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« When is a subsidy not a subsidy? | Main | Keep calm »
Tuesday
May012012

NYT on clouds

Justin Gillis, the New York Times' eco-activist has an article on the role of clouds in climate and the dispute over their impact. It is, in essence, an extended pop at the work of Richard Lindzen.

Among the experts most offended by Dr. Lindzen’s stance are many of his colleagues in the M.I.T. atmospheric sciences department, some of whom were once as skeptical as he about climate change.

“Even if there were no political implications, it just seems deeply unprofessional and irresponsible to look at this and say, ‘We’re sure it’s not a problem,’ ” said Kerry A. Emanuel, another M.I.T. scientist. “It’s a special kind of risk, because it’s a risk to the collective civilization.”

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Reader Comments (70)

That would be the one that Bob Ward is tweeting so happily about! Never mind that it kicks off with the '97% of scientists' myth...

May 1, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

LAMONT, Okla. — For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong.

Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.

Lord what a terrible start to a science article. It might as well scream "This article is for believers only, sod off deniers!" Why is so much enviro writing such obvious easy to digest comfort food? Have they no shame? Quite sad really.

There is nothing really new there is there? Just a collation of all the alleged "withering" crtiques of Lindzen in one handy reference for that self-righteous urban greeny who is too busy to think or to really care.

Let me sum it up for the sceptics:

Dr. Lindzen said. “We are trying to tell them, no, questioning is never anti-science.”

The lesson we get here is that this stance has "offended" his colleagues.

May 1, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

"We’re sure it’s not a problem"

I'm not sure it's not a problem, but I'm not sure it is a problem. You can only apply the precautionary principle so far.

May 1, 2012 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

It's hard to take the article seriously when it has the 97% nonsense in the second paragraph.

Falls at the first Murray Gell-man.

May 1, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

It's actually worse...

polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk

The word 'now' implies that it's a recent poll, and that this is an increase in the percentage. The whole tone of the sentence is "even more scientists than ever before...." when actually it's the same old crap 97% they've been lying about for years.

I suspect if they did the poll again properly 'now', the number (even amongst the tiny set of self-selected 'scientists' who bothered to respond) would be much lower than that.

May 1, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I wonder how many working climate scientists would see global cooling as a serious risk (bearing in mind that part of a risk assessment includes the consequences, not just the probability). I (not a working climate scientist) see the next ice-age as a serious risk.

May 1, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Scientists use sophisticated computer programs to forecast future climate, but the computers are not yet powerful enough to predict the behavior of individual clouds across the whole earth over a century, which forces the researchers to use rough approximations.

This is fantasy stuff, surely. It is not that the computers are insufficiently powerful. The scientific understanding of such a complex system over such a period of time just isn't there, and is never likely to be.

May 1, 2012 at 10:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Profoundly dishonest article, from the 97% meme to the insinuation that Kerry Emanuel has had a Damascene conversion from sceptic to believer. If anything he has inched almost imperceptibly the other way, at least from his previous belief without any evidence that global warming was causing significant increases in hurricane risk.

May 1, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

"a Damascene conversion from sceptic to believer"

I'd say it was 97% the other way, normally.. :-)

May 1, 2012 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

It's a special kind of risk, thus we need a special kind of science.

May 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterThor

97% of cats prefer Whiskas. hmmm.

97% of mums find Persil gets their whites whiter. ho hum.

97% of climate scientists prefer globull worming. Right, that should do it.

May 1, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal

I like the way they describe Kerry Emanuel as 'another MIT scientist', you know, just another Superbrain around the watercooler with no axe to grind.

Steve Milloy had to force Nature to disclose Emanuel's financial links to insurance companies after Emanuel published the standard AGW spiel about the increasing cost of natural catastrophes.

The saga is here:

http://junkscience.com/2012/02/24/junkscience-forces-emanuel-to-disclose-insurance-employers/

For some reason, neither Nature nor Emanuel regarded this as a potential conflict of interest requiring disclosure until Milloy blew the whistle.

Yep, just a disinterested Superbrain at MIT who happened to be interviewed for the article. Not.

May 1, 2012 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Yeah, yeah, yeah, bla, bla ,bla! The computer models, around 20 of them, globally, all work on the same basic principles, although the parameters are all slightly differently input. However, it is the neive belief that consensus is science, which it emphatically is not, that annoys somewhat. It is the neive belief that these "scienticsts" have reduced the thousands of parameters that go to make up our climate, to a bunch of mathematical formulae & matrices, & predict the future. Now whilst it is true the likes of Dr Viky Pope et al deliberately or ignorantly intermingle the words prediction & projection, depending upon what spin they are trying to put over, when in fact they do none of these things. It is pure guess work. Now, on the other hand, if they are as good as they say, please could I have six numbers for the lottery on Saturday night, then I might start to believe in puter modelling! Lara Croft X-Box360 fantasy world! Was it not back in the 80s that puter modelling made us believe "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away", or that terminator robots from the future actually existed, or that dinosaurs could once again walk the Earth in the 90s in Jurrasic Park, 1,2, & 3? That we could go back to medieval London, or Paris, or even ancient Rome? Yet it was all make believe!

May 1, 2012 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

G L Stephens, the US cloud physicist showed in 2010 that the IPCC climate models assume double real low level cloud optical depth to offset the grossly exaggerated warming.

There is no way these modellers will allow real cloud physics into the models if it automatically shows the assumptions about the heat transfer are very wrong.

So, all predictions by these models will continue to be wrong.

May 1, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

johanna

I like the way they describe Kerry Emanuel as 'another MIT scientist', you know, just another Superbrain around the watercooler with no axe to grind.

Yeah I noticed the strange use of phrases implying quantity: "many of his colleagues", "some of whom",:

Among the experts most offended by Dr. Lindzen’s stance are many of his colleagues in the M.I.T. atmospheric sciences department, some of whom were once as skeptical as he about climate change.

which, since there is no evidence of a straw poll being taken, could really be boiled down to her saying that a single faux sceptic - actually an alarmist - MIT colleague of Lindzen gave me a handy slap-down quote ;)

Enviro journos really are the pits by any measure. It's not up for debate. ;)

May 1, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Clicking Kerry Emmanuel's link I find his graph to be a beautiful work of art.

It shoes catastrophic warming only differing from near the end of the decade and to avoid any impertinent questions about why there it has had zero effect since at least 1979, where warmists graphs used to start, omits the first 21 years of zero effect and starts in 2000.

So this is what "climate scientists" call evidence.

We are now 30 years into a warming trend so catastrophic that in another 88 "Anarctica will be the only habitable continent". Or not.

May 1, 2012 at 11:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Someone needs to set up...

www.97_percent.com

...explaining why this figure is meaningless.

It would be easier to point believers there than continually have to repeat the same explanation.

Nial.

May 1, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Someone needs to set up...

www.97_percent.com

...explaining why this figure is meaningless.

It would be easier to point believers there than continually have to repeat the same explanation.

Nial.

In any case, science is not the sort of thing to be settled by a show of hands. That's "democracy" which is a political concept.

May 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Perhaps he's suspected of making it harder for his MIT colleagues to attract research grants. It's very hard for outsiders to get a feel about what goes on inside academic departments.

May 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

A large proportion of the clouds over the UK are now created by chemtrailing so someone is taking the cloud theory seriously.
Maybe their plan to block out the sun and slow global warming will reduce skin cancer so every cloud might have a silver lining I suppose.

May 1, 2012 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe

A large proportion of the clouds over the UK are now created by chemtrailing

This is the exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. In a free country, they have the right to say it, but I also have the right to distance myself from it, for the sake of scientific credibility. Some forms of 'skepticism' do more harm than good, and this is one of the non-scientific ones.

May 1, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

> In any case, science is not the sort of thing to be settled by a show of hands.

One of the many points which would be made on www.97_percent.com

:-)

May 1, 2012 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

The only silver lining is in your tin foil hat, Joe.

May 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

'I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's clouds illusions I recall
We really don't know clouds, at all...'
(With apologies to Judy Collins)

May 1, 2012 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

If anyone is interested in investigating the 97% claim further I would suggest taking a look at "The consensus on the consensus" by M. R. K. Zimmerman, available for £1.25+VAT from lulu. All the raw data behind Doran and Zimmerman.

May 1, 2012 at 12:46 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Zimmerman... can recommend Appendi, D, F And G

feedback from scientists that took part in the survey (ever so sceptical)

May 1, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

RogerP jr has an interesting dialogue with Gillis on Roger's blog. Gillis' seems to have little grasp of the subject beyond the one requiring "faith."

May 1, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

by the way - Zimmermann (cited by Doran) was a MSC thesis of a student, Doran the Supervisor.

yep, dodgy sexed up quote from a students MSC thesis........ (what happened last time)

I wonder if all those politicians that spout '97% of scientists say' know this? ;-)

May 1, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

"I ... see the next ice-age as a serious risk."

I see it as a hazard.

May 1, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterFilbert Cobb

Let us not forget that Kerry Emanual was a distinguished member of the Oxburgh Inquiry. (sarcasm)

May 1, 2012 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterdrcrinum

I gave up after reading the first 2 paragraphs. Containing approximately 65 words I counted at least 10 errors, untruths, obfuscations, misdirections or outright lies ..... that's about 1 for every 6 words .. must be a bloody record.

Complete and utter crap.

May 1, 2012 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterImranCan

Meanwhile, over at Roger Pielke Sr's site there is an article comparing cloud fraction measured by satellites vs modeled by GCM's. http://pielkeclimatesci.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/a-new-article-total-cloud-cover-from-satellite-observations-and-climate-models-by-probst-et-al-2012/. A pretty wide gulf between virtual and reality.

May 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean

I think I've never heard so loud
The quiet message in a cloud.
====================

May 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

David (12:45 PM)
A minor correction -- it was Joni Mitchell who wrote that song.

May 1, 2012 at 1:36 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

kim,
are you repeating yourself?

May 1, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Even if one accepts Doran and Zimmerman, it says 97% of climate scientists (75/77) think human activity is a significant contributing factor. That's a long way from Justin Gillis's claim that 97% see GW as a serious risk. With that fabrication right at the start of the article I see no reason to read any further.

May 1, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The author at one point refers to the USA and Australia as "both sides of the Atlantic".

No more to be said, really.

May 1, 2012 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Found this in the comments!
Don't these idiots realise that they are describing their side?

SteveS
Jersey City

There is a lot of money available to deniers.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
- Sinclair Upton
May 1, 2012 at 2:02 p.m.

May 1, 2012 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSunderlandSteve

kim, I like that one, even if oft repeated. Have you ever thought of collecting your poetry and bons mots in a single publication, entitled say "The Wit and Whimsy of "kim", Climate Troubadour" and illustrated by Josh. I remember a story about the historian AJP Taylor, that he was aghast when he saw Dylan Thomas's modus operandi of starting off with a perfectly understandable piece of verse, then deliberately messing around with it to make the meaning as obscure as possible. Some of your efforts are like that, but those are the ones I like the most. Keep up the good work!

May 1, 2012 at 2:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

I see a glimmer of hope, in that the NYTimes at least gave Lindzen some coverage. This is one of the bellwethers of the mass media's necessary slow, embarassing turn toward objectivity.

May 1, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDABurack

Please all refrain from going into usual heated mode. Gillis hasn't met science yet, and science hasn't met Gillis. Emanuel is "offended" by Lindzen, that great and very scientific reaction to somebody else's ideas. And it's the NYT, perhaps second only to the BBC in having sold its soul to renewables.

We've been here before, Yawn.

May 1, 2012 at 3:11 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

There is a great article on "Groupthink" at "Watts Up With That"
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/30/why-climate-science-is-a-textbook-example-of-groupthink/

A perfect analysis of the thinking dynamics of sheeple like Justin Gillis.

May 1, 2012 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Is it correct that the polar ice-caps of Mars are shrinking?

If this is true, can there be some correlation between this and the rising level of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere?

If there is no link between the two, could it be possible that there is some other influence at work altering the climate that we have absolutely no control over?

It has long seemed to me that even emissions from the Sun cannot be constant; surely a slight "wobble" of 1 or 2 percent would have some noticable effect upon the Earth's climate?

Does raising questions like these mark me as being a despicable, disbelieving denier, an atheist to the cause, fit only to be blown up by the true greens of this planet?

How scared should I be?

May 1, 2012 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Any article that quotes Emmanuel without question is worthless from the get-go.

May 1, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"With climate policy nearly paralyzed in the United States, many other governments have also declined to take action, and worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases are soaring."


This is one of the most breathtakingly idiotic statements ever .... worldwide CO2 emissions will continue to increase no matter WHAT the USA and Europe do ..... because China, India, and all the rest of the "developing" world are not even on the agenda for limiting emissions. So, whatever one thinks about "global warming" climate theory, the name of the game is going to be adaptation anyway.

May 1, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

DABurack:

I see a glimmer of hope, in that the NYTimes at least gave Lindzen some coverage. This is one of the bellwethers of the mass media's necessary slow, embarassing turn toward objectivity.

Agreed. Some of this article is quite good in setting out the cloud uncertainties. But there is a fatal misrepresentation of Lindzen's position at the end:

In his Congressional appearances, speeches and popular writings, Dr. Lindzen offers little hint of how thin the published science supporting his position is. Instead, starting from his disputed iris mechanism, he makes what many of his colleagues see as an unwarranted leap of logic, professing near-certainty that climate change is not a problem society needs to worry about.

No no no. Lindzen doesn't start from the iris mechanism but from the very 'modest' warming since the Industrial Revolution - to use the author's term. We've almost had all of an increase in GHGs equivalent to a doubling in in CO2 (allowing for the logarithmic effect) and the increase has been about 0.8C. That is the key evidence for low sensitivity. Lindzen is looking for a mechanism to explain the low numbers. But he starts with the low numbers (and the remarkable stability of planet earth over four billion years).

May 1, 2012 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Kerry Emanual wrote a book in 2007 entitled 'What we know about Climate Change'.

It's a very short book, only 8,000 words over ~67 pages and including one black and white figure.

Seems about right.

May 1, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

"“Even if there were no political implications, it just seems deeply unprofessional and irresponsible to look at this and say, ‘We’re sure it’s not a problem,’ ” said Kerry A. Emanuel, another M.I.T. scientist"


This is a disgraceful misrepresentation of Dr. Lindzen's positions, and thus extremely un-scientific and un-collegial.

Lindzen's writings do not say or imply (anywhere that I've seen) that "we're sure this is not a problem."

He's saying (as I read him) that it is premature to make drastic multi-trillion dollar decisions when (1) recorded climate sensitivities seem to be relatively low not extreme, (2) much more understanding is needed, and (3) there is still time to learn and assess and adapt.

At least that is what I take away from Lindzen in my own words.... not that "we're sure this is not a problem" but that there is too much hysteria and urgency to make bad policy decisions with inadequate information.

May 1, 2012 at 5:14 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Look, it's quite obvious to me that AGW is dangerous and clearly causes brain damage in those that worship it.

May 1, 2012 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

The article forecasts a 3.6°C - 14.4°C rise by mid-century. That’s quite an advance on anything I’ve seen elsewhere.
Those who think this is a problem limited to Deep Greenies at the NYT should take a look at the interview with Sir John Sulston, author of the Royal Society report, at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/audio/2012/apr/30/science-weekly-podcast-sleep
He finishes with a dig at Matt Ridley and the following declaration of faith in climate models:

And you know what, I mean, one of the reasons I think for the disquiet of such people, is that they don’t really believe in the science, which is quite curious, because, you know, Matt obviously is scientifically educated. They don’t really understand or believe in, as I do - when I say believe that sounds like a faith, I don’t mean that, what I mean is that I know now that because our observations are getting so extensive all over the earth and the atmosphere, and because we’re building such really good elaborate models, it actually works, we actually could predict, it turned out, twenty years ago, what was going to happen to the earth’s temperature, and it’s happening. You know, the models were right.

May 1, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

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