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« Sceptics' impact on climate science | Main | Quote of the day, recycling edition »

Puffed rice

Here's an interesting wrinkle in climate science that I hadn't thought about before. It came up in a thread at Ken Rice's place, underneath an article about carbon dioxide reductions.

The specific claim of interest was that "the amount of warming depends almost linearly on cumulative emissions". This is a claim that you hear quite often, with the corollary being that even if we halt carbon dioxide emissions, temperatures are going to remain high for centuries. However, it seems that the scientific veracity of the statement is not exactly set in stone, as Nic Lewis points out in the comments.

For the record, whilst this may be true for simulations by most current Earth system models, it is an entirely model dependent result. So please don’t present it as if a fact. If one builds a model with a low ECS, and moderate climate-cycle feedbacks, warming peaks immediately if emissions cease and declines quite rapidly thereafter. Which would happen in the real climate system is not as yet known, of course.

Encouragingly, Dr Rice fully accepted Nic's case: an encouraging example of consensus emerging among colleagues. Indeed, I'm sure I sense him trying very hard to enhance the atmosphere of collegiality:

Yes, I realise it is not a fact. So, for clarity, our current understanding is that it depends almost linearly on temperature.

However, given the sites, and organisation, that you associate with, the idea that you can come here and tone troll me is utterly amazing. What the hell are you playing at? Do you have no self-awareness whatsoever? Do you really not get the irony of you writing appallingly dishonest posts at Climate Audit, commenting at Bishop Hill, and writing reports for a pseudo-denial organisation like the GWPF, and then coming here and suggesting that maybe I should have qualified myself a bit more carefully than I did. You really do need to look at how you present and defend your own work before coming here and tone trolling me. Seriously; WTF!!!!!

In fact, a thoughtful and decent response might actually be in order, because I really cannot believe that someone like yourself, who seems completely unwilling to acknowledge possible issues with your own work, can have just done what you’ve done.

He is trying isn't he?

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Reader Comments (183)

Touchy, isn't he?

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

[Snip] Glad not to have him as a neighbour.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:29 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I really cannot believe that someone like yourself, who seems completely unwilling to acknowledge possible issues with your own work
Does he give any hint as to what these issue might be?

Lewis clearly pointed out that Rice was making an assumption and not clarifying that the assumption was not a fact.

But when has Nic Lewis been so unsceptical?

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:33 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

What is "tone trolling"?

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Rose

there is always some light switched off upstairs, in that awful blog

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

How long after ceasing CO2 emissions, will the 'Snap, Crackle and Pop' keep being heard, from this source?

If this is snap and crackle, what constitutes a 'pop'?

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Nik was generous as usual. In fact we do now know what happens in the real system and it is not alarming at all. Hysterical pause-deniers like Rice just can't bring themselves to admit that yet.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

1. I have not understood why Nic Lewis counts as a skeptic. Other than that he applies more rigorous argument than most 'climate scientists' trying to estimate climate sensitivity (although to pretty much the same assumptions so far as I can make out). Maybe it's simply that the results that his methods come up with are not so scary and are therefore anathema to the True Believers.

2. Nastiness characterises a lot of the would-be priesthood. As the realisation dawns that their religion is becoming more and more widely recognised for what it is, it can be expected to become more and more strident.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

"If one builds a model with a low ECS, and moderate climate-cycle feedbacks, warming peaks immediately if emissions cease"

Meanwhile in the real world, warming peaked in 2005 as emissions have continued to accelerate.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

[Snip - raise the tone please]

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

This Rice chap comes across as a bit hyper. His somewhat demented reaction to a perfectly reasonable comment would surely be informative to one well-versed in the analysis of emotions and personalities, but it is a tiresome distraction in a discussion of the climate system.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:46 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The title of Rice's blog says it all. He's the man with science on his side, and science has no ambiguity or complexity that could justify disagreement with his predictable pronounements.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterrwnj

On one level Rice will be quite happy to have nutters and cranks like Sky Dragon Slayers poking their heads up from time to time, as they allow him to pose as the reasonable defender of science as a whole.

People like Nic Lewis are far more dangerous - their work undermines his catastrophism in a way that shows him to be the extremist.

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Abbott

Amusingly he comes here and complains about the tone of the debate.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Where's Lewandowski when you need him. Rice is in need of a psychologist.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Jonathan has it right. ATTP is happy hosting cranky and rude skeptics as he can use their comments to assure himself of his superior position. The real problem ones are those whose positions he cannot adequately question or respond to.

For ATTP the 'irreversibilty' or emissions is a central pillar in his dogma. Examine his previous posts - he argues against several (percieved) skeptical positions using irreversibilty as a fight-back weapon. Nic's post exposed a weakness 'cause though ATTP the blogging activist likes to think 'irreversibility' is a water-tight argument, Rice doesn't like contemplating the notion that this crucial element could itself by a product of assumptions and an artifact of choices in models.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Registered Commentershub

The real analogue model with low ECS, is already showing near zero temperature variation with time despite rising [CO2].

It's called the Earth.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

let me respectfully disagree with some of the commenters here

The "proof" against Rice's simpletonic approach to global temperatures in _not_ in "near zero temperature variation" or other strong formulations of the "pause".

The proof is in the simple, absolutely unequivocal and 100% agreed fact that the rise in temperatures has not been accelerating (sort of the fourth third temporal derivative of temperature) despite emissions being far away from not increasing.

This "weak" definition of the "pause" has been mentioned by Rahmstorf (no less...) at Real Climate and by using it one can bypass all discussions about models, scepticism, New World Order and the Koch Brothers.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:16 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

He must have been in a generous mood. My comments are usually deleted.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

He is trying isn't he?
He is indeed. Very.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:28 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Having ranted hysterically at Nic, Rice says, as if doing Nic a favour

If Nic wants to come back and actually engage in a serious discussion, I’m happy to engage more thoughtfully.

Rice is clearly clueless re human psychology. Strangely, most folk don't find hysterical ranting an incentive to engage in further interaction.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

To paraphrase:

Yes you are right...but screw you for pointing it out.

I blame the strain of maintaining the cognitive dissonance required.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterClovis Marcus

I've never known Rice engage in "serious discussion" yet. Every time someone disagrees with him he produces a variation of "you didn't understand what I said." or (if he's in a good mood) "I mustn't have made myself clear".
He succeeds in painting himself in the worst light yet with that response and the opening remark,

Yes, I realise it is not a fact. So, for clarity, our current understanding is that it depends almost linearly on temperature.
is bizarre if for no other reason than it is meaningless. What "depends ... linearly on temperature"? He's been so busy composing the rant he hasn't even bothered to read what was written.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:43 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

David Rose asked, "What is "tone trolling"?

From the Urban Dictionary ...

A Tone Troll is a form of internet troll focusing on the tone of arguments. A Tone Troll will typically express great consternation and offense at the style of an argument, as a way of distracting from the actual content.

This is done deliberately as a way to derail arguments; the Tone Troll prefers to muddy the issue by changing the subject diverts attention away from the merit of the argument itself and unto the specific words being used to advance it.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpeed

MJ, from the context, it is quite clear that "it" refers to warming. So Ken is simply saying that "warming" depends almost linearly on temperature.

So it if gets warmer, temps may go up. QED.

Oct 5, 2015 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

The extreme emotion on display reveals that his attachment to this subject isn't science but idealism. It would be interesting to see his bookshelf. Suspect it might be a deep green colour, like Lynas, Monbiot etc.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Oct 5, 2015 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Rose

Look it up in the Urban Dictionary. I'm not sure how what Nic Lewis said is tone trolling ...
One might even suspect that it could apply to the approach of (Dr, presumably) Ken Rice.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan bates

Ken Rice has indeed given up on civility and open discussion, and that from the cradle of enlightenment.

I recently tried to argue that Mark Carney's climate speech was (a) outside his mandate, (b) at odds with the facts about climate policy and (c) at odds with the IPCC on the impacts of climate change. He simple would not let me say those things.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Doesn't Ken Rice/ATTP also have some nominal role in Public Relations for his department at the University of Edinburgh?

I don't think I need say any more.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

It is much easier for climate scientists to state the debate is settled, and reinforce it with a consensus, than actually get involved in any form of debate, or scientific discussion. This thread demonstrates the consequences of climate scientists, making the mistake of relying on the collective wisdom of their colleagues.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Oh, I see, I wondered why I suddenly got a comment on my blog complaining about that. I understand now. My response to Nic was rather blunt and not very polite, but hard to see why it wasn't warranted. Coming to my blog to complain about me not qualifying something sufficiently well, while associating with this blog - and others - that promote all sorts of nonsense, was just ironic beyond belief. It wasn't so much that he didn't have point, it was why he thought he was in a position to make it. It was also all rather pedantic really, given that I was mostly discussing the calculation done in a published paper. I could certainly have added as "is thought to", and don't have a problem accepting that, but it does illustrate why I mostly regard Nic as a pedantic nit-picker, rather than as someone who is genuinely interested in discussing this topic in any depth.

I will also add, that if Nic had been upset about my response, he could have contacted me directly and discussed it that way, rather than relying on this site to promote my lack of civility. I don't particularly mind, either way, but this certainly doesn't come across as a serious attempt to raise the tone. Comes across as more like a finger pointing exercise. My lack - or not - of civility is all rather irrelevant really. It's just illustrates - IMO - the rather juvenile nature of the whole online climate debate.

Richard Tol,
Good to see you haven't given up whining about me deleting your comments. Consistent at least. I at least - at times - attempt to be civil, something I think you've never even tried; although, to be fair, maybe you're confused about what it actually means.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Imrancan asks the question again and gets hand-waving from ATTP.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:47 PM | Registered Commentershub

During the 18 years and counting pause we allegedly emitted around 1/3rd of all human CO2 emissions. Result? No atmospheric / surface temperature increase worth a flying fig for nearly 2 decades.

That therefore means that the previous 2/3rds of human-emitted CO2 has had NO EFFECT whatsoever on atmospheric temperatures during the past 18 + years. They said temperatures rises were 'locked in', yet we now see quite emphatically they were wrong.

Observations falsify catastrophic AGW theory, yet again. Checkmate.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Sorry Bish. It was intended to lighten the mood and mock his extreme crankiness.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

"My lack - or not - of civility is all rather irrelevant really."

Anyone who doesn't realise that lack of civility is highly relevant in a civilised society is, in my view, a social misfit. It's quite common over at SkS (is it Ken's dream to be allowed into the gang hut d'ye think?) where they routinely insult people. I've often wondered if they're all so angry because if a deep rooted psychological need to be like the boys who played sport and got the girls at school. Either way they're all pretty unsavory specimens.

Oct 5, 2015 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

geronimo, he might need to get himself a Prince Harry-style 'fancy dress costume' before admission to the society at the blog cannot be named. That would be another public relations spectacular, so who knows?

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


Anyone who doesn't realise that lack of civility is highly relevant in a civilised society is, in my view, a social misfit.

I meant with respect to - for example - our understanding of climate science. Whether I'm a nice person, or not, doesn't change physical reality. I will add that there appears to be an element of irony to your comment. In fact, it seems rather ironic that a site like this would complain about civility at all, or do people here think it should only apply to others?

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

@michael hart

"Doesn't Ken Rice/ATTP also have some nominal role in Public Relations for his department at the University of Edinburgh?

I don't think I need say any more."

Thanks for the reminder. Michael, the following clip from 'Some Mothers do have em' may give some clues about how KR regards the cutting edge in Public Relations.

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

@ Phillip Bratby - 10.59

There is always someone worse off than yourself

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterVictoria Sponge

Has Ken just thrown Barbie out of his pram..?

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:18 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Doesn't Ken Rice/ATTP also have some nominal role in Public Relations for his department at the University of Edinburgh?

Nope, never have, no such thing in my Department anyway. Don't believe everything you read.

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

It is not nit-picking to point out that a primary tenet of thermageddon is fallacious. I guess we are supposed to ignore reality and continue as if it wasn't happening. Academics really are academic.

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I do find it reassuring that we're entrusting the education of our best and brightest to the likes of Mr Rice.


Oct 5, 2015 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman


So it if gets warmer, temps may go up.
Did it take him long work that one out, do you think?

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:38 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Just for laughs:

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc

It is not nit-picking to point out that a primary tenet of thermageddon is fallacious.

Except that isn't what happened. All that happened was that Nic suggested that the linear dependence of warming on cumulative emissions may not be a fact. This is indeed true, but it's also true of anything that is an attempt to determine what will happen in the future. It's always good to qualify what one presents, but in a quickly written blog post it is sometimes hard to do it all the time (especially one discussing a published paper that is available for others to read), in particulat if you're trying to keep things reasonably short - blog posts aren't peer-reviewed papers. It's certainly not true that it is a primary tenet of thermageddon, and it is certainly not true that it is fallacious.

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I did say don't believe everything you read. I'll repeat, I am not - nor have I ever been - the Director of Public Relations for any organisation/department/.....

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:45 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I have no way of knowing and can take your word for it, but the reason people believed it was because it was on your university page,

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterredc

...and Then There's Physics says

I mostly regard Nic as a pedantic nit-picker
But he doesn’t say why.

Nic Lewis has correctly pointed out that the irreversibility of dangerous AGW is conjecture with no proven physical basis. In other words… and then there’s no physics at all.
Just faith.

Is that nit-picking?

Obviously not.

Oct 5, 2015 at 1:47 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

To be honest, he does come across a bit like a Director of Public Relations. That's a qualitative judgement though ...


Oct 5, 2015 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPointman

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