, political and economic realities. You have stated that you do not name your funding sources (or that you have any at all) because you do want want to play that game. Unfortunately, that decision, in itself, is a political act and, in as much, can be interpreted negatively – your plea to consider the data on purely scientific grounds rings hollow when we realize that science resides within the human-derived systems. Your reluctance to be transparent about whether your work was supported by interested parties speaks volumes to would-be detractors who are too willing to suggest that you have something to hide.

  34. Barry, I’ll quote you and then reply.

    You wrote: “I really can’t answer your “claim” that reduction of our use of carbon (oil) is a Republican plot designed to impoverish us all.

    I didn’t claim that was true, or even a possibility. I wrote that cap and trade is, “a program that looked like a bug-a-boo (I.e., monster-scary) Republican conspiracy to make the rich richer and the poor poorer” Conspiracies to accomplish that are effect are standard-issue suggestions levied against the Republican elite. It should be clear that I meant cap-and-trade could accomplish that impoverishing effect, and so fell within the standard conspiracy theory paradigm accorded to the Republicans. Of course, C-a-T is being pushed by the Democratic Party, which is never accused of that sort of conspiracy, making obvious the irony of my comment.

    I know who Dembski is. His approval of my analysis is no shame on me, any more than his use of statistics shames statisticians. You’ll be relieved to know that I published an article showing the poverty of so-called intelligent design theory 3 years ago in the journal “Theology and Science,” There, I specifically repudiated Dembski’s pseudo-science.

    You wrote, “Your conclusion, however, that climate change is not happening because the models are imperfect is not.” Nowhere did I conclude that climate change is not happening. Nor did I conclude climate change is not happening because models are imperfect. Such a conclusion is nonsense on its face. The perfection of models obviously can have no effect on whether anything is actually happening. I.e., scientific theorizing does not affect physical reality.

    You wrote, “You fail to offer any evidence that contradicts the fact that, even by your own admission, there has been a rise in global average temperature.

    Why would I offer evidence to contradict what you say I have already admitted? There’s no reason to doubt that Earth climate has warmed since 1850. The question is the attribution (cause), not the observation.

    You have also not offered any data that contradicts the observations of global events resulting from climate change.

    Why would I offer evidence that contradicts what has been observed? How can evidence (facts) contradict observations (facts)?

    History recorded in Canada stretches back only about 400 years. Four hundred years ago was the Little Ice Age. Why should it be surprising that permafrost in Canada hasn’t melted since the Little Ice Age?

    Did you know that there are clumps of trees, growing ~100 km above the northern latitudinal tree line, both in Canada and in Siberia, that are the remains of forests that existed there during the Medieval Warm Period? New trees are only now advancing close to them, implying it’s only now getting to be as warm in the north as it was 1000 years ago.

    Here, take a look here: http://climatesci.org/2006/06/16/230/ and read especially comment #3. It seems very likely that the permafrost that has you worried wasn’t in existence 800 years ago.

    You wrote, “one can’t assume causation from correlations. This is basic to what we teach our undergrads, right? But wait, don’t we in fact do that all the time in science?

    No, we don’t. Causality is never assumed from correlation.

    What about astronomy?

    Do you think it makes a difference to your argument that astronomy is based in physics? Spectroscopic observations of stars show emission lines characteristic of known elements. Gravitational theory predicts nuclear fusion, and nuclear theory predicts the radiation observed to be emitted from both the sun and other stars. How is this assuming causation from correlation?

    Do you think there was more to the smoking/cancer link than mere epidemiology? Even in the 1950’s, there were mouse inhalation models; a form of experimental testing entirely missing from 21st century climate science.

    You wrote, “The [climate] events are related and we have a theory that makes it possible to make causal statements.

    No, we don’t. That’s the whole point. Physical climate theory is unable to make causal statements about the effect of added GHGs on Earth climate. It is unable to explain the source of warming that has caused some glaciers to retreat, the growing season to be extended, and the northern tree line to advance toward where it was 800 years ago.

    You wrote, “loss of glacial and alpine ice and other events discussed previously here (you’ve said, arbitrarily, these are irrelevant).

    How is loss of Alpine ice and other events relevant to a conclusion that recent climate warming is caused by human-produced CO2? At best, these events are relevant to a conclusion that climate has warmed, but not to a conclusion that humans have caused the climate to warm.

    You wrote< “I think it is fair to ask who’s paying for the message? Not that we reject what they have to say out of hand, only that we take the message with a grain of salt, especially when the message contradicts the majority opinion.

    So, you take a message with a grain of salt, depending on who conveys it rather than on the objective merit of the message itself. How is that not Medieval?

    You made reference to Dembski above. His cohorts once constituted the majority opinion about the origin and age of Earth, and of humans. They rejected the message based on the messenger. Shall we suppose you would have approved of their attitude?

    You wrote, “You’ve asked that others be transparent with their data – where is the reciprocity in your own ethics?

    Where have I been anything less than transparent with my data and my methods? Everything is there to see in the article and the Supporting Information. Nothing is left out. All of the information is referenced to published literature. Anyone can evaluate what I have done, in full.

    And then you make an equation between revealing data and revealing my supposed funding, as though they were identical and supposedly governed by the same ethic of transparency. That is a logical non-sequitur, Barry. There is no ethical connection between revealing data and methods so that the quality of the argument itself can be evaluated — with which ethic I have fully complied — and revealing personal information.

    Your continued insistence in this matter just demonstrates a need to mount a political offensive; to discredit an analytical argument by personal attack. That’s standard operating procedure in climate circles these days, and I won’t cooperate with that dishonest game.

  35. Patrick:

    Ouch, this conversation is getting weird. I really can’t answer your “claim” that reduction of our use of carbon (oil) is a Republican plot designed to impoverish us all. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense given that unchecked consumption of oil has already put billions into the hands of Bushites. But we are getting way off base. (You should note, however, that you are seen as a bit of a darling on the William Dembski’s blog http://www.uncommondescent.com/education/beneficial-natural-warming-31000-scientists/. You remember him; the Id’er creationist who promotes Christian fundamentalist ideas?) Perhaps the climate change deniers are the vanguard for a fundamentalist revolt against science?

    But back to science, your criticism of computer models appears valid. Your conclusion, however, that climate change is not happening because the models are imperfect is not. You fail to offer any evidence that contradicts the fact that, even by your own admission, there has been a rise in global average temperature. You have also not offered any data that contradicts the observations of global events resulting from climate change. Do you deny the observations of Inuit people who witness the disappearance of glacial ice? Or the fact that there is now melting happening in the permafrost in the north of Canada? An event that has never been observed in recorded history.

    Yes, I know – one can’t assume causation from correlations. This is basic to what we teach our undergrads, right? But wait, don’t we in fact do that all the time in science? What about astronomy? We have had no ability to conduct experiments in space, and all observations have been correlated with other events, and we have had a causal model of the planetary systems well before the modern era. A model that has been quite robust, even in the face of modern physics.

    And what about smoking (and pollution for that matter) causing cancer in humans? Maybe you doubt that too? We don’t have the ethical luxury of giving one group of people (chosen at random) large quantities of cigarette smoke and comparing the resulting rates of cancer in a control group. We have inferred causality (rat study extrapolations excluded) based on correlations – but lots of them.

    My point about global warming is that we have lots of observations of smog and particulate air. We know that the amount of gases in the air results in the green house effect. We know that a significant amount of the smog is due to human activity – industry. We also see the effects in loss of glacial and alpine ice and other events discussed previously here (you’ve said, arbitrarily, these are irrelevant). The events are related and we have a theory that makes it possible to make causal statements.

    Finally, I don’t think it is medieval to ask who’s doing the research and why. Ideally, science is disinterested and for the most part when we are dealing with basic research this is the case. Scientists who work on issues that have no immediate economic, political or social consequences can afford to be disinterested. When the stakes are great, as in the case of carbon (as you’ve pointed out) I think it is fair to ask who’s paying for the message? Not that we reject what they have to say out of hand, only that we take the message with a grain of salt, especially when the message contradicts the majority opinion.

    So, who funded your research? You’ve asked that others be transparent with their data – where is the reciprocity in your own ethics?

    Barry

  36. Barry, I wrote nothing about any lack of native intelligence. Please do not assign to me ad hominems I did not make. What I did was make reference to what you wrote, which was, “the mountain of obscure numerical comparisons did little to convince me of anything other than you were trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

    The math in the Skeptic SI is much less complicated than the physics of climate models. If you found the SI math obscure, the climate models must be very much more obscure to you. If less complex obscurity leads you to to suppose trickery, then even more complex obscurity must imply even greater chicanery to you. This is merely consistent reasoning.

    However, it’s clear from the content of your post that you believe the claims that are based on mathematically complex calculus-based climate models. But you suppose trickery associated with less complicated algebra-based criticisms of climate models. Therefore, your reasoning is not consistent. It changes with the message.

    That is, I used the structure of your own argument to show the unfair bias within the equation you made concerning my analysis. That is not an ad hominem about your native intelligence, but a non-personal analysis of your argument.

    The Skeptic article shows that the warming of the climate cannot be scientifically blamed on rising greenhouse gases. Even the name “greenhouse gases” rhetorically pre-supposes the conclusion that they’re responsible for the current climate warming.

    Assigning causality by fiat won’t let us fix a problem. Reining in environmental degradation won’t be accomplished by focusing on a non-causal issue. Assigning climate change to greenhouse gases allows people to indulge ‘feel-good’ politics that will do little for the environment, nothing for climate warming, but make the middle class poor and make the poor desperate. All the while sending rivers of money into the pockets of financiers speculating on the cap-and-trade carbon market.

    If ever there was a program that looked like a bug-a-boo Republican conspiracy to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, it’s legislated carbon capping-and-trading.

    I didn’t stonewall you on my interest in the “obvious.” Climate warming by excess GHG’s is far from obvious.

    As a scientist, I object in principle to your question about being someone’s stooge. You’re just going to have to do the work to understand the issue of climate change, enough to make a reasoned judgment. All it takes is learning how to read a graph.

    Science is a mode of thinking invented by we humans only about 3 centuries ago. But the conscious and rational understanding that objective knowledge exists, and can be used to better ourselves, is what under-girds the entire movement into the Enlightenment.

    Arguments now are evaluated by their content, and not by who makes them. Your question is regressive, Barry. It puts us back into a Medieval mind-set, as though the validity of knowledge was determined by the source; heretic or true-believer. I won’t be a party to it. You shouldn’t be giving in to it.

  37. Rachel, sorry for the delay in replying. I was off for a few days in the country, which was without wireless access. I’m glad you’re looking at Chapter 8 of the IPCC report, Rachel. The place to look is where the uncertainties are discussed. There you’ll see that lots of the climate processes written into the models are based on subjective judgments. Because of these judgments are qualitative, the model climates are are not really quantitative, even though they make assignments in terms of numbers (i.e., the ocean surface will have the temperature range 15 C plus or minus 2 C.)

    Here’s a crude but illustrative analogy. Suppose I was a dietician with a sort-of understanding about how the body works. Into this understanding, I put a guesstimate about how calories per day affect weight. This lets me tell my clients, in terms of numbers, of how much weight-gain or weight-loss there will be, if they eat this many more or fewer calories. ‘Eat 100 more calories a day, I say, and gain 3 pounds by the end of the month.’

    My body model is not very good, but i need credibility to keep my clients. So, I “parameterize” my model. I keep a record of calories and weight for some clients, and use that information to “fix” my body model — to re-adjust how it ratios calories eaten with weight-gain or weight-loss — so that it ends up producing “predictions” that are sort of similar to what these particular clients are experiencing.

    Then I claim that these sort-of-right “predictions” demonstrate that my body-model is scientifically biologically correct, and will predict the weight of my clients for the rest of their lives. They are told they can use my scientific model to actually get to the weight they want, and stay there. They believe me, and I become rich (before moving to Brazil).

    But the “predictions” are not really predictions. They are extrapolations of the peculiarities of the calorie/weight response of the clients that I used to adjust my body-model. I don’t really have the biological theory to know where these peculiarities of my clients are coming from. So, the adjustments that allow my “predictions” are ad hoc. They rest on an uncertainty.

    That’s kind of what’s going on with climate models. They don’t know where lots of the peculiarities of climate are coming from. But the observed changes in climate are used to adjust climate models so that they make reasonable-seeming “predictions.” But these predictions are not really predictions because the adjustments are not understood in terms of climate physics. No one really knows what climate processes actually produced the observations they used to adjust the models. So, at the core of the climate models is a black hole of uncertainty (In cosmology, black holes are collapsed stars from which no information can emerge).

    This black hole of uncertainty in climate models produces the predictive errors that are documented in Chapter 8 Supplemental of the IPCC report. A couple of these are documented in references 15 and 16 of the Skeptic article. The errors are much larger than the effect of CO2 these same models are supposed to detect. You can search the Supplement of Chapter 8 and see them for yourself. Please go ahead and check whether I’m telling the truth.

  38. Pat:

    Thanks for your detailed reply to my post. I will review it (given the time) and try to make sense of, admittedly, a very complex issue. This is not my area of speciality, so like most folks I rely on the experts to distill the complexity into something I can understand. Your article in Skeptic hasn’t done that for me, perhaps as you point out it’s my lack of native intelligence in that area.

    I don’t see how you can state that the observable phenomenon in my points 1-4 are irrelevant given that they are actually occurring right now in the world and speak to rapid warming that most observers agree is likely due to the spike in atmospheric CO2 – and Pat have a look around you at the amount of CO2 producing machinery and industry. Could there be a connection? Your analysis is about computer models; to the contrary, points 1-4 are about observable, real-world events and their most likely connection to other observable real-world events – smog-producing man-made activities.

    But, you stonewalled me on an important question in an attempt to make sense of the stance you have taken about the obvious. So what is your vested interest in this area? Is the amount of time you have spent in the detailed analysis of computer models being funded by an interested party? I know, we really shouldn’t be concerned about this, but as you claim, there is a lot of junk science being conducted out their by folks with vested interests (take a look at the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry). Knowing that someone’s work is being funded by those who seek to profit from decisions made on the basis of the “findings” is important. If everyone played by the same rules – the impartiality of science – then, it wouldn’t be an issue.

    So, anyone paying your way? Or are your motives purely one of disinterested observer?

    Barry

  39. There’s more on the hockey stick and Steve McIntyre here and here.

    Hadley Centre data is here. Just glancing at it, I am not sure what data source Phil Jones has used but I am sure with some digging, it can be found.

    Climate models are based on climatology, climate systems, and other theories. The IPCC Chapter 8 (the pdf is almost 6 MB), which you have pointed me to, Pat, mentions quite a few updates to the models based on new scientific learnings. They’re making predictions that are falsifiable, for example, there’s been a lot of talk about the sea water temperatures and ice sheets.

    The climate models are continuously being refined – again Chapter 8 mentions that but this was also mentioned after September 11 because the silver lining of this event was that the impact of airplane exhaust could be measured because it was not there for a few days. If I recall correctly, there was a major update of climate models surrounding that because the condensation was masking some climate effects. (These things are called contrails).

  40. We aren’t talking about the effect of humans on the environment, Barry. We’re talking about whether we know that humans are responsible for 20th century climate warming. Your points 1 through 4 are irrelevant.

    You wrote, “the mountain of obscure numerical comparisons did little to convince me of anything other than you were trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

    There was very little that was numerical in the article itself. My niece, who teaches high-school English, understood it. So, I suppose you’re referring to the analysis in the Supporting Information (SI) document. If you could not understand that, and therefore concluded from your non-understanding that I’m trying to pull the wool over your eyes, then it’s rationally apparent that you ought to have to come to the same conclusion regarding climate analyses in general.

    That is, if you can not understand the Skeptic SI, you also can’t understand the far more complicated climate literature either. Judgmental equity demands, from your even deeper non-understanding of climate physics, that you’d have to conclude that climate scientists are even more so trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

    But, from the tone of your post, it’s highly unlikely you’ve concluded that climate scientists are trying to trick you, even though your criterion of judgment (non-understood complexity) must be superabundantly present. From the evidence in your post we can, therefore, clearly conclude that your decision about my intention is prejudicial.

    You wrote, “Science, as you know is in the public domain – it self-corrects through replication and peer review.” I’d agree, and commend your ethic. So perhaps you’d like to contact Dr. Phil Jones at the Hadley Center of the University of East Anglia in the UK, and ask him to release the data and methods he used to construct his global temperature metric. People have been asking him for that information for about 20 years now, and he’s consistently stonewalled.

    Likewise, Michael Mann, the author of the so-called “Hockey Stick” proxy climate graph, has consistently obscured and obstructed efforts to replicate his methods, which he has also consistently refused to elucidate.

    And these are not isolated cases. You can google Warwick Hughes about the instance with Phil Jones, and review the copious evidence of Michael Mann’s (and other’s) stubborn obstructionism at Steve McIntyre’s website here: http://www.climateaudit.org.

    If you credit David Suzuki’s claim about consensus then what do you make of the 31,000 or so scientists who have opted out? http://www.petitionproject.org/index.html

    The argument about consensus is, in any case, political. As a scientist, I don’t care about consensus. I can critically read the science, sometimes do my own analysis, and come to my own conclusion. Several years ago, I published an article in Skeptic summarizing my analysis of the Noble Savage myth. The obvious conclusion is that there was never, ever, a time that humans lived “in balance” with nature.

    Not only that, both evolutionary theory and empirical biology tell us that no organism at all lives in balance with nature, in the sense of ecological restraint. And yet, the idea persists widely in environmental circles. Similarly, the overwhelming majority of religious people believe that God used divine intelligence to produce humans. “Intelligent Design” has people with Ph.D.s in biology and mathematics supporting it, lending the encouragement of authority to uncritical believers. But there’s zero empirical evidence and zero theory supporting that idea. So much for “consensus” as a guiding principle.

    In science, the meaning of data comes from interpretation within a falsifiable theory. Evolutionary theory makes falsifiable predictions and does not support the idea of noble savages. Neither Evolutionary Theory nor Physical Geology (also falsifiable) support intelligent design.

    Climate models are not falsifiable because they include subjective elements, the physics is incomplete, and their predictions are not testable. That being true, there is no theory to make a scientifically valid assignment to the specific cause of the climate warming we’ve seen since 1900 (now in abeyance for nearly 10 years). The claim of certainty for CO2 causality is scientifically specious (plausible on its surface, false on critical analysis).

    Climate can warm and cool without any change at all in the amount of solar energy impinging on Earth, or entering the atmosphere. It has done so in the past and, within the limits of resolution, has done so easily as quickly in the past as it is doing now. Indeed the warming we’re experiencing now is not all that quick.

    I’ve already mentioned the Dansgaard-Oeschger events here on Rachel’s blog. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dansgaard-Oeschger_event

    But there are also the Heinrich events, which are also large jumps in climate, detected all across the Northern Hemisphere, that involve large shifts in temperature and rapid Arctic ice melting that occur in decades, not centuries. They have happened many times. Look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_event Also here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/slides/slideset/index19.htm

    There is just no empirical evidence that anything climatologically unusual is happening. And climate models are unable to lend any credibility to claims of human-causal CO2-induced warming.

    Your question about my bio is irrelevant. In science, arguments stand or fall on their own merits, not on the biography of the author.

    Your question about my expertise shows that you didn’t realize my article is about error analysis, and not about climate science. That point was made right up front in the Intro to the SI. You must have overlooked it. In any case, regardless of my specific credentials, the analysis, again, stands or falls on its own merits, and not on mine.

    Your question about “interested parties” is an implicit accusation, without evidence, that I am someone’s stooge.

    This sort of character assassination is now standard practice in attacks on skeptics of the claims of anthropogenic climate warming. It is a dishonest ploy; meant to refute by slander what cannot be refuted scientifically. It appeals to an uncritical and righteous sentimentality. And such demonization is used because it works.

    One should be immediately suspicious of those who resort to that method. Debate by personal attack shows the lack of a factually sound argument.

  41. Pat: I’ll check the filter tonight (or tomorrow morning) and we’ll go from there. I am not sure why the comment disappeared. I am not aware of any other filter… Let’s hope it works the next time!

    Update at 8:50 PM PDT:
    I found the comment, Pat, and moved it from the Doubt Maker page to this one since Barry’s comment was here… If that’s incorrect, please let me know but I think it’s supposed to be here.

  42. Hi Rachel — thanks for checking. I have a copy and will try posting again tonight. It has several URLs and so maybe that’s the problem. If it again doesn’t appear in your filter, may I just email it to you?

    Also, please let me know if this conversation is too troublesome. I don’t want to wear out my welcome. 🙂

  43. I am not seeing your comment in the filter… I hope it didn’t get lost!

    Update a bit later: It’s not showing up either… That’s disconcerting! I hope you kept a copy, Pat…

  44. Sorry for the double post, Rachel. I forgot about your spam-blocker’s ‘two-URL’ rule. 🙂

  45. Thank you for your comment, Barry! You are raising a very good point: The impact of global warming, of the changing climate, is all around us.

    I think the quote from David Suzuki’s website refers to the 2004 study by Naomi Oreskes. That was also mentioned in the Doubt Maker article. Pat commented on that reference by writing

    And so when you write of being, “more convinced by an overall assessment of a body like the IPCC,” you are only referring to agreement with authority, because you’ve not done the work to attain any kind of independent understanding.

    This reference to authority has bugged me since I read it because it implies blind faith, at least in the context: You’re waving the magic wand of authority even though you have no clue what they’re talking about. It’s like claiming “God did it.” Yet, a consensus of climate scientists is not an authority. It’s a body of experts who agree on something. Like evolutionary biologists agree on natural selection as one of the evolutionary mechanism. While I don’t know the details of evolution, I feel confident that I can trust their conclusion because, as you point out Barry, science is self-correcting (even if it takes a long time sometimes) but also because what I do understand about evolution makes sense to me. I can follow the research. Sure, there are holes but that does not invalidate the whole theory. I think the same is true with climate change: There is a consensus amongst those people who study this subject as their jobs. What they are saying makes sense to me – it fits the evidence that I have seen. Sure, they don’t have all the answers. Sure, their forecasts vary wildly. But, as I have written before, the uncertainty around a forecast does not invalidate a descriptive model (and, yes, I will check that supplemental material).

    And I still think that keeping our head in the sand about climate change is too dangerous an approach because even small changes in “greenhouse gases” can have a devastating effect (I’ve read that much in Ice, Mud, and Blood). This is actually true whether the increase in CO2 is due to human activity or not (I continue to have a hard time believing that pumping all that extra CO2 into the atmosphere doesn’t have an effect, though…).

  46. Prediction models aside, there are very real effects of man’s current effect on the environment.

    These are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head, I’m sure with a little more research I could enumerate many others. These things are easy to observe and understandable to anyone willing to go outside the door.

    1. Indigenous peoples in the Canadian north are reporting that the ice shield is retreating, decreasing their ability to carry out traditional economic activity.

    2. Large sections of the polar glaciers in both Greenland and Antarctica have disappeared, faster than would be predicted by cycles expected without man’s interference (remember our current agricultural economy has been possible because of 10,000 years of stable climate). Changes in ice ages take millennia, not decades.

    3. The world’s forests have been reduced to mere fractions of what they were even 50 years ago. Look at any map that compares any of the forested regions of the world in the 1950’s to present day. The net result of forest loss is two-fold; the forest no longer is available to trap the CO2 which is released into the atmosphere, and the trees are no longer are around to process new production of CO2 into O2 (the normal processes of life).

    4. Incidences of pollution-induced maladies such as childhood allergies, skin cancer and lung cancer have been on the increase. While not strictly relevant to global-warming, these events speak to the overall quality of our air and water. So if global warming isn’t the direct result of man’s activity, polluted air and water is – the actions being advocated to improve our air and water, are then the same in both cases. That is, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and find alternatives to pumping polluting chemicals into the atmosphere.

    5. In Canada’s west we have just lived through the total devastation of the alpine pine forest in a matter of a few years. Take a plane over the rockies and look at the expanses of red foliage that was once green. The reason – the pine beetle. The pine tree and the pine beetle evolved a co-dependent relationship that exerted checks and balances on each species. This relationship was millions of years in the making. So what has happened to tip the balance in favour of the beetle? Longer periods of warm climate that mean the beetle doesn’t die off in winter. Also, because the beetle has a more rapid reproduction cycles than the trees, they can adapt more quickly to the changing climate than the trees and in essence win an arms race that has been stable for millions of years.

    Patrick, I must admit that I had a difficult time understanding your article. Your argument about accuracy and precision I get, but the mountain of obscure numerical comparisons did little to convince me of anything other than you were trying to pull the wool over my eyes. The mark of a good science writer, like say Carl Sagan, is that he can make the complex understandable.

    Science, as you know is in the public domain – it self-corrects through replication and peer review. The over whelming majority of scientists agree that human-made green house gases are a real phenomenon resulting in global warming trends. To quote David Suzuki’s web-page:

    “To gain an understanding of the level of scientific consensus on climate change, a recent study examined every article on climate change published in peer-reviewed scientific journals over a 10-year period. Of the 928 articles on climate change the authors found, not one of them disagreed with the consensus position that climate change is happening or is human-induced.” These facts are easy to understand.

    One more question Patrick, Sceptic magazine does not mention your bio. What is you expertise on the matters at hand, and have you written the article at the request of interested parties?

    Barry Cull

    Barry Cull

  47. Pingback:Rachel’s Musings » Doubt Makers

  48. Thanks for the debate, Pat!

    That sentence, taken in context, meant that I was hoping that I had understood you wrong and thus you are not a climate change denier…

  49. Or water. 🙂 Should the fact that thousands die of drowning every year cause us to ban water production?

    But, really, I can see how the evidence seems compelling to you when folks like the AGU keep stories such as the above in circulation. How is anyone to tell otherwise when trusted professional bodies seem so certain?

    But here we have the AGU talking about climates in and out of balance when there is no such thing. When, in fact, the estimates of global temperature are so imprecise that numbers can’t really be applied to them. That “0.6°C” is really 0.6°C plus or minus about 2-4 degrees, but no one owns up to that lack of certainty. In fact, all of AGW climate science is rife with false precision. I may publish on that, too.

    Did you know that retreating glaciers in the Alps are revealing stumps of forests that thrived there 2000 years ago? That is, during the Roman Empire, Alpine glaciers were smaller than they are right now in 2008. Similar findings have turned up in the Andes, and the glaciers that are retreating now generally began their retreat around 1850, not 1950. That is, their retreat can’t be connected to the appearance of human-produced CO2. All across the Northern Hemisphere treeline, from Canada through Siberia, there are clumps of trees that are only now beginning to grow where forests once grew during the Medieval Warm Period.

    You strike me as an honest person, Rachel, and I don’t want to just argue with you like this. From other entries at your site, we don’t really disagree about any of the other important social issues that excite controversy in the US.

    What caused me to engage you here was this, “Somehow, an article by a climate change denier in a skeptical magazine doesn’t seem too appealing…

    That description was very unfair, especially given all the supporting analysis I made freely available on the Skeptic web-site, and I felt a need to rescue my character. I hope I’ve done that here, even if we continue to disagree.

    No matter how the debate is politically manipulated, it’s not about venal and callous “climate-change deniers” cynically spreading doubt among honest people. In fact, the debate is scientifically legitimate and the very large uncertainties about climate, and about CO2 and climate, are not being communicated by the responsible public bodies, such as the IPCC and the AGU.

    So, I’ll end here by asking you to keep a rational head about yourself and spot the rhetorical character assassinations for what they are in the climate debate — attempts to discredit the messenger so as to distract attention from the message.

    After my 5-year journey studying this matter, my considered view now is that the global warming scare is the worst scientific scandal, ever. Not even Lysenkoism can match it, because none of these scientists have been compelled to scientific abuse by Stalinist coercions.

    With that, I’ll wish you good luck, long life, and happiness, and leave you free of my presence.

    Unless provoked by personal attack, of course. 🙂

  50. From the revised statement on climate change by the American Geophysical Union:

    The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system—including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons—are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century. Global average surface temperatures increased on average by about 0.6°C over the period 1956–2006. As of 2006, eleven of the previous twelve years were warmer than any others since 1850. The observed rapid retreat of Arctic sea ice is expected to continue and lead to the disappearance of summertime ice within this century. Evidence from most oceans and all continents except Antarctica shows warming attributable to human activities. Recent changes in many physical and biological systems are linked with this regional climate change. A sustained research effort, involving many AGU members and summarized in the 2007 assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, continues to improve our scientific understanding of the climate.

    It’s not fear, Pat, it’s evidence. The climate is changing and that’s having an impact. Even if CO2 itself doesn’t do any damage, the warming does. It doesn’t matter whether CO2 is called a pollutant or not, it is having an impact.

    Plus, just because something is good for us, is life-sustaining, doesn’t mean that it’s not damaging in larger quantities. Ice cream comes to mind. Or chocolate. Or coffee.

  51. Rachel, the atmosphere of Venus is 90 times heavier than the atmosphere of Earth (14.7 lbs per square inch on Earth vs. 1,323 lb per square inch on Venus). Venus has about 247,000 times more atmospheric CO2 than Earth. What possible relevance can conditions on Venus have with conditions on Earth? Weather Underground is making an entirely false comparison. Is that mindful?

    Did you know that all the CO2 now locked up on Earth as carbonate (think ‘White Cliffs of Dover’) was once in Earth’s atmosphere? That is a gigantic amount. Early Earth had about 100 atmospheres of CO2 plus about 0.8 atmospheres of nitrogen. That is, Earth’s atmosphere was ~100 times heavier than it is now, and almost all of that was CO2. But no runaway greenhouse. Part of the reason for is that 4 billion years ago the sun was ~30% dimmer than now and perhaps CO2 ice clouds reflected back a lot of sunlight. Past Earth was pretty heroic and very alien. 🙂

    CO2 is necessary for all of life on Earth. No CO2, no life. At 90 ppm of atmospheric CO2 (1/4 of the present amount), all photosynthesis on Earth would stop. All animals would rapidly become extinct (i.e., in a couple of months). Evidence from plant stomata indicate atmospheric CO2 has varied spontaneously in recent past centuries, and was at times comparable with the 20th century. Nothing bad happened.

    Can you factually show that current CO2 is a pollutant? Can anyone? If not, then on what does your fear rest?

  52. Well, if you think that CO2 is so harmless, maybe you would like to move to Venus?

    Again from Weather Underground:

    One need only look at our sister planet, Venus, to see that too much “life” can be a bad thing. There, an atmosphere of 96% carbon dioxide has created a hellish greenhouse effect. The temperatures of 860 F at the surface are hot enough to melt lead. There’s not too much life there!

  53. Tapio’s description promulgates a standard half-truth about CO2. That for another time, maybe.

    There is no such thing as a climate imbalance because climate is not now, nor has ever been, in balance.

    Your definition of a pollutant could as well apply to human (man-made) hair-clippings in the environment.

    So, let’s get to the issue at hand: How do you know that CO2 is, in fact, a pollutant. What has it harmed, in fact? No speculations, no ‘maybe this’ or ‘maybe that.’ What has CO2 actually harmed? How do you (or does anyone) know it’s a pollutant?

  54. “Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into an environment, of whatever predetermined or agreed upon proportions or frame of reference; these contaminants cause instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the physical systems or living organisms therein.” (From Wikipedia).

    As Tapio Schneider points out in the other Skeptic Magazine article:

    Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, as are methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and a host of other trace gases. They occur naturally in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases act like a blanket for infrared radiation, retaining radiative energy near the surface that would otherwise escape directly to space. An increase in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and of other greenhouse gases augments the natural greenhouse effect; it increases the radiative energy available to Earth’s surface and to the lower atmosphere.

    So, carbon dioxide is naturally occurring in the air and thus would not be considered a contaminant. However, an increase in CO2 can cause an imbalance in the climate system which triggers “instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the physical systems.” Hence, CO2 that is released into the atmosphere by our human activity can still be considered a pollutant (and Schneider’s article presents evidence for both an increase in CO2 and that our activity is the primary cause for that increase).

    The Weather Underground also addresses that same question. They conclude:

    The definition of pollution in Webster’s dictionary is “to make physically impure or unclean: Befoul, dirty.” By that definition, carbon dioxide is not pollution. However, Webster’s also has the definition: “to contaminate (an environment) esp. with man-made waste.” Carbon dioxide is a waste gas produced by fossil fuel combustion, so can be classified as man-made waste. One can also make the case that carbon dioxide is contaminating the environment, since increased CO2 from burning fossil fuels has already harmed sea life.

  55. Rachel, good comment. You have brought us to a crux issue. So, I have a crux question for you. 🙂 How do you know that CO2 is a pollutant? (How does anyone know?)

  56. Thanks for your comments, Ken and Pat! I am going to leave the comments unanswered because I don’t want to spend more time and energy on this issue, partly because I think this blog is the wrong forum for this. And, yes, expertise counts because if you are studying a certain field, it is much easier for you to evaluate an argument. It is much more difficult to understand something if you don’t already have a frame of reference. For example, it’s clear from your response, Pat, that I missed a few points simply because I don’t know the basics: what the GCMs predict, for example, or even more fundamental, what GCM stands for, Global Climate Model or maybe General Climate Model, I suspect, rather than Grouchy Centrist Monster. My background in marketing modeling and econometrics clearly doesn’t get me very far…

    An argument from authority means that you are blindly referring to some higher authority. I am not doing this here. When I suggest that climate scientists are in a better position to evaluate the soundness of – or lack thereof – your arguments, Pat, it’s because I realize that they’ve spend considerably more time learning about the subject. It is the same reason that I’d go to a dermatologist with a skin condition rather than to a grocery store clerk. It’s not some magical hand-waving claiming that “god said it’s so.”

    I am more concerned about the implications. Essentially, you are saying, Pat, that the climate models are too uncertain to say that we, as humans, are impacting the weather. This implies that we don’t have to do anything. No need to reduce CO2 pollution etc. What if you’re wrong, Pat? If you are wrong, this would mean that we continue business as usual, increase CO2 levels, and impact the climate to potentially devastating effects. I think the cost of that mistake is just way too high. What if the climate scientists are wrong? Well, I don’t see much negative impact from creating more fuel-efficient cars, cleaner energy source etc. Ultimately, I would hope, that the climate crisis will force us to rethink our growth mentality: the economy has to grow, we have to expand markets, we have to grow, grow, grow.

    I think that’s where the discussion needs to go using the climate models as decision support systems, as Ken suggests.

  57. By the way, about Skeptic and peer-review: the article was reviewed by every single person in the acknowledgment section, including three climate physicists (at least two of whom have a Ph.D. in applied mathematics) and two academic professionals expert in statistics, before I ever submitted it to Skeptic. Michael Shermer then sent it to two further climate scientists of his choice. I was required to respond in detail to their critical comments, and did so.

    I can tell you as a well-published scientist myself and as an experienced reviewer, that the article went through a very valid peer-review.

  58. Rachel – point-by-point:

    1) The article concerns what the climate models predict. Call that what you like. If you look at the SRES predictions, reproduced in article Figure 1, the IPCC used climate models to make year-by-year predictions in global average surface temperature.

    Likewise, in Figure 2, all 12 GCMs projected year-by-year global average surface temperature, given a 1% compounded increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    These uses of GCMs are what my article addressed. The article wasn’t about climate (or weather). It was about what GCMs do. That was made explicitly clear in the very first paragraphs of the Supporting Information.

    2) Climate models are used to predict temperature trends at yearly resolution. Given your stated desire to restrict the definition of climate to 30-year averages, you may disapprove of the uses to which GCMs are put. However, such disapproval is beside the point, because 1-year averages are staple published outputs of GCM projections, and the IPCC report is full of them. Maybe that’s something you can ask a modeler about – why are GCMs used to predict annual excursions in temperature and climate-systems when climate itself occurs only across 30 years, minimum?

    3) Indeed, large confidence intervals can’t invalidate a model, because large confidence intervals do not allow a prediction to be falsified. Large confidence intervals invalidate the reliability of a specific prediction, however, when the magnitude of that prediction is much smaller than the confidence interval.

    4) In the SI, I showed that the cloud error is latitudinally autocorrelated, and retained its autocorrelation across time-averaging.

    5) The statistical argument you made strictly applies to empirical value series (e.g., a time-magnitude series) that are not governed by a physical theory. In such cases, statistical models are applied, and the correct model is determined by the statistical behavior of the value series.

    However, climate series are explained through a physical theory that includes deterministic chaos as well as random influences. In that case, the error model must be appropriate to the physical theory, and statistical criteria, while important, do not strictly govern error propagation. In calculating the uncertainty limits of physical predictions, the statistical model must be consistent with the physical theory, not the other way around.

    In step-wise calculations of progressive physical processes, the uncertainties in the intermediate results must always be carried forward.

    That all said, I in any case included Phillips-Perron tests that established the unit root status of cloud error. Unit root error series meet the statistical criteria for random walk processes, and such errors accumulate.

    So, by both statistical (not deeply relevant) and physical (critically relevant) criteria, the errors accumulate.

    6) I didn’t write that Gavin was mean. I wrote that his objections were irrelevant. He repeatedly referred to the line in Figure 2 as a “fit,” when in fact it is not. He claimed I made a mistake about an error in a mean as opposed to an error in a trend, when in fact the cloud error is an error in a calculated dynamical state.

    Gavin may have gotten frustrated, but it wasn’t from repeatedly seeing arguments he had refuted.

    7) My article can be understood by anyone who knows some algebra and can read a graph. Just because an article is written for a non-specialist audience doesn’t mean it must be understandable by casual reading. If the subject is complex, reading a generally accessible article can take some studied attention, and maybe even some work.

    8) Your last sentence is just an argument from authority.

    I’ve seen Ken’s follow-on comment as well, and observe that he quickly found a way to cast aspersions and to analogize about creationists. Well done. I’ll reply to that later; maybe this weekend.

  59. I have taken a while to respond to Pat’s comments – partly because they are so long and I had to get my head around them.

    Pat missed my point about clouds – that both model predictions and satellite measurements were inadequate and therefore estimating errors based on their differences is questionable. In the end the only measurement of reliability is comparison of predictions with actual measurements – we are always in a waiting mode on that one.

    However, I think most realistic people see any such models as of limited use – particularly in predicting future events – and therefore are best used as decision support systems. After all, there is huge variability in estimates of future anthropogenic CO2 inputs.

    But a few comments on Pat’s tone:

    He is claiming IPCC “certainties” in their statements. But what impresses me is the authoritative statements general refer to possibilities, probabilities, likelihoods rather than outright certainties. I am not, of course talking about activists who sometimes make extreme claims – that’s the nature of activism I guess.

    He refers to you, Rachel, and me being “good-hearted and well-meaning people” who are concerned about the “planet-busting apocalypse” of climate change and ignore other important issues (clean water, control of fertility, etc.). I am afraid that is the sort of “disparagement” and “insinuation” he refers to later. He just has to look at the posting on your blog, and mine (even the one on Climate change controversy) to see that comment is inappropriate.

    It’s true that in this controversy (like in all controversies I imagine) there is far too much “scornful dismissal”, “discrediting of people by disparagement, insinuation about motives and personal attacks.” As Pat says “That’ll let you know who’s bluffing. Science is never mean.”

    Well, such a tone is often used by those who wish to discredit estimates of anthropogenic caused climate change. Pat himself claims models are adjusted in an “ad hoc sort of way.” If that is so it needs to be raised in the scientific literature and review processes so that it can be corrected. By itself its just a disparaging statement.

    One can despair at the extreme way some environmental activists interpret the climate change information but let’s face it some of the worst “discrediting of people by disparagement, insinuation about motives and personal attacks” comes from those who deny there is any problem. Their attacks are as bad as those made by creationists against science. In fact creationists provide a significant input into the climate change denial literature.

    However, I agree that it is important for articles like Pats to be presented in the scientific literature where they can be peer-reviewed and assessed by the specialist. After all, the IPCC process is one of reviewing published scientific literature and data so as to draw reasonable conclusions.

  60. Pat: Based on the definitions of climate and weather, what you’re predicting year over year in your example is weather, not climate.

    From the IPCC glossary:

    Climate in a narrow sense is usually defined as the “average weather”, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years. The classical period is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). These quantities are most often surface variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind. Climate in a wider sense is the state, including a statistical description, of the climate system.

    Or more briefly: “Climate is the average weather in a location over a long period of time.”

    The climate models predict the average weather, not exact temperatures; they. predict general tendencies of warming. Granted sometimes we hear exact point estimates, i.e., the temperatures will be warmer x degrees in 5 years. The point estimates do come with a confidence interval but, as I pointed out before, the existence of a confidence interval does not invalidate a model.

    Also, if I recall my statistics correctly, if the errors are building up, like you seem to suggest, we’re dealing with autocorrelated disturbances (errors):

    When the off-diagonal elements of the variance-covariance matrix G of the disturbance term are nonzero, the disturbances are said to be autocorrelated.

    (Peter Kennedy. A Guide to Econometrics. Third Edition. p. 119.)

    There are modeling techniques that can take that into account since this is rather frequently the case in time series models. This is only a problem in ordinary least squares regression, which would not be used for climate models since they are clearly time series models. So, if autocorrelated disturbances are indeed a problem, it can be modeled. Otherwise, the errors are independent and there would not be a year over year build-up in error.

    You said “science is never mean.” Science is neutral, that’s correct, yet scientists can indeed be mean. Although, the comments on the Real Climate site seemed to me more frustrated than mean, at least the ones that I read. Gavin’s first few responses did not have that tone, for example, but he became frustrated when the same arguments that he thought he refuted were brought up again and again.

    There is another general principle about science that involves writing for a lay audience: If you cannot write in a way that lay people understand, you either don’t understand what you are trying to communicate or you’re a bad writer. The Skeptic magazine is not published for climate scientists, so articles in that magazine should be accessible to everybody even if the topic is esoteric. I have learned the hard way that if I don’t understand something an author tries to convey, it’s time to be skeptical because some people are bluffing with fancy sounding “theories.” Based on what I have seen from climate scientists, the climate models are sound and your concerns are unwarranted. Although my opinion doesn’t really count here. Just like the ID people, you need to convince the experts, climate scientists in this case. So, hopefully, you are working on a journal article to be published in a peer-reviewed science journal, which Skeptic magazine is not.

  61. Rachel, you’re talking about the conversation I had at RealClimate. I’ve replied on that site to virtually every one of those criticisms.

    Gavin’s criticism implies that he never fully read the analysis in the Supporting Information, or else ignored it. He never addressed the issue that the propagation of cloud error arises because the projections of future climate are step-wise.

    Here is a short explanation: Suppose you want to predict what the climate will be in the year 2100. The climate for that year can’t be predicted directly outright from 2008, in one big jump.

    Instead, one has to start by predicting the climate in the year 2009, beginning with the known climate now, in 2008.

    So, now we predict climate for 2009. But there is an uncertainty in our view of that climate because it’s not known how to properly calculate the behavior of clouds (among other things).

    So, the state of the climate in 2009 is not known exactly. Maybe clouds are this way, or maybe that way. Maybe the oceans have this much heat, or that much. Maybe there was lots of rain here, or there, or maybe not so much. Etc.

    Now we take the predicted 2009 climate, which is kind of fuzzy, and use that to start the prediction for the climate for 2010.

    But we again don’t know how clouds will respond. And the climate in 2010 will start with the fuzzy climate of 2009. In other words, the climate of 2010 inherits the fuzziness from 2009. Then 2010 generates its own fuzz as well, because the uncertainty about clouds lives in the calculation itself.

    Then we take the twice-fuzzy climate of 2010, and use that to start the prediction for 2011. And so it goes, one step at a time, fuzz upon fuzz, until one finally reaches the prediction for 2100.

    So starting from 2008, we’d need to predict all 82 intermediate yearly climates, step-by-step, to finally get to the year 2100.

    So, the problem of uncertainty arises from the fact that each intermediate climate provides the beginnings for the following climate — 2011 to 2012 … 2081 to 2082, and so on to 2100.

    The uncertainty — the fuzziness — has to be carried forward into the next predicted climate each time. Every new predicted climate inherits the fuzziness that was imported from the previous climate, and then produces its own contribution to the fuzz of uncertainty as well.

    And these are all passed on. With every step, then, the predicted climate gets more and more out of focus.

    Finally, the fuzziness in the view of climate becomes so pronounced that one can’t see the climate at all.

    So, Gavin’s criticism is beside the point, and just shows that he wasn’t addressing the actual analysis.

    The other criticism you quoted is from Anthony Kendall, and I answered him in detail in response #308, which you can read here: http://tinyurl.com/4xltyl In short, none of his criticisms were factually valid.

    There was a lot of back-and-forth at RealClimate with several people. But no one offered an analysis that refuted the point about increasing uncertainty. In science, scornful dismissal doesn’t count. There was a lot of that.

    The so-called predictions that dhogaza wrote about in #93 are mostly ad-hoc tunings. The stratospheric cooling he mentions are not predictions from climate models so much as predictions from a much simpler physical theory. The stratosphere is above Earth’s climate, above almost all of the clouds, and responds basically by pure radiation. The behavior of the stratosphere is not a good test of climate models.

    But I understand your difficulty. The dispute is esoteric and hard to follow. So, I don’t want to burden you.

    But here’s a very useful general principle about science: The only valid arguments are directed to theory and data; never at people. If David Duke were a physicist, he might make entirely valid contributions to science no matter his horrid racial and political views. His science would eventually be accepted, or not, on its own merits, and not rejected outright because he personally is so awful.

    That’s how it has to be, or science loses its way.

    So, in the dispute about global warming, look to see who is trying to discredit people by disparagment, insinuations about motives, or personal attacks. That’ll let you know who’s bluffing. Science is never mean.

  62. There is a very interesting post on a blog called climate science for climate scientists. This post addresses your concerns, Pat, with the IPCC models and summary. And there are quite a few comments that directly speak to your Skeptical Inquirer article starting at number 23, then number 48 and then some more at number 87. Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, has some pretty harsh things to say about your approach… Since I don’t feel qualified to review your assertions I will defer to a climate scientist in his assessment (from the earlier post #48, which wasn’t quite as harsh):

    Frank confuses the error in an absolute value with the error in a trend. It is equivalent to assuming that if a clock is off by about a minute today, that tomorrow it will be off by two minutes, and in a year off by 365 minutes. In reality, the errors over a long time are completely unconnected with the offset today.

    Then we have a comment, number 126, from someone with the same predicament I find myself in:

    I am a layman but usually quite good at assessing the weight of scientific evidence and evaluating competing hypotheses. These two articles left me bewildered to say the least. What is wrong with the arguments presented here? I could not figure it out even with the help of Gavin’s comments above. On the face of it they look like devastating critiques of the reliability of climate modelling.

    And fortunately, there is a response in number 127, here is the summary:

    1) Frank asserts that there is a 10% error in the radiative forcing of the models, which is simply not true. At any given latitude there is a 10% uncertainty in the amount of energy incident, but the global average error is much smaller.
    2) Frank mis-characterizes the system as a linear initial value problem, instead of a non-linear boundary value problem. This crucial difference means that his argument about propagation and amplification of uncertainties does not apply here. The real system is rife with positive and negative feedbacks that will respond very differently depending on the state of the system. There are certain instances where uncertainties would indeed propagate, including rapid ice sheet melting, and that is why the IPCC includes the caveat that their results do not include such effects (Which could actually lead to much more rapid warming).

    The other thing pointed out in the comments (#93) is that these models have been used to make predictions, which were subsequently observed.

  63. Thanks, Pat! It’ll take me a bit to read the article, so I will reply in detail later… For some reason your comment ended up in my spam queue, hence the delayed posting.

  64. Thank-you for your reply, Rachel. You are right, the results of the analysis are that even those climate models are too uncertain. Any influence of CO2 on climate is so small compared to the size of the uncertainties in the models, that it’s impossible to detect any CO2 effect. It’s sort of like trying to pick the ant out of a large swirl of insects of all sizes, while peering through the bottom of a glass coke bottle.

    This conclusion is pretty much the message of the peer-reviewed literature on the reliability of climate models, but you’d never know that from the publicity releases of the IPCC. I’m familiar with the graphs on Ken’s page. They are standard issue for showing a human influence on 20th century climate, due to emitted CO2. The same graph is mentioned towards the end of the Skeptic article — Figure 4 from the brochure published by the National Academy of Sciences (see article page 27, at the bottom of column 1).

    Section 5 in the Supporting Information illustrates it a bit more. You can get the SI from the Skeptic website, here: http://tinyurl.com/6f3py6 It’s an 892kB pdf download, which should be pretty fast if you have a DSL connection. Sections 1-4 are a little technical, but anyway will show that the article was based in a rational analysis. Section 5 is more readable and is about the graph on Ken’s page.

    When looking at those graphs, one needs to know that parts of climate models are adjusted in a rather ad hoc sort of way, so that they can sort of simulate any past climate one wants. But a climate model specifically adjusted to simulate a past climate need not at all be reliable in predicting future climates.

    And with that kind of add-on flexibility, it’s really meaningless to say that recent climate can’t be simulated without adding excess CO2, because that claim assumes the models can accurately simulate natural climates in the first place. But they can’t.

    That is, if models can’t accurately simulate the natural climate in the first place, how can they say that the current climate isn’t natural? Global climate certainly isn’t behaving unnaturally, and people are looking very hard to find something.

    The other thing to notice is that graph never seems to have any indication of uncertainty, as though the model were perfectly accurate. It’s as though someone offered you a market model that not only predicted trends, but also exactly how many units of what product would be purchased.

    Anyway, if you download the SI, please take a look at Section 6, too. This discusses a little of the known greening of the Sahel — the southern borderlands of the Sahara Desert. For all the hoopla about the disaster of extra CO2 in the atmosphere, I know of only two effects that can be traced unambiguously to extra CO2. Neither of them are climate warming.

    One of the two effects is the general greening of ecologies all across the northern hemisphere, from Brazil east around to China. Prior to 1900, plants were semi-starved for CO2. Plants have to open their pores (stomata) to get CO2, and in doing so lose water. Now that CO2 has gone up, they can get it easier, their stomata are open for shorter times, and so the plants lose less water. So, plants are now more drought-resistant and arid areas are greening up, along with temperate areas. This has been noticeable worldwide from satellites since about 1980.

    The other effect is an increase in dissolved CO2 in the surface waters of the ocean. This has caused a slight drop in the alkalinity of the water — from more dissolved bicarbonate. There is a worry that calcerous phytoplankton might suffer, but the most realistic evaluations I’ve seen show that the extra dissolved CO2 has produced larger phytoplankton. So, it may be that the bottom of the food chain is getting some benefit as well, from the extra CO2.

    Apart from those two effects, I don’t know anything else that factually can be traced to the increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

  65. Thanks for your detailed comment, Pat! When I was trying to read your article, the thought that kept going through my mind was “they can’t even predict next week’s weather.” So, a lot of what you were saying made sense to me: There’s just too much uncertainty around their predictions to make them anything but certain. However, as I understand it, there are also models that are attempting to recreate the past and they do show that there is considerable human influence (Ken has the graphs for that in his post). Are you saying that even with those models there is too much uncertainty? “Predicting” the past can be tested much easier: we have the actual data to test the model fit. Either the model does a fairly accurate job of describing the data or it doesn’t. Yes, there’s still error but usually that error is much smaller than when we predict into the future (well, at least that’s the case with the marketing models I’ve built that are used to explain & predict consumer behavior).

  66. Ken, if the climate models are wrong about observable clouds, there’s no reason to think they’re less wrong about unobservable clouds. My assessment of error is unrealistic only because it’s incomplete. Climate models are likely less reliable than indicated in my article.

    Rachel, by your grace, please, I’ll explain myself a bit. Several years ago, like you, I believed humans were responsible for the recent climate warming, because of emitted CO2 and other gases. But as a scientist I didn’t like how the press was covering the issue. So, I began to read the peer-reviewed climatology literature. In my job, I have free access to lots of journals.

    What I discovered is that the science of climatology is far too undeveloped to reproduce the climate of Earth. Climate models include all the known physics of climate, and even though they are a magnificent triumph of science they are also inadequate and unreliable as predictive tools. That means predictions of a climate-heating catastrophe due to greenhouse gases are scientifically unsustainable.

    Then I read deeper into the IPCC Assessment Reports, past the Summary for Policy Makers and past the Technical Summary. Deep inside, where the science is actually discussed, the scientists who wrote the Report listed uncertainties and predictive errors that are so large that the certainties issued by the leadership of the IPCC — such as that it’s highly likely that humans are causing the current warming — cannot be supported.

    That is, the public statements of the IPCC leadership about a human cause for general climate warming can’t be supported by the information that is in the IPCC’s own report. In the current report, for example, the very large uncertainties in the science are described in Chapter 8 of the Working Group I sub-Report, and in the Supplement to Chapter 8. But we don’t see them in the Summary for Policy Makers, where honesty demands they be candidly revealed.

    When I discovered all this — it took a long time of reading, researching, thinking, and self-education — it was very upsetting. Science lives and dies on trust, and this trust has been badly violated. And at very high levels.

    And that’s why I finally did my own analysis and wrote that article. I think what is going on at the hands of many scientists about global warming is a huge scandal, and I needed to raise my voice in defense of scientific ethics.

    Other than that, I also learned that the rate of warming we’ve experienced since 1900 is not that large. There have been large climate excursions in the climatologically recent past 15,000 years. I’ve also learned that no one really knows how fast the climate has warmed because the number we all see — 0.7 C in 100 years — has a very large physical uncertainty of its own; almost surely several times larger than the 0.7 C itself.

    So, in my considered opinion, the alarm about global warming — as caused by humans — is not sustainable on rational grounds. There may be unpleasant fallouts because the climate has indeed warmed. But to my mind it’s highly improbable that we are doing it, or really, that we can do anything at all to influence how the global climate evolves.

    What really galls is that good-hearted and well-meaning people like you (and Ken) are being misled. You want to do right by the environment, and you’re being caused to waste emotional and psychological energy on a non-issue while the real gritty problems of the human condition get screened into obscurity. If a planet-busting apocalypse is coming and its our fault, what energy remains to worry about whether children have clean water, or women are free to control their fertility? So I see the global warming scare as not only false, but even more as intensely immoral and unethical.

  67. Thanks, Ken! I am glad to read that I did not misunderstand Frank’s article: he is using errors in prediction to discredit the explanations of historical patterns…

  68. I think models have their place – problems can arise if people interpret their predictions too literally. I have sometimes come across people who give greater credence to output from a computer model than actual empirical data! So I think their greatest use is as decision support systems.

    But when it comes to the earth’s climate they are the only way we have to determine what the future situation might be.

    However, I think Patrick Frank has grossly overestimated possible errors. He places a lot of his analysis on the lack of fit between satellite measured cloud cover and model predictions of cloud cover. Two problems here:
    1: Satellite measurements have problems measuring cloud cover – often not picking up lower clouds. Efforts are being made to improve this – apparently the Us & Taiwan launched the COSMIC satellite(s) in 2006 with this intention but I understand it will be years before measurements of cloud cover will have full confidence.
    2: Computer models just don’t predict cloud cover well – it’s just too complex. This is well acknowledged (eg. by the author of the 2nd paper) as being one of the major (if not the major) problems with the models. Consequently simplifications are used to handle this problem. I guess this is the sort of approach modellers often use – don’t ask me how acceptable it is in this situation.

    So I think Frank has been comparing two assessments which are well known not to be accurate. I doubt that his assessment of error is realistic.

    I think the conclusion of a most likely contribution of anthropogenic inputs to global warming relies on historical and current data – not model predictions of future changes. So I think attention to this problem by governments is justified. The model predictions of future changes may help them with determine policy – as a decision support system.