Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Climate Models Fuzz

by Nomad Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 08:45:50 AM EST

On Colman's request...

I'll briefly revert back to an old schtick of mine: the conviction that climate models are the end-all and be-all of predicting our future climate is built on very shaky soil indeed.

A new paper from hydrologist Demetris Koutsoyiannis has just been released which has the potential to stir up some ripples in the climate field:

On the credibility of climate predictions / De la credibilite des previsions climatiques

Geographically distributed predictions of future climate, obtained through climate models, are widely used in hydrology and many other disciplines, typically without assessing their reliability. Here we compare the output of various models to temperature and precipitation observations from eight stations with long (over 100 years) records from around the globe. The results show that models perform poorly, even at a climatic (30-year) scale. Thus local model projections cannot be credible, whereas a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported.

Bold mine.

Dug out by afew


The paper is open access (PDF here) and thus freely available for your own criticism. I have gone through large parts of it and it is written in a friendly, explanatory style although subjective at times.

The research has been reviewed by a wide group of climate scientists, including Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate fame who didn't seem to like the preview much:

RealClimate

With all due respect to the authors, they do not appear know very much about either TAR or AR4. Looking at the statistics of local temperature and precipitation is useful but picking just a few long records and comparing to the nearest individual grid cells is not sensible. The differences in topography an local micro-climates are probably large and will make a big difference. A better approach would have been to look at aggregated statistics over larger areas. This has in fact been done though - for instance Blender and Fraedrich (2003), and there was a recent paper that looked the AR4 models (in GRL maybe? - I can't quickly find the reference). The most curious aspect of this paper's reception in the blogosphere is that the authors use the surface station records which in all other circumstances the cheer squad would be condemning as being horribly contaminated. Just saying. - gavin]

But Schmidt doesn't seem to like anything that results in creating uncertainty around climate models...

Koutsoyiannis addressed the method of selecting surface records after a conference presentation had appeared on the web:

Climate Audit - by Steve McIntyre » Koutsoyiannis 2008 Presentation

No, we did not do any cherry picking. We retrieved long data series without missing data (or with very few missing data) available on the Internet. We had decided to use eight stations and we retrieved data for eight stations, choosing them with the sample size criterion (> 100 years - with one exception in rainfall in Australia, Alice Springs, because we were not able to find a station with sample sizes > 100 years for both rainfall and temperature) and also a criterion to cover various types of climate and various locations around the world. Otherwise, the selection was random. We did not throw away any station after checking how well it correlates with GCMs. We picked eight stations, we checked these eight stations, and we published the results for these eight stations. Not even one station gave results better than very poor. Anyone who has doubts, can try any other station with long observation series. Our experience makes us are pretty confident that the results will be similar with ours, those of the eight stations. And anyone who disagrees with our method of falsification/verification of GCM results may feel free to propose and apply a better one. What we insist on is that verification/falsification should be done now (not 100 years after) based on past data. The joke of casting deterministic predictions for hundred years ahead, without being able (and thus avoiding) to reproduce past behaviours, is really a good one, as things show. But I think it is just a joke.

(Editor's note: Written by Demetris Koutsoyiannis)

Despite Colman's insistence to draw conclusions, I don't think there's anything very solidly conclusive that can be taken away from Koutsoyiannis' work at this point - a repeat investigation (by others or the same team) that extends the data set could shed further light if this is just a fluke or an actually inherent feature.

However, I do feel this is the kind of criticism from serious scientists who stand outside the "core business" of modelling that IMO should not be just wafted away with vagaries that convey a sense of 'they don't know what they're talking about'. I'm biased of course because I hold greater credence to measured data compared to (predictive) models, and apparently so does Koutsoyiannis...

On a limb, perhaps one can spin at least two thoughts from this:

  1. Positively: alarmism could be overblown and the narrative based on climate models doesn't hold much water
  2. Negatively: we really don't know yet what's in stock for our future climate.

People who know better than me can perhaps discuss why a stochastic approach to climate modelling is superior  compared to a deterministic approach, as Koutsoyiannis et al. argues, or why it would be rubbish.

And now I'm back to my own writings...

Display:
... the status quo, which is taking is into completely unexplored terrain in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, should be allowed to continue without conclusive proof to the contrary.

Just to be clear, I'm not accusing this post of taking that line ... this post is addressing the technical issue of the precision of climate modelling, which is an important issue no matter which side you take on the underlying issue. Rather, I'm saying that that's been the framing of those arguing for continued right to emit accelerating amounts of greenhouse gases since I first encountered the argument in the late 80's.

Setting up the work to try to model the consequences of entering that unexplored terrain.

However, if it was a situation encountered in a more immediate way, like driving on an unknown road in a heavy fog, the argument "we don't know what lays ahead, so we should accelerate" would not be taken seriously by very many people ... OK, a certain number of teenage boys of various ages, but other than that, not many.

In terms of the fight to reduce the impact of the climate crisis, I'm not bothered by the likelihood that the climate models are way off the mark ... because I only expect models to be precise when they are models of well-traveled terrain.

And also because "when you are driving in a fog on a road you've never driven on before, do you speed up or slow down?" gets to the heart of the matter with most ordinary people a lot more quickly than going through the ins and outs of climate modelling.

In general, following Robert Rosen's work Anticipatory Systems Theory, I'd expect climate modeling is likely to be imprecise because modeling a complex system with a much higher order of interaction than in the model only ever works with models that have been fine tuned with actual experience over a given range, where we know that the omitted higher order interactions are either effectively compensated for by lower order approximations or are not critical within that range.

That of course does not mean, for me, allowing continued acceleration of emission of GHG. But it remains important, because it underlines that no matter how much modelling we do, the climate crisis will catch us be surprise. So we cannot expect to cope with the crisis by simply "engineering" for the outcomes predicted by climate modeling ... our strategies to cope with the crisis have to include a heavy dose of building resilience and adaptability into systems.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 10:40:40 AM EST
My irk with climate modelling is that the experts put the kind of faith in their work that is almost holier than thou. From a narrative point of view I can understand, from a scientific point of view I find it stinking to heaven and also somewhat irresponsible, for the reasons you stated at the end.

Although I'll PN you on:

completely unexplored terrain in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases

The geologic record indicates very little doubt that higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations (very much higher than those today) are correlated with a more warm planet. The planet will warm; the question that remains is: how much?

by Nomad on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 04:58:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I'll PN you on:

completely unexplored terrain in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases

The geologic record indicates very little doubt that higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations (very much higher than those today) are correlated with a more warm planet. The planet will warm; the question that remains is: how much?

Well, OK, maybe not completely unexplored terrain ... but much less well explored terrain than this part of the Quarternary.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 05:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the same impression as you. I read a lot of qualified doubts about models, by experts. Nevertheless, they will tend to point out that:

-Acknowledging the imperfection of models should NEVER be understood as a validation of all the empty talks (base on no models whatsoever) about Global Warming being a hoax, or nature being so full of negative feedback that it will never move significantly, and so on.

-CO2 (and in fact all GHG) and heat are not merely correlated, it is a laboratory-proven effect that GHG do cause warming, everything else being equal (trouble is, it seems that "everything else" is reinforcing rather than equal, let alone mitigating in real life). It is not a laboratory result that warming should increase the presence of GHG, but there is ample evidence of that, in particular for methane releases.

-So far, reality has invariably turned out worse (ie faster warming and expected effects happening earlier than expected) than models expected. In particular, the Arctic ocean is DECADES early in its melting, even compared to the business as usual scenarios.

The constant uninformed denial of those things will get scientists annoyed, and I can't blame them. But I always find them willing to admit that models are models.

Hint: that ALSO means that the inaccuracy of a model is NO refutation of Global Warming. Yet this is how it keeps being presented. We can't reject prediction because they can't be absolutely accurate, yet at the same time using any inaccuracy as refutation of the (proven) science that was behind the forecasting.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 09:29:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can't reject prediction because they can't be absolutely accurate, yet at the same time using any inaccuracy as refutation of the (proven) science that was behind the forecasting.

I would argue that such lines of "argument" are characteristic of most who employ belief based approaches to understanding reality.  You almost always see that as part of "creation science" and other such "fundamentalist" rhetoric.  Plus, as Sinclair Lewes said:"It is very hard for a man to understand something if by understanding it he looses his livelihood." (Loosely quoted from memory.) Hard to know which is worse, delusion or cynical hypocrisy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 12:11:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am reminded of the response to The Limits to Growth by Donella and Denis Meadows, et al in 1972.  I bought and read a paperback version of this book around the time of its publication.  It made a lot of sense to me, even though it clearly stated that the models used were preliminary. Systems Dynamics seemed to be a valuable mode of analysis.  They clearly set forth the consequences of exponential growth and they showed how these consequences could be mitigated.  It seemed obvious that resource limitations would become a problem if these trends continued.

Then came the furious responses.  I mostly dismissed them as denial in the service of self interest.  But received opinion in the public sphere came to be that the analysis was "fundamentally flawed" and that the predictions were wildly off the mark--not to be taken seriously.  But I didn't have time to keep up with the controversy.

In October 2000 Matthew R. Simmons published a White Paper: Revisiting The Limits to Growth: Could the Club of Rome have been correct after all?  Even in 2000 it was apparent that The Limits to Growth had gotten far more correct than they had gotten wrong. Their projected value for world population was within the limits of uncertainty.  Population growth was certainly exponential, not linear. They had gotten the first order analysis correct.  The danger was that their projections had been too conservative.

The self interested, vociferous critics had conjured up  "straw men" to knock down, rather than dealing with the substance of the argument.  They had been very selective in what they chose to criticize.  The Limits to Growth had been a 100 year projection, assuming no change to the underlying patterns.   It had said nothing about what might be happening in 1980, 1990 or 2000.  But it had been discredited on the basis of having badly missed the '80 oil glut.

The critics had won the battle of public perception.  It is far easier to tar and feather someone than it is for the victim to remove the tar.  Left to his own devices, the victim will usually die.

Attempting to model the global climate is far more complex than what was attempted by the Club of Rome.  Recent comical developments and criticisms, such as discussion over the neglected effects of bovine flatulence is instructive.  The only data sets that go back any reasonable length of time are very limited in the type of variables measured as well as the location  and continuity of measurements.  Use of weaknesses and omissions in the models by self interested parties outside the research community to make political points should be what is viewed as noise.  The metaphor of the choice of responses to driving in the fog is apt.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 01:09:51 PM EST
I'll go with your better informed knowledge on this one, Nomad.

Though I should add that I could intuitively understand that there are overlapping cycles of climate, some of which being possibly hundreds of millions of years in length. Combined with the overall cycle of the birth, life and death of a particular planet, these multiple cycles could presumably produce resonances and patterns that have never existed before.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 01:48:04 PM EST
I didn't want to post a diary about a posting about a paper, but it seems apropos here, so...

Paul Krugman had a blog entry yesterday:
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/29/economics-of-catastrophe/

The gist is that the author he cites (Weitzman) has done a calculation on the value in taking steps to minimize highly unlikely, but catastrophic, events. He uses some fancy math dealing with uncertainty at the tail to come to the conclusion that the bigger the uncertainty, and the bigger the possible disaster, the more we should be doing to avert it.

This is in contrast with the work of a person like Stern who did a present value calculation on whether it is "worth" it to take steps now. His calculation sparked a lot of discussion because it depends upon estimates of future economic growth and the future discount rate. Those who favor the status quo said his estimates were too high and vice versa.

Weitzman's arguments are independent of economic assumptions and only deal with probabilities. He's right, but I don't think his conclusions will be accepted without a fight.

My criticism has to do with implementation, How do you get people to sacrifice now for benefits that will only be seen by future generations?

This is beyond the scope of economics and goes into areas of ethics and willingness to sacrifice.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 02:04:12 PM EST
... is how to convince people to benefit now for the sake of future generations. For instance, the proposal to double-track and electrify the main freight rail grid of the US offers the opportunity for substantial greenhouse gas reduction off the bat, further greenhouse gas reduction if we shift our production grid to non-carbon-emitters, and reduced energy dependency, and a substantial economic stimulus as the program is being rolled out.

And if the oligopress ever notices the proposal, the cry will go up, "Oh, no, we can't afford it".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 03:01:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
and likely federal subsidies to railroad companies that provide them with a more efficient physical plant with lower cost per ton/mile.  Use some of the right-of-way to install an upgraded electrical grid while we are at it.  Given all of the money we have hosed at air transport and highway transport it would balance the "subsidy field."  Dare we hope that high speed rail transport be rolled into the mix?  Eventually even long distance transport of electric cars could be offered.  Is this making too much sense?  If it could be paid for with a 1% tax on all goods transported, or some fraction of a cent per 100 miles, it could be made self supporting.  At the rate prices are going up, who would notice a 1% increase?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 07:35:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as JEN-u-wine HSR in a European/Japanese sense, that would be a distinct program ... as far as the Express speed tilt trains ... the 160kph/100mph type ... sure, there's no problem it fitting in.

While there are regulatory hurdles to cross in having Express-speed passenger rail mix with freight traffic in the US, there is no technical difficulty. Mixing traffic at different speeds causes problems with rail, but having 160kph/100mph container superfreighters and 160kph/100mph passenger trains use the same track is no major problem.

And having electric traction for the Express speed rail also simplifies integrating regional hub airports into the system, since diesel trains cannot stop at underground stations, while electric powered trains can.

As far as how to fund it, given the runaway US trade deficit, its certainly within its rights to impose a non-discriminatory revenue tariff on imports, especially if the revenues are invested in a structural reduction in import requirements.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 12:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right off the bat, seeing the name McIntyre in a post on climate should make a little red flag go up in much the same way that seeing "Heritage Foundation" or "CATO." He's a shill, who has the annoying habit of making arguments that are not wrong in the detail yet completely misleading in the overall picture. Quite simply not an honest broker in the debate.

Like the guy from RealClimate, I note that Koutsoyannis et al are looking at single stations - that is, they are using GCMs to make predictions at or below the resolution used in said GCMs and at a sharply limited number of grid points as well. That may or may not be interesting to hydrologists, depending on what common practise currently is in the hydrological community, but I think the justification that they provide for using it as a hard-and-fast falsification of the GCMs on larger scales is weak.

And something about the Koutsoyannis paper strikes me as off kilter. I can't put my finger on one spot that's simply wrong, but there are a couple of places where it doesn't "feel" right. That may simply because it's from a different writing tradition than the one I'm used to, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 04:14:12 PM EST
Jake, have you met McIntyre? I had the chance at the end of 2006, and I personally find him an amiable and open minded tinkerer, who literally stumbled by accident into what he's doing today. I don't see the need for your ad hominem "shill" or a parallel to the Heritage Foundation; that seems off-hand commentary that is unwarranted. If he's not right with his criticism, science will prove him wrong. You make a better case by aiming your critique at what he's doing - however I can't debate you on that, I'm not trained well enough in statistics.

Any thoughts on deterministic vs stochastic modelling?

by Nomad on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 05:24:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I haven't met him in person, but I've read a paper of his and a couple of things he's written elsewhere. And the most polite thing I can say about them is that they are underwhelming.

That doesn't prevent him from being a nice guy otherwise, or even competent in his own branch of physics, but in any discussion of global warming, he's a major red flag.

I don't have any thoughts about stochastic vs. deterministic models in the current context, because I haven't read up sufficiently on precisely how those terms are used in the context of climate modelling. But assuming that they mean roughly what they usually mean in statistical physics, I would suspect that any model of geoclimate would have elements that could be called deterministic and elements that could be called stochastic (and elements that could be called deterministic but chaotic).

Some parts of GCM can be constructed ab initio from elements that I would call deterministic (such as the zeroth-order effect of a solar and GHG forcing), some parts will use approximations that can be either deterministic or what I would call stochastic (cloud formation and precipitation will probably fall into the latter category), parts will be mainly empirical (some feedback mechanisms) and parts will be WAGs.

Overall, the current models are deterministic and what I would call quasichaotic. And the results they produce are pretty convincing.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 10:22:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the results they produce are pretty convincing.

Do you mean the precise results or the overall picture?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 10:28:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean that if you calibrate four of the best models for the 19th cent. and then run them for the 20th cent. with all appropriate climate inputs (solar forcing, volcanoes, GHG emissions and so on and so forth) and you extract the mean temperature for each year, you can't tell them from the observed ground-station mean temperature unless you know which years the el-Ninõ happened in real history (because it's one of those stochastic and/or quasichaotic phenomena that current models can't predict to the year). They cover the same range, have the same magnitude of chaotic (or stochastic) fluctuations, the same trend and pretty much the same 30-year running averages.

Eigil Kaas of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen has a slideshow where he does this, but I can't seem to find it on his homepage.

Now, we can argue about whether global mean temperature is a meaningful checksum to use, of course, but that happens to be the most often used.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 10:51:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have too much time to post an informative and insightful comment. But I would like to write a (for now) poorly justified opinion.

I work in "computational science", i.e., using computer models to study "something". My "something" is malaria epidemiology and pharmacology.

I am very skeptic of computer models to predict the future. I think that they are mostly useful to try to understand the past (there is this fallacy that the past is easy to understand).

Notice that epidemiology, pharmacology (or climate modeling for that matter) are "soft sciences". It is good to have a look at the boundary hard/soft science that is (bio)chemistry to see the problem (here is a simplistic explanation):

When one does ab-initio methods in computational chemistry one is actually doing 99% "hard science" models: The model behaves essentially as reality. It is interesting to compare results of ab-initio methods with semi-empirical and Newtonian methods: They diverge a lot even with very simple molecules.

Why are less perfect models used: because the computational cost of ab-initio methods is massive, so, in some cases approximations are acceptable.

Notice that we are in the realm of chemistry where "everything is known".

When you go to climate modeling (or epidemiology for that matter), most things are UNKNOWN. It is not even a problem of approximating a "perfect model": we don't know what is the perfect model, not even close.

My point is: we have a "rigorous" computational model of something that is not well known (and even if it was, the cost of simulation would be unbearable).

As an aside, I have a scientific "part time" which is testing for the robustness of population genetics models (which I am doing NOW - like writing this in a work break), and even when studying the past, computational models have problems (ie, sometimes they fail to explain the past, even when that past is factually know).

I seriously am an agnostic regarding anthropogenic climate change (I believe peak oil will dominate the agenda for the next decade, and other issues, pressing or not, will be in practice ignored). But climate prediction models would surely not be what I would use as a strong base for an argument.

by t-------------- on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 04:37:16 PM EST
Thanks a lot for your post.
by Nomad on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 05:25:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some simple math shows that we're adding about 1.5% to the CO2 of the entire atmosphere each year. No complicated, un-understandable model needed: The mass of atmosphere is about 5 Petatons. About 0.040% of it is CO2, or around 2000 Gigatons. We add about 30 Gigatons of CO2 per year, or roughly 1.5%. Isn't that a scary enough number all by itself?

(Of course this is grossly inaccurate, because a big chunk of the CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, but as soon as you mention such a thing you have started down the model building path. Which is fine, but the model non-believers won't follow you.)

I'm staggered by skeptics who support doing such a huge experiment on the only atmosphere we have.

Also it is interesting how something that has been under quiet dicussion for decades (e.g., in my 1965 Geology book) in the scientific community can suddenly become "debateable" in the popular press. Will we soon have talk radio hosts arguing about whether black holes can emit energy? (Probably.)

by asdf on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 12:20:01 AM EST
... or at least far too many people don't understand percentages, from my experience in instructing post secondary students extending down below the median high school graduate.

That's 15% in a Decade! Huh?
That's 25% in 17 years! Huh?

That's increasing by quarter before a baby born this year graduates from high school! Oh, that sounds serious.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 12:53:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Also it is interesting how something that has been under quiet dicussion for decades (e.g., in my 1965 Geology book) in the scientific community can suddenly become "debateable" in the popular press. Will we soon have talk radio hosts arguing about whether black holes can emit energy? (Probably.)

I have no problem with that as long as the discussion is on rational grounds (which most of the time it is not, I know).

The good thing about science is that it is democratic in the sense that everyone can participate (as long as providing sound arguments).

And decisions based on "scientific consensus" are sometimes debatable and sometimes gross mistakes. So, a "scientific consensus" is not a guarantee of truth.

Also, being cynical, one could discuss the interest of the scientific community at large in global warming: It is a good justification for more funding. In fact, many research that I know of has global warming as a rationale (in many different areas of science).

Don't take me wrong, I am in the "science business" - I am very far from being an anti-science type. But as I think it is a gross mistake to think all politicians are crooks, I also think it is a gross mistake to think all scientists are saints.

by t-------------- on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 12:19:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The good thing about science is that it is democratic in the sense that everyone can participate (as long as providing sound arguments).

The bigger problem is when folks with a self-interested agenda and deep pockets seize upon, or even sponsor, research favorable to their interests and then use their deep pockets on TV ads that relentlessly drill that one sided view into the minds of the public.  We grossly underestimate the effects of such campaigns.  They work.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 12:36:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"I also think it is a gross mistake to think all scientists are saints."

That's completely true, but there is no claim that scientists are saints. The claim of the scientific community is that science proceeds by an open process that allows anybody to reproduce the results. And the problem here is that the global warming science has been tested and reproduced to a great degree (not as strongly as something like relativity, but close) and there is no serious dissent about the vast majority of the claims. The problem is entirely on the side of the skeptics, who are openly funded and supported by people and organizations that have an obvious financial or political interest in the subject.

There is no comparison between the cynical possibility of additional funding based on global warming (one can much more easily get funding as a skeptic) and the open and obvious advantages that the politicians and talk show hosts and oil companies hope to get by supporting the skeptics. I'm pretty sure that the discussion about this topic in the scientific community over the past century have not been based on funding discussions--that only became a possibility within the past decade or so...

by asdf on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 09:00:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

The claim of the scientific community is that science proceeds by an open process that allows anybody to reproduce the results.

That claim is sometimes true, sometimes completely false (lets call it propaganda). It some areas, with todays high competition, data is hidden in as much as possible, and many scientific journals accept it that way.

This is true, e.g., in conservation genetics where most people try to maintain their data as close as possible even after publication (so that they can milk it in as much as possible). I am writing this now from a conservation genetics lab, so I know what I am talking about.


And the problem here is that the global warming science has been tested and reproduced to a great degree (not as strongly as something like relativity, but close) and there is no serious dissent about the vast majority of the claims. The problem is entirely on the side of the skeptics, who are openly funded and supported by people and organizations that have an obvious financial or political interest in the subject.

You cannot test predictions in any reliable way. By definition predictions can only be tested in the future. Yes, you can fit the past in your models, but that is no guarantee that the behavior in the future will hold.

Isn't it funny that the same guys that cannot do reliable weather forecasts for TOMORROW, suggest that they can predict the climate in 10 years? The argument is that weather predictions and climate predictions are qualitatively different so that the former are more reliable in some way. Bullshit: climate prediction models hold precisely because they cannot be put to test in such a blunt way as weather models. It becomes a rethorical argument, more than anything else.

For the economists here, think quantitative finance and the ability of "smart" Wall Street people to predict the housing/mortage crisis. The underlying mentality is the same: lets use some computational models to predict the future. The result is, I argue, also the same... utter bs.

by t-------------- on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 01:42:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isn't it funny that the same guys that cannot do reliable weather forecasts for TOMORROW, suggest that they can predict the climate in 10 years? The argument is that weather predictions and climate predictions are qualitatively different so that the former are more reliable in some way. Bullshit: climate prediction models hold precisely because they cannot be put to test in such a blunt way as weather models. It becomes a rethorical argument, more than anything else.

Isn't it funny that the same guys who can't compute reliable space-time coordinates for atoms in gasses nonetheless claim to be able to predict their macroscopic properties? The argument is that prediction of the macroscopic and microscopic properties of gasses are qualitatively different so that the the former are more reliable in some way. Bullshit: Gas-phase thermodynamic models hold precisely because they cannot be put to test in such a blunt way as microscopic models of the behaviours of gasses. It becomes a rhetorical argument, more than anything else.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 07:17:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Has anyone ever claimed to be able to predict the weather forecast for August the 8th, 2058?

Thought so.

So, it's a meaningless comparison indeed. The climate for tomorrow can of course be predicted with ASTONISHING accuracy (in fact, even the weather forecast for tomorrow is pretty good), so it's no argument against the possibility to predict it in the more distant future.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 09:43:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, being cynical, one could discuss the interest of the scientific community at large in global warming: It is a good justification for more funding. In fact, many research that I know of has global warming as a rationale (in many different areas of science).

Come on! Most of the science people doing global warming are tenured professors. As long as they keep publishing something, don't steal the coffee money and don't sleep with their students, they have damn good job security. And unlike - say - high energy physicists, they don't need ridiculously expensive equipment either.

Now, if you want to talk about getting more research funding for political purposes than can be scientifically justified, let's talk about CERN, LHC, nanoscience and materials science. Oh, and the people who like to shoot fancy (and expensive) gizmos into space.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with those areas of science. They're all interesting and worthwhile to pursue. But they're punching way above their purely scientific weight when it comes to funding. Climate science may or may not be over-emphasised funding-wise compared to the rest of geophysics, but geophysics as a whole certainly is not. And singling out climate science as having political attention lavished upon them is misleading in any case.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 10:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What tiagoantao says can be applied to any perceived issue studied by science. So I don't think it's valid.

There is a danger that global warming is being picked up in a lot fields to which its relation is questionable, because it's such a hot topic.

But do we see the aggregate science budgets exploding? Not as far as I know.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 10:51:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Come on! Most of the science people doing global warming are tenured professors. As long as they keep publishing something, don't steal the coffee money and don't sleep with their students, they have damn good job security. And unlike - say - high energy physicists, they don't need ridiculously expensive equipment either.

Funny, most scientists that I know are post-docs (no job security), PhD students (like me). In most science labs that I know (and I know a few), tenured profs are less than 10% of the people doing research. And they normally are swamped in administrative/political tasks.

I would argue the exact opposite: for the vast majority of scientists that I know, job INSECURITY is the norm. So, pandering to get accepted (ie published) is quite common.


Now, if you want to talk about getting more research funding for political purposes than can be scientifically justified, let's talk about CERN, LHC, nanoscience and materials science. Oh, and the people who like to shoot fancy (and expensive) gizmos into space.

This is not my line of reasoning at all. I work in both conservation genetics (think species near extinction) and malaria epidemiology - I profit nothing from money going to hard sciences. I am just drawing attention to 2 issues: a) computational prediction models are unreliable in many situations and b) scientists are not saints.


And singling out climate science as having political attention lavished upon them is misleading in any case.

If climate science is not having political attention, than I cannot think of any area in science which is on the political radar.

But my point is not just climate scientists. If you go to some maths departments, or medical departments (just to cite a few), much funded research is justified on "climate change". The scientific community at large is reaping some (funding) benefits from climate awareness. So, I am just suggesting that scientists might be (consciously or unconsciously) quite happy with the climate scare status quo.

Again, I have no opinion on the issue of climate change in itself. I have not studied it, so I am as neutral as you can find. What I am just saying is that on the basis of predicative computational models arguments are unreliable.

by t-------------- on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 01:59:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I guess we'll all have to return to the middle ages, since science is all hogwash.

I think that you are consciously trolling here. If your PhD friends are so desperate for money, by far the easist thing for them to do would be to join ExxonMobil and deny climate change. They will get paid big bucks for leveraging their credentials. Your argument is completely backwards.

And if you are going to continue to insist that scientists are so easily corrupted to retain their jobs, then why do you want to be a member of that community? I suggest that you re-evalute your career choice and take up something honorable.

by asdf on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 06:56:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I think that you are consciously trolling here. If your PhD friends are so desperate for money, by far the easist thing for them to do would be to join ExxonMobil and deny climate change. They will get paid big bucks for leveraging their credentials. Your argument is completely backwards.

I am not saying that we are all corrupt scientists. Or that we spend all day conjuring to get more tax/private money. You are seeing what you want to see in my words.

I am just noticing that we have to eat, like anyone else. And that consciously or unconsciously in some varying degree that has an impact on scientific work. Some people do 99% of there work just to get published, some people have almost no concern for their track record. But if you think that science is a realm of purity where everything goes smoothly and idyllically, then I would like to remind you that science is made by humans.

I know of people that hide their data (as I know people that open up all that their do). By the way, in some areas I am afraid the first (hide data) group is bigger than the second.
I know of some scientific based decisions that were done in the past that have very bad consequences (as we all know of good ones).

Anyway, I will stop here, because I don't think this line of semi-offensive comments benefits anyone.

by t-------------- on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 07:19:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Big words to conflate serious issues that are actual in science, and which I personally, as a PhD student in a different field, can also observe almost on a daily basis. To be "corrupted" has nothing to do with it.

Your personal assaults are equally unnecessary.

by Nomad on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 02:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I profit nothing from money going to hard sciences.

Be that as it may, your argument, such as it is and what there is of it, rested on the notion that climate science is uniquely corrupted by their temporary fame and political attention (and their need to keep said fame and attention). Noting that many other branches of physics, at present and over the years, have had far greater funding and political attention lavished upon them (without notably impairing the quality of their scientific output - although a case can probably be made that their cost-effectiveness has dropped) is thus a relevant objection.

Funny, most scientists that I know are post-docs (no job security), PhD students (like me).

Ph.d. students in physics do not generally concern themselves with funding, which was what you were talking about. They have their funding, at least for the nonce. The people who worry about funding are the tenured staff. At least in the places I know of.

If climate science is not having political attention, than I cannot think of any area in science which is on the political radar.

Ah, ah, ah, that's not what I said. I said that singling out climate science as particularly - or even uniquely - culpable in this game is a dishonest rhetorical slight of hand. It is, to be blunt, reminiscent of the Creationist trick of pointing out that Evolution is a theory and as thus should be approached with an open mind and critically considered. (Which is, of course, true in the same sense and to the same extent that the theory of gravity should also be approached with an open mind and critically considered.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 07:29:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First, sorry for replying with big intervals, I am currently traveling around...


fame and attention). Noting that many other branches of physics, at present and over the years, have had far greater funding and political attention lavished upon them (without notably impairing the quality of their scientific output - although a case can probably be made that their cost-effectiveness has dropped) is thus a relevant objection.

That is why my first post on this thread was about making a separation between hard-sciences (where no simplifications at all are made in order to study nature - this is my personal definition) and "other sciences" (part of physics, some of chemistry falls here). "Other sciences" is actually almost everything else (I will get back to this).


Ph.d. students in physics do not generally concern themselves with funding, which was what you were talking about. They have their funding, at least for

Oh yes they do: The are concerned about the job that they will get AFTER their PhD ends. You see, myself and all the PhD students that I know of are precisely in the situation you describe (In my case I am funded until 2011), and trust me, we talk and think about the future AFTER. And our future (getting a tenure, or at least a post-doc) depends on our ability to publish.


Ah, ah, ah, that's not what I said. I said that singling out climate science as particularly - or even uniquely - culpable in this game is a dishonest rhetorical slight of hand.

I am not singling out climate science at all, I think I started by saying that the use of computational models everywhere above simple chemistry are to be not trusted in predicting the future (they have other uses).
Also, regarding the moral of the scientific game, I am not singling out climate scientists at all (apologies if that was understood from my words). I am also not trying to be moralistic. I just want to remind that scientists are human beings and thus prone to human issues (they need to eat, they like recognition, etc)


It is, to be blunt, reminiscent of the Creationist trick of pointing out that Evolution is a theory and as thus should be approached with an open mind and critically considered. (Which is, of course, true in the same sense and to the same extent that the theory of gravity should also be approached with an open mind and critically considered.)

There is a big difference between gravity and evolution. And that is one of my points - hard-science versus soft science. Comparing gravity with evolution is like comparing apples to potatoes, makes little sense.
Don't take me wrong, I am a strong supporter of evolution (been involved in the organization of several courses, attended workshops on the subject, published papers), but the scientific approach is to doubt and criticize. Of course creationists take a very good initial approach to then sell utter untestable bullshit on top. But their core argument is sound. Evolution is a theory and the correct intellectual stance is to try to challenge it (not in the way they do it).

Anyway and let me be provocative, it seems that ET is quite full of science fundamentalists (a contradiction in terms - there seems to be a need by some to have unquestionable truths in some form), but let me ask you this:
In the field of economics (which I don't know that much) the mainstream seems to be some form of neoconservativism (the only way to get published in top journals?). More, should we talk about computational models and quantitative finance (maybe in the light of current events)? Economics is peer reviewed like everything else we talked about here (and with lots of cool math authority like game theory and such), but do you take it as "the word"?

This is not a discourse against reason (it is the precise opposite: never forfeit your critical abilities in front of an authoritarian argument), this is just a simple reminder that science is made by humans and that science touches many ares for which it is impossible to have (near)perfect models of reality and as such there is lots of space for peer-reviewed rhetorics and human "imperfections" to creep in.

The reason that I am in the science business, is that, in spite of these and many other flaws, it still is the best path I know of to understand nature. But if you are searching for a emotional replacement for the "perfection and authority of god", then this is not place.

Finally I would like to reiterate that I have no opinion on climate change (never spent much time studying the subject, I must admit). I just totally distrust computational modeling to predict the future of anything bigger than a molecule.

by t-------------- on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 11:44:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is why my first post on this thread was about making a separation between hard-sciences (where no simplifications at all are made in order to study nature

That version of "hard science" went out of style a couple of centuries ago and was declared definitively dead by the time people started doing quantum mechanics in a serious way (not because of anything special about quantum mechanics - it just involves a lot of non-separable PDEs, and non-seperable PDEs are usually not analytically solvable, so you have to do approximations).

Almost nobody does physics today about anything without significant simplifications.

But their core argument is sound. Evolution is a theory and the correct intellectual stance is to try to challenge it (not in the way they do it).

Of course. In the same sense and to the same extent that one should test the germ theory of disease, if you dislike the use of universal gravity as an example. But I propose that this is also true for universal gravity (it was in fact tested and found to be incomplete; general relativity supersedes it in several notable cases).

In the field of economics (which I don't know that much) the mainstream seems to be some form of neoconservativism (the only way to get published in top journals?). More, should we talk about computational models and quantitative finance (maybe in the light of current events)? Economics is peer reviewed like everything else we talked about here (and with lots of cool math authority like game theory and such), but do you take it as "the word"?

Part of the difference is that whenever I dig out a theory in physics and shake it to see how much of it falls off, it seems to be on the level. On the few occasions where I have attempted to take a good, hard look at economic theories, I have with disquieting frequency come to the conclusion that it's full of crap (most notably the theory of how stock markets operate - actually that's Migeru's conclusion, but I can follow his logic and from what I can see it's sound).

Another important part is that I often see people with fancy degrees from various and sundry bizniz schools who are supposed to be literate in economics use numbers to support their argument in a way that would have gotten a master student in physics kicked out on his ass from any half-way respectable university.

Finally, I simply disagree with defining economics as a science independent of political underpinnings. Unlike physics - which works because the world enforces various rules upon us - economics works because society enforces various rules upon us (consider, for instance, how economics would look if society did not enforce the rule that people are not generally allowed to kill other people).

Since those rules are inherently political, the rules that are explored by economists are more than likely to be substantially influenced by political decisions (and, of course, vice versa). This adds a layer of variability that is not found in the natural sciences (and provides a feedback between our understanding of the phenomena and the way the phenomena behave that is definitely not present in natural science).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 12:44:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]

That version of "hard science" went out of style a couple of centuries ago and was declared definitively dead by the time people started doing

I think I've explained myself wrong.
As far as I remember you can only solve analytically the energy equations for an electron and a proton (and even so I suppose the story doesn't end here - by my knowledge of physics ends), from that point onwards you used ab-initio methods, then, when the system gets too big semi-empirical methods, then Newtonian mechanics, then you are out of computational biochemistry... The bigger the system you study the bigger the number of unknowns.

This grading can be roughly seen in sciences:
basic physics, chemistry, biochemistry, medicine/biology, economy/sociology.

The degree of "fuzyness" and unknown increases as you go along the line. The bigger the "fuzzyness" the large the space for creeping in of human cultural factors.

You can see that in biology where, though evolution is consensual then the role of selection, competition, mutualism or neutrality are far from being consensual (and if you look at the buzzwords, you see that they can be highly influenced by politics and society).

The space for gross mistakes induced by culture increases exponentially as you go along that line (heck, in things like biology, sociology and economy, the scientific process in itself in participating in changing the whole picture in itself).

Black swans everywhere...

by t-------------- on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 01:02:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw a number 6 gigatons a year (a ton per person) a couple of year ago. Multiplying several percentages does not look reliable to me.

One question about modeling: how the errors are distributed? If errors are distributed evenly to "both" sides, however wide, there is something right in the models: they are approximations to the modeled phenomenona, though probably not of high order yet. If there is a persistent bias in the errors, the models are biased then.

Global warming will have abnormal effects, beyond what we conveniently assumed available for ages. Consider fish sex, for example.

by das monde on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 11:22:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The authors write:
The huge negative values of coef-ficients of efficiency show that model predictions are much poorer than an elementary prediction based on the time average. This makes future climate projections at the examined locations not credible. Whether or not this conclusion extends to other locations requires expansion of the study, which we have planned. However, the poor GCM performance in all eight locations examined in this study allows little hope, if any. An argument that the poor performance applies merely to the point basis of our comparison, whereas aggregation at large spatial scales would show that GCM outputs are credible, is an unproved conjecture and, in our opinion, a false one.

Schmidt writes:
Looking at the statistics of local temperature and precipitation is useful but picking just a few long records and comparing to the nearest individual grid cells is not sensible. The differences in topography an local micro-climates are probably large and will make a big difference. A better approach would have been to look at aggregated statistics over larger areas. This has in fact been done though - for instance Blender and Fraedrich (2003), and there was a recent paper that looked the AR4 models (in GRL maybe? - I can't quickly find the reference).

This is what part, I guess, of what Jake found to be off about the writing style. It's certainly odd to me. The point basis will logically introduce more uncertainty - so, it's a valid objection to the conclusion of the authors, even though it is one that does not prove that they are wrong. What's more, as Schmidt writes there have in fact been such aggregated studies.

The IPCC writes (AR4 FAQ):

There is considerable confidence that climate models provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above. This confidence comes from the foundation of the models in accepted physical principles and from their ability to reproduce observed features of current climate and past climate changes. Confidence in model estimates is higher for some climate variables (e.g., temperature) than for others (e.g., precipitation). Over several decades of development, models have consistently provided a robust and unambiguous picture of significant climate warming in response to increasing greenhouse gases.

Their claim at the start of the article that "a common argument that models can perform better at larger spatial scales is unsupported" seems very weird. They don't offer any arguments or evidence for it, other than saying that stating otherwise is "an unproven conjecture". I'd say that's fallacious* (shifting the burden of proof) - in addition to being false.

But we've learned that regional models of precipitation should still be taken with a grain of salt.

* While we're at it, saying McIntyre should be a red flag or that Schmidt never met a critique of climate models he liked aren't arguments either. Interesting post and thread all the same.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 09:06:43 AM EST
That climate models have low precision?  Um . . . is there somebody arguing that they have HIGH precision?  Provide the source or link, PLEASE!  

More to the point, it seems to me, is that the models are underestimating the amount of climate change that is occurring right now.  The arctic is melting ahead of schedule.  

From last fall, not to be overly last minute about it:  Link.  

The antarctic, too.  

The climate models may be wrong, but change is not less than they predict:  It is MORE.  

I know people will do nothing.  Peak Oil is in the past, and folks are still debating an event that is not only measurable but WAS MEASURED.  It is perhaps time to take up the question of Peak Oxygen--a likely effect of ocean acidification and rain-forest destruction--which I trust we have not yet passed.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Aug 1st, 2008 at 11:39:45 PM EST
I know people will do nothing.  Peak Oil is in the past, and folks are still debating an event that is not only measurable but WAS MEASURED.

For an explanation why sadly this is the case, take a look at the link Fran found from The Oil Drum.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Aug 2nd, 2008 at 05:08:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I just latch onto the insistent persuasion that climate models present the truth of our future planet - which I feel is a fallacy, for better or worse.
by Nomad on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 03:12:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the words of Pontius Pilate "Quid est veritum?"  I always thought his status as a moral philosopher was neglected.

I must agree with you about the final "truth" of any predictions from climate models.  When a back of the envelope calculation about the neglected effects of bovid flatulence can even putatively have a noticeable effect on the outcomes we must wonder how well we have even accounted for the system inputs.  Unfortunately, this makes me more, not less, concerned about our future, given what we do know about CO2 levels and average ambient temperatures from the geological record and from ice core studies.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 10:47:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Has changed a lot during the last year or so when I started putting climate change together with peak oil. I might get flamed a bit, but here goes:

We know temperatures and CO2 levels are correlated. But we don't know if CO2 changes temperature, or if temperature changes CO2 levels.

But the current dogma has weaknesses. For example, historically CO2 levels started rising on average 800 years after temperature levels began rising.

This could either mean

a) temperatures increase CO2 levels, not the way around

or

b) while CO2 increases have not historically initiated temperature increases, they might well have strengthened or sustained temperature increases that were initiated by other things.

Not that it matters much though. There aren't enough cheap fossil fuels on the planet to cause dangerous climate change even if the theories are correct. And even if there were enough cheap fossil fuels (mainly coal) we could solve the problem just by legislating that no new coal power plants were allowed to be built, and all new power, heating and industry energy demand could instead be filled by wind and nuclear.

By the way, I wouldn't trust the IPCC for a second. It is a political, not scientific organization. They have ignored science before (visavi the resource base*) so they might ignore it when it comes to other things too (like the climate feedback mechanisms).

* Even their lowest emissions scenario requires us to burn more fossil fuels than even the BP or the IEA thinks exists...

So, what does this really mean? It means that peak oil is a huge problem, and that we should not work against alternative fossil fuels (like GTL, CTL, CNG, tar sands etc) to bridge the gap. It also means we have to look at the efforts done to fight climate change and stop spending resources on the things that just works against climate change but does not work against peak oil. Things like CCS, planting forests and so on, while still pressing on even harder on efficiency, nuclear, wind etc.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 11:52:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we don't know if CO2 changes temperature, or if temperature changes CO2 levels

Apparently we do (where it explains the 800 year lag BTW). We also know that the extra CO2 out there is mostly man-made.

Also "an easy-to-understand explanation for why increasing CO2 is a significant problem without relying on climate models"

I'm not sure that there are not enough fossil fuels to produce a global warming effect. Is there some study or an elementary calculation about this?

the IPCC...is a political, not scientific organization

Yes it is but: a. the political part seems mostly to have an effect of watering down the bad news and b. The way that scientific consensus translates to political counseling and advisory bodies on scientific matters is exactly through political bodies, staffed, ideally, with respected scientists in the field. What other model is there?

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 07:39:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a. the political part seems mostly to have an effect of watering down the bad news

Not only does this seem to be the case - around the release of TAR-4 (I think - but it may have been TAR-3 or the summary for policymakers), someone actually caught the politicians red-handed, because someone leaked the pre-political-approval version of the report, so people could compare it with the final version...

I can try to dig it out if anybody's interested.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 11:22:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can also observe how the oxygen levels in the atmosphere has fallen slightly as CO2 concentrations increased. A clear sign the increased CO2 levels exist because of large scale combustion (of fossil fuels).

Your link from Realclimate replicates exactly what I stated above.

In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway.

I wrote:

while CO2 increases have not historically initiated temperature increases, they might well have strengthened or sustained temperature increases that were initiated by other things.

---------

    Is there enough oil to cause global warming?

With the caveat:

Even if oil and gas run out, "there's a huge amount of coal underground that could be exploited", he says. Aleklett agrees that burning coal could make the IPCC scenarios come true, but points out that such a switch would be disastrous.

Since then this research group has been looking closer at coal reserves and found them much smaller than they thought they were. They have an article which has been published or is in review right now.

------------

What other model is there beside the IPCC non-scientific one? Well, decisions based on peer-reviewed articles.

------------

One more thing: the climate change scenarios are based entirely on our very limited understanding of feedback systems, because on its own higher CO2 levels only increase temperatures extremely marginally. This is basic light/radiation physics. At the current CO2 levels the ability of CO2 to capture more light/heat is pretty much saturated; even if we had 1000 ppm CO2 it wouldn't change temperatues much.

What people worry about is that these CO2 increases will start feedback processes like releasing methane from permafrost, or changing the planets albedo, things which will in turn increase temperatures much more than CO2 itself will. But we don't understand these processes and there are indeed other negative feedbacks we don't understand either (like increased cloud cover).

And it does worry me that we put our weak understanding of the climate into models which output pretty color-coded maps with temperature gradients which fools people into believing that we pretty much know what will happen. It worries me even more that when the climate models are run backwards, they cannot even rudimentary "predict" the past climate.

So I say, let's just not build more coal fired power plants, and then be done with it.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 06:03:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Link.

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Tue Aug 5th, 2008 at 12:23:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Last year was the first time in recorded history that the northwest passage was open to navigation. It should be even more open this year.

Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK  

Ice melt raises passage tension  
By David Shukman
BBC science and environment correspondent, Canadian Arctic  

Less ice makes it easier to get at the Arctic's resources
In another sign of potential friction in the warming Arctic, Canada has warned that it will step up patrols of the Northwest Passage.

Record summer melting of sea-ice has made the passage fully navigable; and immediately escalated a dispute over who controls the route.

Canada maintains that the waterway that connects the Atlantic with the Pacific lies within its territorial waters.

It has backed that up with plans for a new military base in the Arctic.


Arctic Ice Retreat Continues

Friday, October 26, 2007 from World Maritime News

Yellow line: Northwest Passage. Blue line: Northern Sea Route (See link for satellite view)
The International Ice Charting Working Group (IICWG), meeting at ESRIN in Frascati, issued the following statement on October 26, 2007: "In September 2007, the Arctic sea ice reached the minimum extent in the history of ice charting based on satellite, aircraft and surface observations, continuing a recent trend of diminishing sea ice that began in the 1980's and has accelerated. While there will still be natural inter-annual variability, the decline is likely to continue.

"The Arctic is already experiencing an increase in shipping, primarily for oil and gas development and tourism, and we can expect to see further increases as diminishing ice extent makes Arctic marine transportation more viable. The IICWG members are working with national and international authorities to help ensure that Arctic navigation develops with the utmost regard for the safety of people, property and the environment.

Colleagues used to say that while they might not be able to solve the Raleigh wave equations, (acoustics), for a given room, the room could solve them and then they could observe.  Nature is providing much more convincing evidence of warming than any model. Perhaps we will have models that can "predict" what we already know has happened before all the ice is melted at both poles.  

 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 5th, 2008 at 02:45:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And while the Arctic melts, the Antarctic grows about as much...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 06:46:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Getting accurate data on the growth or lack thereof of the Antarctic ice sheets is a royal pain, because once you get away from the coasts, you get very little snow... But over a very large area. So we don't really know whether more snow accumulates on the Antarctic shelf to mitigate the increased melting rate.

At least that's the story I got last time I looked.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Aug 10th, 2008 at 02:03:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Seems to be a bit of confusion here.  Mind if we call you Bruce?"  Monty Python

The first confusion is:

As falsifiability is an essential element of science (Popper, 1983), the scientific basis of climatic prediction may be disputed on the grounds that they are not falsifiable or verifiable at present.
[K paper, 672]

Science, since Galileo, is Inductive and Experimental.  Mathematics, since the Ancient Greeks, is Deductive and Axiomatic.  Climate Models (CM) are Mathematical and their construction partake of the Properties and Attributes of Mathematics.  As is well known, falsifying a Mathematical Axiom can either leads to its rejection by finding a contraction or it is accepted and a new Mathematical system is discovered.  

Riemann Geometry was developed using this technique.

Thus, the quoted objection is not germane.

The second confusion stems from this and is more serious:

We maintain that elements of falsifiability already exist.  ... in the agreement of model results in past periods with reality (hindcasting or retrodiction.)

This premise is contradicted by findings in Information Processing.  First, historical data is not predictive when that data comes from a iterative dynamic system with feedback and without memory.  Weather is one such system.  The stock market is another.  In both cases, data, and Information, peculates through the system asymmetrical in time and acquisition.  The data and Information is not necessarily recognized by the processing unit¹.  The data and Information is not necessarily recognized in totality by the processing unit.  The data and Information is not necessarily processed in totality and correctly by the processing unit.  

With this in hand it is possible to affirm one of K's central points: long term Climatic prediction is impossible.  

But we know that.  We've known that since the mid-60s and the publication of Dr. Lorenz's paper on the Butterfly Affect.  Actually, by knowing that the rest of K's paper becomes beside the point.  Our inability to make long term Weather predictions predicts the data gathered by the eight reporting stations used by Dr. K as evidence of the failure of CM will fail to match output of the runs of a, or any, or all CMs.  Deploying Dr. Lorenz's paper, it is possible to state that if an agreement was found between the eight recording stations and a run of a CM it was entirely accidental, just the way the cookie crumbled.  

So either way, the output (predictions) of CMs will not, except fortuitously, match historical data or Information.

Now the question becomes, "What's the Point?"  Why should we go through the tedious hassle of constructing and running CMs?

Essentially, a output run of a CM or the output runs of CMs gives a basis for making predictions, tho' while still subject to the Axioms and computational restrictions of the CMs.  

IF the CMs are, more-or-less, correctly constructed, and the runs are, more-or-less, in agreement THEN it is possible to make correct, more-or-less, judgments and conclusions.  (Note: that's a modus ponens, BTW.)  And those judgments and conclusions can be referenced to observations.

We see CMs predicting, more-or-less, an increase in Global Temperature.  We observe Global ice melt.  We can validly conclude a relationship.  The conclusion is validation of the Models.

¹  Using "processing unit" to indicate the manipulator of the data and Information may have schemata or may lack schemata.  Schemata are data/Information processing structures.  A computer has such, a hurricane doesn't.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 01:26:39 PM EST
As Korzybski might say: The model is not the system being modeled and the projection is not the future.  They are both just analytical tools.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 04:20:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

 IPCC Lite
By Janet Raloff, Science News
August 1st, 2008
Web edition

Climate Primer

A weighty topic doesn't have to be unattractive or come in a 17-pound package, Penn State scientists argue.Dorling Kindersley

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a trio of paperback books that reviewed the latest science about our evolving climate, the apparent causes for its recent warming trend, and the likely consequences. The hundreds of scientists who collaborated on these reports hoped to bolster their argument for transitioning away from reliance on fossil fuels by serving up compelling details.

Their noble effort, however, resulted in tomes that together tip the scales at 17.5 pounds, run 2,844 pages and will set you back more than $225 even if you purchase them at that big discount online book seller. Moreover, this package of reports is dismally gray. Lots of text, graphs, and tables -- with only the occasional drawings of a globe streaked with vibrant color to suggest temperature projections.

Two Penn State climate scientists have now distilled all of this into an easy, breezy -- but scientifically "authoritative" -- 200-page gorgeously illustrated book. It retails for $25 but can be purchased through discount outlets for substantially less.

Which would you prefer to wade through?

Actually, climate scientist Michael Mann, who directs Penn State's Earth System Science Center, probably doesn't care whether you read the IPCC set or his new book -- as long as you read at least one....

-Skip-

Last week, DK Publishing issued their book. It's titled "Dire Predictions." The publisher is renowned for putting out gorgeous books (I drool over those developed for gardeners, for instance, while my daughter prefers the ones on animals). The Penn State pair liked the idea of working with DK's "information architects." Explains Mann, these are people "who find a way who take information -- graphs, tables, what have you -- and try to bring these data alive" through drawings or photos.

"We came up with concepts we wanted to explain to a lay audience," he says, "such as `fingerprint detection:' how we can look at patterns of temperature change during the 20th century -- not just the fact that temperatures are warming -- but the spatial pattern of warming that points to the source of that warming."

For instance, at ground level, the global warming due to an increase in the sun's energy looks much the same as one due to an atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases. Indeed, Mann says, "we might not be able to tell one from the other if all we had were surface observations. But that's not all we have." Weather balloons, satellites and other sources of information have mapped temperatures up through the skies.

And this allows scientists to find key indicators of the source of warming. A solar warming should lead to a warming throughout the atmosphere, Mann explains. "Instead, what we're finding is a warming in the troposphere, the lower part of the atmosphere that we live in, but a cooling as you move up into the lower stratosphere where jets fly. And that cooling aloft," he says, "is a unique signature of a warming due to increased greenhouse-gas concentrations."

This is the type of conceptual material covered in his new book. And it's a pretty book, which is not by accident.

Dire Predictions by climate scientist Michael Mann, who directs Penn State's Earth System Science Center, and his colleague, geoscientist Lee R. Kump.  


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 3rd, 2008 at 05:03:23 PM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]