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March 01, 2010

Comments

in response to this supposed controversy

Supposed? The link you supplied acknowledges it, cites McKintyre, and states outright that strip-bark trees should not be used for temperature reconstruction.

Thanks for the link. I'll read it fully later tonight.

Supposed? The link you supplied acknowledges it, cites McKintyre

A scientific back and forth about appropriate statistical methods and the interpretation of particular data sources is normal and healthy. That's how science works, and doesn't qualify as a "controversy", at least not in the sense the denialist industry would like you to believe.

...and states outright that strip-bark trees should not be used for temperature reconstruction.

Which is a well known problem these days, and in any case only a small portion of the tree ring data (which in turn is only one portion of the data more generally). This is not a peg you can hang any kind of global warming "skepticism" on.

As for the tree data, the problem is that if a big chunk of your calibration period shows a big divergence from correlation with instrumental temperature, it makes it very difficult to go back before the period where you have instrumental measurements and use tree data as a proxy for temperature, especially if you haven't figured out why the divergence in the calibration period occurred. If it doesn't correlate now, how much confidence can you have that it does correlate a thousand years ago?

An analogy: let's imagine you have about 150 years of known correlations between the passage of years and number of tree rings. One ring = one year. You'd be pretty well justified in going back well before the measured period and using counts of tree rings as a proxy for the passage of years.

Now let's imagine that you find a divergence in your recent measured data. You find that since 1960, there have been some years when no tree ring appeared. You don't know why yet.

That would cast some doubt on the use of tree ring data to measure time in the past. I mean, if sometimes 10 rings = 10 years and sometimes 10 rings = 20 years, that's a problem.

And if you tried to fix this problem, still not really understanding why it happened, by applying a fudge factor to the data since 1960 - let's say, multiplying the number of rings since 1960 by 1.2 to get a good match with the actual passage of time - you wouldn't have really solved the problem when you use that data as a proxy outside the calibrated period. Who knows if in the year 1200 the conditions that caused your trees to skip rings since 1960 were also in effect? Should you apply the fudge factor there? You really have no idea.

Worse, if you publish the data with the fudge factor applied but don't really explain it, you make it look as if the certainty of using it as a proxy outside the calibration period is much higher than it actually is. You're really misleading people by omitting a big source of uncertainty.

The same applies if you publish the data but decide to just drop the divergent data since 1960 from your graphs. And again, if you chop off the later tree ring data and graft on the measured data to get a straight-line fit for that period, now you're into some very dubious territory.

Again, just one dataset, not that important in the grand scheme of things, but in its own terms, not a shining moment for science. It doesn't matter if the person pointing out those problems is an Eeevil Oil Industry Shill, the problems are still there. Science doesn't care who you work for.

Why the scare quotes, jack?

wj,

I can't say that the Dow Jones Industrials Average happens to most people every day, but I am hard-pressed to think of a news source that doesn't tell them about it every day.

As an example of a noisy signal with an underlying trend, the DJIA is hard to beat. But more importantly, it can serve as an analogy to the climate-change issues in several ways.

One obvious way: individual stocks, like the weather in individual places, can vary with or against the average. You can't tell whether the Dow went up today from just looking at one particular stock today.

Another: if you're making long-term financial plans, you need to believe something about the general trend in the Dow -- even if you can't affect it.

Furthermore, you have to at least think about what happens if you're wrong about the Dow's long-term trend. "Experts" may be telling you it will go one way, and you may think there's a 99% chance they're right. But you do have to worry about how big a hit you'll take if the 1% chance transpires.

Finally, there's an implicit connection between the trend of global temperature and the trend of the Dow. "Cap and trade will hurt the economy" implies this: the Dow will go up more, in the long run, if we do NOT restrict CO2 emmissions. That proposition may seem 99% probable, if you think global warming is only 1% likely to be real. But ONLY if you think so. For if global warming is real, it will depress the Dow in a big way, long term.

I may be overestimating the incongruity of taking financial "experts" seriously but NOT taking climate "experts" seriously. It does seem to me, however, that some people have more faith in long-term market forecasts than they grant to long-term climate forecasts.

--TP

The predictions of much larger temperature changes from the AGW theory rest on the idea that the steady push in one direction from increased CO2 is the cause of feedbacks larger than the direct effect of CO2. Melting ice decreases albedo, permafrost melts, you get fewer clouds, etc. That's the part that's much less clear.

Right. And we can model those effects, and validate the models against their predictions of things like snowfall and wind patterns, and see that the predicted domino effect of CO2 corresponds to what we see happening.

If you had your "space rays from mars" explanation you couldn't just say "CO2 is minor" and sweep all that model correspondence under the rug. You'd also have to explain in detail why the space ray was somehow causing sea ice accumulation (for example) to behave in a particular way, and why it is that the models can--by some weird coincidence--predict the same patterns using only the CO2 assumption.

Now let's imagine that you find a divergence in your recent measured data. You find that since 1960, there have been some years when no tree ring appeared. You don't know why yet.

Which is exactly the reason that there has been so much investigation into the WHY, and also the reason that tree ring data has been subjected to some extra scrutiny, and the particular data in question (a small portion of the total) is removed or qualified in more recent reconstructions.

And that's why this is a non-controversy. Just FUD to try to gin one up from nothing.

nd if you tried to fix this problem, still not really understanding why it happened, by applying a fudge factor to the data since 1960 - let's say, multiplying the number of rings since 1960 by 1.2 to get a good match with the actual passage of time

This, AFAIK, is a misrepresentation. There is no "fudge factor" involved: if you see that the rings aren't behaving as you expect (because you check against other measurement sources), you just DON'T USE the data. Nobody would just "fudge it" because it's basic dendrochronology that tree growth has a variety of inputs and complex lags, so the assumption would be that some other factor must be dominating the growth.

Now, depending on how well you understand exactly why the those trees aren't working in that period, you may or may not want to use the same trees for periods where the data does seem to be good. See below.

Who knows if in the year 1200 the conditions that caused your trees to skip rings since 1960 were also in effect? Should you apply the fudge factor there? You really have no idea.

If you decide to use it, you do so because you can (and have) validated your growth assumptions for those periods against other data like ice cores, or less problematic trees.

If you had your "space rays from mars" explanation you couldn't just say "CO2 is minor" and sweep all that model correspondence under the rug.

Sure you can. Because your model is not calibrated on a control system unaffected by outside factors - there isn't one. Your model is calibrated on the real world, and if the real world has been pushed by some factor you don't yet understand, your calibration will be to the system with that factor included, and your correlations will be spurious.

This kind of thing happens all the time in the physical sciences. You can have a pretty model and a good correlation and a good theory of why something is happening, and be completely wrong about all of it.

Let's say you're sitting in a windowless trailer with no furniture, and it's getting warmer at a steady rate. Now, you can come up with a physically plausible theory that it's getting warmer because the sun has come up, the trailer is outside in the sunshine, and it's absorbing heat, and you can produce a model of how that works, and calibrate it against measurements of temperature and time, and think you've got a pretty good understanding of what's going on.

Then you open the door and step outside and find that the trailer is actually inside a huge warehouse with one tiny window that provided 10% of the heating and all the rest came because it's sitting next to an enormous electric heater.

In that case, your model of heating by sunshine, despite its excellent correlation with measurements and despite its physical plausibility, turned out to be junk. No shame in having a good theory that didn't turn out to be true. But let's not pretend it's impossible.

This, AFAIK, is a misrepresentation. There is no "fudge factor" involved

You're not going to like this source, but from what I can tell it's accurate - look at Figure 1:

http://www.climateaudit.info/pdf/mcintyre-scitech.pdf

If there's a better term than "fudge factor" for applying a linear correction to one part of a data series to achieve better correlation with instrumental data, I don't know what it is. In point of fact, if such fudge factors are allowable, you can make virtually any data series correlate pretty well with any other data series. You can take a series that shows no trend at all or a trend inverse in sign to the one it's supposed to correlate with and make it fit.

I agree entirely that this is a minor matter, but I don't agree that there was nothing funny about what they did.

Why the scare quotes, jack?

Which ones?

The ones on "controversy" are to distinguish a sober scientific controversy (i.e., debate), from the phony denialist media-#$%storm kind. The "Oh noes, global warming is all just a math error"-type "controversy" that a "skeptic" usually refers to.

The ones on "skeptic" are because, while being skeptical of things in a knowledgeable and deferential way is a noble enlightenment tradition, there is also a modern virulent breed of anti-scientism that merely masquerades as "skepticism". A breed frequently sighted in conjuction with global warming "controversy".

there is also a modern virulent breed of anti-scientism that merely masquerades as "skepticism"

Yeah, but you know the really funny thing is how this "virulent breed of anti-scientism masquerading as skepticism" correlates so closely with "people who disagree with me".

Personally, I also find a very close correlation between "idiots who pass off their prejudice as informed political opinion" and "people who disagree with me". There's some kind of pattern here, but I just can't put my finger on it...

In that case, your model of heating by sunshine, despite its excellent correlation with measurements and despite its physical plausibility, turned out to be junk. No shame in having a good theory that didn't turn out to be true. But let's not pretend it's impossible.

Except you've obviously picked an example where you're basically substituting one form of radiant heat for an equivalent one. In fact, you'd actually have to go to a lot of trouble - place the radiator so it radiates in the same direction as the sun would, for example.

The real world is more complex than that, and offers many more opportunities for verifying things or ruling them out. For example, based on the spatial pattern and rate of heating, you might be able to conclusively rule out the possibility that the heat could be coming from a jet of live steam directed at the trailer.

In the real world, there are lots of subtle distinctions and non-linearities like that that can be exploited to distinguish one kind of cause from another.

With global warming you have, on one end, basic physical properties that are well understood, like the way CO2 absorbs and emits various em spectra, or the specific heat of water. You plug a bunch of those basic, solidly founded properties and processes into a model, they interact in complicated non-linear ways, and then out the other end comes some predictions we can validate against the real world.

The room for any unknown factors in that middle part is not nonexistent, but it is quite tightly constrained. It's a situation where you may not know everything, but you can have a lot of confidence that you at least know what you don't know. You'd have to tailor your "space rays from mars" theory very carefully indeed to fit into that existing interlocking puzzle.

Well, it was a pretty crude example. Maybe we should talk about a more physically realistic one.

By the way, I don't think the models are junk, and I'm reasonably content to think that their predictions are good. What I object to is the idea that they absolutely rule out unknown factors as the cause, because they don't.

So, let's say that aliens from Mars have been irradiating our atmosphere with Q-trons for the last 150 years to the tune of a 0.1 degree per year warming. We don't know about this, can't model it, can't account for it.

Now someone assembles an atmospheric model based on a perfect physical understanding of the world system (except for the Q-trons, which he doesn't know anything about). Now any model has a large number of parameters - numbers that have to be supplied to initialize it. Some of those parameters come from direct physical measurements, but a lot of them don't.

Now the model is likely to behave in different ways depending on those parameters. So how do you know which values to put in for them? Well, you have to calibrate the model. You have to look at the actual data you have from the real world, and see what kinds of parameters cause your model to accurately correlate with the real world. There is nothing illegitimate about this process! This is how you come to build a good model, that's all. The physical basis of the model is not undermined, it's just that you don't know exactly what value these parameters should take.

So, this calibration process involves trying out different values and looking at the model output correlation with real-world data. If your model output with some parameter set some way shows the world system dropping in temperature 5 degrees a year until everything freezes, that's a pretty good sign that's the wrong value for it.

Here's the problem: you don't have a control system to calibrate against. You only have the real world. And so you could come across the exact, perfect values for all these parameters, but then you'd find that your correlation to real data was off by 0.1 degrees a year. You don't know about the Q-trons, all you know is that your model doesn't fit the real world. So you change a parameter until it does fit - no 0.1 degree/year divergence. Great!

Now the Martians land and explain about the Q-trons. Your model is still a good model, it still has a good physical basis, but because your calibration was to a system that was subject to an unknown outside influence, your parameters are wrong. Your prediction of 0.1 degrees/year warming from the model may have had a physical basis in your model, but it wasn't the actual basis for the warming.

Of course this a pretty silly example, and I think that the current models are pretty good. All I want to say is that they don't rule out the possibility of a currently unknown influence.

Here's the problem: you don't have a control system to calibrate against. You only have the real world. And so you could come across the exact, perfect values for all these parameters, but then you'd find that your correlation to real data was off by 0.1 degrees a year. You don't know about the Q-trons, all you know is that your model doesn't fit the real world. So you change a parameter until it does fit - no 0.1 degree/year divergence. Great!

Well, I'm honestly not sure how many free dials current models have, but I'm sure it's something they try to minimize. For most of them you're going to at least have something like an appropriate range.

And the behavior of your Q-trons is going to be more complex than just uniform heating by 0.1 deg/year (or, even if that's what they do, that uniformity is highly complex itself). There's going to be all kinds of ripple affects. It's not just that you have to tune your model for 0.1 deg/year, you're going to have to tweak your dials back and forth to iron out wrinkles all over: anomalous variations between the surface and the stratosphere, or the poles and the equator, anomalous evaporation here and there, etc. We'd have to be talking a big input here, so unless all that stuff matches up in really surprisingly coincidental ways, you may well notice.

I know your Q-trons are not a serious example, and I'm not saying that something slipping by is impossible. Just that the chances of some simple explanation with a sufficiently good match to the conditions escaping notice is getting really, really implausible at this point.

Scientists, despite their insistence to the contrary, are human. Therefore they make mistakes. And, because they're operating on the frontiers of human knowledge, they make a lot of mistakes.

In less-controversial fields, this is resolved by dueling papers, heated conversations at conferences, hurt feelings, and overall scientific progress.

But in climate change, a small cadre of scientists and pseudo-scientists have decided that every small mistake serves to invalidate the entire endeavor. The controversy over the Mann paper is a perfect example. Mann tried to do something that no one had done before. He made some mistakes, but his work was a good idea and subsequent analysis has both refined and corrected what he did. Yet even someone as well-educated as Slarti seems to believe that the M&M criticism of the Mann paper has any relevance to the larger picture.

Yet, because scientists are human, the manufactured outrage and name-calling (and, quite likely, actionable libel as well) gets their back up. So they become much more resistant to cooperating with that group which has treated them badly and, instead, they close ranks. This leads to such things as the contents of the CRU e-mails.

None of this changes the underlying truth of the science, which is that we are warming our planet in a way that has never been done before. The most serious short-term consequences of this behavior are, I suspect, going to be: 1. changes in the productivity of fisheries due to ocean acidification; 2. reduction in the productivity in farmland due to changes in rainfall patterns (see, eg, California) and 3. reduction in the productivity of farmland due to drought.

but (a) I don't have kids, (b) none of this should get serious until about 2050 and (c) I'm american, so my direct family shouldn't be affected by global food shortfalls. wheee! let's party!!!

(your mileage may vary.)

Just that the chances of some simple explanation with a sufficiently good match to the conditions escaping notice is getting really, really implausible at this point.

In particular, the existence of some physical phenomenon that (a) has heretofore been unnoticed and undreamed of, (b) has sufficient amplitude to effectively nullify anthropogenic CO2 as a significant concern, AND (c) dovetails with CO2-based predictions so well that no significant anomalies have been detected seems quite remote to me. Much too remote to seriously consider.

"The fact that those sentences need to be typed in order to counter prevalent GOP arguments about climate change is, as I wrote, depressing."

The interesting aspect of all of this "science" is that global trends are being deduced(?) from 120 years worth of records which is exactly as accurate as deducing it from how cold this winter was.

Now that the Chilean earthquake has shortened our days by tilting the earth we should be fine, everything should cool off quickly.

The interesting aspect of all of this "science" is that global trends are being deduced(?) from 120 years worth of records which is exactly as accurate as deducing it from how cold this winter was.

Actually, no. Even the cited material stretches back 160 years (not 120), but there is other evidence that stretches back tens of thousands of years.

And all of that is more accurate than one winter.

Which is an opinion you're perfectly entitled to, but others can come to a different conclusion without being motivated by stupidity, overt conflicts of interest, or sheer partisan bloodymindedness.

I think the models are a good attempt, but I don't put nearly the stock in them that you do. When you have a system with a lot of random fluctuation and a broad trend, and you declare that all the short-term random fluctuation is irrelevant, it's pretty easy to come up with a model that matches the broad trend and has a lot of plausible-looking noise in the short-term. For instance, low-amplitude white noise with a linear biasing trend added in by hand is a model that "fits" any noisy data with a linear trend, so you have to make sure your model isn't actually just generating white noise with a linear trend.

To be fair to them, the current climate models do a bit better than that, but they're a long way from perfect correlation.

(Oops, replying to Jack re: his confidence in climate models, not Eric or Marty.)

You're not going to like this source, but from what I can tell it's accurate - look at Figure 1:

http://www.climateaudit.info/pdf/mcintyre-scitech.pdf

If there's a better term than "fudge factor" for applying a linear correction to one part of a data series to achieve better correlation with instrumental data, I don't know what it is. In point of fact, if such fudge factors are allowable, you can make virtually any data series correlate pretty well with any other data series. You can take a series that shows no trend at all or a trend inverse in sign to the one it's supposed to correlate with and make it fit.

The code McIntyre is all excercised about does not appear to have ever been used to adjust data or in any published graphs. See here.

It looks to me like a snippet of code that was probably used while futzing around with things pre-publication, maybe just to visualize how the actual data diverged from ideal, or to simulate an alternate data set or something.

Jacob and Jack,

You guys sound way better-informed than I am, so perhaps one of you can answer a simple question.

Suppose I have a big ball floating all alone in empty space. Its surface is at a certain average temperature. Its only mechanism for getting rid of heat is radiation. Does the rate at which it sheds heat depend on any property of the surface other than its temperature?

--TP

For instance, low-amplitude white noise with a linear biasing trend added in by hand is a model that "fits" any noisy data with a linear trend, so you have to make sure your model isn't actually just generating white noise with a linear trend.

That's not really a "model" at all in the sense we're talking about. Getting a good fit is not so trivial with a physical, first-principles type model.

Even taking the temperature trend alone, it is not simply linear. And that trend is not the only thing being modeled. Reasonably accurate predictions are made in literally hundreds of dimensions, along a span of decades.

Suppose I have a big ball floating all alone in empty space. Its surface is at a certain average temperature. Its only mechanism for getting rid of heat is radiation. Does the rate at which it sheds heat depend on any property of the surface other than its temperature?

Hmm. It depends on what you mean by "average", because the rate is going to depend on the distribution of the temperature over the surface. That's because the relationship between temperature and rate of radiative heat loss isn't linear (I think it goes up with the fourth power of absolute temp).

For example, a ball with a uniformly hot hemisphere and a uniformly cold hemisphere wouldn't radiate at the same rate as a ball with an overall uniform temperature that was the average of the two: If the nonuniform ball has side A @ 500K, and side B @ 1000K, and the uniform ball is @ 750K, then I think the nonuniform ball radiates ((500^4+1000^4)/2)/750^4 ~= 1.68 times faster.

Jack,

You're at least one step ahead of me. The thrust of my question has to do with how radiated heat depends on things like the color, or the chemical composition, or some other physical property of the surface.

We can get around to illuminating the ball on one side, or having an internal source of heat, next round.

For now, say the ball is at uniform temperature. Does it matter whether its surface is white or black? Aluminum or carbon?

--TP

For now, say the ball is at uniform temperature. Does it matter whether its surface is white or black? Aluminum or carbon?

Assuming we're still talking about just radiation from a fixed temperature body here, not absorption or reflection. And assuming that whatever the color or material, the surface is essentially smooth, then no. I don't think it matters.

But I'm not really interested in playing "physics 101 quiz" all day, where are you going with this?

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that's quite an overstatement. The thesis is merely that growth conditions for certain bristlecones appear to have changed recently, and so there may be certain periods where they are not useful.

Jacob get it almost precisely right in his 4:14 and 4:42. If the last 50 years of tree data (under your normal analysis of tree data) would show a cooling trend while the last 50 years of thermometer data show a warming trend, it is difficult to trust the previous hundreds of years of data that you are getting largely from the tree data if you don't know why the thermometer data and the tree data aren't in harmony now.

Since we have no idea why they diverged in the last 50 year (which is to say we don't know why as our thermometer readings got more accurate, the tree readings seem to hav gotte less accurate) we have *no way of knowing whether or not there might be other periods where they diverge, or frankly if the correlation was just spurious all along.

Also, since this was in fact discovered by way of routine critical examination of the proxy record and comparison with other data sources, and historical bristlecone data is now treated with extra scrutiny (which it has survived), Sebastian's insinuations about scientists not wanting to question data falls very flat.

On the contrary. It was discovered, and the response has been essentially: A) well the old data must be ok, and B) we will apply a large and increasing linea fudge factor to the data for the last 50 years. And that is a methodological practice that deserves a bit of insinuation.

Perhaps the reason the old data is 'ok' is because we have less to check it against. And definitely adding a fudge factor to the more checkable modern data is a sketchy statistical practice.

Now. I'm not enough of a climate scientist to know how important this dataset is in the scheme of things. But I do know that this dataset has junk statistics.

Tony P: A body in the vacuum of space will radiate energy at precisely the rate it receives it, unless there is something about the body which causes a lag in the time needed to come into energy balance (oceans, an atmosphere, etc.).

On the contrary. It was discovered, and the response has been essentially: A) well the old data must be ok, and B) we will apply a large and increasing linea fudge factor to the data for the last 50 years. And that is a methodological practice that deserves a bit of insinuation.

This is simply false.

There is (A) no assumption that the old data "must just be ok" (as was explained above - older, apparently well-behaving data from the--small subset--of potential questionable trees is either not used, or carefully checked and, and it's use noted and qualified).

And (B) no "fudge factor". The latter is simply a myth (or a lie), apparently based on a poor reading of some old computer code. (Again, see above.)

Now. I'm not enough of a climate scientist to know how important this dataset is in the scheme of things.

I am fairly certain that you're not any kind of climate scientist at all and are, in fact, a paralegal or somesuch, is that correct?

Since we have no idea why they diverged in the last 50 year (which is to say we don't know why as our thermometer readings got more accurate, the tree readings seem to hav gotte less accurate) we have *no way of knowing whether or not there might be other periods where they diverge, or frankly if the correlation was just spurious all along.

It's also not correct to say that we have no idea. I believe there are a number of possible explanations, although I don't know that any of them have risen to the top yet.

Now. I'm not enough of a climate scientist to know how important this dataset is in the scheme of things. But I do know that this dataset has junk statistics.

I'm not sure what dataset you're referring to (ALL proxy data? ALL tree ring data? The small subset representing the questionable bristlecones?), but I'll reiterate yet again that (A) Mann's original methodology been subject to an extraordinary level of scrutiny, and essentially come through intact. I believe he's taken a few pokes for some of his statistics, but mostly because the methods have advanced since then, not because he did anything that could even be called "incorrect" exactly, let alone "junk". (B) The potentially problematic data is a tiny subset, and (C) every reconstruction that I'm aware of, including new ones by Mann and others, with entirely new data sets, bear out the essential character of the original "hockey stick".

Bottom line is that the "divergence problem" is simply not even a blip for global warming as a whole. Bringing the former up to call the latter into question is like trying to cast doubt on someone's integrity or intelligence by pointing out that they once might (in some grammarians' opinions) have slightly misplaced a comma in a sentence they wrote once somewhere. It's noise at best, and ignorant or dishonest at worst.

I will happily admit that the science involved in the climate change stuff is many miles over my head. I try to keep up, but I get left behind pretty quickly.

What is kinda clear to me is that, if there's anything to the proposition that human activity is causing, or even significantly contributing to, climate change, then we are well and truly f**ked.

Because it's been close to a generation since this stuff started to come up in public discussion -- 22 years since Hansen's testimony to Congress -- and bugger all has been done about it.

We don't even pick the low-hanging fruit.

Most of us reading this will be dead before things get really ugly, but it seems to me that we owe the folks who are coming after us to at least take the *possibility* that we could be part of the cause seriously.

It will harm our economy? We'll get over it.

Americans have this weird blind spot. We think we're not just special, but unbelievably special. So special that we can do whatever the hell we want.

We're not that kind of special.

I'm sort of hoping the global warming guys are mistaken, because otherwise the sh*t is well and truly going to hit the fan.

Yeah, but you know the really funny thing is how this "virulent breed of anti-scientism masquerading as skepticism" correlates so closely with "people who disagree with me".

I think we can be more specific in our definitions than that.

For one thing, true skepticism is NOT the same thing as simply "remaining agnostic", which appears to be the way it is used by a few here on this thread.

It's true nobody is an expert in everything, but that's why a vital part of skepticism has to be recognizing your own limits, and appropriately gauging when to apply it. That means that in many circumstances you ought to be essentially delegating some of your opinions to the relevant experts. Simply saying "I don't know who to believe/I don't believe anybody/I'm skeptical, period" is NOT skepticism or critical thinking. Just laziness.

The other side of that is that it smells rather funny when one's "skepticism" appears to be rather selective. People claim to be "skeptics", but then proceed to parrot the same old, rotten, widely debunked factoids about, say, "problems with tree rings", without apparent irony. Factoids they appear to have gotten from the same usual--rather suspect--suspects.

So, a real skeptic is (A) not going to be so full of hubris as to assume that what they think they learned in an afternoon on "ClimateAudit" is sufficient to call into doubt the findings of an entire branch of science with thousands of vastly more knowledgeable practitioners, and (B) ought to learn quickly to be increasingly skeptical of guys like McIntyre, whose claims have been conclusively debunked more often than restless sleeper at scoutcamp (eh? eh? Thank you, I'll be here all week).

And, reading that over, I should probably clarify that not every "false skeptic" is necessarily a virulent anti-scientite.

I think it's obvious that a lot of people are sincere, but just doing it wrong. Or maybe sincere, but unconsciously letting other biases (e.g., political ones) influence who they're more inclined to credit (which, after all, we ALL do).

"It's also not correct to say that we have no idea. I believe there are a number of possible explanations, although I don't know that any of them have risen to the top yet."

That isn't what they said during the British inquiry. They said they have pretty much no idea why they have diverged.

And I don't see how you can dismiss the 'correction' so easily. They just fit it to the thermometer data.

"The potentially problematic data is a tiny subset"

That isn't really true. The reason it is problematic is because it isn't behaving the way the theory clearly states that it should, and we have no good explanation (even after tenty years of looking for one) for why.

It isn't good scientific technique to just say "oh well" and then just alter the numbers with a fit to thermometer adjustment that varies from year to year based on what you need to match the expected results. (See epicycles)

I'm not saying that all of global warming is in trouble or anything. But I would certainly take a triple look at anything from this particular scientist in the future.

That isn't what they said during the British inquiry. They said they have pretty much no idea why they have diverged.

Were those dendrochronologists saying that? Or climatologists. The suggestions I've seen include changes in moisture, CO2 itself, or light availability. Those are the ones I recall at the moment. There might be others.

And I don't see how you can dismiss the 'correction' so easily. They just fit it to the thermometer data.

What correction are you talking about? The "fudge factor" Jacob linked to above is debunked garbage. Is there some other one you're talking about?

That isn't really true. The reason it is problematic is because it isn't behaving the way the theory clearly states that it should, and we have no good explanation (even after tenty years of looking for one) for why.

The "theory" only says that tree growth is determined by a whole complex of region and species specific conditions. IF trees in a particular area are temperature limited, they might make good temperature proxy candidates. The "theory" does not claim that that condition can never change, so I really have no idea what you're talking about.

I note that the paper Jacob (I think it was) linked to puts a couple of theories forth itself, including the possibility that the "divergence" does not indicate a problem with the trees response at all, but instead just an acceleration of the difference between high and low altitude in the area as temperature has risen. I'm not following all of it, but I think there's also some discussion of other micro-climate effects of altitude. They don't seem especially pessimistic about using these trees for temperature proxies.

"I think it's obvious that a lot of people are sincere, but just doing it wrong. Or maybe sincere, but unconsciously letting other biases (e.g., political ones) influence who they're more inclined to credit (which, after all, we ALL do)."

Or perhaps some of us understand the likelihood of any of this being statistically accurate within any reasonable bounds. I rather think a huge number of scientists believed the world was flat and the center of the universe at least tens of thousands of years more recently than the last major climatological event.

Their statistical models are questionable without any data to actually correlate to, because we just haven't been collecting it long enough to matter.

The best thing they do is make the model match the "common sense" answer that we must be doing some damage.

There are limits to accurately projecting specific results from incomplete data. All of their science falls into this category

Then they start doing the one thing scientists should not do, saying things that can't be proven to create impetus for actions they think should be done.

Then defending it against all skepticism by declaring every criticism politically motivated or anti-scientism.

"The "fudge factor" Jacob linked to above is debunked garbage. Is there some other one you're talking about?"

Where is it 'debunked'? The previou links on this thread don't show any debunking. They show that the adjustment was made, and that it was made to fit the temperature readings from thermometers without any other explanatory fit offered (much less validated).

"IF trees in a particular area are temperature limited, they might make good temperature proxy candidates. The "theory" does not claim that that condition can never change, so I really have no idea what you're talking about."

Well we can't very well demonstrate how they were functioning 500 years ago. So why are you so certain that we have a clear understanding of the unobservable phenomenon when we can't even explain the observable one with the current theories?

Where is it 'debunked'? The previou links on this thread don't show any debunking. They show that the adjustment was made, and that it was made to fit the temperature readings from thermometers without any other explanatory fit offered (much less validated).

No adjustment was ever made. It's just McIntyre and others misreading some commented out graphing code. See my comment at 6:20.

Well we can't very well demonstrate how they were functioning 500 years ago.

Why not?

This is basically a microcosm of the same things I was talking about with Jacob. Here you have a model of tree growth, and correlations between ring properties and conditions like moisture or temperature. Then sometimes you have constrained conditions where you can measure ring thickness, or thinness, or density and then use your model to pull out some data about moisture or temperature or something. (RE: thinness, thickness, density, etc.- AFAICT, sometimes you use one, sometimes you use others, sometimes you use the same one, but the meaning of thin and thick are reversed. It's complicated.)

You also have lots of interlocking data. Not just completely different data like ice cores (which is limited, because it's probably on the other side of the world), but also other trees in the same area, at slightly different altitudes or locations, or a slightly different species, etc. If you're lucky, I think you certainly may be able to use that interlocking data to get an idea of what conditions were like nearby and where your proxying is likely to be accurate.

For example, if I'm understanding this correctly, the "divergence problem" is itself not so much a divergence between the trees and the instrumental record, but between some trees and some other trees in the same area, but at a slightly different altitude.

It's therefore actually very easy to verify that such a divergence problem has never happened before, at least in the last 3500 years. It hasn't.

"The best thing they do is make the model match the "common sense" answer that we must be doing some damage."

That's just false. There exists ~150 years of instrument data on temperature and there are many different types of proxy data (here's a brief overview) and multiple streams of each.

Furthermore, very-long term variation (due to Milankovitch cycles have been predicted theoretically and are supported by observational evidence.

Your argument applies as easily to the theories of gravity, evolution, plate tectonics, or germ theory, as it does to paleoclimatology. As a matter of fact, the late 19th-century critisisms of aseptic technique were founded on just such out-of-hand dismissal (What's a germ? I've never seen one. Lister just wants surgeons to wash their hands to satisfy his own ego.)

Hi, delurking (and typing with my thumbs) to make a small point. TP, jack is holding his own okay here, but answered wrong about radiative properties. An object's spectral emissivity can deviate from a blackbody thanks to "color" or other surface properties. Aluminum, say, will be non-emissive at the wavelengths where it's reflective, which could change its equilibrium temperature in the case where it's hot, uniform and floating in space.
That's not how co2 works in the atmosphere though (co2 is actually more emissive than air). Rather the co2 acts like a radiation shield cutting down earths *net* blackbody radiation from the earth's surface in those slices of the spectrum. The planet absorbs energy in one band (visible mostly) and emits lower energy radiation.

Can't link just now, but you can find a pretty good refutation of mcintyre et al at realclimate.org. They claim that mci used fewer components in their reconstruction. They're a bit friendlier, which may only be because I agree with them, but do courteously have things like faqs.

I get really frustrated with all the "but didja think of" arguments. A proper analysis of all those factors is exactly what a dynamic climate model is.

russell:
"Most of us reading this will be dead before things get really ugly, but it seems to me that we owe the folks who are coming after us to at least take the *possibility* that we could be part of the cause seriously."


Based on the case studies highlighted by Jared Diamond in Collapse, I'm very pessimistic on this score. It seems that humans are just not wired up very well to deal with slowly developing problems with very long stimulus-response lag times.


I'm wondering if some of the AGW mitigation efforts should be focused in areas with shorter lag times such that we can deploy solutions quickly if the worst should come about, e.g. like figuring out what we can do to re-engineer the global economics and logistics of food production and distribution on short notice if we have to deal with an abrupt crisis in agriculture. Perhaps it would be better to start talking about this now and planning how to deal with it rather than waiting until a threshold event happens such that much of the world is suddenly and potentially without much warning thrown into an existential state of panic. Especially if efforts to prevent us from ever reaching that stage are likely to fail, at least in the sense of delaying climate change mitigation efforts until it is too late to have much of a short-term impact.

Good to see you again, TLT.

I'd say you're right to be pessimistic about us doing anything serious to mitigate climate change -- or even prepare for the possibility of it.

But what can you expect when intelligent people are willing to believe that climate scientists must have ulterior motives for wanting restraint of CO2 emmissions? Those scientists fudge some of their own data to convince us that we need cap and trade, goes the story, because cap and trade is just something they like. Why they should like it is left unexplained. It can't possibly be that they actually believe CO2 emmissions are warming the planet they themselves live on. Why should they believe it? They know their data doesn't actually show it! So they want cap and trade merely to annoy conservatives. Or something.

--TP

Tony P.: "Suppose I have a big ball floating all alone in empty space. Its surface is at a certain average temperature. Its only mechanism for getting rid of heat is radiation. Does the rate at which it sheds heat depend on any property of the surface other than its temperature?"

I'm going to idealize heavily here and assume that unspecified factors are uniform. The answer to your question is yes. A dimensionless quantity called emmisivity (which can have values from 0 to 1, excluding endpoints in the real world) characterizes how quickly/slowly such an object would rid itself of heat. The final formula in this section characterizes its influence.


An interesting but related question is this: would a surface characteristic affect the final temperature of a big ball in space if that ball was subject to a constant input of black-body radiation (like that of a sun).

The answer to this question is also yes and it's very closely related to the first question/answer pair. This analysis assumes uniformity and high-enough thermal conductivity.

1. Ceteris paribus, emission corresponds positively with temperature (higher temperature implies a higher rate of emission). From this, we can conclude that equilibrium temperatures exist.
2. At equilibrium temperature, total_power_in == total_power_out. Taking item 1 into consideration, if the temperature was below equilibrium, total_power_out < total_power_in and temperature would thus rise. The opposite applies if temperature is above equilibrium.
3. total_power_in == power_reflected + power_absorbed.
4. total_power_out == power_reflected + power_emitted.
5. power_absorbed == power_emitted
6. power_emitted = emissivity * sigma * area * temperature ** 4. sigma being the Stefan–Boltzmann constant of 5.670400e-8 Wm-2 K-4 (apologies for nomenclature).
7. Rearrange terms as temperature = 4throot( power_emitted / (emissivity * sigma * area)).

Plug in some numbers. For both examples, total_power_in = 1000W and area is = 1 square meter.
For a black (emissivity = 1) sphere plug numbers into 7 to get: 364K.
For a shiny (emissivity = 0.1) sphere plug numbers into 7 to get: 204.93K.

So a lower aggregate reflectivity (== higher absorbtion == higher emission) leads to a higher equilibrium temperature.

As keifus notes, an analysis like mine (above) doesn't capture the greenhouse effect. A useful analysis of that must be more complex, accounts for spectrum dependence, and the interaction between planet and atmosphere.

The wikipedia description covers the basics and mentions some of the complexities.

elm,

Thanks! (For both comments.) I vaguely remember this stuff, having "learned" it but not had to use it over the years.

I assume you chose 1000 W/m^2 to correspond roughly to solar flux at the Earth. It's interesting that a black Earth comes out at around 90C and a shiny Earth at around -70C. Of course, that's for an Earth that's sunlit all over. A spinning Earth, sunlit on just one side, is more complicated but probably comes out at a realistic temperature too.

If I remember right, the Earth itself generates heat in (or liberates heat from) its own interior. I don't know how much that is, compared to the incoming solar flux, but that enters into the energy balance as well. I assume that generated (or liberated) heat is not believed by anybody to change on a less-than-geologic time scale. But variations in that could certainly take the place of Martian Q-trons as a confounding factor in surface temperature modelling.

In any case, I'm off to look at the link in your 2nd comment.

--TP

Tony: You're correct, I picked 1000W/m^2 because it's of the right order of magnitude for solar power input on earth and I wanted a couple of properties for my example: I wanted both temperatures to be something a person could relate to, I wanted the difference to be appreciable, and I wanted any units error to be obviously apparent. If the temperatures had come out at 0.01K and 0.1K, that wouldn't have been interesting.

Internal heat generation would knock those equations out of balance a little. It would add extra power to the sphere, which would (to maintain equilibrium) require extra power outflux. A higher temperature would be necessary to radiate away that extra heat, but the temperature calculation is unchanged.

A point about modelling most people rarely are aware of (if not professionally dealing with it) is that even perfect models can on occasion be pretty useless for practical purposes because of parametric error ranges.
In my own diploma thesis I had an example where the exact mathematical solution had the difference between two variables in the denominator. In reality those two variables had very similar values with the error margins being in the range of the difference. Nature (as far as we know) is not hampered by error margins or mathematically unsolvable problems*, so it did not matter for 'her'. But I had to use a 'wrong' equation that lacked that potential division by zero in that critical area. So a 'denier' could cherrypick my thesis and complain about that fitting function (while ignoring that the explanation for its use was on the next page).

*According to some very reliable source (that wants to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal) there are only two material bodies in the universe because the three-body problem cannot be solved and God does not play dice but uses pencil and paper and algebra**. Every other body must therefore be an illusion (likely a conspiracy involving the devil).

**

A well-known joke about Pauli in the physics community goes as follows: After his death, Pauli was granted an audience with God. Pauli asked God why the fine structure constant has the value 1/(137.036...). God nodded, went to a blackboard, and began scribbling equations at a furious pace. Pauli watched Him at first with great satisfaction, but soon began shaking his head violently: "Das ist ganz falsch!"
.

"Your argument applies as easily to the theories of gravity, evolution, plate tectonics, or germ theory, as it does to paleoclimatology"

This is true, based on what you assume the argument is. My argument is that you certainly can make projections from observable data to some degree of confidence. Gravity is pretty observable, measurable and I haven't heard lately of anyone telling us exactly when it will be going away based on these observations.

No one pretends to be able to predict earthquakes (accurately yet) based on plate tectonics, although the amount of data is increasing all the time.

Evolution occurs, again no one is predicting the end of the world based on this.

The challenge with climatologists is they are extending the predictions of the effects beyond the accuracy of their supportable models. The science is fascinating but the projections of the effects are simply not supportable.

And your germ example supports my point, as the majority of scientists were not convinced at the time.

Originally an Onion idea, some cre(a)ti(o)n(ist)s have seemingly taken up the idea of a theory of intelligent falling replacing the godless Newtonian gravity.
Btw, there are still some people that consider the germ theory a hoax. Among them the heads of some African states.
Whether organized flat earthers still exist is an open question since it is impossible to discern between real ones and hoaxsters on the net on that topic.
None of the above is a joke btw.

I'm wondering if some of the AGW mitigation efforts should be focused in areas with shorter lag times such that we can deploy solutions quickly if the worst should come about, e.g. like figuring out what we can do to re-engineer the global economics and logistics of food production and distribution on short notice if we have to deal with an abrupt crisis in agriculture.

I agree, not least because if the climate is warming we're going to have to deal with the effects regardless of what the cause is.

We may end up heartily wishing we *could* influence climactic warming by doing something as simple as emitting fewer greenhouse gases.

I'm extremely -- extremely -- pessimistic that we will do anything about any of this here in the US under any circumstances short of imminent calamity. Anything requiring concerted public effort is going to get bogged down in an endless argument about whether the government is overreaching its proper scope. If you extend that to an international effort, even more so.

Either we'll be really lucky and discover that all of the members of scientific community who are concerned about the effects of warming (regardless of cause) are wrong, or we're in for a parade of train wrecks.

My money is on train wrecks.

Here's the link from realclimate.org discussing the argument of McKitrick and McIntyre. I'm sure the latter have a response buried somewhere in there too, among the pile of previously-shouldered chips, which perhaps some reader can recommend. RC seems to be making an argument in good faith, and to be correct, but I can't get too angry at anyone for scrutinizing the underlying data.

Principle component analysis seems interesting as a generic data processing tool. Kind of like Fourier transforms, but without all that pesky theoretical implication going in.

Did I just lose a long comment? How annoying.

Anyway, I followed on to worry that carbon resource limitations are the more obvious, and may well be the more imminent trainwreck, which happens to require the same response as AGW. Alternatives (solar in all its forms, nuclear, and geothermal) make sense in this regard, as does aligning consumption with what those alternatives can actually provide.

And I'm praying for tokamaks.

According to a leading scientist on fusion research in Germany (I attended a lecture recently) he does not expect fusion power to really enter the market before 2050, i.e. until then it will still be mainly research and pilot plants. And this under the assumption that there is actual effort to push it. We will need lifeboats before that ship arrives.

Well, prayer seemed like the appropriate appeal for a miracle. I'm not actually optimistic.

K (I'm also praying for zero point energy.)

I don't like relying on silver bullets. And cheap new nuclear plants come into the same category as fusion - "Great if it works."

I have my questions about how much stock to put in predictions of calamity, but I'm a believer in reasonable precautionary measures, and there are independently excellent reasons to invest in wind, solar, and natural gas.

To a first approximation addressing CO2 emissions means ending the use of coal and radically cutting back on the use of oil. Everything else is window-dressing. Those are things that can and should be done anyway - coal is a horrible pollutant, oil is a source of uncontrollable economic instability and gets us into lots of stupid stuff in foreign countries. The costs of renewable replacements will fall with further mass production, and isn't very high anyway; some subsidies (or more taxes on coal/oil) are a small price to pay for the reduction in direct (non-global-warming) harm from coal & oil.

I don't share the pessimism about the US lagging the rest of the world on renewables - the US has far more potential for renewables than most of the rest of the developed world, and even though it has issues with grid infrastructure, it doesn't have to cross national borders to get wind and solar energy from the places that produce it to the places that need it.

The real question is what China (and to a lesser extent, India) are going to do. If the worst predictions of global warming turn out to be true, China is the country with the most to lose. It has 20% of the world's population living on less than 10% of the world's arable land, and horrible pollution problems from coal already. I don't know that a treaty is going to be necessary to get them to cut back, it's more like a simple question of survival. There's only so far that the reductions of other countries can take you when you have that many people wanting air-conditioning and refrigerators (which are entirely reasonable things to want, and things I hope everyone in China gets to have in the next few decades... but I'd like them to have breathable air, too.)

(And no, I don't accept for a second that "But China is doing it!" as an excuse for inaction in the US. If nothing else, the pollution and geopolitical consequences of coal and oil use should motivate us to move away from them.

I also don't accept the "Fossil fuels bad!" line, though. Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it's much less polluting than coal or oil, it's much less carbon-intensive for the same amount of energy, and there's a lot of it in the US. It's not going to last forever but it's a good transition fuel, and those environmentalists who reject it are (in my opinion) making the perfect the enemy of the good. Natural gas ought to be a big help in getting rid of coal & oil - you can build conventional power plants that use it, you can use it as a transport fuel in conventional gasoline engines with minimal technical changes, and you can transport and distribute it with well-proven pipeline technology - unlike the pie-in-the-sky idea of hydrogen.)

jack ... answered wrong about radiative properties. An object's spectral emissivity can deviate from a blackbody thanks to "color" or other surface properties.

Heh. What can I say. Wikipedia failed me. Or I failed Wikipedia. It's been a long time since physics 101...

This is basically a microcosm of the same things I was talking about with Jacob. Here you have a model of tree growth, and correlations between ring properties and conditions like moisture or temperature. Then sometimes you have constrained conditions where you can measure ring thickness, or thinness, or density and then use your model to pull out some data about moisture or temperature or something. (RE: thinness, thickness, density, etc.- AFAICT, sometimes you use one, sometimes you use others, sometimes you use the same one, but the meaning of thin and thick are reversed. It's complicated.)

You also have lots of interlocking data. Not just completely different data like ice cores (which is limited, because it's probably on the other side of the world), but also other trees in the same area, at slightly different altitudes or locations, or a slightly different species, etc. If you're lucky, I think you certainly may be able to use that interlocking data to get an idea of what conditions were like nearby and where your proxying is likely to be accurate.

That's a lot of qualifiers at the end. And it turns out you're wrong. They haven't been lucky, they spent about thirty years trying to come with a reliable reason or set of reasons to explain the divergence, and they haven't been able to.

There is a reason why these trees were chosen in the first place, they are one of the few very stable, very long lived species that is still around in large groups(ie not used up in the European shipbuilding days).


Further, it is the problematic series which was used to bash people who had questions about the medieval warming period in the late 90s and early 2000s. And Mann was doing it, in he mid ninties. And his emails show that he knew of the problems in the series at that very time.

(The Medieval Warming period is apparently back to being accepted after a one decade hiatus).

Gravity is pretty observable, measurable and I haven't heard lately of anyone telling us exactly when it will be going away based on these observations.

That's because nobody thinks it is going away (aside from the obvious cases, like freefall). If the behavior of gravity, or modeling of galactic evolution DID suggest that gravity would be going away someday, I'm sure you'd hear about it.

Speaking of which, climate models are almost exactly in the same vein as, say, a simulation of a galaxy's evolution (albeit with a few more physical relationships than gravity).

No one pretends to be able to predict earthquakes (accurately yet) based on plate tectonics, although the amount of data is increasing all the time.

That's a bad analogy. Nobody can (yet) predict a specific earthquake, but we can very definitely and accurately predict that, for example, further earthquakes will occur in Chile and Peru, where a couple of plates are colliding.

Likewise, climate scientists don't claim to be able to predict the specific temperature on July 15th, 2062, or whether it will rain that day. But it is much easier to say quite confidently that temperatures that year, or at least that decade, will be higher than they are now.

The challenge with climatologists is they are extending the predictions of the effects beyond the accuracy of their supportable models. The science is fascinating but the projections of the effects are simply not supportable.

Comments like this lead me to believe you don't understand what a climate model actually is. See above.

The concept of greybody radiation, emissivity, etc. probably would not have been covered in Physics 101, jack.

But I'm aware of it, and have even used it, so calibrate accordingly.

That's a lot of qualifiers at the end. And it turns out you're wrong. They haven't been lucky, they spent about thirty years trying to come with a reliable reason or set of reasons to explain the divergence, and they haven't been able to.

The qualifiers were for the GENERAL case. I.e., you can't just use any old tree anywhere, but in some circumstances you have enough dimensions constrained that you can make inferences. So these specific trees ARE lucky, because of the way the growing conditions are constrained.

Your specific question was about how we can know that a 'divergence' hasn't occurred before, and the answer is that it hasn't - you can see that by comparing trees to other trees, which is the same way we see the modern divergence.

And I don't claim to be an expert on this, but it does look like some of the recent research hasn't just "solved" the divergence problem, it's largely gone away with larger, more carefully collected data sets and better analysis. There may be nothing to explain.

There is a reason why these trees were chosen in the first place, they are one of the few very stable, very long lived species that is still around in large groups(ie not used up in the European shipbuilding days).

It's not clear which trees you're talking about. Mann and others have used a lot of trees, from different regions of the world. And even where and if there are 'problem' trees, those are typically not ALL the trees there, but only specific types at specific altitudes.

Further, it is the problematic series which was used to bash people who had questions about the medieval warming period in the late 90s and early 2000s. And Mann was doing it, in he mid ninties. And his emails show that he knew of the problems in the series at that very time.

Whose emails? Mann? Briffa? Which series?

(The Medieval Warming period is apparently back to being accepted after a one decade hiatus).

The medieval warming period has, AFAIK, always been widely accepted. Perhaps you're confusing that with the question of whether it was a global phenomenon, or something largely confined to western and central Europe.

But I'm aware of it, and have even used it, so calibrate accordingly.

Calibrate?

(FWIW, I had thought that emissivity depended on color, but then was misled by Wikipedia's lack of an article on anything but blackbody radiation, so figured I was wrong - or that maybe it affected wavelength, but not total energy. This is the problem with studying math, not physics.)

"Comments like this lead me to believe you don't understand what a climate model actually is. See above"

Or I understand them better than most.

Marty -- "Or I understand them better than most."

...especially those climate science poseurs, for they are Elves and hopelessly effete. We Dwarves, however...

Or I understand them better than most.

Including the modelers themselves, apparently. Truly, I am convinced.

Re AGW: The real problem here is Al Gore and the natural pessimism on the right, only reinforced with his recent book cover.

Re Tree Rings: Sebastian said it well. IMHO, Anyone following Climategate with any objectivity should know about the tree ring issue.

I'd oh so humbly suggest that amateur skepticism based on a layman's reading . . .

Yes, a problem. I’ve looked at both climateaudit and realclimate and it just makes my head hurt. But when people smarter than me see it as a problem, I question it. Also, I remember one of the CRU emails being from a leading tree ring scientist calling into question the use of the tree ring data in general. Can't find the link right off hand.

No reputable scientist disagrees . . .

Lots of qualifiers here. Are you saying that no reputable scientist questions AGW? That’s certainly not true.

How about Dr. Akasofu? He’s the director of http://www.iarc.uaf.edu/about/history.php> IARC, formed to study climate change in the Arctic before it was as big a deal as it is now. Even Al Gore was behind it. http://people.iarc.uaf.edu/~sakasofu/pdf/two_natural_components_recent_climate_change.pdf> Here is a recent paper from Dr. Akasofu.

Is he anti-AGW? No. Skeptical? I’d say yes.

Do you mistrust the climate records cited by the WMO? If accurate and measurements have been taken since 1850 . . . (

See Akasofu, above.

I'm not sure that's an especially tenable position. There is little doubt that CO2 plays a major role in climate regulation. There can be little doubt that human beings are responsible for a historically significant accumulation of CO2. There can be little doubt that there is indeed warming. And the only credible explanation anyone's put forward for the warming is the anthropogenic CO2.

See Akasofu, above.

A scientific back and forth about appropriate statistical methods and the interpretation of particular data sources is normal and healthy.

Then you agree that Climategate is a real controversy, right? I’m referencing the emails that show the effort to stop publication of papers contrary to the CRU position.

BTW, Akasofu's office is only about three miles from Ice Alaska (Ice carving championship) which served up this lovely Frozen Gore. I grew up in Fairbanks and worked with the founders of IARC and also rode Ski-doo. Hence my familiarity with both.

Weird. Had to refresh to post and it messed up the links.

IARC here .

Akasofu's paper here

bc, I wrote: "No reputable scientist disagrees that the world is getting hotter, and that this is causing climate change"

You claimed that Lots of qualifiers here. Are you saying that no reputable scientist questions AGW?

No, I'm saying what I said, above.

That’s certainly not true. How about Dr. Akasofu? He’s the director of IARC, formed to study climate change in the Arctic before it was as big a deal as it is now. Even Al Gore was behind it. Here is a recent paper from Dr. Akasofu.

Sadly, the very paper you cited by your claimed reputable scientist opposing the concept of global warming and climate change, is about global warming and climate change.

Bzzzt! Try again. To quote just one line from the paper you cited without reading "Based on Figures 3a-3e, there is little doubt that the temperature has been increasing almost linearly from 1800 (or a little earlier) to the present."

So; global warming is real. No reputable scientist disagrees. Climate change caused by global warming is real. No reputable scientist disagrees.

Reputable scientists may and do disagree over what causes the present trend of global warming.

But anyone with any interest whatsoever in their children living to grow up should hope that the present trend of global warming is caused by the heightened CO2 emissions caused by our oil-dependent civilisation, because if that is true, then we can do something about it.

If it's not true, there's nothing that can be done and we're all doomed. Is that what you want, bc? Doom?

And as the clear and obvious thing to do is to wean our civilisation off oil-dependence, and as we have to do this anyway if civilisation is not to collapse in a megacatastrophe that will wipe out more humans than any other catastrophe known to us, it makes sense to do it.

Of course (as I noted already) it does not make sense for corporations whose quarterly profits are completely dependent on oil, and as right-wingers take their politics from corporations, it makes sense for right-wingers to agitate for the mass deaths of their grandchildren.

I guess.

anyone with any interest whatsoever in their children living to grow up should hope that the present trend of global warming is caused by the heightened CO2 emissions

The line about your children "living to grow up" was rather commonly used during the Malthusian/resource-limits scares of decades and centuries past. You're descended from the children who previous generations thought weren't going to have a world to grow up in. You seem pretty alive to me.

But that's peripheral. I don't understand what point you're trying to make with saying we "should hope" that reality is one way or another. The reality is that it either is or isn't caused by CO2 and what we hope for is perfectly irrelevant. And if we get very attached to the hope that it's caused by CO2 because at least we know how to deal with that, we've effectively adopted a strategy of searching for your keys under the streetlamp because that's where you can see.

As a matter of my opinion, for whatever it's worth since I'm no expert, I think it's very likely that the increased levels of CO2 from industrialization are the main cause for whatever warming has been measured, although I'm not going to rule out that other unknown or overlooked mechanisms are responsible for some or all of it. What I am not so convinced of is that, 1) the amplifying feedbacks that are supposed to increase the effects of CO2-induced warming by a multiple of the direct effect will really work that way, and 2) that the temperature changes will have the catastrophic effects predicted.

But as I've said I think there are independent good reasons to take the most important actions that would be needed for CO2 emissions reductions, and I believe in a reasonable level of precautionary action. I have no time whatsoever for people who dismiss the consequences of mountaintop-removal coal mining, spreading radioactive coal ash across the country, having a world-spanning supply line for our most critical transport fuel, and having to make deals with dictatorships around the world for oil. I don't care if you don't believe in global warming, I don't care about your partisan affiliation, if you think the coal & oil industries are working out just fine for us then you are letting a desire to stick it to the hippies overrule a common-sense assessment of what is good for America.

"Or I understand them better than most.

Including the modelers themselves, apparently. Truly, I am convinced."

I am curious what you are (or obviously aren't) convinced of?

The reality is that it either is or isn't caused by CO2 and what we hope for is perfectly irrelevant.

Absolutely.

But regardless: the earth's supplies of oil are still going to run out. It's a finite resource.

I'm sure it makes you feel better to go "oh, but look at all those scares THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN - this one won't either!" because sure, you're right: I am descended from the people who did survive the economic and ecological catastrophes.

That doesn't mean the people who died as a result of economic / ecological catastrophe didn't die, though.

And if we get very attached to the hope that it's caused by CO2 because at least we know how to deal with that, we've effectively adopted a strategy of searching for your keys under the streetlamp because that's where you can see.

No. We've adopted a strategy of cleaning up the house because the house needs to be cleaned, and hoping that in the course of cleaning house, we find the keys.

We may or may not find the keys. But if we don't, we do at least have a clean house as a result.

Weaning our civilisation off its dependence on oil is a fundamentally good thing: if it also works to prevent global warming, it's even more of a good thing.

It's a win-win situation - for everyone except the oil corporations.

But when people smarter than me see it as a problem, I question it.

Except a whole heck of a lot of other people (smarter than us) who actually do the science DON'T see it as a problem. Shouldn't that count for something?

Also, it's not clear who "smarter people" is referring to. Critics like McIntyre throw up a lot of noise, but an awful lot of it has in turn been debunked in turn by people smarter than them. (Which is not actually that hard. And McIntyre's one the better ones - most of the leading "critics" are just plain silly.)

When the claims of "critics" are consistently shot down and shown to be superficial, shouldn't that count for something too?

Also, I remember one of the CRU emails being from a leading tree ring scientist calling into question the use of the tree ring data in general. Can't find the link right off hand.

Maybe something like this one? (Just something I happened to have open in another tab.)

If so, then that's clearly a misrepresentation/misunderstanding of what he's saying.

"Calling into question the use of tree ring data in general" would mean that someone thought it was completely useless. Clearly it's not. Instead, what I think most would say is that it's quite useful, but there are obviously limitations to using anything ALL BY ITSELF. It's a lot more useful if you reinforce it and fill it in and cross check with all the other things: ice cores, isotopes, pollen, sediments, etc. etc.

Which is exactly what that guy's saying, and exactly what the comprehensive reconstructions do.

"Your specific question was about how we can know that a 'divergence' hasn't occurred before, and the answer is that it hasn't - you can see that by comparing trees to other trees, which is the same way we see the modern divergence."

This suggests to me that you haven't been following the issue as carefully as you've been suggesting.

No you can't. The whole reason the bristlecone pines were used in the first place was because they were one of the very few trees that were all of: A) old enough to be useful; B) stable enough in population to be useful; C) large enough sample size to be useful; D) long-lived enough species to be interesting. You can't just compare them to lots of other tree samples, because most other tree samples are much less suitable.

Also it is very misleading to say "you can see that by comparing trees to other trees, which is the same way we see the modern divergence." The divergence shows up between tree samples and thermometer readings. That is what Mann is talking about when he writes about doing the 'trick' on the graph. He is normalizing the (not trending the right direction) tree samples against the thermometer samples. He does that because he wants to say that the tree samples are accurate, because he wants to show a temperature trend from before we had widespread thermometer use. The problem is that for the last 50 of the 150 years we can compare the two types of data, the tree data doesn't track well with the thermometer data.

"It's not clear which trees you're talking about. Mann and others have used a lot of trees, from different regions of the world. And even where and if there are 'problem' trees, those are typically not ALL the trees there, but only specific types at specific altitudes."

There really aren't lots of different trees that are super useful in this context. Most don't have lots of individuals that live a long time. And of those that do, many were cut down by Europeans in the 16th-19th centuries. There are the Russian trees and the bristlecone pines. But Mann has statistical problems with the Russian trees too (there is the whole Urals cherry-picking controversy about him mysteriously excising samples groups that just happened to reduce the effect he was showing, and distributing trees from one group into other groups severely skewing the statistical analysis).

In your link, a great summary of the problem:

It seems dangerous to me to ‘pick’ only those trees that fit the
instrumental record from a site.

The BIG issue here is, if the trees fail to model modern warming,
then can we trust them in the past during periods that COULD also
have been similarly as warm (e.g. the MWP). Although we can ‘pick’ in
the present, we cannot ‘pick’ in the past.

Weather and climate are complex enough that we will never be able to say with 100% certainty what the cause of any significant event is.

Recreating the climactic history of the earth back before human culture, or even humans, existed, likewise.

We make our best guess, and not everyone's best guess will be the same.

When you are presented with risk and uncertainty, you make your best estimate of the cost of different actions you might take, and you make your best estimate of the risks involved in taking each one.

What will it cost us to reduce our impact on the environment?

What might it cost us if we don't do so?

Run the numbers and see how they look.

Climactic warming is only one of many points at which we basically ignore the effects of how we live.

The lifecycle of the bristlecone pine is interesting, but I would like to see the numbers. And, by "the numbers" I mean an all-in analysis of the economic and human costs of doing something, and doing nothing.

What does it cost us if we act.
What do we risk if we don't.

Those are figures we can probably estimate to a useful level of accuracy.

We aren't going to get a definitive answer about whether it's "our fault" or not until it's too late to do anything about it. If then.

If we think the climate might be changing, for whatever reason, and that the changes might affect us in ways we don't like, the time to act is now. Not later, now.

Did humans cause the little ice age? I don't know. Probably not.

Were people profoundly affected by the little ice age? Why yes, they were.

And there weren't 6 billion of us on the planet then.

He does that because he wants to say that the tree samples are accurate, because he wants to show a temperature trend from before we had widespread thermometer use.

There's that meme again: scientists (or at least one scientist) want to find global warming even if it's not in their data.

I ask again: why might they want that? If your theory is that they will get more research grants that way, I ask whether they would not get more and larger grants by "finding" global cooling and prescribing greater use of coal and oil.

--TP

Sebastian - I'll try to do some more research get back to you later when I've had a chance, but a couple things I have handy:

That is what Mann is talking about when he writes about doing the 'trick' on the graph. He is normalizing the (not trending the right direction) tree samples against the thermometer samples.

I have yet to see a link showing anyone doing any such thing. Similar claims have already been debunked. If you provide a link to the specific claim, I can look at it.

But Mann has statistical problems with the Russian trees too (there is the whole Urals cherry-picking controversy about him mysteriously excising samples groups that just happened to reduce the effect he was showing, and distributing trees from one group into other groups severely skewing the statistical analysis).

This is another well debunked claim--primarily harped on by McIntyre on rather flimsy and misleading evidence. Here, for example. (PS: I think you might mean Briffa here, not Mann, though possibly McIntyre tarred them both, or implicated him by extension if he used one of Briffa's series.)

"I ask again: why might they want that?"

Because like lot of human beings, they ge attached to something and defend it even when the evidence starts to turn against them. I do it. Other people do it. It is a really common human trait.

"If your theory is that they will get more research grants that way, I ask whether they would not get more and larger grants by "finding" global cooling and prescribing greater use of coal and oil."

That isn't my theory, but so far as I can tell, the answer to your question would be "no they would not". If they get their funding from any of the large universities, most of the governments, and/or UN organizations, they will get more money by finding global warming.

But my actual theory is what I posted at the top of this comment.

Also it is very misleading to say "you can see that by comparing trees to other trees, which is the same way we see the modern divergence." The divergence shows up between tree samples and thermometer readings.


I should probably have said something like "something we see in the modern divergence". This paper is an example of what I'm talking about.

The divergence is usually characterized as being between thermometers and trees, but that's not the whole story. What you actually see is a BIG divergence between thermometers and certain northern latitude trees. Trees elsewhere continue to track thermometers, or at least diverge substantially less.

Or in other words, a symptom of this divergence, whatever the cause, is a marked divergence between "Northern" trees, and the others.

Since we DON'T SEE such a divergence between the two groups at any other time in the record, we can be pretty sure the phenomenon didn't previously occur.

P.S.: Another interesting thing to note is, for example, Figure 6 in Briffa 1998. You can clearly see the "divergence problem" in both ring width and density, but note how funny things also start to happen to the relationship between them.

I'll leave the actual significance of that to the dendrochronologists--it may not have any in this specific case--but I wanted to point it out as an example of how you can often use interlocking clues to figure out when things might be wonky. This is data from the tree itself doing a sort of internal consistency check.

Because like lot of human beings, they ge attached to something and defend it even when the evidence starts to turn against them. I do it. Other people do it. It is a really common human trait.

I think this is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why a particular scientist will be attached to his or her results.

Obviously we see this all the time: scientists X and Y develop Theory Q and thus become it's primary champions, and, if Theory Q turns out be in error, they'll be some of the last ones to concede it.

BUT.

This doesn't explain at all why science as a whole would stick to a particular theory with such a broad consensus. X and Y are predictably going to stick to their guns, but there should still be huge professional incentives for A, B, C, D and E to poke holes in Theory Q, or to come up with Theory R.

That isn't my theory, but so far as I can tell, the answer to your question would be "no they would not". If they get their funding from any of the large universities, most of the governments, and/or UN organizations, they will get more money by finding global warming.

What's your evidence for this?

I mean, to start with, most studies that "support" global warming don't specifically have anything to do with it. If you're a dendrochronologist, for example, working at a university somewhere, you get money to go hiking in the woods collecting samples from trees and then carefully preparing them and looking at them through a microscope. There's nobody asking you up front "are you going to write a paper for or against global warming". You just do your low-level thing and it falls where it may.

So, given that, how do you distinguish that theory from the alternative theory that global warming is actually just good science? That is, when people get funded for a study to look into some little corner of it, the data they collect usually ends up supporting or refining global warming, rather than overturning it.

Seb -- "Because like lot of human beings, they ge attached to something and defend it even when the evidence starts to turn against them. I do it. Other people do it. It is a really common human trait."

So in your view almost all scientists involved in the consensus are misled by their pride or peer pressure into supporting work so shoddy that someone with only a passing knowledge of the field can find it in a casual reading? Because scientists are just such a collegial bunch they continue to fall for the old Emperor's clothes routine? Because not one of the groups of scientists looking into the data reliability thought they might be able to advance their own career or get a grant by correcting a simple oversight or had enough professional pride to correct a misrepresentation of data?

Really?

Since we're talking human nature here I'd expect a fair measure of dissent based on institutional pride or rival theories or having been snubbed at a conference, etc. and I'd expect that some few of those people have reputation and connections enough to find an outlet to publish their views, especially if the science, math, or modeling were as bad as critics claim -- just based on the same stupid pride that you note.

Huh? I thought we were criticizing two or maybe three specific scientists over a narrow issue. Am I wrong?

Specifically Mann, Brifa, and maybe Jones?

Now lots of people relied on their work, and seem to be doing so less, now.

"I ask whether they would not get more and larger grants by "finding" global cooling and prescribing greater use of coal and oil."

It's not without precedent.

Because like lot of human beings, they get attached to something and defend it even when the evidence starts to turn against them.

Like, oh, I don't, know, not wanting to admit that access to abortion in much of the US is severely limited because of the successful campaign of harassment, threats, and violence against abortionists?

Huh? I thought we were criticizing two or maybe three specific scientists over a narrow issue. Am I wrong?

Specifically Mann, Brifa, and maybe Jones?

Well, perhaps YOU are. Or think you are.

But the origin of these criticisms is not the academy. A few minor corrections or emendations might come from that direction, but that alone would be a non-event. Primarily they're just more scurrilous attacks from McIntyre and his ilk.

And the destination of these criticisms is to feed straight into the likes of Climate Audit, McKitrick, and ultimately down into various kinds of bogus FUD and "silver bullet" scenarios against global warming feeding the whole denialist talking points chain.

At some point, you have to put two and two together: Look at the grasping and superficial nature of the "criticisms" on the one hand, and their inevitable ultimate use in the other, and conclude that maybe that IS their intended purpose from the get go.

Now lots of people relied on their work, and seem to be doing so less, now.

Where do you get that impression?

My own impression is that Mann's perhaps taken a modest dose of valid criticism for some of his early methods, but nothing at all damning. That makes him a pioneer, not a pariah. His results have been proven out, updated, and widely duplicated -- including by Mann himself. I'm not aware that Brifa or others have even really been seriously criticized.

All the really damning attacks -- cherry picking, "fudging", etc.-- have been utterly without substance.

I mean, I suppose more and more researchers are replicating these studies and results, so you don't need to rely on any one or two researchers these days, but that's not quite the same thing, is it?

"And your germ example supports my point, as the majority of scientists were not convinced at the time."

They were doctors and surgeons, not scientists. Lister's theory suggested that surgeons themselves caused septic infection and, naturally, they didn't want to accept that.

On the broader topic, whenever I read McIntyre is that there's always less substance to his critiques than he'd have you believe. I've wasted enough time tracking down documents only to find those claims empty. One or two wild goose chases are sufficient to write him and his criticism off.

I'll stick with the researchers, data, models, and reproducible results on this one.

"But the origin of these criticisms is not the academy. A few minor corrections or emendations might come from that direction, but that alone would be a non-event. Primarily they're just more scurrilous attacks from McIntyre and his ilk."

The 'origin' is irrelevant. And again you're pretty much wrong anyway. The information I was looking at is from the British government inquiry. The precipitating event for that may have been McIntyre's information requests, but the investigation itself has gone well beyond that.

See for example this statement of the Institute of Physics to the UK Parliament:

The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia

The Institute of Physics is a scientific charity devoted to increasing the practice, understanding and application of physics. It has a worldwide membership of over 36,000 and is a leading communicator of physics-related science to all audiences, from specialists through to government and the general public. Its publishing company, IOP Publishing, is a world leader in scientific publishing and the electronic dissemination of physics.

The Institute is pleased to submit its views to inform the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's inquiry, 'The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia'.

The submission details our response to the questions listed in the call for evidence, which was prepared with input from the Institute's Science Board, and its Energy Sub-group.

What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?

1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.

2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change.

3. It is important to recognise that there are two completely different categories of data set that are involved in the CRU e-mail exchanges:

· those compiled from direct instrumental measurements of land and ocean surface temperatures such as the CRU, GISS and NOAA data sets; and

· historic temperature reconstructions from measurements of 'proxies', for example, tree-rings.

4. The second category relating to proxy reconstructions are the basis for the conclusion that 20th century warming is unprecedented. Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information.

5. The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.

6. There is also reason for concern at the intolerance to challenge displayed in the
e-mails. This impedes the process of scientific 'self correction', which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process as a whole, and not just to the research itself. In that context, those CRU e-mails relating to the peer-review process suggest a need for a review of its adequacy and objectivity as practised in this field and its potential vulnerability to bias or manipulation.

7. Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation. Nevertheless, the right to such appeals has been shown to be necessary. The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers. Requiring data to be electronically accessible to all, at the time of publication, would remove this possibility.

8. As a step towards restoring confidence in the scientific process and to provide greater transparency in future, the editorial boards of scientific journals should work towards setting down requirements for open electronic data archiving by authors, to coincide with publication. Expert input (from journal boards) would be needed to determine the category of data that would be archived. Much 'raw' data requires calibration and processing through interpretive codes at various levels.

9. Where the nature of the study precludes direct replication by experiment, as in the case of time-dependent field measurements, it is important that the requirements include access to all the original raw data and its provenance, together with the criteria used for, and effects of, any subsequent selections, omissions or adjustments. The details of any statistical procedures, necessary for the independent testing and replication, should also be included. In parallel, consideration should be given to the requirements for minimum disclosure in relation to computer modelling.

Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?

10. The scope of the UEA review is, not inappropriately, restricted to the allegations of scientific malpractice and evasion of the Freedom of Information Act at the CRU. However, most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other leading institutions involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change. In so far as those scientists were complicit in the alleged scientific malpractices, there is need for a wider inquiry into the integrity of the scientific process in this field.

11. The first of the review's terms of reference is limited to: "...manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice..." The term 'acceptable' is not defined and might better be replaced with 'objective'.

12. The second of the review's terms of reference should extend beyond reviewing the CRU's policies and practices to whether these have been breached by individuals, particularly in respect of other kinds of departure from objective scientific practice, for example, manipulation of the publication and peer review system or allowing pre-formed conclusions to override scientific objectivity.

How independent are the other two international data sets?

13. Published data sets are compiled from a range of sources and are subject to processing and adjustments of various kinds. Differences in judgements and methodologies used in such processing may result in different final data sets even if they are based on the same raw data. Apart from any communality of sources, account must be taken of differences in processing between the published data sets and any data sets on which they draw.

You should also note that the British Information Commissioner ruled that there was evidence of serious legal violations, but that they couldn't be prosecuted because the complaint has to be made within six months of the violation.

That is not just McIntyre being a crank.

I thought that the institute had to walk back some of the comments, see here

From lj's link:

The Institute's statement, which has been published both on the Institute's website and the Committee's, has been interpreted by some individuals to imply that it does not support the scientific evidence that the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is contributing to global warming.

That is not the case. The Institute's position on climate change is clear: the basic science is well enough understood to be sure that our climate is changing – and that we need to take action now to mitigate that change.

It would be a shame for anyone to misinterpret the statement quoted above.

I think the problem is that climate change denial isn't such big business in the UK as in the US. So British scientists are not as aware as American scientists how cautiously they have to word what they say in order not to get picked up by right-wing nutters who very much want to claim "hey, this reputable scientist SAYS global warming isn't happening!" when no reputable scientist would claim any such thing...

Jes:

Mine was a clarifying question and you clarified. At least you understand the distinction. I wish more would distinguish between AGW and GW.

I know fully well that Akasofu is not arguing against GW (at least not necessarily). For that matter, he is not exactly arguing against AGW, but pointing out an important issue. The comments above talk about the temperature data going back to 1850. Akasofu's article is spot on regarding what that means.

My point is that he is a reputable scientist that is not on the AGW bandwagon. Even though YOU may not be saying "no reputable scientist is against AGW" it is certainly being said above. So with your clarification that part of my comment is not aimed at you.

There really isn't much controversy about coming out of the little ice age, so saying that most reputable scientists agree the earth is warming just isn't saying much. Yet it's bandied about to support AGW.

The 'origin' is irrelevant.

The origin is certainly not irrelevant. Evaluating the reliability of a source is a vital part of skepticism.

And McIntyre is not reliable -- he's a self-appointed generator of shoddy denialist talking points. If he's right once in a while, it's only the way a stopped clock is.

Science, on the other hand, IS pretty reliable.

And again you're pretty much wrong anyway. The information I was looking at is from the British government inquiry. The precipitating event for that may have been McIntyre's information requests, but the investigation itself has gone well beyond that.

Indeed. The investigations have been quite thorough.

And yet McIntyre's complaints--the damning ones, anyway--have not been borne out.

See for example this statement of the Institute of Physics to the UK Parliament:

Do you have anything substantive? With all "concerned that", "apparent" this hedging and so forth, this seems to be just a statement written by a committee of academic bureaucrats trying to cover their butts with politicians, very probably before they've really even evaluated the accusations. It is very evidently NOT a substantive scientific critique.*

You should also note that the British Information Commissioner ruled that there was evidence of serious legal violations, but that they couldn't be prosecuted because the complaint has to be made within six months of the violation.

It should surprise no one that scientists sometimes get angry, exasperated, or close ranks. At worst, one or two (but, IIRC, not Mann, Brifa, or Jones) may have gotten angry enough to have said or done something particularly stupid regarding disclosure that was legally or ethically inappropriate.

Show me the part where the science is actually bad. (I see the part you bolded. Show me the actual emails or papers where that is purported to have occurred.**)

That is not just McIntyre being a crank.

Except he is. His criticisms of the science simply haven't borne out. Not only that, many of them are transparent hackery--cherry picking, quote mining, etc. He's a crank, or worse, a troll.

And complaints that scientists won't share data with him, a crank, don't count. They're not criticisms on the merits, and they are essentially a self fulfilling prophecy. All he's proved is that someone can abuse the system enough, and spread enough misinformation and scurrilous accusations, that a few of the scientists he's firing wild shots at might get angry enough to actually break the rules in order to frustrate him.

---

*Just noticed LJ's link. So. It was indeed premature butt-covering--as it transparently appears--and all the worst parts have been retracted. Color me...unsurprised.

** Ditto.

Jack:

Maybe something like this one? (Just something I happened to have open in another tab.)

I don't think so. He emailed 2-3 times and wasn't getting any response from (I think) Jones.

And here is the problem I have with your repeated "it's been debunked."

-I can read the emails and they smell. Whether or not I can completely understand the science, it's clear to me that there was something to hide. The explanations to date have been rather lame.

-Many rely on the debunking done at realclimate. McIntyre, as I understand it, doesn't delete comments. Realclimate, as I understand it, does. If McIntyre is such a crank, at least he leaves his site open to show that.

-McIntyre, when read, doesn't strike me as a crank. He responds and analyzes critiques. Briffa responded to him somewhat accusing him on the Yamal data. I remember him replying and saying he wasn't accusing Briffa of purposefully not selecting certain data, but simply pointing out that there was a larger data set that produced results not as indicative of warming and no explanation of why that set wasn't used. Now I see McIntyre being accused of selecting data when he was just pointing out the issue. And then Briffa wouldn't release his data. I don't know if he has now.

I could go on, but you seem to be missing the simple instinct that something is wrong when reading the emails. Sure, that's not scientific, it sure doesn't inspire confidence.

bc: At least you understand the distinction. I wish more would distinguish between AGW and GW.

*shrug* As I've noted above: if you value the lives of your grandchildren, you should hope to hell that global warming is caused by humanity - because they we stand a chance of stopping it.

And so many right-wingers are happy to poke fun at the idea that global warming is happening. Given that, how should I know that a right-winger coming in to attack global warming is only attacking the idea that mass release by humanity of long-locked CO2 could have anything to do with it - the oil corporation position - rather than the idea that global warming is real - the Faux News position?

Why do you want so much to believe that our oil-dependent civilisation is not the cause of global warming - that we may as well continue burning up the world's oil reserves? What benefit do you gain from espousing the policy of despair? It's obvious what oil corporations and their political lackeys gain: but for you, there's really no benefit but proving your Republican loyalty by toeing the party line. Is that enough?

Even though YOU may not be saying "no reputable scientist is against AGW" it is certainly being said above.

I'd note also (having looked up Akasofu's biography) that while he's definitely a reputable scientist, he's also an elderly scientist - he was born in 1930. Elderly scientists tend to be the best defenders of the older scientific understanding against the new: this is valid and reasonable, since science is all about rigorously establishing the truth. But it doesn't mean that he is likely to be right.

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