Always Bet On Stupid

A week or two back NPR gave some guy about three minutes to complain about how the climate community silenced his breakthrough research on snow patterns in the Sierra Nevada mountains. You see, most warming models predict that snowfall will eventually go up in the Sierra Nevadas. The guy (I forget his name) found that it didn’t. QED, global warming is wrong and he can prove it if only academia’s cruel gatekeepers would let his paper into a major journal. NPR then gave about one minute to a gatekeeper who pointed out that the result has already been published five times.

And so it goes. Frankly, as a practicing scientist I am impressed at how well the climate community at East Anglia looks after angry critics have presumably picked through every email dating back to 1996 and published the most embarrassing selections. Look at it this way. In the course of two graduate degrees and a postdoc I have worked at Universities with reputations ranging from exemplary to very good, yet off the top of my head I can think of a couple of scandals that made the news, others that the University resolved internally and a small number more that did or did not get handled informally. I cannot think of a single department that would smell like roses if someone stole twelve years of private correspondence and released a selection of emails calibrated to make it look bad. Science works fine in aggregate, but this idea that science must have only flawless people doing impeccable work is a strawman set up by the superstitious to discredit empiricism through nutpicking.

As far as I can tell from Kevin Drum’s summary, other than the question of whether researchers deleted some emails that might have fallen under a Freedom of Information request the entire controversy boils down to non-experts misinterpreting ordinary communication in bad faith. That FOIA question, however, is worth talking about. Can you interfere with a Freedom of Information request? No, you can’t. That sounds like misconduct. Fortunately universities have mechanisms to deal with misconduct. Most will mediate a dozen or so exactly like this in a typical year. It seems to me that even if the emails were hacked illegally, East Anglia should still hold the appropriate hearings. If anyone involved did wrong then impose the appropriate sanction (usually ranging from a written reprimand to a limited ban on publication or grant applications). Maybe other scientists think that I’m granting too much to an angry mob. If so, fine. I try pretty hard to keep my personal sympathies separate when it comes to questions of misconduct and punishment.

Separately, Drum links to a complaint about East Anglia’s PR.

I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can’t possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

….The crisis has been exacerbated by the university’s handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond….When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while CRU’s opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped “no comment” and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean “guilty as charged”.

….The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they’re up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.

The complaint here is both fair and unfair. One the one hand one can hardly deny that East Anglia shot itself in the groin when the story bubbled for so long without their input. But really, what did you expect would happen? We pay scientists to do science. Especially given the effort that it takes to talk intelligently about climate science*, we don’t pay them very much. I have worked on grants from NOAA, the agency that also funds climate research. The idea of our lab or our department retaining a worthwhile PR firm would certainly amuse the staff who scrambled every year to find money for cookies and coffee at our weekly seminars. The money for scientists to do anything that isn’t science just isn’t there. If you want professional PR to defend science then you have to fund it with something other than the grants that fund the science itself. Forcing researchers with a day job to act as the front line against Exxon’s army of professional denial firms, in the media, is ridiculous and sad. It’s like asking Sidney Crosby to defend Pittsburgh by way of competitive corndog eating.

Especially early in this story’s life cycle, when you could hardly expect an average reporter to make much sense of the science, a sheaf of personality stories (e.g.) complained about the defensive attitude among climate researchers. Again, you have to wonder what people expect. Taken collectively the “science” of warming denial has exactly as much credibility as the anti-evolution brigades. Their ideas amount to a series of turds thrown indiscriminately at the wall (solar forcing, natural cycles, the world is really cooling et cetera ad nauseum) in the hope that something might stick. The same people come back over and over with a new argument every year, as if the argument they made last year (which also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that carbon-forced climate warming is a hoax) was just a practice round. It should not stretch the imagination to see how a professional scientist could get jaded after decades of attack by angry hysterics who, almost to a man, lack the training to understand what they are talking about (note: meteorologist means “weatherman”).

Congrats to King Pyrrhus

What really confuses me is why the denial crowd is still so angry about this. They already got what they need. The East Antarctic Ice Sheet started to melt this year, and that was the stable half of Antarctica. That arctic ice that deniers like our own BOB have crowed about turned out to be a thin, temporary layer that hid a dramatic loss of once-permanent arctic sea ice. Outside of a very few exceptions (some very cold regions, where warming will not make much difference, have seen increased snowfall), glaciers are shrinking everywhere on Earth.

Let’s say that everyone agreed with the IPCC conclusions tomorrow. Even better, let’s say that everyone agreed with the bulk of climate scientists who think that the IPCC has been far too conservative (actual warming consistently breaks IPCC hundred-year forecasts in five or ten). What do we do? The climate has a decade of intertia built into it. Current models that describe what would happen if we cut our emissions back to the stone age are still scary as hell.

Climate deniers never had to hold out forever. They just needed confusion to last long enough that cutting carbon to keep the climate stable no longer made any sense. It worked! Keeping the public confused for a couple more years won’t do much more at this point. So why the grumpy act? Typical rightwingers, I guess, angry when they’re losing and twice as angry when they win.

(*) Not kidding about this. A set of courses that roughly introduced climate science, required for my Master’s in Oceanography, nearly wiped me out. That semester I learned exactly how many hours of sleep one needs on a continual basis to stay functionally alert (four).

140 replies
  1. 1
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t… Our observing system is inadequate”

    -Dr. Kenneth Trenberth, Warmist, employed by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), in a -hacked- leaked email, in an inside job by a man of Character

    James Madison describes the intended role of the federal government in the Federalist Papers. These powers were to be limited to raising armies, sending letters, providing for intellectual property rights, coining currency, and things like that. All other power was to be reserved to the States, or the People.

    If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would most likely be a right-wing blogger.

    Thomas Jefferson = Good
    Thomas Jefferson ~ Right Wing Blogger

    Therefore:

    Right Wing Blogger = Good

    Barack Obama cannot articulate thoughts unless he is reading them on a TV. It is kind of like Karaoke, but with Karaoke, you at least know who wrote the song. Al Gore is fat and charges $1209 to shake his hand. This seems like a lot of money to me, but you guys go nuts.

    $1209/handshake will help fund Al’s habit of eating lots of meats, and lots of cheeses.

  2. 2
    Greenlabormike says:

    Tim, thanks for the update. Sadly, I agree that the deniers have won a few more years of confusion and delay, not that it matters much at this point.

    Separately, my father is an Oceanographer specializing in the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans, and while I don’t think I’m a slouch, I simply can not understand everything he talks about. No wonder journalists always look for shortcuts to report on this stuff, when they aren’t ignoring it altogether.

  3. 3
    Dave C says:

    It’s also worth noting that Gavin Schmidt over at RealClimate has been putting in a truly heroic effort dealing with this mess.

  4. 4
    Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony says:

    @Brick Oven Bill:

    And the stupid wins!

  5. 5
    Jamey says:

    Well, see, Tim, that’s your problem: You’re still practicing science

    The guy you alluded to in the first graf of your posting already has science perfected…

  6. 6
    Michael D. says:

    but this idea that science must have only flawless people doing impeccable work is a strawman set up by the superstitious to discredit empiricism through nutpicking.

    It’s why we use the saying:

    “_____ is the exception that proves the rule.”

  7. 7
    eponymous says:

    Tim F. – good post. I read Kevin’s piece yesterday and waded through the comments. Most were of the angry denialist type, full of vituperativeness. To them, you’d think that the climate researchers at East Anglia were the only people in the world working on the issue of global warming.

    But you’re right – by the time any kind of action is underrtaken in any meaningful way, it will be too late (if it isn’t already). Easter Island, here we come.

    And BoB – I sincerely hope your on some kind of medication. Because your post has all the tell-tale signs of either dementia or schizophrenia…

  8. 8
    Billy K says:

    Thanks for this, TIm.

  9. 9
    matt says:

    I found a nicely relevant quote in a review (academic subscription required, unfortunately) by David H. Wolpert. The book under review was evolution-denying.

    “First, biologists in particular and scientists in general are horribly confused defenders of their field. When responding to attacks from non-scientists, rather than attempt the rigor that the geometry of induction and similar bodies of statistics provide, they fall back on Popperian incantations, trying to browbeat their opponents into acceding to the homily that if one follows certain magic rituals—the vaunted “scientific method”—then one is rewarded with The Truth. No mathematically precise derivation of these rituals from first principles is provided. The “scientific method” is treated as a first-category topic, opening it up to all kinds of attack. In particular, in defending neo-Darwinism, no admission is allowed that different scientific disciplines simply cannot reach the same level of certainty in their conclusions due to intrinsic differences in the accessibility of the domains they study.”

  10. 10
    chopper says:

    thing is, science just can’t win against the hordes. the game is rigged from the start.

  11. 11
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    Re: Science

    The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences are divided into the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic), which are the Arts that allow us to articulate thought, and come to a logical conclusion after considering a varieties of thought.

    The Quadrillium introduces metrics (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Physics (formerly Astronomy)).

    Science can only exist in the presence of True Rhetoric, and perishes if False Rhetoric is allowed to rule.

    “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

    -Phil Jones

    Note the explanation point. This was not ‘hacked’, this was ‘leaked’ by a ‘whistle-blower’.

  12. 12
    Lex says:

    [[What really confuses me is why the denial crowd is still so angry about this.]]

    Your post title answers the post’s own question.

    For every cynical manipulator on this subject, and there are thousands, there are probably 100 people who HONESTLY BELIEVE this crap, HONESTLY BELIEVE unethical behavior was involved, sincerely want those who did wrong to be held accountable and believe that the fact that they are not being held accountable is prima facie evidence of a rigged game. Perhaps “stupid” is too strong a word for such folks, but in my current mindset I’m in no mood to tolerate butt-ignorance.

  13. 13
    dmsilev says:

    Bravo. Well written and argued.

    The root problem seems to be a basic asymmetry in our public discourse, that people like the deniers act as if they can find just one single problem anywhere in a large intellectual edifice, they’ve won. In the reverse direction, scientists etc. must refute *every* argument made by the deniers, including all of the ones that they might potentially make in the future, just to pull out a tie.

    -dms

  14. 14
    soonergrunt says:

    OT just for a moment–
    I can’t see it direct because the filters at work have LGF designated as a hate site, but according to John Campanelli at GOS, Charles Johnson has finally made the full break with the right wing.

    And back on topic,
    @Brick Oven Bill:
    You’re obviously lying and faking evidence. The exclamation points are just the kind of thing a right wingtard uses as a rhetorical flourish to his fevered imaginings of liberal academic conspiracies.

  15. 15
    4tehlulz says:

    Since we are apparently past the tipping point, the criticism of science will now change to how it missed climate change.

    You know it’s true.

  16. 16
    beltane says:

    Beautiful post, Tim. All I can say is that stupidity is its own form of evil. I have become so pessimistic about this that my only hope is that there will one day be some retribution.

  17. 17
    Kryptik says:

    @dmsilev:

    It’s the House of Cards Fallacy. One flaw, and supposedly all science and theory collapses and thus proves everything wrong.

    Except, you know, the whole point of science is to find things that are falsifiable so you can actually test and narrow things down.

  18. 18
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @matt: Well, that’s a mess. Not only does the “neo-Darwinism” thing flag this as a fail, but his tone on the scientific method is particularly annoying. “certain magic rituals?” Like prayer?

    “In particular, in defending neo-Darwinism, no admission is allowed that different scientific disciplines simply cannot reach the same level of certainty in their conclusions due to intrinsic differences in the accessibility of the domains they study.”

    Then they don’t understand how the acceptance of both evolution and the general theory of relative is based on the fact they they offer the best explanation of available data as compared to other theories, such as Newton’s law of gravity.

    Yeah, I suspect scientists as a group are not prepared for dealing with idiots. I’ve had to work on that myself over the years.

  19. 19
    Mike E says:

    BoB–keep up the good wanking work!

    Back in the early ’90s I was visiting my bro in Philly and we were dropping off his son at a playdate w/a kid whose dad was a refridgerant tech. Bro told him that I was in the wildlife conservation field, and the man immediately spun on the spot and said, “You know, the volcanoes are responsible for global warming.” Not in the mood so early in the morning for such bullshit, I countered, “You mean to tell me, 150 years of the Industrial Revolution has done nothing, NOTHING, to the atmosphere and environment?”
    Game. Set. Match.

    The key to debating people whose income depends on them not knowing anything: Give them the back of your hand — if they squawk some more, give ’em the front, too.

  20. 20
    Martin says:

    The emails are damaging?

    Well, in a personal sort of way, they are. Do they affect the published science in any way? Not at all – nor do they affect the reality of what is happening. I could leak years worth of emails between physicists that would have the same informal jargon of ‘tricks’ and whatnot but that doesn’t make gravity any less real, nor does it mean that if you fall off the roof and pray really hard before you hit the ground that you might not break your head open. (BOB, feel free to test this hypothesis.)

    Bottom line is that scientists are demonstrating what is. Nothing changes as a result of this other than everyone got distracted for a few weeks. The science results next month won’t look any different than last month – a public peer review/publication process assures us of that . Scientists can’t be responsible for policy or public opinion – leave that to others.

  21. 21
    Xanthippas says:

    Climate deniers never had to hold out forever. They just needed confusion to last long enough that cutting carbon to keep the climate stable no longer made any sense. It worked! Keeping the public confused for a couple more years won’t do much more at this point.

    I wish I could say you were wrong about this, but I’m afraid that you’re not.

  22. 22
    MobiusKlein says:

    It’s so much like the anti-evolution folks / Intelligent Design thing that it hurts.

    There is just no way to convince folks like that about the science. Or even to get them to usefully pick apart the flaws in the actual science.

    It’s just the same sound byte critiques aimed at convincing the mass audience, rather than dealing with the science.

  23. 23
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @matt: One more thing. Ask a mathematician to discuss the 5 postulates of geometry, or the postulates of logic, and how could the math be right if these can’t be proven.

    Heck, even Jack the Pumpkin King knew to resort to the scientific method when he was trying to understand Christmas.

  24. 24
    Zifnab says:

    ….The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they’re up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.

    It’s unfair to suggest that every community college and IT academy should have a full legal department to defend against claims that the President of the University is skimming a few million off the top, and yet somehow the money is always there for the next lawsuit or the next scandal.

    This simply isn’t worth defending. If you’re going to argue the polar ice caps aren’t melting and keep a straight face, what am I going to tell you to change your mind? Emails or no emails, the science hasn’t really changed one wit. Anyone swayed by this “scandal” wasn’t going to be won over without running him through 20 hours of college courses and another ten years of life lessons on the content of any typical private email exchange. They were just dominos waiting to be tipped anyway.

    Eventually, shit is going to get really bad. Florida is going to lose a bunch of coastline all at once. We’re going to see a few more hurricanes the size of Texas ram through the Gulf Coast. Oil hits $4+ / gal again. Maybe we get really, really lucky and it all hits at once, like it did back in ’05. Then people will wake up and try to fix the problem for real, rather than half-assing it.

    But the Tobacco Industry taught American Industry a lot about deliberately screwing the consumer and fending off the feeble swipes of any easily corruptible and politically vulnerable justice system.

    We never really had a chance. Too little too late. We were screwed from the start.

  25. 25
    Kryptik says:

    @MobiusKlein:

    Remember, it’s all theory! That means there’s no proof!!

    Forget the very very different definition of ‘theory’ where science is concerned. (that happens to be the absolute most frustrating part of both debates that I encounter)

  26. 26
    Shinobi says:

    Y’know, at this point I think all the climate scientists should get together and figure out exaclty what land will still be viable in like 50 years. Buy it up and settle their descendents there. (preferably with big walls) Perhaps with a buy in for other people who are not climate denialists.

    Let all the deniers suffer for their stupidity.

    You know that’s what they would do if the shoe were on the other foot.

  27. 27
    clussman says:

    What Lex (#12) said.

    soonergrunt: Charles broke with the wingnuts on topics of science a long time ago, if he was ever with them. I’ve actually taken to visiting his site whenever the latest tempest breaks out to get his take on it. Then I read the rest of the site for teh funny.

    Two other quick mentions:

    My brother recently went full wingnut. I come from a liberal family and even his wife and children are liberal, so this was shocking to me. He gets his news primarily from TV and newspapers but he’s an intelligent guy who has been able to filter information for 40+ years.

    Newspapers and “news” channels cannot die soon enough. I no longer have any sympathy for them.

    The other thing I want to mention is that if anybody actually feels a need to respond to BoB, there are some great filters/scripts that will let you block him. I don’t remember which and I’m at work, but I’m sure Google or another commenter can help you out. Don’t feed the trolls.

  28. 28
    Brick Oven Bill says:

    If one was to try to use the temperature-versus time ‘hockey stick’ these days, he would be a very bad hockey player. This is because jutting out from the tip of the former ‘hockey stick’ is a ten-year downward-sloping temperature projection. The Warmists Deny this projection.

    This downward-sloping projection would prevent the hockey-stick from touching the hockey-puck, unless the player would hold the handle of the hockey-stick very close to the ice-surface. In this case, only the ankle of the hockey-stick would be in contact with the hockey-puck, and you could not project much power, or exert much control over, the hockey-puck.

    In accordance with Al’s theory, there should not be this projection from the end of the hockey-stick. Al is in business with Dave (Goldman Sachs) however.

    Socrates teaches us that some men are driven by wealth (Lovers of Money). There are many types of men:

    Lovers of Money
    Lovers of Honor
    Lovers of Knowledge
    Lovers of Power

    The whistle-blower was either a Lover or Honor, a Lover of Knowledge, or a Lover of Both. You guys have a nice day.

  29. 29
    Noonan says:

    I think this explains everything about everything:

    the entire controversy boils down to non-experts misinterpreting ordinary communication in bad faith

  30. 30
    The Original Francis says:

    you want a house of crazy? try volokh, which I thought would have known better.

    BOB is, as usual, citing out of context. Dr. Trenberth is exploring why natural variability, as measured by the various instruments we have, is so large. Where does the heat go from one year to the next? The good doctor does not, however, dispute the essential premises underlying AGW theory.

  31. 31
    Boney Baloney says:

    No lie about the maths meteorologists have to slog through. Really insane stuff.

    Worse, if they can hack the courses, there comes a point (pretty early) where they realize that, even if there were a fully networked weather station standing or floating on every square meter of the Earth’s surface, it still wouldn’t be possible to predict the weather with any real accuracy more than 72 hours in the future. Tracking hurricanes, yes. Tracking continent-wide fronts, yes. Knowing for sure on Wednesday that the game won’t be rained out on Saturday, no chance, ever.

    What is it with dismal sciences? “The idea of a ‘seven-day forecast’ was mathematically debunked decades ago, but here’s how you’re fucking up the global climate, and how much worse it will get.” “If our tea leaves actually imparted useful data, we’d all be rich — but it is possible to sack the treasuries of entire countries, so almost of us teach, a few of us pontificate, and a tiny handful of us are hella filthy rich.” Thanks, guys!

  32. 32
    Tom Hilton says:

    Not “Sierra Nevadas” or “Sierra Nevada mountains”. They are the Sierra Nevada.

    I know this is picky, but I can’t help it–the Sierra are my One True Love among mountain ranges.

  33. 33
    Hunter Gathers says:

    @Brick Oven Bill: Doesn’t being a full-time spoof troll get tiresome? I mean, how many different ways can you call Al Gore fat before you get into Sasha Baron Cohen territory?

  34. 34
    matt says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): Don’t worry. The author is on our side. He just finds it annoying (as do I) when scientists defend their beliefs by invoking peer review etc, instead of just falling back on the data. Groups of people can be wrong, even when they get to call themselves scientists.

  35. 35
    Barry Soetoro says:

    But really, what did you expect would happen? We pay scientists to do science. Especially given the effort that it takes to talk intelligently about climate science*, we don’t pay them very much.

    I think this says very much why the deniers continue to be so successful at delivering their message. They’re loud and persistent and have the floor. They have a lot of people convinced the “science is flawed” or “we just don’t know–it’s a hoax, folks.”

    The rigor of science doesn’t apply when all you have to do is give one of those rousing speeches like a demagogue. Unless the sea level rises several meters and the temperature of the Earth rises enough to cause humanitarian crises (famine, plague, water shortages, refugee movements, war, etc.), they have the upper hand, because global warming is supposed to result in disaster. All these little indications here and there, and who cares about ice breaking off or polar bears.

    Climate science–and science in general–needs its PR people. Someone like a Sagan or Asimov, both of whom attempted to present science in layman’s terms, but with a bit more personality. Not like a 2×4 like Neil Degrasse Tyson, or a goofball like Bill Nye (or BOB).

    Science needs its Sarah Palin.

  36. 36
    WyldPiratd says:

    great post, Tim. You’re right on the money about this and the part about skimping for money for cookies made me laugh–been there, done that.

    Sure some of the scientists involved were a bit smug about things in their emails and data was lost that could affect some of the climate modelling forecasts, but that’s not the real issue that is based upon inescapable facts.

    Fact 1: Severe climate changes are a fact of Earth’s history. They will happen again irrespective of mankind’s activity. These changes have ended civilizations and have the potential to do so again.

    Fact 2: I read somewhere the other day that US per capita CO2 emissions was 19.2 metric tons, that’s 6 billion tons of CO2 for the US or 13.2 trillion pounds. All of that CO2 has been sequestered over the course of a billion plus years in the Earth as oils and minerals, but now we are releasing it by burning fossil fuels at an alarming rate.

    Fact 3: Atmospheric increases in CO2 causes warming. This is an undeniable fact that can be demonstrate to elementary school students.

    The real problem with climate change is two-fold. First, it will happen no matter what we as humans do. We should be as concerned with how to deal with the societal disruption that severe climate change will cause as we are with the means to mitigate it’s cause. Secondly, even in the best of scenarios, our rampant use of fossil fuels is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It can, will and does effect climate. On top of that having to squabble with the climate change deniers delays the inevitability that we will have to find viable alternatives to fossil fuel use or seriously readjust how our societies function.

  37. 37
    Michael says:

    OT, but this is Charlie Johnson going full John Cole:

    http://littlegreenfootballs.co....._The_Right

  38. 38
    booferama says:

    Just a few quick points.

    1) BoB is lying in post #29 above. The temperatures don’t have a downward slope since 98; they have an upward slope. They don’t continue up from 98’s record high, but the slope is clearly up.

    2) I think the CRU hack really demonstrates two different things. First, most people aren’t conversant with science. The language of science is inaccessible to most people–even educated people–so in explaining the basic theory of AGW (anthropogenic global warming), one has to struggle with the limits of language. That’s a large reason why much general-audience science writing isn’t very good; it has to elide and redefine a lot of things just to convey some basics.

    Second, inasmuch as there’s a scientific debate about AGW, it centers on the range of likely outcomes. There are some good scientists who think the lower numbers are more reasonable. I disagree, but they aren’t deniers. However, the deniers pick up on those numbers and distort them–a relatively minor debate gets skewed into a major disagreement.

  39. 39
    Evinfuilt says:

    As a Geophysics drop-out (and now professional database developer.) It just always amazes me how laymen think they can constantly outsmart the tens of millions of scientists, and cause constant delay. Its hard to learn what you did, and it pisses me off that someone with barely an elementary grasp at science (or a purposefully anti-science education) gains such a strong foothold into discussions.

    The ego of people like our local trolls who know better than scientists who have spent greater than 30 years studying this, that THEY ALONE have proven it, and by just looking at a small subset of data.

    The trolls won, but they won a decade ago when we didn’t make drastic changes in policy when it had a chance to help us.

    Now we have tropical fish destroying our commercial fishing fleets outside of New England and Maine. We have severe acidification of the ocean, permafrost not being so permanent, and sadly tons of trapped methane now bubbling free all over the world.

    The estimates of ocean level rise over the past 15 years was off by such a huge margin, yet we deny (5 centimeters in just 15 years.)

    Yes the IPCC is a political group, but its proven how political it is by constantly taking the denier slant more serious than the reality. Its why they’re always wrong, they’re required to take Exxon’s make believe numbers seriously, and weigh them heavier against the models that are constantly correct.

    Whenever a trollish GW-denier shows up, I think we should all congratulate them. They won, we fought it so long that we passed the point of no return.

  40. 40
    Mark says:

    No global warming means conservatives should not care about mercury in all our waterways (from coal) and just about every damn kid in the US having asthma/allergies (from coal). I wish the global warming proponents would combine our collective health as part of their proselytizing about carbon fuel emmisions. To me both arguements make sense. It is easy to look at a satellite image and see the melting. But it is hard to defend from claims of natural cycles, volcanoes and what can a puny man do to the earth mother. Much harder to deny our spewing poisin that is making us all ill.

  41. 41
    evolutionary says:

    I like how “Conservatives” are so very NON-conservative on the issue of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGM). As I see it a TRUE conservative position should be The Earth’s climate was going along for billions of years rebounding from the insults of volacnic eruptions and the vagaries of astronomical cycles just fine, thank you very much!
    THEN the human industrial revolution, agro-farming and other population related activities started continously adding relatively large amounts pollutants including CO2 and Methane to the Atmosphere. Some pollutants reflect solar energy and others tend to increase the amount of retained solar energy. Which one will win? .

    All in all it it a huge experiment we are going to find out the answers by experimenting with the only life support system available to us. Answers to questions such as:
    where is the tipping point where the climate will change dramatically and irreversibly ?
    Was the fresh melt water from of the North American Pleistoscene Glaciers that poured in the North Atlantic and shut off the Gulf Stream for a while?
    Etc…..

    I think we are now doomed to find out. Even if there is only a relatively small chance of AGM being as severe as the IPCC report says. Would a True Conservative* really accept a 25% chance of destroying the world as we know it? How about a 10% chance of TEOTWAWKI ? That is what a 30 meter rice in sea level will probably do. (Think King of the Hill with Nuclear or biological Weapons!)

    *I’m not sure if the No True Scotsman fallacy applies or not.

  42. 42
    Evinfuilt says:

    @4tehlulz:

    You’re right 100%

    I’ve seen people say we were stupid to ban CFC’s because the Ozone hole isn’t a problem anymore.

    People say Y2K was a hoax since nothing bad happened (not that programmers had many sleepless nights over the previous decade fixing it… nope, it was a hoax.)

    Whatever science fixes will always be claimed it never existed. So of course if science only proved in greenhouse gases in the 70s this wouldn’t be a problem. People like Bob the troll are already working on the headlines blaming scientists on Miami disappearing under the ocean, that we never warned them. Its the Bush-era motto made true, they make their own reality.

  43. 43
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Tim F.,

    What do you say to a wingnut brother who says this about CO2-based climate change?

    “CO2 based global warming is the biggest load of snake oil in history. All the UN wants is to milk the USA of its $$$$. Al Gore is the biggest charlatan I have ever seen. He made 100 Million bucks last year on this scaremongering BS. CO2 accounts for only 0.0383% of the atmosphere. Yet, everyone ignores the Sun at 400 watts/sq foot! A 5% increase of CO2 will give you only .04022% of the atmosphere – still very, very tiny! But if the Sun puts out 5% more you get an extra 20 watts per sq foot. Put your hand on a 20 watt bulb and let me know what you feel! According to Al, the debate “is over”. Sorry Al, I am not a sheep, I will not follow blindly. CO2 based global warming is a sham. Eliminating leaded gasoline worked. Lead was universally identified as a MAJOR problem, it was fixed. CO2 has not been universally picked as the cause. Until the vast majority of scientists accept the proof we should not do anything.”

  44. 44
    BR says:

    I’ve been doing a significant amount of reading of the actual-real-clear-undeniable-sane reports about where the climate is headed, and it’s really far worse than even Al Gore’s movie would have you believe.

    We’re looking at a likely ice-free or nearly ice-free summer in the Arctic by 2013. As in just after Obama finishes his first term there’ll be a hole in the arctic during the summer, clear enough for it to be used as a regular old shipping lane.

    That’s something that just a decade ago seemed like it might not happen until midcentury. (And a decade ago climate change deniers didn’t even think there was climate change – now they’ve changed their story and think that it’s just not anthropogenic.)

    I’m actually worried that we won’t come to our senses fast enough, and by then it’ll be far too late – if we wait until 2020 to deal with this, we’re in for consequences of an unimaginable scale.

    Check out Dan Miller’s talk for a bit more detail:

    http://fora.tv/2009/08/18/A_RE.....Dan_Miller

  45. 45
    Evinfuilt says:

    @Shinobi:
    That sounds too much like going Galt. People like Tim won’t go Galt, he’ll fight the good fight to the end.

    Plus, its not scientists who go Galt, they can’t afford it. Its the engineers who will (sad you’ll find most “famous” deniers are engineers, to them there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with duct tape.) Have to work hard to remind people that Engineers aren’t Scientists.

  46. 46
    gwangung says:

    Until the vast majority of scientists accept the proof we should not do anything.”

    This has already happened.

    And, no, you don’t get to count geologists or engineers or chemists or any other researcher who doesn’t know the data. That’s the point of being a scientist–you deal with the data. A chemist talking about atmospheric sciences without reading the literature is just talking out his ass, like any wingnut.

    (And I respect any contrarian that cites recent literature–except the vast majority of contrarians wouldn’t be able to figure out what’s research and what’s lay publications).

  47. 47
    Paul L. says:

    yet off the top of my head I can think of a couple of scandals that made the news

    Do they include my favorites of the Duke Lacrosse Group of 88 where Duke settled out of court and Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles?
    Both not covered by the MSM.

  48. 48
    Mike E says:

    @evolutionary:
    Conservatism was doomed to fail because adherents never could quite abide by the movement’s root word: Conserve.

  49. 49
    chopper says:

    @Evinfuilt:

    indeed. it’s like vaccinations. ‘why do we even need vaccinations? its not like people get polio anymore!’ (headslap).

  50. 50
    elmo says:

    @Tom Hilton:

    Not “Sierra Nevadas” or “Sierra Nevada mountains”. They are the Sierra Nevada. I know this is picky, but I can’t help it—the Sierra are my One True Love among mountain ranges.

    Tom, they are mine too. Lived in them for eight years, and it still hurts my heart that I had to leave.

    (But I still slip from time to time and call them the Sierras. My shame is limitless.)

  51. 51
    ChrisS says:

    I wrote a paper on the historical spatial distribution of snowfall in NY state. The paper resulted from a quick comparison of snowfall totals from Watertown, Syracuse and Rochester (including some rudimentary statistical analysis merged with GIS). After that short report gave me interesting results, I expanded the research from 30 years to 60 and the number of stations from three to 50 or so.

    I worked my ass off on that paper and after it went through review by my dept. head (plus I had a meteorologist as a co-author) it was still skewered in peer review. Why?

    Because snowfall is a tricky beast to use for anything. Wet snow, dry snow, lake-effect, powder, drifts, etc. Snowfall measurement (outside of melting it and measuring the water content) is damn near impossible to do consistently in one location, let alone multiple stations with different operators. I’m not even considering an entire mountain range.

    In any event, I’m expecting lake-effect snow fall to increase in upstate NY with climate change because of water’s higher thermal inertia. How long it stays on the ground will be a different matter.

  52. 52
    PS says:

    A nitpick, but I think significant: In the excerpt quoted from Monbiot, the first ellipses cover a very long passage of gentle criticism, which ends: “In other words, the university knew what was coming three days before the story broke. As far as I can tell, it sat like a rabbit in the headlights, waiting for disaster to strike.” He wasn’t calling for massive PR expense, just a prepared response to a predicted catastrophe. (Hmmm, does that resonate?) Note: Monbiot is a strong supporter of climate science, and the author of a book about responding to its implications. He’s exactly the kind of guy they should have called and tipped off as to what was coming.

  53. 53
    Evinfuilt says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:

    Tell him he’s not a genius and scientists never realized there’s a giant ball of gas warming us. Then point him to this short article. You’ll find that scientists have been fighting your brothers lack of logic for over 20 years. Solar activity hasn’t suddenly caused global warming, in fact if it was the main cause we’d be in the middle of a global cooling effect right now.

  54. 54
    Evinfuilt says:

    @Evinfuilt:
    I mangled my own snark.

    Tell him he’s not a genius and scientists never realized there’s a giant ball of gas warming us.

    Honestly, people like your brother have to honestly believe that Paleoclimatologists and their ilk never looked up and saw the sun. Your brother hopes one day he’ll run into one and turn their head upwards and the scientist will face slap and go “ohhh, thats why it gets warm.”

  55. 55
    trollhattan says:

    My main man, Tim Lambert, has this to say about the “code mining” that has gone on following the data theft.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoi.....e.php#more

    If you have a very narrow world view you will only cram small slices of facts in the slot to nurture that view. Now what political party does that remind me of?

  56. 56
    The Other Steve says:

    I suspect there is certainly an effect of CO2 on the world.

    I’m just not yet convinced it’s a bad thing. I live in Minnesota, and some warm weather would be nice.

  57. 57
    4tehlulz says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: Your brother is in the same neighborhood as antivaccine tards and Holocaust deniers. You can only hope to keep from catching the same disease.

  58. 58
    gnomedad says:

    I cannot think of a single department that would smell like roses if someone stole twelve years of private correspondence and released a selection of emails calibrated to make it look bad. Science works fine in aggregate, but this idea that science must have only flawless people doing impeccable work is a strawman set up by the superstitious to discredit empiricism through nutpicking.

    Exactly. This.

    Superb post, Tim.

  59. 59
  60. 60
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    The Nobel Intent guys over at Ars Technica have an article on Five Things You Should Know About Climate Change, and the comments thread has brought out the loonies in force. Interestingly, I counted at least 8 or 9 brand new accounts, meaning people specifically registered to bring the ignorant on that particular article (I’m betting most are sock puppets). It’s like a fucking crusade with these idiots.

    Oh, and hadn’t we determined that BoB was pure spoof?

  61. 61
    Kewalo says:

    Good post Tim.

    I’m old, and on a scale of 1-10 understanding the science behind AGW I’m about a 1 1/2 or 2 (maybe) but it’s just so much common sense that man has contributed to climate change.

    I grew up in Los Angeles and when I was a girl we had smog so bad that they sometimes canceled school to keep kids inside. Now, years later, even with more cars on the roads it is better…way better. And this happened because CA passed some stringent laws to control what went into the air. Men made the air bad, men cleaned it up (some) and it’s better. I wasn’t there while they were passing those laws but I’ll just bet that some of the same arguments the anti-AGW use were used back then.

    BTW whenever you see a post and Gore’s name comes up, you can just bet that the post is actually political and the poster is science illiterate.

  62. 62
    ChrisS says:

    @The Other Steve:

    I live in Upstate NY and we had 0″ snowfall in November.

    Nice.

    Pine beetle infestation that results from not-cold winters wrecking havoc on the western forests?

    Not nice.

    What about marginal areas that can’t no longer support a human population because of climate change. Where do a billion climate refugees find a new place to live? I’m sure their neighbors will welcome them with open arms.

  63. 63
    4tehlulz says:

    >What about marginal areas that can’t no longer support a human population because of climate change.

    You mean like Phoenix and Las Vegas?

  64. 64
    Mike E says:

    @The Other Steve:
    Yeah, you can roast marshmallows on the wildfires!

  65. 65
    J.W. Hamner says:

    I just wanted to chime in and say that I think this is an excellent post.

  66. 66
    AhabTRuler says:

    You mean like Phoenix and Las Vegas\ the American Southwest?

    Fixeteth.

  67. 67
    The Other Steve says:

    What if the problem with warming isn’t CO2, and it’s the contrails from airplanes?

    Wouldn’t that be cheaper and easier to address?

  68. 68
    The Other Steve says:

    @ChrisS:

    What about marginal areas that can’t no longer support a human population because of climate change. Where do a billion climate refugees find a new place to live? I’m sure their neighbors will welcome them with open arms.

    People produce carbon dioxide. Less people is a good thing.

  69. 69
  70. 70
    Zifnab says:

    @4tehlulz:

    You mean like Phoenix and Las Vegas?

    Once you’re done depleting the water reserves for the better part of three states up, you can sustain them.

    There’s a reason the Rio Grande doesn’t make it to the Gulf anymore, and the Colorado dies out before it gets through the Grand Canyon. We’re sucking at those fire hoses like a hooker at a black tie only gala.

  71. 71
    Zifnab says:

    @The Other Steve:

    What if the problem with warming isn’t CO2, and it’s the contrails from airplanes?

    Possibly worse. Windmills and solar panels flipping out coal planets is one thing, but what rich person wants to ride the bus?

  72. 72
    The Other Steve says:

    @AngusTheGodOfMeat: Same place I’ve always been. Right here.

  73. 73
    Anoniminous says:

    The neat thing about Global Warming is it is providing real-world epistemological training for the broad mass of the world’s population in what the Schrodinger’s Cat thought-experiment is all about.

    Of course when the box is opened and the effects and affects of Global Climate Change become accepted, even to the dim-Bobs, we’ll be in the middle of a global catastrophe and on the verge of killing off 2 to 3 billion people but … hey! … can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

  74. 74
    gex says:

    @licensed to kill time: Did she just interview herself?

  75. 75
    The Other Steve says:

    @Zifnab:

    Possibly worse. Windmills and solar panels flipping out coal planets is one thing, but what rich person wants to ride the bus?

    Can’t we just replace jets with prop planes?

    I’m really curious about this… I only have anecdotal evidence but it seems to me that our city here is nearly universally covered by a thin layer of clouds year round. Even on relatively clear days you can see the clouds.

    The study Minnis at NASA did regarding cloud cover following the air traffic halt from 9/11 seems to show it has a much larger impact then has been previously recognized.

    And while people have been burning coal and gas for a long time, the increase in temps seems to correlate with the deregulation of the airline industry, the increase in air traffic and notably the increase in jet use.

    Just saying…

  76. 76
    dmsilev says:

    @Grumpy Code Monkey: I read that thread. It did have the saving grace of coining a new phrase for describing a wingnut arguing technique, “reductio ad Goreum”, which is the inevitable reduction of all climate arguments to an attack on Al Gore. J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford’s brother, at comment #43 in this thread, provides a sterling example of the genre.

    -dms

  77. 77
    Docrailgun says:

    I get it now! BOB’s posts are written by a program that puts together words related to a seed topic provided by a user, and a semi-coherent comment sometimes comes out the other end. It’s like SCIgen (a program that creates fake scientific papers) but for political blogging.

  78. 78
    Anoniminous says:

    @4tehlulz:

    Los Vegas is already in a world of hurt. Apparently Nye county – from whence they get most of their water – is contaminated by radioactive material from the surface and sub-surface nuke testing.

  79. 79
    Person of Choler says:

    Just one damn thing after another the last few days: Seems that closing the south polar ozone hole exacerbates the warming of Antarctica.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/envi.....antarctica

    “We knew that, when we took away this blanket of ozone, we would have more ultra-violet radiation. But we didn’t realise the extent to which it would change the atmospheric circulation of the Antarctic”, says John Turner, peer reviewed scientific whimwham of the British Antarctic Survey.

    I think the climate geniuses don’t realize a lot of things.

  80. 80
    licensed to kill time says:

    @gex: Heh heh. I saw what you did there. Thaddeus is a dude, though.

    Environmental groups have declared that McCotter is a “Caveman Congressman.” The satirical Caveman Energy Caucus website notes that lawmakers like McCotter have “chosen OLD energy when they voted no” on Waxman-Markey clean energy legislation.

  81. 81
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @Evinfuilt:

    Evinfuilt – thanks. But the problem is that my brother thinks himself an expert, despite never studying anything to do with global climate change. He had some intro engineering courses twenty years ago which seems to be the basis for his inflated opinion of his abilities, but mainly he hates Al Gore. He really, really hates Al Gore. That is, when he isn’t hating Bill Gates and the Clintons.

  82. 82
    RSA says:

    @Evinfuilt:

    It just always amazes me how laymen think they can constantly outsmart the tens of millions of scientists, and cause constant delay.

    Yeah, I’m amazed, too. Especially about the people who don’t even try to outsmart scientists–rather, they seem to be trying to use ignorance as a weapon against knowledge. I mean, you hear that “the science isn’t settled” from people who apparently haven’t cracked a non-fiction book since high school. “I don’t understand it, and it’s bad news, so it must be wrong.”

    Great post, Tim.

  83. 83
    Anoniminous says:

    @The Other Steve:

    People have been burning fossil fuels for millennial. That’s not the point. As a Complex, Chaotic, dynamic system Climate can continue in a particular regime as long as the inputs to change (repulsors) don’t overwhelm the inputs and conditions establishing that particular regimes inputs for stability (attractors.) In a sense, any non-linear dynamic system is a balancing act between dissipation of inputs-to-change and summation of inputs-to-change. When the last is greater than the former the system must, and will, move.

  84. 84
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    @dmsilev:

    dmsilev, I think I just figured out why we’re experiencing warming – my brother hates Al Gore with the intensity of a thousand suns. Every day that goes by sees my brother hate Al Gore with the intensity of another sun, steadily increasing the temperature here on earth.

  85. 85
    Tim F. says:

    @Person of Choler: I appreciate that you are trying to be reasonable, but you still do not understand this thing we call science. Nobody ever gets everything right. Darwin’s theory remains about 75% intact. Gregor Mendel faked some of his data. You have discovered that empiricism involves making testable predictions that do not always pan out. When they do pan out, as is the case with climate warming, we consider the model from which the prediction was drawn correct.

    This process that you noted is not “proving scientists wrong.” It is popularly known as “science.” If, for example, I do not prove an important scientist was wrong in my next paper, only a low-impact journal will accept it and my next grant application will fail and I will not get tenure and I will spend the rest of my career developing erection pills for Pfizer.

    Religion is the field where someone makes an interesting point and lesser minds swallow it unchanged ad infinitum.

  86. 86
    Martin says:

    @Person of Choler:

    I think the climate geniuses don’t realize a lot of things.

    Planetary climate is probably one of the hardest problems in science to take care of – not because each component is terribly hard, but because the number of interrelationships between elements is unfathomably huge, and the ability to control for many of these variables just doesn’t exist. It’s very messy stuff. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most important problems to solve because humans represent a lot of those relationships.

    But fundamentally, it doesn’t matter if scientists are winning the PR war or not. Policy is set by policymakers, regardless of its popularity. We only need to convince Congress and the President that a policy change is needed, and they simply need to have the resolve to do it and explain to the public why. We don’t need to convince the other 300 million at all.

    We’ll certainly never win it because guys like Glenn Beck get paid to convince people that global warming is a hoax because Al Gore still eats meat. You simply cannot win against dishonest people with an entire TV network at their disposal.

  87. 87
    gnomedad says:

    @The Other Steve:

    People produce carbon dioxide. Less people is a good thing.

    I know you’re snarking but please do not propagate this meme. Carbon dioxide emission by animals is exactly balanced by its absorption by the plant mass they eat.

  88. 88
    The Other Steve says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:

    But the problem is that my brother thinks himself an expert,

    Aren’t the people who are preaching the CO2 gospel also thinking of themselves as an expert with not much more training then your brother has?

    Let’s assume climate change is real. Why is it just CO2? It seems to me with a planet this large there are hundreds of variables. So why just CO2?

  89. 89
    gwangung says:

    Aren’t the people who are preaching the CO2 gospel also thinking of themselves as an expert with not much more training then your brother has?

    Absolutely not.

    Next question.

  90. 90
    Brachiator says:

    One the one hand one can hardly deny that East Anglia shot itself in the groin when the story bubbled for so long without their input. But really, what did you expect would happen?

    I expected a lot better. It’s more than “non-experts misinterpreting ordinary communication in bad faith.” A BBC reporter sat on the emails for a month and did nothing with them. And in part because the university was unprepared for the blowback from wingnuts, they didn’t help to get the right information out there. Partly as a result, some of the early reporting at the BBC, The Times of London and other publications with science editors whose freakin’ job is to get science stories right instead got it wrong. And it is still the case that these media sources have far more weight than Mother Jones, RealClimate.org or other sources and sites.

    The Economist mainly got the story right. They note that much of any controversy is much ado about nothing:

    Looked at broadly, the e-mails seem to show a pretty workaday picture of scientists, with frustrations and sloppinesses, disagreements, opponents badmouthed, and cultural differences bridged (for example, explaining to an American colleague not just why a particular person is a prat, but what a prat is in the first place).

    But in their column on the issue (Mail-strom) even they noted a caution:

    More worrying than anything revealed about the scientific and other views of the people involved is the sense that legitimate attempts at ensuring transparency are being thwarted.

    One of the scientists involved understandably got frustrated over mis-communications and distortions of his emails. Unfortunately he refused to comment to non-wingnut reporters, making it harder to get the facts out.

    And atmospheric scientist Judith Curry has been roundly noted as sounding a critical voice of reason:

    In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and “tribalism” in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process.

    We pay scientists to do science. Especially given the effort that it takes to talk intelligently about climate science*, we don’t pay them very much.

    Sorry, in a down economy, playing the violin ain’t gonna get much sympathy from anybody. Yeah, I expect scientists to do science primarily. And it’s funny that even though, for example, hominid fossil discoveries are obvious red meat issues for evolution deniers, they don’t get as worked up over these things as climate change opponents. Part of this is because issues related to climate change have potentially huge social and economic consequences.

    When you are suggesting that people potentially make radical changes to the way they live or incur additional taxes, then you bloody well better have competent people on hand to translate from science to understandable every day discourse.

    Like it or not, it goes with the territory.

  91. 91

    @The Other Steve:

    Seems I hadn’t seen your handle for a while. But maybe this operating a laptop with a hoof thing is getting to me, I don’t know. All day trying to keep the flies off my ass, I can’t notice everything.

    I’ll try to moo better. I mean, do better.

  92. 92
    Mike in NC says:

    If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would most likely be a right-wing blogger.

    And if B.O.B. were still alive…

  93. 93

    Oh Christ, I posted under one of Brach’s essays. Kiss of death.

    Welp, that’s the way the alfalfa crumbles, I guess.

    Moo.

  94. 94
    Paul L. says:

    @Tim F.:
    Forgot about Hwang Woo-suk in addition to the Duke group of 88 and Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles as examples of Academic excellence and integrity.

  95. 95
    Anoniminous says:

    @Person of Choler:

    Having built Complex Models …

    It’s a real bitch. The only really “good” Model of Complex phenomena is … the phenomena. Which ain’t all that useful. To be able to run the Model, compute some kind of data set in a useful time period, you have to make simplifying assumptions and hope like hell you don’t blow it.

    Another problem is the reliance on digital cybernetic machines to Model phenomena that is – to cut to the chase – analog. The cumulative data lose through A/D and D/A conversion becomes affective after about 10 iterations, eventually wiping-out the reliability of the computation. What the IPCC people really need is a Analog Computer. Unfortunately, for the Modeling scale required we:

    (a) don’t know how to build one

    (b) we don’t how to program one

    shrug

    Pays your money and takes your choice. The IPCC Model had to make simplifying assumptions and had to accept some known affective variable inputs would be ignored or deemed constant. To state they didn’t know about a particular affective input is, I submit, going a bit far.

  96. 96
    The Other Steve says:

    @Tim F.:

    You have discovered that empiricism involves making testable predictions that do not always pan out. When they do pan out, as is the case with climate warming, we consider the model from which the prediction was drawn correct.

    I’m curious. How do you validate climate predictions? It does not seem to me that you can do this in a lab setting, and modeling can introduce bias. It seems you could only do this in the live environment. But how do you control your variables? What is your control environment?

  97. 97
    The Other Steve says:

    @AngusTheGodOfMeat: I’ve been lurking for the past year or so. Occasionally post, but seldom. Baby at home, work changes… too busy. :-)

  98. 98
    Lurked says:

    @The Other Steve:

    Although there are many gases in the atmosphere, the overwhelming majority are present only in trace quantities. The dominant gases are nitrogen, oxygen, and argon and none of those is a greenhouse gas. The major greenhouse gases are, in order of importance, water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. There are others but they are among those trace constituents and/or have a very short residence time in the atmosphere and have very little effect.

    Water vapor balance has not changed significantly for millenia. Carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing at an accelerating rate for approximately 250 years. Methane, though a smaller proportion of the atmosphere, is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 and its concentration has been increasing rapidly as well; in fact there is some danger that it may come to exceed CO2 in causing warming. Both these changes are largely due to human activities.

    Since the energy budget relies on balanced reactions, I hope you can see that major changes in concentrations of gas can affect those balances and hence the energy budget of the surface of the Earth. In other words, the deltas are the issue.

    And BTW I do have some training and experience in this area, though atmospheric chemistry is not my specialty.

  99. 99
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator:

    When you are suggesting that people potentially make radical changes to the way they live or incur additional taxes, then you bloody well better have competent people on hand to translate from science to understandable every day discourse.

    Wrong. Scientists determine whether or not we are screwed if we do not make major changes. The rest of you decide whether or not to act on that knowledge. Scientists are not and frankly should never be activists. Asking them to do that fundamentally perverts their (our – I never write or advocate about my own work) traditional impartiality.

    We have already proved, thoroughly, how badly civilization will suffer if nothing is done. Scientists already did their job. If the rest of humanity did nothing then humanist activists and political leaders failed.

  100. 100
    Original Lee says:

    @Shinobi: Unfortunately, this is sounding like a really good idea. Also unfortunately, I believe this would be out in the middle of Nebraska. On the gripping hand, if enough of us moved to Nebraska, we could take over the state from the fundies.

  101. 101
  102. 102
    Tim F. says:

    @Paul L.: I am glad to see that you read my post and agree with the point that I made in paragraph 2.

    @The Other Steve: You validate climate predictions by waiting a while. One can check the robustness of climate predictions using principal component analysis and other means, but the accuracy only comes from one test. So far reality favors climate Roubinis over climate Greenspans.

  103. 103
    Person of Choler says:

    Tim F. I think I understand this thing called science. For every theory like evolution or relativity that survives, there are several theories like phlogiston, caloric fluid, and luminiferous ether that don’t. The job of science is to collect repeatable observations of real phenomena and let the facts sort the true from the false. The CRU emails don’t make me confident that the highly regarded climate scientists followed this approach.

    Funny you should mention Pfizer, here are some thoughts of a pharma scientist on the current fracas:

    http://pipeline.corante.com/ar.....onduct.php

  104. 104

    The only thing I know for sure about atmospheric gases is that my relatives are trying to create as much CO2 as possible. Look, that’s how we were brought up. Graze, chew, digest, outgas. Repeat. Keep life simple.

    Similar to the jet engine theory of suck, squeeze, bang, blow. But without the bang. Well, unless we are standing near a pilot light.

  105. 105
    Lurked says:

    The comment by Anoniminous makes no sense. We know quite well how to handle the discrete nature of the numbers that a digital computer can represent — it’s a major topic within the field of numerical analysis. Moreover, the roundoff error due to the digital representation of real numbers is usually swamped by the truncation error due to discretizing continuous equations into versions that can be computed by any finite computing device. Again, that’s a major topic within numerical analysis and how to control the error growth is well understood.

    And to answer another question, we validate models by comparing them to data and determining how well they reproduce reality before using them to simulate new circumstances.

  106. 106
    Tim F. says:

    @Person of Choler:

    The job of science is to collect repeatable observations of real phenomena and let the facts sort the true from the false.

    Wrong. Facts are meaningless and often misleading unless observed in the context of a model or hypothesis. Wikipedia does a good enough job that I’ll send you there to read more.

    Also, one could say that I run into quite a lot of pharmacologists during my daily routine. Many if not all know more than I ever will about their personal receptor pathway, but I would not expect them to know much more than a lay person would about climate science. In the areas that a lay person should grasp, such as the Freedom of Information question, he agrees with me.

  107. 107
    Brachiator says:

    @Tim F.:

    Wrong. Scientists determine whether or not we are screwed if we do not make major changes. Whether or not to act on what science tells us is up to the rest of you. Scientists are not and frankly should never be activists. Asking them to do that fundamentally perverts their (our – I never write or advocate about my own work) traditional impartiality.

    Too hasty writing on my part. I never meant to imply that scientists should be activists (although this may be part of their lives as citizens). What I meant to say was that scientists have to make their work understandable to policy makers and to citizens on something as important as global warming.

    As an aside, some of the whining of some scientists remind me of scientists who complained about people like Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould for writing material that was both accessible and popular. Michael Shermer, a popularizer in his own right, noted how some of Sagan’s peers very wrongly assumed that the number and quality of Sagan’s scholarly articles declined while he was doing stuff like Cosmos. A very few scientists act as though they are new priests whose work should be deliberately opaque if it is any good at all.

    We have already proved, thoroughly, how badly civilization will suffer if nothing is done.

    I don’t entirely agree here. But even so, what the best solutions might be and how they might best be achieved is open to a huge degree of debate.

  108. 108
    gex says:

    @The Other Steve: OMG. There are many greenhouse gases, but our concern in this matter is anthropomorphic sources of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Our ever growing economy burns things and makes CO2 more than it makes methane or ozone or any of the other greenhouse gases.

    I don’t quite understand you pointing in all directions in this thread and saying “What about this?!?!” when the things you are discussing show a very poor knowledge of the basics of the concerns over climate change as I learned them in basic college science classes 15 years ago.

    Aren’t the people who are preaching the CO2 gospel also thinking of themselves as an expert with not much more training then your brother has?

    Well, I would think that people who study climate science and then go into research, peer review, and publishing might have a bit more expertise on the topic than someone who studied something completely different.

    Finally, the word gospel implies a faith based belief rather than, you know, a theory based on empirical evidence. It’s clear that you’ve picked up a manner in speaking about this issue the way Exxon would love.

  109. 109
    gex says:

    @Lurked: In which case our models have shown to be too conservative. Every metric we measure is getting worse faster than the models predict. Which sucks because the deep thinkers who get distracted by bright shiny things will notice that the models are wrong, but will not understand the implications, and instead write them off.

  110. 110
    Zifnab says:

    @Martin:

    We only need to convince Congress and the President that a policy change is needed, and they simply need to have the resolve to do it and explain to the public why. We don’t need to convince the other 300 million at all.

    If this were China, you’d be right. But Congresscritters and even the President ultimately kowtow to the voters. Pandering to the base desires of the masses is what gets liberals and conservatives alike elected. If you can manipulate a large number of people into believing that any climate change legislation will make them miserable, you can influence their corresponding Congressional representatives and put the skids on legislation. If, by contrast, you can make climate change reforms sound economically attractive (green jobs!) then suddenly the Congressional reps will be more than happy to pile on the bandwagon (assuming some industry insider is paying them top dollar not to).

  111. 111
    gex says:

    @gex: anthropomorphic anthropogenic.

    Blerg. No edit on my browser.

  112. 112
    Svensker says:

    @AngusTheGodOfMeat:

    The only thing I know for sure about atmospheric gases is that my relatives are trying to create as much CO2 as possible.

    I think you meant methane. At least, that’s what it smelled like.

  113. 113
    Anoniminous says:

    “With finite accuracy computing there is no cure for the damaging affect of chaos. Predictability sooner or later breaks down.” Chaos and Fractals – Peitgen, Jurgens, Saupe ISBN 0-387-97903-4

    Two solutions:

    1. Look for computationally derived patterns, e.g., the Mandelbrot Set and analyze the patterns

    2. Run the Model until chaotic break-down and use the computations achieved before break-down as the Set of data.

  114. 114
    Tim F. says:

    @Brachiator:

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

    – Upton Sinclair

  115. 115
    Anoniminous says:

    @Anoniminous:

    Note both solutions are a second, or higher, order mathematical construct, if you will, which may, or may not, achieve a high congruence with the Modeled phenomena. Just to state an obvious problem: even a constant can be differently affective at different levels on/to the Model, at varying time-steps (whether of the Model or the phenomena,) with different strength depending on the State and State-Instance and each of their vectoring — i.e., where it’s moving to/from.

  116. 116
    The Other Steve says:

    @gex:

    Well, I would think that people who study climate science and then go into research, peer review, and publishing might have a bit more expertise on the topic than someone who studied something completely different.

    Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy and it validates my concern.

    The kool-aid drinking is on both sides of this issue.

  117. 117
    The Other Steve says:

    @Zifnab: Life would be so much easier if we lived in a dictatorship. :-)

  118. 118
    The Other Steve says:

    @Lurked:

    Water vapor balance has not changed significantly for millenia.

    I suppose you measured this by taking ice cores?

  119. 119
    Robert Waldmann says:

    I have a question. What does the FOIA have to do with East Anglia ? I mean it’s a US law and East Anglia is not in the USA.

    Yeah climatology is hard. Harder than advanced quantum mechanics I was once told by someone studying both simultaneously.

  120. 120
    gwangung says:

    Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy

    NO.

    IT.

    ISN’T

    You’re misusing the argument because you don’t understand it.

    That pisses me off.

    It is NOT a logical fallacy, when you defer to an authority IN THEIR SUBJECT OF EXPERTISE.

    What? Are you trying to argue with doctors on how to treat your cancer????

  121. 121

    […] in Daily life, Environment, Global warming, Media, Science at 4:15 pm by LeisureGuy TimF at Balloon Juice: A week or two back NPR gave some guy about three minutes to complain about how the climate […]

  122. 122
  123. 123
    The Other Steve says:

    @gwangung: I think you need to go look up logical fallacy.

    What? Are you trying to argue with doctors on how to treat your cancer????

    Actually yes, I would ask.

    If the doctor responds “Look, I’m a doctor and your not you little shit.” That is not an argument.

    If the doctor responds with an explanation as to why this option is better, balancing the pros and cons of several different options and explaining why he feels this treatment is better in this case. That’s how you build trust.

    Don’t you seek a second opinion? Why not?

  124. 124
    Brachiator says:

    @AngusTheGodOfMeat:

    Oh Christ, I posted under one of Brach’s essays. Kiss of death.

    I can offer you something else to kiss. Also, too.

  125. 125
    gwangung says:

    @The Other Steve: Still NOT a logical fallacy. An expert drawing upon his experience and expertise has authority BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE OTHERS DON’T. It is in no way a fallacy in logic to give that weight, particularly when you yourself have no expertise and logic in that area.

    And, sorry, I thought you were trying to be clever, but you’re simply not making sense. The climate scientists have been saying all along WHY they’ve drawn the conclusions–“I don’t believe them” is not a valid counter argument.

  126. 126
    gnomedad says:

    @The Other Steve:

    Don’t you seek a second opinion? Why not?

    Um, if ten thousand doctors made a career of studying my condition and agreed about what was the matter with me, I would find that pretty compelling, yeah.

  127. 127
    Gwangung says:

    @gnomedad: The fallacy is accepting the authority as infallible. Accepting that they’ll be right over you in 99 percent of the cases us not a logical fallacy.

  128. 128
    Nutella says:

    this idea that science must have only flawless people doing impeccable work is a strawman

    Scientists and the processes they use have to be flawless, just like politicians and the processes they use. Right.

  129. 129
    evinfuilt says:

    @Person of Choler:
    No it shows the opposite. When they’re data dealing with older models failed to predict what occurred, they decided that data/model is not worth using and heck, deleted the bad data (years later.)

    For this, people use as proof that the world is cooling.

    Emails taken out of context is bad, trusting the thieves to be honest, that’s just silly.

  130. 130
    evinfuilt says:

    @The Other Steve:

    This isn’t really appealing to authority, when you yourself can become knowledgeable instead of rehashing disproved ideas from 20 years ago.

    The problem with denialism it never changes, while our knowledge is constantly changing. I could tell you to try and get informed, but its obvious you don’t want to. Its easier to think there’s a grand conspiracy and you alone have unlocked it.

    I used to believe we could point people to the research, and hope they learn on their own. But we’re well past that point, now we have to treat you like all other denialists, as someone purposefully trying to muddle the facts.

    I want to be nice about stuff like this, but denialism has meant its already too late. Denialism is easier to model than climate change.

  131. 131
    evinfuilt says:

    @The Other Steve:

    Well my friend Mike at NASA, paleoclimatologist did :)

  132. 132
    Frank West says:

    IMHO, NPR has been leaning right for some time. Obviously not all right-wingers deny global warming, but the majority appear to, so providing a pulpit to a global warming naysayer is an example of NPR’s rightward movement. At least twice in the last couple of weeks Talk of the Nation has specifically asked for calls from conservative listeners.
    Perhaps I’m receiving the news through my own political filters, but time and time again I will hear a brief quote from our president followed by two or three Republican responses. It’s all most annoying; I used to really trust NPR to deliver news objectively.

    “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” — Charles Darwin

  133. 133
    grumpy realist says:

    I wonder how much do the seas have to rise before the global warming denialists will actually admit that they were wrong.

    Given the track record of other things they’ve pounded the drum for (and been shown to be wrong), my guess is never.

    For an unfortunately large percentage of the human population, never admitting they are wrong will take precedence over everything, including their families’ lives.

    (This also explains the Mideast. As one of my friends said: “anyone who cared more about the lives of their children than getting involved in some damned holy war left the area long ago.”)

  134. 134
    gex says:

    @grumpy realist: Where exactly does your friend think those people went? So few countries take people from that area. I’m going to be grumpy my own self, because it doesn’t take long for casual thinking like that to get people here start thinking the people over there deserve whatever we feel like dishing out.

  135. 135
    Phil says:

    CRU now concede that they have lost some of the original data records – don’t you consider that might be a problem? Also, refusal to release data/transforms for others to attempt to reproduce results is not generally taken to be part of the scientific method, is it? Pointing out the extent of polar ice loss is a somewhat oblique response to these critiques, don’t you think?

  136. 136
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    @The Other Steve:

    It’s not fallacious if the authority in question has actual expertise in the subject under discussion. A working climate researcher’s opinions on global warming carry far more weight than a geologist’s or an engineer’s.

  137. 137
    Plantman says:

    @The Other Steve: It’s not just CO2, it’s also CH4 (methane) and N2O, along with other gases. CO2 is the most common though.

  138. 138
    Tim F. says:

    @Phil: The raw data is not lost. Anyone can still request it from the sources where CRU obtained it in the first place – meterological stations, national weather services etc. About discarded data, you need to be more specific. Did they toss aspects of the raw data that they did not use for analysis? I do that all the time. If the original is still intact then it sounds normal. About sharing transformed data (as opposed to raw, which as I said is freely available from the original sources), I don’t do that either. If climate science journals expect their correspondents to share intermediate data products with one another then they’re the only field that does.

    In my field if people want to reproduce my results they can get the raw materials (e.g., plasmids and cell lines, which I am expected to share) and perform the experiments themselves.

  139. 139
    Grumpy Code Monkey says:

    RealClimate has links to various sources of raw data here.

    From the Ars Technica thread (quoting BadAndy):

    Look, you do your own analysis from scratch your own way. You make any reasonable choices you like for these variant method assumptions. You get a result.
    __
    It either does or does not look like theirs.
    __
    If it does look like theirs… you have just reproduced their work, and shown that the conclusion is not particularly sensitive to minuteae of analysis technique. That’s good, that’s what a robust conclusion should be.
    __
    If instead “you get wildly different results”, you publish showing that your method(s) whatever they are, produce that.
    __
    Then the question is why and which analysis method is better, and perhaps the conclusion is that you can’t do the claimed analysis robustly from the available data.
    __
    That happens a lot incidentally.

    For all the people who think the HadCRUT intermediate product is hopelessly tainted, go back to the raw data and start again, using different methods/models/code, and show us what you get.

  140. 140

    […] work is a strawman set up by the superstitious to discredit empiricism through nutpicking. -Tim F. None of us who think the “Swifthack” is no big deal are arguing that every last email that has […]

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