The Unbearable Lightness of Bias

Does climate science have a confirmation bias problem? Or is it the bias of climate skeptics that is the problem?  I suppose how you answer that might reflect your own bias. And so, in light of recent posts that explored issues of trust and polarization, maybe it’s a good time for us to examine the bias issue.

Once again, it is an exchange between readers (one of them being Gavin Schmidt) that will take center stage, and hopefully serve as a springboard for a productive discussion on bias.

Yesterday JohnB waded into an ongoing exchange between Judith Curry and Gavin on this thread. At the end of one comment, Gavin wrote:

The solution to the existence of individual biases (which exist regardless of how many letters have been signed), are the multiple levels of review and collaborations across many people and voices.  You don’t get rid of biases by pretending they don’t exist.

To which JohnB responded:

There is a subtle problem with bias. That is that it changes our perception of when to raise warning flags due to our expectations. The Vulcan scientist is a fantasy and everybody is prey to their own biases, you me, Judith, Keith, everybody. The problem with bias is that it clouds our ability to detect bias in our own actions.

Where this is relevant. Suppose you (or anyone) were running projections to 2100 and you expect a 4 degree warming. AS in 4 degrees is around what you think the temps in 2100 will be. You know your stuff and have done this before, so you will have a rough idea of what to expect.

If the answer comes in between 3.5 and 4.5 degrees, you’d shrug and say to yourself “Round about what I expected” and move on. If the answer came in at 5 degrees, you’d whistle and think “Higher than I expected, this could get bad” and then continue.

However, if the answer came in at 3 degrees, you’d most likely think “That’s a bit low, I’d better check my figures.”

Natural bias tends to make us more liable to doubt when the answer disagrees with our preconceived ideas. You will be more likely to suspect a problem if the answer is lower than expected than when the answer is higher than expected. I think it’s called “being human”.

The problem comes in when the next person builds on your research. He assumes your findings are right. Why not, they’re peer reviewed and he also knows that Gavin knows his stuff and is likely right. But researcher number 2 has the same bias. So if his figures come out under yours, they will be immediately suspect (by him for a start) but if they come out a bit higher, well, both still fall into the error bars of the other, so they should be right.

Hence the seemingly never-ending litany of “It’s worse than we thought.” The simple fact that it’s always “worse than we thought” sets alarm bells ringing to Joe Public.

This sort of “compounding of errors” has probably been observed by most people as it happens in all walks of life. Why should Climate Science be any different? Joe Public knows it happens everywhere else, he’s seen it happen, therefore he won’t accept “Trust me I’m a scientist” as an answer. He will have trouble with “It’s been checked by my peers” because he’s seen corporate plans checked and rechecked and still fail miserably.

Joe Public knows all this, which is why he is immediately suspicious when someone says, in effect “Yes, I’m biased, but it doesn’t matter because I’m right”. He just won’t believe you.

(I will add that a researcher whose bias is towards a low climate sensitivity has exactly the same problem as described above, but in the opposite direction. He will be more likely to check his figures if the answer is above his expectations.)

*********

Responding directly to JohnB, Gavin countered:

You are imagining scenarios that match only your prejudgement of my thinking. You are in fact completely wrong. In the 1990s, the GISS climate model had a sensitivity of 4.2 deg C (or even 5 deg C in some configurations). For the new model that I contributed to for AR4 (Schmidt et al, 2006), the sensitivity was 2.7 C ““ and at no time ever in the development process did we act as if that was “˜problem’ to be fixed. For the vast majority of scientists (and indeed all of the ones I’ve worked with), the answer is what it is.

*********

JohnB responded again to Gavin, which you can read in entirety here. This is the first graph:

Where did I say anything was a “problem to be fixed”? I was pointing out the fact that our own biases influence our initial reaction to results. Nothing more, nothing less. Physicists have told me that this is so in their field, why would it not be true in others, including Climate Science?

After reading JohnB’s initial comment several times, it sounds to me that he is suggesting a bit more than that, which someone more well-known than him seemed to be getting at here:

Because any study where a single team plans the research, carries it out, supervises the analysis, and writes their own final report, carries a very high risk of undetected bias. That risk, for example, would automatically preclude the validity of the results of a similarly structured study that tested the efficacy of a drug. Nobody would believe it.

Now that you’ve read that quote, here’s the source and the full context. Does that bias you?

A brief word about JohnB. He is from Australia and a non-scientist. He told me via email that for the last six years he’s been

hanging out at a place called scienceforums. These guys are Particle Physicists, Astronomers, BioChemists, name a major science and there is an expert there, I mean one moderator studies Time for a living. You want to debate a topic? Fine. But you’d better be able to provide links to the actual papers and quote the relevant passages. Science debate there is hard science. You can perhaps imagine what some of our “Climate” debates were like.

In that email, JohnB also fleshed out how he became increasingly interested in climate science and the issue of confirmation bias:

I know about the bias thing because an Atomic Physicist told me about how sometimes he can throw out data because he knew it wrong by looking at the results, if it’s too far from expectation, or the wrong sign, you just know there’s something wrong with it. (We were debating tree rings BTW) But Climate Science isn’t Physics, is it? The hard and fast rules aren’t there and the error bars are far larger. Knowing it’s wrong becomes more of an opinion or educated guess so the possibility of bias effecting the results are larger.

When I got interested in modern Climate Science, one of the first things I came across was Phil Jones’ immortal statement “Why should I show you my data when all you want to do is find something wrong with it?” This was so far from what normal, hard scientists would say as to be not even in the same Galaxy. Pulling it in any of our forums would write you off as a crank there and then. Not willing to show the data? We’re not going to bother listening. Climate Science was not meeting the standards of proof that we ask of any poster in any of our science forums. Climate science wasn’t meeting the standard that hard, physical scientists had told me for years was the acceptable standard.

So I started reading and digging a bit deeper and frankly didn’t like what I was seeing. A climate scientist publishes a paper using a “new” statistical method. Who reviewed it? Statisticians? Nope, other Climate Scientists. But it’s in the literature and just gets cited and reused.

I was introduced to a form of scientific debate 6 years ago where it doesn’t matter who you are or what your education level was or how many letters you have after your name. Evidence matters, logic matters and proof matters, everything else is irrelevent. You can be a cowtown hick and argue with a physicist. If you’re right and can prove it, you’re right. Game over. If your theory or model doesn’t match the observations, then your theory or model is wrong. In Climate science, if your model doesn’t match the observations, the first assumption is that the obs are wrong and they get reworked until they match the model. Note the Allen and Sherwood paper in 2008. Tropospheric warming as measured by the thermometers on weather balloons didn’t match the models predictions. Do you adjust the model or decide that the airspeed of the balloon is a better proxy for temperature than the actual thermometer carried by the balloon? Your proof that airspeed is better? Because it matches the models predictions. I know which I would choose, and I know which one Climate science chose.

I’ll leave it to others to engage with JohnB on his grasp of climate science and the profession’s protocol. But I highlight his obvious efforts to educate himself about the discipline, which strike me as sincere, (perhaps he’ll want own up to any extra-science motivational biases in the thread), because I think there is a tendency to dismiss this kind of public engagment in the climate debate. The meme on skeptics seems fairly one dimensional and monolothic, as reflected in this Jeffrey Sachs op-ed.

On the other hand, Bart Verheggen acknowledges:

Undoubtedly climate skepticism comes in many shades of grey (as does climate concern). How can we distinguish between genuine skeptics and pseudo-skeptics? Undoubtedly, all self styles skeptics see themselves as genuine. I don’t really have an answer to that question.

Well, maybe the answer is to actually engage with them and their arguments. Obviously, Judith Curry is blazing that trail. But I also want to applaud Gavin Schmidt for coming over here and mixing it up with Judith, JohnB and other readers.

Now who can help shed some light on the problem of bias? Does it perhaps afflict both climate science and its critics? If so, what can be done about it?

200 Responses to “The Unbearable Lightness of Bias”

  1. Hector M. says:

    One traditional weapon against one’s own bias is to try and find problems with one’s hypothesis, and stick by the hypothesis only after one is convinced no obvious reason stands against it. In controversial fields, or fields attracting public attention and debate, probably consulting with scientists holding a different view would be also advisable. Getting statistical procedures checked by statisticians would be also a good trick.

    However, experience shows that scientists try to defend their own work and conclusions, to the extent of even ignoring anomalies and discrepancies with facts (the classical example is Ptolemaic astronomers adding epicycles and eccentrics to their flawed model in order to accommodate the anomalous behaviour of planets or other celestial bodies). It is openness and rational debate that usually ends up solving those problems, even if (as Max Planck noted) often one generation of scientists must get old and pass away before new ideas become generally accepted.
    Openness and rational debate has not been the brightest feature in recent climate science. Unarchived data, undisclosed raw data and statistical procedures, unshared code, and endless equivocation seems to be the rule.

    The probable reason is that the IPCC framework tends to distort the normal functioning of research with pressing policy concerns and associates each scientific finding with a political view and a policy proposal, both usually charged with ideology and emotion as well. Other emotionally charged issues have also seen similar problems, such research on IQ and skin colour, or on sociobiology, to name but a couple of egregious examples in recent decades; however, neither has been so politically charged as climate change, because neither field was so closely linked to momentous political and economic decisions. All the more reason to establish for climate change some extra rigorous standards for designing research or for accepting its results, since the perils are so much greater.

  2. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    “Does climate science have a confirmation bias problem? Or is it the bias of climate skeptics that is the problem? ”
    Assuming the members of both groups are human beings, the answer is yes… and yes.  There is no simple way to eliminate biases; the best we can do is keep the gain way up on our bias sensors, and treat all pronouncements with a healthy level of skepticism.

    As I noted in the earlier thread, I think climate scientists (and climate skeptics as well!) may be unusually susceptible to common (that is group) biases, since both groups are self selecting.   People who pursue careers in climate science almost certainly enter the field with a concern for Earth’s environment and for the negative impact humanity has on Earth’s ecosystems.  People who become active skeptics (like me!) probably do not share those concerns, or if they do, to a much lesser extent.   OTOH, skeptics commonly are concerned about the scope of government control, tax levels, and government’s interference with economic activity; these concerns can also lead to common biases when considering climate science.

    Which is not to say that both groups are not mostly populated with people of good will, who are trying their best to do good things.  All I think we can do is trust that people have good intentions, but verify if what they say is accurate…. or biased.

  3. Barry Woods says:

    I care deeply for the planet, its eco systems and the environment…
    I’m deeply worried by the voices of authority ‘shouting deniar at me for asking questions’ in political power with the ability to pass laws.

    I would never have been sceptical, but for ‘abuses of authority’ and the would be ‘brainwashing of my children’

    The polar bears are dying because of our pollution (meaning Co2) says my 5 year old daughter, crying!

    from the state: where my prime minister called everyone ‘Flat earther’s’  and ‘anti -science’ for asking scientifc questions.

    With the Minister of State (UK) for Climate and Energy:
    saying sceptics are ‘climate sabatouers’  pre-Copenhagen
     (VERY, VERY close to ‘terrorist’)

    I am worried for the political/social climate my childre would grow up in.

    Tuvalu is used as an island facing sinking due to man’s co2..

    Conveniently giving the locals, an excuse for destroying there own environment, dynamite fishing, over population of a marginal habita, coral reef destruction by their actions..

    All whilst the island is growing due to the natural process that have created them, thatthe IPCC seems unaware of, meaning nothing to worry about with respect to sea levels, and they want lots of money from the west.

  4. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (2):

    You should definitely read Bart’s new post on citizen science, because he wonders aloud of those skeptics with extra-scientific reasons: “To what extent do they question the validity of the big picture, while exploring the details?”

    Seems like a legitimate question to me.

  5. Hector M. says:

    The most important questioners of results of climate change (and in fact the originators of most of the turmoil reflected in Climategate) have been Steven McIntyre and Ross McKittrick, but they cannot be labelled as “skeptics” except in the general sense that a scientific mind is naturally skeptical. They ask specific technical questions about data and procedures, not advancing any view about the broader issues of climate change. At Climate Audit, McIntyre has been always technical and specific, not even accepting talk of misconduct or fraud in regard to the scientists whose procedures and data he was at pains to obtain. His demands have always been about the data, the code, the statistical procedures. Thus Bart’s question does not apply to them. It may apply to other ‘skeptics’ and of course to a host of ideological ‘deniers’, but it is beyond the point since most of the controversy arose from specific questions about station data, tree rings series, principal component analysis and the like. 
    Many comments on these issues deflect the debate to people denying anthropogenic climate change, many of them arguing from a political frame of mind (libertarians mostly) or from fringe pseudo-science, and pushing overarching views on climate change and other (in their view) related issues (energy sources, taxes, excessive government intervention and the like). It would be very nice to assess this question of bias in terms of the science itself (including technical questions addressed to the scientists by informed people, even non climatologists).

  6. Steve Bloom says:

    Based on a reading of the most recent Scienceforums thread started by JohnB, I find it difficult to see how he’ll manage to overcome his bias.            

    More broadly, the underlying problem with Judy’s “citizen scientists”  is that they focus only on the areas of the science they think they can pick at successfully.

    This causes them to be completely uninterested in the most important work going on in climate science, e.g. this new paper:
    Significantly warmer Arctic surface temperatures during the Pliocene indicated by multiple independent proxies

    Temperatures in the Arctic have increased by an astounding 1 C in response to anthropogenic forcing over the past 20 years and are expected to rise further in the coming decades.  The Pliocene (2.6″“5.3 Ma) is of particular interest as an analog for future warming because global temperatures were signifi cantly warmer than today for a sustained period of time, with continental confi gurations similar to present. Here, we estimate mean annual temperature (MAT) based upon three independent proxies from an early Pliocene peat deposit in the Canadian High Arctic. Our proxies, including oxygen isotopes and annual ring widths (MAT = ““0.5 ± 1.9 C), coexistence of paleovegetation (MAT = ““0.4 ± 4.1 C), and bacterial tetraether composition in paleosols (MAT = ““0.6 ± 5.0 C), yield estimates that are statistically indistinguishable. The consensus among these proxies suggests that Arctic temperatures were ~19 C warmer during the Pliocene than at present, while atmospheric CO2 concentrations were ~390 ppmv. These elevated Arctic Pliocene temperatures result in a greatly reduced and asymmetrical latitudinal temperature gradient that is probably the result of increased poleward heat transport and decreased albedo. These results indicate that Arctic temperatures may be exceedingly sensitive to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

  7. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #5:  ” (McIntyre and McKitrick) ask specific technical questions about data and procedures, not advancing any view about the broader issues of climate change. At Climate Audit, McIntyre has been always technical and specific, not even accepting talk of misconduct or fraud in regard to the scientists whose procedures and data he was at pains to obtain.”

    Let’s see:

    McKitrick co-authored this Cornwall Alliance statement, which fair to say advances broad views about climate change.

    McIntyre alleges misconduct by scientists extensively.  Do you really need examples?

  8. Tom Fuller says:

    I sorta think we have a surplus of people looking at the big picture (perhaps including myself) and have a definite lack of people looking at the smaller details–such as Steve McIntyre.

  9. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Keith #4,
    ‘ “To what extent do they question the validity of the big picture, while exploring the details?” Seems like a legitimate question to me.’
    Thanks for the heads up to Bart’s thread.  I read over the thread.
    I think how one defines the “big picture” is the key issue.  It seems to me that for Bart  the scope of the “big picture” is a whole lot bigger than it is for me, and that for Bart the validity of that big picture is really not subject to any legitimate question.
    While I am sure there are many technical issues that Bart and I agree on, there is also much that we sharply disagree on, including the extent to which climate scientists might be subject to similar biases, as you can see from our exchanges in the ‘Citizen science at a crossroads’ thread.   Based on those exchanges (and an early long series of exchanges on Bart’s almost-famous ‘unit root’ thread), I don’t honestly think engaging Bart further at his blog would be a productive use of my time or his.

  10. JamesG says:

    Comparison of the hypothesis with the data is the only way. It really doesn’t matter how many of your friends back you up and it doesn’t matter how many unvalidated models you use. You have to say what is falsifiable, test it, accept the results and allow others to replicate what you did. Mother nature is the final arbiter and if she says we’re going to hell in a handcart so be it, but if it’s all just another trendy popular delusion that nobody wants to test against hard data then the funding agencies need to either introduce some accountability or be made accountable themselves.

  11. Hector M. says:

    Re #6: I do not know about McKittrick and the Cornwall Alliance, but McIntyre specifically refuses to qualify the conduct of any climate scientist as fraudulent, has strongly protested against the legal move of a DA regarding the conduct of Michael Mann at UPenn, and generally refuses to engage in discussions of a general nature. His remarks are practically always restricted to specific technical issues. Perhaps he has occasionally vented a feeling, but the bulk of his interventions have been extremely guarded, polite and technical. He may have broad views on climate, as on anything else, but they have nothing to do with the validity of his questions.

    At any rate, specific questions ask for specific answers, regardless of who the questioner is or thinks. If I ask you for your data, or send you an elaborate technical argument suggesting that the confidence intervals or the principal component analysis in your chart are not right, you cannot respond by saying that I am not qualified to discuss the matter, or that I am a fan of the Leakers (no pun intended) whilst you are not; ignoring me wouldn’t do either, nor would trying to get my papers rejected. Even if I am motivated by some particular ideology of mine, the point is not my ideology (or yours) but the specific question asked. The only adequate response to advance scientific  knowledge is a convincing explanation of those confidence intervals or the specific routine you used for your principal component analysis, or whatever is the matter.

  12. JamesG says:

    In the meantime there are some issues where we don’t even need to worry about bias and few people disagree. Eg reversing deforestation , restrictions on black carbon. That’s a big chunk (35% I think) of the supposed global warming effect that’s doable in a short period of time and it even saves lives. Doubling of car engine efficiencies isn’t difficult – the technology is here already – just mandate it already. For the USA alone that makes anout 15% CO2 reduction. LED lighting likely gives you around another 5% and saves money (probably). Shouldn’t we mandate that new housing should have geothermal heating? Anything that saves everyone money and is eco-friendly too is a win-win and uncontestable. It’s this obsession with CO2 limits and punishments that is really holding everything else up. It’s like playing golf with one club.

  13. manuelg says:

    If these (don’t-you-dare-call-them-deniers) “bias-busters” could point to successes in other scientific fields for other scientific questions, all thanks given to their “bias-busting” scrutiny, a lot of people would see the benefit and drop suspicion.
    Otherwise, we must pre-suppose that climate science is a “nonesuch” science — the only scientific domain where the practitioners must be protected from themselves.
    Where is the rich history of success of outsiders providing “bias-busting” services for scientists?  The outsiders that really help scientific progress get to know the practitioners and labs and journals so intimately, they end up having choices about how they ultimately publish and add to the literature — and that is, in fact, how it ultimately plays out successfully.  And *not* by providing outsourced “bias-busting” services.

  14. Keith why didn’t you accept Gavin’s answer to your question that the way to deal w confirmation bias is through: “multiple levels of review and collaborations across many people and voices”?
    JohnB’s response doesn’t reflect an understanding of  how science is actually done since undergrads are taught early on about the problems of confirmation bias and how to avoid them.

    And when citizen scientists offer new data to show that there is a problem with the existing understanding of climate science — and not simply critiquing /nitpicking details – well then we all should pay attention. I’m still waiting.

  15. Hector M. says:

    Manuel G, the peculiarity of recent climate science is that it has been very closely linked to the work of the IPCC, an intergovernmental body, with frequent pressure from politicians and officials to get a “clear and tidy message” in time for the next climate conference or assessment report; the scientific conclusions (mostly from simulation models as opposed to observation or experiment) are difficult to assess empirically; and moreover, many of those scientists producing the published results are at the same time those in charge of authoring the supposedly neutral IPCC reports. This may have created an environment more likely to generate an esprit-de-corps mentality of entrenchment than one sees in other scientific fields.

    This has been compounded by a close-knit group of scientists collaborating with each other, with little outside review, and also (apparently) trying to foster their views by not opening (or altogether losing) data records and computer code, and unseemly trying to get opposed views out of the scientific literature.

    For this reason, if anything, climate studies would need more, not less, rigorous and open standards for transparency regarding data, models, procedures, uncertainties and debate than, say, systematic zoology (a field known for its protracted and complicated debates: see David Hull, “Science as process”, 1988, a detailed case study), string theory or retrovirus research. And I mention three areas where conflicts also abound and entire careers are at stake.
     

  16. Keith Kloor says:

    Stephen (13):

    Gavin’s response wasn’t directed at me, but I did note that passage and thought hard about it. He’s absolutely right, of course. Does it hold true for climate science? Seems like some of the criticism I’ve seen indicates a bit of insularity that might lend itself to that bias.

  17. JohnK says:

    Re: #13
    Stephen Leahy says:
    “Keith why didn’t you accept Gavin’s answer to your question that the way to deal w confirmation bias is through: “multiple levels of review and collaborations across many people and voices”?”
    Stephen, the reason why (not that I am speaking for Keith) is that too oftentimes the review is conducted via “good ole boy review” by reviewers that suffer from the same bias as the original researcher. That isn’t useful. That doesn’t amount to anything more than enabling.
    What is needed is a “devil’s advocate review”, but that doesn’t happen.
     

  18. Judith Curry says:

    To “stir the pot,” here are a few references to consider:
     
    Cargo Cult Science” by Richard Feynman (a classic, if you haven’t read it)
    Michael Crichton’s Congressional Testimony
     
    Both suggest that Gavin’s safeguards can be inadequate

  19. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Judith Curry #17,
    I actually get a little choked up every time I read ‘cargo cult science’; great intellect.. but greater intellectual honesty.  A shame he died relatively young.

  20. Judith Curry says:

    Steve, glad to hear your homage to Feynmann. My favorite part of Cargo Cult Science:
     
    “Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be

    given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know
    anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you
    make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then
    you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well
    as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem.
    When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate
    theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that
    those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea
    for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else
    come out right, in addition.”

  21. Bill Stoltzfus says:

    Feynmann also said this about the subsequent research regarding the Millikan experiment:
    “When they got a number that was too high above Millikan’s, they thought something must be wrong, and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong.  When they got a number closer to Millikan’s value they didn’t look so hard.  And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.  We’ve learned those tricks nowadays, and we don’t have that kind of a disease.”

    I disagree with his last statement–as long as scientists are human, I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate that kind of thinking.

  22. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Judith,
    Yup.  Every time I have made (for me) a significant insight in my work, that insight always explains data that I previously could not understand and (I must sheepishly admit) that I thought was perhaps inaccurate.   The temptation to discount data which disagrees with your theory is terribly, terribly strong.  This is why I become uncomfortable when I read papers (like Santer et al on tropospheric temperatures) that seem to just discount data which appears in conflict with theory.

  23. Hector M. says:

    In other words, one could say the problem with recent climatology (as exemplified with past climate reconstructions) is not the presence or absence of bias, because bias may be inevitable, but the artificially reduced scope for science’s ordinary self-correction mechanisms to work.

  24. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Hector M. #22,
    I think biases and lack of rigor (bending over backwards, according to Feynman) are both potentially problems..  too much attachment to your current theory is really just a type of bias.

  25. Judith Curry says:

    Bill #20, I think in controlled laboratory experiments that it is possible (not easy tho) to conduct/interpret the experiments without bias.  In ambiguous experiments (e.g. those involving human subjects, such as described by Crichton) or in the analysis of a very complex system with inadequate data and imperfect models (e.g. the climate system), then I would agree that bias is inevitable.
     
    A few weeks ago I suggested a “Team B” approach to challenge the biases, but this idea was pretty uniformly disliked.  We need to  something to challenge our biases.  Scientific biases are challenging enough, but when these are augmented by political bias and a policy agenda, then the bias issue becomes the overwhelming challenge for the science.

  26. manuelg says:

    reply to Hector M. #14
    I don’t deny that some assert that climate scientists must be protected from themselves.  I am curious to learn of the historical cases where outsiders’ free-lance bias-busting was found to be successful.

    Because similar arguments were made that a cabal of Darwinists suppress papers that show intelligent design, and a cabal of medical regulators suppress papers that disprove tobacco carcinogenicity, and a cabal of dentists suppress facts about fluoridation’s mild control properties.

    If I could consider the historical cases of success of outsiders’ free-lance bias-busting, when scientific practitioners needed to be protected from themselves, I could discern between clear-eyed skeptics and delusional denialists, and see if the proposed cure fits the illness.

    Much like the judgement of the need for carbon taxation may be informed by the history of regulatory prohibitions of  fluorocarbons.  (Or the regulatory prohibitions on the sale of alcohol in the United States, they don’t all have to be positive examples of regulation.)

    I am genuinely interested to learn more about outsiders’ free-lance bias-busting in science, where it had an effect, maybe good, maybe bad.  You overlooked part of my original remark in your reply.

  27. dhogaza says:

    “or in the analysis of a very complex system with inadequate data and imperfect models (e.g. the climate system), then I would agree that bias is inevitable.”

    Where does that bias lead, in your mind?  For instance, the NASA GISS modeling group’s ongoing effort to improve their model (Model E, at this point) have led to a reduction in modeled sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 from about 5C to 2.7C.

    Are you suggesting that bias is leading to an underestimate of climate sensitivity?

  28. Bill Stoltzfus says:

    Re: #20:

    I forget where it was, but I read a post recently where someone advocated having 20% or so of science funding going to a devil’s advocate group, with the specific duty of trying to replicate and/or challenge recent scientific findings.  (If that was your Team B post, Dr. Curry, forgive me for quoting you back to you.)  I think that is the right approach. 

    Every scientist I have ever seen do a blog post indicates that they don’t have time to do much more than get their research done and do what is necessary to keep their heads above water.  That environment is the same as every current corporate environment, and what I know from corporations is that if you don’t plan, schedule, and allocate for something in advance (barring an extreme event) it’s not going to get done.

    I can see that challenging forthcoming ideas was the original idea, but it seems like there is not much time left for anyone to do it now.  So I think planning in advance for a challenging Team B in scientific endeavor is the way to go.  Mix in older researchers with postdocs, everyone on a rotating basis, and very early on get everyone accustomed to the idea that their ideas WILL be reviewed and challenged. 

  29. manuelg says:

    reply to Judith Curry #24

    “Scientific biases are challenging enough, but when these are augmented by political bias and a policy agenda, then the bias issue becomes the overwhelming challenge for the science.”

    This is asserted, but not demonstrated.

    As a process that embraces self-correction, it is hard to come up with examples of errors that science has allowed to let stand, for all time, because of political bias and a policy agenda. I can’t think of any.

    [Aside: The closest I can think of is the denying of the possibility of a numerical intelligence quotient in the polite company of scientist, even though it is at least as well established as the Big Five Personality model, which is uncontroversial. But does that even count? Nobody is barred from publishing and the truth is available to the motivated. I am genuinely curious – Are there any examples of errors that science has allowed to let stand, for all time, because of political bias and a policy agenda?]

    Is there really a need for a unique outside agent to police bias in climate science, alone?  The same process of refereed journal publication, that serves the scientific community/mainstream in other fields to dispense with invalid results and replace them with valid ones, breaks down *only* for climate science?  And where is the model for successful outside policing of scientific bias?  Does one even exist?  That would be even more controversial than the already controversial remedy of carbon taxation, because there is already research on the economic effects of taxation, and a history of taxation to counter perverse externalities.

    Or is the issue of bias – a bias so insidious science should not dare to leave the extermination to mere scientists – a red herring?

    The demand to treat climate science as a “nonesuch” science is the rub.  How can I distinguish a prickly intolerance for the possibility of bias from an excuse to discard results that are unwelcome from an excuse to disregard consequences of status quo behavior?

  30. manuelg says:

    Reply to Bill Stoltzfus #26
    Part of the reason that Judith Cury’s “Team B” idea went over like a lead balloon was that the name “Team B” had an unfortunate historical connotation to the “Team B”, commissioned by Director of Central Intelligence George H. W. Bush, of “outside experts” who attempted to counter the positions of intelligence officials within the CIA.  In reality, the CIA failed to represent USSR as enough of a military threat for the liking of defense hawks, so Team B manufactured Soviet military capabilities from whole cloth.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_B

    I would rather 100% of published scientific results be attempted for replication by third parties, rather than 20% of funding be spent on fishing expeditions.  Because, if this is a mechanism outside of current scientific publishing guidelines, a group of outsiders would choose where the 20% was directed.  Leaving aside the issue that the comparative invulnerability to political and other agendas of this extra-scientific group is being simply asserted without basis.

    Then there is the strange issue why science is singled out for hobbling.  What percentage of business, family, or personal decisions (the analog of scientific results) must be legislated for scrutiny by third parties?  Because is the track record of science worse than the tract record of business, family, or personal decision making?

  31. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    manuelg,
    “it is hard to come up with examples of errors that science has allowed to let stand, for all time.”

    I don’t think “for all time” is a reasonable period.  For sure, given enough time, science is self correcting, or at least has been so far as we know.  But a more relevant question is “Are there examples of errors that science has allowed to stand for a significant period of time?”  A search for these kinds of examples might not be so difficult.

    There are (of course) biases in many fields, and not only scientific ones.   In most scientific fields these biases are of relatively little outside concern.  But in research where there is potential for real harm (like drug testing), extensive regulations always apply to research, including standardized methodology, extensive documentation, complete data archiving and disclosure, outside approval of new methods (even new instrumentation!), double blind protocols, multi-step outside review, and much more.  Note that these regulations exist in good part to eliminate as much as possible the influence of biases.

    Considering the current social importance of climate science, the scale of the issues involved, and the scale of the remedies that are proposed, it does not seem to me surprising (or even unreasonable) that the public would demand much more of climate researchers than of (say) researchers working on stellar evolution or protein folding mechanisms.
     

  32. manuelg says:

    Reply to Steve Fitzpatrick #29
    I am looking for ways to distinguish accusation of insurmountable bias in climate science from such claims made against in evolutionary biology, tobacco carcinogenicity, vaccine research, etc.

    You bring up FDA regulations, but then conflate the issue by stating “Note that these regulations exist in good part to eliminate as much as possible the influence of biases”, when in fact these are strictly to try to prevent direct harm to patients by the intervention under investigation.  Demonstrated by how they do nothing to prevent biases that don’t strictly harm patients directly — how else could the bias for over-reliance on pharmaceuticals stand?…  if these were, by design, to try to eliminate bias?

    “But a more relevant question is “Are there examples of errors that science has allowed to stand for a significant period of time?”  A search for these kinds of examples might not be so difficult.”   Then humor me.  The remedy, to fit the topic, must be an extra-scientific mechanism to eliminate bias that scientists are fundamentally otherwise unable to.  To best understand the beast being discussed, I would appreciate examples.  If it never existed, and never will, then that is the very definition of a red herring to discard results that are unwelcome and an excuse to disregard consequences of the status quo.  I would like to see this is a good faith argument.

    I don’t deny that the public demands more from climate scientists than protein folders.  But I want to see the distinction of the demand from the demands put on evolutionary biologists by members of the public, from the demands put on mathematicians by those who trisect the angle or square the circle, from the demands put on medical animal researchers by the property destruction and harassment by anti-vivisectionist protesters, etc.  Are the demands, for the most part, strictly to promote scientific truth found in the least time in the efficient way?  Or not?

  33. Bill Stoltzfus says:

    Re #28 manuelg:

    You’re right that a third party would have other biases, so perhaps it could be integrated into the publication process as an “aggressive” peer review?  Reviewers would be from relevant disciplines, but all data, models, code, etc. would be required or the paper could not proceed.  It could be random, so that no one would know in advance which papers would be selected for the extra scrutiny, or if possible could be extended to all papers.

    I don’t see the point of extending the analogy to the business/personal realm, though–no one makes national policy decisions based on what clothes I decide to buy or what companies I invest in.  Businesses have always lived and died by the economic policies they choose, so their “peer review” system is immediate and plenty harsh.  If replicability and validity of results are “issues” that may need to be settled, then suggesting a harsher peer review process seems like a good thing to do.

  34. Arthur Smith says:

    Keith’s highlighting of JohnB’s comments here has got to be one of the stupidest things he has done yet on this blog.
     
    Keith, and JohnB: *why would all climate scientists be biased in favor of high sensitivity?* That is the point of Gavin’s response. Yes, individual people are biased – that is why you cannot rely on the results of one single person, or even a small incestuous group. But climate science is simply not a small incestuous group – there are people with many very different opinions on what sensitivity should be. There are the Lindzen’s and Spencer’s who seem determined that it should be close to zero. There are Lovelock’s who seem to think it is infinite. There is a wide spectrum of “bias” coming into things.
     
    The great thing about science is that these different human biases compete with one another in the marketplace of scientific ideas, just as different human skills and experiences compete in the marketplace of goods and services. And the coin of the realm is success at prediction. If your electron charge number is off by a large amount, then somebody who has a closer number will gain in that scientific marketplace as other researchers attempt to reproduce and expand on the original results. The numbers closest to the truth always win out. And so it is with sensitivity, and other climate parameters.
     
    Those accusing climate scientists of bias need to come up with some very specific reasons why they think the natural spectrum of human biases among that particular group of humans is somehow constricted and missing the truth. Better than that, those accusing them of bias can simply come up with their own models and numbers (as Spencer and Lindzen have repeatedly done) and try to make better predictions.
     
    So far such efforts have failed abysmally.

  35. Keith Kloor says:

    Arthur (34):

    Since the stupidity you assert is directed at the host of this blog and not another reader, I’ll let the comment stand. I have a thick skin.

    At any rate, I highlighted JohnB’s exchange with Gavin for a number of reasons, which I thought were self-evident. I also happened to like his rhetorical argument regarding bias, notwithstanding whether it was technically correct on its face about climate sensitivity. And I don’t think he was trying to make a claim about that, only about bias.

  36. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    manuelg #32,
    Sure, FDA regulations on pharmaceuticals exist to protect people from harm form ineffective or harmful pharmaceuticals; the regulations enforce standards of research which are specifically designed to (among other things) eliminate bias.  What is the propose of a double blind study if not to eliminate potential biases?
     
    As for an example: how about phrenology.  Had a lot of scientific influence, at least for a period of time.
     
    The demands on climate science are to insure that public policy is not based on less than solid science.  I don’t see that as unreasonable, considering the costs involved.
     
    You seem pretty angry.  Are you a practicing scientist, or do you work in some other field?

  37. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Arthur Smith #34,
    “need to come up with some very specific reasons why they think the natural spectrum of human biases among that particular group of humans is somehow constricted”
    Did you read over the thread that Kieth pulled the example comment from?  There were several comments in the thread addressing this issue. 

  38. Hector M. says:

    Manuelg,
    I think ordinary peer review could work fine, even for climate science, if authors, journal referees and IPCC authors were not an overlapping group of like minded people who commune with each other and go to far as to seek to silence opposing views. This is not usually the case. What is peculiar of climate science is probably the high political and economic stakes, the absence of rigorous protocols, and the nature of the IPCC process. Also, the presence of a vocal group/s of non scientific deniers has not helped, because genuine criticism tends to be conflated with illiterate denial.

    I have read the original letter McIntyre sent M.E.Mann asking for the specific raw data and computer code used for generating the Hockey Stick graph (in its original version). Should Mann have responded in a candid manner, offering all he (and CRU) had about those data and procedures, the controversy may have proceeded very smoothly to an agreed upon resolution. The problem was that no data and no code were forthcoming, plus a number of unseemly manoeuvers came to light in the following years in order to get rid of the criticisms, keep the issue off the journals, keep refusing the release of any data or code (which at the same time were released to other, more likeminded colleagues), and sundry other things not clearly akin to candour and openness.

    Of course confessing to mistakes in the Hockey Stick chart would not mean there is no warming, or there is no anthropogenic warming; it would only make the ‘message’ a bit less tidy since some past temperatures would not seem so low and stable before the 20th century. Truth would have prevailed, and the credibility of climate science would have been preserved, which would be good in a world affected by anthropogenic global warming.

    The fact that objections and questions came from outside the closed circle of specialists is in fact not that relevant: openess and transparency would have solved it anyway. And if the questions had come from some established scientist, the answer would have been more or less the same, as other episodes in these ‘wars’ have shown.

  39. Keith Kloor says:

    Folks,

    I just fished a bunch of comments out of the spam filter–some that had been there days. Please, if a comment of yours doesn’t appear within five or six hours, you should always email me. I don’t regularly check the spam filter (though I try to remember at least once  a day).

    Remember, comments with two or more links are automatically held in moderation and those bursting with links will usually end up in spam filter. Just stay on me.

     

  40. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Keith,
    I’ve never had a comment held up.
    You are a gracious host.  Thank you.
     

  41. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve (37):

    I was hoping the exchange I highlighted from the thread would have captured that context. Is that clear enough, because while my post was on the long-ish side (which I try to avoid), I don’t think it’s reasonable for readers of this post to have to read through the entire thread of a previous one.

    Does the exchange in this post provide adequate context?

  42. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Keith #41,
    I agree that people will seldom read an entire previous thread, though many will skim a related thread and pick out several comments (or string of comments) to get a feel for the thread.
    I think your selected exchange picked out one of a few intertwined issues on the ‘Citizen science at a crossroads’ thread.   Had you chosen a different example, the flavor of this thread would have been a little different, but I don’t think your selection was a bad one.
    Arthur’s rather unpleasant comment to you was certainly not justified; I have seen Arthur in action before, and his comment is not unusual… for Arthur.  A different selected exchange from the previous post may not have set him off, but a different selection may then have set off someone else.  You just do your best and move on.

  43. Judith Curry #20
    Along those lines, have a look at http://climateaudit.org/2010/04/28/yamal-aerial-photo/  — a very interesting discussion of the famous (or notorious) larch-tree temperature reconstruction (by Keith Briffa of CRU) in the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia.
     
    Note especially the (almost) complete lack of metadata in Briffa’s report, the selection of 12 trees (out of many sampled) for obscure reasons, the failure of Briffa to consider alternative explanations of the trees’ behavior. Note that this is a very strange area.
     
    Part of the problem is, Briffa didn’t do the field work. Or the due diligence. Or use common sense, sfaict. Very, very bad science.
     
    Briffa keeps saying he will respond to McIntyre’s criticisms.  But not yet. Briffa’s reconstruction is used as independent support for Michael Mann’s famous/notorious hockey-stick chart — but it looks like classic confirmation bias to me.

  44. anonymudder says:

    I was in a “greg goodknight” thread at Joshua Halpern’s blog and mentioned Feynman and wondered what he would make of modern day climate science.  I said I thought he would be shocked.  But I didn’t mention the esssay Cargo Cult Science, or why I thought he would be shocked.
    But I was at once jumped on by “Marco” who immediately knew I was talking about Cargo Cult Science, who informed me that Feynman wasn’t talking about climate scientists.
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/06/eli-is-friendly-bunny.html?showComment=1277357609678#c1416146224447144169
    <blockquote>
    …I suspect they, like Feynman would be shocked at the shenanigans and nonsense of our so called reputable climate scientists.
    </blockquote>
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/06/eli-is-friendly-bunny.html?showComment=1277359520769#c2019787073172738097
    <blockquote>
    Marco said…
    Ah, the anonymudder is one of those who believes in the cargo-cult science myth. That is, that Feynman actually said anything about climate scientists. He didn’t. Now go back to Motl or WUWT and complain you’ve been caught out and need another meme to spread.

    </blockquote>
    Several others went on to agree with Marco. This led me to consider that the AGW climate scientists are well aware and terribly sensitive about what Feynman says in Cargo Cult Science and they have rehearsed their answers.  That’s somewhat amusing.  (By which I mean sad.)

  45. anonymudder says:

    I see everywhere in this debate lots of references to peer-review.  Yet, none of the various methods or theories of science I ever learned about (Popper, Kuhn, Feyerabend) ever mentioned peer review as holding ANY role in the scientific method apart from quality control to some journal.
    What was supposed to be important to science were aspects like observation, falsifiability, replication.
    I am somewhat surprised to hear so much emphasis put on the role of peer review now — I guess I’d prefer hearing more about replication — which of the dendrochronologies have been replicated — and falsifiability — what would it take to falsify a climate model.
    Has peer review become elevated over replication and falisifiability as I suggest in climate science?  Is this the case in other science fields?  Is this a problem?  Is there a new theory of science that promotes peer review? Where is that darn interrobang!?

  46. anonymudder says:

    Oh, sorry, one more thing, when I was in school 30 years ago, even then, the professors would tell us about how peer review could be used to stall papers and thwart careers.
    I am not shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.  I am shocked so many current climate scientists would deny it.  Oh, thank you very much.  Everyone out at once!

  47. Keith Kloor says:

    Somewhat related, I just came across this recent fascinating online exchange at the NYT, between filmaker Errol Morris and David Dunning( known famously for the Dunning-Kruger Effect):

    DAVID DUNNING: There have been many psychological studies that tell us what we see and what we hear is shaped by our preferences, our wishes, our fears, our desires and so forth.  We literally see the world the way we want to see it.  But the Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that there is a problem beyond that.  Even if you are just the most honest, impartial person that you could be, you would still have a problem “” namely, when your knowledge or expertise is imperfect, you really don’t know it.  Left to your own devices, you just don’t know it.   We’re not very good at knowing what we don’t know.

    ERROL MORRIS: Knowing what you don’t know?  Is this supposedly the hallmark of an intelligent person?

    DAVID DUNNING:
    That’s absolutely right.  It’s knowing that there are things you don’t know that you don’t know. Donald Rumsfeld gave this speech about “unknown unknowns.”  It goes something like this: “There are things we know we know about terrorism.  There are things we know we don’t know.  And there are things that are unknown unknowns.  We don’t know that we don’t know.”  He got a lot of grief for that.  And I thought, “That’s the smartest and most modest thing I’ve heard in a year.”

    This is just a snippet. It is part of a five-part story that, as Morris says, “straddles philosophy, history, psychology and neurology.”

  48. Steve Bloom says:

    FYI, Keith, I suspect Arthur was reacting at least in part to JohnB’s entirely careless discussion of Allen and Sherwood (2008).  What JohnB doesn’t know is that the reason the observations were thought to be wrong in that instance was because a) there were good physical reasons to think so and b) if the observations were correct, it would overturn something really fundamental regarding our understanding of the atmosphere (and having nothing to do with AGW theory as such.). 

    Instead, JohnB undertook a wholly political analysis of the issue, then you featured it, to all appearances believing that it must somehow reasonably contribute to a case for bias by climate scientists. 

    If people want to be taken seriously, they need to avoid saying or promoting entirely ridiculous things.

  49. Keith Kloor says:

    Steve,

    I submit that if people want their comments to be taken seriously, then they should avoid breezily characterizing someone as being “entirely ridiculous.”

    I’ve told you countless times that it’s often that last throwaway line of yours (that exudes sneering contempt) that ends up undermining whatever legitimate points you may have made.

  50. anonymudder says:

    re: #6

    More broadly, the underlying problem with Judy’s “citizen scientists”  is that they focus only on the areas of the science they think they can pick at successfully.

    This is another criticism I’ve heard quite a bit, and I don’t understand it at all.  First, if a statistician wants to employ his expertise in understanding, “auditing”, critiquing, reviewing the statistical foundations of a study, and not spend time on the underlying chemistry or physics, why is that bad? She is using her talents, as she has developed, in a way that interests her and benefits all. Second, it makes the assumption that all climate scientists are generalists and can speak to and teach to any aspect of climate science.  And that they read all the papers of and follow deeply the reasoning of each paper, and that they don’t just read what’s coming out in their particular speciality.

    Over here in open source software, where we’re a bunch of ass clowns, we pretty much welcome people who will help out anyway they can.  We give them tools like wikis, and source code management systems, and various forms of documentations, and forums where they can converse with the experts, and search engines, and even porn for when they get bored.  And as a result, we have a very rich and wealthy set of robust, useful, creative software applications, some of which our climate scientists occasionally use, when they are not running windows.

    I wonder what would happen to the problem of Judy’s citizen scientists if their talents and skills were sheparded and mentored and guided and critiqued by our climate scientists overlords (who of course I welcome.)  Instead they seem to be derided with their puny ape brains as not having the Krell Brains required to understand climate science, and we are told that they are all paid by BP and have agendas and that they are not being honest and they in fact deny the holocaust and believe Jesus rode dinosaurs.

    So it’s not surprising they scratch their own itches in ways that buggers the “reputable” climate scientists.

  51. KK, like Dr. Curry, you failed to reckon that some of us  who have been reading the climate blogs for awhile have *seen these characters before*.   I recognize JohnB from other climate threads on other forums, and his own biases are quite clear.
     
    Your own bias towards highlighting ‘contrarian’ views is also noted.  It’s a journalistic tic, I hope.
     
    David Brook, miraculously, wrote something I agree with today in an NY Times op-ed entitled ‘The Culture of Exposure’ .  It was about the Gen. McChrystal firing, but  to me, it speaks directly to the ‘auditors’  and particularly the CRU hack that Judith Curry seems to find so damning:
    “The reticent ethos had its flaws. But the exposure ethos, with its relentless emphasis on destroying privacy and exposing impurities, has chased good people from public life, undermined public faith in institutions and elevated the trivial over the important.”
     
    “ELEVATED THE TRIVIAL OVER THE IMPORTANT.”   I want to make sure that is noted.

  52. Steve Bloom says:

    You miss the point, anonymudder.  If an amateur statistician wants to “audit,” no one can stop her.  But if the statistician chooses to focus only on certain areas because they appear to be vulnerable to nit-picking, that will get noticed and ultimately will affect her credibility.  Most of that deep-time paleo work involves statistics, BTW.

  53. anonymudder says:

    I guess I’m still not seeing the problem.  What is the problem?  If she does a terrible job, as you say, it will affect her credibility.  If she does a good job, or is even helped and guided by the pros, then it’s a win-win.

  54. #17 Keith these allegations of insularity is a bit baffling. For starters there is no proof except the ‘evidence’ that since you and I agree 2+2=4 we’re in cahoots.
     
    Multiple lines of evidence from thousands of scientists in dozens of different countries over 30 years proving CC is largely anthropogenic, happening now and a great risk to our future ought to be enough to pass the ‘sniff test’ of reasonable people. If not then what does it say about us? And what higher standards of proof do we need?
     
    Or are there political/psychological issues at play here in this refusal to accept responsibility for our actions? Now that would be worth exploring here.

  55. Barry Woods says:

    I’m a reasonable person, I think, what should a reasonable person make of this..

    Bishop Hill:
    “Apparently a sceptic blog in the Czech Republic is reporting that the IPCC’s conclusions on the lack of a solar influence on climate were based on a single paper by Lean and Frohlich and the IPCC ignored reviewers’ objections over the lack of support for the idea

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/6/26/another-ipcc-scandal.html

    Objection to this was raised by the Norwegian government as shown in the AR4 second draft comments below (and essentially dismissed by the IPCC):
    “I would encourage the IPCC to [re-]consider having only one solar physicist on the lead author team of such an important chapter. In particular since the conclusion of this section about solar forcing hangs on one single paper in which J. Lean is a coauthor. ”

    Expert and Government Review Comments on the Second Order draft.
    http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/7786003?n=6&imagesize=1200&jp2Res=.25

    http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2010/06/ipcc-consensus-on-solar-influence-was.html

  56. Judith Curry says:

    dhogaza #27 re your statement:

    “For instance, the NASA GISS modeling group’s ongoing effort to improve their model (Model E, at this point) have led to a reduction in modeled sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 from about 5C to 2.7C.”
     
    The GISS model has been an outlier on the high side, and its credibility has been lower because of this as well as some structural issues in the GISS model.  Their new model is hopefully improved, and is giving a sensitivity that is closer to the center of mass of the other models.   The modeling groups have been criticized for trying to get their models to agree with the other models and our preconceived notions of what the sensitivity is.

  57. Arthur Smith says:

    Steve Bloom is right. Keith, if you thought there was any case of “bias” among climate scientists to support JohnB’s case, let’s talk about that. The “sensitivity” example clearly holds absolutely no water.
     
    If the intention was to talk about the tropical tropospheric amplification issue rather than sensitivity, you should have highlighted that. That context was completely absent from your post here.
     
    In any case, tropical tropospheric amplification is indeed a case of “bias” among experienced climate scientists – bias in favor of the basic physical underpinnings of how our atmosphere works. The tropospheric amplification is a result of the decrease in lapse rate caused by increased water vapor levels in the atmosphere – and the lapse-rate decrease by the way, acts as a *negative feedback* on warming.
     
    That is, this is a case where what the climate scientists are biased to believe (that tropical lapse rate should decrease as the surface warms)  has the effect of *reducing the climate sensitivity* – completely opposite to the bias JohnB was implying. The lapse rate feedback is an important known negative feedback – for example see Table 1 of Soden and Held, “An Assessment of Climate Feedbacks in Coupled Ocean”“Atmosphere Models” J. Climate 19, 3354 (2006).
     
    Now, the reason climate scientists are “biased” for this is several-fold:
    (1) Air holds more water when it’s warmer – water vapor content at constant relative humidity grows exponentially
    (2) Over short time-scales observations *do* show tropical amplification of surface warming. For example around Pinatubo and around the 1998 high El Nino both UAH and RSS (satellite records of tropospheric temperatures) show clear tropical amplification of surface warming – I’ve looked at this myself. The other observations also agree with this over short time-scales.
    (3) The physics of the problem doesn’t change whether the time interval is short or long.
    (4) Calibration of instruments over long time-periods is, however, quite tricky, as the surface temperature reconstruction efforts have shown.
     
    Therefore, basic faith in phyiscs, proved out by the short term variations, and knowledge of the way instrumental calibration works, lead to a bias in favor of tropical tropospheric amplification being real.
     
    Once again, this is a prediction. Those who doubt the science in some way or another are free to make their own predictions – and have. So far the long-term instrumentation on the problem has proved quite ambiguous – some things seem to show the amplification, some don’t. Measurements will continue and will improve. If the prediction is actually *wrong*, then there will certainly be a great need for theoretical explanation of what’s different about the long-term vs short-term lapse-rate feedback. And if lapse-rate feedback really doesn’t behave the way we expect, the actual implication for climate sensitivity is that the best estimate for sensitivity will have to be *higher* – unless the explanation involves some other large negative feedback we’re not aware of at all.
     
    In any case, the truth will win out here, whatever the “biases” of the scientists. So far, in every other such case (for example the long history of the satellite temperature record) “biases” of this sort have proved true. That’s why people trust them.

  58. Judith Curry says:

    Barry #55 I spotted this also.  I hope that somebody will double check to see if this is accurate.  If it is, it is great cause for concern  (I am not too happy about the apellation “judithgate being given to this, referring to judith lean 🙂 )
     
    The issue of author selection in the IPCC is a huge source of bias, IMO and this issue has also been raised by some of the submisssions to the IPCC IAC.
     
    Referring back to Feynmann:  “When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.”

    Sir John Houghton and Rachendra Pachauri to me have obvious pro-AGW biases and have been political advocates.  I suspect that they know in advance what they want the story to look like, and choose the IPCC authors accordingly.  I raised this issue with regards to the selection of michael mann as a lead author for IPCC, when the ink on his Ph.D. thesis was barely dry:

    “Most (if not nearly all) of the lead authors for the IPCC Assessment Reports (particularly for WG1) seem to be senior scientists with a long record of scientific accomplishments and extensive experience in serving on national and international science steering committees that review and develop scientific programs. So how did such a young and relatively inexperienced scientist who had just received his Ph.D. become a lead author for the IPCC TAR? Who in the U.S. nominated him? Why did the IPCC select Mann (a recent Ph.D recipient) from the very large numbers of international nominees? I hope that someone will ask these questions, and to start I would like to hear what Sir John Houghton has to say about this.
    Well, here is my hypothesis on this. The IPCC leaders were looking for something new and attention grabbing for the TAR and the hockey stick seemed to fit the bill. A paper that used a new methodology and overturned previous conceptions would normally require additional investigations and replications before confidence could be established. So the most expedient way to insure that the hockey stick survived the assessment process was to make Mann a lead author: an ambitious but inexperienced scientist. ”
     
    This impression is supported by this clip from Michael Mann for a forthcoming Panorama documentary, looks like this documentary should be very interesting.

  59. #55 Your reasonable response ought to be” “what utter nonsense!” re Bishop Hills’ pushing the lie  that “IPCC’s conclusions on the lack of a solar influence on climate were based on a single paper by Lean and Frohlich”.
    I mean who is gullible enough to think the thousands of folks involved in the IPCC would just have one source for such an important aspect of climate? Really now how likely  is that?
    And Bishop Hill fails the reasonable person sniff test for pushing such garbage and for that reason is a questionable source.
     
    One more thing sites like Bishop Hill and other misinformation/denial sites make it very difficult for the public to use the internet to discern the real state of climate science. Using google generates reams of clever ‘false positives’.
    Our BS detectors have to be on high alert.

  60. Judith Curry says:

    Arthur Smith #34  I am detecting some bias against JohnB.  Why should his current statement (which I also found to be well written and provocative) be dismissed based on previous statements that he has made, or by some apparent motives?  In any event, the whole point of collide-a-scape seems to me  to be to provide a forum for all of us to challenge our preconceptions and biases, and hopefully some of us will change our minds as a result of the discussion.   Over at RP Jr. site, Peter Webster describes how his opinion on the IPCC consensus has changed since 2007 when he signed the Bali doc (an entertaining take on the PNAS paper).   So I think Keith has written a provocative post (including JohnB’s comments) which is evolving into an interesting thread.

  61. Keith Kloor says:

    Just to expand a bit on #60.

    I really thought that elements of the exchange captured the bias issue in a way that was fair to both Gavin and JohnB. For example, I thought Gavin effectively threw the bias charge right back in JohnB’s lap, when he said, “You are imagining scenarios that match only your prejudgment of my thinking.”

    As for the other things mentioned in JohnG’s email to me (which I highlighted), let me clarify something: I didn’t include all that to help him buttress his case for bias; I just thought it showed a degree of engagement with climate science that I thought should be noted. As I said in my post, it strikes me as quite sincere, and as I also said, I leave it to others to engage with JohnB on his grasp of climate research and the field’s protocol.

    And many of you are.

     

  62. #55  Judith I can hardly believe you wrote that  “…Rachendra Pachauri to me have obvious pro-AGW biases. Pachauri, an economist,  as head of the IPCC just repeats what the climate science in the IPCC process concluded. What else should he say?
     
    You ought to recall Pachauri was the favourite of the Bush Admin after they insisted climate scientist Bob Watson be removed as IPCC head alleging he was a “warmist”.
     

  63. Vieras says:

    Where is the rich history of success of outsiders providing “bias-busting” services for scientists?  The outsiders that really help scientific progress get to know the practitioners and labs and journals so intimately, they end up having choices about how they ultimately publish and add to the literature “” and that is, in fact, how it ultimately plays out successfully.  And *not* by providing outsourced “bias-busting” services.
     
    Steve Fitzpatrick mentioned Phrenology as an example. If Medicine would not have very high standards, that field would be a prime area of scientific controversies. Even with the current standards, things like homeopathy and faith healing manage to live in the shadows.
     
    I’m convinced, that Medicine has greatly benefited from the high standards. I can’t see any reason, why Climate Science could not also benefit from open data sharing and better quality control. So I can’t understand, why scientists would oppose steps, that reduce bias.
     
    Let me be clear, that I don’t want to insinuate, that Climate Science is in the same league as homeopathy. That’s really not my point. However, there are areas in the Climate Change advocacy, that are faith based and can’t stand evidence based scrutiny. (Himalayan glaciers, famine in Africa, Maledives sinking, etc.)
     
    My specialty is in Computer Science. I think that HARRY_READ_ME.txt gives a very gloomy picture of the data processing quality in Climate Science. There doesn’t seem to be adequate quality control in how the global temperature indexes are created. It’s baffling, that temperature errors of 10 degrees Celsius can slip through both NOAA and NASA (as in Sodankyla March 2010). And not only once but twice.

  64. dhogaza says:

    “The GISS model has been an outlier on the high side, and its credibility has been lower because of this as well as some structural issues in the GISS model.  Their new model is hopefully improved, and is giving a sensitivity that is closer to the center of mass of the other models.   The modeling groups have been criticized for trying to get their models to agree with the other models and our preconceived notions of what the sensitivity is.”

    You didn’t speak to my question, Judy, the explicit question nor the underlying implicit one – where is the evidence that bias pushes climate scientists to exaggerate climate sensitivity to increased CO2?  Certainly not at NASA, if there’s “bias” it’s to lower computed climate sensitivity …

    Please detail the structural issues in the GISS model that have led to *informed* criticisms.

    Please point to *informed* criticism that efforts to get models in better agreement (how in the world can this be painted as a bad thing?) is due to a desire to get them to return “preconceived results”, which, after all, is a fairly serious charge.  Damned serious, to be honest.  Such claims require evidence.

  65. Hector M. says:

    #57
    “Multiple lines of evidence from thousands of scientists in dozens of different countries over 30 years proving CC is largely anthropogenic, happening now and a great risk to our future ought to be enough to pass the ‘sniff test’ of reasonable people. If not then what does it say about us? And what higher standards of proof do we need?”

    But this deflects the actual criticisms that originated Climategate by conflating them with AGW denial. The problem with IPCC assessments is highlighted by McIntyre’s work is NOT about the truth of anthropogenic global warming (this is denied only by fringe denialists). The problem, instead, lies in the details. For instance, if the recent rise in temps were not so “unprecedented” as implied by the H.Stick chart, then possibly anthropogenic factors would be to be held responsible for only part of the observed warming. Likewise, if the instrumental record involves some uncorrected UHI, or station cherry picking, then perhaps the “observed” warming may have to be partially corrected downwards. The end result would possibly be that recent AGW exists but it is not so large as originally thought, and therefore some model predictions would have to be rescaled back as a result (or perhaps not), all to the benefit of sound science. Refusing to even consider such objections (which were presented in very specific detail and not as simple denials) or trying to silence them would hardly be commendable.

  66. dhogaza says:

    <blockquote>My specialty is in Computer Science. I think that HARRY_READ_ME.txt gives a very gloomy picture of the data processing quality in Climate Science. There doesn’t seem to be adequate quality control in how the global temperature indexes are created. It’s baffling, that temperature errors of 10 degrees Celsius can slip through both NOAA and NASA (as in Sodankyla March 2010). And not only once but twice.</blockquote>

    As someone supposedly specializing in computer science, you’re perfectly aware that bugs are very often exposed when code is presented with data that the author of the software hasn’t imagined as possible input.

    That’s how the large temperature errors slipped through, and the screening code was later modified to catch the particular goof made by the Russian reporting agency.

    This is typical of software systems, while unfortunate, not unusual, even in highly funded projects manned by professional software engineers.

    You know this, so it shouldn’t surprise you one bit.

  67. Hector M. says:

    #59: “I mean who is gullible enough to think the thousands of folks involved in the IPCC would just have one source for such an important aspect of climate”.

    Thousands of folks may have been involved in the IPCC in general, but only a few folkls were actually involved in each particular statement. In some ocasions, key statements were introduced in the final stages, after reviewers had any chance of seeing them before the report got printed. In other occasions, reviewers objections were summarily dismissed and that was that. One cannot use the thousands of people involved in the IPCC process as a whole to support every statement made at different specific parts of the report (e.g. would the 2500 participants be held responsible for the statement about Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035?).

  68. Hector M. says:

    #59
    “Bishop Hills’ pushing the lie  that “IPCC’s conclusions on the lack of a solar influence on climate were based on a single paper by Lean and Frohlich”.”
    Well, not only the Bishop. Also the Norwegian government, and leading solar scientists like Dr Wilson who actually stated at the time that Lean&Frohlich paper “manipulated data” in order to minimize solar activity (which increased in the 1970s to 1990s period, and decreased in the 2000s).
    A more detailed analysis is in http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2010/06/ipcc-consensus-on-solar-influence-was.html.

  69. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    It’s important here to distinguish between research science (conducted within a narrow and well-defined field of expertise, where taking as long as necessary to achieve certainty is more important than meeting deadlines, and where hypotheses can be tested one-by-one against clear empirical evidence) and regulatory science (which often spans a broad range of disciplines, such that no one person can aquire enough expertise to judge all aspects of a finding; where the need to make policy decisions means that uncertain and incomplete results today are more valuable than certain and complete results 20 years from now; and where there is enough uncertainty that subjective judgments by researchers are unavoidable).
     
    Where subjective judgments loom large, there’s a real problem of bias: there’s solid empirical evidence that experts tend to be very overconfident in their subjective probability assessments (i.e., they draw their confidence intervals much too narrowly. See, for instance, G. Baescher and J. Christian, Reliability and Statistics in Geotechnical Engineering (Wiley, 2003), pp. 503-508) and that their subjective estimates of purely scientific questions are strongly (unconsciously) influenced by personal policy preferences (see H. Brooks, “The Resolution of Technically Intensive Public Policy Disputes,” Sci. Tech. Hum. Val. 9, 39 (1984) at 39-40). Where there is clear empirical evidence to test the proposition, data generally trumps bias, but where the evidence is unclear or uncertain, bias remains a problem.
     
    This doesn’t mean that IPCC science is invalid. Quite the contrary, the empirical evidence for AGW is far too solid for the IPCC’s WG1 conclusions that AGW is real and significant to be explained away as bias. However, in attempts to forecast future climate change in great detail, the uncertainties are large enough that unconscious bias by researchers becomes a real consideration.
     
    However, the presence of bias and uncertainty does not mean we can’t make policy decisions. If we decide to wait until climate science is much more solid before deciding whether to mitigate GHG emissions, that will itself be a policy decision to commit to dramatically higher GHG concentrations.
     
    It’s telling that Freeman Dyson defends such an approach (to defer policy decisions until climate science approaches Feynman’s standards of rigor) by asserting that the delay doesn’t matter because if we ultimately decide that AGW will indeed be catastrophic, it will be cheap and easy to suck all the excess CO2 out of the atmosphere: “I consider it likely that we shall have ‘genetically engineered carbon-eating trees’ within twenty years, and almost certainly within fifty years.”
     
    Those who don’t share Dyson’s faith in technological quick-fixes might want to take at least some significant action before we have absolute certainty.
     
    Note that part of what I’m saying is that choosing the standards of scientific proof and rigor is a political act, not a scientific act. This is one reason why it’s not possible to cleanly separate the scientific and political aspects of the problem. No matter how hard it tries to stick to purely scientific questions, the IPCC will be at the center of political disputes that will include attacks on its credibility.

  70. Atomic Hairdryer says:

    #25 Judith Curry
    “A few weeks ago I suggested a “Team B” approach to challenge the biases, but this idea was pretty uniformly disliked.”
    I missed the orginal comment, but like that approach. I also think I first came across it in a Feynman book (What Do You Care..?) with I think the concept of Tiger Teams to help challenge bias or preconceptions.
    I’ve seen that used a lot in industry, particularly defence and security. One example was a radar project with competing designs, one for a steerable dish, the other for a steerable beam. There was scepticism about the steerable beam approach being non-traditional, but it worked and it won. In security, we use it a lot. One team designs a security system, another is tasked to break it, and in my experience it leads to better results.
    Downside is it’s a luxurious approach and needs resourcing, so it’s expensive. Given the scale and social impact of AGW adaptation/mitigation, I think it’s necessary though, and would go a long way to disarming scepticism. If Team B has examined, challenged and tested a theory and published, what would there be to be really sceptical about?
    I’ve used this concept a lot, and found initial challenges are getting ‘Team B’ to think against confirmation bias or consensus, or think outside the box. By varying A/B team members though, I’ve also found it improved results because people challenged their own work more often.

  71. William Newman says:

    Judith Curry writes (#25) “Scientific biases are challenging enough, but when these are augmented by political bias and a policy agenda, then the bias issue becomes the overwhelming challenge for the science.”

    I would say instead something like “when researchers are unwilling to use the established techniques to present work so that it remains convincing even when the possibility of bias is taken seriously, the possibility of bias naturally becomes a very large problem.” We don’t have techniques which make it reasonable to ignore the possibility of researcher bias. We don’t have techniques to reliably identify or train truly unbiased researchers. What we do have are techniques to arrange and present work in such a way that the conclusion can be convincing even when there is a very significant probability of researcher bias.

    By the time of Galileo it was already pretty well understood how to present one’s scientific work into a form which would stand without people accepting one’s authority, one’s unbiasedness, or (in many cases) even one’s good faith. Of course in Galileo’s time a large fraction of people were still unmotivated to do this, for various reasons like their secretiveness, their mysticism, their disinclination to be burned at the stake, or their lack of sufficiently sound scientific research that could actually be presented in such a way. But it had become fairly clear how to do the presentation if one wanted to: describe a chain of argument sufficiently completely that it is obvious to doubters how to cross-check any step of the argument that they choose, and ground the chain of arguments in observations that suffice to sharply distinguish the theory from rival theories. That done, an Italian’s work could be widely convincing even in an era when a Dutchman had no very strong reason to expect that an Italian author he’d never met was arguing in good faith, and even in a corpus of publications where everyone can read between the lines and see strong suggestions of bias. (E.g., that the Italian is so annoyed with the Pope that he is willing to risk the Inquisition by needling the Pope in print.)

    Of course in some cases (e.g., one is the only astronomer who travels to the Southern Hemisphere to make high-precision measurements on a particular eclipse) it was and is impossible to communicate one’s results without relying on readers granting at least a basic level of good faith. But historically this problem is seldom so pervasive that a strong widely useful theory can’t be defended without leaning on appeals to good faith. And I can’t think of any historical examples of a strong widely useful theory which could only be defended by appeals to the unbiasedness of the researchers or the authority of the researchers. (E.g., general relativity did endure this situation for decades, because only specialists could make sufficiently subtle measurements. But GR had this problem only for the same reason that GR wasn’t widely useful, i.e., that within our solar system GR causes only exceedingly subtle perturbations.)

  72. Barry Woods says:

    How many people read, Bishop Hill and ignored the rest?
    Dangerous to shoot messengers in any field.

    We have clear evidence, that the co-author of this paper reviewed their own work.  Which supports previous suggestions that the IPCC, cherry pick papers to support AGW, rather than a fair review of all the available work in a field.

    The link that I followed provided via Bishop Hill, clearly goes to the Harvard University library service:

    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Papers; IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Papers: Working Group I, The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, 2005-2007; Expert and Government Review Comments on the Second-Order Draft, Chapter 2. ESPP IPCCAR4WG1.

    http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/7786003?n=6&imagesize=1200&jp2Res=.25

    Where the comment is visible to anybody in the world with an internet connection:

    “I would encourage the IPCC to [re-]consider having only one solar physicist on the lead author team of such an important chapter. In particular since the conclusion of this section about solar forcing hangs on one single paper in which J. Lean is a coauthor.”

    The above quote is in the IPCC record, a copy viewable at a reputable online source…

    Stephe Leahy sounds very very sure, did you follow the link, I provided.

    Mike Hulme UEA, IPCC, etc,etc

    recently said in a paper that the 2500 scientists saying, was disengenuous,  that only a few dozen experts (ie paleo reconstruction), it always did sound like a pr ‘soundbite’ for the medias consumption.

  73. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Arthur Smith #57,
    Climate scientists (and most everyone else) are often faced with the dilemma of data which does not appear to agree with current understanding of the subject that data applies to.  I would not suggest that considering the possibility that  incongruent data might be incorrect represents a bias, every researcher faces this situation from time to time.  Real bais, if there is any, is seen in the willingness (or lack of) to pursue identified discrepancies and resolve them.
     
    The specific case of tropospheric amplification you talk about is a good one.  You say (correctly) that climate scientists have discounted data due to “bias in favor of the basic physical underpinnings of how our atmosphere works”.   But that ‘bias’ inherently implies belief that “the basic physical underpinnings” are properly applied to generate an expected behavior (AKA a model projection) which is an accurate representation of how the atmosphere really works.   Nobody questions the basic physics, but that does not mean the application of the basic physics to a very complicated system like the atmosphere  is for certain done correctly.
     
    Santer el al compared model projections of decreasing laps rate to measured tropospheric warming form satellite measurements, and concluded that the discrepancy between the measurements and the model projections did not rise to the 95% confidence level.  So they reported the models remain in basic agreement with the satellite data.  (More explicitly, they rejected the hypothesis that the disagreement reached a 95% significance level.)
     
    As you are no doubt aware, the method used by Santer et al has been applied by others to the ever growing satellite history (both from RSS and UAH) from 1979 through 2009, and the new results show clearly that  many IPCC models do in fact disagree with the satellite tropospheric temperature data at well over 95% confidence level, when the entire data set is considered.
    I am puzzled that this result seems to be ignored by climate modelers.  Has it been addressed somewhere that you know of?
     

  74. Vieras says:

    dhogaza: As someone supposedly specializing in computer science, you’re perfectly aware that bugs are very often exposed when code is presented with data that the author of the software hasn’t imagined as possible input.
    That’s how the large temperature errors slipped through, and the screening code was later modified to catch the particular goof made by the Russian reporting agency.
    This is typical of software systems, while unfortunate, not unusual, even in highly funded projects manned by professional software engineers.
    You know this, so it shouldn’t surprise you one bit.
     
    When it comes to HARRY_READ_ME.txt, it shows, that the input data is of bad quality. When this is the situation, the first step is to make sure that it all is cleaned up adequately. And when the data is messy, extra effort should be taken to check its validity. Unfortunately the only checks I can see were to try to replicate earlier results. So Ian Harris didn’t approach his task from an independent position. Instead, he worked until he got results that were close enough to earlier results. That’s a biased approach, that doesn’t produce reliable results.
     
    Now, we can only hope, that NOAA and NASA GISS can catch those 10 C errors in the future. However, the fact, that this big errors could go unnoticed raises questions: “How many other errors are there in the data? How big are they?”

  75. Bishop Hill says:

    #59

    My headline was “Another IPCC scandal?” The question mark was deliberate. I used words likes “seems to” and “Lean and Rind are accused of”. I haven’t check it out myself.

    The accusation is a serious one and is worthy of being reported. That doesn’t mean it’s correct, but I think it needs to be checked out.

    You say that I am pushing a lie. I am reporting an accusation that has been made. You can show that the accusation was false, and then you could say that I had reported an accusation that turned out to be false. But I didn’t offer an opinion on whether it was true or false because, as I said, I haven’t checked the facts myself.

    You clearly think that the accusation is false. Apart from the Lean/Frohlich paper, what other sources do you believe are cited in support of the conclusion of a lack of solar influence on climate?

  76. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Jonathan Gilligan #69,
    Excellent and thoughtful comment.

  77. #74 Why would you “report” something w out checking its veracity? Especially when your source is “Apparently a sceptic blog in the Czech Republic”.
     
    Why not perform a real service in citizen science by actually checking it out? Instead you are muddying the waters with unsubstantiated junk.
     

  78. #65 Ok if this is all about whether anthropogenic factors are responsible for only part of the observed warming then the IPCC agrees with you. And there is constant study by many climate scientists to refine how much is anthro and how much natural variability. The bulk of the evidence is that it is very likely mostly the former – and the hockey stick is just one line of evidence.

    So if we agree that CO2 from human sources is driving up temperatures what are we going to do about it?

  79. dhogaza says:

    “Unfortunately the only checks I can see were to try to replicate earlier results. So Ian Harris didn’t approach his task from an independent position. Instead, he worked until he got results that were close enough to earlier results. That’s a biased approach, that doesn’t produce reliable results.”

    Given that he was assigned the task of cleaning stuff up and replicating prior results, this simply isn’t true.  It was his job, it wasn’t simple due to lack of documentation, etc, but in the end he got the job done.

    Now, there’s an underlying question as to whether or not the implemented algorithm gives yields a good temperature reconstruction from a very imperfect historical set of temperature data, but that’s a scientific question, not a software engineering one.  That’s not the job Harry was tasked with.  Harry’s troubles are symptomatic of the kind of messy amateurish programming efforts made by underfunded teams of science, but says nothing about the quality of the CRU reconstructions.

    I have 40 years of experience as a software engineer, BTW.

  80. dhogaza says:

    “You say that I am pushing a lie. I am reporting an accusation that has been made. You can show that the accusation was false, and then you could say that I had reported an accusation that turned out to be false”

    Or you could be a responsible person and investigate and try to learn whether or not there’s a basis to the accusation before spreading it.

    After all, you wouldn’t want me posting “Bishop Hill beats his wife” all over the internet just because I read it somewhere, would you?   You’d expect me not to repeat such an accusation unless I had some firm reason to believe it, wouldn’t you?

  81. #77 Stephen Leahy says:
    “So if we agree that CO2 from human sources is driving up temperatures what are we going to do about it?”
     
    The $$$$$$$$ question, Mr. Leahy, is “by how much”? The answer isn’t at all clear, and it will take considerable effort and reworking of (possibly) flawed and biased work to find out. Roy Spencer is pursuing one promising line of research, and it seems to me that analysis of the growing body of satellite climate data may enable us to sidestep the many questions and problems with the surface temp. record. See http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/06/revisiting-the-pinatubo-eruption-as-a-test-of-climate-sensitivity/ for a snapshot. The comments are worth reading.
     
    FWIW, my own review of climate sensitivity work suggests the answer may be around one deg. C temp. rise for doubling CO2, which is the “base rate” from physics for the contribution of CO2 alone — and is (roughly) the empirical number one gets from projecting the current temp rise rates.  Don’t you think we should find this out first, before embarking on some very expensive “cures” for a “disease” that may not be all that serious?
     
     

  82. Bishop Hill says:

    #78 Stephen

    I’m saying to my readers – “look, something interesting here”. Is this unreasonable?

    You imply that your own approach is different and that you check things out in detail before saying anything. This is admirable. I’m therefore sure you checked the story out before accusing me of “pushing” a “lie” and will now be telling me of the other papers that the IPCC cites in support of its conclusion that the solar influence on climate is limited.

  83. #79 Ahh it’s the “cures” the scare you.  As you know CO2 is just one of the climate forcing agents, and probably aware there are positive feedbacks in the system that can trigger significant natural sources of methane, co2…
     
    You may not realize that most of the cures will wean us off our addiction to expensive fossil fuels and reduce air pollution amongst many other benefits. AGW aside we ought to be putting those cures into place. So why the fight?

  84. bigcitylib says:

    Use this version instead, please:

    #36 Sure, FDA regulations on pharmaceuticals exist to protect people from harm form ineffective or harmful pharmaceuticals; the regulations enforce standards of research which are specifically designed to (among other things) eliminate bias.  What is the propose of a double blind study if not to eliminate potential biases?
     
    As for an example: how about phrenology.  Had a lot of scientific influence, at least for a period of time.
    “”
    Terrible example, but a good example of how little actual awareness of science history goes into these discussions.
    Both phrenology and its scientific competitors were types of faculty pyschology.  The main sore point between them was whether or not faculties manifested in brain structures that were evident in (readable from) skull structure.  Nor was it refuted by better research.  It would be more accurate to say that both phren. and competitors “petered out” as people moved on to other issues and other ways of looking at things.  Which is arguably what happens to most theories.
    Nor was phrenology 2nd rate science.  In fact, if for some new reason people became interested in certain (but not all) kinds of skull measurement, scientists might  have to turn to old phrenological texts to find them, as they just  aren’t done anymore.  So you could say that the knowledge generated was real, just not on a topic anyone is interested in anymore.

  85. #80
     
    Looks like a clear case of confirmation bias if you’re telling your readers this looks interesting w out checking veracity of the claim. Hope you’re not accusing climate scientists of the same thing.  Or journalists.

  86. Hector M. says:

    Even if the Bishop did not check it thoroughly out when he posted his post, the report seems to be essentially true: there was only one solar scientist involved (Lean) and the central argument was supported by citing only Lean’s article, which supports the comment archived with IPCC (advice not followed in the text of the IPCC report), namely: “I would encourage the IPCC to [re-]consider having only one solar physicist on the lead author team of such an important chapter. In particular since the conclusion of this section about solar forcing hangs on one single paper in which J. Lean is a coauthor.”
    So instead of discussing why the Bishop posted it that way, why not addressing the substantive issue, for which sufficient documentation exist? It would be easy to prove that the claim echoed by the Bishop is “a lie”.
    I have seen also this kind of deflection of subject when some bloggers (in some other blog, recently) discuss whether Montford’s book, The Hockey Stick Illusion, is worth reading: Why not discuss the book itself, instead of discussing at length whether it is worth reading? The Bishop is actually Montford, so he should be accustomed to this.

  87. Pascvaks says:

    Is there something that we can all (most) agree on called AGW? Yes! Now, here comes the hard part… How big is it?   How dangerous is it?  Do we have to spend “x”, “y”, or “z”, or do we only need to clean up a lot of little things and only spend “a”?  Bias will be the determining factor for many.  Hard cold facts will be the determining factor for many.  Background noise via the media will be the determining factor for many.  Most, however, are too busy doing the everyday things in life to even tilt an ear toward the matter.

    If Doctor “X” says this is serious, if former VP “Y” says it’s serious, if General Secretary “Z” says it’s serious, does any of this change anything?  If the US Congress and President say this is serious, if the British PM and Parlement say this is serious, if the UN General Assembly or Security Council say this is serious, does any of this change anything?  Really?

    So, regarding the truly hard part of the matter, how serious is “serious”?  Or, as I said earlier, how big is it?  No one, to date, has been able to state– to the satisfaction of the “majority” of PhD’s, Nerd’s, or Common Folk’s– how serious or big the problem is and what really, truly should be done.  There doesn’t seem to be much that everyone can agree on except that people exhale Co2, make other gases, make a lot of trash, destroy natural resources, etc., etc., etc..  Oh!  And that there’s an awful lot of people on this little old planet.

    Anyone else starting to get the sinking feeling that “people are never going to agree on the weather, or much of anything else”?

    There is a solution to every problem, it’s just that people are rarely able to see it or use it, and they pay the price.

  88. willard says:

    I really liked reading (Brooks, 1984) quoted by Jonathan Gilligan in #69, and recommend reading it  to everyone, and especially you, Keith.  I might have missed the part where it is shown that “subjective estimates of purely scientific questions are strongly (unconsciously) influenced by personal policy preferences”, but that’s a minor quibble.
     
    I really liked the part where two views of dispute resolution where discussed.  The first one is attributed to Arthur Kantrowitz, which promotes the metaphor of “science as court” and the separation of facts and values.  The second one considers that “policy disputes, no matter how heavily dependent on scientific considerations, are inherently value-laden.”  The second one is the one mainly discussed.  An interesting twist to this conception is that it argues for the perpetual debate between the generalists (say citizen scientists) and the specialists (say the climatologists), to make sure the facts and values get synthetized in a way that can be legitimately accepted by most of everyone.
     
    A very interesting read!

  89. Andy says:

    This is a great topic as confirmation bias is something I deal with everyday.  My profession is intelligence analysis, which is a strange and deadly mix of science, psychology and art – one where analysts like myself (at least good analysts) battle confirmation bias constantly.
    The problem is that confirmation bias afflicts everyone.  Those who claim to be unaffected are actually the most affected are actually the most susceptible.  Ironically, so are “experts” since they have established mindsets that become entrenched. 

    Experts are rarely innovators for this reason.

    In my own profession there are countless examples where information or data that did not “fit” was discarded, twisted so that it confirms (or at least doesn’t contradict)  or was simply not “seen” at all, while confirming data and evidence is quickly accepted and given undue prominence.

    All this speaks to confirmation bias which cognitive science has shown is an integral and, indeed, necessary, part of human thinking.  The important point here is that no one is immune and this bias operates at an unconscious level.  It’s therefore important, I believe, to resist assuming impure motives by those with whom one disagrees – it’s likely they simply “see” the evidence differently than you do.

    Of course, all that should be obvious.  Confirmation bias is why we have the scientific method.  It’s why there are double-blind studies.  It’s why we use controls in experimentation. Science – good science – attempts to to limit our human cognitive deficits through these and other means.

    So the question, it seems to me, is does the climate science community (and by community I include both advocates and skeptics)  do enough to mitigate against confirmation bias?  As a layman with an active interest in climate science and as an expert in dealing with confirmation bias, I think the answer is a definitive “no.”   There is the scientific “climate” itself, where “tribal” affiliation affects the value of an argument or data. That is bad enough. In some ways, however, climate science suffers from some of the same problems that affect economics.  There is an over-reliance on modeling which can compound bias instead of expose it.  Performing “controlled” experimental testing is difficult or impossible. Many of the usual scientific controls aren’t practicable.

    There is peer review, but that comes with limitations.  We have something similar in the intelligence community.  We also have “consensus” and, as everyone knows, peer review and consensus are not reliable indicators of accuracy or truth.

    So what does all this mean?  For me it means that more science and study is necessary.  Climate science is still a relatively young discipline.  It also means that climate scientists must take more positive steps to isolate their scientific study from the effects of confirmation bias and I think they need to take criticism more seriously.
     

  90. Judith Curry says:

    Andy #88 wow, thank you for that post!

  91. JamesG says:

    Oh Dear..
    Jonathan Gilligan mentions “the empirical evidence for AGW is far too solid”. In fact while that is true of the empirical evidence for warming, the AGW part comes entirely from trying to separate out the natural contribution, which relies on huge amounts of subjectivity and total reliance on unvalidated models. You’d think a well-read man would understand the difference. Evidence of warming is not evidence of manmade warming!

    I’ve just seen a debate posted on youtube between Christie and Schlessinger where Christie pulls out chart after chart that destroys the idea that manmade warming is evident from the natural variation and shows that the models are all incredibly poor so any reliance on them is not scientifically defensible. In reply merely Schlessinger pulled out that other famous myth from his holster – that 2500 scientists disagreed with Christie. A questioner from the audience forced him to admit that 80% of these weren’t even scientists.

    And Arthur Smith continues in his fallacy that Douglass et al managed to refute basic physics therefore they can be ignored. As he knows, firstly because I told him, but secondly that it’s in the paper itself – it refutes only the idea of a large positive water vapour feedback. Arthurs only thin excuse for this continued distortion of reality is that the originator of that particular myth he parrots was the realclimate.org main blogger. The real truth is that the much-vaunted, but little tested, positive water vapour feedback that translates 1K of beneficial warming to 6K of thermageddon, if it exists at all, is best found in the tropical troposphere. That’s the basic atmospheric science that Arthur needs to understand!

    If people would just stick to the actual truth then we might get somewhere. But of course they keep refusing to do so. This is fundamental to the credibility argument. How can you be so credible when you are continually found out passing off fiction as fact? Yes, yes it’s the “good lie” again, I know.

    Nobody even has to discuss if the bias is present, they just have to test for reality versus models. Christie and Lindzen have done so. Nobody else has. This is an argument between a minority who still believe that data rules against a post-normal majority who somehow seem to think that 20 inadequate models, loaded with untested, unproven assumptions, and shown to be utterly inadequate in 4 dimensions, are nevertheless good enough for policy because they all show what they were programmed to show. I don’t expect anything else of soft social sciences (this being par for their course) – it’s those in the hard sciences that disappoint so much.

  92. Andy says:

    Judith,
     
    Thanks!  And my apologies for some bad grammar – I guess my editing was as successful as I intended.
     
    I’ve just finished reading the rest of the comments and notice you mentioned “Team B” analysis.  This is something the intelligence community has experience with.  It can be a useful tool provided it’s setup to succeed.  If it’s put together with an agenda, it can do great harm.   Team composition is crucial.
     
    The intelligence community uses a variety of tools and methods that attempt to combat bias and they all have utility but also limitations.  One of the oldest is the “analysis of competing hypothesis” which is still used today.  I honestly don’t know if any of the intelligence community tools would be useful for climate science, but it’s something that might be worth looking into.

  93. Andy says:

    *wasn’t.  Me and english aren’t getting along today.

  94. Bishop Hill says:

    Stephen Leahy #85

    You say it’s confirmation bias that I found it interesting without checking out the details first. The other day I linked to Arthur Smith’s critique of the Mosher (and CA?) takes on the Nature trick. I didn’t download the code and/or replicate Arthur’s findings. This is confirmation bias the other way, I guess. 🙂

    I’m taking from your reluctance to offer up any other supporting papers that might support Lind that you did in fact accuse me of pushing a lie without actually checking the facts yourself.

    Ho hum.

  95. anon says:

    Bishop Hill, my own confirmation bias these days is that I find you more interesting and reasonable than the Stephen Leahys.  And not to defend him too much, I have become tired of the many blog posts, tweets, etc., where some journalist/activist in area X merely reposts, retweets, someone else’s “finding” without ever doing any sort of added value research into it.
    I do find it worse when it comes from a known journalist with a press pass who doesn’t bother to pick up a phone or send out an email but just passes on the telephone message.
    And I guess the same would be true of a scientist or activist even who could do a bit of research and vetting that the lay person cannot and instead merely reposts/retweets/amplifies the dominant paradigm.  And in a sense, that’s what we’re discussing here, how the works and beliefs of a few climate scientists might be spun into a global consensus of thousands of scientists, when the truth is that few read the papers deeply, and fewer tried to replicate the experiments.
    So, without having read your post on this paper, let me arrogantly and ignorantly say, “better please!”

  96. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Willard: ” I might have missed the part where it is shown that ‘subjective estimates of purely scientific questions are strongly (unconsciously) influenced by personal policy preferences’, but that’s a minor quibble.”
     
    Fair question. It’s the bit running from the bottom of the first page (39) to the top of the second, about the nuclear engineers estimating future energy demand, amount of high-quality uranium ore, and future price of photovoltaics. Each of these is a scientific question because it satisfies Popper’s criterion of falsifiability: wait the appropriate time and observe the demand for electricity, the size of proved uranium reserves and the price of photovoltaics. However, because the only way to test the hypotheses is to wait a specified interval, these fall into the subset of scientific statements that Alvin Weinberg calls “trans-scientific,” meaning testable and falsibiable in principle, but not in practice.
     
    There is no reason why estimates of electricity demand, uranium supply, and photovoltaic price should be causally connected, so you’d expect no correlation among experts’ estimates of these three quantities: some might think demand would be high and that uranium supplies would be high too; others might think demand would be low, but uranium supply would be high; and so forth.
     
    What was interesting about the Manne and Richels study that Brooks cites is that the answers were highly correlated: people who predicted high electricity demand also tended to predict low uranium supplies and expensive photovoltaics; those who predicted low demand also tended to predict large uranium supplies and cheap photovoltaics.
     
    Manne and Richels observed that experts in the first group (high demand, scarce uranium, expensive photovoltaics) tended to favor policies to develop fast breeder reactors; those in the other group tended to oppose fast breeders. Brooks observes that while it’s perfectly possible that the scientific beliefs drove the policy prescription (if you believe that electricity demand will be high, uranium scarce, and solar energy expensive, those would all tend to favor fast breeders), but that causal direction would not explain the clustering.
     
    On the other hand, if the policy preference for fast breeders drove the subjective estimates, that could explain the clustering: people who favored fast breeders tended to make subjective estimates of scientific questions that would support their policy preference; those who opposed fast breeders made subjective estimates that supported their policy preference.
     
    This phenomenon may be related to the “affective heuristic” in the risk perception literature, although it’s not quite the same thing.

  97. anon says:

    I guess I’m an idiot, but how do I type paragraphs here and not have them all scrunched up?
    One “enter”?
     
    Two enters?

  98. Hector M. says:

    Anon:
    My advice: just press ENTER twice.

    However, one ENTER does not produce any “scrunching”, in my humble opinion, only no extra space between paragraphs.
    Or does it?

  99. Arthur Smith says:

    JamesG (#91) – do you understand the difference between water vapor feedback and lapse rate feedback? Read the article by Soden and Held that I referred to. Tropical tropospheric amplification is directly related to the lapse rate feedback *which is negative*. It is *indirectly* related to water vapor feedback, because the lapse rate and water vapor effects are somewhat correlated (the lapse rate change is associated with the “moist” adiabat). But the direct consequence of a missing lapse rate feedback is an *increase* in sensitivity, not a decrease.
     
    Lindzen tries to conflate water vapor and clouds (yet another feedback that is even less directly related to water vapor) and never mentions lapse rates in the articles I’ve seen, so he’s either not been paying attention to the literature on the subject or being deliberately obfuscatory. In any case, he seems to have left you very confused on the question.

  100. Ken says:

    Arthur (#99)
    “so he’s either not been paying attention to the literature on the subject or being deliberately obfuscatory”.

    Is this the PC way to insinuate fraud by a scientist? I thought this was considered inexcusable by the AGW D-minus team?

  101. Ken says:

    Sorry for that last line. It’s way over the top. I apologize and retract that question.

  102. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Arthur Smith #99,
    Lindzen was quite conversant in laps rates… 38 years ago, and he is one of the most published atmospheric researchers of the last 50 years, so it seems unlikely he would forget.  It is a lot less than fair for you to suggest Lindzen is “being deliberately obfuscatory” about lapse rates; see for example R.S. Lindzen, A.Y. Hou and B.F. Farrell (1982). The role of convective model choice in calculating the climate impact of doubling CO2. J. Atmos. Sci., 39, 1189-1205. This paper points out that the  convective model used drastically changes the estimated climate sensitivity.

  103. JohnB says:

    Wow. Stay away from the net for a couple of days…

    Steven Sullivan #51.Recognise me from other places do you? If you would care to give some examples, I will happily confirm whether or not I am the “JohnB” concerned. I would hate to think that you are reaching conclusions based on the idea that I’m the only person on the planet that posts under the name “JohnB”.

    #6 Steve Bloom. Interesting that you chose the “Politics” forum.(And actually, my most recent thread was about fun and games with a phone company.) The post you referenced linked to an article that you apparently have no problems with, a prediction of 4.5 billion deaths by 2012. I have no problem with science or scientists, I do have a problem with BS, and that article was alarmist BS. Or do you think 3/4 of the worlds population is going to die in the next 18 months?

    Perhaps you could try this thread instead, you’ll find it under “Climate Science”.
    http://www.scienceforums.net/forum/showthread.php?t=49336
    Perhaps you can demonstrate where my bias shows? Or is asking a question or testing a falsifiable proposition a demonstration of bias now?

    #57 Arthur Smith. I was not accusing anybody of bias in the way you appear to believe. I gave an example of how bias can be compounded. If you had read to the end of the comment you would have seen that I stated that the concept applies in the other direction as well. Consequently, I wasn’t implying that Climate Scientists had a bias, but rather pointing out the possibility of bias existed. It’s called “Being Human”.

    On bias I thoroughly agree with Steve Fitzpatrick @ #2. There is bias with both views. By taking the sceptical position I have to accept that I am therefore automatically biased. When I read a paper that I don’t like I usually ask myself 3 questions.
    1. Do I not like it because I’m biased? Or because it “smells”?
    2. If it “smells”, does it smell because I’m biased?
    3. Do I even know enough to fully understand the paper anyway?

    How about you?

    Stephen Leahy #14.  I’m sure that undergrads are told about confirmation bias and how it should be avoided and methods to do so. I’m also sure that Doctors are taught very extensively about the dangers of prescription drug addiction and Police officers are not only taught but see every day the dangers of narcotic addiction. Yet there are Doctors and Police officers addicted to drugs.

    Are you really making the claim that because someone is taught about the dangers of something they will therefore avoid it?

    As has been made very clear by people in other fields, (AtomicHairdryer #70, Andy #89)  confirmation bias is a well recognised problem and must be actively dealt with. I therefore find it interesting that the mere mention that it might be considered WRT Climate Science leads to immediate charges that I am accusing scientists of bias. There is an old saying “The guilty flee where no man persueth.”

  104. JohnB says:

    On a more substantive note.

    Steve Bloom #6. That is an interesting paper. For now I can only say three things;
    1. I’ll have to reread some older papers and see how it fits in.
    2. Oh look, “It’s worse than we thought”.
    3. Could you perhaps indicate to me where the authors provide proof of the factual basis of their first sentence? Or is it something that “everybody knows”?

    Concerning models (especially) and cognitive dissonance. I would ask anyone to please explain to me how Climate models can be defended as “firmly based in physics” and similar arguments and at the same time a nearly 50% reduction in sensitivity is used to show a lack of confirmation bias. (Not picking on GISS here, it’s just that we’ve been talking about them)

    Either something is firmly grounded in physics, like SR or it is based on approximations based on physics. These are two very different things. It is not correct to question the immutability of the Laws of Physics, however it is quite correct to question the approximations built upon those laws. It is also reasonable to ask whether or not confirmation bias has effected thos approximations.

    You can’t have it both ways.

  105. JohnB says:

    Keith, it looks like the first part might be caught in the spam filter.

  106. Hector M. says:

    In summary, and returning to bias and the need to control it through honest rational criticism and scientific debate, one could say to establish AGW in the form stated in the IPCC several pieces of evidence have to be assembled, each of which may have to face certain problems or challenges:
    1. Global temp is sensitive to CO2 emissions.
            (The value of sensitivity, though, is quite debatable, and model dependent, in particular because of water vapour effects).
    2. Recent global warming is strong, as shown by instrumental records since 1850.
           (But met station data are fraught with problems including insufficient correction for UHI or other localized heat sources such as cement, asphalt, buildings, motors and the like, and also other problems such as what stations to select, how to smooth and homogenize the data, and how to build gridcell averages based on those station data).(Another criticism is that solar activity has been quite strong since 1970s to 1990s but quite weak in the 2000s, coinciding with accelerating and then stalling warming, but this factor has been pretty much ignored or summarily dismissed in the IPCC reports, so that no serious discussion on the relative importance of GHG and solar activity has been included in the IPCC process).
    3. Recent global warming is unprecedented. 1998 was the warmest year in the latest 1000 or 2000 years. The shape of global temps follows a hockey stick shape. There was no such thing as a Medioeval Warm Period or a Little Ice Age beyond some blips in the curve.
          (But the specific selection of non instrumental proxies has been the object of many criticisms, as well as the statistical procedure followed to get those conclusions. In particular, it seems that the code used would generate a hockey stick chart even with random data, because it first selects for series indicating warming up to 1960, to match instrumental records, and then proxies for past centuries are smoothed out with principal component analysis, getting always the hockey stick handle. Or so critics say).(Besides, there are other minor problems such as proxies declining, i.e. going down, not up, since 1960, forcing climate scientists to discard those data, and mix proxy and instrument data in order to hide that decline).
    4. Predictions about the future for various scenarios predict significant warming up to 2100 or beyond, with enormous impacts envisaged.
               (But predictions rest only on simulations, not data. Predictions of the past with the same models are not always able to reproduce past climate. Instead of intrinsic uncertainties, dispersion of the various model results are used to ascertain uncertainties. Predictions also rest on very debatable scenario assumptions, not least an overstated population growth along the 21st century; aggregation of economic variables based on market, not PPP exchange rates; and other problems).

    All these criticisms may be totally unfounded. However, they have not been given a fair trial. Whenever somebody has raised any of them, they have tended to be hushed down or swept beneath the carpet, just to avoid confusing the clarity of the message.  Efforts have been displayed to avoid such criticisms getting published, and to deny such critics access to data and code. Legitimate criticism has been conflated with ideological denial by special interest groups. Raw data and code have often not been archived, not even in journals that formally require archiving. Data have been reported as lost, whilst the same data are subsequently released to other colleagues with specific instructions not to pass them over to third parties known to be working against the cause.

    Modern epistemology see science progressing by means of rational criticism and sound empirical evidence, with scientific activity proceeding in a transparent environment open to all sort of debate. This has been emphasized by Popper himself, by Lakatos, and by a number of more recent epistemologists, like David Hull, who underline the role of peer review and openness to ensure bad science is regularly weeded out and all results and models are critically scrutinized all the time. These are the only ways to keep biases under control.

    This has not always worked, especially when close-knit coteries usurp the peer review process, or when private interests or political priorities and pressures intervene. The IPCC is a case in hand. More strict quality control protocols are needed, possibly based on drug-testing standards. 

    The IPCC needs this kind of reform for the future, and also its past conclusions need revision in this light. Otherwise, it may have the truth about global warming, but nobody will trust it.

  107. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #103:  Try clicking on the link I provided — the full paper is available.   

    Re your question about the models, first you need to understand what the Charney sensitivity is and how it relates to the models and the real world.  The short version is that the Charney sensitivity is an artificial metric that’s useful for comparing models, and the real sensitivity (with carbon feedbacks) is substantially higher <a href=”http://www.leif.org/EOS/ngeo706.pdf”>(paper)</a>. 

    As for why the models have improved, it’s not because the understanding of the physics has changed in any fundamental way, it’s because the planet itself is very difficult to describe mathematically.  Oceans, continents and air masses make for poor spherical cows.

  108. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #102:  Yes, Lindzen does know better.  Of course he also chain smokes and denies it’s bad for his health.  Some people are just plain contrarians. 

  109. Bishop Hill says:

    Dhogaza #80

    You said:

    “After all, you wouldn’t want me posting “Bishop Hill beats his wife” all over the internet just because I read it somewhere, would you? You’d expect me not to repeat such an accusation unless I had some firm reason to believe it, wouldn’t you?”

    Nobody would believe it – my wife is from Glasgow. 🙂

    Seriously though, I agree with your point: one should have some evidence to support the point made. The original article I pointed to presented the Norwegian government’s comment to the same effect. This was good enough for me to accept that the article was worthy of a link.

  110. Judith Curry says:

    Hector #105.  Very good post, especially this point:
    “All these criticisms may be totally unfounded. However, they have not been given a fair trial.”
    “The IPCC needs this kind of reform for the future, and also its past conclusions need revision in this light. Otherwise, it may have the truth about global warming, but nobody will trust it.”

  111. Vieras says:

    dhogaza:  “Given that he was assigned the task of cleaning stuff up and replicating prior results, this simply isn’t true.  It was his job, it wasn’t simple due to lack of documentation, etc, but in the end he got the job done.
     
    I decided to think long and hard about, what bothers me about your answers. You basically claim, that HARRY_READ_ME.txt is normal. I’m wondering, what makes two IT professionals disagree about this so much. Because I can’t see any signs, that Ian Harris got the job done. I must give a lot of credit to him, that he tried his best, but IMHO he wasted years of his life at something, that should have been scrapped. In the end, he had to add options, that let the user get any result he (or she) wants.
     
    Please excuse me for having to revisit your comments:
     
    As someone supposedly specializing in computer science, you’re perfectly aware that bugs are very often exposed when code is presented with data that the author of the software hasn’t imagined as possible input.
     
    One of the most important things is to validate your input. This is especially important if the data is of bad quality or in lots of various formats.  From what I’ve read in HARRY_READ_ME.txt and from that mistake in Sodankyla, I must assume that this is not done properly or at all.
     
    That’s how the large temperature errors slipped through, and the screening code was later modified to catch the particular goof made by the Russian reporting agency.
     
    The monthly mean temperature in Sodankyla can vary more than 10C on different years. Could you please provide some pointers and more information of how this screening is done? This is an area, that I’m really interested in.
     
    Also, I’d be interested to know, how you’d propose that the system should be improved, so that it would produce more reliable results and increase confidence in the results.
     
     

  112. Keith Kloor says:

    JohnB’s initial comment on this thread, which contains his response to several individuals, got caught in the spam filter. It has been fished out and is #103.

  113. Barry Woods says:

    one part of propper software testing, is to put into the model/program control DATA with known expected outputs from programs that have been written..

    in fact a number of different test sets of known data would be wise here.. ie various different tyopes of climate, risisng, falling, randon, saticc, etc..

    PLus chuck in a few outliers (real values0 and see what/how the proegram handle it…

    To see if they behave as they should…

    ONLY then should you be feeding real data in…

  114. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Steve Bloom #108,
     
    Yes, Lindzen does smoke (too bad).  But then again, so do a lot of other educated people (also too bad).   He most certainly does not say that smoking is not bad for health (as you suggest).  What he says is that studies of the effects of secondary smoke appear overstated in their conclusions.   There is no problem with criticizing Lindzen (or anyone else) for things he actually says, but you should be careful to not mis-represent what he says.
     
    If you read over the list of Lindzen’s hundreds of publications (starting in the 1960’s), you may note that most is mainstream atmospheric research.  To conclude that he is just a contrarian is simply not accurate.

  115. Lady in Red says:

    What a refreshing, thought-provoking thread! I now have renewed confidence that we may clear away the complex overgrowth of climate science and find something wondrous, hidden somewhere.
     
    Thank you, Judith, for #18: the two succinct wonderful pieces, one by Richard Feynman and the other by Michael Crichton. I read the Feynman long ago, but it was lovely to revisit….
     
    In 1974, the same year Feynman was admonishing the Cal Tech students about honesty in science, confirmation of results, checking for bias, the Office of Naval Research (mostly, I think) produced a film which aired on television, became a minor cult classic in ocean research circles, now long forgotten as quaint, I suspect. Titled “The Turbulent Ocean” it is the story of the beginning of the Mid-Ocean Dynamics Experiment and “stars” many you know, or know of….Hank Stommel and Walter Monk, Carl Wunsch and Alan Robinson, Francis Bretherton and John Swallow, Bob Heinmiller and Doug Webb, with Peter McWilliams, Bill Schmitz… oh, so very many!
     
    (Peter Webster might remember it…)
     
    I watched it, again, recently and marvel at the daunting complexity of the challenges faced, both scientific and technical. Then my eye begins twitching when I read that, today, we know it all: what used to be, how it works, and what’s coming. Say what?
     
    Like JohnB, I was slapped hard, intellectually, by Phil Jones’ refusal to share data with another scientist lest Jones’ work be proved wrong. And that comment was written fifteen years ago… I was horrified that he would even think the thought.
     
    Also, like several others here, the HARRY_READ_ME file terrified me. As a layperson with no direct experience with code myself, but who has worked with programmers and engineers with impeccable standards, I was chagrined. …That we would, possibly, spend trillions worldwide to mitigate damage based on the work of one man, one time, frustrated beyond endurance, dealing with a jumbled ball of twisted and confusing data and undocumented code, amazes me. Let’s be sure we got it right…. assemble a crack team of experts, review the data, clean it, organize it…. verify!
     
    …In my reading of the blogs in the past nine months, I have seen nothing from within the mainstream climate science community wishing to confirm the validity of that (well-intentioned definitely! but..) likely inaccurate and, probably, useless work.
     
    I do like the back-to-basics sunshine over here. “¦..Lady in Red
     

  116. Keith Kloor says:

    Lady in Red (115):

    I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying the thread. However, I believe you mischaracterize the withholding data statement by Phil Jones.

    I don’t believe he said that because he was afraid of being proven wrong, but rather because he was afraid of the data being mis-used for political purposes.

  117. Barry Woods says:

    He should be proud of his work. 

    For seomeone to share the data with his freinds, but nowsomeone ‘who might’ find something wrong with it.  Just sounds un-scientific.

    As we have found out by his own admission, the answer may have been he could noot even ‘find’ some of..

    And the cose was in such a state, embarrasing to share it

  118. Keith Kloor says:

    Okay, I realize I was just guilty of this, but let’s not digress into a discussion on Phil Jones.

  119. willard says:

    Jonathan Gilligan,
     
    Thank you for your description of the nuclear case   I see what you mean, now.   It’s way better to have an example that to state  that beliefs are rarely additive when they operate in a complex and uncertain system.
     
    Brooks also mentions two types of issues that would merit discussion, the **Burden-of-proof issues** and the **Distributional issues**.   The second type of issues are important, as there are always a choice to be made regarding how to share the consequences among a population.  But it’s complicated.
     
    The first type of issues are very important here, as important as they’re simple to understand.  Let’s suppose the alternative: Abelard (“let’s do something”) or Heloise (“let’s do nothing”), where “let’s wait” is a way to do nothing.  Heloise has been oftentimes surprised saying:
     
    –  Show me that your conclusion is right, Abelard.  If you can’t, I win.
     
    So Heloise assumes that it is Abelard that has the burden to prove the need to do something.  If Abelard provides such and such arguments, she replies:
     
    – Yes, I see your arguments, and they are compelling.  But are they enough to obtain your conclusion, Abelard?
     
    Abelard says that his reasoning is somewhat creative: life is not logic, so you must fill some dots.  Still, he’s quite confident that his reasoning holds.  To which heloise might also reply:
     
    – I understand what you say, Abelard.  But I am not sure about your degree of confidence.  How can you be certain of your reasons to reach your conclusion?  After all, you did not state with enough earnest the uncertainty levels of your arguments.
     
    And so on, and on, and on.  In all the above discussion, both Abelard and Heloise presupposed that it was Abelard who had the burden of proof.  But is it the case?
     
    Deciding who has the burden of proof is tough to decide.  This decision does not belong to logic.  This decision does not belong to science either.  This decision is imminently political.
     
    Since every debate has a burden of proof, we have then a straightforward demonstration that every debate has a political component.
     

  120. William Newman says:

    Keith Kloor (#116): Even after your clarification of Phil Jones’ motive, my reaction remains broadly similar to that of Lady in Red. To me withholding data automatically becomes a huge concern in any case where people are supposed to be presenting technical arguments. I dimly remember from years ago that various cases of withholding AGW-related data were an important part of what initially alarmed me on IPCC-related problems; the Jones remarks under discussion here might well have been part of what I remember.

    Justifying withholding details of one’s work by appealing to fear that the details might be politically misused doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a lack of confidence in the technical soundness of one’s work. It might not even be conclusive evidence of an inappropriate level of politicization of research policy. But whatever the soft justification wrapped around it, the hard nugget of “I won’t release the details” definitely breaks the usual mechanism for demonstrating that work really is technically sound (though only to the extent that the details bear on the technical argument in the work, of course). “I won’t release the details because my religion forbids me releasing details except in a leap year” gives a different justification, but contains the same nugget, and thus breaks the mechanism the same way. Particular kinds of justification might tend to raise particular scientists’ blood pressure still further, but no matter what the justification, their blood pressure is already likely to be high merely from work being presented as science when initially details were withheld and now the author refuses to remedy the problem.

  121. Barry Woods says:

    I asked Professor Sir John Joughton this onthe 17th June 2010.., didn’t have great answer, said it was political…

    “What if the person ‘not approved’ of’ were to find an error that UNDERESTIMATED global warming…?”

    That would be unforgiveble to withhold.

    It is very easy for small groups, sharing data ideas and methodlogies to have results converge, to develop an unconciuos bias, or blindspots.  So an outside view is vital for science..
    Professor Kelly mentioned this in his notes as well

    The problem was, a sort of bunker mentality seems to have taken hold, that any body asking for data, and kept asking for it when refused, was thought to be ‘poltical’, have ulterior motives, worked for ‘big oil’ was a personal attacke against ‘science, etc..Which eventually became self perpetuating, the more refusal, the more people noticed and asked,  etc..

    Even if the above was true, they should still share the data.  No ‘post normal’ science please..

    From the notes only obtained by FOI requests from the Oxburgh Enquiry..
    Professor Kelly says:

    “I have recommended publication of data with a controversial explanation precisely to get the debate going. In other areas of science the best wins out by attrition: why not here?”

    I think that sums it up for me.

    The rest of his notes are well worth a read.  Attached/available at Bishop Hill.

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/storage/kelly%20paper.pdf

     

     

     

  122. JamesG says:

    Arthur you can’t possibly mean this: “Lindzen tries to conflate water vapor and clouds (yet another feedback that is even less directly related to water vapor)”. You do know where clouds come from don’t you?

    Lindzen has consistently talked about about negative feedbacks emanating from the warming that may easily balance out any putative positive feedbacks. Hence you misrepresent his stated views. Whether the models are correct is not a matter of what physics are already there but what bits are missing – which we already know is rather a lot.

    Of course you once admitted you haven’t read any of Lindzens stuff It might be a good time to start. you could even just call him up or email him rather than malign him in blogs.

    As it happens I also remember reading that Soden was rather surprised at all the cloud feedbacks being assumed positive. This is a very contestable issue and yet it is absolutely fundamental to the case for action. As of now there is no real evidence of net positive feedback that passes the smell test. As with the missing heat, it is a an assumption without data backup. However reduce the water vapour feedback to 1K and there is no missing heat issue either. Problem solved!

  123. JamesG says:

    I meant 1 rather 1K.

  124. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    JamesG #122,
     
    I think the “missing heat” is actually a discrepancy over the last few of years between
    1. Incoming total solar energy less the measured outgoing total radiation (visible plus infrared), which suggests there is currently a substantial heat imbalance, and
    2. The measured lack of rapid heat accumulation in the oceans (mainly ARGO, but supplemented with other ocean measurements).
    Something has to be “off” by quite a lot (>1 watt per square meter).  People who are convinced of high climate sensitivity say it is the ARGO data that is wrong, people who are doubtful of high climate sensitivity suggest the satellite radiation measurements are more likely off.  Only time will tell if it is one or the other, or maybe some of both.  (Could biases be involved in these evaluations? YES!)
     
    My personal view is that a consistent and significant bias in the ARGO armada is less likely, since the temperature calibration of the individual floats can be verified against ocean surface temperature measurements.  Of course, pressure indication by floats could be off enough to cause inaccuracy in the temperature profile, but that seems to me is a bit of a stretch, since the ARGO group already looks closely at this issue (due to some early problems with pressure measurements) and has identified/eliminated floats with this problem.  Floats that happen to be physically close to each other can be verified in performance against each other by looking at the temperature versus pressure profiles to insure they are reporting the same thing.  OTOH, satellite radiation data relies on only a few instruments, which seem to me to be more likely to have calibration problems.  Which is not to say that I am not biased in this rational.
     

  125. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #122:  If you’ve read Lindzen, you’ll know that the the three separate mechanisms he’s proposed for reduced sensitivity over the last twenty years all stand refuted.  That record reduces his credibility on this issue.

  126. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #103:  JohnB, you wrote a long post attacking an algorithm used by GISTEMP without taking the obvious first step of looking to see whether a paper had been produced on the subject when it was first implemented.  Having established that, I am very uninterested in taking the time to dredge through your calculations. 

    As for the thread I discussed, there are hundreds of ridiculous things said about climate science every day on the internet.  You found one of them, so congratulations.  For myself, I don’t consider it to be a good use of time to go around cleaning up such things on low-traffic sites, and I can’t imagine why a scientist would. 

    But as I said, I read the entire thread, not just the bit about the alarmist article.  I have to say I felt like I had struck the Gish Gallop motherlode.  Just a couple of examples:     

    You wrote:  ‘The Himalyan Glaciers claim in AR4 was wrong. It was objected to by multiple reviewers on different occasions during the drafting process. No reputable researcher believed it. Yet it was still in the report and nobody spoke up against it. Silence again.

    ‘Is “Not speaking against the Consensus” now more important than truth? Where were the Glaciologists? Speaking out against something they knew was wrong? No, it took a bunch of amateur sceptics to go through the paperwork and find out the claim was bullsh*t and publicize the fact.

    ‘A reasonable person has to ask himself. If the Glaciologists stayed quiet in the face of known falsehood, how many others in other disciplines are doing the same?”‘

    A key problem with this lovely narrative is that it was indeed glaciologists who spotted the problem.  You could have looked that up.

    You wrote:  ‘Now for the fun one.

    ‘I got pointed to it earlier this week and frankly couldn’t believe that such tripe could make it to Nature/Geoscience. Many of those who look at the paleoclimate record have wondered what caused the Younger Dryas period, a sudden drop into full blown Ice Age conditions that lasted for a thousand years before reversing itself.

    ‘Well, we need wonder no more as the mystery has been solved.
    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v…l/ngeo877.html

    ‘An article on the paper can be found at Science Fair.

    ‘Put bluntly, man caused the Younger Dryas event. That’s right, it was anthropogenic. You see, with the advent of the Clovis people into America many thousands of years ago, those nasty humans killed off all the megafauna.

    ‘Now since methane is a potent GHG, and grazing megafauna produce a lot of methane, killing off the mammoths meant less mammoth farts, and therefore lower methane levels and so the climate crashed back into an Ice Age like temperature regime. (The methane levels did drop rather precipitously, but nobody has previously linked the levels to mammoth farts, so I guess her work is “new”.)

    ‘See, you knew humans were responsible, didn’t you?’

    Did the paper find causation as you claim?  Sadly no.  From the Science Fair article you linked (written by a reputable science journalist):

    ‘”We find that the loss of megafauna could explain 12.5% to 100% of the atmospheric decrease in methane observed at the onset of the Younger Dryas,” says the study. The study authors conclude, “our calculations suggest that decreased methane emissions caused by the extinction of the New World megafauna could have played a role in the Younger Dryas cooling event.”‘

    “Could have played a role.”  Not quite how you characterized things, is it?

    Oh, re the North American Great Plains rewilding discussion you also made fun of, google “buffalo commons.”  You’ll find that it’s a quite serious proposal, although that should have been apparent enough from the paper you mocked.

  127. Arthur Smith says:

    Regarding climate feedbacks. The three I raised which I claimed Lindzen erroneously conflates in public presentations (such as in his most recent Wall Street Journal article) are:
    (1) lapse rate
    (2) water vapor greenhouse
    (3) cloud infrared absorption
     
    Those are three distinct physical effects (and at least the cloud one can be further subdivided into distinct components). Yes, they all involve water in some way, but their manifestations are almost independent of one another. That means, when one goes up, the other two can follow, or can go in other directions. The feedbacks are not locked together. In models water vapor greenhouse and lapse rate do follow one another closer than their own individual variation, but they are not in lock-step; these are independent effects. And cloud feedbacks are much less related to either.
     
    (1) The lapse rate feedback depends on the change in the adiabatic lapse rate as water starts condensing out (when it reaches 100% humidity) – this keeps the air warmer than it otherwise would be. Because warmer air holds more water, the higher the temperature, the greater this lowered-lapse rate effect is. This also can be thought of as an increase in the rate at which latent heat is transported from the surface to the mid-troposphere.
    But the degree to which Earth’s surface warms is dependent on the amount of “insulation” between the surface and the upper troposphere where most of the radiation originates that leaves the planet. The lowered lapse rate and increased heat flow is like removing some of that ‘insulation’ – it lowers the surface temperature in response. It’s a negative feedback. It is related to the quantity of water vapor in the air, but really only the lower troposphere near the surface, and the relation is quite different from the greenhouse infrared absorption effects.
     
    (2) Water vapor – that is H2O molecules as one of the gases of the atmosphere – adding to the atmospheric greenhouse effect. More water vapor means more blocking of infrared radiative flow, so a positive feedback. In fact, while it has a much shorter lifetime than CO2 (just about a week), at any given instant more of the resistance to radiative energy flow that keeps Earth’s surface warm comes from gaseous H2O than from gaseous CO2. Water’s absorption spectrum covers a large range of wavelengths in the thermal region, resulting in this effect.
    The lowered lapse rate only has an impact where relative humidity reaches 100% and is related to the amount of water that condenses out. The water vapor is the part that remains that *doesn’t* condense out, and increasing it has an impact everywhere in the atmosphere; particularly in places where the water vapor content before was quite low (because that leaves more of the spectrum to be blocked by increases). I.e. the lapse rate effect is strongest in the tropics, while the water vapor effect would have an impact just about everywhere, and likely more in the regions normally colder (with less water vapor).
    (3) Clouds – clouds are condensed water, and absorb essentially everything in the thermal region, but also reflect incoming sunlight. So they have both positive and negative feedback influences. The exact behavior depends on the details of any changes in cloud position and density. This really has no connection to the other two effects.

  128. Goodness, how many times have I seen this sequence now?  :
     
    Hardly sooner does someone (it’s richer when a ‘lukewarmist’ does it) write something like Hector did :
     
    ” The problem with IPCC assessments is highlighted by McIntyre’s work is NOT about the truth of anthropogenic global warming (this is denied only by fringe denialists).”
     
    than someone else (in this case, JohnB) comes along to wreck the kumbaya moment:
     
    ‘Jonathan Gilligan mentions “the empirical evidence for AGW is far too solid”. In fact while that is true of the empirical evidence for warming, the AGW part comes entirely from trying to separate out the natural contribution, which relies on huge amounts of subjectivity and total reliance on unvalidated models. You’d think a well-read man would understand the difference. Evidence of warming is not evidence of manmade warming!”
     
    “Fringe denialist”  hypothesis test:  Judith Curry, what say you?  Is AGW real (i.e., is ‘global’ warming occurring, and is it significantly anthropogenic in origin)  as the WG1 says, or is that really still insufficiently proven?  (Btw, I purposely did not write ‘CAGW’, which is an acronym I have so far mainly seen used by  ‘skeptics’.)
     

  129. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #114:  “Yes, Lindzen does smoke (too bad).  But then again, so do a lot of other educated people (also too bad).   He most certainly does not say that smoking is not bad for health (as you suggest).  What he says is that studies of the effects of secondary smoke appear overstated in their conclusions.   There is no problem with criticizing Lindzen (or anyone else) for things he actually says, but you should be careful to not mis-represent what he says.”

    Do you have a source for that claim?  All I’ve seen are sveral things along the lines of this Newsweek article:

  130. Steve Bloom says:

    (hit submit by mistake; continued)

    “Lindzen clearly relishes the role of naysayer. He’ll even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking. He speaks in full, impeccably logical paragraphs, and he punctuates his measured cadences with thoughtful drags on a cigarette. ”

    Source.

    If he’s narrowed the claim to the effects of second-hand smoke, I suppose that’s better in some sense, but it’s still entirely out of step with the science.

  131. Judith Curry says:

    AGW is “real,” I don’t think anyone credible denies this.  The issue is the magnitude of the AGW relative to the natural variability.  It is a substantial challenge to sort out the natural variability from the anthro forcing.
     
    Apart from some “fingerprinting” strategies, the main method for attributing the source of the variability is to run global climate models with different types of forcing.   This figure in the IPCC AR4 WG1 report was instrumental in convincing me of the attribution.  However, my current concern about this attribution is that uncertainties in the natural forcing (solar, volcanoes) was not accounted for in the attribution studies.  I asked a honcho from one of the U.S. climate modeling groups about the solar forcing data they used, and he said he didn’t know anything about it other than that they used what IPCC provided.    I have long been harping  that the attribution studies should use different scenarios of natural forcing to account for the uncertainty in these forcing data sets.  And now I am seeing significant concerns about the solar forcing data.  And all this is in addition to uncertainties in the models themselves.  If the solar forcing over the last several decades is signficantly different, the climate models will have some substantial “retuning” to do; they are all tuned to reproduce the 20th century variability.  Another issue that I have re the attribution is lack of consideration of the multidecadal ocean oscillations.
    Probably the most important conclusion from the IPCC AR4 is:
    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”

    This statement was used as the “litmus test” for the PNAS paper.  IMO  “very likely” (>90% certainty) is WAY too much confidence for this statement, given the above points.

    Re CAGW, which relates to the “catastrophes” or the impacts,  this attribution is much more uncertain than the global temperature attribution, since each of the impacts has a multitude of additional factors to consider in the attribution.

    So this is my take, and its not a particularly popular one amongst many of my colleages, and it represents a change in my own position since 2007.

  132. #83, Stephen Leahy says:
    “#79 Ahh it’s the “cures” the scare you.”
     
    Nope, and I’m certainly in favor of efficiency, and plucking the low-hanging fruit. In fact, the US alone has reduced its carbon emissions by 10% in the last 2 years; worldwide, a 2.6% decline last year. Source: http://www.celsias.com/article/us-headed-massive-decline-carbon-emissions/
    The US reduction came about without heavy-handed, Euro-style taxes and intervention. Helped along, of course, by the recession. But I fear we’re drifting off-topic.

  133. Re: withholding data & Phil Jones
    Keith, the discussions above seem to me a good cue for you to start another interesting thread or two.
     
    This was one of my first clues that something was seriously rotten at CRU-UEA, Micheal Mann, etc.:
    If these guys won’t share their data, what are they hiding?
     
    Keep up the good work!
    Cheers — Pete Tillman

  134. Hector M. says:

    #127.
    I had wrote: ” The problem with IPCC assessments is highlighted by McIntyre’s work is NOT about the truth of anthropogenic global warming (this is denied only by fringe denialists).” The phrase at the start “IPCC assessments is highlighted” should be only “IPCC assessments highlighted”.

    What I meant to say is not only that AGW is denied only by fringe denialists (as Judith Curry concurs) but also that McIngtyre’s work is not about AGW in general. It is only about specific claims obtained by specific scientists with specific data and procedures. Mostly, those claims were about past temperatures, reflected in the famous Hockey Stick graph. They do not concern climate models and projections. And McIntye’s work does not explicitly address the wider claim that global warming is occurring and anthropogenic factors are involved.
    However, his enquiries would have some consequences. For instance, critiques of the Hockey Stick may end up finding that the recent warming is not unprecedented over the latest 1000 years. This does not mean that anthropogenic factors are not involved in the recent warming, or to what degree are they involved. The whole Climategate does not hinge on someone denying AGW (or GW) but on someone claiming that certain specific papers and findings posed methodological problems, regarding the quality of data and the soundness of the statistical analysis; these problems have been difficult to solve because of lack of openness of the authors regarding data and procedures, and their refusal to cooperate in the debate. The Climategate emails show how much trouble McIntyre’s enquiries caused to the inner circle of scientists involved in this matter.

  135. JohnB says:

    #127 Stephen Sullivan

    I called you on “recognizing me” in #103. You made a statement, prove it.

    Now I’ve ruined a “kumbaya” moment?

    Science is about getting your facts right and proof. So far you are batting Zero, would you care to lift your game or will your contribution continue to be unfounded allegations?

    AGW is real, I totally agree with Judith and others on this. You simply can’t move through a worldwide industrial revolution and not have some effect.

    However this leads to two subquestions.
    1. Attribution.  How big is the “A” in AGW? Have we fully accounted for natural variations? As Judith has pointed out, it would appear that we might have underestimated the Sun to a large degree. What are the other “unknown unknowns” that might be around? These are legitimate questions to ask before even considering mitigation policies.

    If the A is small then no matter what we do, it won’t make much difference and adaptation is the way to go. You would get the most “bang for your buck” that way.

    If the A is large, we go to question 2.

    2. Which bits can we change? If CO2 is the major component, then we need to do something about it as quickly as possible. However, if say, land use is the major driver we have a problem. Our land use patterns are largely driven by our population and the need to feed and house them. Therefore we can’t radically change those patterns without bumping off  a large portion of the planets population.

    I would suggest that this option is not agreeable to most people. That being the case we are pretty much back to “adaptation”.

    My idea of a nightmare is if both the catastrophists and Dr. Pielke Sr. are roughly right. We would be going to h*ll in a handbasket and not much we could do about it except kill off a large percentage of the planets population. If that type of scenario doesn’t scare poeple, it should.

    My personal view is that adaptation is probably the best option. (Yes, I’m biased in that area) The logic behind that view is simply this. Even if we reduced the anthropogenic contribution to CC to zero, the climate would still change and we would then have to adapt anyway. Until such time as we can actually control the climate, all we can do is adapt to changes.

    On bias. It is taken as axiomatic in virtually every field that people should not review their own work because of bias. Nor should a person be placed in such a position as to be able to give their own work undue emphasis for the same reason.

    If you are setting up a group to choose a software package, the last person you include is the person who wrote one of them. Judges recuse themselves from cases if it even looks like they might be close to the matter at hand.

    As a layperson I have to ask, “Why do some Climate Scientists and the IPCC think that these basic rules of organization and reporting don’t apply to them?” In every other field it leads to bias and distortion but not in climate? Why? The term “special pleading” comes to mind.

    On a side note, the exchange between Stephen and Judith brings up an interesting point. The question is often asked “How could so many different scientists possibly be wrong?” (Which is a damn good question, BTW) However as the exchange shows, it doesn’t take a conspiracy or for all to be wrong, it only takes one in the right place to be wrong.

    If Dr. Lean was wrong with her Solar forcings, then the figures sent to the modelling groups are also wrong. This means that the attributions derived from those modelling runs during their calibrations are going to be out. That means that the future projections come into doubt. A cascading effect is quite possible. For want of a nail…..

    One of the great strengths (and the greatest weakness) of science is the basic assumption that all scientists publish “in good faith”. This allows us to build on the work of those who go before and advance knowledge. It also allows one paper, in the right place, to do great damage as all work based on it becomes flawed and possibly useless.

    The only answer to this possible problem, as science accepted long, was full disclosure of methods and data and total transparency.

    Demanding data and code through FOI is not an “attack on science”, but rather the refusal to disclose data and code so that FOIs are needed is an attack on the very basics os the scientific process itself.

  136. Lady in Red says:

    Whew!  JohnB!
     
    You are a mean machine.  And, I like it.  smile….
     
    (It is amazing, having spent so much time, for example, trying to read, understand, the patronizing (I felt I found) at Real Climate versus the clear thinking here.
     
    I hark back to Judith’s reference to Feynman’s “Cargo Cult Science” — so much fun to re-read — and am once more reminded:  the best of the scientific minds can explain string theory to a ten year old, be that the field.
    More and more, sadly, I think, the best minds in “climate science” are outside the field.  ….Lady in Red
     

  137. JC:
    “AGW is “real,” I don’t think anyone credible denies this. ”
     
    JohnB appears to think it’s not quite — he doens’t think  relationship has been established between human activity and global climate.  ‘Bishop Hill’ has graciously allowed that it might be real.   These are two entities whose thoughts you’ve been endorsing lately.
     
    Yes, you and I and other reasonable people accept that the debate is about magnitude of effects.  But there are people here STILL questioning the basic science.
     
     
     

  138. Lady in Red says:

    No, Mr. Sullivan…. #136.   The questions are more subtle.
    For starters:
    1.  Is it AGW or aGW?
    2. If, AGW, can we mitigate?
    (None of which is to ponder the Hockey Stick and whether the MWP disappeared inside a computer, or never was….)
    ….Lady in Red
     
     

  139. #127 Stephen Sullivan
    I called you on “recognizing me” in #103. You made a statement, prove it.”
     

    …until they’re called on their more ‘fringe’ statements, at which point some of them go into “OK it’s real, BUT….” mode.
     
     
     
     
     

  140. JC
    “AGW is “real,” I don’t think anyone credible denies this.  The issue is the magnitude of the AGW relative to the natural variability.  It is a substantial challenge to sort out the natural variability from the anthro forcing.’
     
    Thanks.  By ‘AGW is real’ I assume you mean, not just that it ‘can’ really happen, but that it IS happening.    Thence flow questions of ‘how much should we care’?
     
    First, I would love for ‘lukewarmers’ to be as diligent in addressing the numerous online claims — from the ‘fringe’ apparently — that AGW *simply isn’t happening* (CO2 ppm is too tiny to matter, actually we’re cooling, etc), as they are in ‘auditing’ some of Phil Jones’ grouchy emails and Mike Mann’s 1998 paper.   Those of us who not only believe AGW is ‘real’ but also think it’s significant, would respect the other tribe a lot more if they could at least get on THAT page more consistently.
     
    Second,  I think it’s important (‘cos yours is now one of the most prominent ‘real climate scientist’ voices in the climate change blogosphere) that your concerns include WG1 ( the ‘science part’), *not* just the outcomes chapters.
     
    As a result of your  concerns with WG1, how would you now answer the question:”is the recent GW likely to have been significantly A? ”
     
    a. Yes, it’s likely the recent GW is significantly A enough for it to be a driver  (I hope you agree this is, at minimum, the IPCC, aka “consensus” view, regardless of  the wisdom of adding ‘very’ in front of ‘likely’)
     
    b.  We shouldn’t yet say that the recent GW is likely to be anthropogenic to a significant degree;  mo’ better data are needed
     
    c. No, it’s not likely the recent GW is significantly A.  (There’s some small A contribution to GW, but it’s not a big deal in driving it. )
     
    d. (something else)
     
    (Actually, I’m starting to think you should erect a FAQ on your own web page, to address such issues for the layperson, since even someone with a science background who has been tracking your posts (i.e., me), can’t always sort out what it is you believe to be well-founded climate science , and what  isn’t.   You throw a *lot* of spaghetti against the wall lately)
     
     

  141. Lady in Red says:

    Good night, Stephen #14o.  Sleep tight!  …Lady in Red

  142. Hector M. says:

    Sullivan,
    the fact of GW being happening (i.e. in the second half of the 20th Century) and admitting that anthropogenic factor were actually one of its drivers does not necessarily lead to accept the predictions of GCMs up to year 2100. Much less to accept the policies usually derived from them. The reasons are various:
    1. If past climate reconstructions show current warming is not ‘unprecedented’ in the latest, say, 1000 years, some may say no great disasters came from previous periods of similar warming (e.g. at the time the Vikings discovered Greenland and gave it such a weird name for a land covered in ice, and then stayed there as farmers for several centuries until being led out by another climate variation, this time a cooling period otherwise known as the Little Ice Age).
    2. Perhaps a careful revision of met station data may reveal that the cursory dismissal of local heat island effects, as per some 1990 Jones paper, was a bit premature, especially in view of recent surveys of hundreds of stations in North America showing that most of them (even “rural” ones) have become surrounded by buildings, motors, asphalt and other distorting factors, and also in view of some evidently clumsy management of station selection and station data in both Russia and China. Perhaps, who knows, the warming supposed to have been reflected by instrumental records is a bit lower than previously thought.

    3. The actual sensitivity of climate to CO2 emissions might be overestimated, especially if closer attention to data show increased solar radiation in the second half of the 20th century and reduced solar radiation in the 2000s; or if physicists manage to understand better the role of clouds and their possibly negative net effect on warming (if their role as GHG in their lower side does not make up for their other role reflecting solar radiation back into space on their upper side)and GCM-makers manage to include those factors in their models.

    4. Regarding policies, it may well happen that more careful assessments of costs and benefits (beyond the strange multiplicity of discount factors and other troubling aspects of the Stern report) reveals that the costs of some proposed policies exceed the expected benefits. Who knows, it may happen.

    So, even accepting that global warming has been afoot in recent decades, and that people have had something to do with it, it may still leave an enormous scope for further research and debate.

  143. Judith Curry says:

    Hector #142 , good reply to Sullivan # 140
     
    Re what I “believe.”   I agree with Hector’s statement that there is “an enormous scope for further research and debate.”   I mainly think that the confidence levels in the IPCC WG1 report (not to mention the other reports) are too high.  I cannot directly refute any of these statements, other than to raise a whole long list of questions that have not been satisfactorily answered and need to be much more thoroughly investigated with rigorous uncertainty estimates, before we can claim close to that level of confidence.    There is a great deal of ignorance with regards to how the climate system works, which is totally ignored in all these “very likely” conclusions.
     
    So what I have been doing as of late in the blogosphere is try to point out some of these unanswered questions and issues where I think the confidence levels in the IPCC is too high. I think the IPCC needs to take a step back and get back to basics, rather than focusing on things like high resolution regional climate simulations for impact assessments.
     
    Science is a process, not a result.  We won’t have high confidence levels in the IPCC statements until these issues are challenged from every direction by skeptics of whatever stripe.  Scientists should welcome challenges from skeptics as an opportunity to either demonstrate the robustness of their data/analysis/model/theory or to improve same.  Instead we see snarky dismissals of skeptical arguments and hassles that try to slow down publication.  This is not the way to build confidence in the science.
     
     

  144. barry woods says:

    The science seems to have been setled 15 or more years ago.. ie reference to the audio of Sir John Houghton’s presentation, I linked.

    And a certain degree of hubris..

    Phil Jones interview with Roger Harrabin BBC (post climategate)

    Roger Harrabin:
    “If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?”

    Phil Jones:
    “The fact that we can’t explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing”

    Which seems to me to be.  
    We cannot explain it, or think of any other reason, so it must be us !
    Usually, the next step in the scientific process would be to try to prove this theory.  Whilst at the same time being open to other ideas as well.

    Is every assumption correct, are all the possible solar influences correct and completely understood, or undersea volcanoes contributions, or bio-mass, or are they changeing and we have not noticed/looked (assumed to be the same), are clouds completely understood, are the long term cycles due to the oceans completely correct, etc,etc,etc

    Very high degrees of certainty are announced by the IPCC for public and political consumption. Whilst a look at the actual Working Group 1 (the science) reports, shows very many caveats and unknowns and unceratinties. (ie much more humility)

     Certain branches of ‘climate science would appear to me to have become ‘post normal’ science.  ‘consensus’ and ‘creation of knowledge’ to use the phraseology.  Not least, at CRU – UEA, I imagine where Mike Hulme has held court for years.

    I come from a hard physical science background, which apparently makes me a ‘dinosaur’ in modern scientific thinking.  ‘Post Normal’ science to me, just equates to, ‘pseudo science’, ‘cargo cult science’ and junk science at its worst.

  145. #142/143
    What Hector and Judith fail to note in their “more research is needed” and “back to basics” refrains are that we run a high risk of getting a better understanding at the price of being too late to do much about it.
     
    Climate change is already happening and affecting a hell of lot of people in the far north, in Africa, on Pacific Islands etc. How much research, how much certainty is enough?
     
    It does need to be repeated that most of the actions/policies needed to reduce emissions ought to be done regardless of AGW because they reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improves energy security, reduces air pollution, create new jobs etc, etc….
     
    And speaking of bias why isn’t it happening on the scale that’s needed?
     
    And why aren’t we talking about this instead of all this IPCC navel-gazing?

  146. barry woods says:

    Pacific Islands..

    Like the ones that the IPCC said were sinking, and are actually growing. (Tuvalu in particular – the biggest PR poster child))

    And growing by the very mechanism that causes them to rise and fall with sea levels  over tens of thousands of years (yet never remaining more than a few metres above sea level) this mechanism has been known for over a hundred years.

    These islands are never going to ‘sink’

    BBC: Low Level Pacific islands ‘Growing’ not ‘Sinking’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia_pacific/10222679.stm

    The New Scientist could not quite bring themselves to say ‘growing’
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627633.700-shapeshifting-islands-defy-sealevel-rise.html

    Previously:
    http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2008/11/top-5-islands-that-are-going-t.html
    no 5 – island, mud island in the world’s biggest river delta, get lost because of the river channel changing – (Geography lesson at aschool)

    That is just catastrophic alarmism, to close down debate.

    Various sea level experts, coral experts have been trying to point this out to the IPCC, and the islanders for years. Whilst, also mentioning, the real local human desruction by their own actions, of the ‘islanders’ own environment, but they have been ignored, shouted down.

    Even if, all the IPCC  sea level predictions were true, no coral island is ever going to ‘sink’ beacuse of it. The science has been clear on this, yet the IPCC say sink

    This is just ‘alarmism’ memes by the IPCC, lobby groups, enviro group – wwf, etc.

  147. barry woods says:

    In 1842 Charles Darwin published his first monograph, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs.[4] There he set out his theory of the formation of atoll reefs, an idea he conceived during the voyage of the Beagle

  148. Judith Curry says:

    Stephen, raising issues of uncertainty does not in any way imply “don’t act.”  Decisions are made under uncertainty all the time, and military intelligence/strategists are certainly expert in this regard.  Science can best support the decision making process by doing the best job it can at characterizing the uncertainty and ignorance.  Note the military advisors that are the topic in the other thread are asking us to tell them “what we don’t know.”  They are not intending to use this “dont know” information as fodder for inaction on energy policy but as key information needed for their decision making in addressing areas of their concern.  Uncertainty is a two edged sword:  the plausible worst case scenario may be worse than we thought, at the same time overall uncertainty is greater

  149. Marco says:

    @Barry Woods #146: could you please cite the relevant places where the IPCC says “sink” in relation to islands?

  150. JohnB says:

    Steven Sullivan #137, 139. Still batting zero I see. Why not admit that you actually don’t know me from Adam and we’ll go from there?

    Bluntly put the situation is this. World temps have risen around .7 deg C in the last Century or so. There are many forcings that contribute to this.

    Lapse rates, changes in cloud cover, land use changes, biomass changes, shifts in rainfall patterns, volcanoes, solar CO2, etc, etc. Some of these are independent factors and some depend on other factors/forcings, some, like clouds we aren’t fully sure of even the sign of the forcing. To say nothing of the lags that might effect the forcings. Either way once they are added, subracted, multiplied and divided, the answer is 2.4 W/M-2 or roughly .8% of the planets total energy budget.

    A+B+C+D-E+(CxF)+G+H-I+J-K-(Jx2/3 B)=2.4 Are you really sure you are filling in all those blanks properly?

    And you are claiming 95% accuracy in the estimates? You are backing the IPCC 95%, you are making the claim. You know where the burden of proof lies.

    Dr. Spencer has pointed out that a change of 1-2% in cloud cover over the last hundred years is sufficient for all the warming. Presumably by discounting this concept you have a really good proxy for cloud cover in the 1890s. (Accurate to the required 1% of course.) I’d like to see this marvellous paper, perhaps you can cite it?

    The point is that you simply can’t have so many factors, some of which are subjective in their valuation (to say the least) and then come out with 95% confidence.

    The sceptic side is quite often charged with nitpicking and the charge is often justified. However, we must remember that all these forcings combined add up to .8%, so a bit of nitpicking is perhaps in order.

    I think one of the really big hurdles in trying to have a dialogue on this topic is the extremes of both sides. Their reactions make even a moderate extremely reluctant to concede any point because of the reaction that would follow. “So and so admitted they were wrong over some trivial point and so we know that everything they say is wrong.” This sort of thing must be fought by both sides.

    This is also where bias enters into things. You might think I’m backpedalling and saying “Yes it’s real, but…” however I never denied in any way that it was real. I never said it, but your bias allowed you to interpret my comments as saying that. If we are going to talk, then we should read and be sure we understand what the other person is saying.

    Which brings me to #126 Steve Bloom. I’m fascinated that you can find the time to parse through a series that were rather obviously written tongue in cheek to find the bits you didn’t like. However, you really should read what people write. I did not make fun of the Buffalo Commons idea, frankly it sounds rather a good idea.

    I was making fun of and linked to a paper by the same author about Pleistocene rewilding. Buffalos are one thing, but surely you agree that Elephants and Lions are perhaps a bit much?

    I’m truly sorry that you view asking whether a prediction is falsifiable as an attack on some organization. Was it where I said “of course, that being counter intuitive doesn’t make it wrong”? Or perhaps where I said “How could it be tested?”

    Of course, since you were so short of time (what with the parsing elsewhere I suppose) you missed the discussion and points about Hansen and Lebedeff 1987 which is the paper that GISS use as a basis. You would also have missed the attempt to grid the data using CRU methodology as outlined in Brohan 2005.

    Just because something is not discussed where you think it should be, doesn’t mean that it isn’t mentioned or discussed.

    I add that you also missed the bit where I said “I must be wrong somewhere, but I can’t see where.” Bias can make you miss little details like that.

    Thank you for so clearly demonstrating the truth of my comment to Gavin quoted in the initial Blog post above; “I was pointing out the fact that our own biases influence our initial reaction to results.”
     
    On a lighter note, thanks for taking so much of my free time lately Steve. Your #48 stung a bit. So I’ve been rereading Allen and Sherwood as well as the literature referenced by that paper. I believe that I will have to rethink my opinion in that area. There might be some caveats, but that’s the way she’s lookin’. 

  151. Barry Woods says:

    The ipcc do say very little, so why do the world’s politicans and tv and print media and activists, and journalist, keep telling the general public that the islands are going to be submerged?

    Maybe the IPCC could correct the wilder pronouncements.  Failing to do so would, give the impression because that it help the ‘message’

    As even the populations of these islands seem to bbe under this impression.

    http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/AR4/website/16.pdf

    16.3.1.2 Sea levels

    “Sea-level changes are of special significance, not only for thelow-lying atoll islands but for many high islands wheresettlements, infrastructure and facilities are concentrated in thecoastal zone. Projected globally averaged sea-level rise at the end of the 21st century (2090 to 2099), relative to 1980 to 1999 for the six SRES scenarios, ranges from 0.19 to 0.58 m (Meehlt al., 2007). In all SRES scenarios, the average rate of sea-levelrise during the 21st century very probably exceeds the 1961 to2003 average rate (1.8 ± 0.5 mm/yr). Climate models also indicate a geographical variation of sea-level rise due to nonuniformdistribution of temperature and salinity and changes inocean circulation. Furthermore, regional variations and localdifferences depend on several factors, including non-climaterelatedfactors such as island tectonic setting and postglacial isostatic adjustment.WhileMörner et al. (2004) suggest that theincreased risk of flooding during the 21st century for the Maldives has been overstated,Woodworth (2005) concludes thata rise in sea level of approximately 50 cm during the 21stcentury remains the most reliable scenario to employ in futurestudies of the Maldives.”

    Coral reefs can happily outgrow, even ‘projected’ sea level rises..
    If you look at the report in deatil, the very many risks to islands seem to have very little to do with man made co2, and just natural climate, and human behaviour. 

  152. Judith Curry says:

    One of the best things i’ve read on climate/energy policy, posted over at dotearth.  I’ve not heard of Burton Richter (nobel laureate before), but I look forward to reading more from him.

  153. vieras says:

    Stephen Leahy wrote: “What Hector and Judith fail to note in their “more research is needed” and “back to basics” refrains are that we run a high risk of getting a better understanding at the price of being too late to do much about it.

    It’s really dangerous to assume, that the A in AGW is big and to do drastic changes to the society based on guessing. If we don’t have firm data about what A is, there’s no way to even measure, how well the policy changes worked.
     
    Actually, one can strongly believe, that GW is completely natural, be a complete denier and still agree, that it’s a good idea to pollute the air (and nature in general) less by burning things. Even without any strong policy changes, the society is slowly moving towards a cleaner environment. The pace would even be faster, if the technology would be there. However, while we argue here, engineers and scientists outside of Climate Science are working hard to come up with the technology of the future.
     
    Climate change is already happening and affecting a hell of lot of people in the far north, in Africa, on Pacific Islands etc. How much research, how much certainty is enough?
     
    This is where I have most problems. I can’t find any evidence, that people would be suffering because of GW. Even less can I find any evidence of accelerated GW. This kind of scaremongering is really conter productive.
     
    It does need to be repeated that most of the actions/policies needed to reduce emissions ought to be done regardless of AGW because they reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improves energy security, reduces air pollution, create new jobs etc, etc”¦.
     
    Actually, this is a case, that can be argued. Again, one can be a total denier and agree with what you wrote. However, I personally think that the technology needed is currently not available, unless you’re talking about massive amounts of Nuclear Power. So to me it looks like, we have to adapt, no matter how big the A in AGW is. And while we adapt, we can continue working on the technology needed for reducing emissions. For example Fusion power.
     
    There’s really no excuse to not do Climate Science right. It needs to be solid and no corners should be cut only because some think, that we’re in a hurry. In my opinion, climate scientists have done sloppy science for a long time and unfortunately that has to be double checked and done right.

  154. Marco says:

    @Barry Woods: so you made things up, then.

  155. anon says:

    Marco Says: 
    June 28th, 2010 at 11:30 am
    @Barry Woods: so you made things up, then.
    Calling people liars like this is a helluva stupid way to have a serious, but casual conversation.  However Marco, it is very typical of the blogosphere, and sadly, all too typical of the gatekeeping nonsense of the RC warmist brigade.  For more, see whatever the hell that blog was last week where all sorts of very serious, educated, professional with backgrounds in science and engineering etc folks left testimony about how much stupid tactics like yours at RC left them in grave doubt about the science itself.
    Marco, you’re doing it wrong.

  156. Barry Woods says:

    Actually, I used to just just trust, my politicians, media, etc, etc saying ‘the islands are sinking, the science is settled, 2500 IPCC scientists say.

    the ipcc, do say they are under threat by sea level rise. 

    How so, I’m not quite sure, as coral islands have grown substantially, upwards following sea level rises over the last 10-20 thousand years (hundreds of feet of coral drill core – as proof)

    So no, I’m not making it up..

    I’m surprised that the media/politicians have just fell for press release from alarmists, translating IPCC sea level predictions, that could all be natural anyway, into doom and catastrophy, saying they are all going to drown (59cm in 90)

    Lest we forget, the COPENHAGEN conference opening video, with a massive (CGI) tidal wave, engulfing the land, small child running away screaming and leaping into a tree. (this still gives my 5 year old the odd nightmare, and she asks if the girl is OK – remember 59cm, or even 2m over 90 YEARS, lots of time to get out of the way, I tell her, unconvicingly ;( )

    I’m sure youtube has a link to that video!

    So propaganda (alarmist CGI) not corrected by the IPCC, and actively promoted at Copenhagen..

    Ever wondered why, I might be sceptical?

  157. JC:
    “Re what I “believe.”   I agree with Hector’s statement that there is “an enormous scope for further research and debate.”
     
    That’s *almost* ‘b’….I think.
     
    ”  I mainly think that the confidence levels in the IPCC WG1 report (not to mention the other reports) are too high.  I cannot directly refute any of these statements, other than to raise a whole long list of questions that have not been satisfactorily answered and need to be much more thoroughly investigated with rigorous uncertainty estimates, before we can claim close to that level of confidence.  ”
     
    Yes, I understood long ago that you object to ‘very’.  I’m really just asking if you even accept ‘likely’, at this point.
     
    As for your idea that scientists *must* address challenges ‘from every direction’, from skeptics of ‘whatever stripe’,     I hope at least you’re pushing for more funding for  climate scientists, too, then.   They’re gonna need full-time support staff to get all that done *and* actually do science.
     
    Then again, there are skeptics of at least one stripe who seem to think *any* climate scientist who has taken a ‘pro-AGW’ policy stance is no longer credible, and there can be no ‘high confidence’ science coming from them.   (You have argued that scientists shouldn’t do this; I’m not clear whether*you* think it makes their sciecne suspect, or whether you’re just worried that it makes it *seem* suspect to ‘everyone’).
     
    How are such scientists to ‘address the challenges’ from these skeptics?  Public mea culpas?  Promises never to sign a statement again?
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  158. Barry Woods says:

    How about we stop labelling people… as soon as they ask any questions?!

    I’m good friends with a real life IPCC, Working Group 1, Co editor, of the science report, ‘climate scientist…

    She just calls me Barry

  159. JohnB,
     
    If I had desire, time, and search engines sufficient to search the comments of every one of the dozens of climate blog I’ve visited in the last year, you’re saying I would not find ‘JohnB’  in any of the comments, or if I did, it ain’t you?
     
    If that’s the case — if these are the first comments you’ve ever made to a climate blog —  my apologies.   I can’t claim infallible ability to tell members of the tribes apart.  Similarly, I  am not in the least put out that you confuse me (Steven with a v Sullivan) with the estimable Stephen (with a ph)  Bloom  of post #48 (flattering to me, actually).
     
    As for the rest, might I suggest that focusing on ‘95%’ confidence  and ‘very’ likelihood, is a bit of a red herring?   Let’s just ask, are things *so* uncertain at this late date, that we can’t even say it’s *likely* that the current warming is significantly anthropogenic, and thus we need to go ‘back to basics’ ?    That so very few actual climate scientists seem to be saying this,  and so many seem to be saying quite the opposite, strikes me as odd indeed.
     
     

  160. Marco says:

    @anon:
    Did Barry make a false statement, yes or no? The simple answer is “yes, he did”. Rather than admit that and apologise, he moved the goalposts. If calling people out for making false statements is “gatekeeping”, call me a gatekeeper. I like to discuss facts, not made-up stuff. It’s the basis of a serious and honest discussion. If one or both partners in a discussion are allowed to make false statements without being challenged on making false statements, we’re not having a serious and honest discussion, but a mockery of a discussion.

  161. Andy says:

    Judith @148
     
    That’s exactly right.  In the defense/intelligence community we call this “contingency planning” and such planning is not based on a single scenario.  When planning for future action, we absolutely need to understand, as best as possible, not only what it is we do know but also what it is we don’t know – what we call  “intelligence gaps,” which are limits to our understanding of a problem that affect decision making.  A full understanding is necessary to make  judgments about probability  and to determine the “best case” and “worst case” scenario end points along a continuum of possibilities.  Typically the contingency planning process considers several scenarios along that continuum, but the two most common are what are judged to be the “most likely” and the “most dangerous” (or worst case) scenario.  Policymakers can then consider costs vs benefits vs risks of various actions, or, when a crisis comes, have a template for action that can quickly be modified and implemented.  It’s important to note that prediction is very difficult which is why we game several options and build plans for low-probability events.  Even so, we can, and do, make bad choices based on good information and reasonable assumptions.  This gives me an excuse to highlight my favorite line from Star Trek, the Next Generation.  Captain Picard, consoling Data about losing a game – something data considered impossible, said: “You can commit no mistake and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
     
    Steven Leavy @145
     
    What Hector and Judith fail to note in their “more research is needed” and “back to basics” refrains are that we run a high risk of getting a better understanding at the price of being too late to do much about it.
    That’s correct – there is definitely a risk, but then again there is always risk.  There’s nothing wrong with your view, but realize it’s ultimately a policy choice among a host of choices.  Reasonable people can do the same cost-benefit-risk calculation  informed by all available knowledge and come to a different conclusion about what needs to be done.  Science, like intelligence, can inform that process, not determine it.
     
    Finally, one last point on confirmation bias I forgot to mention earlier.  Confirmation bias most often takes form when ambiguous evidence is interpreted as unambiguous evidence.  This tendency is, again, part of the human condition because the mind’s process of perception seeks to “fit” or categorize information into a particular mindset.  It isn’t that we ignore other possibilities, it’s that our minds simply don’t perceive them.   This is why criticism is so vital and why all sides in the climate debate need to consider the arguments of their critics.  More than likely, those critics are seeing the evidence differently for a reason.

  162. Btw, this exchange reminds me that RealClimate did a whole post recently on attribution of GW to A causes,  complete with  >500 comment thread.   nto to steal Keiths’ thunder, but why would anyone want to be arguing about attribution here with citizen/nonclimate scientists, when they could be arguing with Gavin and Eric about it over there?
     
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/05/on-attribution/

    Perhaps Dr. Curry could post her objections to IPCC AR4 WG1 Ch 9.4.1.2 Fig 9.5 there, and see what transpires when other climate scientists engage?   (Especially as Gavin cites the very same figure.)
     
    Of course JohnB, Barry W etc could do so too, but (this is my bias)  I still much prefer observing arguments between scientists in the relevant fields.  (NB too, we have on the RC thread a good example of Engineer telling Climate Scientists they’ve got things all wrong)
     

  163. HaroldW says:

    on the lighter side…
    bias is an irregular adjective, conjugated as follows:

    I am objective,
    you have a slight confirmation bias,
    he is blind to the facts.

    And once again, thanks to you Keith for hosting an informative and provocative discussion. And to the contributors of course!

  164. Barry Woods says:

    Marco

    Goalpost moving , false statements.. (realclimate charmschool)
    I explained, honestly, my own words, above, as all the politicians, media etc, were saying it’ I assumed thatt the IPCC were specifically saying it.. ‘sinking’. as the media politicians are saying, the IPCC says, 2500 scientists say, etc.

    Where they were in fact, saying at risk of sea level rise, which I imgagine equates to the ‘same thing’, (ie low lying island) if not what are they at risk of?

    Corals grow faster than sea levels, up to 9 inches a year…

    Marco do you defend the copenhagen TIDAL WAVE video, designed to be a highly emotive. Following on from a real life tsunami, drowining the land that killed 250,000 real people, designed to play on those emotions.. I saw that, and only recently thought to CHECK, what the reports say, that the MEIDA/POLTICIANS use, promoting the IPCC’ agenda

    And that the IPCC does not  CORRECT this falsehood, Why?, because it presumably helps promote the ‘message’, whilst having what is it called, plausible deniabilty..

    The IPCC do say at risk of sea level rise, but do not say what the risk is.

    Ie  coral islands grow..

    please be nice marco

  165. Barry Woods says:

    162

    Steven Sullivan

    realclimate DELETE my posts!!!
    Other commentors are allowed to abuse me.
    I am NOT allowed to respond

  166. #153
    You say  “I can’t find any evidence, that people would be suffering because of GW.” Evidence is everywhere. You just have to look to Alaska for the most obvious examples of permafrost melt destroying homes, roads etc. I have posted this before here:

    “Some 325 million people are being seriously affected, with economic losses averaging 125 billion dollars a year, according to “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis“, the first detailed look at climate change and the human impacts.

  167. Kendra says:

    Just lost my hardworked on comment  – a success in articulation! So 2nd time aound, we’ll see:
    It’s off topic in a way, but was brought up in a post and I’ve seen this denigration by association happen before many times on climate blogs.
    Lindzen and smoking:He’s absolutely right about the 2nd hand smoke studies, they are junk science that have actually reached most of their draconian aims: To demonize and alienate people from each other, to alienate cultures from one another, to instill fear into the frail, to foster hypocondria and somaticism. To raise taxes for governemtns and Quangos and to sell NRT. The zealots are then satisfied, the post-modernists are satisfied, the drug companies are satisfied, the governments are satisfied (but all need more and more funding as the “problem” has not been eradicated and never will quite be – always more funding will be necessaryl.) See any parallels?
     
    A little anecdote about one of the major studies linkin LC to smoking. When the category of smokers who ate vegetables is compared with the non-smokers who don’t, smokers come outon top.
    They’ve discovered the equilibrium point of taxation where they retain the highest number of smokers while reaping inthe highest taxes., they suck up to the UN in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, leading to more grants ad infinitum. And less local control, as we have agreed to these schemes years ago  – that we succumb to the goal of a tobacco free world (as if!) and billions are thrown at this chimera (for some,tobacco is sacred – what about that?)
     
    A microcosm of what’s being flogged in climate sciienc, only the bans are all real, all here and now. Alley way rapes and muggings, date rape drugs dropped in unattended drinks – rape later, not in alley, last requests before death refused, schizophrenics (around 90% smoke – I gather the research on that connection is no longer funded, being “moot” they have to quit anyway. Social groups destroyed – despite smirting – revenues down, lonely people at home and no longer going for their after-work pint, bingo ladies can’t go all the way out in the break, it’s too far, dying ladies denied their last request, avg 52 pubs close per week in UK, suicides, fortunes lost. children turned against parents and grandparents. All for a wisp of smoke. And all AFTER the market had made known non-smoking venues would be welcome, and they were, but it wasn^t enough, fast enough, for the bully state.And while I’m not easy on crime, denial of tobacco used to be considered cruel and unusual punishment (last check Genevaconvention it was no longer there, will follow up). And the last supper of the condemned cannot include one last afterdinner smoke. Musicians struggle to find gigs, ancillary services lose orders. Much more. Oh wait… yeah, those weird concepts of liberty and private property – hardly ever taken into consideration these days.
     
    Since links don’t go over well, here are some names: Michael J. McFadden, Dissecting Antismokers Brains; Chris Snowdon, Velvet Glove Iron Fist; Rich White, Smokescreens, among many others (oh, numberwatch deals with it too as does the late maligned Crichton in one of his speeches about consensus science wherein global warming is one of the four and secondhand smoke another (he hates smoke, so for him it’s “good policy based on bad science.”)= Then there’s Michael Siegel, once part of the TC cabal, who’s realized not only has it gone too far but science itself has been left behind in the dust (he runs marathons).
     
    I find it interesting to see that the tobacco narrative has penetrated so deeply into all sides of the climate change issue, mirroring society, that I will certainly be a pariah for writing this. Interestingly, those who study the tobacco issues also study the climate issues (and other junk science issues). Too bad they are so scorned that their knowledge and expertise is unwelcome.
     
    Keith, I am enjoying your site immensely altho I think the first time I saw it a long time ago I did feel a bit of “confirmation bias” on my side at first. But your goals and integrity in meeting them overwhelmed that niggle and I’m finding the quality of the discussion amazing (some exceptions to prove the rule, of course). In addition, Ifollow Judith Curry wherever she goes since she took up the banner of integrity so that makes double the incentive to show up here every day or so.
     
    Looking forward to the next!
     

  168. Barry Woods says:

    166#  that is no doubt true.
    ie ‘people suffering because of GW

    But to be clear, no evidence of man made climate change is what we are discssing.

    Not evidence of ‘climate change’ (natural) where there is plenty of evidence, and has clearly effected humans throughout our entire life on this planet..

  169. Colin Davidson says:

    I have been following the exchange between Barry woods and Marco with some interest.

    From personal observation, in the last 50 years the sea level near where I live has hardly changed at all. The measured sea level change last year (to 30Jun2009) was 0.1mm, and the largest sea level change recorded for the whole continent was 0.9mm.

    The sea level around Tuvalu changes by around 1 foot (30cm) depending on whether there is an El Nino. Every La Nina we hear the familiar alarmist refrain that Tuvalu is drowning. . Then when an El Nino is in force, it all goes quiet…

    Sea Level Change has been a major part of the CAGW thesis. Dr Hansen is still spruiking an imminent 6m change, and this has been further publicised by Al Gore. (This was one of the first things the UK High Court Judge found to be entirely false in “An Inconvenient Truth”.)

    It is now apparent that Darwin was right: coral atolls rise and fall with sea level. The other major influence is man’s building and fishing activities. So coral atolls are not at risk from sea level change.

    The other poster child is Bangladesh. Here I like what Lord Lawson has to say. He reminds us of the changes wrought by the English in draining the Fens and the Somerset Levels, and the Dutch in building their dykes. They did all that against a backdrop of rising sea levels, with hand tools and primitive windmills. It is quite clear that the Bangladeshis could do the same, particularly with modern (fossil fuel powered) earth-moving equipment. After all they only have to cope with a few tens of centimetres (if that) of sea level rise per century (see IPCC AR4).

    What is now plain is that sea level rise is not “Catastrophic”. That part of the CAGW thesis is not tenable. Sea level rise is not scary. We can cope.

  170. vieras says:

    Stephen Leahy wrote: “You say  “I can’t find any evidence, that people would be suffering because of GW.” Evidence is everywhere. You just have to look to Alaska for the most obvious examples of permafrost melt destroying homes, roads etc. I have posted this before here:
    “Some 325 million people are being seriously affected, with economic losses averaging 125 billion dollars a year, according to “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis“, the first detailed look at climate change and the human impacts.
     
    I live close to the Arctic myself. I know, that buildings and roads can suffer, if they are not built properly. We have damage to our roads every year because of freezing and melting. That part is normal.
     
    So, looking at damage up north has to account for bad construction decisions. What I’m interested to read about are real cases. What buildings, cities and roads have got damaged? Then I want to find out, what was accounted for when they were built. There’s a tendency of blaming GW on anything.
     
    Ok, let’s look at that pdf. It’s from the UN, which doesn’t increase confidence. It mentions the coral islands, Himalayan glaciers, even hurricane Katrine. The authors assume, that AGW is causing all that. That paper is seriously low quality and can’t be relied on.
     
    Could you please give me links about concrete examples in Alaska? Googling for permafrost and global warming brings up a huge amount of assumptions about methane and predictions of damage. And those are unfortunately also of bad quality.

  171. JohnB says:

    #159 Steven Sullivan. I wasn’t aware that I had confused the two of you, Mr. Bloom calls himself “Steve”, so that is the name I used, I was simply replying to two people in one post.

    Anyway, yes, this is the first time that I have participated in any constant way to a Blog that covers climate. I’ve posted twice (I think) at CA, both times as JohnB2 because they already had a JohnB, a person whos views I don’t share BTW.

    I lurk at most Blogs because of the biases displayed. I have no interest in places that delight in “take downs”, science isn’t about that, it’s about getting things as right as possible. There is no point attempting a discussion about GISSTemp on most sceptical Blogs because they are mostly after the “gotcha” moment and that just isn’t helpful. Similarly at the Pro-AGW Blogs, merely asking a question brings forth diatribes of invective.

    I’m here because our host has an even hand and I hope that Climate scientists will visit and some of the questions I have can be answered and discussed in a reasonable and balanced manner.

    The post I pointed Steve Bloom to (that he chose not to read) did have it’s genesis in a sceptic blog, I stated that at the beginning. I had realised that there was a way to compare GISSTemp interpolations with real data and decided to make the comparison to see what happened. Not to prove anybody right or wrong, but to see what happened. I found a large discrepancy that I could not account for.

    There was, as I said, no point asking for help or ideas from the sceptical side, they would be too quick (in general) to simply run with the “GISS is wrong” meme and shut down discussion. I believe that my reception at RC would have been rather cool if I had asked them, so I didn’t bother.

    This is a problem for anybody that thinks they have a reasonable question, our choices are limited to either an echo chamber that trumpets Climate Scientists are bad people or an echo chamber that abuses you for having the teremity to ask a question in the first place. Neither are areas condusive to reasonable discussion.

    On attribution in general, (and I will read the RC thread you pointed to) what is very apparent is that it was decided that CO2 was going to be the “big bad” very early on and that most efforts since have been to bolster this idea.

    From your posts I think I can reasonably assume that you are in accord with the AR4 and therefore think that it accounts well the natural forcings, and further assume that you agree with the idea that CO2 was the major driver of the recent warming period. Speaking simply, 100% of the forcings, both natural and man made are accounted for correctly.

    So where does the recent paper by Susan Soloman fit in? If changes in Stratospheric water vapour can account for 15% of the recent warming, do we now have 115% or do we scruch up the natural forcings a bit or do we reduce the forcing of CO2?

    Assuming the papers findings are correct, we can’t have 115% total forcings. The only logical stand to take is that at least some of previous estimates of forcing values were incorrect. But which ones? And by how much? How would this effect model runs of future projections?

    It’s because of these types of findings that I can’t support the confidence levels of the IPCC. To express high confidence that all factors have been properly accounted for and then be blindsided by a 15% discrepancy? This only goes to show that the levels of confidence expressed originally were too high.

    Just to be very clear about CC. I do not think that it is “very likely” the human activites have contributed to CC, I think it’s bloody certain. However this is a far cry from “Human activities are “very likely” the major driver driver of CC” and even further from “Anthropogenic CO2 is the major driver of CC.”

    Climate Science derives from many fields and the net is potentially the greatest source of disseminated knowledge the world has ever seen. Add to that people from outside the field itself now have more interest than ever in the science.

    While the Journals would have a fit about the idea, if asked how I hope things will evolve it is like this.

    Researchers post a preprint on the net asking for comments. Statisticians can wade in perhaps with suggestions to improve the statistical methodology used. Solar Physicists can perhaps suggest papers the authors hadn’t read.

    Every thing gets checked and rechecked, objections noted and overcome. Not for the purpose of increasing the standing of any particular scientists or group and not to “take anybody down”, but to make the paper better and stronger.

    The paper is published and science moves forward.

    This has been done a couple of times in other fields with success but in the current poisoned atmosphere of Climate Science, I just don’t know. But a man can hope and dream, can’t he?

  172. Marco says:

    @Barry Woods: I have no idea what video you are talking about. Regarding corals: yes, they may grow up to 9 inches a year. Some. Under the right conditions. Are we feeling lucky? More common is less than an inch a year, with some even below a mm a year. All studies indicate that higher CO2 and higher temperatures aren’t exactly the best conditions for coral reefs to grow.

    @Colin Davidson: Sure, Bangladesh can spent billions on dykes and whatnot. The Dutch, in that tiny little country, actually spend many, many millions each and every year to maintain its infrastructure to keep the sea out. The latest plans, using the high end IPCC projections for 2100, involve a one billion euro investment *every year* up to 2100.
    Now, Bangladesh has a larger area it needs to protect, and a (much) smaller size of the economy. Perhaps you are willing to give them the money? They do not have the expertise either, so (unlike the Dutch) they’ll have to buy that, too.

    Note also that sea level rise currently already is at the high end of the IPCC projections and that mass balances indicate accelerated loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica in the last decade (all that without the “statistically significant warming”).

    Your argumentation about El Ninos and La Ninas is also flawed: if El Ninos increase the sea level by 30 cm, and you start with a level already 10 cm higher (and that’s the about the lowest rise you should expect by 2100, even if we’re able to stop emissions of CO2 now), you actually need to worry about 40 cm of rise, not 30, compared to previous situations. See a difference there?

  173. Barry Woods says:

     
    “Michael Mann says ‘hockey stick’ should not have become the climate change icon.”

    From a BBC panorama program (may not be able to see it outside of the UK). A lot of the unconcious bias, can be said to have become institutionalised amongst the media and politicians as well. The BBC has long been acussed as haveing an unconcious (or even deliberate) AGW agenda, despite its publich service charter.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7849441/Michael-Mann-says-hockey-stick-should-not-have-become-climate-change-icon.html

    BBC Panorama:
    “However, speaking to the BBC recently, Prof Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, said he had always made clear there were “uncertainties” in his work.
    “I always thought it was somewhat misplaced to make it a central icon of the climate change debate,” he said. ”

    I wonder why Micahael Mann  is saying this now?

    This may be of interest, as the ‘hockey stick’ arguable was a key factor in the IPCC marketing of CAGW in the past and Michael Mann confirms it was used as an icon. Sir John Houghton quite instrumental in promoting it. (ie ‘saving the world, unconcious bias)

    James Delingpoles take on it..
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100045118/id-rather-stick-my-bag-of-amphetamine-injected-rattlesnakes-than-put-my-trust-in-tonights-bbc-panorama-documentary-on-global-warming/
    As you can see, he has become an embittered sceptic, on the opposite side to the equally (possible even more so) vitriolic pro CAGW George Monbiot..

    I would agree with him patially, about the BBC though, as even after FOI request (BBC is supposed to be impartial, and public service) the BBC will not say who attended the meeting, that said they no longer had to be so impartial on climate change. 

    Thus, 4 years ago the BBC alleged CAGW, AGW bias (or accusations of) came into force institutionally.

    Though the BBC have become slightly more neutral recently, and they did do the Phil Jones ‘interview’. And the BBC moderators are scruplously fair and allow all comments from all comers, that follow house rules.

    In fact, some ‘warmista’ (see Josh) activists were equally upset as James D (bbc now in the middle?)
    http://www.joabbess.com/2010/06/28/bbcpanorama-on-climategate/

  174. Barry Woods says:

    173#  Marco, are you aware that Bangladesh as a whole is growing ?, (satellite evidence) and will continuue to grow as long as the Himalayas are being eroded down, despite even predicted sea level rises..

    It is a vast river delta, which thanks to the richness of the land, is occupied/farmed but has always been vulnerable to the type of river flooding, river channels changing direction, monsoons, storm surges, etc (ie o level geography lesson). 

    50 years ago the population was a third of the current levels. As the population, has tripled, the population has progressively had to live on more and more marginal land closer to sea level. So yes,  every year more and more people at risk, because more and more people are living on land ever closer to sea level (all the higher ground taken years ago)

    Literally clinging to mud islands a metre or 2 above sea level..

    The tradegy is, because it is all supposedly down to CO2 causing ‘sea level rise’ nothing much is really being done to help these people.

    Bhola island is a ‘poster child’ 500, 000 people displaced because of CO2, indueced sea level rises.

    Look where it is,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhola_Island
    look at al the river channels, but because it only started eroding in the 60’s,  people say it is CO2,
    http://www.terradaily.com/news/climate-05zzx.html
    not that whilst, it may have been there a long time in human memory,  river channels do change  direction over longer periods of time and is totally natural process for the Bangladesh delta.

    One reporter went to Bangladesh and tried to write an article about sea level rises, and he kept on trying ‘to his shame’ he said.
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/5749623/story-of-a-sinking-land.thtml

    If the UN were proposing (honestly ) a climate change (natural)/ or extreme weather / or natural disaster tax – to help the world’s poorest, I would sign up for it, wouldn’t anybody else?!

    But the man-made CO2 obsession, means that all the real problems are going to be ignored, and billions/trillions wasted, that could help billions of the world poor.

    More on sea levels (maldives),
    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/5595813/why-the-maldives-arent-sinking.thtml
    This bias,  that all problems being man made CO2 driven, is really hurting the world’s poorest and that is shameful.

  175. #170 @vieras
     
    The  “The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis” report you want to ignore is not from the UN as you say, it is from an NGO in Geneva. It says: “Based on verified scientific information, established models, and, where needed, on the best available estimates…every year climate change leaves over 300,000 people dead, 325 million people seriously affected, and economic losses of US$125 billion.”
    And when you find reports that show any you claim they are of “bad quality”.

    You need to do your research without your clear bias that there are no such impacts to be found.

  176. Barry Woods says:

    Marco 172#   Cop 15 Opening video.. as you are unaware of it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVGGgncVq-4

    (1,000,000 plus hits, shown repeatably on the BBC and Sky, and ITV news, at Copenhagen time)

    Tidal wave (sea level?) engulfing the land and child about  2 minutes 20 seconds in.

    Emotive, appalling propaganda, with NO scientific basis.
    That scared my 5 year old child and made me very sceptical to CAGW. I suggest that everyone watches it, this is what the IPCC is letting, politicians use as a message to the general  public.

    (if the link does not work, search for  – copenhagen conference opening video – on youtube)

    May I suggest that is a seriously biased little video.

  177. Barry that video is clearly a dramatization about what might happen if no action is taken on climate change. It had absolutely nothing to do with the IPCC or the UNFCCC other than the fact it was shown there (as were many other videos).
     
    It was part of the Danish govt’s effort to raise awareness of the risks we are running. And made by Danish filmakers. http://www.youtube.com/cop15
     
    You are wrong about no scientific basis: the video depicts droughts, flooding and extreme weather events…all well backed up by science as likely outcomes of CC.
     
    If your 5 year old was scared I think that is the right reaction given that might be his/her  potential future.  So if that is even a small possibility then Barry use your considerable energy and expertise to help wean us off our addiction to expensive, imported fossil fuels which will reduce air pollution amongst many other benefits. AGW aside we ought to be doing this for ourselves and future generations but we’re not.

  178. Barry Woods says:

    Dramatisation/propaganda? – depends on your viewpoint

    Tidal WAVE?
    Please don’t appeal to my children, that is appalling!!

    We will have to diasagree, about ‘well backed up by science’ I see no backing up, beyond projections and assumptions.

    I am convinced that my children need never fear, CAGW, whilst millions of the  world’s poorest children suffer food poverty right NOW, because of the results of the direct actions of the CAGW agenda..

    How about thinking about those children, suffering right now, I do.
    I am concerned about the future political world and ‘education policies’ in attempt to greenwash my children.

  179. Keith Kloor says:

    Stephen (175):
    That Swiss NGO report is highly questionable. I remember when it was released to much fanfare. And I also remember that Roger Pielke Jr. called it a “methodological embarrassment.” Strong language perhaps, but I think he was closer to the truth than the report on those dubious estimates.

  180. JohnB says:

    #175 Stephen Leahy. Your link doesn’t work, but this one does.
    http://www.phaa.net.au/documents/humanimpactreport.pdf
    Splitting hairs a bit on the “not UN” aren’t you? The President is Kofi Annan and of the 11 Advisory Board members, 4 work(ed) for the UN. I notice that TERI and the IPCC are also well represented. Not too important, but strong UN ties anyway.

    Would you care to comment on their attribution methodology? That since CO2 presumably can’t cause Earthquakes any increase in Storm etc disasters above the increase in earthquakes for the same period is therefore attributed to Climate Change? Amazingly robust reasoning there.

    BTW, I checked their earthquake figures and they seem about right. (At least according to http://research.dlindquist.com/quake/ ) I had no idea that earthquakes had increased so much. I wonder if there are more, or simply more seismographs as the USGS suggests.

    Not trying to be a cynic, but don’t you find it interesting that the GHF (with strong ties to the IPCC and TERI, Pachuri is on the board) was formed shortly after the AR4 was released, releases it’s own report shortly before Copenhagen and was wound up in a couple of months later?

    To the report itself. Nice that it leads with a picture of Tuvalu, isn’t it?

    The first “witness” is courtesy of the WWF.

    But here is a definitive statement;
    “Furthermore, the rise in sea levels has already spurred the first permanent displacement of small island inhabitants in the Pacific, i.e. Kiribati and Tuvalu.” Page 12 citing reference 19, found here. http://www.uea.ac.uk/env/people/adgerwn/ClimChange2003Barnett.pdf

    While the references work is old (2001) it only speaks of “potential” abandonment, the “first permanent displacement” had not occured. They could at least say what the reference cited does. A quick check on Google Earth shows the islands still above water and populated. I think it safe to say that the “displacement” hasn’t in fact happened.

    Let’s try another point. (Same page)

    “Gradual environmental degradation due to climate change has also affected long-term water quality and quantity in some parts of the world, and triggered increases in hunger, insect-borne diseases such as malaria, other health problems such as diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses.”
    (Emphasis mine)

    I hope you don’t mind me quoting the “Malaria Journal” in response. http://www.malariajournal.com/content/7/S1/S3
    “Simplistic reasoning on the future prevalence of malaria is ill-founded; malaria is not limited by climate in most temperate regions, nor in the tropics, and in nearly all cases, “new” malaria at high altitudes is well below the maximum altitudinal limits for transmission. Future changes in climate may alter the prevalence and incidence of the disease, but obsessive emphasis on “global warming” as a dominant parameter is indefensible; the principal determinants are linked to ecological and societal change, politics and economics. There is a critical need for cheap, effective control campaigns, as were implemented during the DDT era.” 

    You might want to read the whole article, the author appears rather put out that his specialty is being misused for political purposes.

    Anyway, once more into the breach, same page;
    “Those seriously affected by climate change are expected to more than double within 20 years, and lives lost every year are expected to increase by at least two thirds22
    The same calculation as above is used to project past weather disaster trends into the future.” References 22 and 23.

    Reference 22 gives the sources of the data that they use to compare with earthquakes to decide on Climate Change attribution.

    Reference 33 is another matter. To quote it in full;
    “A 320% increase in weather related disasters today is assumed based on Webster, M., et al. (2008). A 50% climate change attribution from weather related disasters is assumed in 2030. Webster, M., et al. (2008): “The Humanitarian Costs of Climate Change.” Feinstein International Center, December, p.19.”

    This is actually another NGO report that uses a linear and exponential extrapolation to the regressed 1975-2008 trend line to produce an estimate of 320% increase in natural disasters over the next 20 years.

    I found this bit interesting;
    “Once we established the rough estimates, we submitted them to six leading climate scientists for comment and refinement. The respondents were willing to offer suggestions, but on the condition that their remarks remained anonymous, due to the great deal of uncertainty in these estimates and also due to the fact that none considered themselves an expert on disaster forecasting.”

    There are a number of references to these unnamed “Leading Climate Scientists”, but I doubt that any Climate Scientist would back projections of a 320% increase in Cyclones etc over the next 20 years.

    I’ve made it to page 12 of a 124 page report and found nothing substantive or substantiated, do I really need to continue?

    (Sorry about the font changes, I have no idea how to normalise them after copying from the relevent articles.)

  181. AMac says:

    JohnB #171 —
     
    Re: technical questions on GISS or other instrumental record issues, I suggest you ask Zeke Hausfather in the comments section of one of his posts at Lucia’s Blackboard.  If he doesn’t know about the topic, there are a number of scientifically-literate “regulars” of both pro-AGW-Consensus and Lukewarmer stripes who may be able to offer some insight.

  182. vieras says:

    #175 Stephen Leahy wrote: “You need to do your research without your clear bias that there are no such impacts to be found.
    Let me explain, why I think that report is of bad quality. When I read a claim, I prefer to check it before accepting the explanation. So let’s have a look at some cases in that report:

    Uganda (drought) – When I look at UN Food Program agriculture production statistics (FAOSTAT), food production in Uganda has been rising nicely. There’s no sign of any declining food production. So no sign of damage from GW here either.

    Indonesia (hunger) – Again, FAOSTAT shows food production raising steadily with no signs of problems.

    Ethiopia (drought) – Guess what? FAOSTAT shows food production raising steadily.

    Tanzania, Morocco – Same thing: FAOSTAT shows, increasing food production.

    According to the UN’s own statistics, it looks like Africa is producing more food than ever before. So I can’t understand, how that continent can be used as an example of horrible things caused by global warming.

    Bangladesh is used as an example of raising sea levels. Well, according to satellite measurements, there is absolutely no raising trend in sea levels. It’s been steady ever since 1992. And tide gauge measurements show the same thing for at least 100 years. Sea levels raise at a slow 3.2 mm/year. If someone builds their home too close to the sea, ignoring that long, long trend, you can’t blame global warming for the bad decision. Apparently land is sinking in Bangladesh. Well, if it is doing that faster than 3.2 mm/year, it’s because of something else than global warming. And frankly, it’s a bit hard to blame that 3.2 mm/year on CO2 also, as the rate has not changed during the last 100 years, even when CO2 has been raising.

    You claim, that I am biased. If you or someone else post cases, where global warming has been the reason for suffering, I’ll be happy to change my opinion.

    FAOSTAT: http://faostat.fao.org/site/339/default.aspx

  183. Judith Curry says:

    Michael, regarding uncertainty, my take is that there are 5 different ways of dealing with it (an adaptation of van der sluujs):
     
    1.  Uncertainty denier – pretend it doesn’t exist, or underestimate it or try to keep the discussion away from the topic.
    2.  Uncertainty reducer –  “reduce the uncertainty” mantra, of the early IPCC reports and also the US CCSP
    3.  Uncertainty simplifier – fit complex uncertainties into nice categories.  The subjective Bayesian approach of Moss and Schneider fits here, that has been the uncertainty recipe for the IPCC 3rd and 4th assessment reports, e.g. the likely, very likely stuff.
    4.  Uncertainty detectives –  well, all scientists should work hard to understand, represent, and reason about uncertainty (climate scientists generally don’t do a great job at this). The conflict is when political opponents seize on this uncertainty as an excuse for inaction.
    5.  Uncertainty ingester – include uncertainty information in rational decision support systems and policies
     
    We need to get to #5.  This is not simple, since climate assessment (e.g. IPCC) is stuck in #3 right now.  My efforts to move it to #4 are being met with apparent calls to go back to #1.  We have to work our way through #4 before we get to #5.  Will #4 result in blood on the floor and more polarization?  On the contrary, it may actually enable the two sides of scientists to become less polarized, which will take some of the steam out of the political uncertainty embracers.    Moving forward in the science requires #4.   #4 will also improve the policy and decision making process.
     
    I would be interested in any counter arguments for climate researchers becoming better uncertainty detectives?

  184. 180 JohnB
    I don’t think you were reading the report very carefully it  excludes human impacts from earthquakes of course: “Geophysical disasters, such as earthquakes, are also subject to natural variability but they are clearly not impacted by the climate”

    As for displacements from islands states in the Pacific, that has in fact happened – I personally spoken with such people. Tuvalu has many islands and a few of smallest have been swamped.

    The main point here is bias and the fact the report’s findings are not substantiated in a way you can agree to. Probably impossible to do. The report admits its not by any stretch definitive, it is a first-ever attempt to get  an overview of possible impacts of CC as a “force multiplier” in natural diseases. A tricky thing to do to be sure.

    The point is that CC is affecting people around the world right now.  I hope you can at least agree to that.

  185. #182
     
    Those UN site you provided does not back up your claims — indeed it shows a map of food security that shows most of Africa is hungry. http://faostat.fao.org/site/562/default.aspx
    The reality is that a billion people go hungry every day, food prices have climbed 30 to 40 percent. CC is in part responsible as GHF report suggests. It is well documented that extreme weather events have increased and that is not good for farming

  186. smitty says:

    184, Stephen Leahy:
    So much for anecdotal evidence. This recent study will get you up to speed. The abstract is posted here: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/06/02/tuvalu-and-many-other-south-pacific-islands-are-not-sinking-claims-they-are-due-to-global-warming-driven-sea-level-rise-are-opportunistic/
    The dynamic response of reef islands to sea level rise: evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the central pacific
    Arthur P. Webba, and Paul S. Kenchb, ,

    Results show that 86% of islands remained stable (43%) or increased in area (43%) over the timeframe of analysis.”
    Here is the evidence refuting your claim:

    One of the highest profile islands ““ in a political sense ““ was Tuvalu, where politicians and climate change campaigners have repeatedly predicted it will be drowned by rising seas, as its highest point is 4.5 metres above sea level. But the researchers found seven islands  had spread by more than 3 percent on average since the 1950s.”
     
    Link to the paper is behind a paywall here: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627633.700-shapeshifting-islands-defy-sealevel-rise.html
     

  187. Barry Woods says:

    The theory of how coral reef  formed was established ober 150 years ago by Charles Darwin..

    Part of this process is during storms, sea surges cover the islands, depositing coral debris onto the island. (El Nino years particularly)

    highly emotive stuff ‘submerging’, true, but this is nothing to do with sea level rises, due to man made co2 emmisions.

    Just the natural process at work, being confused with sea level rises due to man made emission.. these islands are not static, they are dynamic and change shape and grow, acording to all these natural processe described ny Charles Darwin..

    Yet a climate scientist’ reseacrher seems surprised on the ‘discovery of this…………. (see new scientist article above)

    New scientist could not quite bring themselve to say ‘growing’ 😉

    BBC News: Low-lying pacific islands ‘growing not sinking’
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia_pacific/10222679.stm

    “Using historical photographs and satellite imaging, the geologists found that 80% of the islands had either remained the same or got larger – in some cases, dramatically so.
    They say it is due to the build-up of coral debris and sediment, and to land reclamation.”

    “One scientist in Kiribati said that people should not be lulled into thinking that inundation and coastal erosion were not a major threat.”

    Which is true, but nothing to do with man made co2 causing climate change and sea levels, just the natural process at work..
    Maybe some ‘climate science’ researchers on these islands are worrying about their next bit of funding, ‘discovering’ what Darwin proposed over a hundred and fifty years ago…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_reef
    In 1842 Charles Darwin published his first monograph, The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs.

  188. vieras says:

    Stephen Leahy wrote: “Those UN site you provided does not back up your claims “” indeed it shows a map of food security that shows most of Africa is hungry.
     
    Most of Africa has been hungry for ages and there are numerous reasons for it. There are huge problems in Africa and CO2 is one of the smallest. If you want to attribute drought and hunger to Climate Change, you need to show, that food production in Africa has declined because of CC.
     
    I have a sick feeling, that you’ll take Zimbabwe as an example of how CC has reduced food production in Africa.

  189. vieras says:

    Stephen Leahy, I am absolutely mortified by your attitude. I use the UN’s own food statistics to show, that food production in Africa is increasing. I would expect you and any other reasonable person to accept that. Instead you move the goal and start talking about hunger – ignoring totally, that the paper you cite is catastrophically awful. Why on earth do you do that? Why do you defend these people?
     
    What you can do, is to check if the food production statistics are right. There’s a good chance, that UN got it all wrong or that they were fed bad quality or biased data. But the last thing you should do to your own credibility is to change the subject.

  190. Hector M. says:

    Stephen Leahy says that even if food production is rising in Africa, “Those UN site you [Vieras] provided does not back up your claims “” indeed it shows a map of food security that shows most of Africa is hungry.”
    Dear Stephen, the fact of hunger (technically undernourishment), defined by FAO as people ingesting less than the minimum allowance of food for good health, is not incompatible with a rising food output. In fact, hunger depends on access to food, i.e. the capacity to produce your own food or to purchase it in the market. Belgium produces only a fraction of its needs but almost nobody is hungry there. On the other side, the US is a great food exporter, but millions of people are on Food Stamps and there is a perceptible number of undernourished people there. The same goes for other large exporters like Brazil or Argentina. Food security and hunger are not only related to productio but also to trade and purchasing power.
    However, the impact of climate change on agriculture is only perceptible on food production. The point made by Vieras is that there is no sign of any reduction in food production due to climate change in those African countries he cites (there are some other cases, e.g. in the Sahel, where dryness is increasing and this does affect food production).
    Finally, since agriculture is not a natural process but a combination of natural processes and human activity, the effective impact of CC on agriculture results from CC itself plus changes in farming practices and technology introduced by farmers. Yields per hectare are increasing worlwide, with or without climate change, and whenever CC affects a crop, farmers shift to some other crop that is more adequate to current climate conditions.
    I have discussed extensively these questions in a recent monograph centred on CC and Latin America food security, co-authored with my son and not yet published in print (http://ssrn.com/abstract=1619395). Hope it may clarify the issues and concepts.

  191. NewYorkJ says:

    JohnB:

    “In Climate science, if your model doesn’t match the observations, the first assumption is that the obs are wrong and they get reworked until they match the model. Note the Allen and Sherwood paper in 2008. Tropospheric warming as measured by the thermometers on weather balloons didn’t match the models predictions. Do you adjust the model or decide that the airspeed of the balloon is a better proxy for temperature than the actual thermometer carried by the balloon? Your proof that airspeed is better? Because it matches the models predictions. I know which I would choose, and I know which one Climate science chose.”

    First, the paper is in regards to the tropical upper troposphere (not broadly the troposphere), or the so-called “hotspot” that is not unique to the greenhouse gas signature, and one that arguably implies a greater climate sensitivity if absent (see Chris Colose’s discussion in the link below).   This is an important distinction.

    Second, here is a more comprehensive look at the issue.  Many observations do in fact match expectations, and analysis is not restricted to Allen and Sherwood.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/What-causes-the-tropospheric-hot-spot.html

    When observations don’t match expectations and contradicts other observations, a good skeptic will look at everything, including the contradictory observation.

    JohnB’s rhetoric is quite similar to that of Roy Spencer about a decade ago.  Using a similar example, a classic example of genuine confirmation bias was with the UAH satellite record.  As we know, the UAH record exhibited no significant trend through 1997.   Here’s what Spencer wrote:

    “Unlike the surface-based temperatures, global temperature measurements of the Earth’s lower atmosphere obtained from satellites reveal no definitive warming trend over the past two decades. The slight trend that is in the data actually appears to be downward. The largest fluctuations in the satellite temperature data are not from any man-made activity, but from natural phenomena such as large volcanic eruptions from Mt. Pinatubo, and from El Niño. So the programs which model global warming in a computer say the temperature of the Earth’s lower atmosphere should be going up markedly, but actual measurements of the temperature of the lower atmosphere reveal no such pronounced activity.”

    “In theory, one could argue that the computer models are accurate, and that the real measurements have some problem. However this is not the case. An incredible amount of work has been done to make sure that the satellite data are the best quality possible. Recent claims to the contrary by Hurrell and Trenberth have been shown to be false for a number of reasons, and are laid to rest in the September 25th edition of Nature (page 342). The temperature measurements from space are verified by two direct and independent methods. The first involves actual in-situ measurements of the lower atmosphere made by balloon-borne observations around the world. The second uses intercalibration and comparison among identical experiments on different orbiting platforms. The result is that the satellite temperature measurements are accurate to within three one-hundredths of a degree Centigrade (0.03 C) when compared to ground-launched balloons taking measurements of the same region of the atmosphere at the same time.”

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/1997/essd06oct97_1/

    As we know, Spencer was very wrong, but he was convinced his data was accurate (even to incredible precision), waved off evidence to the contrary, and concluded all other observations and models were wrong.

  192. NewYorkJ says:

    See also:

    http://skepticalscience.com/How-Jo-Nova-doesnt-get-the-tropospheric-hot-spot.html

    Contrarians have a tendency to view any observation apparently not agreeing with expectations as an argument against anthropogenic global warming.

  193. JohnB says:

    #191 NewYorkJ.

    Thanks for taking the time to find those links, but if you had read the thread, particularly the last paragraph of my #150, you might have saved yourself some effort.

    I’m rereading and re-evaluating my position in that area.

  194. Colin Davidson says:

    One of the little-understood phenomena in the climate is the evaporation (=precipitation) rate. Climate scientists are not agreed on the rate at which this increases with temperature. Measurements indicate that this lies between 0 and 7% per DegC (The 7% upper limit is mostly agreed).

    One recent paper calculates 2.5% per DegC, noting that anything higher causes great difficulties with the surface energy balance in the models. I understand that most modellers are using a figure of 1% (perhaps someone can confirm this, and cite a reference justifying this very low figure).

    Taking the real-world figure to be somewhere in the vast range of 2.5 to 6.5% per degC (ie the numbers supported in the literature), the following conclusions are reached:

    1. The average annual global rainfall will increase by between 7.5% and 20% for the IPCC predicted (sorry, semantic error, I mean projected or guessed)  3 DegC change caused by doubling of CO2. (Coupled with the huge increase in arable land and the grteatly increased yields of crops, it is hard to see how the world will be worse off.)

    2. The sensitivity of the surface lies between 0.095(high evaporation) and 0.15 DegC/W/m^2 (2.5% evaporation change per degC) of change in “forcing”. The IPCC (projected, guessed…)change in forcing for a doubling of CO2 is 3.7W/m^2, so it is difficult to see how 3DegC of temperature increase happens. An increase of around 0.5DegC is more likely.

    Can anyone confirm the change in EVAPORATION (not water vapour, which is around 7%/DegC) used in the models and cite a paper which justifies the number used? 

  195. Colin Davidson says:

    Marco kindly responded to my post – in part he said: 
    “Sure, Bangladesh can spent billions on dykes and whatnot. The Dutch, in that tiny little country, actually spend many, many millions each and every year to maintain its infrastructure to keep the sea out. The latest plans, using the high end IPCC projections for 2100, involve a one billion euro investment *every year* up to 2100.
    Now, Bangladesh has a larger area it needs to protect, and a (much) smaller size of the economy. Perhaps you are willing to give them the money? They do not have the expertise either, so (unlike the Dutch) they’ll have to buy that, too.”

    The low-lying coast of Holland is about 150 miles in length. Bangladesh is about 250 miles in length. Both countries are basically river deltas. While Bangladesh is a bigger problem, it’s not vastly bigger.

    Other posters have pointed out that recent measurements reported in the peer-reviewed literature show that the surface area of Bangladesh has increased over the last 30 years, and that there has been little or no measured sea level change there. (For the continent on which I live, the measurements from the 16 stations evenly spread around the perimeter showed a maximum of 0.9 and a minimum of -0.1mm for the year to 30Jun09, supporting the thesis that sea level rise has slowed).

    Finally, both countries have to take measures to protect themselves from floods coming down the rivers and tidal waves/storm surges coming from the sea, whether or not the sea is rising.

    Holland did this in the 1600s with the technology and population available at the time. Prior to that, in early medieval times, the Brits drained the Somerset Levels and the Fens.

    Is Marco claiming that with the technology available today it is not feasible or economic to sea-proof Bangladesh?

  196. Colin Davidson says:

    Some additional quotes from Marco:
    “Note also that sea level rise currently already is at the high end of the IPCC projections and that mass balances indicate accelerated loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica in the last decade (all that without the “statistically significant warming”).”
    It depends where you look. From personal observations of a coastal spot near where I live, I don’t think there has been anywhere near the 17cm of rise claimed for last century, and certainly not much this century. And the latest published measurement is 0.1mm for the 12 months to 30Jun09.
    Marco went on to say:
    “Your argumentation about El Ninos and La Ninas is also flawed: if El Ninos increase the sea level by 30 cm, and you start with a level already 10 cm higher (and that’s the about the lowest rise you should expect by 2100, even if we’re able to stop emissions of CO2 now), you actually need to worry about 40 cm of rise, not 30, compared to previous situations. See a difference there?”

    I guess the point is that every 5 years or so, Tuvalu and the other pacific atolls experience a very large natural change in sea level of about one foot up or down. They have coped with this: in fact measurements of the islands by satellite show that they have grown in the last 30 years, and indicates that the islands will naturally cope with higher sea levels by growing in height.

    As Darwin said.

    150 years ago.

    The real threat to the islands is interference with the natural processes of erosion and accretion – by aquifer depletion, house-building using reef material, and over-fishing of some critical species.

  197. Punch My Ticket says:

    I know this thread is supposed to be about preconceived biases among those doing the science, but I see some unrebutted biases of another sort above.  (If you want thread purity, Keith, by all means delete this.)
    Stephen Leahy @ 145: “It does need to be repeated that most of the actions/policies needed to reduce emissions ought to be done regardless of AGW because they reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improves energy security, reduces air pollution, create new jobs etc, etc”¦.
    I, and from the evidence of my own eyes many others, don’t believe any of these things “ought to be done”. More important to me are that my family eats what it wants when it wants, goes where it wants when it wants, keeps its house at a comfortable temperature, etc.  I find it somewhere between mysterious and galling that Stephen Leahy (among others) can, in the absence of proof of demonstrable public harm, insist that I put his priorities above mine.  I’m actually capable of weighing going where I want when I want against my dependence on fossil fuel.  I do it every day, as do most Americans.
    Leahy’s bias is, “regardless of AGW”, to impose his (rather nebulously defined) priorities on me.  I’m not buying it.  Leahy should reduce his dependence on fossil fuels, improve his own energy security, reduce his own pollution, create his own jobs.  I support his right to do so.  I encourage him to do so.  I object only to the attempt to impose his biases on me.
    I’m all for exposing externalities.  Demonstrate that CO2 harms us all and have the legislature impose stiff taxes to disincent its production. My behavior will change. Until then, energy security e.g., however defined, is just one of Leahy’s political biases.
    Me? I’m biased too. I prefer putting food in my childrens’ mouths. I’ll be letting the legislators know that too.

  198. […] other recent threads at this site, Judith has elaborated on where some of the key uncertainty lies and why it is necessary to engage forthrightly about […]

  199. Hank Roberts says:

    JohnB, your basic assumption about replication quoted way back at the beginning is wrong.
    This may help:
    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=886
    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=1002

  200. JohnB says:

    Hank, I think you missed my point. Simply put, our biases effect our initial reactions to things. It doesn’t matter whether it’s research or movies, our innate biases colour our views.

    I found great proof of this very recently. I have a bias against movie remakes, they bug the hell out of me. I’ve been seeing posters for a while for the movie “The Karate Kid” and every time my thought was “Another damn remake”.

    Yesterday I looked closer and saw who was in it. It’s a Jackie Chan film and I’m biased towards Jackie Chan films. I think they’re fun.

    My thoughts were literally “I’m getting sick of seeing posters for a bloody re….Oh, It’s a Jackie Chan film. This could be fun.” I don’t think I’ve ever had two opposite biases act so quickly.

    Thanks for the links BTW, and I do take the points contained therein. Did you read the article linked to from the second one? “Can Vampires survive a Zombie Apocalypse?” Classic.

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