There is no Consensus

This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


Objection:

Climate is complicated and there are lots of competing theories and unsolved mysteries. Until this is all worked out one can’t claim there is consensus on Global Warming Theory and until there is we should not take any actions.

Answer:

Sure there are plenty of unsolved problems and active debates in climate science. But if you look at the research papers coming out these days, the debates are about things like why model predictions of outgoing longwave radiation at the top of the atmosphere in tropical latitudes differ from satellite readings or how the size of ice crystals in cirrus clouds affect the amount of incoming shortwave reflected back into space or precisely how much stratospheric cooling can be attributed to ozone depletion rather than an enhanced greenhouse effect. No one in the climate science community is debating whether or not changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations alter the Greenhouse effect or if the current warming trend is outside of the range of natural variability or if sea levels have risen over the last century. This is where there is a consensus.

Specifically, the "consensus" about anthropogenic climate change entails the following:

  • the climate is undergoing a pronounced warming trend that is beyond the range of natural variability.
  • the major cause of most of the observed warming is rising levels of the greenhouse gas CO2
  • the rise in CO2 is the result of fossil fuel burning.
  • if CO2 continues to rise over the next century the warming will continue
  • a climate change of the projected magnitude over this time frame represents potential danger to human welfare and the environment

While theories and alternate view points in conflict with the above do exist, their proponents are in a very small minority. If one requires unanimity before being confident, well, we can’t be sure the earth isn’t hollow either.

This consensus is represented in the IPCC Third Assessment Report, Working Group 1 (TAR WG1). This is the most comprehensive compilation and summary of current climate research ever attempted, and is arguably the most thoroughly peer reviewed scientific document in history. While this review was sponsored by the UN, the research it compiled and reviewed was not, and the scientists involved were independent and came from all over the world..

The conclusions reached in this document have been explicitly endorsed by:

  • Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil)
  • Royal Society of Canada
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Academié des Sciences (France)
  • Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany)
  • Indian National Science Academy
  • Accademia dei Lincei (Italy)
  • Science Council of Japan
  • Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Society (United Kingdom)
  • National Academy of Sciences (United States of America)
  • Australian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts
  • Caribbean Academy of Sciences
  • Indonesian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Irish Academy
  • Academy of Sciences Malaysia
  • Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

in either one or both of these documents: [PDF] [PDF]

In addition to these national academies, the following institutions specializing in climate, atmosphere, ocean and/or earth sciences have endorsed or published the same conclusions as presented in the TAR report:

If this is not a scientific consensus, then what in the world would a consensus look like?

[Addendum: One could quite legitimately argue that such policy statements by necessity hide possibly legitimate internal debate while trying to present unity of position. Science is really determined in peer reviewed journals. Fortunately, there is a bit of research one can turn to that looked specifically at this very question, and this is the subject of another guide entry. Please see this article.]


This is just one of dozens of responses to common climate change denial arguments, which can all be found at How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.


“There is no Consensus” was first published here, where you can still find the original comment thread. This updated version is also posted on the Grist website, where additional comments can be found, though the author, Coby Beck, does not monitor or respond there.

176 thoughts on “There is no Consensus

  1. Marco,

    so you have provided proof that ENSO signals have to be taken out of the SST record. Thanks.

    Whether or not its physically reasonable to believe that on very long time scales ENSO or other such phenomena provide something to warming is an important conversation. But because we’re talking about at most 40 years of really reliable observational data, the effect of such ‘short term’ events is important, which is why RC did that piece a couple years. And you should note that they pointed out such business is ‘tricky’.

    As for ‘models’ I think that there is again confusion over which version of the world model is being in this context. When I personally use the word ‘model’ I am not talking about a computer simulation, though most of the literature seems to use the word this way. I am talking about the physical model. That is, I am talking about the equations and parameters that one uses to run the computer simulation. To calculate a quantity like the climate sensitivity, one needs equations that quantify how different parameters depend on one another. This is what I am referring to, as it seems you are as well.

    In the context of the IPCC AR4, box 10.2 explicitly talks about climate sensitivity as a number calculated from the interpretation of computer simulations of these physical models, general circulation models mostly it seems. They create a probability density function used to enumerate the probability that a particular equilibrium climate sensitivity will come to pass.

    I don’t know how to rationalize the discrepancy in the use of the word ‘model’ in this context personally. It would be interesting to me if someone were to do so.

    As far as Tol is concerned, I don’t know enough about the economics to make a cogent and/or useful comment other than that this analysis has been brought to my attention. I also would say that his being or not being a long-time critic of the IPCC has little to nothing to do with the logic he, or even Roger, brings to an argument. Such statements are usually made to question the legitimacy of an individual’s viewpoint which I think would be a mistake in this instance.

    To say whether or not your assertion is a useful in this debate I would have to read more on that side of the issue, but I will say thanks for bringing that part of the equation to my attention.

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  2. Max, there’s no problem with your definition of “model”. The computer models are implementations of physical models. So, aside from approximations necessary to fit the physical model into the computer, discussions of what are inputs and outputs of the models are pretty much unaffected by that distinction.

    so you have provided proof that ENSO signals have to be taken out of the SST record. Thanks.

    Utterly untrue. The ENSO signal *can* be taken out of the record, but it is not necessary to do so.

    Whether or not its physically reasonable to believe that on very long time scales ENSO or other such phenomena provide something to warming is an important conversation.

    Not really. By definition ENSO is “internal variability” (actually, if they don’t change the reference temperature for the ENSO index, eventually as the ocean gets warmer, we’ll always be in “El Nino”, but that’s just a silly technical point). Long term the only thing that matters is the energy balance at the top of the atmosphere. Everything below that is just redistribution.

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  3. Crap, I missed a / and I didn’t preview.
    Obviously that last indentation is supposed to be not blockquoted rather than nested.

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  4. “DW, if I were to make a judgment, I would say that you did not make your comment about the record temps in the last two months because they are indicative of a ‘long term warming trend’. – Maxwell.

    Well you’d be wrong. I’m well aware of the “big picture”.

    “The very fact that they are record temperatures for months has less to do with such a trend and more to do with shorter term events like El Nino.” – Maxwell

    So by your logic, the more powerful El Nino events should coincide with higher global temperatures throughout the instrumental record. Apart from 1997-1998, we know that isn’t true. No, the difference between the El Nino events is that the Earth continues to warm between episodes and even moderate to strong events can now induce global records. Eventually even moderate El Nino’s will have the same effect.

    “And yes, El Nino are short term events, but there is a longer term El Nino signal in the global average temperature” – Maxwell.

    What is that supposed to mean?.

    “The fact that you can show a pick from the Australian whatever agency” – Maxwell

    Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

    “that shows a relatively high resolution depiction of the variation of El Nino/Southern Oscillation means that there should still be a component from ENSO in the longer term signal.” – Maxwell.

    Huh?. Don’t know how to come to that conclusion.

    “Because it’s being modulated at a almost regular rate, it should be pretty easy to see its contribution to such a long term signal, although I don’t know how large variations in its amplitude will affect such an analysis or how far back in the record ENSO events have been documented” – Maxwell

    If El Nino occured at regular intervals we’d be able to accurately predict when the next one will be. We can’t. As far as amplitude AND frequency there is some evidence that both may have increased in the latter half of the 20th century, but they (the El Nino’s) have certainly tailed off in amplitude this century.

    There is paleo evidence for El Nino dating back many thousands of years, however from the half dozen or so papers I’ve read no clear trend seems to have yet emerged. Intuitively I’d expect the frequency and amplitude of ENSO to adjust dependent on the rate of change in the Earth’s energy budget, i.e. the greater the warming or cooling the more frequent and/or intense El Nino/La Nina’s emerge. However it may be that some climate switch is tripped and we enter an entirely new regime all together, such as a permanent El Nino suggested in one or two climate models. I guess we’ll see.

    “But the take home point is that while one El Nino event may not be part of a longer time series, ENSO as a regularly varying component to the climate system should be. You already proved this with the pick in your earlier comment. Thanks.” – Maxwell

    No need to thank me, you ain’t getting it………. yet:

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/exogenous-factors/

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  5. “And yes, El Nino are short term events, but there is a longer term El Nino signal in the global average temperature” – Maxwell.

    What is that supposed to mean?.

    It puts him in the camp of those who don’t understand that El Niño/La Niña redistribute heat that’s already in the system, rather than being a source of energy input into the system.

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  6. DW, GFW and dhogaza,

    I think there is confusion over what I am referring to.

    I am referring to the OBSERVATIONAL RECORD of temperature.

    I am not talking about a physical model for how the earth heats up, which you all seem to be inferring from what I have written.

    There is a signal of temperature observed on earth directly that is caused by different factors over the time we have observed this signal. I am not referring to some general way in which these contributions account for energy into or out of the climate system. I am specifically talking about the OBSERVATIONAL RECORD. So let’s focus here, please.

    So even though ENSO is a redistribution of heat, if its amplitude has increased even slightly over the period of direct temperature observation (ie the satellite era) then there should be a positive contribution when the temperature signal is decomposed into its constituent parts.

    In fact, Lean et al. did a decomposition that found such a positive contribution. I’m not sure what method they used mathematically, though I would imagine SVD would do the trick.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/fw02425x68641332/?p=b541ab8628d44193a2619eec6f1663f2&pi=3

    They also found that 40% of the observed warming couldn’t be accounted for in their model, which I find quite interesting.

    When GISS published a summarized report of model simulation results,

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2002/2001JD001143.shtml

    you’d notice that the abstract points out that the temperature increase over the last few decades is ‘primarily’ due to radiative forcings, implying there are other contributions. When talking about changes in mean temperature on the order or 1%, these higher order corrections become important.

    What I think you guys aren’t thinking about is that ENSO is a complicated process of the ocean giving up some of the energy stored in it. Since the transients of radiative forcings are longest in the ocean, energy that was deposited in the ocean up to centuries ago could be affecting climate today via processes like ENSO.

    So yes, ENSO is a redistribution of energy. But because that energy could have been deposited in the ocean many years ago, one has to consider an energy balance that spans a long time to account for variations we see on shorter time scales in the climate, specifically mean temperatures. Because we can’t integrate over the energy for the last few centuries due to a lack of observations, ENSO can show in the observational signal as if it were a ‘source’ of energy.

    (Notice that I have put quotes around the word ‘source’ because it is not truly a source of energy, but appears as a ‘source’ because when all the energy that has fallen on the earth in the last 200 years isn’t taken into account, which no one can do due to lack of observations.)

    Now when one considers the problems we have pointed out with measurement and prediction of ENSO events it makes an interesting topic of conversation in terms of how the ocean affects short term climate (less than centuries). Especially since the full variability of the ocean is hard to sample in the course of two or three decades of direct observation.

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  7. Hi Max.

    First, I genuinely enjoy going through your posts and the various repartee they encourage, so please feel encouraged to continue.

    Regarding the role of ENSO as a lagged forcer, I have two questions:

    1. What is the point—that it *might* be ENSO, so we can’t be sure its CO2 so much—an “interesting conversation”?

    2. Or, is this a reason to balk at acting on climate change?

    I ask because I think its pertinent to our previous exchange.
    To wit: I don’t want you to feel ganged up on here, especially since with your obvious strong scientific training and articulateness you kind of represent the Holy Grail for many of us who lurk and/or post here: The Intelligent Denier.

    However, I have to be honest and say a bit of a credibility gap is emerging here. I’m not trying to be a dick (although I’ll admit at times I can succeed at it effortlessly). I’m not trying to pull one over on you. If I have missed something in this exchange I am totally open to being refuted. This is the underlying sentiment that animates this post, ok?

    BUT, that being said, in the context of discussing the admitted “uncertainties” of climate science (and even the discussion of what we mean by “uncertainties”), I made what is, at least for me, an extremely important point about hedging against risk even given technical uncertainties. As part of your response you said:

    Especially concerning what it would take to bring our emissions down to levels currently discussed at climate conferences. It seems like it would take a Herculean effort to do that.

    You then provided a link to Tol’s post, which I dutifully read. I pointed out that even in that link what Tol argued for was “smart” emissions reductions programs vis-à-vis the issue of their economic impacts. He even asserted that it was “widely accepted” in the literature that such savvy programming *would* be of economic benefit, and that his beef with the IPCC was its sloppiness in approaching the problem. He was *not* saying we should not work to reduce emissions, and in fact I provided other, summary statements by Tol in which he argued that we should, (paraphrasing with my language) *hedge against risk* and perhaps even reduce emissions *more* than would be dictated by a strict cost-benefit analysis.

    Since this was in the context of discussing whether we should or should not hedge against the plausible risks of AGW and your (apparent) effort to deny this was feasible/worthwhile, I felt I handled this pretty fairly. In response you said:

    As far as Tol is concerned, I don’t know enough about the economics to make a cogent and/or useful comment other than that this analysis has been brought to my attention. –Maxwell #101

    Humble and honest enough, but a little different from your first comment:

    Richard Tol, an economist who has worked with the IPCC, has a great analysis of how the IPCC did not show the negative economic impacts of such carbon mitigation programs. –Maxwell #97

    You first told me, in response to my underlying point/question about the value of hedging against climate risk, that Tol’s comments were a “great analysis” about “the negative economic impacts” of acting on climate change. This was in the context of a vague reference about how you felt that the necessary policy efforts would be “Herculean”. You later ducked out when I pointed out the full scope of Tol’s position; you even acknowledged the limits of your economic understanding (a state of ignorance that I must confess we have in common.

    So Max, while you will always have my respect and my attention, I feel compelled to remind you that it was you who once posted, in response to Mandas:

    Arguments necessitate evidence rather than links to websites or documents with statements along the lines of ‘there should be something that supports my position here’. Maxwell #83

    But stay strong, man. Discussing this with you—and watching your exchanges with the more educated contributors—is frankly a rare treat in comparison to lowbrow slugfests with the usual suspects who haunt this forum.

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  8. The question I see posed by Max: How “old” is the oceanic heat redistributed out of an El Nino?

    Now that’s an interesting question and I certainly don’t know. But I know somebody who might, so I’ll ask him.

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  9. In regards to post 91 etc of the sat temps, here is a really good (in laymans terms) analysis of what is going on. This is not my own work but something i read which i feel is a good explanation.

    There is a tendency to view the atmosphere in a very simplistic way for example we assign imaginary boundries to the differing layers stratosphere, troposhpere etc. But of course in reality the boundaries do not exist. Within these layers we have a mix of gases even the IPCC specifies such an atmosphere and magically changes its composition while maintaining its well mixed slab like state.

    The heat is transported from the tropics to the poles were there is mostly always a high pressure system which gives us descending cold dry air.

    The Hadley Cells are either side of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone that is along the ‘thermal equator’. The thermal equator moves between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. The air in the Hadley cells is very humid and is rising convectively taking heat and humidity upward.

    Between these cells are the Ferrel Cells these carry the streams of weather areas in the Rossby waves that run along the edge of the polar cell this is delineated at the tropopause by the jetstreams. None of these patterns of convective cells are geometric shapes there are ‘jet-streaks’ and discontinuities and there are waves in the tropopause that can ‘break’ rather like waves on a beach. But in general there is cold and dry at the poles and hot and humid at the equator with variable conditions in the Ferrel cells between the two extremes.

    The tropopause is the level at which the convective weather stops – note that again – the tropopause doesn’t stop the convective weather it is where the weather stops. ( like a flood line is where the flood got to.) The tropopause at the poles is ~30,000ft or lower in the tropics it is 60,000ft or higher.

    Now let us add in a little more – dry air has a lot lower thermal capacity than humid air. So at the poles in the ‘lower troposphere’ we have a layer of cold dry air; in the tropics we have a layer twice as deep of hot humid air. The heat content and heat capacity of a volume of air in the tropics is much higher than the heat content and capacity of a similar size volume of air at the poles. Most of the heat content in tropical air is the sensible and latent heat of the water vapor in the air – this is the energy that is the driver for the severe convection in the tropics.

    If a particular amount of heat is added to dry Polar air it will rapidly rise in TEMPERATURE as its heat capacity is low. If I add the same amount of heat to the same volume of tropical humid air it will NOT rise by the same amount as its heat capacity is higher; water will change state or warm but the specific heat of water is VERY much higher than that of nitrogen.

    So the question:

    Is use of ‘average atmospheric temperature’ a suitable metric in a swirling heterogeneous atmosphere ?

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  10. Last post cont….

    If we look at this year’s weather, the polar highs and the Arctic polar vortex extended a LONG way South of the normal . The dry air received a relatively normal amount of heat from the sun/surface and rose in temperature more than the normal more humid Ferrel cell air would have done. It was still cold – but not _as_ cold. So perhaps the Northern areas such as Canada were ‘warmer’ (see posts from Jim Cripwell) and drier than normal. At the same time the Ferrel Cell weather was COLDER than normal by enough to put the zero degree isotherm close or onto the ground. So the precipitation in the mid-Latitudes fell as snow and then Rossby waves brought the polar air south and it warmed (relatively). The Hadley cells in the tropics became compressed into a smaller area. It looks like the _heat content_ of the atmosphere has dropped.

    But now we have an ‘average’ where polar air covering a lot larger area warmed, although it was still very cold, and the rest of the atmosphere stays the same. Thus the HEAT content of the atmosphere can stay constant or drop but an expansion of the polar vortex south will show a rise in TEMPERATURE as the air is dry.

    There is a huge skew in atmospheric heat content to the tropics expand or shrink the Hadley cells or the polar vortex and the skew is increased.

    TEMPERATURE is NOT a good metric for atmospheric HEAT CONTENT

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  11. crakar

    Welcome back. How was life in the GAFA?

    And with regard to your previous 2 posts, I am not sure what point you are trying to make. I guess my question is “so what?”. What conclusion do you draw from this?

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  12. It looks as though scientists are starting to fight back. Interesting news article today re a joint statement by the CSIRO and BOM in Australia, here (and in other places):

    http://www.news.com.au/national/scientists-accuse-climate-change-sceptics-of-smokescreen-of-denial/story-e6frfkvr-1225840688396

    I particularly like this quote at the end of the story:

    “…Dr Clark said the CSIRO had been observing the impacts of human-induced climate change for many years and had moved on from debate about it happening to planning for the changes to come…”

    Perhaps we should do the same.

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  13. Is use of ‘average atmospheric temperature’ a suitable metric in a swirling heterogeneous atmosphere?

    As opposed to what, Crakar?

    TEMPERATURE is NOT a good metric for atmospheric HEAT CONTENT.

    So are you asking or stating? I don’t know who your source for this line of reasoning is, but this is the reason climate scientists look at smoothed averages over the *long term*, not a chaotic system over the course of a season.

    If we look at this year’s weather . . . It looks like the _heat content_ of the atmosphere has dropped.

    And went where? Over what time frame?

    I mean I don’t know where you got all that basic material (I appreciate being apprised up front that you weren’t claiming it was your own) but I actually would have preferred a link. Some of your editing errors sneaked in and I couldn’t follow some of it.

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  14. Crakar, indeed heat content (of the entire land-ocean-atmosphere system, but the ocean is by far the dominant term) would be the most stable indicator of warming (or cooling). It’s only been relatively recently that we’ve had measurements at enough depth in the ocean to calculate this. And yep, it shows much less noise than the surface temps. http://www.skepticalscience.com/How-we-know-global-warming-is-happening-Part-2.html

    However, one can just imagine that if GISS stopped publishing average temperatures and started publishing a “total biosphere heat content” … and that number was going up, but it was cold and snowing somewhere, then various deniers would say GISS was “hiding the decline” in temperature.

    Speaking of global avg. temps, anyone been watching the daily numbers from UAH? Today may be the Ides of March, but it seems a reasonable prediction that March will be one for the record books.

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  15. Re post 111,

    I am still here Mandas, not much to do but drink beer and round up the sheep and not a goat in sight.

    If nothing goes pear shaped, Monday should be an exciting day. The local news usually cover the launch so keep an eye out.

    Max was talking about latent heat in oceans etc, and i think GFW hit the nail on the head. For the rest let me say that whilst parts of the US, asia and europe had a cold winter on the surface the atmosphere has appeared to warm.

    The above posts may go some way to explaining this, but the question still remains do we want to measure the temp or the heat content?

    GFW said OHC may/is the best way to do this and he may be right. The question is what measurement is more relevant to us in our every day lives and which is more relavent to long term climate trends.

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  16. I’m somewhat surprised by the link re the ocean temperatures. I know for a fact that the temperature of the deep ocean has been measured in quite a few discret locations since at least the 1960s. The US Navy used the data to construct sound velocity profiles to determine acoustic propagation paths in order to detect Soviet submarines. I guess the data is still classified, otherwise it might be able to give a bit more history to the datasets. Perhaps there is not enough coverage as well. Certainly the systems (called SOSUS) were nowhere near as extensive as the ARGUS system today. Although primarily based on hydrophones for listening, the system included temperature sensors which were essential to determine acoustic pathways. However, it would still be interesting to do a comparison and see what changes – if any – have occured.
    If you could couple it with the bathythermagraph readings that were taken during the Cold War by aircraft and ships it might add a bit more ‘depth’ to the datasets.

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  17. Mandas,

    Subs can sit in warm currents that are surrounded by cooler water. When a “ping” is sent out the sound waves travel through the colder water, when it hits the warmer water the sound waves will “go around” the warmer water and thus not detect the object/sub.

    This temp info might indeed help to fill in the blanks of OHC.

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  18. Here is an interesting article titled “when to doubt a consensus”.

    http://american.com/archive/2010/march/when-to-doubt-a-scientific-consensus

    Getting back to what i said earlier about polar vortexes etc. Here is a link which explains it in a lot more detail.

    Essentially it says in its most simplist form, temp and heat are two different things moist air can hold more heat than dry air but dry air can be a higher temp.

    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/enthalpy-moist-air-d_683.html

    cheers

    Crakar

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  19. crakar

    re post #118, as you know I spent some time at Edinburgh, and without revealing too much about what I did there, I am VERY well acquainted with how submarines use thermoclines and changes in the sound velocity profile in the ocean to hide.

    In essence, sound travels faster in denser mediums (we all know that), and the temperature of the ocean varies with depth, and those changes in temperature mean the density of the water varies, and that means that the sound waves rarely propagate in a straight line in the ocean. Most submarine hunting is conducting using ‘passive’ sonar (ie listening) only – active sonar is only used for localisation and then usually only for conventional submarines. When hunting boomers, you don’t want them to know you are out there, because counter-detection compromises the mission.

    The study of how sound propagates in the ocean is fascinating, and depending on the target, you could get convergence zones – where the sound is detectable in a narrow annulus at range from the target – bottom bounce, surface reflection and direct path contact.

    Of course, all this is completely unrelated to my point, which is that there could be a lot of data related to deep ocean temperature profiles, but it is fairly discrete in spacial extent, and may be classified. However, access to this data may help answer some of the questions which were raised earlier.

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  20. Mandas,

    Thanks for the detail on subs and sound, if you worked where i suspect you did then no wonder you quit and now shoot goats for a living :-))

    I seem to recall Saint Al of the Gore rambling on about getting Arctic ice thickness data from his mate in the US sub fraternity. Did he ever come good on his promise and if so what did the data show?

    You never know maybe he can get a hold of the ocean temp data you speak of, ever little bit helps of course.

    OT, how is Adelaide going? Recovered from the clipsal yet? Monday is still looking good so keep an eye out on the news. I will try and get a few pics if i do i can send them to you if interested.

    Cheers

    Crakar

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  21. No idea about Gore and ice data. But I seem to recall someone had got a hold of all that data and did a study on it. I saw a video on it somewhere – might try and track it down.

    Adelaide is getting back to normal. You can get through the streets again. I was going to go to Clipsal, but I changed my mind and set a deckchair up in the backyard and watched the grass grow – far more interesting.

    Weekend was good. No goats – but I went diving off West Beach with the university. Great day. Clear water. Interesting fish etc. I guess not a lot of that in your neck of the woods.

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  22. So Crakar, I read your link to AEI, and was a classic study in incoherent Denierthink.

    Jay Richards of the American Enterprise Institute tells us in “When to Doubt a Scientific ‘Consensus’” that:

    Anyone who has studied the history of science knows that scientists are not immune to the non-rational dynamics of the herd.

    We want to know whether a scientific consensus is based on solid evidence and sound reasoning, or social pressure and groupthink.

    So the agenda is clear: He knows there are claims of a “consensus” that is hostile to his ideology, so he is going to mine for reasons why we should doubt it.

    On one thing I totally agreed with the Richards:

    We shouldn’t, of course, forget the other side of the coin. There are always cranks and conspiracy theorists . . . So what’s a non-scientist citizen, without the time to study the scientific details, to do?

    That is, indeed, the money question. Richards then lists the things to look for in a reject-able consensus, and why AGW fits the bill. Its a study in Deniallusion, where the confusion of concepts and the use of straw men show an individual as determined to convince himself as he is his audience. Its just amazing how the neocons at AEI and elsewhere never seem to ask themselves this one, simple question: “Is it possible that I doubt AGW because I find taxes and bureaucracies distasteful, and that skews my interpretation of the arguments for and against?”

    But anyway, Richards list of what to look for in determining when a consensus should be doubted:

    (1) When different claims get bundled together.

    . .. There’s a lot more agreement about (1) a modest warming trend since about 1850 than there is about (2) the cause of that trend. There’s even less agreement about (3) the dangers of that trend, or of (4) what to do about it. But these four propositions are frequently bundled together, so that if you doubt one, you’re labeled a climate change “skeptic” or “denier . . . “.

    Straw man. You’re labeled a crank if you doubt the *first* two—which is exactly what the Richards did when he linked to his superficial “climategate”, an article by James Delingpole from the *Telegraph* who is identified as “a journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything.” [So much for not being dogmatic.] But Delingpole has obviously read and understands little, and is right about less. He just recites secondhand the ubiquitously abused emails about the “the nature trick”, “hide the decline”, Trenberth’s, “travesty”, the utterly distorted non-issue of data deletion—all things we’ve rehashed here ad nauseum, on top of subjects completely irrelevant to the question of the science of AGW, including some of the emails gloating about John S. Daly’s death or wanting to “kick the crap out of” Pat Michaels, or the venting at the editorial review breakdown at *Climate Research*.

    Translation: “Here’s a guy who says the CRU emails prove its all bullshit—not that *I’m* saying* this.” Get the benefit of the rhetorical power of mentioning “climategate” for the already converted then back away by conceding propositions (1) and (2) when you want to look reasonable.

    (2) When ad hominem attacks against dissenters predominate.

    . . .When it comes to climate change, ad hominems are all but ubiquitous. They are even smuggled into the way the debate is described. The common label “denier” is one example.

    Completely naked, unsubstantiated assertion, and another straw man:

    “Just trust me on this; those AGW zealots use of a lot of personal attacks! Makes ya think, huh?”

    Furthermore, it’s the other way around: The consensus leads to frustration at the dissenters and thus the attacks; the attacks aren’t used to bolster the consensus. Climate scientists did not reason, “McIntyre is a pseudo-scientific hack, therefore AGW is true.” The theory is based on a mountain of observational evidence and a basic physical principle that has been understood for a century. Its *because* of that scientific evidence that pompous skeptics drive scientists nuts, often eliciting the personal attacks.

    (3) When scientists are pressured to toe the party line.

    “ . . .Tenure, job promotions, government grants, media accolades, social respectability, Wikipedia entries, and vanity can do what gulags do, only more subtly . . . Climategate, and the dishonorable response to its revelations by some official scientific bodies, show that scientists are under pressure to toe the orthodox party line on climate change, and receive many benefits for doing so. That’s another reason for suspicion.”

    This after having previously linked to a writer who doesn’t even understand what “nature trick” and “hide the decline” refer to, or that CRU scientists’ ire at *Climate Research* was based on their dismay at wheat they perceived to be its lowbrow publication record and not an effort to suppress contrary evidence. Richards mistakes the rage that all of us feel when someone tries to promote horseshit as credible as “suppression of dissent”.

    (4) When publishing and peer review in the discipline is cliquish.

    . . .Nerds who follow the climate debate blogosphere have known for years about the cliquish nature of publishing and peer review in climate science (see here, for example).

    He then links to Wegman’s testimony regarding the original statistical drawbacks of Mann’s ’98 reconstruction and how the “cliquish” nature of their peer review network led to this error.

    This ends up being the hockey stick straw man all over again. We will never hear the end of this as long as deniers think attacking the “stick clique” is a decapitation strike against AGW. We all know the dispute: Can we use the available proxy data to verify that the 1990s were the hottest decade on record since the MWP/last 2,000 years/[insert time period of preference here].

    We’ve beaten each other half to death with the stick controversy of course, but the science of global warming is *far beyond* the historic temperature reconstructions. It based on a basic principle of physics, *recent* observational data, and *improving* understanding of the role of the complex factors affecting global average temperatures. There are literally thousands of scientists involved, and as Donbar et al, 2009 showed, the overwhelming majority (including 97 percent of those specializing in climate research) of those responding to their survey agreed with propositions (1) and (2) above, about which Richards *himself* does not even dispute that there is a consensus!

    (5) When dissenting opinions are excluded from the relevant peer-reviewed literature not because of weak evidence or bad arguments but as part of a strategy to marginalize dissent.

    Richards then links to (my God) Climateaudit, in which McIntyre (that unbiased font of “proof”) claims to demonstrate that McKitrick and Michaels were victims of suppression by the IPCC working group as per this hacked CRU email by Jones:

    The other paper by MM is just garbage …I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !

    McIntyre’s ability to clumsily cite things that don’t even prove his own point–and then get cited by someone like Richards who assumes pro forma that McIntyre has done the work for him, will never cease to amaze me. Trenberth and Jones were not threatening to suppress “dissent”, but what they regarded as “garbage”. If Jones had written, “Holy shit! They’ve got our number. If we let this get out our game is up!” then we can talk about suppression.

    Besides, the MM paper was *not* suppressed from the IPCC report, as McIntyre *himself* points out. It was mentioned in AR4 “grudgingly” and with what McIntyre calls “a dismissive editorial comment that was not supported by any reference to peer reviewed literature . . . “ His support of this statement? A personal communication he had with Doug Ross.

    (6) When the actual peer-reviewed literature is misrepresented.

    In Science, Naomi Oreskes even produced a “study” of the relevant literature supposedly showing “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change.” In fact, there are plenty of dissenting papers in the literature . . .

    This was the turning point when I realized that it was totally amateur hour. Richards links to Oreskes’ finding that nothing in the peer reviewed literature up to that point (2004) disputed the fundamental finding of the IPCC that:

    “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”

    At least he linked a primary source (Oreske), but to prove “there is plenty of dissent” Richards, either by incompetence or design, conflates “dissent” over AGW specifics with “dissent” over AGW fundamentals, and uses an abominably weak list of literature to prove his schizophrenic point. Of the 10 examples Richards’ link gives, six—one of which is not peer reviewed—dispute only the *magnitude* of CO2 forcing (by negative feedback or other mechanisms), three only dispute the imminence of zero summer arctic ice extent (and are derived from news stories or agency reports, not peer reviewed literature), and one—the infamous McClean et al article, 2009, from the Journal of Geophysical Research has been criticized for having used a methodology that would have eliminated any anthropogenic signal *anyway*. I can’t claim to be able to disprove that article, but I need a preponderance of *real* dissent, not magazine articles and half-ass questioning of the magnitude of forcing, for me to doubt the fundamental premise of AGW.

    Richards did what I have seen deniers do *constantly*–provide a link to something that does not even help their case. Its doubtful he even read it. This again is the narrative of the dogmatically committed. And it shows up repeatedly when you debate with deniers.

    (7) When consensus is declared hurriedly or before it even exists.

    Just when I thought I’d seen the worst, Richards produces this tinder-stuffed, gasoline-soaked straw man.

    Richards quotes Al Gore as declaring the debate about AGW over in 1992, despite polls showing *caution* within the scientific community, and then renewing his declaration of consensus in 2009.

    This argument is so incoherent and self-defeating I’m struggling with how to even respond to it. I mean, answer quickly: What if, right before you served, your opponent in a tennis match shouted “I am compost!” and then inserted his raquet in his rectum?

    Richards on the one hand tells us that Al Gore “declared hurriedly” a consensus, but the scientists weren’t on board at the time. So, the “consensus” was *not* “hurriedly declared! What the *hell* does it matter what Al Gore says? But going after Gore is resonant with deniers, and Richards is preaching to an entranced choir.

    I was literally embarrassed for Richards at this point.

    (8) When the subject matter seems, by its nature, to resist consensus.

    . . . fact, if there really were a consensus on all the various claims surrounding climate science, that would be really suspicious. A fortiori, the claim of consensus is a bit suspicious as well.

    The straw men are breeding and multiplying.

    The “consensus” is on assertions (1) and (2). As Oreskes says in her summary of the literature (had Richards read his own link):

    The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is humility . . . Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear . . . .

    But people like Richards simply pay no attention—even when the very sources they cite make it clear as crystal.

    (9) When “scientists say” or “science says” is a common locution.

    This particular straw man is the dimwit half-brother of the one used in point (8). By this tortured logic you could never make any scientific claim.

    Scientists say the earth is round and revolves around the sun. Scientists say that dogs are genetically descended from wolves. Scientists say it requires an X and Y chromosome to make a boy. By Richards’ reasoning, all these propositions are in doubt because “Scientists say” they are true.

    And it highlights the incredible mental gymnastics that politically motivated AGW deniers have to employ. Because a scientific consensus implies policy recommendations they don’t like, they need to concoct a reason to disbelieve it—right to the point of saying, “If people say scientists say something, you shouldn’t believe it.”

    (10) When it is being used to justify dramatic political or economic policies.

    The usual argument that AGW is just a pretext to turn us all into pinkos.

    I would be bored with this asinine line of reasoning if were not such a potent narrative animating AGW denial. Thinking themselves the defenders of freedom and productivity, deniers have it lodged in their heads that their resistance to acting against climate change is a noble struggle against Big Government and environmental “religious zealots”. Richards shudders at the “ . . . strange philosophical and metaphysical activism” and “the megaphones of consensus” typified in Cophenagen. Its the classic denier conflation: If you don’t like the science, find a zealot who agrees with it and claim you’re just resisting the zealotry–the science.

    (11) When the “consensus” is maintained by an army of water-carrying journalists who defend it with uncritical and partisan zeal, and seem intent on helping certain scientists with their messaging rather than reporting on the field as objectively as possible.

    Do I really need to elaborate on this point?

    Preaching purely unsubstantiated balderdash to the predisposed choir: “The goddamn liberal media is on board, and we all know how full of shit they are!”

    (12) When we keep being told that there’s a scientific consensus.

    A scientific consensus should be based on scientific evidence. But a consensus is not itself the evidence. And with really well-established scientific theories, you never hear about consensus. No one talks about the consensus that the planets orbit the sun, that the hydrogen molecule is lighter than the oxygen molecule, that salt is sodium chloride, that light travels about 186,000 miles per second in a vacuum, that bacteria sometimes cause illness, or that blood carries oxygen to our organs. The very fact that we hear so much about a consensus on catastrophic, human-induced climate change is perhaps enough by itself to justify suspicion.
    This near-final paragraph captured so much absurdity and narrow-mindedness in one concentration that I had to quote it in its entirety. The reason no one hears about the “consensus” of the speed of light is (1) it is, unlike climate, an easy to thing to establish with scientific certainty; (2) there is *nothing at stake*. The reason you hear reference to the “scientific consensus” on AGW is that those of us who want to act to hedge against the risks of climate change are clashing those with a vested ideological or financial interest in not doing so. We keep pointing out the “consensus” because that’s the *reason to act.* But Richards would pervert the *mentioning* of consensus as proof of its nonexistence: “Hmm. Talking about a ‘con-SEN-sus’, eh? Ha! You said the C-word! You said the C-word! Neeener neener neener . . .you said the C-word! Sounds to me like you’re hiding something!”

    It is no coincidence that the American Enterprise Institute would endorse and publish this fallacy-riddled screed. Posts like this provide intellectual shorthand for ideologues who want to comfort themselves with the delusion that AGW scientists are some sort of hokey farce, like members of a religious sect peddling doorstep salvation. Like Crakar has done, most will merely skim this and feel vindicated in their denial. There is no doubt a “consensus” among its ill-informed readers that Richards’ nonsense constitutes sound argument. And that is truly sad.

    Like

  23. Its just amazing how the neocons at AEI

    I think the AEI is better characterized as being dinocons, they’re not neocons nor are they fundycons (the worst of the lot, IMO). They’ve been around forever (just checked – 1943).

    Like

  24. skip

    Thanks for that rather detailed dissection of the offending article by Jay Richards from AEI.

    I tend to think that the most telling quote from the whole document is on the one you provided first, ie:

    “….We want to know whether a scientific consensus is based on solid evidence and sound reasoning, or social pressure and groupthink….”

    If this was used as part of the introduction to an essay a student of mine had written, I would have assumed that the aim of the essay was to therefore conduct an examination of the evidence and reasoning behind climate change, in order to determine whether the evidence was sound, or if it was based on groupthink etc.

    But of course, the essay would have attracted an “F”, because the author made absolutely no attempt to examine the evidence. It was just a dogmatic denialist rant against scientists coming from a complete moronic luddite. And if you think that is a bit harsh, you should know a little more about Mr Jay Richards.

    Jay Richards is one of the leading advocates for Intelligent Design, Creationism, and the “Wedge Strategy”. If you haven’t heard of this, then you may be interested in it’s principles:

    “…The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Institute manifesto known as the Wedge Document which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to “defeat scientific materialism” represented by evolution, “reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”…”.

    If you don’t think that is some of the scariest shit you have ever read, then you are probably a moronic creationist luddite as well.

    Mine you, Mr Richards did day a few true statements in his article. I kind of like these ones:

    “…Many of the doubt-inducing climate scientists and their media acolytes attribute this rising skepticism to the stupidity of Americans…..”

    “…Sometimes these folks (non-scientists) turn out to be right. But often, they’re just cranks whose counsel is best disregarded…”

    Like

  25. I made no remarks on Tol other than it was something that looked interesting and that I did not in fact understand all of it.

    Max:

    This is pasted from the old “There is no consensus” thread—the last element in an exchange between us after which you vanished until just a couple of days ago. It was in the context of the discussion of whether it is “worth it” to hedge against climate change:

    As far as Tol is concerned, I don’t know enough about the economics to make a cogent and/or useful comment other than that this analysis has been brought to my attention. –Maxwell #101
    Humble and honest enough, but a little different from your first comment:
    Richard Tol, an economist who has worked with the IPCC, has a great analysis of how the IPCC did not show the negative economic impacts of such carbon mitigation programs. –Maxwell #97
    You first told me, in response to my underlying point/question about the value of hedging against climate risk, that Tol’s comments were a “great analysis” about “the negative economic impacts” of acting on climate change. This was in the context of a vague reference about how you felt that the necessary policy efforts would be “Herculean”. You later ducked out when I pointed out the full scope of Tol’s position; you even acknowledged the limits of your economic understanding (a state of ignorance that I must confess we have in common.)
    So Max, while you will always have my respect and my attention, I feel compelled to remind you that it was you who once posted, in response to Mandas:
    Arguments necessitate evidence rather than links to websites or documents with statements along the lines of ‘there should be something that supports my position here’. Maxwell #83

    I mean, Max, look: This is the salient thing I see when I try to get a straight answer from AGW deniers/skeptics/fence straddlers/whatever-we-call-thems: Some sliding scale of simple intellectual dishonesty. You blatantly switched your song about Tol/costs of action when you realized I had the jump on Tol (because I’ve actually read the guy’s work), and when I called you on it, what did you do? You vanished. What am I *supposed* to think at that point—that you had a really, really clever smashing response but got distracted by the health care debate?

    Max, what would have been wrong with simply saying, “Ok, Skip. I admit it. I shot before looking on the Tol citation and yes, I admit I have not given this relative costs issue a tremendous amount of thought. I’ll ponder and get back to you.”

    Do I think *I’m* intellectually honest? Yes. I have no choice but to be. I’m not very clever and know any lies/distortions I might forward will be found out. I’d be more impressed if you’d show the same caution on a consistent basis.

    Like

  26. skip,

    you need to keep my comments within the context that I am discussing. You have a craft for taking them out of context.

    ‘Richard Tol, an economist who has worked with the IPCC, has a great analysis of how the IPCC did not show the negative economic impacts of such carbon mitigation programs.’

    That was my comment.

    What is it saying?

    I did read Tol’s remarks on the IPCC’s assessment of working group 3. He makes a rather strong argument that the IPCC authors distinctively did not report findings from the peer-reviewed literature that went astray the narrative that they wanted to put forth, but cited those papers in order to beef up the argument (not quite sound logic on their part). That is the analysis I was calling ‘great’. I was not referring to the econometrics he used, nor the difference between his economic models and someone else’.

    I was referring to the fact that he systematically went through many of the claims of that working group on economic benefits purported by the IPCC AR4 and showed they did not report findings of negative economic impacts found in the literature, despite citing the peer-reviewed papers that did in order to beef up their legitimacy. He even showed how the working group author took his own work out of context, despite his own objections in the review process.

    Then, when pressed on specifics of Tol’s research, which I am not all familiar with, I said,

    ‘As far as Tol is concerned, I don’t know enough about the economics to make a cogent and/or useful comment other than that this analysis has been brought to my attention…’

    which may be misleading I admit, but I think (I cannot remember for certain) I am specifically discussing the econometrics and models Tol, or anyone else for that matter, may use in their research.

    So no, I don’t think this is ‘intellectual dishonesty’ nor do I think that I am attempting to hold others to a standard I would not hold myself. Like many other instances of confusion and conflict, I’m gonna chalk this one up to miscommunication.

    As for ‘vanishing’, I did actually have a pretty significant breakthrough on understanding laser-mediated non-adiabatic interactions in molecules and more complex quantum systems that’s likely to yield at least two, if not three papers by the fall. So I did have something to do, but I’m sure you’ll still find me ‘dishonest’ since I don’t agree with you.

    Cheers again.

    Like

  27. Max, the context:

    I think I am going to have to respectfully disagree with your assessment of what the *best evidence* [my emphasis] indicates. Especially concerning what it would take to bring our emissions down to levels currently discussed at climate conferences. It seems like it would take a Herculean effort to do that.

    And now this is your *very* next statement:

    Richard Tol, an economist who has worked with the IPCC, has a great analysis of how the IPCC did not show the negative economic impacts of such carbon mitigation programs.

    Are you now saying that I should have divined that you never intended to mean that Tol was part of the “best evidence” supporting your claim that acting on climate change would be “Herculean”?

    Max, I’m sorry but this is special pleading. The whole innocent-as-a-kitten I-never-claimed-to-know-the-specifics-of-econometrics plea came *after* I exposed your misuse of Tol.

    (Indeed Tol, as I pointed out, in the very link you provided, even agrees that acting on climate change is *good* for the economy if properly done. You don’t get Tol’s credit for pointing out sloppy IPCC scholarship, because you were attempting to use Tol as refuting an IPCC premise with which Tol himself *ultimately agrees*–just for better reasons than the IPCC provides.)

    Max: I’m sure I’ll bungle something eventually on a post here and when I do and you nail me on it please attend to how I react.

    Like

  28. skip,

    ‘Are you now saying that I should have divined that you never intended to mean that Tol was part of the “best evidence” supporting your claim that acting on climate change would be “Herculean”?’

    I’m not asking you to ‘divine’ anything. I’m merely asking to read what is written and not into anything else. Is that too much to ask?

    Did I say Tol says it’s Herculean? Nope.

    I’ll admit not providing direct evidence for the claim that it will be ‘Herculean’. You got me.

    Does that make you happy?

    On all of the points I have made on this blog concerning the exaggeration of scientific claims, improper interpretations of basic physics and presentation of a narrative that has a propensity to focus on unimportant facets of the “deniers'” fault of the day, you were able to point out that I did not supply evidence that weening our carbon dependence will be a great challenge.

    Well done.

    ‘Max, I’m sorry but this is special pleading. The whole innocent-as-a-kitten I-never-claimed-to-know-the-specifics-of-econometrics plea came *after* I exposed your misuse of Tol.’

    WTF? Do you think that for one second when I was doing my work I couldn’t come up with a response to your point on Tol? Honestly?

    skip the honest truth is that I couldn’t care less of what you or anyone else thinks of me, my points or my position on this issue. Your ‘calling me out’ for my ‘vanishing’ is further evidence for why this course of action is necessary.

    Nor did I lose one iota of sleep or focus one moment on you or this blog. Like I said, I had work to do and now knowing what has come of it, I think the more time I spend not thinking about this blog, or my responses to contributors like you who couldn’t even tell what a greenhouse gas is off the top of their head, the better.

    So long skip.

    Like

  29. I’ll admit not providing direct evidence for the claim that it will be ‘Herculean’. You got me.

    Does that make you happy?

    I wish it did. Its too late for that now. What you *should* have done was just admit it up front instead of this kicking, screaming, squalling, reluctant pout. We could have gotten on fine if you’d just done that, Max.

    who couldn’t even tell what a greenhouse gas is off the top of their head

    What am I supposed to say? Ouch?

    Max, if you’d ever had your life threatened or lived in a neighborhood where such was the norm (I have), you wouldn’t be trying to brow-beat me with your technical research prowess and this half-ass effort at condescension.

    But in all seriousness, I wish you the best of success in your research and publication. I believe in science–even the parts I can’t do.

    Like

  30. skip,

    ‘Max, if you’d ever had your life threatened or lived in a neighborhood where such was the norm (I have)…’

    I was born on the north side of Detroit and lived there until I was five. Thereafter, I lived for 20 years on the north side of Chicago in the police district with the second most murders of any district in the city. I am a product of the federally funded Head Start Program and the Chicago Public School system. We had metal detectors all four years of high school and our graduation rate was just above 40%.

    Violence and the threat of violence have always been the norm in the world around me.

    More than that, you’re brow beating with this bogus conclusion that somehow such a place ‘puts things in perspective’. From your responses on this totally misreading and misunderstanding of what I’ve written, it seems that you can’t even live up to your standard.

    Really though, I wanted to point out that I’m not the only one who considers the task of decarbonizing our economy as ‘Herculean’. From a UCSD press release concerning getting down to specific levels of CO2 in the atmosphere,

    “Avoiding the threshold requires holding carbon dioxide levels to less than 441 parts per million, according to the authors, only slightly higher than today’s value of 389 ppm. This equates to a 50-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and an 80-percent reduction by 2100. Ramanathan and Xu acknowledge that such drastic reduction will require a “portfolio of actions in the energy, industrial, agricultural and forestry sections.” Some of these actions will require development of new technologies.

    “A massive decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary to accomplish this Herculean task,” the authors write.”

    You can read the rest of this piece at the link:

    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-05/uoc–sro042910.php

    The conclusion I have come to on this little escapade is that your inability to make legitimate points concerning the science of this issue has forced you to find flaws in other aspects of the arguments I present here. Even if those flaws actually are created by the incorrect inferences you make about my writing. And that’s it.

    Because I used the word ‘analysis’ twice, you assumed that the meaning was the same (you thought econometric analysis for both) despite the fact that they did not have the same context. When I didn’t care about the points you made in response to this misunderstanding, you misconstrued it as me not being able to ‘handle’ your points for reasons that I still don’t yet understand. Even more frustrating, when contributors who support your position do the same (not responding to valid counter points), I have not seen one peep out of you, even when Coby does it.

    Now you want a different standard?

    It’s a legitimate mistake that you have made, yet you demand that I ‘should’ have acted differently. Then you say this has something to do with growing up in a violent community? I don’t get how that has anything to do with this or just about any other discussion here other than to create some kind of proxy legitimacy for your points. But, as I pointed out already, if you get ‘street cred’ then so do I.

    Cheers.

    Like

  31. Maxwell:

    You might not believe this but I’m trying really hard to like you, but posts like the last just make it really difficult.

    this totally misreading and misunderstanding of what I’ve written

    Because I used the word ‘analysis’ twice, you assumed that the meaning was the same

    What else was I supposed to assume? What other possible meaning could it have had in context?

    I can’t let you run free on this. Max, you can’t just start out saying, “I don’t agree with you about X . . . Here’s Scholar A who talks about X in a manner that is highly inimical to your position,” and then, when shown that Scholar A doesn’t even *agree with you*, try to hide behind, “Oh, well, I never technically said Scholar A proved *my* point about X.” It was clearly *implied* max. What was the point of bringing up Tol if *not* to (supposedly) buttress the point you thought you were making about “Herculean” policy changes? What other possible purpose would referencing him have served? You first tell me the “best evidence” is against me, and the *very next thing* you reference is *Tol*. Are you asking me to believe that you brought him up just out of the blue—utterly irrespective of the point you thought were making—that you never intended that I think Tol was your “evidence”? Do you *not* see why this is so hard to believe? This is what I mean special pleading and track-covering.

    Why not just admit it? I just hate that so much! And you get it all the time on a sliding bullshit scale from people who think we shouldn’t worry about global warming. You guys want the option of throwing shit out there willy-nilly as “evidence” but want to claim victimization by foul pedantry if you’re called on it.

    skip the honest truth is that I couldn’t care less of what you or anyone else thinks of me, my points or my position on this issue . . . Max#131

    Unless of course you’re telling me

    I did actually have a pretty significant breakthrough . . . that’s likely to yield at least two, if not three papers by the fall–Max#129

    Then you say this has something to do with growing up in a violent community?

    I didn’t say that, and you know it. I said it puts your cheek in perspective. Max, you take yourself very, very seriously, and with good reason for all I know. I’m just saying I’m not going to defer to you because you’re certified to operate an electron microscope.

    Even more frustrating, when contributors who support your position do the same (not responding to valid counter points), I have not seen one peep out of you, even when Coby does it.

    Because often I *simply don’t know*, Max. When I’m not sure of a technical scientific point—or let us say just for the sake of argument—what a particular source says, I *shut up*. Remember Ricky Roma’s No. 1 Rule in Glenngary Glenn Ross (As a Chicago kid you should appreciate the reference):

    “You never open your mouth unless you know what the shot is.”

    This is why I’ll happily let you handle “laser-mediated non-adiabatic interactions in molecules and more complex quantum systems” and why I take my cue on climate from climate scientists—as opposed to a non-specialist, however technically apt in other pursuits, who can’t even come clean when he mis-cites a source.

    “A massive decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary to accomplish this Herculean task,” the authors write.”

    You can read the rest of this piece at the link

    And indeed I did, And you are quite, correct, Max, your report authors used the adjective “Herculean”. They also said,

    Fortunately there is still time to avert unmanageable climate changes, but we *must act now*. [to avoid the potentially irreversible threshold of a 2 degree increase in global average temps; my emphasis]

    The authors write that aggressive simultaneous pursuit of these strategies could reduce the probability of reaching the temperature threshold to less than 10 percent before the year 2050.

    . . . Ramanathan and Xu acknowledge that there are uncertainties about the nature of aerosols and the sensitivity of climate to mitigation actions that make the effects of their suggested course of action hard to determine with precision. [In case the Crakar’s of the world want to jump on the source as mindless “religion”.]

    In other words, Max, R&X believe that the “best evidence” (remember my post in #94 which led to this hissy fit between us about Tol?) indicates that climate change *is real*, whatever the uncertainties, and *demands precautionary action* that is *worth it*, even if the adjective “Herculean” is attached those actions.

    In other words: *Your source agrees with me, Max; not you.*

    Déjà vu all over again?

    Like

  32. skip,

    ‘I can’t let you run free on this. Max, you can’t just start out saying, “I don’t agree with you about X . . . Here’s Scholar A who talks about X in a manner that is highly inimical to your position,” and then, when shown that Scholar A doesn’t even *agree with you*, try to hide behind, “Oh, well, I never technically said Scholar A proved *my* point about X.” It was clearly *implied* max.’

    If you’re just going to re-submit the same hack argument in the face of what I have already written, then there is really no point in reasoning with you, is there? If the point is for you to be unreasonable, why you are even bothering trying to apply logic? You could simply just call me some names like the others and be on your way instead of wasting a whole bunch of time continuing to take my comments out of context.

    As for agreement on the position of ‘action’, sure they agree with you. That, however, is simply a matter of opinion. It’s not as though these particular scientists, or any other for that matter, have the last say in what can or should be done politically. That’s the beauty of a democracy. So it’s not really a ‘source’ for evidence in an argument. The argument for action is any more sufficient because two more scientists are throwing their hats into that ring.

    That seems to be the point you’re missing. Your position is not the only reasonable position precisely because the uncertainty, in my opinion, is sufficiently unknown that undertaking, as you even agree now, a Herculean effort to stop proposed effects. This is a fundamental difference between the two of us and it is simply a matter of opinion.

    Your overbearing, rhetorical style of beating your opponents over the head with the idea that yours is the only logical position is based on a false dichotomy from a fringe science that you don’t even understand. Either we act and save the world or we don’t and the world is doomed. Like all false dichotomies, this necessitates ignoring everything you know about your particular field of study where there are a spectrum of possibilities. Not simply the extremes.

    In fact, if you were asked to review a paper that only examined the outcomes several standard deviations from the mean in either direction, would you say it was sound? Would you say that the conclusions of such a study were meaningful? Because I know you’re a trained social scientist, I would suspect that you would not give such a study the stamp of approval.

    Yet, when it comes to this field of study, which you admit not having sufficient knowledge to even hold others to same standard you would hold me, you are willing to do just that. Simply examine the most extreme possibilities, the least likely possibilities even according to the IPCC and the literature, and attempt to make arguments about ‘action’ from them.

    This, again, is just applying one standard for yourself, or your cohort, and another for those with whom you disagree.

    Well done.

    Like

  33. If you’re just going to re-submit the same hack argument in the face of what I have already written, then there is really no point in reasoning with you, is there? If the point is for you to be unreasonable, why you are even bothering trying to apply logic?

    I would ask you the same question. I didn’t try to bullshit you with a source I didn’t understand. On your own time you’ll have to decide for yourself if you can make the same claim.

    Your overbearing, rhetorical style of beating your opponents over the head with the idea that yours is the only logical position

    False.

    I asked you direct questions about what you thought the importance of uncertainties was and gave you my reason why I felt they are a poor logic for inaction. Your response: Quote as “best evidence” something you didn’t even understand and then try to deny you ever did it. I don’t know about the overall “logic” of any number of positions, Max, but I could sure see the fault in yours on that issue.

    is based on a false dichotomy from a fringe science that you don’t even understand.

    In its entirety, of course not. Do you think you do?

    Either we act and save the world or we don’t and the world is doomed.

    False. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve made this clear multiple times and now you’re falling into Crakarian straw men. The world *might* be fine, Max. I acknowledge the uncertainties. But it also *might* be in real, real trouble.

    if you were asked to review a paper that only examined the outcomes several standard deviations from the mean in either direction, would you say it was sound?

    False analogy on two points.

    First, the available range of estimated outcomes–*not* the outliers–are very, very nasty, Max. This is why the preponderance of the world scientific community believes acting on climate change is prudent.

    Second, we don’t have “outcomes” yet in regard to future climate. We only have what the available science says *might* be the outcomes. This uncertainty is, for you, a reason to not worry about it. And Tol and the NAS are (sometimes) your evidence why we shouldn’t.

    Again, its the question I always ask and never get a straight answer to: “How do you get from, “There are uncertainties”, to “We should certainly do nothing.”?

    Like

  34. Again, its the question I always ask and never get a straight answer to: “How do you get from, “There are uncertainties”, to “We should certainly do nothing.”?

    Quite simple really, that we (collectively) find other things more important, at the moment.
    The cost of the action is currently more than the value received. So, no transaction takes place.

    Like

  35. skip,

    you’re continuing to analyze an argument I’m not making.

    It is my personal opinion that given what we know about climate science there is no reason to take ‘action’. I never attempted to make an argument supporting this opinion.

    The fact that you keep trying to drag me into this argument, however, is further proof that you are trying to find some place to hold me to some ‘claims’ I have made, even if I never really made them in the context of an argument against your position.

    Now the fun begins…

    ‘First, the available range of estimated outcomes–*not* the outliers–are very, very nasty, Max. This is why the preponderance of the world scientific community believes acting on climate change is prudent.’

    Two things are interesting to me about this statement. One is the fact that in order to understand the ‘estimated outcomes’ versus ‘outliers’ you have to have a strong understanding of the science put forth in chapter 10 of the AR4. You have pointed out several times that you don’t understand this science. So how can you now make claims about what is an ‘outlier’ and what is an ‘estimated outcome’ in this context? What is the physical difference between ‘outlier’ and ‘estimated outcome’ in this context? What does ‘very, very nasty’ even mean, scientifically?

    Second, you’re making a statement about the concerns and motives of hundreds of thousands of people who representative a wide spectrum of interest in this issue. What evidence do you have to support the idea that the reason why the scientific community supports ‘action’ on climate change are the possible catastrophic consequences?

    ‘Again, its the question I always ask and never get a straight answer to: “How do you get from, “There are uncertainties”, to “We should certainly do nothing.”?’

    This question is actually entertaining in the light of the fact that you can’t identify a ‘false dichotomy’ because you have provided yet another one.

    I have always said we should ramp up research efforts to get a better understanding of the physical reality created by humans. That goes for climate, ecology, geology and environmental science. Now, you may disagree with me about what doing ‘nothing’ or ‘something’ means, but that, again, is a matter of opinion not fact. Given your propensity to take my comments out of context, I’m sure you’ll be throwing a hissy fit about that one in no time.

    Cheers.

    Like

  36. I never really made them in the context of an argument against your position.

    Let me guess: When I pointed out you mis-cited Tol. I see this is your story and you’re sticking to it in the face of all reason, Max. But if you want to keep having an argument about the argument I’m not letting it go.

    I say you name-dropped Tol, got caught, didn’t like getting caught, made up —after the fact—a story about how you were only talking about the “econometric analysis”, threatened to depart in indignation after first dropping a faux parting shot about what a knuckle dragger I am and not worth your time, but returned shortly thereafter with a new lament: That you are beleaguered by my “propensity to take [your] comments out of context”. Finally, you have, at last, apparently even convinced yourself of this version of the facts.

    Maybe I should have posted this in “Narratives”.

    how can you now make claims about what is an ‘outlier’ and what is an ‘estimated outcome’ in this context?

    <em . . .What does 'very, very nasty' even mean, scientifically?

    . . What evidence do you have to support the idea that the reason why the scientific community supports ‘action’ on climate change are the possible catastrophic consequences?

    Max, are these questions an awkward attempt at humor?
    What are you saying? Because I don’t understand the *minutiae* of the science I cannot understand the basic *conclusions* of it?

    And I guess technically you’re right, Max, maybe the potential catastrophic consequences never figured in anyone’s mind. I mean, Jesus: You have science that says the planet is warming and the possible outcomes (long term diminishing of fresh water supplies, nefarious feedback loops, loss of arable land even as population increases, disruption of oceanic ecologies from long-term warming) are truly unnerving—maybe even *nasty*. But nah, that’s not a reason to act on global warming. “Nasty” cannot be measured, so don’t worry about anything called “nasty.”

    And in this context, answer the question I asked earlier: Are you saying you *do* understand this science—at a sufficient level to critique the overwhelming consensus of it? Do you think you get a pass because you can spell “modulation” and eagerly dwell on the un-profound deduction that I am no expert? Because you’re not going to get one—even if you are from North Side, Homie.

    I have always said we should ramp up research efforts to get a better understanding of the physical reality created by humans.

    And what does this mean in terms of action on climate change now? Oh yeah, you told me.

    It is my personal opinion that given what we know about climate science there is no reason to take ‘action’. I never attempted to make an argument supporting this opinion.

    That is, unless you are. Translation: “Not that I’m saying I’m right, but . . . I’m right.”

    Now, you may disagree with me about what doing ‘nothing’ or ‘something’ means, but that, again, is a matter of opinion not fact. I’m sure you’ll be throwing a hissy fit . . .

    Groan.

    Max, I’ve had a busy, productive, but ultimately shitty day, and I would rather not (a) throw a hissy fit proper or (b) ask Coby to devote a new thread to “Anthropogenic Global Warming as Postmodern Epistemology”.

    To say that (1) global warming is either real or not and (2) if it is real it is either dangerous—and worthy of intervention—or it isn’t, is *not* a matter of opinion. The Yes/Yes condition is a very *real* possibility, and saying so is not creating a false dichotomy.

    @Paul:
    Paul, I must say I take you very much at your word that when you look at the cost-benefit balance sheet of acting on climate change, there really isn’t any logic in acting on it.

    For you, that is.

    Like

  37. @Paul:
    Paul, I must say I take you very much at your word that when you look at the cost-benefit balance sheet of acting on climate change, there really isn’t any logic in acting on it.
    For you, that is.

    Skip, just an observation of the current reality.

    For me, I’m still trying to figure out what to do.
    How about you?

    Like

  38. Ok Paul.

    That is fair and I misread it. I thought you were giving a prescription, not just a *de*scription.

    But I would add this: At what point does it make sense to stop “figuring” and act on the best science we have–especially since recommended changes *have* to happen eventually anyway?

    As you well know, I say sooner rather than later.

    Like

  39. Skip,
    We must act now, but how?
    By figuring, I meant, what is effective, at what time frame, cost etc.
    IE, a plan of action, who, what, where, goals, etc.

    Like

  40. We’ve had this talk.

    Are you suggesting that you need *me* to hash out these details for you?

    The UN has proposed a set of benchmarks and means to achieve them. I emphasize gradual taxes on fossils to initiate a reduction in their use and as further scientific evidence comes in as to what the exact “time frame” should be.

    Are you saying that unless *I personally* have a road map for you that it doesn’t make sense in general to act?

    Besides, I’ve seen you work this game before. Its a Sisyphean runaround where you’ll end up calling taxes on fossils just a criminal confiscation and thus definitionally invalid for you.

    Paul, my mother is taking treatments for ongoing Lymphoma. Her doctors cannot specify (1) the time frame of recovery (2) the exact effect of which treatments will work best (3) when the end of treatment will be necessary. But what they can tell her is that some action *based on current evidence* is *her best chance* at recovery and survival.

    By your tortured logic, we shouldn’t act on her treatment because of all these uncertainties in both outcomes and evolving responses to the problem. (And after all, the goddam doctors just want the money for treating her; its a criminal confiscation!)

    Its an impossible standard your setting up, Paul. I cannot personally tell you what the best and brightest have come up with for acting on climate change. Go ask them. What I can tell you is that the logic for *some* effective action is *overwhelming*.

    Like

  41. Well, I don’t know where that came from. Just wanted your opinion on what you see as the way forward.

    My best choice today would be to figure out how to get to zero CO2 as fast as practical or the problem keeps getting worse. Can we pass 450ppm or 850ppm and still survive? That will determine how fast this needs to be done. Should we drop our military down to 40%, 30% or 20% of what it is today to free up resources for the switchover? The non-military budget may have be cut by a similar amount.

    And because we’re over the limit already, we need to figure out a method of pulling CO2 out of the air to set the global temp at a better level.

    Part of that would be an enormous increase in nuclear power plant construction or wind or solar, depending on the most effective CO2 reduction per unit of effort ($$ ?).

    As for your comment on taxes, well, that’s counter intuitive for me. Seems we should use as much fossil fuel as cheaply as possible to finance the productivity and $$ needed to place nuclear wind and solar as fast as possible. The cost of power will do what it will as CO2 based power goes offline.

    Taxing our workhorse power makes us less well off, enough to destroy our ability to finance a national or global power change over.

    For figuring out what to do, I haven’t come to grips on how big and fast, can it be done, in time?

    And, we need a global buy-in to make it worthwhile.

    Like

  42. Skip & Paul,

    The guy with the googly eyes has been talking again;

    http://www.icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog

    Have a read of the (as of now) first story you see, you can download the PDF if you want.

    In section 3 he talks about what action if any we need to take, he begins by saying based on current observations as opposed to model predictions we need not worry etc, etc.

    He then assumes for a moment the IPCC is correct in their predictions, uses a bit of math and then claims what action is taken would be a waste of time and money and we would best spend that money on GW as a defence rather than action taken to preempt its effects.

    Now as far as i can tell the only why he could be wrong is if he has his calculations all screwed up, if not then he does raise some very good points. Feel free to examine the maths and point out any errors he may have made.

    By the way i hope your mother is OK.

    Crakar

    Like

  43. Thanks for the link Crakar, I was hoping to get to see it live here, but work intervened, ha. Hopefully it will be re-broadcast or find its way to you tube or some denier blog.

    Like

  44. Crakar:

    At least you didn’t plagiarize him (this time), but your link was a pseudo-scientific rant by *Monckton*.

    Monckton, Crakar!

    Question: Do you believe C. Monckton is a credible source of information regarding climate and how to respond to it? Having once plagiarized his absurd CO2 “residence time” nonsense the question might, for you, already be answered. But please, have at.

    This strikes me as a simple yes or no issue.

    Like

  45. Skip,

    I suspect you did not even bother to read section 3 as i asked because you have completely and utterly failed to address the question i posed. I understand that you have beiefs and vehemently oppose all those who disagree with you, thus you had no need to read section 3 as Monkton et al are flat earth deniers or to keep with religious links, heathens.

    So i will delve a little deeper into where you fear to tread, Monkton quotes the IPCC formula for calculating the temp rise for every doubling of CO2. From this he calculates the temp rise produced for a CO2 increase of 2ppm.

    He uses the 2ppm figure because as you can see (link provided below)CO2 levels have been rising by about 2ppm every year for over the past 30 years.

    http://www.carbonify.com/carbon-dioxide-levels.htm

    Using the IPCC’s very own calculations it can be seen if CO2 increases at 2ppm per year the temp would increase by 0.044F (0.024C). If we shut down the world economy overnight like that other great Hollywood movie A.K.A The day the Earth stood still, we would reduce the amount of global warming in the next 23 years by 1F (0.55C).

    Or if we do nothing over the next 23 years the world will have warmed by 1F (0.55C). If we exclude any other theories that the +ve feed backs have been overcooked by a factor of 4 and the world really is going to warm by 1F (0.55C) by 2033 do you think there is any great need to “act now before it is too late” and drive 1st world economies into the dust while allowing second and third world economies like India to continue to expand?

    So i ask you again Skip are Monktons calculations correct and if so what are your thoughts on our “need to ask fast before we reach a tipping point”? Or do you feel his calculations are flawed, if so where did he go wrong?

    Crakar

    Like

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