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Saturday
Nov072015

Climate change and academic oversell

It's not often an article in Times Higher Education can make you laugh out loud, but Helga Nowotny's piece this week managed to reach those heights. Nowotny, from ETZ in Zurich, is writing about overselling of research results and the deleterious effects that this might have on trust in the academy. Her suggestion is that a bit more "we don't know that yet" might be a better approach.

Inevitably talk turns to climate change:

Asked if such an approach may have pitfalls – such as those detailed in the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, when vested interests sow the seeds of scientific doubt as a way of forestalling action on issues like the harm caused by cigarettes or, more recently, climate change – she responded: “You cannot deny climate change; it’s happening. The scientific evidence is overwhelming.”

But she pointed out that modelling future changes to the climate is fraught with uncertainty, with climate forecasting broadly as accurate as weather forecasting was 100 years ago – although none of this should be used as an excuse for inaction.

I'm not sure that she understands that "evidence" for climate change is the output of those uncertain climate models. She seems to be a victim of the very overselling that she is complaining about.

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Reader Comments (109)

It's not the first time it's been pointed out, but the output of an unvalidated model is no more than an illustration of somebody's hypothesis.

And climate models are inherently (because of the nonexistence of the necessary data) incapable of being validated. The Met Office's claim that their models can reproduce the (recent) past of climate and that validates them is an example of the fallacy of "testing on the training data". If their models could not even reproduce the data used to tune and "parameterise" them it would mean they could not even pass a basic sanity check.

Being able to reproduce the training data is by no means a confirmation that they are a correct and adequate representation of the physical reality.

Nov 7, 2015 at 10:38 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, maybe they should do what Dr David Evans has done - publish their full model for the world to see
http://joannenova.com.au/2015/11/new-science-18-finally-climate-sensitivity-calculated-at-just-one-tenth-of-official-estimates/

Nov 7, 2015 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Unless you have every input to a system you can not model it, however pretty and/or convenient the David Evans model is it will not be accurate.

Nov 7, 2015 at 12:59 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Times Higher Education has just demonstrated what is wrong with Higher Education in modern times. The correct political message outweighs honesty and truth. Actual education is a boring academic argument, that only interests potential employers.

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

“You cannot deny climate change; it’s happening. The scientific evidence is overwhelming.”

Again and again this line is trotted out by deluded Liberals and again and again I find myself asking....'but what is the actual evidence for that assertion'?

If there is literally nothing unusual happening in global climate and weather terms, how can 'climate change' be happening? Astonishing.

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshireRed

Climate science poses a big problem for a lot of academics, and for defenders of the academy as a whole. If limited or fragmentary evidence has mistakenly been turned into a dubious theory about the climate of the entire world, with the blessing of all kinds of prominent people with great credentials, this goes far beyond the occasional academic who is caught committing fraud. (The usual disclaimer: might be ignorance, might be dishonesty, most likely a mixture of the two). How to come to grips with the fact that the problem is not just the usual factors such as greed, putting short-term career gains against long-term credibility, etc., but something like allowing ideology or a self-congratulatory sense of what makes a good person (we've got to save Bambi, we've got to save the children) to undermine old-fashioned practices based on evidence, etc.

Climate science, like the banks, is too big to fail.

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterLloyd R

Lloyd R - It's the biggest mass delusion the world has seen. It's not going to end any time soon. Not impossible that it will still be around (with its patron saints) 2000 years from now.

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:24 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

From Martin A [above]:

"The Met Office's claim that their models can reproduce the (recent) past of climate and that validates them"


I wonder, did MOspeak bod - keep a straight face when said mouthpiece elicited that whopper?

In my minds eye, I've got this image of Betts and Wet Office mates - they've been working on an engine and spare parts, nuts, gaskets, cylinders and various other parts are lying around and one shouts, "but we've got to show we can fix this - management [DECC] will be down soon!"

And another replies, "just shut the bonnet and give it a push out of the garage - its wheels are still on...erm we couldn't get them off and anyway as long as it moves: Amber and the rest........ they won't ken any different".

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Cheshirered @ 1.18: "but what is the actual evidence for that assertion ( that it is overwhelming) ? " That is the wrong question and may be answered by referral to the IPCC AR1 - 5. This will cost you 3 months of your life and you will still be none the wiser. The killer question is "What evidence has overwhelmed YOU?" . The answer to that will tell you everything you need to know of that persons cognitive processes.

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

Yes, yes, reality sucks, climate change is real, and in the long run we are all dead. Eli knows that.

Nov 7, 2015 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Climate change is happening- it happens all the time and has done for a couple or three of thousands of millions of years. That is firmly established. What is most unlikely is that the rather modest volume of human CO2 emissions of the last 65 years have overwhelmed all the other processes which caused climate to change for the previous two or three thousand million years.

Nov 7, 2015 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaleoclimate Buff

diogenes2, I think many are overwhelmed by the lavish groupthink climate science parties held in exotic locations on a regular basis, all funded by taxpayers.

Just saying "overwhelming evidence" is very lucrative, and depends on minds incapable of rational and enquiring thought processes. Clmate science has even corrupted the evolutionary principle of "survival of the fittest" and "keeping fit" to maintain their artificial strategy of survival, when all conventional scientific wisdom points to an evolutionary dead end.

Fish evolving the ability to crawl about on mud, led to great things. Fish evolving the ability to "fly", has never progressed, beyond escape and evasion.

Nov 7, 2015 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Eli, what caused climate change before Mann created Climate Science?

Nov 7, 2015 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Golf Charlie: You could perceive that the fish that crawled out of the sea did evolve the ability to fly (and go back to catch the fish). In the long term survival depends on the ability to adapt to change. Mitigation was always the dead end.
But perhaps that is what you are saying.

Nov 7, 2015 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

floor to ceiling confidence intervals should not be an excuse for inaction? When the action called for is deindustrialization and the elimination of democracy?

Nov 7, 2015 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraig Loehle

" Lloyd R - It's the biggest mass delusion the world has seen. "

Martin, is it not identical to all the many other religions that we have about, and a lot of those have lasted for thousands of years. The only difference is that this religion is supported by a lot of people who don't approve of all these existing ones.

One other difference is that climate change has prophecies that when proven wrong may lead to many people questioning the tenets of it, though it seems a bit slow coming.

Nov 7, 2015 at 3:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Craig Loehle
But if the whole object of the exercise is deindustrialization and the elimination of democracy what then?
And who is leading the charge but the world's major democracies — USA, UK, Australasia, most of Europe.
And who is going (eventually) to put an end to the scam but the totalitarians — Russia and China.
The world has truly gone mad, my masters!

Nov 7, 2015 at 4:27 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Rob Burton

I think you mean "if proven wrong". Unless you have some means of measuring future CO2, future temperatures and future sea levels the question perforce remains open.

Nov 7, 2015 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

What a bizarre circular world the academics what are caught up in climate madness inhabit.

Nov 7, 2015 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

The killer question is "What evidence has overwhelmed YOU?" . The answer to that will tell you everything you need to know of that persons cognitive processes.

Nov 7, 2015 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenese2

A hole in one.

Nov 7, 2015 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Bishop, this is off topic to this thread but interesting I think to BH readers.

Irving Oil and Repsol, co -owners of the Canaport regasification terminal in New Brunswick Canada,had charges dropped recently in a case where 7500 songbirds died in a gas flare. The Crown Prosecutor suggested that Canaport be fined $750,000. Apparently the migratory birds were attracted to the flare in misty conditions. The charges were laid under the Migratory Birds Convention Act and Species at Risk Act.

I wonder if similar charges have ever been laid against the operators of wind turbines where birds are routinely chopped by whirling blades? Has anyone quantified how many birds are killed by wind turbines in the UK, and does it reach the kind of number (7500) which initiated the charges in the Canaport case (despite the charges eventually being dropped)?

Nov 7, 2015 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Entropic Man, if you have some means of measuring, future CO2, temperatures and sea levels, there are climate scientists who could do with some help with their badly educated guesswork. They all claim it is just basic physics, but they must have made a mistake somewhere.

I wonder if sea level rise was calculated in millimetres, but gets quoted in feet, the inaccuracy is so huge. Being out by 300 to 1 remains within acceptable margins of error in climate science, so they consider their predictions to be spot on.

Nov 7, 2015 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Or, golf charlie, like accepting a typo as the truth.

All Himalayan glaciers melted by 2035 ?

Nov 7, 2015 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterottokring

Diogenes2, some ideas need a bit of time to get out of the water and into the air.

Sailing over night on a yacht in warm waters, can reveal a modest harvest of fresh fish on the deck as daybreaks. I am not keen on eating fish, but the flying fish, like climate science, hasn't really evolved into anything useful.

Planes that could land and take off from water, were seen as the solution to long distance air travel in the 30s. Small seaplanes do have a niche market today, and I am sure that lessons will be learnt from the turbulent history of climate science, but the small amount of science will remain a niche market.

Nov 7, 2015 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Eli thinks his climate obsession is reality.
That is funny on several levels.

Nov 7, 2015 at 6:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Not for the first time, "climate science" turns out to sound like something from the Wars of Religion (Zurich, as it happens, experienced quite a bit of turmoil in the Reformation). Nowotny's answer to the question posed combines muddled thinking, to put it kindly, when she gets on to the models, but the first part of her reply [“You cannot deny climate change; it’s happening. The scientific evidence is overwhelming.”] is classic Don't-Upset-the-Inquisition stuff.

The question itself is so massively loaded:

...pitfalls...vested interests sow the seeds of scientific doubt....

As we all know, the very term "climate change" is deliberately constructed to be as ambiguous as possible. Oreskes' book is brandished by the interviewer almost as if it is a Biblical text; the idea that anything in her book is other than the wholly objective truth doesn't seem to be contemplated. Not only does that mean that the straw man of smoking is raised, which is a pretty obvious clue to Nowotny as to what is coming next, but the questioner pretends that "climate change" is little more than an afterthought [...or, more recently, climate change.]. This article is not in any way a part of the softening-up process in advance of Le Grand Boondoggle de Paris - non, Madame!

I quite like the "What If...?" style of history, in which you tweak a few salient events, while retaining other known details, because thinking about things that way can deliver new insights into what actually may have happened. Nobody, however, pretends that this is a form of science, but it's pretty much how a lot of "climate science" seems to be conducted. In climate science, with its extensive dependence on models, "What if...?" is, increasingly, all there is. Those precious models can't even identify salient events (the Pause, anyone?), so they tweak everything in sight, pretty drastically, while their creators frantically do the same with all the inconvenient data. Whereas the history "What If...?" has some basic facts to fall back on, the climate version is all about variables, most of which still cannot be explained or quantified.

"...although none of this should be used as an excuse for inaction..."

The climate models are rubbish. Nobody knows how the climate will develop, least of all the clowns running the climate models, but we still need to take random action right now, apparently, because, you know, smoking.

Nov 7, 2015 at 6:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

Muppet Nowotny wasn't asked how she defined 'climate change' - the UN way or the COD way?
http://tinyurl.com/http-unclimatechange

If climate modeling may be summed up as the mathematical skill of allowing one variable to to move while holding all or most others constant, and the proposition is to model a non-linear, chaotic system, models would logically appear to be doomed in perpetuity to failure, even assuming ALL variables and conditions are accounted for and the modelers have access to Galactic sized Cray's.

Nov 7, 2015 at 7:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterManfred

ottokring, it is amazing how major mistakes by climate scientists, don't get noticed by other climate scientists. They must get a bit foggy over details when high on disastrous predictions.

Maybe it was increasing levels of 02 that we should all be worried about, but they hadn't invented typists correction fluid in the time of Arrhenius.

Nov 7, 2015 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Dana, Lew, Naomi et al have just published the source of the confusion, the Dirty 38 authors.

"Other typical weaknesses include false dichotomies, inappropriate statistical methods, or basing conclusions on misconceived or incomplete physics. We also argue that science is never settled and that both mainstream and contrarian papers must be subject to sustained scrutiny. The merit of replication is highlighted and we discuss how the quality of the scientific literature may benefit from replication."

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00704-015-1597-5

Nov 7, 2015 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

Paleoclimate Buff is on the money, and a word of caution about the loose use of language is surely due.

What's being questioned is not climate change. Being a chaotic system, change is what it does and has always done. What's being questioned is whether man made CO2 has had any significant effect on the extent to which the climate changes and the evidence is sparse.

Furthermore, even if it's accepted that it does have a significant and damaging effect, it can reasonably be questioned whether the measures to tackle climate change, which are so expensive and not obviously serving the interests of the people of the UK, are in any way effective in dealing with a claimed global problem and whether they should be persisted with. If you don't accept the somewhat dubious premise, then they are clearly purely damaging.

I like the idea implied by the AGW hysterics, that before industrialisation climate was beautifully stable and in an ideal state. Now that is climate change denial.

Nov 7, 2015 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

Arthur C. Clarke said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I shall rephrase this

"Any human who predicts something that cannot be predicted or attributes a cause to something that has not been predicted, without some additional piece of science that makes it predictable, is a magician or a charlatan."

I don't believe in magicians.

Nov 7, 2015 at 9:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

academies and turgid institutes like RS have reached the same level of "trust" fo me as the BBC aka bolshevik brainwashing circus

i trust them completely that anything they bring out only serves their selfcentric pathetic worldview and cynical selfenrichment. thats what i trust them about 100%

Nov 7, 2015 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

Dung Nov 7, 2015 at 12:59 PM

Can you come up with better, have you even tried?

Nov 7, 2015 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterivan

ivan,
Micky Muggins had a fool proof way of picking a winner at the races. He would always bet on the horse that swished its tail most when it faced the sun.
He couldn't say why it worked but he asked me "Can you come up with better, have you even tried?"
I hadn't.
But I still didn't bet.
Strangely, I'm now better off than Micky Muggins.

Nov 7, 2015 at 9:46 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

ivan

I am not stupid enough to make predictions on a subject about which even our best scientists are totally clueless.

Nov 7, 2015 at 9:56 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Eli just has to look at Bishop Hill to see obsession

Nov 7, 2015 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

I've seen this kind of cognitive dissonance or lack of awareness at meetings.
Distinguished professors, devout climate believers, talking about how scientists often exaggerate the importance of their work, for example in press releases, and how this can damage public trust in science.

Nov 7, 2015 at 10:19 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Yes, yes, reality sucks, climate change is real, and in the long run we are all dead. Eli knows that.

Nov 7, 2015 at 2:14 PM | Eli Rabett
================================================================================================

So, Eli - you are in the know, folks tell me. So you tell me - how has the climate changed, and since when?

Take your time.

Nov 7, 2015 at 11:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Eli just has to look at Bishop Hill to see obsession

Nov 7, 2015 at 10:14 PM | Eli Rabett
=========================================================================================

On fire, tonight, Eli eh? All we need now is Ken Rice to join you and hey! Let's parteeeehhhhh.

Nov 7, 2015 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

You only have to look at climate scientists and their collaborating activists, to see obsessives making money out of other people's misery. They can't even make the data fit the theory, but rather than change the theory ...........

Nov 7, 2015 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

When you see the myxomatosis ridden liberati foaming at the mouth over something, you can guarantee they have been led up the garden by emotional manipulation to support some giant financial scam.


1. mass immigration (cheap labour, stolen from poor countries for big business, NHS)

2. Vaccines (actually MMR) (big pharma profits - the quality of science in pharma is every bit as rigorous as AGW )

3. Global warming (carbon trading)


They are told they have the moral high ground, but that;'s because they are incredibly naive.

Nov 8, 2015 at 12:25 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

"But she pointed out that modelling future changes to the climate is fraught with uncertainty, with climate forecasting broadly as accurate as weather forecasting was 100 years ago – although none of this should be used as an excuse for inaction.


That is the most outrageous back handed compliment I have ever read. With friends like that, you don't need haters. She just told the truth about climate science.

LOL !!

Nov 8, 2015 at 12:30 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

The evidence IS overwhelming.

Nov 8, 2015 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Our lovely, little war criminal in chief, Tony Blair refused to say whether his offspring had been given MMR. That's a very big clue as to its safety.


"Presiding Judge Nicola Di Leo considered another piece of damning evidence: a 1271-page confidential GlaxoSmithKline report (now available on the Internet). This industry document provided ample evidence of adverse events from the vaccine, including five known cases of autism resulting from the vaccine’s administration during its clinical trials (see table at page 626, excerpt below).

GSK autism


Table is here

http://www.rescuepost.com/.a/6a00d8357f3f2969e201bb07d3996e970d-pi

http://www.ageofautism.com/2015/01/recent-italian-court-decisions-on-vaccines-and-autism.html


**********

MMR Vaccine causes Autism - leaked CDC Research Proves it


August 28, 2014. Atlanta. (ONN) Once again, those pesky whistleblowers have uncovered evidence of a decades-long, widespread cover-up at a government agency. This time, the source of the leaks is a senior physician employed by the CDC. His CDC study proved that the MMR vaccine causes autism. But the agency silenced him, changed his research results, lied to the American people about the vaccine-autism evidence, and have withheld the details from Congress for over a decade now.

For those people looking for a smoking gun regarding a link between vaccines and autism, this is it. The CDC’s own censored scientists and studies prove the link exists. Thanks to CDC whistleblower and vaccine-autism researcher for the agency, Dr. William W. Thompson, the connection between the MMR vaccine and autism has been proven. What’s also been proven is the link between CDC executives and the multi-national pharmaceutical corporations they appear to be secretly working for.

MMR vaccine and autism evidence

Whiteout Press broke the story of the MMR-autism link back in July 2013. It was our second most popular article of all time and titled, ‘Courts quietly confirm MMR Vaccine causes Autism’. Briefly, the article exposed two previously unknown facts regarding the MMR vaccine and autism. First, courts around the world have been ruling in favor of, and awarding monetary damages to, the parents of autistic children who sued vaccine manufacturers for causing their children’s autism.

The second revelation was that in the most controversial study of the link to date, a research report from Dr. Andrew Wakefield, there was a clear and definitive link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The study showed that autism struck children who received the three-drug MMR drug cocktail much more often than children who received the three vaccines separately and individually. While Wakefield’s overall study was discredited for other reasons, the evidence he discovered was irrefutable.

http://www.whiteoutpress.com/articles/2014/q3/mmr-vaccine-causes-autism-leaked-cdc-research-proves-it/

Nov 8, 2015 at 2:09 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Eli, what caused climate change before Mann created Climate Science?

Arrhenius created climate science

Nov 8, 2015 at 3:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Since Switzerland isn't a member of the UN (lucky Switzerland), is Nowotny able to pontificate from the sidelines, while advocating measures which won't affect her and her Swiss neighbours? Nowotny herself is Austrian and an established flag-bearer for the eurocracy. If she got into some Geneva-based UN climate directorate, she'd presumably be able to enjoy not one, but two tax-free lifestyles.

Nov 8, 2015 at 4:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

Precautionary principle is based on knowledge of ignorance...

we know for sure that we don't know for sure and that s why we must stop doing what we are doing.

all you need is being able to imagine that what you are doing can be somehow sometime harmful..

Nov 8, 2015 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterlemiere

Eli,
"climate change" is entirely man made.
Only not the way the Rabett thinks.

Nov 8, 2015 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Jeremy Poynton says

"On fire, tonight, Eli eh? All we need now is Ken Rice to join you "

Question.......Is Ken Rice related to the once active warmist enthusiast KR ?


I think we should be told!

Nov 8, 2015 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBryan


Question.......Is Ken Rice related to the once active warmist enthusiast KR ?

I've no idea why I'm being discussed here, but I don't know who KR is and - hence - I do not think that we are related. To avoid confusion, I know that there is someone who posts as KR, I don't however know their name and, consequently, it's - obviously - not me.

Oh, and since I'm here, this is rubbish


I'm not sure that she understands that "evidence" for climate change is the output of those uncertain climate models.

AM, how can you have been involved in this topic for as long as you have, and say something so obviously untrue? I may have suggested this before, but maybe you should spend a little more time talking to actual scientists and less time running a blog where comments like this

If there is literally nothing unusual happening in global climate and weather terms, how can 'climate change' be happening? Astonishing.

and this

It's the biggest mass delusion the world has seen. It's not going to end any time soon. Not impossible that it will still be around (with its patron saints) 2000 years from now.

go unchallenged.

Nov 8, 2015 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

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