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Discussion > Are climate scientists scientific?


I think some of his numbers are wrong.
You may well be right.
But of you had your way as far as this site is concerned Voisin would not even be allowed to publish this hypothesis so we'd never know.
And if you're wrong and he's right then you'd have us going up a blind alley because, like too many people (and I will happily admit on both sides of this argument) your ideas are set in concrete. The initial reaction of all the Climateers is not, as it ought to be for a good scientist, to say "I think he's wrong but I'll have a look to find out" but to say "quick, lads, what we can do to shut this guy up."
With the unspoken implication, "... before he threatens our income stream or our faith in our own infallibility." whichever is considered more important.

Apr 5, 2015 at 10:08 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Most people accept the GHG hypothesis and that CO2 emissions can influence climate. The big question is to what degree. Views range from negligible to catastrophic. Today it appears that opinion is becoming less alarmist.

When I created this discussion my intention was to question whether climate scientists created much of the alarmism through sloppy science. I refer to claiming “unprecedented” when observations actually lay within known limits of natural variability; ignoring many observations that contradicted their claims and their models, failing to reject their models after years of them being invalidated.

I could add to all of this the many poor practices exposed in the Climategate emails. I was speculating about whether the scientific method expects better. Would a scientist of normal integrity, ability and scientific skill have studied the same observations and arrived at a prediction of catastrophic warming?

Given the worldwide impact and cost of CAGW I thought it was worth examining how we got here and that involves questioning the quality of the science that underpins the whole issue.

Apr 5, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

I've never quite managed to put my finger on where the blame lies for the scaremongering (and a lot of it is scaremongering).
I've traced a lot of the pseudo-science back to the early 70s with Erhlich, Strong and the Club of Rome (among others) starting a movement to bring economic development to a screeching halt. Their activities at the time are fairly well documented.
Climate became the fashionable cause fairly soon with global cooling the favourite meme at the time, seguing neatly into global warming once the cooling idea made no sense.
Interesting that there was no apparent concern about the influence of CO2 until later even though the increase was fairly well documented. Probably because there was no correlation between increased CO2 and increasing temperatures for much of the 20th century.
CO2 is the ideal stick for the neo-malthusian luddites to beat us with because by claiming that increased CO2, caused by burning fossil fuels, is the main contributor to catastrophic global warming (and it has to be catastrophic else there is no cause for alarm) they have the ideal excuse to call for the banning of fossil fuels which is the quickest way to de-industrialise modern civilisation which is their aim.
To what extent scientists have enthusiastically embraced this idea or are simply passively allowing its exponents a free ride is open to debate — as is the science itself, as is becoming more evident with each new paper that is published.
I would suggest that a read of the IPCC papers (if you have the time and can stay awake long enough), another scan through the Climategate emails, a comparison of the IPCC reports with the Summary for Policymakers and the extent to which the environmental hypocrites are up to their necks in everything to do with climate will take you a long way towards an answer.
My own position is that having spent several years before I absconded (!) to France fighting the local green luddites where I lived I no longer believe a single word, spoken or written, that emanates from environmental activists and I have rarely had cause to change my mind.

Apr 5, 2015 at 1:26 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

All good points written with feeling.

It is very true that CAGW has been exploited by just about every group imaginable and they all have a vested interest in keeping it going - including the scientists.

I don't think this situation will last forever, especially if the earth enters a cooling phase. I'm quite impressed by a recent Russian paper that builds on the solar activity idea. A colder earth would be much more harmful than a warming one, but it would be entertaining to see how cooling can be blamed on anthropogenic CO2.

Apr 5, 2015 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat


But of you had your way as far as this site is concerned Voisin would not even be allowed to publish this hypothesis so we'd never know.

Again, you're misrepresenting my point. I'm not trying to suggest that such hypotheses should not be allowed to be published. I'm making the very simple point that there are certain things about which we are virtually certain. People are welcome to present argument as to why these ideas might be wrong, but doing so is unlikely to be taken seriously. As I've said before, you can say whatever you like, you just can't insist that people take you seriously.

your ideas are set in concrete.

My ideas are not set in stone, in general. However, there is one thing about this particular topic that I regard as virtually certain and that - as I understand it - virtually everyone who understands this topic regards as virtually certain: the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s is anthropogenic. You can argue against that if you wish, but you will almost certainly not be taken seriously by anyone who actually understands this topic if you choose to do so.

Apr 5, 2015 at 3:02 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

aTTP - please can you answer this?:
aTTP: "the ocean PH is going down"

On which dataset are you basing this assertion?

Apr 5, 2015 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

If you want to make, make a point. It's easy enough to do a Google search for Ocean PH data if you wish.

Apr 5, 2015 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I wanted to ask a question, so I did: One to which you apparently do not have an answer. It would have been easy enough to supply a reference if you had one.

Apr 5, 2015 at 3:45 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

You've already been misunderstood on this subject so I'll try not to do that again.
Take it logically.
The first question needs to be "has there actually been an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration in the last 150 years? Research published here and here suggests that the current levels may not be all that extraordinary.
Please note: I am not saying that these two sources are right; I am saying that they quote scientific observations made during the past 150 years which question the received wisdom. I think you (or someone) needs to explain why these papers must not be taken seriously.
But setting that aside, I am quite happy to go along with the general belief that CO2 concentration has risen by ~120ppm in the last 150 years and that this has probably been largely anthropogenic. Not totally anthropogenic since higher temperatures, at least in part due to the planet's recovery from the LIA, will have caused some outgassing from the oceans. Ice cores also suggest a time lag <800 years between temperature increase and CO2 increase.
So at the moment I don't know to what extent any CO2 increase is (a) real, (b) a figure plucked out of the air to suit an agenda, (c) anthropogenic, (d) consequent upon a rise in temperature.
I am therefore not sure on what basis

virtually everyone who understands this topic regards as virtually certain: the rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s is anthropogenic
and why a blog that doesn't immediately come down on anyone who cares to question that assertion is not to be taken seriously.

Apr 5, 2015 at 4:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

ATTP, you either make an assertion and can back it up. Or you cannot.

Any old fellow make a series of assertions, claim they are all widely accepted. If you are unable to back up your assertions about ocean pH, you either retract it - no harm, no foul - or accept you were wrong.

Odd for a fellow to claim things are 'widely accepted' buy yet cannot produce a reference beyond 'Google', isn't it? What are you, Jenny McCarthy?

I laughed out when nby and sandy went straight for your ocean pH over-reach.

Apr 5, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Registered Commentershub

This discussion is starting to go in circles. All I'm trying to do is tell you something. In all scientific fields there are certain things that are typically regarded as virtually certain, or not really worth debating any more. People sometimes send me articles claiming that they've shown that Einstein is wrong. I ignore them. People send me articles about the Higgs boson. I ignore them. In climate science, if there is one thing that is regarded as virtually certain it's that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic. You're welcome to contest that point but (based on my understanding of the topic and based on the behaviour of scientists in general) you will not be taken seriously if you do so. You, however, don't have to believe me and I'm going to stop pointing this out now.

There are numerous datasets. Read Chapter 3 of the IPCC WGI report if you want to know more. I've also spoken with some people who actually work in this area.

Apr 5, 2015 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Then: "There are numerous datasets. Read Chapter 3 of the IPCC WGI report if you want to know more. I've also spoken with some people who actually work in this area."

I ran this through google translate (it was easy enough) and it came up with:

"I heard something along the way which I accepted without checking it out and because I've now been shown to have been talking out of my hat I'm trying to divert attention by sending you off to do the checking I should have done"

Handy old tool google - it even gave me language references in support: "bullsh1t" and "truth".

Apr 5, 2015 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

shub - I laughed outloud at the irony of aTTP's lack of reference on a discussion thread regarding scientific practice where his first post here was trying to take the high ground on accuracy of representation.

I cried inside that (if what I've gleaned from other comments is correct) he is a paid professional academic scientist, entrusted with teaching duties.

As somebody once said:

"If you really want to make claims about other people being unscientific, you should at least try to ensure that your claims about what has been said/done in the past are actually true."

Apr 5, 2015 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

" I cried inside that (if what I've gleaned from other comments is correct) he is
a paid professional academic scientist, entrusted with teaching duties."

That isn't true is it?? I would cry too..

Apr 5, 2015 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Rob - see para 5 here:

"Ken Rice, of AndThenTheresPhysics...."

See second para here:

"My research in a nutshell

I teach at all levels within the School of Physics and Astronomy. I typically teach part of one of the pre-honours Astronomy courses. Currently, I'm co-teaching the new Astrobiology course but have also taugh part of Discovering Astronomy, Astronomy 1S and Astronomy 1G. I have also taught part of the Senior Honours Computational Astrophysics course, am helping with Research Methods in Junior Honours and also teach a few lectures as part of the SUPA graduate school courses."

Apr 5, 2015 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

ATTP says: "Additionally, the ocean PH is going down, which means that the amount of CO2 in the oceans is going up."

This is rubbish. ATTP obviously knows nothing about chemistry.

Apr 5, 2015 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

If you really want to make claims about other people being unscientific, you should at least try to ensure that your claims about what has been said/done in the past are actually true.

That ocean pH is reducing is at least scientifically true (or, at least, all the evidence points towards it reducing). Read the IPCC WGI Chapter 3 if you wish to find some discussion of this. If you want a paper try Feely (2009). If you want more papers, try looking for ones that cite Feely (2009) - you do know how to do that, I assume. The one specific conversation I had with someone who is regarded as an expert on this topic included the phrase this is pretty much an open and shut case.

You're also making the case for not discussing something like whether or not the recent rise in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic or not. Not only is it a waste of time (it is anthropogenic), but it gets rather tedious when people like yourselves start resorting to Ad Homs, rather than actual arguments, while accusing me of not providing evidence.

Apr 5, 2015 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

aTTP - still no actual dataset reference I see, as you continue to pursue your "go and look over there" response.

There is nothing "ad hom" about crying at such a lack of scientific honesty and rigour in one paid to teach.

Good bye.

Apr 5, 2015 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I'll give you a clue. Sea water is a natural pH buffer.

Apr 5, 2015 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

It grates with me, too. As I tax-payer, I am involuntarily paying this chump.

All I'm trying to do is tell you something.
Such arrogance! I, like many, am here in an attempt to learn, and to share what little knowledge I have and my conclusions reached. The guy must be insufferable with his colleagues – unless they are all like him, then it must be truly dreadful seat of “learning”!

Apr 5, 2015 at 5:37 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

ATTP, you're not good at this. You can drop the ocean pH stuff and still make your case. I would advise you do so.

You lost on the pH bit. Big deal. Give it a rest.

Apr 5, 2015 at 6:17 PM | Registered Commentershub

ATTP got hot under the collar on Twitter with this:

@shubclimate Some advice for you. The next time you feel that you should give me some advice, don't.

Set aside the fact that Feely 2009 provides no data but is the report of model outputs.

Feely 2009 reports on a NCAR model that 'assumes historical fossil fuel emissions' and shows that ocean pH falls. ATTP says "the ocean PH is going down, which means that the amount of CO2 in the oceans is going up".

This shows the problem of using models as evidence. The very thing he sets out to prove is assumed by the model.

Apr 5, 2015 at 8:02 PM | Registered Commentershub

It just goes to show that you shouldn't believe everything you read in a model output report.

Especially if it concerns climate change.

Apr 5, 2015 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

From Feely (2009)

Ocean acidification is a predictable consequence of rising atmospheric CO2 and does not suffer from uncertainties associated with climate change forecasts. Absorption of anthropogenic CO2, reduced pH, and lower calcium carbonate (CaCO3) saturation in surface waters, where the bulk of oceanic production occurs, are well verified from models, hydrographic surveys, and time series data (Caldeira & Wickett 2003, 2005; Feely et al. 2004, 2008; Orr et al. 2005; Solomon et al. 2007). At the Hawaii Ocean Time-Series (HOT) station ALOHA the growth rates of surface water pCO2 and atmospheric CO2 agree well (Takahashi et al. 2006) (Figure 1), indicating uptake of anthropogenic CO2 as the major cause for long-term increases in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and decreases in CaCO3 saturation state. Correspondingly, since the 1980s average pH measurements at HOT, the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study, and European Station for Time- Series in the Ocean in the eastern Atlantic have decreased approximately 0.02 units per decade (Solomon et al. 2007).

Try reading papers before you state something as a fact. Jeepers, this isn't even a complicated concept. Note, also, the fairly definite use of the term "anthropogenic CO2".

And Shub, seriously, don't try and give me advice again. If you do, I'll quite happily tell you why you're close to being the last person from whom I would consider accepting it.

Anyway, I'm done here for now. I'd like to say that I haven't wasted my time, but I'd be lying if I did. I'd also like to say something nice and complimentary about this whole exchange, but - again - I'd be lying if I did.

Apr 5, 2015 at 8:28 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

I take it you have read all the papers cited?

Apr 5, 2015 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat