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Sceptics are from Mars and warmists are from Venus

Here is a fascinating article from a blog I haven't come across before called "A Chemist in Langley":

...the vast majority of the warmist community have a worldview that stresses Type I [false positive] error avoidance while most skeptics work in a community that stresses Type II [false negative] error avoidance. Skeptics look at the global climate models and note that the models have a real difficulty in making accurate predictions. To explain, global climate models are complex computer programs filled with calculations based on science's best understanding of climate processes (geochemistry, global circulation patterns etc) with best guesses used to address holes in the knowledge base. The models are "trained" by looking at historical data and seeing whether they can replicate what has occurred in the past. In a simplistic description they are trained to interpolate data and once they get good enough at interpolating data they are then used to extrapolate future conditions. Since the global climate models are works in progress they still do not do a great job at extrapolating, yet. In particular, these models have failed to predict the "pause" in the surface temperature data that has lasted for (depending with whom you talk) somewhere around 15 - 18 years. Essentially the model predictions and the measured temperatures have diverged.

Skeptics see the poor extrapolations and suggest a need to refine the models to address the divergence. From a Type II error avoidance viewpoint, given the relatively poor quality of the model predictions, putting limited resources into addressing potentially faulty predictions seems like a poor choice. Instead, resources should be allocated to improving the models and any additional monies spent on other "demonstrably real" problems out in the world. Warmists, on the other hand, point out that the models are the best tools we have to date and to ignore their predictions, just because they are imperfect, is a big mistake. Warmists point out there is a real risk that a lack of action now could result in a low-probability, high-cost outcome (a fat tail on the uncertainty distribution of the outcomes). So monies should be spent on avoidance immediately while we continue to refine the models.

(The link came to me by a circuitous route, but I believe the hat-tip is for Richard Tol)

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Reader Comments (112)

Goodness me. One wanders away for a couple of hours....

I'll pick up on a few as it seems I'm the only warmist pre-historic type here (see AM I can take it...didn't see you reaching for your snipper there ;-) so please don't feel offended if I've overlooked your missives...

@Steve Jones - would love to develop GCMs but as ever time and life get in the way. Am familiar with some of these models and am aware they can be improved. And no that does not cost billions..(can't remember who cited that).

To the Hansen papers though. @ cheshirered - not seen that analysis but it doesn't say much. I did think one of you would link to the GWPF work on this some time back (unfortunately they seem to have pulled that down so would be grateful if one of you knew why) - however this work by Tamino summarises things quite simply.

He does actually state that trends (contrary to what is stated here) follow scenario C and that this reflected in there being surprisingly good correlation. Given state of climate knowledge 20yrs ago then I'd concur there may well have been an element of luck in that. However to say (as some have here) that they don't agree is just wrong.


Jan 5, 2015 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

I'll take a bit more issue with his statement:

"In the academic community a Type I error is a very big deal. Making an incorrect claim is the sort of thing that gets academics in very hot water. A Type I error leads to retractions of academic papers and a significant loss of prestige."

Well, maybe.

And maybe not if you can ague stridently enough that you are the one who is correct.

But, using his example, making assertions (that might entail the Type II error he describes) will never get you funding as an academic in the first place. There is no "Journal of Negative Results". The modelers get the money, and the critics get sweet FA. They must do something else to put bread on their table and pay the mortgage while the Climate Models are swanning it in the Bernese Oberland or planning their Campaign for Paris 2015.

Jan 5, 2015 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

OBA: Seeing as how you are 'familiar with some of these models', I wonder what your thoughts are on the most commented model in harry_read_me. Straight question; no snide' just interested is all. Oh, bear in mind I have read the entire bloody file. (phew!)

Jan 5, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

'Now EO - potentially more interesting. Sounds like you may have read something. You would like to expand as naturally I disagree with you? Hansen's '88 work was actually pretty good.'

and why should I expand and provide you with data ? You'll only try to find something wrong with it

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

A quasi sociological "analysis". Unfortunately completely ass backwards.

It's the skeptics who are questioning the IPCC / climate establishment's demonstrable false positives -produced by 150+ models and a fundamentally flawed hypothesis.

Strange none of the commenters noticed the fallacy and everyone getting all excited about a faulty analogy.

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered Commentertetris

@ ThebigYinJames

...With people like OBA I always wonder what their purpose posting is. If it's to convince us we are wrong, the approach fails. If it's to show his hairy friends what a good little soldier he is...

It's to convince himself. Most of the warmist posts and sites are now in this mode.

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Tamino needs to do his sums again with up to date data.

Option C is nothing like current conditions.

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

This is a test...

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

Apologies - just had a couple of mails go missing here so was wondering if I'd been edited.

One in response to @ Harry P....will try and precis

- have not read through the whole of this file (so well done) but remember bits.
- issue not really just model related (please supply ref if indicating anything specific) but more the utter disorganisation of the files inputting into the models.
- I remember this acutely in my own researches - hours of computing wasted as wrong data/wrong formats entered
- can get around by getting other parts of team to replicate different instances of models on different sites. Also doing dummy "I know what the answer should be" simplified runs to check sanity.

Hopefully this will get through.

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

...did someone forgot the 'icle'.

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

@ Tiny

Will be sure to mention it to him :-)

Jan 5, 2015 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

Given the previous comments on manners even I can attest that BH not wanting that kind of site ;-)

Jan 5, 2015 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

It is a bit rich for the alarmists to claim that the "Precautionary Principle" must be applied; greenies have never been right about anything - acid rain (remember that one?), Alar (apples still not causing cancer), Global Cooling (the warming ended that one), Global Warming (not global & not happening), population timebomb (Ehrlich wrong .... again), windmills are sustainable (any industry whose existence is dependent on sucking the teat of taxpayers money can never, ever, be regarded as sustainable), and ....add your own,plenty of them

Jan 5, 2015 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff T

It's politics.

Warmist would say the clouds are purple if that were the party line. Ditto for the skeptics.

Granted, I give more credit to "skeptics" in general because they have been standing against the lynching tide and that tends to produce a relatively greater number of independent thinkers but, nonetheless, it's politics and the "issues" are no more than headlines for the hysterics to scream about.

The fact is that most folks don't know the first thing about climate.

Jan 5, 2015 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Not sure the false positive/negative thing isn't backwards.
In medicine, a false positive means treatment or more invasive diagnostics are in order--bad since that means incurring significant unnecessary cost and harm (e.g. Prostate or breast cancer biopsies). Why PSA has fallen into disrepute, and why mammogram recommended frequency is declining, especially for pre 40s. In academia, there are no negative adverse consequences to a false positive (CAGW given the pause, for example). You know, just a theory on which to publish papers and get more research grants. Trenberths hiding heat is an example. No downside to him for being thermodynamically wrong.

Again in medicine, a false negative will eventually self correct (symptoms will present, for example to DRE or simple breast palpitation) and the worst outcome is a delay in starting treatment. Costs are 'minor'. In academia, a false negative (did not spot a 'valid theory') means no papers, no grants, and a shortened academic career teaching in the boondocks.

Academic incentives embrace false positives and avoid false negatives. Which explains why there is so much junk science out there. Other academic false positive examples include diet (saturated fats aka the butter/bacon scare, general cholesterol aka the egg scare), second hand smoke, GMO crops, and in the CAGW religion extreme weather, accelerating sea level rise, threatened polar bears, and viable renewable grid energy. The biggest false positive of all was the academic/IPCC diagnosis that "the climate science is settled".

A thought provoking albeit backwards post.

Jan 5, 2015 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan


@OBA: Many of the skeptics, like myself, have done a lifetime of work in modeling physical systems, and we know how difficult it is to produce model results that can be relied on to make decisions. Many engineering models are done to produce enveloping results, so that the engineers know how strong/reliable/corrosion-resistant/etc a structure must be. These include lots of conservative assumptions, to account for the known unknowns as well as the unknown unknowns. Very few engineering calculations try to extrapolate to operating conditions that are not testable - one adds capability to try to deal with those, unless you are designing an aircraft or spacecraft with weight limits, and then you do what you can to try to make it fly.

The way that the climate models are done, and the political uses to which they are put, are an abomination to real engineers and scientists. They are more in the realm of the social sciences and social engineering that uses the social "sciences". A real engineer looks at the important drivers, such as the clouds and solar effects, which are modeled with simple parameterization, and says that it is a folly to think that we can calculate the average temperature of the planet over a whole century, with an accuracy of less than 1C. Engineers have a hard time calculating the average temperature in a building (such as a nuclear power plant containment building) over a 3 day period, with an accuracy of 10C, when the initial and boundary conditions are known extremely well.

This leads me to comment 2:

The whole progressive movement is driven by "narrative". They tell emotional stories that move people to demand that some action be taken. With the precautionary principle, they have re-defined the scope of the narrative to focus on the scariest stories, so that they can control the society. They tell as many scary stories as they can, about the issues they care about, and they pooh-pooh anything they don't like or want to ignore. The scarier the story, the better the control. It is something that used to be done by religious leaders, who promised that we would all die in hell if we didn't do what he said the gods wanted us to do. Now it is effectively the activist groups who have become the gods.

And the "calculations" performed in the soft sciences are used to support those scary stories. It all fits together quire nicely.

Jan 5, 2015 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterrxc

onbyaccident (6:31 PM): "unfortunately they [GWPF] seem to have pulled that down..."
Tamino's link went to the GWPF, which merely repeated this post. I hadn't seen this site (C3) before, thanks!

As for Tamino's analysis...well, let's start by noticing that he claims the increase in forcing from 1984 to 2011 was about 0.6 Wm-2 (cf. his figure). [Don't ask me why he stopped at 2011 for a 2014 post.] According to the IPCC, total forcing was 0.95 Wm-2 in 1984 and in the RCP6.0 scenario 2011 forcing was projected to be 2.23. [A little higher (2.30) for RCP8.5.] So an increase of 1.28 Wm-2. Let's go back to Tamino's graph. 1.28 for 2011 puts it right on Scenario B. Hmmm...

Jan 5, 2015 at 9:55 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Action on anthropogenic gases is not a binary decision. It's not the case that there are just two choices: act or don't act. In fact, we are already acting. The US has adopted various laws and regulations that encourage the use of non-carbon-based fuels. Replacing some oil usage with natural gas has produced a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. If the world chooses to take greater action, there's an infinite range of possible actions.

That's the theory. In practice, actions to date are relatively trivial. No action has been taken or seriously contemplated that would cause atmospheric CO2 to stop growing and begin to fall, To accomplish that goal would require radical reductions in worldwide energy use. Such reductions would drastically reduce people's standard of living. It seems clear that, regardless of what they say, most of the countries of the world are unwilling to take such suicidal actions.

Jan 5, 2015 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid in Cal

pouncer:"Okay, suppose the medical industry has a model for assessing a particular risk -- say, testicular cancer -- and your personal physician has run the test on you, and says you "fail"."

Your post does NOT provide sufficient information to make an informed choice. Here's an example of why.

We have created a test for a particular disease. This test is 99% accurate. The error is unbiased - that is, false positive and false negative are equally likely. We take a random person off the street and administer the test. It comes back positive. What are the chances this person has the disease?
Most will answer "99%" - they are incorrect.
We need to also consider how prevelent the disease is in the general population.
So, if I tell you that this disease affects 1 in 10,000 people in the general population, does that change your estimate of the chances of the person we tested having the disease?
It should, because it tells you that it is 100 times more likely that the test is wrong than that the person has the disease - IOW, the chances are closer to 1% than 99%.
Do the math on 10,000 tests, with 1 real positive.
We get either 99 or 101 positive (most likely 101), yet only 1 is real. To the nearest whole number, this is 1%.

Epidemiology is fun, isn't it?

Jan 5, 2015 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterKneel

The first commenter links to a post at Skeptical Science, which begins with the silly statement, "There are two major questions in climate modeling - can they accurately reproduce the past (hindcasting) and can they successfully predict the future?" Hindcasting proves nothing. A complex model that includes several judgmental variables and parameters can easily fit the known past, and in many different ways. John von Neumann said, "With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk."

So a necessary condition for a model to be valid is that it correctly predict the future. The models have failed to do this.

Jan 5, 2015 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid in Cal

It does not matter if the models are the best we have. Not a SINGLE ONE has been validated in any way, scientific or otherwise. Until one is, using any of them to inform policy is not just incredibly bad science, it is bad policy as well.
Espousing the models says far more about the advocate than about the models...

Jan 5, 2015 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterGlennDixon

tbyj "With people like OBA I always wonder what their purpose posting is." They come here because they think they're going to run rings round the deniers. In the past we've had plenty of modellers appearing here who want to communicate the science and are genuinely trying to make points, they never use pseudonyms. Mathematical physicists apparently try to put mathematical methods in place to solve problems in physics. Isn't that what theoretical physicists do? If they don't, what do they do? Anyway we only have OBA's word for it that he's a modeller, or a mathematical physicist. Can't recall any of the previous modellers referring to SkS as a source of scientific information they usual point to recently published papers. He could be another wannabe like ATTP.

As for the paper I'm not sure I'm at all convinced by profiling scientists/deniers as having worldviews that are false positives/false negatives. I'm not sure I understand what point he's trying to make. In my, not in inconsiderable, experience scientists are driven mostly by the need to get funding for research - it doesn't seem to matter what the research is provided they get funding in their general area of expertise. Hence the climate scare is beyond the wildest dreams of the scientific community in that it provides unlimited funds and career opportunities. Of course that doesn't mean to say they don't believe CO2 will cause problems, the world, after all, consists mainly of bedwetters and they'll have their fair share as the rest of us.

As for the models, even if they came remotely near to being able to project the future state of the climate, the outcomes of climate change are still not certain because the climate is interacting with two other chaotic systems (indeed it may be more), technology and society. Hence Malthus' predictions turned out wrong because the technology in food production changed, and society was more organised to deal with the problems.

Jan 5, 2015 at 11:28 PM | Registered Commentergeronimo


Have you actually read Hansen 1988? The scenarios are not even close (worse than IPCC models), but we're actually tracking quite close to his prediction of zero carbon dioxide emissions.

Jan 5, 2015 at 11:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterYetAnotherSkeptic

Kneel, thanks for another counterintuitive illustration of Bayes theorem. For warmunists, the problem is that Bayes theorem is proven mathematically. Interestingly, in multiple ways like for the Pythagorean theorem.

Jan 5, 2015 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

@ David in Cal. Afternoon.

Model calibration? Not in the least nonsensical. Every field that tries to approximate the phyical world using models does EXACTLY that but not ONLY that. Why wouldn't they? The data history is there and yes whilst I can calibrate to anything if I wanted to using say some polynomial spline that wouldn't tell me about what drives the underlying sensitivities nor incorporate the physics that would be tractable to a peer review process. But if you were to look under the bonnet of these models there would be features imemdiately recognisable as basic laws of phyiscs. And that is where you guys come unstuck as you never argue at that level to show what might be driving forcing against AGW gases etc. We obviously disagree oin whether they fail to predict the future. I'd agree they do not wholly. I suspect no model ever will. But guess what many models don't (e.g. fluid dynamics - very difficult to understand all of the physics of flying to the nth degree but I bet you don't bother about flying).

But as Tamino correctly states. It isn't just about the models is it. Try the observations. Try the basic physics.

@ geronimo. Oh dear. some tired arguments here but I'll deal with one as it leads into why I'm on here. Ok reason for showing the SkS site and not posting to more recently published papers is that in my experience here (and on other sites where am not alone in the corner) "warmers" who do that largely waste their time. Not wanting to be rude but the level of some of these is probably also beyond most (if not all) people here. I felt SkS and Tamino for example to be more readable. I don't really care if you believe me as to whether I have a scientific/math/physics background. What I am trying to tease out of people here is the why they belive in what they belive. As I've said before I've no reason to believe that any of you are paid to write your stuff so I am led to believe that you yourselves believe in what it is you are saying. If you believe then as rational human beings (scientific or not) you can point to that reason. And if you can then maybe that is expressed in some journal somewhere. And that journal is peer reviewed (and no your conspiracy theories around the peer review process won't wash here). It really isn't much to ask for.

I have no illusions that I'll change your minds. I wouldn't be gutted if one of you raised a "ah hadn't thought of that/didn't know that" moment - I have an ego as do we all. However evidence so far is that you have zero chance of changing mine. That is not to say that my worldview cannot change as more data and observations come in but I I doubt I'll get that here.

Where are your models?

Where are you (peer reviewed) papers?

Jan 6, 2015 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

Regarding the
"You re denying effectively physics 101 and myself as a modeller/mathematical physicist wonders why." by Onbyaccident...

My thinking on that is you're effectively denying the thinking of very capable people, such as Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, etc. and I too wonder why. Surely THEY, if not my ilk, are fully cognizant of the role that Physics 101 plays in the key problems of climate.

As for the precautionary principle and acting immediately and with extreme measures to solve a possibly non-existent problem, I am reminded of the old Hawaiian who said 'Quick, throw the baby into the volcano NOW before it's too late!!"

Jan 6, 2015 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterL Leeman

"...the vast majority of the warmist community have a worldview that stresses Type I [false positive] error avoidance..."

As the one physical scientist who has confirmed the Standard Atmosphere model of the troposphere--which for over a century has defined a mean surface temperature (15°C) warmer than what is measured today (14.7°C is often touted), despite more than a century of supposed global warming--I would say that a model that finds global warming (i.e., an increase in the global mean surface temperature) where there is none, is an example of a false positive, and the premise behind the article and all the comments here so far is simply wrong: The warmists are TOUTING a false positive, not trying to avoid it at all. So, once again a vain debate, by lukewarmists, over a patently wrong premise.

Jan 6, 2015 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Hufffman

Is Scrote the guy who was changing Wikipedia willy-nilly and got his collar (temporarily) felt for it? OBA I too read the readme file and was shocked at the amateuristic nature of 'the science'. Also shocking was Mike's nature trick. What's your take on it? In my view its either a school boy error or deliberately misleading/fraudulent.

Please don't tell me that there have been 56 inquiries and all the climate scientists have been beatified, because I don't believe in the tooth fairy.

Jan 6, 2015 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR


Jan 6, 2015 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterMars Shmallow

Giving money to rich people for measures which don't noticeably make any difference - Does any'side' support this ?
- Stop flying to climate conferences
- Stop buying green : nothing is more green than "NOT BUYING"

- As a planet we havent reduced CO2 output, maybe just relocated some western factories.

article says "So monies should be spent on avoidance immediately while we continue to refine the models."
- If avoidance means reduce GHGs etc
then then the first thing is NOT SPENDING MONEY : you could stop flying to climate conferences for a start
.. and start living in a hut and stop having children.
...Not going for green gimmicks like building huge mega railways and labelling them green

..There shouldn't be '2 sides' just honest application of the rules of science, maths and logic.

Jan 6, 2015 at 1:46 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Rubbish, What does he know about sceptics? "Skeptics see the poor extrapolations and suggest a need to refine the models to address the divergence." That's not me, that's his fantasy. I use criteria of science to judge any results coming out of a project. The results coming out of climate model operations are abysmal and always have been. They have never been able to predict climate correctly, starting with Hansen in 1988. He had three climate models he produced on an IBM mainframe, A, B, and C. Model A was "business as usual" meaning the actual world temperature. He calculated it out to the year 2019 and we have lived through most of it. There is no resemblance between his predictions and temperature today or for anything else he predicted. His predictions were all high and going up higher. Next, IPCC got hold of a bunch of supercomputers. They started writing complex, million line code for them. It did not help, the predictions were no better than Hansen's were. They have now had 26 years to get their house in order but it has not helped. Worse yet, they make false claims about it to politicians who end up acting on false information about climate. It is time to recognize that climate modeling does not work, never has worked, and should be shut down.

Jan 6, 2015 at 2:56 AM | Registered Commenterarno-arrak

"Not wanting to be rude but the level of some of these is probably also beyond most (if not all) people here."
Jan 6, 2015 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterOnbyaccident

Oh, I think you do want to be rude. That is why BH snipped you for manners in the very first comment on this thread. Then the fifth comment. And removed others, warned you, but still allowed continued posting. Complaining he was mean to you won't wash. Regular readers here know he is a tolerant person and runs a far more generous ship than the website you linked to.

"What I am trying to tease out of people here is the why they belive in what they belive."

Call me naïve or a liar, but I still think the best way to find out what someone believes is to actually ask them. Not to try and bait or deceive them into saying something you can dispute, or to start out by telling them they are wrong. Following that with a link to one of the most disreputable sites on the internet that can be found in association with this topic doesn't help.

As others point out, this happens here quite regularly. You had a chance to taken seriously by regular readers/commenters here, and you muffed it. If you really do want to engage and learn, then you need to examine your behavior and take a different approach.

Jan 6, 2015 at 3:17 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

It is a meaningless discussion. Lest we forget, the basic temperature data has been severely compromised: it has been adjusted, manipulated, cherry picked and homogenized; it is derived from instrumentation which is not standardized, calibrated, regularly subjected to maintenance, or quality controlled; the instrumentation and recording methodologies have undergone multiple modifications through time; temperature data is not uniformly collected regarding time; missing data is in-filled (estimated); the number of reporting stations constantly changes; siting irregularities abound.... The data quality of the historical temperature record is so abysmal that it is not be suitable for modeling.

You cannot do good science with bad data; i.e., you cannot make chicken salad out of chicken manure.

Jan 6, 2015 at 3:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrcrinum

It is really very simple.

Alarmists like the policy proscriptions (higher energy costs, income redistribution, fewer people using fewer resources, ...) therefore see the evidence for CAGW strong enough. Skeptics don't like the policy proscriptions thus see the evidence for CAGW too weak.

If the only policy allowed to address CAGW was nuclear power, you would see much less support for the CAGW view. Most alarmists are not really afraid of co2, they just want to use it as support for their favorite policy (higher energy costs, income redistribution, fewer people using fewer resources, ...) .

Jan 6, 2015 at 4:53 AM | Unregistered Commentercharlesh

arno-arrak : "[Hansen] had three climate models he produced on an IBM mainframe, A, B, and C. Model A was "business as usual"..."

There's an important distinction to be made here. In the paper Hansen et al. 1988, scenario A had an exponentially increasing forcing, and an allowance to cover unaccounted-for forcing (from hypothetical greenhouse trace gases not included in his calculations). [This additional hypothetical forcing was set equal to the CFC forcing, the two together eventually dominating even CO2 forcing.] Scenario B had linearly-increasing forcing, and was described in the paper as "perhaps the most plausible of the three cases." So a logical reading of the paper is that "B" is the business-as-usual case, and "A" is an upper bound. [B also included a Pinatubo-size volcanic eruption presciently placed in the 1990s.]

So why is scenario A often described as "business as usual"? Because, in Hansen's 1988 Congressional testimony, he described it that way! "We have considered cases ranging from business as usual, which is scenario A, to draconian emission cuts, scenario C, which would totally eliminate net trace gas growth by year 2000."

So which is business as usual? Depends on whether you ask Hansen the scientist or Hansen the activist.

Jan 6, 2015 at 5:53 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Rxc (Jan 5, 2015 at 9:32 PM): probably the most succinct and accurate summation of the whole scenario. Thank you.

Jan 6, 2015 at 7:44 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Onbyaccident (Jan 6, 2015 at 12:07 AM): what a curious admission of a closed mind, yet you laud yourself as scientific. How odd.

What I am trying to tease out of people here is the why they belive in what they belive. [sic – so many times!]
I suspect that what most on this site believe in is the truth, as demonstrated by evidence. Sadly, the truth about the global climate is being subsumed or distorted for political reasons, a conclusion that has been reached by seeing that the evidence does not support most of the theories that you so avidly espouse – while CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are rising, global average temperatures are not, neither are sea levels increasing at an alarming rate, nor are the oceans acidifying.

Then there is your genuflection to authority:

Where are your models?

Where are you (peer reviewed) papers?

I have a model of an aircraft: it is a brick. Unless you produce another model that proves it will not, it will fly. Can you see the flaws in that argument? Would you bother producing another model?

As for peer-reviewing – have you not heard of Diederik Stapel? Over 30 “peer-reviewed” papers, not one of them true. More recently, there was a Korean scientist “peer-reviewing” his own papers! Sorry, peer-reviewing is not the godsend you seem to think it is.

Jan 6, 2015 at 8:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

I am deeply curious as to why people hold the views you do.

What I am trying to tease out of people here is the why they belive in what they belive.

Where are you (peer reviewed) papers?

Well, you are in luck. A peer reviewed paper addressing exactly the question that interests you will be appearing soon. Drop me an email and I'll send you a preprint.

Jan 6, 2015 at 9:09 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

My view of the model output is a bit more complex. Models provide certain forecasts and in fact, these forecasts (or their most likely values) on their own are not catastrophic. So the scare comes from the fear that the reality will be worse than models predict. And models appear to run "worse" than reality. That certainly makes those "worse than predicted by models" scenarios appear even less likely to happen. Personally I'm just not convinced.

The main argument, though, is that negative consequences of those "worse than predicted by models" scenarios are often emphasized and exaggerated, while negative consequences of actions we're requested to do to "save the world" from them are played down or completely ignored. Yes, severe conditions in 100 years might be killing people somewhere in the world, but drastic actions we take today will kill other people somewhere else in the world today. And that's where I see the problem. To prevent theoretical and ever so more unlikely outcomes, we're doing things with practical and very measurable negative effects just now.

The important part of the argument is, we're not saving the planet. The planet is fine, has been through worse and doesn't care what we do. Even if we fired all nuclear warheads in military warehouses in the most effective way, we'd not kill all the life on the planet. We're saving ourselves (and conditions we need to live). And I just can't believe that killing people is a good way to save humanity.

Jan 6, 2015 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterKasuha

My view of the model output is a bit more complex. Models provide certain forecasts and in fact, these forecasts (or their most likely values) on their own are not catastrophic. So the scare comes from the fear that the reality will be worse than models predict. And models appear to run "worse" than reality. That certainly makes those "worse than predicted by models" scenarios appear even less likely to happen. Personally I'm just not convinced.

The main argument, though, is that negative consequences of those "worse than predicted by models" scenarios are often emphasized and exaggerated, while negative consequences of actions we're requested to do to "save the world" from them are played down or completely ignored. Yes, severe conditions in 100 years might be killing people somewhere in the world, but drastic actions we take today will kill other people somewhere else in the world today. And that's where I see the problem. To prevent theoretical and ever so more unlikely outcomes, we're doing things with practical and very measurable negative effects just now.

The important part of the argument is, we're not saving the planet. The planet is fine, has been through worse and doesn't care what we do. Even if we fired all nuclear warheads in military warehouses in the most effective way, we'd not kill all the life on the planet. We're saving ourselves (and conditions we need to live). And I just can't believe that killing people is a good way to save humanity.

Jan 6, 2015 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterKasuha

Not a particularly original take on the divide between sceptics and mainstream climate science (and its vocal advocates - who, contrary to the author's assertion, do make up the majority of non-specialist warmists, in contrast to the community of likewise mainly non specialist sceptics). In my opinion, it is these 'warmists' - the non specialists - who mainly present as the False Positive type mentalities. There are a good few 'activist' climate scientists who seem to be under a similar spell of compulsive risk avoidance, but they are still generally in the minority. I don't believe that the cohesive world view we get from the academic climate scientist community is primarily due to a distinct state of mind; it is more a consequence of 'survival', of putting career before independent thinking, of choosing to tread the beaten path rather than stray into the far more difficult hinterland, risking ostracization and permanent exclusion.

This 'sceptics are from Mars, warmists are from Venus' view of the climate debate is an interesting and probably valid interpretation of what divides the people on both sides of the fence, but it fails to address the core issue which is: a science in its infancy has predicted world catastrophe from CO2 emissions and, rather than subject that science to critical analysis, rigorous scrutiny and constant review we have, in just 25 years, elevated it almost to the status of a religion whose central tenets cannot be questioned and - this is perhaps the most important aspect - we have instigated a worldwide policy of mind-bogglingly expensive climate mitigation in order to counteract the threat generated largely by its computer-modeled predictions. This despite the fact that the models are proving to have consistently overestimated the threat, despite the fact that the real world is increasingly not playing according to the rules which the AGW theorists told us it should abide by. So sceptics notice this and, when they point it out, they are labeled deniers, anti-science 'pseudosceptics', ideational conspiracists and Type II Error thinkers simply for adhering to what, in a label-free sane world, would be considered rational thinking.

This is not a case of needing to tweak the models to get more consistent outcomes; it means we have to demote them to a relegatory role and adopt a very different approach to climate science based on empirical measurement, natural cycles, pattern recognition and the judicial application of chaos theory to extreme weather and climate events. God forbid we ever progress fully into Dame Julia's 'Golden Age' of climate modeling because that false dawn will be the end of science as we have known it.

Jan 6, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJaime Jessop

"Well, you are in luck. A peer reviewed paper addressing exactly the question that interests you will be appearing soon." Paul Matthews

Now that is good news. Though Onbyaccident doesn't need to stop at just one view point if he/she starts a discussion some of us will be happy to explain why we're sceptics. Though on observed behaviour I suspect Onbyaccident won't be able to accept what we write. The divide between warmists and sceptics is like acrophobics and mountain climbers. The majority of the public are somewhere in between the two extremes. Of course the sceptic doesn't care if the warmists want to cower under their duvet but the warmist needs everyone to join them in their CO2 phobia. They try to pursue their gargantuan task with insults and arrogance and then wonder why they get nowhere.

Jan 6, 2015 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

With all the discussion about climate models: all the delving into the depths of the mechanisms used, and the doubts about the ‘guessed’ parameters: we should never forget the largest and, perhaps, the most important guessed parameter - positive feedback.

Jan 6, 2015 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Jaime Jessop in another parallel to religion you can say the whole thing has been a very nice trip for its prophets and priests who seen both personal wealth , in some cases , and profiles raise massively on the back of AGW.

You can speculate what would happen to climate 'science' has an acedmic area if AGW would fall , and what comes out is not a pretty picture at all for those involved. Now that is what we call motivation and so you can see approaches such has 'tails you lose heads I win ' and the type of academic standards unacceptable for an undergraduate handing in an essay , has become so common in the area. After all if you livelihood depend on selling snake oil , would you put any effort into research that proved this idea is rubbish ?

Jan 6, 2015 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

In teaching industrial statistics to engineers and others, I found the fire alarm analogy a useful one for getting across the general idea of Type I and Type II errors.

Suppose you have a fire alarm, perhaps one which responds to ions in the air, which you can adjust to every setting between 'always screeching' to 'always silent'. In between, the sensitivity varies from very high to very low. We shall assume that this is your one and only basis of concluding whether or not a fire is present.

If you leave the alarm 'silent', you will never make the Type I error of wrongly concluding that a fire is present by the simple expedient of never, ever, concluding that a fire is present. You are avoiding the error of 'delusion': the error of declaring that there is a fire when in fact there is none.

If you leave the alarm on permanent screech, you will never make the Type II error which is wrongly concluding that there is no fire. You do this simply by declaring fire is always there. You are avoiding the error of 'oversight': the error of failing to spot a fire when in fact it is there.

In statistical analyses, the risk of a Type I error is usually denoted by the Greek letter alpha, and the risk of a Type II error by beta. So, you set alpha to zero if you leave the alarm set to permanent silence. You set beta to zero by having the alarm set to permanent screech.

In between, you can make either type of error. Type I: you shout 'fire!' when there is none. Type II: you fail to shout 'fire!' when there is one. When there are losses to be expected from both types of error, we will generally want to select some intermediate setting on our alarm. For example, having your building permanently evacuated because the fire alarm never stops is a loss, and having it burn down because your fire alarm never goes off is a loss.

Now in my view, alarmists like Ehrlich, the late Schneider, Hansen, and a host of secondary ones, have their sensitivities way too high, and they make an awful nuisance of themselves by their screeching. Great loss to society has resulted from follies such as windfarms and bio-fuels, and less tangibly from the shocks and scares imposed on children and other vulnerable people being told, often very vividly, that their lives are in great danger. More sensible people, in my view of things, are not so willing to, so to speak, shout 'fire!' because they can see the risk of serious harm if it is a false alarm.

The so-called sceptics, in other words, act somewhat as if they wish to avoid the Type I error: which in our simplistic analogy, is the error of raising a false alarm. Alarmists on the other hand act somewhat as if they wish to avoid the Type II error, which in our analogy is the error of failing to raise the alarm when in fact there is a fire. The author of the piece quoted in the above post has got this back to front.

Jan 6, 2015 at 11:40 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

It's hard to believe that a genuine modeler/physicist would not know that 'the basic physics' only gets us to 1K of warming per doubling and that all the rest above that is speculative. We skeptics accept the basics physics but not the pessimistic speculation. It is the alrmists playing fast and loose with physics in accepting mere baseless speculation as if it were irrefutable fact.

The basic physics however does preclude the possibility of the missing heat going to the ocean. Ah but there's the rub: When basic physics becomes inconvenient the alarmists just ditch it.

Of the 50-odd excuses given for the pause, ranging from it's 'natural variation' to outright denial that there even is a pause, the only honest answer is that they just 'don't know'. When you don't know what nature is capable of then you cannot discern our contribution.

As for the observations these all support the case for more skepticism.

My models by the way are usually 99% accurate but I am not trying to model the climate system which, while a worthy effort, is just not ready for prime-time.

Here's the best peer reviewed paper of the skeptical case for low sensitivity:

None of this abstract science would matter though if it were not affecting energy policy upon which we all depend. Skeptics prime concern is that the cure is much worse that the putative disease. Energy supply is not something to play dice with!

Jan 6, 2015 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

To further the analogy - most people have acepted the potential for a fire and can see the sense in having an alarm system but that's not good enough because we're a firework factory. The alarmists demand we have a halon fire system and that everyone wears full breathing apparatus 24/7. The walls must be made of asbestos and nothing flammable can be brought into the factory. But we're a firework factory and even if we did the other things (which we can't because they're prohibitively expensive and the employees would hate them) we can see no other way to make fireworks other than to use flammable materials. Finally after much fruitless disussion we tell the fire expert to eff off. Some of the staff juggle lit fireworks as a protest.

Jan 6, 2015 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

John Shade
Part of the problem is that many alarmists see no disadvantage to the constant screech.
These vary between the ideologue who thinks that most of the costs are in a good cause (anti-industry, pro-redistribution of wealth, perceived environmental benefits, political advantage etc) to those who are phenomenally economically/technologically naive like those who think that wind or solar power is "free" and with no disadvantages or who simply don't realize how crippling the costs are and will be.

Jan 6, 2015 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Thank you John Shade for the clear explanation!

@ artwest : it is clear to us that alarmism or 'constant screech' in the fire alarm analogy has considerable costs as per the follies you mention. However we should also think if on the other side is it clear to us the sceptics what the consequences for humanity will be of the 'silence' setting?

Of course we have all heard about the predicted millions of climate refugees and predictions of imminent catastrophic this and imminent dangerous that. But none of it came to pass and with the stop in warming it is even more uncertain if it ever could happen. And so the near-silence position has been vindicated hasn't it?

Jan 6, 2015 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

Thanks for the fire alarm analogy. It illuminates.

With respect to the climate, the analogy breaks down over the lack of a tipping point from no fire to fire. The whole concern is over miniscule increases in averages lost in daily and seasonal temperature variations.

I believe Ross McKitrick tried to get at this with his policy idea for a carbon tax that was purely symbolic until some actual warming was observed, and the tax goes up only as the warming increases.

It was not well received, since taxes are seldom, if ever, reduced or rescinded once in place.

Jan 6, 2015 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon C.

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