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« Department for Exaggeration, Crookery and Conmen | Main | The BBC's latest green recruit »
Tuesday
Dec022014

Niceness at home and abroad

Shub Niggurath is bemoaning the lack of venues in which there can be conversations across the lines of the climate debate.

Good discussions used to take place, on occasion, at WUWT or BH. There were brief periods when the old Collide-a-scape blog and Bart Verheggen’s site provided such moments. They are hard to come by now. Maybe the consensus and conspiracy poison spread mindlessly and artlessly throughout the blogs by certain people is to blame.

He's right of course. I have struggled long and hard to make BH the venue where that can happen, but it seems that a visit from, say Richard or Tamsin is guaranteed to get some people riled, with the result that moderation becomes a full-time occupation. I can't afford to spend that amount of time on it.

Still, it's interesting to see that from some people's perspective, the limited exchanges here at BH are something to aspire to. As Judy Curry explains in her retrospective post on climategate, the state of the climate debate, and in particular the recent furore over Tim Ball's posting at WUWT and the riposte by Richard and Tamsin.

...the 1100 comments at WUWT were absolutely vitriolic against Betts and Edwards.  On twitter, the vitriolic comments were coming from the warm side, i.e. how stupid they were to post at WUWT...Well, it seems Betts and Edwards are trying to promote civility, something that the UK does pretty well.  Presumably they thought that posting at WUWT would be like posting at BishopHill.  NOT.  Climate change and social media is mostly blood sport over in the US (and Australia and Canada), where the situation remains very polarized and polarizing.

So I guess things could be worse. But please, everyone, do try to keep the temperature down when a comment thread features someone you disagree with. Even if they refuse to admit they are wrong or refuse to engage with your arguments or misquote you. If you start a shouting match, few people will hang around to see how right you are.

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Reader Comments (422)

@Ted Swart

"I happen to have a B.Sc in chemical engineering a D.Sc in Physical Cemistry and a Ph.D in maths/computer science."

Like I said, you do not have competence in the field of climate research.

The claim that "18 years is not a case of short term evidence" is not simply wrong: it's an error at the schoolboy howler level, the kind of mistake the greenest of lab interns wouldn't make. There is a considerable amount of short-term variability in the system of a magnitude which easily swamps the long-term warming signal.

There ought to be the climate equivalent of Godwin's law: the Gorewin. As an internet discussion of climate science proceeds, the probability that someone will mention Al Gore approaches zero. It's usually safe to omit him from scientific discussions. He's a campaigner not a scientist. We really don't care that much about Al Gore.

The peer review process filters out obviously bad science. That's what it's supposed to do. There is no globally orchestrated conspiracy to prevent good science from being published. I don't think you quite realise the scale of the accusation you are making - for which you provide no evidence.

"Maybe I could just ask you: How do you decide what would be an optimum CO2 level in the atmosphere?

Optimum for what?

"Surveys have shown that some 50% of metereologists are sceptics and in excess of 70% of geologists are sceptics. They cannot be simply written off as not having a relevant scientific background.

Actually, by definition, they can. I sincerely hope, although obviously I cannot be sure, that when you need a doctor you have the good sense not to call a vet.

Dec 5, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

@Capell

"I think I can tell whether or not a temperature proxy can or cannot be applied globally."

You very obviously cannot. Regional data is not global. It's regional. The clue is in the name.

Dec 5, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

@johanna

"I repeat, nothing was "stolen" when those emails appeared in the public domain. Nobody was deprived of any real property.

And you have the cheek to call me a troll..!

Dec 5, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Noel,
I wouldn't worry about being called a "troll" here. It puts you in some good company...okay, maybe I'm a but biased :-)

Dec 5, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATT, Tol doubts you're a physicist. I have my doubts as well.

Dec 5, 2014 at 11:08 AM | Registered Commentershub

Shub,
You're welcome to have your doubts. Your doubts have no bearing on whether or not it is true. TBH, I'd be more concerned if Tol was convinced I was a physicist.

Dec 5, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Darlow
All tree ring data is highly regional. That's why a dendrochronolgy time sequence has to be established from samples taken from within a small local area and then painstakingly blended with adjacent areas before a robust, local time sequence can be established. And different species of trees respond differently to prevailing weather conditions. That presents only minor problems if you're establishing a simple chronology, but greater problems if you want to establish a global climate record where absolute, rather than relative growth patterns are important.

Therefore, if you're saying regional data such as farming techniques are not valid when establishing a global temperature pattern then I fail to see how you can make the claim that tree rings offer any solution to that difficulty. Not only are tree samples highly localised in their information content, but such a study would require use of multiple tree species.

And this doesn't begin to handle other impacts on absolute tree growth such as precipitation, animal grazing, and the Darlow effect whereby trees suddenly decide to stop responding to avoid any risk of indicating a decline (see your post earlier).

So my money's on counting red telephone boxes in the highlands, as you put it.

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Oh, dear, you've had a go at Hilary Ostrov. Bad mistake.

Hilary is a meticulous researcher. She will dig to the bottom of the deepest well in search of data.

You'd better be very sure of your facts. Opinions like "motivated reasoning" (gee, just like the troll Joshua at Judy's) don't count.

Good luck - you'll need it.

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

aTTP (Dec 4, 2014 at 9:10 PM): you queried my use of the word “evidence”:

… you may well be playing semantic games with the word "evidence"…
I was merely pointing out that I was using the word as I understand its use, based upon the definition of the word in the OED. Then you get uppity when I try to clarify my point;
I'm not trying to argue about the definition of the word "evidence": (which I rather thought I'd made clear).
Debating with you is like trying to herd cats. Get your mind into a certain semblance of order, concentrate on the topic of the discussion without deviating too far, and then I might take discussion with you a bit more seriously.

As reality has shown that all the climate models have crashed and burned, why do so many cling to them as if they were life itself? In the real world, a real scientist would have shrugged his shoulders, scrapped the model, investigated what had gone wrong, and tried constructing a new one.

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical,


Debating with you is like trying to herd cats. Get your mind into a certain semblance of order, concentrate on the topic of the discussion without deviating too far, and then I might take discussion with you a bit more seriously.

Likewise.


As reality has shown that all the climate models have crashed and burned, why do so many cling to them as if they were life itself? In the real world, a real scientist would have shrugged his shoulders, scrapped the model, investigated what had gone wrong, and tried constructing a new one.

Not only have climate models not "crashed and burned" but scientists are continually investigating why they don't always do as well as might be hoped. There's a great deal of distance between "perfect" and "crashed and burned".

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

@Capell

You don't have the necessary competence to criticise tree ring proxies in detail. If you did, the correct place to do so is not on an internet blog but in the literature where you would be required to present a formal, technical argument. All we can do here is try to report accurately on existing science.

Tree ring proxies at all latitudes seem to produce consistent results but samples taken at high latitudes in recent decades do not. So we don't use them. Nothing particularly remarkable about that. This has never been hidden: on the contrary, it has been quite openly discussed.

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Will nobody evict this gatecrasher who claims to be a friend of the groom?

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

@johanna

"Oh, dear, you've had a go at Hilary Ostrov. Bad mistake."

I didn't "have a go" at anyone.

If I was the kind of person to threaten people with eviction it would be those who egg others on to fight from the sidelines - and in a thread about being nice to one's opponents.

Dec 5, 2014 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

I'm not here to fight Hilary's battles, Noel - she's more than capable of doing that on her own.

I was just giving you a friendly heads-up. If you imagine that you have tangled with a lightweight, fly-by-night commenter, think again.

As I said before, I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

Dec 5, 2014 at 1:15 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna


As I said before, I sincerely wish you the best of luck.

Don't be silly, no you don't.

Dec 5, 2014 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

"scientists are continually investigating "

That is proof originally proposed hypothesis have failed to be confirmed.

Arctic ice, Antarctic ice, global temperature, Amazon forest cover, precipitation ... - all model predictions have failed to verify.

Dec 5, 2014 at 1:26 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub,
You've claimed before that you're an academic. Can I clarify that it's not in the physical sciences? Would be surprised if it was.

Dec 5, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I seem to have got under your skin, alleged ATTP. Excellent.

I do sincerely wish anyone who tangles with Hilary Ostrov on matters of fact the best of luck. Because, that's about all they will have on their side.

Dec 5, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Darlow,

I'll leave this at the tedious, cloacal level of argument that you seem to prefer and enjoy.

It has been amusing, but you clearly have no knowledge whatsoever of tree ring proxy analysis. I leave you with your Darlow effect, which seems to be your sole, pitiful effort to 'report accurately on existing science'.

Dec 5, 2014 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

@Cappell

The only thing a lay person can reasonably do on an internet forum is try to comment accurately on the existing body of knowledge. You can't simply insist something is wrong unless it has been shown to be wrong and you can't simply insist something is true unless it has been shown to be true.

There are no special favours for those who have a beef with climate science. The method of proof is the same as it always has been: write up a good quality paper which, if it has no obvious errors, and is important, original work, will get published and then stand as a valid idea until such time as it may be refuted.

Dec 5, 2014 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

"Like I said, you do not have competence in the field of climate research."

It's one of the items of faith of the True Believers that only somebody with a lifetime's involvement with "climate science" is qualified to pass judgement on its validity.

But "climate science" is not exactly, as they say, rocket science.

It consists of a combination of simple physics, including radiative transfer (essentially no more than second year engineering level) , statistical analysis combined with a bit of linear mathematics, and computer modelling of physical systems.

Anybody with a degree in one of the hard sciences - physics, chemistry, engineering can pick up a paper from "climate science" and read it, following the reasoning and spotting the flaws in the arguments: It takes some fortitude, because a lot of it is written in an impenetrable style with great lack of clarity of expression - not because there is anything specially advanced or difficult about it.

Dec 5, 2014 at 3:52 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A,


Anybody with a degree in one of the hard sciences - physics, chemistry, engineering can pick up a paper from "climate science" and read it, following the reasoning and spotting the flaws in the arguments: It takes some fortitude, because a lot of it is written in an impenetrable style with great lack of clarity of expression - not because there is anything specially advanced or difficult about it

If so, why are all those people with a degrees in hard sciences who actually do climate science professionally getting it all so wrong (according to you at least)? Also, any chance you might be willing to consider the possibility that it isn't actually quite as easy as you make it, but you just haven't realised?

Dec 5, 2014 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

There is a nice explanation of the arrogance of physicists that Mayanna Lahsen dug up

this is a problem with physicists: they think they know everything, because they’re smart. What they don’t understand is that yes, it is true, actually meteorology is a branch of physics. And so you take a physicist, like me, and you can sit him down, and in 2 or 3 years, they could learn meteorology. But physicists confuse being smart and having the ability to learn everything with actually knowing stuff!

And yes, Eli is a physicist and he knows it all.

Dec 5, 2014 at 4:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Darlow.

Well fine but you've managed neither of these. And to suggest that scientific understanding progresses solely by publication is tripe. Do you have any experience or involvement in science?

Dec 5, 2014 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

ATTP
Well, many here think they aren't all getting it wrong, actually.

Dec 5, 2014 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Capell,


Well, many here think they aren't all getting it wrong, actually.

Just to clarify, you're referring to the very small number who says things with which you agree? Okay, change what I said to "why are so many people with hard science ...."

Dec 5, 2014 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

ATTP says:

However, if your model suggests that - given these underlying assumptions and physical laws - something rather bad might happen before you have a chance to determine if they're correct, maybe you should consider that information and not simply dismiss it because you aren't absolutely certain that the model is correct.

ATTP, the first problem with your line of argument is the fact that the models contain ASSUMPTIONS. If the assumptions are wrong, so the predictions made by that model may be of no value and, worse, they will be apparently confident predictions which are very inaccurate. If the models are untested and are not validated against real world evidence ie data/observations collected for that purpose then it is very unwise to rely on the models as the output predictions may be entirely spurious and result in possibly very expensive wrong decisions.

Extending these thoghts, and to use an example I think Eli Rabbett stated earlier, weather forecast models are based on known physical laws. But if you wanted evdience that it was raining at a particular time and a particular place you would not rely on a prediction from the model, you would rely on actual observations at that time and place. No court would accept as evidence that it was raining when a murder took place if the "evidence" was the ouput of a weather forecast model.

The weather forecast model also gives us another interesting insight into the use of climate models. Weather forecast models have a time horizon limit of around 3 - 5 days, after which cumulative errors become so severe that the models have no validity and drift away into wildly inaccurate results. We know this, which is why forecasts are generally only considered reliable for 1 - 3 days typically, and even then even Joe Public knows that the forecast for three days could be signifcantly in error.

Contrast this with climate models. They have shown no "skill" whatsoever at forecasting say the hiatus period 2000 - 2014 so they are unvalidated over decadel periods. They show little skill at hindcasting natural temperature changes such as the temperature rise to the 1940's. But apparently, without any EVIDENCE to support the statement, they can reliably predict what the future global temperature of the planet will be in 50 - 100 years time.

Dec 5, 2014 at 5:50 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Capell

From the 1960s tree ring data from Northern Europe started to show less growth than the recorded temperatures would normally have allowed.

This suggests that a new factor was reducing tree growth. Since the change coincides with the building of the high chimneys, acid rain would be a likely candidate.

Dec 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

thinkingscientist,


ATTP, the first problem with your line of argument is the fact that the models contain ASSUMPTIONS.

Maybe you can convince me that Eli is wrong about you not being a scientist by explaining why this is a problem. I'll even give you a hint: how do you set up a model without assumptions?


They have shown no "skill" whatsoever at forecasting say the hiatus period 2000 - 2014 so they are unvalidated over decadel periods.

True. They are not known for being particularly good at decadal projections/predictions.


They show little skill at hindcasting natural temperature changes such as the temperature rise to the 1940's.

I'm not convinced that this is true, especially as I managed to do a pretty reasonable job with a basic box-model.


But apparently, without any EVIDENCE to support the statement, they can reliably predict what the future global temperature of the planet will be in 50 - 100 years time.

Who said reliable? I don't think I did. I believe that the only argument I've made is that models provide more information about the future than if you choose to do nothing. Having said that, given that GCMs are broadly consistent with paleo estimates and are even broadly consistent with Energy Balance Models, it would be surprising if they were very wrong about global temperature rise. Similarly there is confidence about how the hydrological cycle will change. Beyond that there is less and less confidence, but that doesn't mean that they provide no information about other effects.

Dec 5, 2014 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Thinkingscientist

You are correct about models requiring assumptions. For CMIP5 the physics was the same for all runs. Depending on the purpoae od their research, chosen or random values were assigned to variables which could not be predicted in advance.

They assume that the 11 year solar cycle will show a certain amount of change. They assume a certain amount of vulcanism and a certain amount of atmospheric pollution.

The 50 odd CMIP5 runs then did if-then projections of future temperature trends. Those assuming high insulation, low vulcanism and low pollution predicted higher temperatures. Those assuming lower insolation, higher vulcanism and higher pollution projected lower temperatures.

Looking back at the performance of the models, we know that low insolation, high vulcanism and high pollution occurred. Look at the models whose assumed conditions matched reality and you find temperature projections which match reality.

The assertion that models "do not work" is an oversimplified sceptic straw man.

Dec 5, 2014 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Eli is a physicist and he knows it all.

Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Dec 5, 2014 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

Capell

The problem with the internet is that you can find a site somewhere telling you whatever you want to hear. Search engines rapidly learn your preferences and pull up sites which match. An environmentalist will find the internet full of sites telling him of the dangers of climate change. A climate change sceptic will find the internet full of sites telling him that climate change is wrong.

Bishop Hill has an agenda opposing the policies designed to reduce climate change. Of course it posts sceptic ideas and is frequented mostly by sceptics. Do not make the mistake that the pre-selected sample here reflect the proportion of sceptics in the population at large.

Dec 5, 2014 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

@Cappell

"to suggest that scientific understanding progresses solely by publication is tripe"

That is in fact how science is done. Any ideas which are proposed must be carefully and comprehensively explained with formal, technical arguments. The rules are the same for everyone - no exceptions and no double standards. There is a massive difference between self-appointed experts vanity-publishing on internet blogs and real, published science written by competent people who had to earn their reputation through the quality of their work. Watts for example doesn't even have a basic degree...!

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

" I managed to do a pretty reasonable job with a basic box-model."

!

Like Eschenbach, you've managed to accomplish in Excel, or Matlab as the case may be, what is not possible in complex models.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:20 PM | Registered Commentershub

@Martin A

"Anybody with a degree in one of the hard sciences - physics, chemistry, engineering can pick up a paper from "climate science" and read it, following the reasoning and spotting the flaws in the arguments

Anyone with any real experience of a career in scientific research will understand how highly specialised this area has become. It takes time and training/mentoring to get up to speed. You might be able to follow some lines of argument, up to a point, but the significance of certain points or common assumptions would not be apparent to the inexperienced. You would have to be very careful not to presume a competence which you do not have.

In essence, you'd always need someone to check your homework. Some days you might get a B. Other days a D.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

Shub,


Like Eschenbach, you've managed to accomplish in Excel, or Matlab as the case may be, what is not possible in complex models.

Really, actually care to substantiate that (i.e., that complex models cannot match observations as well as simple models)? Oh, and it was Fortran. Excel, don't be silly. You could also answer my question as to whether you're a physical scientist or not (my guess is not)?

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Hey Noel, Watts has solar panels on his roof and his dog is a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Several readers of the Bishop Hill blog have unfinished PhDs in climatology, just so you know.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:27 PM | Registered Commentershub

Noel,
To follow on from your point, if you've spent enough time sitting through scientific seminars you will, on occasion, be convinced that the speaker has made some kind of silly mistake. Your conviction will typically last about as long as it takes to point out this mistake to the speaker; who will then illustrate that you don't understand the topic as well as they do.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

@thinkingscientist

Weather is not climate. Weather is what you see when you look out the window. Climate is a long-term statistical average. Modelling weather and modelling climate are two completely different problems.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

@shub

"Several readers of the Bishop Hill blog have unfinished PhDs in climatology"

That I can believe.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterNoel Darlow

I don't think you caught on the joke, mate.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:39 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub,


I don't think you caught on the joke, mate.

You should consider that it wasn't obviously a joke. Looking up Poe's Law may be of benefit :-)

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

It's not that kind of a joke. Bob Ward is famous for his unfinished PhD thesis in paleopeizometry. One of my bosses says he has a whole bastard CV - filled with papers he worked or collaborated on but never got his name on. I bet the BH crowd have several unfinished PhD theses in climatology between them.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:51 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub,


I bet the BH crowd have several unfinished PhD theses in climatology between them.

If you mean that there's a crowd of regulars here who actually started, but failed to finish, PhDs in climatology (whatever that actually is, but I'll assume areas related to climate science) then I really would be surprised.

Dec 5, 2014 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

@ATTP: "If you mean that there's a crowd of regulars here who actually started, but failed to finish, PhDs in climatology (whatever that actually is, but I'll assume areas related to climate science) then I really would be surprised."

Having read your 'Commenting and Moderation' policies on your own blogsite, I cannot see how you can have the effrontery and dishonesty to post such a comment on another website.

Dec 5, 2014 at 8:45 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Salopian,


Having read your 'Commenting and Moderation' policies on your own blogsite, I cannot see how you can have the effrontery and dishonesty to post such a comment on another website.

What's that got to do with my moderation policy and why are we talking about it.....again?

Dec 5, 2014 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

@attp; Grow up and stop trolling, either that or explain exactly what you mean by "why are we talking about it .....again?"

Dec 5, 2014 at 9:41 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Salopian,


why are we talking about it .....again?

Ahh, that was just pointing out that I seem to spend most of my time on this site discussion moderation on my site. It just seems childish (i.e., you grow up :-) )

Dec 5, 2014 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

If so, why are all those people with a degrees in hard sciences who actually do climate science professionally getting it all so wrong (according to you at least)?
Dec 5, 2014 at 4:08 PM ..and Then There's Physics

Good question - although I'm not sure you are really interested in understanding that.

I'd say it's primarily that they are simply not much good. Most people with talents in physics research will take one look at "climate science" and say something like "My work on that stuff? It's a joke".

I was struck by what Richard Lindzen said at the House of Commons - anyone who is any good at physics and interested in a research career does research on physics - not climate science.

Dec 5, 2014 at 10:05 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin,


I'd say it's primarily that they are simply not much good.

Really? You think it's just that they're not much good, rather than you having an over-inflated sense of your own abilities?


I was struck by what Richard Lindzen said at the House of Commons - anyone who is any good at physics and interested in a research career does research on physics - not climate science.

To be fair, I was also struck be what Lindzen said at the House of Commons. I, however, immediately thought "what an arrogant prat".

Dec 5, 2014 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

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