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That WSJ column

When Matt Ridley wrote his column on climate sensitivity just before Christmas, he was given a very hard time by several web commentators. In rather hysterical vein, we had Joe Romm, of whom perhaps the least said the better. Needless to say, he was (ahem) rather critical of the Ridley column.

There was also Keith Kloor, who seemed to think that the article represented a bad case of confirmation bias:

Ridley [argues] that this “important debate” has now been given a revelatory jolt by the unpublished work of someone he describes as “a semiretired successful financier from Bath, England, with a strong mathematics and physics background.”

It is my assumption, after reading Ridley’s column, that he believes the financier (Nic Lewis) is on to something big–namely that climate sensitivity is low and that we can all stop worrying about this thing called global warming...

It’s telling that Ridley didn’t include any skeptical perspective of this “extraordinary claim.” What does it tell us? That on the issue of climate change he has become a victim of confirmation bias.

Kloor's case seems to have a bad whiff of argumentum ad authoritatem about it (What?! A financier?!), but what is rather more surprising is that Lewis's own article had appeared at BH two days before Kloor's was published. Kloor knew that Ridley's article was based on Lewis's work and I know Kloor reads BH, so one might also assume that he had read the article. I'm therefore slightly surprised that he didn't reference Lewis's article with its consideration of the rest of the climate sensitivity corpus, and to the best of my knowledge he has not even noted its existence.

Either way, Kloor knows that Ridley's article was based on Lewis's work and he either knows or will know that Lewis's work considers the rest of the corpus. That being the case can he still make the claim of confirmation bias stand up?

Particularly when Ridley seems to have been proven spectacularly justified in the last six weeks: we have now had one prominent expert in the area say that climate sensitivity is likely low and another say that low is more likely than high. Our only completely empirical estimate says low and, as Lewis notes, we now have a whole series of empirically constrained studies to back that finding up.

Keith Kloor's position is that he "[pays] due to all the pertinent science related to CS, not just that which confirms [his] bias". Personally speaking I think one can accept empirically based studies over GCM-based studies, particularly those embodying estimates of aerosol forcing higher than the IPCC's own best estimates, without being guilty of confirmation bias. This is just the scientific method.

Likewise, since nobody seems willing to make the case for uniform priors, I think reasonable people can agree with Steve Jewson, that the IPCC shouldn't be citing papers that use them.

So what then is the pertinent science related to CS that Kloor thinks that Lewis has failed to consider? Is he a fan of uniform priors, of models over empirical findings, or of models based on out of date aerosol data? Or is there something we have all missed?

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Reader Comments (32)

So, in a masterpiece of timing, is the fifth assessment report from the IP CC about to come out and nail its colours to the mast of three degrees minimum warming?

Just as a very small lightbulb appears to be going on in the minds of some alarmists.

Feb 5, 2013 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

I think if Kloor is suggesting that the sceptics are suffering from confirmation bias he should take a look at some choice quotes from the climategate emails:

<1939> Thorne/MetO:
Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary [...]

<3066> Thorne:
I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.

<1611> Carter:
It seems that a few people have a very strong say, and no matter how much talking goes on beforehand, the big decisions are made at the eleventh hour by a select core group.

<2884> Wigley:
Mike, The Figure you sent is very deceptive [...] there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC [...]

<4755> Overpeck:
The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guid[e] what's included and what is left out.

<0310> Warren:
The results for 400 ppm stabilization look odd in many cases [...] As it stands we'll have to delete the results from the paper if it is to be published.

<1682> Wils:
[2007] What if climate change appears to be just mainly a multidecadal natural fluctuation? They'll kill us probably [...]

<2267> Wilson:
Although I agree that GHGs are important in the 19th/20th century (especially since the 1970s), if the weighting of solar forcing was stronger in the models, surely this would diminish the significance of GHGs. [...] it seems to me that by weighting the solar irradiance more strongly in the models, then much of the 19th to mid 20th century warming can be explained from the sun alone.

source - Luboš Motl - The Reference Frame

Feb 5, 2013 at 4:50 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Kloor knew that Ridley's article was based on Lewis's work and I know Kloor reads BH, so one might also assume that he had read the article. I'm therefore slightly surprised that he didn't reference Lewis's article with its consideration of the rest of the climate sensitivity corpus, and to the best of my knowledge he has not even noted its existence.

There's a pattern here: use the dumbest sceptic you can find to argue against in any area. Nic Lewis doesn't fit too well. Nor does Matt Ridley, come to that, but using his WSJ article is the best they can currently manage. Wheels, bus, separation thereof, end of forward momentum. And then what are we all going to talk about?

Feb 5, 2013 at 4:57 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Matt Ridley's tweets are classic. No shrinking violet, he. "Rubbish," indeed.

Feb 5, 2013 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

I suspect the Ridley and Revkin articles were published precisely to prepare the public for a large step back from the global warming hoax as I prophesied a few weeks ago. Carbon trading, like its creator Enron went belly up.

There was also the IPCC leak that revealed more prominence to the most likely main driver of the climate, the output of the sun, amplified by cosmic ray cloud seeding. Despite years of sneering by the 'science' community.

Feb 5, 2013 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

authoritam ==> authoritatem

Feb 5, 2013 at 5:41 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Kloor's modus operandi is to deliberately provoke, then sit back and enjoy the mayhem.

Feb 5, 2013 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Seems like Keith's confirmation bias is the one on full display. Not surprising since it's a mile wide and an inch deep.

Feb 5, 2013 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I was unimpressed by Keith Kloor following his unjustified criticism of David Whitehouse. Dr Whitehouse had written a thoughtful piece about science journalism in the Huffington Post I think. Now if there is anyone who can write about science journalism it's David Whitehouse but Kloor wrote that Whitehouse's views were rubbish and tainted because he writes for the GWPF. Never mind that Dr Whitehouse has been a science journalist for 30 years and only started writing for the GWPF since it was formed three years ago, Whitehouse according to Kloor should have 'admitted' he wrote for the GWPF which was a denier organisation and therefore his views on science journalism (he was critical) were to be dismissed.

This from someone whos credentials to write about science journalism were meagre to say the least.

Kloor should have been fairer and more open minded and not dismissed the views of those he labels deniers.

Feb 5, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterGerrP

esmiff - you do see a conspiracy everywhere don't you?

Are you the resident Class Warrior?

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:04 PM | Registered Commenterretireddave

Kloor has a very specific narrative in climate matters. He's amazingly gifted at hearing only the things that fit his own narrow viewpoint and being profoundly deaf otherwise. He latches on to, and expounds on, the things that seem to suit him - sometimes having to bend and contort them into submission.

So far as I can tell, his rather juvenile commentary on the climate debate hasn't progressed in any way over the last 3 or 4 years. I'm coming to the conclusion he isn't up to the task.

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:08 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

retireddave: I agree. The idea that Revkin, Ridley and the warmist clientologists (3+ pointers) are coordinating a pullback is dubious. More likely the 3+ pointers will be dragged kicking and screaming along once the data really starts to make them look foolish.

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

The boys are being dragged kicking and screaming to lower climate sensitivities, with many still clinging to their sirens of alarm. There is still a long way to go, and eventually they will circle the wagons around their last refuge: "Even if the effect is smaller, decarbonizing is still the right thing to do." In this way the scam will drag on.

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige

Re my comment at 7:13: I do not presume to know that the data will go one way or the other. Nor do I think does anyone should given that we seen a leveling off of temperatures over the past 15 years as CO2 levels have continued to increase. The whole idea that temperatures and trends fifty or hundred years out can be predicted is the result of this generation of scientists wholly overestimating the extent of their knowledge and their abilities. It's unbridled hubris.

Matt Ridley at least has the excuse that he's trying to rein them in by calculating his predictions with at least some empirical input.

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

Bish asks:

Or is there something we have all missed?

Nah, I don't think we've missed anything, Your Grace. IMHO, this is yet another instance of Kloor being, well, Kloorish!

His behaviour in this matter is in keeping with his past performances. Two years ago, Kloor leapt strenuously to Gavin "I did not say the science is settled" Schmidt's defence.

Schmidt had ... uh ... declined an invite to Ravetz's Lisbon meeting. And Fred Pearce had seen the E-mail in which he had done so. Yet, according to Kloor:

Fred [Pearce] should have checked with Gavin that he was interpreting the email correctly.

As I wrote at the time:

Kloor, whose own biases have been colouring many of his posts and “arguments” lately, had no qualms whatsoever attributing to James Delingpole that which Delingpole did not say in a recent BBC TV interview – without checking with Delingpole to make sure that he was “interpreting” his (very few) words correctly. Yet he berates Pearce for not checking with Schmidt whose unedited – and unrevisionized – words were perfectly clear to anyone for whom English is not a second language.

And Kloor does not believe that he has a “double standard”. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:31 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Kloor moderates and censors me. After one such dust-up @ his place over Rep. Gifford's shooting, a perspicacious commenter @ Lucia's called Kloor 'just another lefty hater'. I can't improve on the description.

Feb 5, 2013 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Your Grace, Omnologos

I'd always understood it to be argumentum ad verecundiam. (FWIW, Wikipedia supports)

Feb 5, 2013 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

[Snip - venting]

Feb 5, 2013 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The foundations of the whole rancid edifice are, quite rightly, and objectively, being brought into question.

That the most dim-witted and/or cynical proponents of the faith are still shrilly defending it is no surprise.

Feb 5, 2013 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterthe sweet sound of backpedaling

Somewhat amusing that a snapshot of the opening lines of a snipped comment linger on in the recent comments sidebar!

Feb 5, 2013 at 8:52 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I'm trying to deal with Matt's 10 questions one at a time on my blog. I got sidetracked this morning by the Lewandowsky idiocy but will continue with a Lukewarm response to Mr. Ridley.

Feb 5, 2013 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Fuller

AGW should leave its footprint by warming the Troposphere evidence. Who cares what Gavin and the knobheads think?
Bad science...bad scientists dressing up nonsense.
One of the best examples was when Bob Carter challenged CRU over the lackof warming for 8 years in 2006 and the poor perfrmance of the climate models...they answered:
"Our earlier models did not attempt to predict internally generated natural variations"....
Rough translation: We predict that temps will increase by 4C-6C over the next 100 years....providing there are no clouds, rain and volcanic ash in the atmosphete (for 100 years!).

Feb 5, 2013 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterjames griffin

Tom Fuller, my old pal, you lefty non-hater! Well, I've seen you backslide a little over Joe Romm.

Feb 5, 2013 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim


"esmiff - you do see a conspiracy everywhere don't you?

Yes. When I see a bunch of kids wearing the same uniform, I know they are from the same school and have been ordered to wear it. When I see thousands of 'scientists' with exactly the same spurious opinion, I assume they are frightened to speak out, as Lovelock said. I believe global warming is dying. The fatal wound was Climategate. Copenhagen was a catastrophe for the warmists. The eyes of the world were on it.

"Are you the resident Class Warrior?"

I am from a middle class family. One of my brothers has published a number of papers in the Lancet. My mother, on the other hand was a violent, working class thug. Tee hee.

What social class were you before you retired, Dave ?

Feb 6, 2013 at 12:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

It may be venting as you call it but it was spot on the money Mr. Montford and you know it.

Feb 6, 2013 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

That is the whole thing. If it warms tomorrow, they'll blame it on CO2. It is the very defintion of pseudoscience.

Feb 6, 2013 at 1:23 AM | Registered Commentershub

So what then is the pertinent science related to CS that Kloor thinks that Lewis has failed to consider? Is he a fan of uniform priors, of models over empirical findings, or of models based on out of date aerosol data? Or is there something we have all missed?

Ridley wrote an article based on Nic Lewis' estimate of sensitivity. In the journalists' eye of Kloor, Ridley should have turned to the 'official' experts, the market for which is cornered by Team members, to get their input and balance the article. He didn't. That is supposed to be bad.

What Kloor doesn't understand is that this is science. The facts can speak for themselves. In order to understand a science paper you don't have to interview the author and ask his opinion. You read the paper and make up your mind. The facts Lewis referred to, stand by themselves. The IPCC report stands by itself. You can plug the components together, read how Lewis analysed them, and see the results for yourself. That was what Ridley did.

Kloor won't understand this because he doesn't know what science is.

Feb 6, 2013 at 1:40 AM | Registered Commentershub

Doesn't having to ask the question you ask BH, 'What are we missing', actually answer the question. If this moroon had a ref. he could of shown then he would but as it's just his activist opinion he simply states the question and let's the sheeple assume there is an answer.

It's a very low intelligence thing, as you have no answer to your critics you change the question. Why didn't Matt Ridley show activist CS papers? but does not give the answer because they've all been junked.

Feb 6, 2013 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Dover

The best bit I found so you don't have to give him the traffic should tell you all you need to know.

'Indeed, Trenberth coauthored a major new study of actual observations of relative humidity finds “that warming is likely to be on the high side of current projections … projecting a global temperature rise for doubled carbon dioxide of more than 7 degrees F”'

Some times you have to realise that people just cannot be helped and let's hope Gazza ain't one of them.

Feb 6, 2013 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Dover

@ heretic

I'd always understood it to be argumentum ad verecundiam.

And that would be an example of argumentum ad wikipediam :-p

Feb 6, 2013 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

...Keith Kloor's position is that he "[pays] due to all the pertinent science related to CS, not just that which confirms [his] bias"....So what then is the pertinent science related to CS that Kloor thinks that Lewis has failed to consider? ...

I think Keith's comment lays the stress on another meaning of the word 'pertinent'.

His point is surely that Lewis' paper is NOT pertinent. This will surely be the IPCC stance as well - any document suggesting a low sensitivity will not be 'pertinent' to a discussion of how to address rampant global warming - and thus need not be considered.

It's a very useful position for the IPCC to take. And flexible. For instance, any paper which cannot find a tropospheric hot-spot is obviously not pertinent to a discussion of AGW climate modeling, which clearly says that there should be one...

Feb 6, 2013 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Not only the Wiki, but e.g. the Wiki.
Check, and you'll find I'm right.
I was low-key, only because I knew most of HIs Grace's flock would understand.
Oh, and check the Wiki for 'fool'.

Feb 6, 2013 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeretic

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