Falling Forward Without Falling Down

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Hi everybody,

I’d like to thank the proprietors of CliScep for inviting me to offer a guest post here. This blog is a lot of fun and I enjoy visiting.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Tom Fuller and I run two climate blogs–The Lukewarmer’s Way and 3000 Quads. I recently had a book titled The Lukewarmer’s Way published by Stairway Press and I’ve been following the climate conversation for about a decade. I got involved because I was working as an energy analyst and thought I had something to contribute to the debate about climate change, specifically about how we would have to reconfigure our fuel portfolio to deal with it.

In February of 2016, what is left to say about climate change? There’s climate ‘news’ almost every day, which gets reported of course. But in terms of analysis, opinion, policy prescriptions and the like, it sometimes seems as almost everything has been said and I often find myself writing a post that’s quite similar to something I wrote a few years ago. I hope my regular readers don’t notice…

Maybe that’s just me–but other climate commentators must feel the same way, as they have retired from the climate blogosphere. People like Keith Kloor, Bart Verheggen, Roger Pielke Senior and Roger Pielke Jr. have either quit or drastically cut back their public commentary. On the other hand, a variety of new voices have appeared, including the authors of this blog, Jose Duarte and many more. So perhaps it’s more battle fatigue that is thinning the ranks and fresh recruits do seem to have a lot to say.

I may have written something similar to what follows, either as a post or a comment on someone else’s blog. But because I’m in front of a new audience and because I think it bears repeating, I’ll set this forth again.

The title of this post is taken from a memoir published just recently by Andrew Revkin, an excellent journalist who has written for decades about climate change for publications ranging from Discovery to The New York Times. It’s well worth taking the time to read and you can find it here.

Revkin describes his journey of discovery about climate change. For decades he was a champion of the views held by some of the most ardent activists, such as James Hansen or Kevin Trenberth. Of interest to those of us on the opposite side of the fence is the fact that they were furious when he wrote some articles suggesting they were going overboard with some of their pronouncements. They considered him a traitor, after previously considering him a lapdog. In fact he was neither.

Revkin writes,

“One thing that this approach requires is a willingness to accept, even embrace, failure and compromise.

A helpful metaphor came to me in a conversation about a decade ago with Joel E. Cohen, a demographer and development expert affiliated with Columbia and Rockefeller University. He said that after the sprint of the last couple of centuries, humans would do well to seek a transition to a more comfortable long-distance pace more suited to adulthood than adolescence.

Walking, he reminded me, is basically “a controlled forward fall.” It is a means of locomotion by which one moves steadily ahead, adjusting to bumps or hurdles, even trips and collisions, shifting course as needed but always making progress toward the desired destination.

Essentially, societies need to find a way to fall forward without falling down.”

That’s the theme I’d like to discuss. I’ve made the point to activists a number of times, telling them on their weblogs and via emails that they eventually would have to make peace with those they were vilifying at the time, if any sane policy were ever to be enacted.

It is increasingly obvious that the state of the science is nowhere near advanced enough to justify the alarmist position. The data still comes with error bars too large, the models were not meant to predict climate over the medium term.

But the same science is also too uncertain to justify the skeptic position. The globe has warmed, we are a plausible actor in that warming, one of our actions is industrial level emissions of CO2. Theory indicates that part of the warming is due to us. Skeptics are right to question how much, what are plausible impacts, what we can do realistically to deal with it, but they need to recognize that the answers will be fuzzy–and that the fuzziness of the answers doesn’t mean we can just ignore the issue. (Not that skeptics have been ignoring climate change 🙂

It’s time to make the same point to those on the skeptic side of the fence. Regardless of your opinion about the extent and impact of human-caused climate change, you eventually will be required to reach a compromise with those you are attacking (I have attacked them too, frequently and stridently). This is true whether you are wrong or right–in fact it’s more important if you are correct than if you are not.

At some point in the fairly near future we will have to come together and make decisions about fairly basic but hugely important issues for the world. We will have to reconfigure our energy portfolio over the next 50 years, whether climate change is a figment of the imagination or a pressing and urgent need. We have been given the shale reprieve, but it won’t last forever–it may not even last very long. Oil won’t disappear, but it will get more expensive. The developing world will require huge amounts of energy and (as they are starting to realize) it really should not come primarily from coal. Will it be nuclear power? Will it be something else? (I advocate a staged strategy of natural gas leading to a dominant role for nuclear, supplemented by hydroelectricity, solar and a little wind.) If we don’t come to some sort of agreement, the default is coal–and coal kills. Not so much in the developed world, but coal kills in those countries still developing. It’s advantages are primarily cost and the really unfortunate fact that bad as it is, it is better than dried dung burnt in a primitive oven.

So too with negative externalities. All energy sources bring with them costs as well as benefits, from nuclear waste to fly-ash to mini-quakes, from oil spills to baked birds to eerie wind turbine landscapes with ghostly whines that could wake the dead. As the world gets richer, the calls to put a price and collect the fees for these negative externalities will only grow. Taxing at source is one solution–for CO2, I favor a carbon tax rather than cap and trade. Many have other proposals. Dams need to indemnify downstream communities just as nuclear power plants need to indemnify those living nearby–both will probably need government support to do a good job of it. Wind power needs to be completely rethought and future wind turbines need to be located using respect for those living nearby, much the way hydro and nuclear need to do.

Both the climate activists and the skeptics are the people who have shown they care about these issues. The activists get published in more prestigious journals, but Ted Cruz used skeptic Steve Goddard’s charts in his presentation on the floor of the Senate, Steve McIntyre gets quoted and referred to by mainstream writers and even my humble lukewarmer self was quoted on the floor of the British Parliament. Taken together, the activist and skeptic community may comprise a majority of those on the planet with an interest in these issues.

In ‘The Art of War,’ Sun Tzu wrote “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” Both sides need to understand that even in the most heated debate about climate change we need to leave a path whereby our enemy becomes, if not our friend, our co-worker towards a good end. Sun Tzu also wrote “There is no instance of a country benefiting from prolonged warfare.” How long has the climate debate been raging?

I’m not asking for some pie in the sky Kumbaya moment where we embrace each other and have a beer together. Too much ink has been spilled for that. I am calling for more restraint from both sides. As I said, I have written this before to the activists–it’s right that I say the same to skeptics.

The science is still too uncertain for either side to claim victory. Each side risks falling due to a lack of self examination. That doesn’t mean the debate should stop or that either side should cede victory to the other. But looking at the debate as it stands today, it is clear that we are failing–and falling. If we must fall forward, we should take control of our own arguments and the language we use so that falling forward translates to walking, not falling down.

 

70 thoughts on “Falling Forward Without Falling Down

  1. It’s interesting how people have often misunderstood this Sun Tzu quote. When Sun Tzu says:

    When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard

    This quote wasn’t about actually letting an opponent escape. The quote was actually an caution about making people desperate because a desperate person often fights more fiercely. The idea was to at least give the illusion of escape to one’s opponents, even if you planned to crush them when they tried to take it.

    This isn’t just an academic issue either. While global warming activists would likely need to accumulate more “friends” to be successful, people on the other side don’t necessarily need the same. Skeptics could accomplish their goals just by stalling any serious action and letting the global warming movement die out (if and) when global warming doesn’t start causing serious problems.

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  2. Tom, thanks for your view of the state of the debate.

    The article by Revkin is long and rambling but contains some interesting remarks.
    For example in the section on “Climate apostasy”, here are a few cherrypicks:

    “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation or strengthen the faltering 1992 climate change treaty.”
    “hyperbole not only didn’t fit the science at the time but could even be counterproductive if the hope was to engage a distracted public.”
    “The deeper we dug, the more we ran into enormous disconnects between the data and the claims. ”

    Having written about Lomborg, he found that
    “The reaction from longtime contacts in environmental science was like a digital sledgehammer. An e-mail string excoriating the story was forwarded to me in hopes I would understand how far I had strayed. “

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  3. Thanks for the spirit of the article. I’ll let anti-AGW folks address the part that is addressed to them. (The evidence looks like it supports the mainstream view better to me.)

    So this reply will perhaps seem like “perpetuating the fight”, but we are dealing with critical questions of verifiable / objective reality and it will always be difficult to “work together” when there are fundamental differences about matters of fact. For me, it’s still striking to hear language like this, especially in 2016, during what would superficially seem like “vindication” for climate science, with aggressive record temps bringing observations back up over mean of projections etc. (The latter not really surprising naturally, as the ocean has been warming significantly throughout, but anti-AGW partisans seem to have based their case on heat accumulation in the ocean not mattering or not being real.)

    “The data still comes with error bars too large”

    Too large for what? For answering every arbitrary question we might have? To assess the basic question of AGW (i.e. significant anthropogenic greenhouse-driven climate change on a scale similar to the shift into/out of last global glaciation) there is pretty ample data. Ocean warming, surface warming, ice melt, sea level, shifts in outgoing/downwelling spectra, vertical temperature profiles etc. – as a whole it’s a picture that strongly validates physical theory, even considering observational error.

    “the models were not meant to predict climate over the medium term”

    Fair enough perhaps, they are not (and were not built to be) crystal balls. They are meant to explore, advance and validate physical theory. They do that quite well, “models have skillfully simulated many large-scale aspects of observed climate changes, including but not limited to the evolution of the global mean surface air temperature in the 20th century” (Raisanen 2007), “coupled models have been steadily improving over time and that the best models are converging toward a level of accuracy that is similar to observation-based analyses of the atmosphere” (Reichler and Kim 2008), “global temperature continues to increase in good agreement with the best estimates of the IPCC” (Rahmstorf et al 2012), “claim that climate models systematically overestimate the response to radiative forcing from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations therefore seems to be unfounded” (Marotzke and Forster 2015) etc.

    The models are models, and will naturally improve, but at CMIP5 level they certainly appear to confirm the general physical picture around earth’s energy budget. More energy entering the system than leaving means warming, just as Arrhenius figured out 120 years ago. The first law of thermodynamics turns out to be tough to circumvent, even with the chaotic factor of that heat swirling around via fluid dynamics.

    The models do not attempt to predict short/medium-term factors like oceanic cycles, volcanic and solar trends. If you run models with a range of plausible values for these factors you get a range of likely outcomes, dominated in the long run by the anthropogenic factors.

    Observations are running right through the middle of that range currently.

    Anything to disagree with so far? Including that last sentence?

    So as yet, no evidence that the long-term multi-decade trend is being mis-projected really at all (per last IPCC, “observed and CMIP5 ensemble-mean trends agree to within 0.02°C per decade (Box 9.2 Figure 1c; CMIP5 ensemble-mean trend 0.13°C per decade)”. (And that was *before* the latest surge in surface heat.)

    It is on this core point – ‘models are useless’ as routinely claimed, implied, assumed, nodded at and endlessly retweeted – where the “echo chamber” of mainstream science meets the “echo chamber” of scientific dissenters and supporting internet partisans, and they just are mutually exclusive on what should be points of verifiable fact.

    “Theory indicates that part of the warming is due to us”

    Nitpick: theory *clearly* indicates that the *bulk* of warming is due to us. We can calculate/estimate watts per square meter forcings for the known factors that could plausibly warm an entire planet (limited to things which can modify incoming or outgoing energy). Anthropogenic clearly dominates, by an order of magnitude.

    The only question is whether reality complies with theory. Per above, warming predicted and warming observed, with characteristic fingerprints in terms of vertical temperature profile and so on. It’s amazing what an extended intellectual war has ensued over arbitrary demands that every detail of the system be predictable in advance. It has always sounded a lot like “I won’t believe this pot of water over flame will boil until you can show me that you can predict exactly where each bubble in the water will appear!”

    “At some point in the fairly near future we will have to come together and make decisions about fairly basic but hugely important issues for the world”

    I’m afraid we’ve been “at” that point for a couple of decades now, at least. In general, it is easier to block or delay policy than to enact it, and so for the most part the anti-AGW partisan view has mostly dominated, certainly in the U.S. We have struggled to pursue policies aligned with the dominant conclusions in science, as articulated by literally every national academy of science and physical science organization in the world.

    I have frequently made the same argument – it’s a shame conservatives are not more active in problem-solving on this topic, because there *is* large risk of economic rent seeking and other negative side effects to trying to fix any negative externality problem on this scale. I genuinely find it a significant tragedy that the conservative political movement got more or less hijacked by the more aggressive anti-science narratives (conspiracy theories *still* dominate, just look at the continuing comments *and Congressional inquiry!* on the simple little Karl NOAA adjustment!) and have put the bulk of their effort into rejecting or discrediting science (both in specific evidence and as an institution). A pretty big fork in the ideological road, with the wrong path taken, and we are now a very long way down the wrong path. I suspect the polarization among the sorts of people following this blog is not likely to unwind on any meaningful timeframe, and that whatever progress is achieved will happen strictly in spite rather than with the participation of anti-AGW partisans (as has been the case so far.) Again, thanks for the sentiment, and obviously happy to be proven wrong, but I’ve followed the topic and the attendant political phenomena for quite a long time.

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  4. A very thoughtful post, Tom, for which many thanks. I hope to return to it when I have more time for reflection. Right now things are a bit too hectic.

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  5. Geoff Price, is your career perhaps in stand-up comedy?
    “Observations are running right through the middle of that range currently.”
    IPCC AR5 produced a graph showing observations falling off the bottom of the range of predictions, then changed the graph to make it look as though the observations were just inside.

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  6. Hi all, thanks for the comments.

    Mr. Price, you ask, “Too large for what? For answering every arbitrary question we might have?”

    Only if you consider the following questions arbitrary:

    1. What is the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2? I put it to you that a margin of 1.5C-4.5C is too wide a range for policy planning. Both Monckton and Mann can claim they’re within IPCC margins.

    2. What is the best prediction of sea level rise for this century? I put it to you that the IPCC range of 26-94 centimeters is too wide a range for policy planning. And there’s a lot of planning that must take place in these next few decades.

    3. When will ice melt from Greenland and the Antarctic ice caps become a significant factor in sea level rise? The interiors of the great ice caps are gaining more ice than is being lost at the margins. When will that change and to what extent?

    4. When will a formal attribution of the causes of climate change be proposed? What percentage of climate change is caused by deforestation, black soot, agriculture, aerosols, emissions of greenhouse gases? I have seen dozens, but they all seem like finger in the wind, back of the envelope calculations.

    5. When will climate models undergo formal validation inspections?

    As a lukewarmer I am able to be convinced. As someone who has followed these issues for close to a decade, I remain unconvinced.

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  7. Thomas, thanks for the reply.

    My question regarded your comment that “data still comes with error bars too large”, but here you are not citing issues with data (measurements), rather you are highlighting (real) uncertainty in theory / physical understanding and predictions about the future. It is more fair territory to say that planning with such uncertainty is unsatisfying, but of course it is not “too wide a range for policy planning”. You don’t have a choice about whether you plan for the future or not, inaction *is* policy planning.

    Such arguments for inaction seem to rest on unexamined (usually conservative) political philosophical positions: if you are not certain what you are dealing with, it is always better to do nothing. For some topics that might be wisdom, but it happens to appear dangerously/tragically unwise when dealing with a challenge on this scale (potential but literal long-term threats to the stability of civilization as we know it, powered by processes with enormous multi-decade physical inertia.)

    In running multi-billion dollar businesses, we *routinely* plan for the future with similar or greater levels of uncertainty. I assure you, if you sat in a conference room in such a business and argued that we cannot project world economics accurately enough and so should devise no multi-year business plan whatsoever, your position would not be taken very seriously. Military leaders make similar comments – they do not accept your assertion that we have the luxury not to plan. That luxury is an illusion, and seems to serve as a way to deflect from the fact that policy recommendations (inaction) are being made without applying rational cost/benefit assessment that takes the range of likely outcomes into consideration.

    (3) “The interiors of the great ice caps are gaining more ice than is being lost at the margins”

    Questioning science is always fair game, but here you are making statements directly contrary to prevailing evidence with perplexing certainty. What is your justification? This sounds much more like motivated reasoning than skepticism.

    I don’t believe *any* cryo expert or study actually argues that Greenland is net gaining ice, do they? Do you have a reference? Perhaps there is a Zwally-type outlier study that I’ve missed, but how is it that you embrace such outliers with certainty when the trend in satellite gravimetry etc. type estimates has more consistently shown net (and typically accelerating) ice loss at both poles (Chen et al 2009, King et al 2012, Shepherd et al 2012, IPCC summary etc.)?

    2015 summary on Greenland:
    http://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-the-state-of-the-greenland-ice-sheet-in-2015

    On Antarctica you are presumably resting on Zwally. If you are putting all of your faith in this study, why not put faith in his answer to your question: “If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years — I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.”

    http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/nasa-study-mass-gains-of-antarctic-ice-sheet-greater-than-losses

    But again a lot of these objections seem to be obsessing over bubble locations and ignoring the fact that the pot is on heat. Are you really questioning the base expectation that a warming planet results in ice loss and sea level gain? Aside from the common sense perspective, and the obvious and astounding observed acceleration of ice sheet melt at the edges, there is an awful lot of paleoclimate evidence supporting the idea that ice changes with temperature, starting with the last glaciation. The long-term response appears to be in the range of 20m per 3ºC warming (e.g. Pliocene). Perhaps you are simply arguing for uncertainty in rate of sea level rise, which is just a restatement of (2).

    (4) “When will a formal attribution of the causes of climate change be proposed?”

    Chapter 10 of the last IPCC report? “It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in GMST from 1951 to 2010”.

    Given physics-based models have skill simulating “the evolution of global mean surface air temperature in the 20th century”, it seems reasonable to accept the resulting attribution figures as best available assessment:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-whats-warming-the-world/

    Otherwise see above – I claim that invoking arbitrary demands for precision/certainty as an alternative to rational cost/benefit assessments is fallacy.

    (5) “When will climate models undergo formal validation inspections?”

    This could be an opportunity to educate me. In general models are validated through published studies. It sounds like you are asking for some auditing process outside such (normal?) mechanisms, perhaps organized specifically for critics of the science who lack the time/resources/interest/disposition to collaborate more directly? I think there are likely reasonable requests around transparency/access here, but they are requests and should be paired with a willingness to fund such efforts as it does not seem generally reasonable to demand that researchers stop the work they are paid to do to devote attention to critics operating outside the normal framework (if that is indeed the context.)

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  8. Paul,

    I am talking about observations up to and through last month i.e. reflecting El Nino. 2015 was rather hot, and Feb was basically through the roof. You cannot hang your hat on the idea that the recent cool surface period (PDO-, La Nina) indicates fundamental problems with physical understanding and then ignore the corresponding warm phases of the same processes.

    (Even) Tisdale at WUWT put up a chart showing that temps are currently warmer than multi-model mean (black “models minus data” on right end of chart is below 0°C):

    Here is a recent chart from NASA’s Schmidt showing performance against CMIP5 with updated forcings (the dashed line), with observations (likely not including February) right on the mean:

    (Since the context is whether models are physically accurate, apple-to-apple forcing comparisons are the reasonable comparisons to make, i.e. updated forcings should be used. The fact that forcings themselves ran cooler than mean projections is still a fair argument to use in the uncertainty-for-planning type argument invoked by Thomas, but cannot be used to claim that the physics and physical interactions of the climate system itself are poorly understood.)

    Whether surface temps stay up closer to / above / below the multi-model mean in coming years likely depends on factors like whether PDO phase has actually switched positive or not. But the current El Nino has already revealed the folly of hopefully assuming that these types of oscillations will stay permanently stuck in negative/cool modes.

    Of course measurements of ocean heat accumulation (which while imprecise represent the bulk of the global warming process) have been running through the middle of projections throughout the ‘hiatus’ period, which is why ‘hiatus’ did not raise very scientifically serious arguments about core energy budget physics being off in the first place:

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  9. Geoff Price, the latest paper on this, by numerous authors, including Fyfe, Mann, Santer, Hawkins etc is here.
    It shows in Fig 1, and says in the text, that “The observed rate of global surface warming since the turn of this century has been considerably less than the average simulated rate”.
    So your claim about “Observations are running right through the middle of that range currently” is completely wrong.

    Thanks for posting the Tisdale graph. I suggest you read what it says:
    “The model-data difference is at record high levels”.

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  10. Paul, you are missing the difference between my emphasis on “currently” and the Fyfe paper’s emphasis on “has been … since the turn of this century” which I believe only looks at data through 2014.

    *Today*, Feb’s observations appear to be crossing *above* the multi-model mean. Meaning, on the surface of things, no reason to believe that models are biased hot in the long-run (or rather, no particular evidence to support such a conclusion.)

    Do you join these authors in their assertions that the surface slowdown does not “in any way undermine global-warming theory”? Or do you only embrace the text you’ve selected? What do you think this snippet of text “really” means relative to scientific understanding in the long run, and why?

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  11. Tisdale is talking about the red line in his chart – he’s taking a 61-month average, perhaps explicitly because it allows him to ignore the recent warming. So from his chart, what he means by “The model-data difference is at record high levels” is clearly something more like “as of 2013 or something the model-data difference was at record high levels”. The chart itself clearly shows that the gap has converged (on the right end).

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  12. Today? Feb? Now you’re just being silly. Like the climate sceptics who say what happened to global warming when we get one cold month! Carry on making a fool of yourself if you wish!

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  13. It gets tiresome after a while but these people who are so anxious for “something” to be done really need psychiatric help. And then the clown goes on to say:

    “In running multi-billion dollar businesses, we *routinely* plan for the future with similar or greater levels of uncertainty. I assure you, if you sat in a conference room in such a business and argued that we cannot project world economics accurately enough and so should devise no multi-year business plan whatsoever, your position would not be taken very seriously. “

    You mean a 5 year plan? Very few businesses I have ever encountered bothered more than trying to guess 5 years into the future. The trouble is that GCMs are useless for this purpose. They come up with predictions that sea-level will rise or ice will melt but that leaves the decision-makers with no usable information. How will conditions change in Spain, Congo, New Zealand? Where is sea-level rising in such a way that it is threatening to life? For a while, the headline candidates were the Maldives and Bangladesh – no doubt the Presidents wanted to build up their Swiss bank account with some more international aid – but evidence suggests that the land is rising faster than the sea. Nevermind, friendly Geoff would like us to hose money there to shore up sea defences that are unnecessary.

    The abuse of the highly imperfect data that emerges from climate “science” is what concerns me.

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  14. I once worked for Hewlett-Packard (as a statistician) and I recall one year the high heid yin declared that 5-year plans were such a nonsense that they would cease forthwith. As I also recall, no one disagreed.

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  15. I am left to assume that neither of you has a substantive reply that supports the “models are fundamental failures” type claims.

    Monthly or yearly temperature results are not independent/random due ultimately to conservation of energy. So the fact that observations are warmer than mean projections today is perfectly significant in the context of whether models are biased warm in the long run. If they are, you would expect their divergence from multi-model mean to grow over time, and not just exist during unusually cool periods of internal variability.

    The multi-decade *trends* are *already* measured to be well aligned between models and observations, even before current warming surge. You (apparently) are the one claiming that models are fundamentally biased (long-term) warm, and so the burden of proof is on you to explain what evidence you think supports this.

    But you are declining to state what you believe explicitly or how you support is, so it is fine to drop this (with caveat in paragraph 1).

    Barrel’s comment seems primarily a vehicle for the inevitable insults, to the degree it isn’t off topic. I think it is a fair counterpoint on mitigation that regional uncertainties make practical local planning difficult. GCMs may or may not help with such problems depending on topic. But by and large the world does not appear to agree with your convictions around inaction, i.e. cities at risk of inundation are indeed actively participating in scientific work around understanding local impacts and trying to plan for this despite the I’m-sure-constructive ridicule you offer, and are frequently the most vocal voices calling for policies to address the underlying engine of warming (naturally, as they are on the front lines of impact.)

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  16. John, I suspect even HP actually tried to pursue a business strategy based on perceptions of what would be successful in the market in the future. The point is that even “not planning” is planning – the decision to, say, maintain current staffing level and product lines *is* a decision about how to plan for the future, even if management at the time insists (improbably) that they were doing no planning for the future. The market exacted results for the plans that were made, even if management did not believe they were “planning”.

    It remains that if you were to end up in my staff meeting arguing that we should not have a business plan based on best assessments of competitors/customer needs/tech trends etc. due to uncertainties, I would definitely disagree with (and likely overrule 🙂 you. Internal models for such things as customer retention are known to be imperfect and continually improving. We still use them. “We don’t have to plan because the future is intrinsically unknowable” is a seductive but dangerous fallacy/illusion.

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  17. Maybe Revkin is just ignoring all comments on this post, but mine seems to be in perpetual moderation:

    http://canmancannedcomments.blogspot.com/2016/02/my-shrill-fire-breathing-rant-to-andrew.html

    I’m sure Andy Revikin is a nice guy who believes he’s on the side of truth and goodness, but I find myself more in agreement with Willis Eschenbach’s comments in this post:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/02/22/andrew-revkin-loses-the-plot-episode-xxxviii/#comment-1574418

    … However, here’s how I see it.

    Michael Mann is a crook. He broke the law by both deleting emails subject to FOIA, and by advising others to do the same. He stands convicted by his own words.

    Caspar Amman worked double overtime to subvert the IPCC process, lying and cheating at a rate of knots along the way. It’s all well documented.

    Peter Gleick is a crook. He is guilty of wire fraud, fraud which cost Heartland big money in donations. He passed off forged documents attacking his perceived opponents. None of that is disputed.

    Phil Jones is a damn liar. He lied to my face when I made my FOIA request, the Climategate emails revealed it all.

    Lonnie Thompson and his wife are frauds. They defrauded the taxpayers by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to collect data, and then not revealing the data. Matter of public record.

    And Andrew Revkin has been these men’s constant enabler, has spread their lies far and wide, and ignored their criminal actions. He was too pious to print the Climategate emails because in his view they were obtained illegally … but he was happy to publish the Gleick forgeries and stolen documents. His callous, uncaring attitude is evident in the fact that to this day he calls his opponents “deniers”.

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  18. next time geoff, tell us how all those scientific societies came up with those statements on climate change. FOI requests could not not get that out of the Royal Society in the UK. We know the US physicists reacted strongly against. So what were the processes that led to these statemesnts emerging? As Dan Kahane has pointed out, consensus talk is like saying “believe this because it is in the Bible”…except you have no Bible…just a load of cultist wibble.

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  19. You could address data/evidence/theory topics vs. talk about consensus if you wished, especially given that’s mainly what’s been getting discussed in this thread. That you prefer to talk about consensus is your choice.

    The answer is the same as ever – for *policy*, the best course is to consult the consensus of scientific experts, as it is far more likely to be correct (of course, not guaranteed to be correct). This is literally what Lincoln set up NAS *for*.

    Consensus is not a substitute for scientific evidence, and contrary to the endless straw man arguments nobody claims it is. Your sort of abhorrence of using consensus for policy is not rationally grounded however. As arch-skeptic Bertrand Russell put it, “I am prepared to admit any well-established result of science, not as certainly true, but as sufficiently probable to afford a basis for rational action.”

    Conceptually if we were to bet over time – you betting against consensus, me betting for, on areas that happened to deliver an ‘answer’ at some point – I would obviously take a great deal of your money. But it’s a free nation and you can bet how you like.

    “We know the US physicists reacted strongly against”

    We know a few did, at least, like say Giaever?
    https://pressingwax.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/foreign-policy-journal-starts-the-year-with-nobel-laureate-ivar-giaver-on-climate-change/

    You have some evidence that physicists with significant expertise on climate, in some significant numbers, reacted strongly against? I ask genuinely.

    It is okay that you do not have a substantive response to anything here, my courteous friend. You do not have to.

    Like

  20. One of the troubling elements of the climate conversation as it stands today is the sub-catfight about consensus.

    There’s no question that a majority of scientists agree on a (narrow) view of climate change–that the planet has warmed and that our emissions (as well as other human activities) have contributed significantly. Phrased in that manner or something similar, the consensus should inform policy.

    However, activists have tried to conflate and exaggerate this consensus and tried to denigrate and downplay scientists who disagree with some or all of it.

    Two credible surveys by climate scientists of climate scientists found a majority of 66% of climate scientists who believe half or more of the current warming is caused by humans (one asked if humans caused it by emissions alone, the other including other anthropogenic factors).

    That’s a strong majority. Why then are activists (most non-scientists) trying to paint it as 97% or more? The junk science performed in support of this nakedly political goal does a disservice to the real majority.

    A minority that includes Giaevar, Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, John Christy and numerous other highly qualified scientists needs to be taken seriously. Activist attempts to slur them on the base of age, bias and even religious belief are unworthy of a serious debate. Those seeking an honest debate should acknowledge this and put the activist trash out on the kerb to be collected. I have seen no sign that they are willing to do this. Perhaps, Mr. Price, you are willing to show the way.

    Like

  21. Man in a Barrel, Mr. Price has said a number of things. Some I think are wrong. But some I think are okay. What can you find in his statements that you can agree with? Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Unless it’s digital.

    Like

  22. “A minority that includes Giaevar, Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, John Christy and numerous other highly qualified scientists needs to be taken seriously”

    Well, I linked my blog article above about Giaever’s views, at least as he expressed them himself. I certainly did not slur his views on the “base of age, bias and even religious belief” or slur him in general. However, I certainly didn’t find his claims compelling, nor see any sign that he was able to apply his scientific expertise to his assessment – the “half a day on Google” comment seems pretty revealing, considered against the quality of his statements.

    (for convenience:)
    https://pressingwax.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/foreign-policy-journal-starts-the-year-with-nobel-laureate-ivar-giaver-on-climate-change/

    Lindzen and Christy are qualified climate scientists and have been taken seriously, albeit representing an amazingly small (in science terms) dissenting position. They simply do not appear to have successfully advanced validated or reproducible theory that challenges the dominant view. If you think they have, please cite the theory/research, validation and reproduction of same.

    I do not enjoy the sub-catfight on consensus. It devolves into an argument about who is qualified to be consulted, with critics arguing broader inclusion even in the absence of climate expertise (because results then tend to diverge toward political/ideological predilections) while defenders argue for focus on published climate experts. It also devolves into arguments about how neutral papers should be counted, with critics arguing (very stubbornly but profoundly uncompellingly) that a paper which takes no particular position on larger AGW questions should be affirmatively counted as stating that AGW is uncertain.

    It seems simpler to note that every national academy and physical science organization in the world supports a common, mainstream view, and to refer to the generally consistent language of those support statements, often explicitly endorsing the IPCC summary.

    It sounds like your 66% figure is referencing Verheggen et al 2014 (as one source?), so per the norm you are arguing that “I don’t know” type answers should be implicitly counted as disagreement. Excluding such answers, and focusing on the top half of about ~900 respondents with the largest numbers of climate publications, the authors found 90% support for the strong statement that half or more of current warming is caused by humans.

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  23. The two studies I referenced are Verheggen et al 2012 and Bray von Storch et al 2008. You’re not quite correct in your characterization of Verheggen et al, which found that 66% of all climate scientists agreed with the proposition that human emissions had caused half or more of the current warming. The percentage rose (and was highlighted by the authors) when number of publications was controlled for, with scientists with a large number of publications being more likely to agree.

    Verheggen and I have corresponded frequently and quite a bit about this issue. Bart’s a very nice human being–would that all with his views were so nice. As I wrote on his blog, “As for the publications thingy, that’s just hand-waving. ‘Look over here, the numbers are higher!’

    You need to show why you think higher numbers of (self-declared) publications are an indicator of a higher level of expertise for it even to be relevant. And you don’t even try.

    Younger scientists may have been educated with more up-to-date information and even techniques. They may be far more expert that old fuddie duddies who sit in a room writing papers, thirty years after learning anything new. (I’m not saying that’s common, just an obvious possibility that should make you cautious about using this metric.)

    A brilliant scientist might write one paper as a single author who sheds significant light on a subject, while her colleague might get his name onto 15 different papers as a co-author without doing anything significant.

    Authors who don’t agree with the consensus may be keeping their head down. Worse, they may face a wall of dissent from the consensus when they seek to publish.” To which Bart responded “Your caveats re number of publications are mostly valid.” He just doesn’t have another proxy for expertise at hand.

    As for the ‘I don’t know’ answers, activist interpretations of his survey insist in excluding them. My response is simple. If I ask you if human emissions have caused half or more of current warming and you respond ‘I don’t know,’ you may be characterizing the state of scientific knowledge as you see it. You may be characterizing your own lack of familiarity with the subject. But in either case you cannot legitimately be counted as part of the scientific consensus.

    It’s quite simple. It’s also replicated exactly in Bray,von Storch et al 2008.

    Like

  24. I think the surveys do it correctly by discounting “no opinion” type responses/assessments just as you discount non-climate papers in the first place by not including them. I don’t think it’s remotely compelling to count them as “against”. But nothing seems to dissuade folks who insist on this and it’s not that interesting to argue about. Surveys are not a particularly scientific way to assess consensus in the first place IMO, and on such a polarized topic they seem to just be Rorschach tests that let observers read into them what they wish. This may be why critics seem (in my experience) so drawn to focusing on disputing the surveys vs. engaging on the more evidence-based assessments like IPCC, national academy statements (or published research itself for that matter.)

    Like

  25. Hi Mr. Price, I’m a market researcher by trade and I quite frequently do surveys for a living. It is my professional opinion that ‘no opinion’ from a climate scientist should count towards the total if you are intent on measuring consensus. I don’t want to belabor the point or suggest I should be taken as the deciding authority, but that’s my opinion after 22 years in the trade.

    More importantly, how would you gauge a consensus.

    Most importantly, why is it so important to climate activists to have a consensus to cling to? Especially when a lot of work used to point to consensus is so obviously flawed to the point of being ridiculous (Cook et al, Anderegg, Prall et al, Oreskes’ Ivory Tower, etc.) How many of the many august bodies that have signed on to the consensus view are capable of offering an informed opinion? How often do you have to hear about the consensus arrayed against Wegener, the stomach ulcer guy, etc.? About Einstein’s famous statement about the 100 German scientists?

    On what planet does claiming a consensus help your team?

    It seems to me that climate activists have inflated a side issue into something that frequently damages their side. But they (and you, in this case) keep coming back for more.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Yes, I certainly see that you are good at playing the “let’s talk about my views on surveys instead” game. I can accept that more substantive conversations are not forthcoming, for whatever reason. Take care.

    Like

  27. Pingback: My Guest Post on Cliscep | The Lukewarmer's Way

  28. Geoff Price
    “Lindzen and Christy are qualified climate scientists and have been taken seriously, albeit representing an amazingly small (in science terms) dissenting position. They simply do not appear to have successfully advanced validated or reproducible theory that challenges the dominant view.”

    What does it mean to describe a minority position as “small (in science terms)”? Not having a “validated or reproducible theory that challenges the dominant view” is no obstacle to being right. The Greeks knew the earth was not flat 2000 years before a theory of gravity showed how a spherical world might work.

    Tom Fuller
    “Why are activists (most non-scientists) trying to paint [the consensus] as 97% or more?”
    “On what planet does claiming a consensus help your team?”

    On planet Lewandowsky/Cook. Cook was persuaded by Lewandowsky that there was scientific evidence that people are more easily persuaded to accept something if they think that it’s been accepted by a consensus of experts. (Hence their long collaboration, which seems to have been disapproved of by the rest of the SkepticalScience team.)

    It’s the “90% of cats prefer Whiskas” gambit. Just as your cat is incapable of telling you which brand of catfood he prefers, so politicians and environmental journalists are incapable of telling you why global warming is catastrophic. They don’t need science as long as they have a consensus of scientists.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Thomas, climate model verification is carried out, but it’s inadequate. For example, above we have seen plots of an ensemble compared to data. This qualifies as verification of some sort, but it’s inadequate.

    I wouldn’t accept verification using an ensemble mean unless the models selected for this mean were individually verified using a set of pre established criteria. Given water vapour’s importance as a feedback mechanism, one of these yardsticks would have to be system temperature.

    I don’t really want to use this space to get into a fairly useless debate over this topic. I can simply say I don’t think the verification is good enough.

    As you know I’m more into the mess they made with the RCPs and the silly nature of the “solutions” being proposed. I did notice over at Judy’s somebody introduced energy security as an issue which relates to solutions to global warming. But that post missed by a mile in some areas.

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  30. Tom, what should be more explicitly discussed is the track record of both the failed predictions of doom and the pattern (as we see here in long winded format) of circular rationalizations that ignore the failed predictions the consensus has used to hijack the public square. You have pointed out in well presented factual format the long shabby record of the alarmists. Is it not time to draw the obvious conclusion as to why the climate imperialists never actually make valid arguments?

    Like

  31. Thomas
    It is a long article, so I will pick up on one point. I share your deep concern about the high levels of pollution in much of Asia, particularly in Chinese and Indian cities. It is not just the premature deaths that are an issue, but the living with the choking fumes. However, hundreds of millions of people have migrated to these cities knowing what awaits them. They move from cleaner air, but often where they have virtually no means of survival and near permanent hunger. It is a dreadful situation to be in, but to talk about pollution as an “externality” in this context is not possible. The cheapest form of electricity is coal without the pollution controls. The cheapest and most accessible form of motorized transport is are basic internal combustion engines without modern engine management systems that are kept running with performance issues. If it is possible to combine both the highest levels of sustained economic growth with pollution controls, then these should be clearly thought through and articulated. In China I believe that pollution control will be tackled as the economy matures and growth slows.
    Kevin Marshall (Manicbeancounter)

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thomas
    Watched the first two minutes. It is highly emotive. It may demonstrate there is a huge problem. Unlike global warming catastrophism it is already happening and unlike reducing GHG emissions most of the policy impact can be done at a country or even at a city level. Still, unlike global warming, there are policies models to follow. This can include regulations at the level of emissions (UK – car emissions as part of MOT) or prohibiting certain uses (UK – got people to switch to gas central heating and declared smokeless zones). But you are proposing a tax on the externality of pollution. This will always be partially effective in reducing the harm. A small tax gives the incentive to make efficiency savings or make investments. But it will push up costs. A high tax on a high polluting business will either cause them to scale back production, or even put them out of business. The damage is greatest for businesses who compete directly with those outside the tax area. In the UK a carbon tax will effect steel and chemical industries far more than the supermarkets.
    The question is to get the biggest impact for the least harms. If it can be demonstrated that there are large benefits to small changes that are easily implemented then Governments will be persuaded. But if you have a vague idea that is not properly thought through (Cap n’ Trade being a major example) then you are wasting your time.

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  33. “The science is still too uncertain for either side to claim victory.”

    Climate change sceptics: we think that the anthropogenic influence upon climate may be overstated and the corresponding natural influences upon climate understated. We believe that more research is needed to establish whether fossil fuel burning has been, and will be, the main driver of temperature change since the Industrial revolution.

    AGW theorists: most or all of the increase in global average temperature since 1950 is extremely likely due to human influence. Most or all of the decline in Arctic sea ice is due to Arctic amplification of temperatures due to anthropogenic GHG forcing.

    The sceptic position embraces the uncertainty in the science. AGW theorists claim faux certainty but, when pushed on this, claim that the ‘risks’ of dangerous climate change as revealed by the model projections are too significant to ignore, thus decarbonisation of the economy must proceed urgently, ‘just in case’.

    ‘Victory’ has always been afforded to the sceptics by virtue of their, um, sceptical position. It is a given, because the evidence for an overwhelming human fingerprint on modern global warming and associated regional climate change is empirically non-existent.

    So, if it’s a ‘war’ between sceptics and AGW theorists, it’s a very curious one, where victory has always been on the side of the sceptics, yet the AGW theorists have consistently enjoyed the spoils in terms of dictating to global environmental and energy policy for the last 30 years. To me, it seems it’s been more like a squabble between a spoiled brat who continually throws his/her toys out of the pram and a more thoughtful teenager; the squabble will not be resolved until Mother Nature turns up and tells them both what’s what.

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  34. Jaime,

    “We believe that more research is needed to establish whether fossil fuel burning has been, and will be, the main driver of temperature change since the Industrial revolution.”

    Including ‘since the Industrial revolution’ probably needlessly complicates the discussion; easier to focus on the question of whether anthropogenic greenhouse increases are driving warming today, and whether they are doing so on a scale that corresponds to significant global climate change (on a scale similar to the changes seen during the last ‘ice age’, though this time in a ‘hothouse’ direction). This is what is generally well accepted in climate science, yes.

    “The sceptic position embraces the uncertainty in the science.”

    True, if you mean the conventional definition of “skeptic”, i.e. this is the reason for the heavy focus on uncertainty in the IPCC reports. Critics of AGW theory tend to make much stronger statements around uncertainty, that it adds up to negate other empirically well-validated evidence in ways that we do not see/consider in other branches of physical science (in my experience, usually without providing specific explanations how they think it does so, though I will continue to be open to hearing such explanations.)

    “AGW theorists claim faux certainty”

    Obviously not; in your very comment you have already quoted the kind of language actually used (“extremely likely due to human influence”) which obviously is not “certainty”. On climate, scientists advance claims in the same way done in other physical sciences, using similar definitions for such things as “scientific facts”, i.e. “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent”. Claims like “earthquakes can result from buildup of pressure between tectonic plates” and “increases in greenhouse gases result in a warming influence on earth’s energy budget” exist in comparable realms of “scientific fact”.

    “the evidence for an overwhelming human fingerprint on modern global warming and associated regional climate change is empirically non-existent”

    And this is where there is simply factual disagreement between mainstream science on climate and the AGW criticism movement, as I highlighted in my first reply to Thomas above. The human fingerprint on the chemistry changes in the atmosphere is quite clear from isotopes and other lines of evidence/logic, and the greenhouse fingerprint in global warming is empirically clear in such things as observed changes to downwelling and outgoing longwave radiation exactly matching the predictions of radiative transfer theory as well as the vertical temperature profile of warming (stratospheric cooling amid tropospheric warming) which is specific to greenhouse-driven warming. Not to mention the significant fact that physical models can reproduce / project the observed system warming well, and no alternate models which do not include greenhouse factors can come close to surviving such tests.

    The comment thread above is a typical microcosm – Thomas and others made common broad claims about how scientific theory doesn’t seem able to predict the physical system, I offered counter-examples and references to published work rebutting such claims, but none of the critics here were willing (able?) to address such evidence or defend their claims further, seeming to rest instead on the self-evident correctness of the ‘sceptic’ position.

    “‘Victory’ has always been afforded to the sceptics by virtue of their, um, sceptical position”

    It seems for many it is tempting to believe that “uncertainty always wins”, because “science is never settled” and therefore nothing significant (on earth scale complexity) is ever really known. I think Isaac Asimov got to the heart of the fallacy in this view with this quote:

    “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

    “the squabble will not be resolved until Mother Nature turns up and tells them both what’s what”

    Ah, if only She would send us some sort of sign…

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/04/is-el-nino-or-climate-change-behind-the-run-of-record-temperatures

    Like

  35. Hi Mr. Price,

    You write, “Thomas and others made common broad claims about how scientific theory doesn’t seem able to predict the physical system,” Can you point me to where I did that, please?

    On the other hand, in my response to you I asked,

    “1. What is the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2? I put it to you that a margin of 1.5C-4.5C is too wide a range for policy planning. Both Monckton and Mann can claim they’re within IPCC margins.

    2. What is the best prediction of sea level rise for this century? I put it to you that the IPCC range of 26-94 centimeters is too wide a range for policy planning. And there’s a lot of planning that must take place in these next few decades.

    3. When will ice melt from Greenland and the Antarctic ice caps become a significant factor in sea level rise? The interiors of the great ice caps are gaining more ice than is being lost at the margins. When will that change and to what extent?

    4. When will a formal attribution of the causes of climate change be proposed? What percentage of climate change is caused by deforestation, black soot, agriculture, aerosols, emissions of greenhouse gases? I have seen dozens, but they all seem like finger in the wind, back of the envelope calculations.

    5. When will climate models undergo formal validation inspections?”

    And you haven’t had time to reply.

    Like

  36. “Can you point me to where I did that, please?”

    You wrote “It is increasingly obvious that the state of the science is nowhere near advanced enough to justify the alarmist position… the models were not meant to predict climate over the medium term.”

    This seemed to me a claim about the inadequacy of current understanding for making meaningful projections about the physical accumulation of heat per mainstream/IPCC type projections, but if you feel something is lost in translation I’m happy to be corrected.

    I responded to your questions when you wrote them, earlier:
    https://cliscep.com/2016/03/02/falling-forward-without-falling-down/#comment-2009

    Like

  37. Mr. Price, I’m well aware and have written frequently that (the best of the) climate models do a good job of charting the broad direction of climate change, but that they were not designed to and in fact do not do a good job of showing decadal movements with any degree of accuracy.

    It is in no way a ‘claim about the inadequacy of current understanding’. It is an observation about the abilities of models, an observation supported, for example, by Manabe, the builder of one of the first models, who said that they were for understanding, not predicting, climate change. He repeatedly told others ‘this is not a prediction, but it will be used as one.’ He was right.

    I am critical enough of activists/alarmists without having words put in my mouth (or loaded into my computer? What’s the right saying these days?)

    Thank you for the link to your responses. I may comment on your responses later, but I’m traveling today.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. Geoff,

    “. . . . . and the greenhouse fingerprint in global warming is empirically clear in such things as observed changes to downwelling and outgoing longwave radiation exactly matching the predictions of radiative transfer theory as well as the vertical temperature profile of warming (stratospheric cooling amid tropospheric warming) which is specific to greenhouse-driven warming. Not to mention the significant fact that physical models can reproduce / project the observed system warming well, and no alternate models which do not include greenhouse factors can come close to surviving such tests.”

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that downwelling and outgoing radiation as observed exactly matches AGW GHG theory.

    It is true that the stratosphere appears to have cooled and the troposphere moderately warmed since satellite measurements began in 1979. However, the stratospheric cooling is far from being an indisputable fingerprint of anthropogenic GHG warming and the corollary increase in tropospheric temperatures predicted by the models has largely failed to materialise – scientists are still looking for the tropical mid-tropospheric hot spot (but Mears may have found it with his RSS pause-busting adjustments!). So we are left with just half of the fingerprint – stratospheric cooling. However, the attribution is by no means clear; ozone depleting substances have muddied the water:

    “Ozone depletion is believed to have caused the preponderance of the cooling in the lower stratosphere
    (around 15–25 km altitude); both ozone depletion and increases in greenhouse gases are believed to have driven the cooling in the middle and upper stratosphere (around 25–50 km altitude) . . . .
    But the new data raise more questions than they answer, because they provide a strikingly different view of recent stratospheric temperature trends . . . . .
    The story is further muddled when the observations are compared with attempts to simulate the past few decades of stratospheric climate change using climate models . . . . But as shown in Figs 1a–d and 2a–d, the cooling in the new NOAA SSU channel 1 data is nearly twice as large as the cooling simulated by most of the CCMs.”

    http://www.arl.noaa.gov/documents/JournalPDFs/ThompsonEtal.Nature2012.pdf

    Another paper:

    “1. Model simulations based on the known changes in the stratospheric concentrations of various radiatively
    active species indicate that the depletion of lower stratospheric ozone is the major factor in the explanation of the observed global-mean lower stratospheric cooling trend (—0.5-0.6 K/decade) for the period 1979-1990. The contribution to this trend from increases in well- mixed greenhouse gases is estimated to
    be less than one fourth that due to ozone loss. . . . . .
    7. There is little evidence to suggest that tropospheric climate changes (e.g., those induced by green- house gas increases in the troposphere) and sea surface temperature variations have been dominant factors in the global-mean stratospheric temperature trend over the 1979-1994 period.”

    http://acd.ucar.edu/~randel/Ramaswamy%20etal%202001.pdf

    “Not to mention the significant fact that physical models can reproduce / project the observed system warming well, and no alternate models which do not include greenhouse factors can come close to surviving such tests.”

    The models incorporate unproven assumptions about natural variability plus emergent CO2 sensitivities which are at odds with lower empirical estimates. Basically, if you load the dice then you are probably going to get the result that you want. But anyway, model attribution studies don’t really fall into the category of demonstrating an empirical AGW fingerprint.

    Like

  39. Geoff,

    “. . . . . and the greenhouse fingerprint in global warming is empirically clear in such things as observed changes to downwelling and outgoing longwave radiation exactly matching the predictions of radiative transfer theory as well as the vertical temperature profile of warming (stratospheric cooling amid tropospheric warming) which is specific to greenhouse-driven warming. Not to mention the significant fact that physical models can reproduce / project the observed system warming well, and no alternate models which do not include greenhouse factors can come close to surviving such tests.”

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that downwelling and outgoing radiation as observed exactly matches AGW GHG theory.

    It is true that the stratosphere appears to have cooled and the troposphere moderately warmed since satellite measurements began in 1979. However, the stratospheric cooling is far from being an indisputable fingerprint of anthropogenic GHG warming and the corollary increase in tropospheric temperatures predicted by the models has largely failed to materialise – scientists are still looking for the tropical mid-tropospheric hot spot (but Mears may have found it with his RSS pause-busting adjustments!). So we are left with just half of the fingerprint – stratospheric cooling. However, the attribution is by no means clear; ozone depleting substances have muddied the water:

    “Ozone depletion is believed to have caused the preponderance of the cooling in the lower stratosphere
    (around 15–25 km altitude); both ozone depletion and increases in greenhouse gases are believed to have driven the cooling in the middle and upper stratosphere (around 25–50 km altitude) . . . .
    But the new data raise more questions than they answer, because they provide a strikingly different view of recent stratospheric temperature trends . . . . .
    The story is further muddled when the observations are compared with attempts to simulate the past few decades of stratospheric climate change using climate models . . . . But as shown in Figs 1a–d and 2a–d, the cooling in the new NOAA SSU channel 1 data is nearly twice as large as the cooling simulated by most of the CCMs.”

    http://www.arl.noaa.gov/documents/JournalPDFs/ThompsonEtal.Nature2012.pdf

    Another paper:

    “1. Model simulations based on the known changes in the stratospheric concentrations of various radiatively
    active species indicate that the depletion of lower stratospheric ozone is the major factor in the explanation of the observed global-mean lower stratospheric cooling trend (—0.5-0.6 K/decade) for the period 1979-1990. The contribution to this trend from increases in well- mixed greenhouse gases is estimated to
    be less than one fourth that due to ozone loss. . . . . .
    7. There is little evidence to suggest that tropospheric climate changes (e.g., those induced by green- house gas increases in the troposphere) and sea surface temperature variations have been dominant factors in the global-mean stratospheric temperature trend over the 1979-1994 period.”

    http://acd.ucar.edu/~randel/Ramaswamy%20etal%202001.pdf

    “Not to mention the significant fact that physical models can reproduce / project the observed system warming well, and no alternate models which do not include greenhouse factors can come close to surviving such tests.”

    The models incorporate unproven assumptions about natural variability plus emergent CO2 sensitivities which are at odds with lower empirical estimates. Basically, if you load the dice then you are probably going to get the result that you want. But anyway, model attribution studies don’t really fall into the category of demonstrating an empirical AGW fingerprint.

    Like

  40. Surely it is worthwhile pointing out just how bad the GCMs are at local climate response, the level that matters. No one lives at the global average level. So the projections are useless. Why bother to take any notice of them?

    Like

  41. I got an email notification of a reasonable response from Jaime but it hasn’t shown up. I’ll try to quote enough context to follow but won’t reprint in its entirety (there are some papers cited on stratospheric cooling uncertainty).

    “I’m not sure where you get the idea that downwelling and outgoing radiation as observed exactly matches AGW GHG theory.”

    A good place to start then. Nearly exactly predicting the changes in outgoing/downwelling longwave in response to chemistry changes in the atmosphere provides direct empirical confirmation of theory. It’s on the main line of physics/logic that you’ll need to contest to knock AGW off of its “scientific fact” pedestal.

    Papers like 2013: D. Chapman, P. Nguyen, M. Halem, A decade of measured greenhouse forcings from AIRS, Algorithms and Technologies for Multispectral, Hyperspectral, and Ultraspectral Imagery XIX, 874313,SPIE 8743, April 29, 2013
    “We have extended this effort by measuring the annual rate of change of AIRS all-sky Outgoing Longwave Spectra (OLS) with respect to greenhouse forcings… Observed decreases in BT trends are expected due to ten years of increased greenhouse gasses”
    http://proceedings.spiedigitallibrary.org/proceeding.aspx?articleid=1690262

    A more readable article from Oxford’s Pierrehumbert, see Figure 3(a) and “The agreement between the two is nearly perfect, which confirms the validity of the radiative transfer theory, the spectroscopy used to implement it, and the physics of the climate model.”
    https://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/PhysTodayRT2011.pdf

    More energy arriving than escaping at top of atmosphere yields AGW via assessments of earth’s energy budget, worked through in papers like these:

    Murphy et al 2009 “An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950”
    “Conservation of energy is a powerful tool for analyzing physical systems… Net positive climate forcing causes the Earth to retain energy… We examine the Earth’s energy balance since 1950, identifying results that can be obtained without using global climate models… About 20% of the integrated positive forcing by greenhouse gases and solar radiation since 1950 has been radiated to space. Only about 10% of the positive forcing (about 1/3 of the net forcing) has gone into heating the Earth, almost all into the oceans.”
    http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/43307/2/JGR_2009JD012105%5B1%5D.pdf

    Huber, Knutti 2011 “Anthropogenic and natural warming inferred from changes in Earth’s energy balance”
    “The observed trends are extremely unlikely (<5%) to be caused by internal variability, even if current models were found to strongly underestimate it. Our method is complementary to optimal fingerprinting attribution and produces fully consistent results, thus suggesting an even higher confidence that human-induced causes dominate the observed warming."
    https://thingsbreak.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/anthropogenic-and-natural-warming-inferred-from-changes-in-earths-energy-balance.pdf

    a direct empirical observation of the changes in downwelling radiation was offered recently in:

    Feldman et al 2015, "Observational determination of surface radiative forcing by CO2 from 2000 to 2010"
    “Here we present observationally based evidence of clear-sky CO2 surface radiative forcing that is directly attributable to the increase, between 2000 and 2010, of 22 parts per million atmospheric CO2… The time series both show statistically significant trends of 0.2 W m−2 per decade (with respective uncertainties of ±0.06 W m−2 per decade and ±0.07 W m−2 per decade) … These results confirm theoretical predictions of the atmospheric greenhouse effect due to anthropogenic emissions, and provide empirical evidence of how rising CO2 levels, mediated by temporal variations due to photosynthesis and respiration, are affecting the surface energy balance.”
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v519/n7543/full/nature14240.html

    The usual gymnastics of rejection here is for critics to note that AGW describes a total system response (causal chain), and that therefore no single empirical observation validates the entire system behavior end-to-end, therefore "there is no empirical evidence", therefore "there is no evidence". The fallacies in that line of argument seem fairly self-evident (are inherently counter-scientific), but feel free to explain if you think your objection is of higher (logical) quality than these common ones, or to defend such reasoning as having merit in this case.

    "It is true that the stratosphere appears to have cooled and the troposphere moderately warmed since satellite measurements began in 1979. However, the stratospheric cooling is far from being an indisputable fingerprint of anthropogenic GHG warming"

    I mention it only because it was predicted by theory over forty years ago, and the feature appearing as observed is direct empirical validation of theory. It is such accumulation of validation over time which strengthens physical theory, per at least the conventional norms of evaluating physical science. Among known/plausible sources of warming it is specific to greenhouse, and so is yet another point against solar theories of warming which would result in actual stratospheric warming (but perhaps the solar case is so thoroughly contradicted by evidence at this point that this is superfluous.) It is certainly fair to note that ozone depletion complicates that specific topic.

    "the corollary increase in tropospheric temperatures predicted by the models has largely failed to materialise"

    Now this part truly *isn't* specific to AGW, it is a separate prediction that results from the current view of how the adiabatic lapse rate responds to *any* form of surface warming. It is also not the case that this has "failed to materialize", though it is the case that observations are difficult and have been disputed. Chapter 2 of AR5, Fig 2.24 and 2.26/7 shows that the troposphere is warming pretty consistently with the surface. Also papers like:

    “Using more recent data and better analysis methods we have been able to re-examine the global weather balloon network, known as radiosondes, and have found clear indications of warming in the upper troposphere," said lead author ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science Chief Investigator Prof Steve Sherwood. "We were able to do this by producing a publicly available temperature and wind data set of the upper troposphere extending from 1958-2012, so it is there for anyone to see.”
    http://phys.org/news/2015-05-climate-scientists-elusive-tropospheric-hot.html

    "scientists are still looking for the tropical mid-tropospheric hot spot (but Mears may have found it with his RSS pause-busting adjustments!)"

    RSS was already the coolest of troposphere measurements in the recent period. The diurnal drift correction just moves it into the middle of the pack, and so does not seem particularly relevant/significant for such discussions.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_dL1shkWewaYUdhcjdFOFJ3ZTA/view

    The root reason why RSS was elevated as "the one true measurement!" by critics was precisely because it was the coolest one they could find. Its own author has always maintained that this was silly. Unfortunately, this sort of cherry picking is self-reinforcing – by selecting an index with an apparent growing cooling bias relative to other measurements, the rejection movement increased the chance that their measurement of choice would see a correction in the warming direction, which in turn would fuel their (conspiratorial) belief that scientists are fudging the numbers to support theory, as Watts and you (I'm sure unintentionally) imply.

    RSS relative to radiosondes – growing cooling over time:

    https://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/diff.jpeg?w=500&h=332

    RSS relative to surface data – growing cooling over time:

    moving on…

    "The models incorporate unproven assumptions about natural variability"

    You should support what you think those are and what they mean, but generally this seems a way of claiming that the models do not reproduce every possible physical mechanism that they could – i.e., to argue that they are models. Yes… and?

    "plus emergent CO2 sensitivities which are at odds with lower empirical estimates"

    More counter-factual… it is not the case that model-based climate sensitivity estimates are consistently higher than observational-based estimates. All estimation approaches including paleoclimate (which has the virtue of rolling in total net feedbacks, but the drawback of poor data quality via proxies) show a wide range of estimates, reflected in the IPCC 1.5-4.5 range (for degrees warming per doubling of CO2). From WG5:

    "Basically, if you load the dice then you are probably going to get the result that you want"

    In my experience this really is the core, true argument, rendering all the rest of the paper-citing and detail arguments above pretty moot. At the end of the day the base argument always seems to be that "global warming is a hoax", that scientists have "loaded the dice" – *somewhere*, even if we can't quite identify where. Well, those GCMs sound complicated so they must have done it in there. Oh, and they are fudging the observations of course, though our arguments about that never seem to withstand scrutiny (or make sense). Fraud i.e. conspiracy claims are not easy to dispute with facts and evidence because they are not rooted in evidence-based reasoning in the first place.

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  42. Hi Mr. Fuller,

    “I’m well aware and have written frequently that (the best of the) climate models do a good job of charting the broad direction of climate change”

    Great. This seems to directly contradict the thrust of your commentary and comments such as “It is increasingly obvious that the state of the science is nowhere near advanced enough to justify the alarmist position”, however. The models chart the broad direction of climate change correctly but are woefully inadequate to support the mainstream position, which looks at the broad direction of climate change through 2100?

    “but that they were not designed to”

    This is certainly true. James Hansen is known to comment that he thinks there is far too much effort and attention on conscripting GCMs into long-term projection, when the results are not significantly different (or more constrained) than what you get doing some energy budget based projections. After all, Hansen made pretty good warming projections in 1981 without the use of the modern GCMs, and Arrhenius didn’t do too bad in 1896. But this doesn’t really support your argument that the “state of the science” is inadequate for driving a rational response.

    “and in fact do not do a good job of showing decadal movements with any degree of accuracy”

    “Any” degree of accuracy? As I highlighted above, ocean warming is less confounded by chaotic ocean-air heat mixing, is a more core test of the core mechanism of global warming, and models predict it well. On the surface, the shorter the timeframe the more cyclic elements like PDO/ENSO confound, but these cyclic elements all have warm phases as well. It is the multi-decade mean that is of interest in the long run, and the models are projecting this with a high degree of accuracy, even without looking at updated (apple-to-apple) forcings. In any case, I am not aware of any serious (e.g. published) model vs. observation assessment that supports this claim, and cited a large degree of counter-evidence above, but happy to learn.

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  43. Wow…some amazing assertions being made here…

    “Hansen made pretty good warming projections in 1981 without the use of the modern GCMs”

    where “pretty good” seems to mean massively wrong and, even better

    “It is the multi-decade mean that is of interest in the long run, and the models are projecting this with a high degree of accuracy, even without looking at updated (apple-to-apple) forcings”

    It is a pity that the author of this drivel does not tell us whether he thinks this means that the CMIP5 models are doing a good job, when all the data suggests they are not, or whether he is saying that they will turn out to be doing a good job, someday in the distant future.

    I guess he thinks it is more important to believe in The Science than in the data.

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  44. barrel: “where “pretty good” seems to mean massively wrong”

    “a projection from 1981 for rising temperatures in a major science journal, at a time that the temperature rise was not yet obvious in the observations, found to agree well with observations”
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/04/evaluating-a-1981-temperature-projection/

    “It is a pity that the author of this drivel does not tell us whether he thinks this means that the CMIP5 models are doing a good job, when all the data suggests they are not”

    You are just reinforcing the stereotype – heavy on “models are utter failures” talking points, light on any glimmer of an ability to support your view. I have already provided citations etc. on model performance, look higher up in the thread, attempt a reply of substance if you think you are up to it (with all due respect I’m afraid I will not be holding my breath.)

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  45. Geoff, thanks for the reply, but it’s getting a bit long-winded and veering off-topic here. You also couldn’t resist implying that I was a conspiracy theorist, thereby asserting that all reasonable scientific objections to the theory of dangerous man made global warming put forward by me must be taken with a large pinch of salt. *sigh*
    Anyway, let’s try and keep it simple and non contentious with a few key points. I said,

    “The evidence for an overwhelming human fingerprint on modern global warming and associated regional climate change is empirically non-existent”

    You disputed this, firstly by saying,

    “And this is where there is simply factual disagreement between mainstream science on climate and the AGW criticism movement, as I highlighted in my first reply to Thomas above. The human fingerprint on the chemistry changes in the atmosphere is quite clear from isotopes and other lines of evidence/logic, and the greenhouse fingerprint in global warming is empirically clear in such things as observed changes to downwelling and outgoing longwave radiation exactly matching the predictions of radiative transfer theory as well as the vertical temperature profile of warming (stratospheric cooling amid tropospheric warming) which is specific to greenhouse-driven warming.”

    Let’s be clear, “global warming” (and more especially, associated regional climate change) is NOT radiative gas transfer theory, or the demonstration thereof that such an effect exists in the atmosphere via an analysis of line by line absorption spectra at particular wavelengths over a short period. Global warming (aka climate change) occurs over periods of decades/centuries/millennia and involves numerous poorly characterised and quantified feedbacks; principally though, water vapour and cloud cover). Scepticism of global warming does not amount to a denial of the radiative properties of carbon dioxide. I don’t dispute that CO2 is a weak GHG whose radiative effects have been exhaustively demonstrated in the lab and, to a much lesser extent, in vitro, so to speak in earth’s atmosphere.

    To keep from a long, rambling comment, I’ll end this here and pick up on a few more points later so bear with me.

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  46. “You also couldn’t resist implying that I was a conspiracy theorist”

    I am glad if you are not, but you understand the context as well as I. There is a large and influential anti-AGW movement fueled heavily by conspiracy theory / hoax / fraud claims, e.g. currently driving a (baseless, absurd) Congressional inquiry into NOAA scientists. You seemed to imply that Mears was fixing RSS to fill an alleged gap in empirical evidence, a reference to what is currently an explosion of conspiracy allegations on “skeptic” blogs online, fueled by movement leaders like Watts and Spencer. You spoke of scientists “loading the dice” to get the results they want – a cheating/fraud reference, something “crooked” people do. If you wish to differentiate yourself from the main anti-AGW conspiracy ideation I respectfully suggest you focus on the substance of scientific claims, assume good faith on the part of the scientists with whom you disagree, and avoid adorning arguments with these references. *Or* be direct/explicit about fraud allegations and support them.

    “thereby asserting that all reasonable scientific objections to the theory of dangerous man made global warming put forward by me must be taken with a large pinch of salt”

    I did not assert nor imply this. I did claim that allegations of crooked science often seem to underly anti-AGW criticisms, and question the value of discussing (counter-)factual detail claims if this is the actual driving belief – that is an honest reflection of my experience following and discussing this topic for a couple of decades.

    I am (more than) happy to drop references to conspiracy theories.

    “Let’s be clear, “global warming” (and more especially, associated regional climate change) is NOT radiative gas transfer theory”

    Of course this is a fundamental component of it! You are trying to claim that validation of the greenhouse effect is not part of the validation of greenhouse-driven warming?

    You seem to be making the argument I’ve already described as uncompelling: critics note that AGW describes a total system response (causal chain), and that therefore no single empirical observation validates the entire system behavior end-to-end, therefore “there is no empirical evidence”, therefore “there is no evidence”.

    This isn’t logical argument, it’s sleight-of-hand. You can’t invalidate climate science by using clever philosophical trickery to argue that evidence doesn’t ‘count’ when it obviously directly supports the physical behavior claimed to exist.

    “and involves numerous poorly characterised and quantified feedbacks; principally though, water vapour and cloud cover)”

    Yes, water vapor feedback is another fundamental part of the system behavior, claimed to be well validated, for which it is fair for you to demand empirical evidence. Which of course exists – in measurements of global water vapor content rising in response to temperature increases, “largely consistent with that expected from the Clausius–Clapeyron relation” per AR5, and again in the resulting radiative analysis of line by line spectra showing enhanced WV absorption that you would like to pretend is not relevant.

    Cloud feedback is an acknowledged source of uncertainty, rooted in poor measurement of clouds, and it drives the wide range of uncertainty in ECS.

    Shall we conclude that your “no empirical evidence” claim boils down to “there is still some uncertainty around clouds” i.e. a reiteration of Mr. Fuller’s point that it is a bummer we have to plan against a range of possible sensitivity ranges, or would you like to amend the claim to something more in line with what you seemed to be arguing, that there are evidence gaps in the established case for AGW?

    “I don’t dispute that CO2 is a weak GHG”

    Well, I (and atmospheric physics generally) dispute this, although “weak” is of course ultimately a subjective claim. CO2 provides the core framework for the greenhouse effect on earth, responsible for enabling a non-snowball earth and life as we know it. Because of water’s properties, if you drop the CO2 out of the atmosphere, the surface and atmosphere will cool and much of the WV content will begin raining out as well, and you would be left with a much smaller greenhouse effect wherever temperatures stabilized. CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas whose concentration can be changed somewhat independently of temperature, and so has played a significant role in the history of earth’s climate.

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  47. Geoff,

    This passage after your throwing down the gauntlet of Feldman et al, anticipating that I would – quite rightly – question this empirical demonstration of an increase over a period of 10 years at two specific locations of an apparent increase in IR downwelling radiation as being evidence of (a) global warming, (b) ‘dangerous man-made global warming, (c) an indisputable anthropogenic fingerprint of global warming. It is none of these, most obviously, yet you maintain that the rejection of this ‘evidence’ for dangerous man-made global warming is somehow intellectual ‘”gymnastics”. So says the man performing a double back-flip somersault!

    “The usual gymnastics of rejection here is for critics to note that AGW describes a total system response (causal chain), and that therefore no single empirical observation validates the entire system behavior end-to-end, therefore “there is no empirical evidence”, therefore “there is no evidence”. The fallacies in that line of argument seem fairly self-evident (are inherently counter-scientific), but feel free to explain if you think your objection is of higher (logical) quality than these common ones, or to defend such reasoning as having merit in this case.”

    Let’s look at what Feldman has to say about his glorified lab experiment taken out into the field:

    “We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb what the Earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation,”

    So, the ‘amplification of the greenhouse effect’, according to Feldman, consists of ‘more CO2. Say what? There was me thinking that it was positive feedbacks from the much more powerful greenhouse gas, water vapour. Not to mention ignoring the very real possibility of negative cloud/aerosol interactions/feedbacks and the influence of solar variability (assumed to have virtually no long term forcing effect whatsoever). In fact Feldman is at pains to point out that it is sceptics who are somehow wrongly convinced that water vapour, clouds and variable solar radiation are responsible for temperature changes – it’s all CO2 according to him:

    “Scientists say carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas is the chief cause of global warming . . . . . the data show clouds, water vapor or changes in sun’s radiation are not responsible for warming the air, as some who doubt mainstream climate science claim . . . . Nor could it be temperature data being tampered with, as some contrarians insist . . . . . The data say what the data say,”
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2968987/Scientists-witness-carbon-dioxide-trapping-heat-air.html

    Absolute rubbish from a supposed scientist; rubbish which you seem keen to echo with your assertions that observations of downwelling LW IR somehow ‘prove’ global warming is real and dangerous.

    “Shall we conclude that your “no empirical evidence” claim boils down to “there is still some uncertainty around clouds”

    No we won’t conclude that because it is not a conclusion that is at all supported by the train of events in this conversation. I said there was no empirical evidence of an anthropogenic fingerprint on modern global warming and associated regional climate change and you gave me three supposed examples:

    1. “Observed changes to downwelling and outgoing longwave radiation exactly matching the predictions of radiative transfer theory.”
    2. “The vertical temperature profile of warming (stratospheric cooling amid tropospheric warming) which is specific to greenhouse-driven warming.”
    3. “Physical models can reproduce / project the observed system warming well, and no alternate models which do not include greenhouse factors can come close to surviving such tests.”

    I have refuted 1. above which you still dispute.
    I have given evidence from scientific studies that 2. is not the case as CFCs have dominated the cooling trend in the stratosphere and natural processes that may result in cooling also are still very poorly understood. You have not disputed this but you seem to have ‘forgotten’ about it.
    I have pointed out that 3. is not direct empirical evidence of an anthropogenic fingerprint which you also have not disputed.

    So we can conclude that 2 out of 3 of your arguments in favour of an empirical anthropogenic fingerprint on modern global warming are in fact bust and the third is highly dubious, to say the least.

    “Yes, water vapor feedback is another fundamental part of the system behavior, claimed to be well validated, for which it is fair for you to demand empirical evidence. Which of course exists – in measurements of global water vapor content rising in response to temperature increases, “largely consistent with that expected from the Clausius–Clapeyron relation” per AR5, and again in the resulting radiative analysis of line by line spectra showing enhanced WV absorption that you would like to pretend is not relevant.”

    That’s the detection part. The ‘fingerprinting’ part relies upon a process of attribution using model runs with and without anthro forcings. Again, this is not direct empirical evidence of an AGW fingerprint; it relies upon model runs – and we all know how uncannily accurately the models characterise natural processes happening in the real world, e.g. cloud feedbacks, ENSO variability, ocean currents etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. Jaime,

    Your summary of the discussion is just you trying to reconstruct your ‘trick’.

    “I have refuted 1. above which you still dispute”

    Refuted! That is quite a statement. Your argument seems more akin to saying that you don’t dispute that evidence at all (rather the opposite of “refuted”,) but you wish to claim it doesn’t *count*, because of arbitrary rules you have invented, i.e. you demand one piece of empirical evidence that validates the entire system behavior of earth’s climate with respect to AGW.

    Step back and think about this. Thumb through the 1,500 pages of the IPCC AR5 WG1 report for a moment, with its long pages of citations into published literature, endless charts and summaries of data, observations, and evidence about all aspects of the climate system. Your ‘insight’ here is that you think you can wave away all of that evidence and not have to address it. By a sort of logical prestidigitation you declare that it is all irrelevant because it doesn’t provide this mythical unifying empirical evidence validating something abstract you call “dangerous man-made global warming”. Even such basic empirical evidence as *thermometers* is ruled out by your trick, as a method for assessing global warming!

    Science of course doesn’t even use a term like “dangerous man-made global warming”, even the phrase is part of you constructing your trick. Scientists make claims like:

    (a) Increases in greenhouse gases reduce energy loss to space and create a forcing on earth’s energy budget (loads of empirical evidence)
    (b) This forcing dominates other plausible energy influences on the budget (loads of empirical evidence)
    (c) As a consequence of the first law of thermodynamics, heat accumulates in the system (loads of empirical evidence)
    (d) As a result of this global warming, significant changes to the climate follow (loads of empirical evidence – though the topic fragments into hundreds of distinct topics like ice changes, sea level rise, impact to coral reef, extreme weather, etc., each with different (and often larger) areas of uncertainty due to greater entanglement with chaotic weather processes and other factors and stressors, etc.)
    (e) Tallying the economic, biological, and human impact of this climate change over time projects significant negative impact and risk. (Mostly getting completely out of the realm of science and into economics and politics.)

    Your trick, of course, is to encapsulate all this as “one hypothesis” for which you demand some mythical piece of empirical evidence that spans the entire list.

    This both allows you to sidestep the main supporting evidence for AGW and to evade addressing the reality that earth’s climate is a system governed by known laws of physics, with resulting straightforward chains of logic and causation.

    See the Murphy paper above that you ignore, “An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950”, and its comment “Conservation of energy is a powerful tool for analyzing physical systems.” You implicitly reject this, clearly – you do not accept the mainstream scientific logic of applying the first law of thermodynamics(!) to this problem. You are just not able to justify *why* anybody should join you in this abandonment of logic.

    (There is a reason conservation of energy is listed as the “first” law, it turns out. This same error is at root in a *huge* number of bunk critical arguments that claim to debunk AGW. Bob Tisdale at WUWT offers his alternative theories of how warming is driven by natural variation, based on the same underlying error of ignoring the first law.)

    It is of course necessary to demand evidence, but you must work within the framework of logic. You argue scientists are not collecting empirical evidence of what they say is happening, waving away giant compendiums of such evidence.

    Can you *describe* the kind of ‘special’ spanning empirical evidence you think *should* exist and be tested, which the world’s scientists in their incompetence are failing to collect? Of course you can’t.

    You won’t like this part, and I understand that, but seriously – apply common sense. If this logical trick really rendered all this science on climate across disciplines to be invalid non-science, would the world’s top scientific thinkers – across the national academies of every nation, the discipline associations across physics, geology, oceanography, biology, chemistry, geophysics, etc in every nation – really all look at this same evidence and come to the common conclusion of supporting AGW? The audacity to believe that you’ve identified this special logical trick that invalidates all of their analysis is genuinely staggering.

    In the five standard tricks used in anti-science reasoning, this is primarily the fourth, impossible demands (combined of course with the fifth – logical fallacies.)

    Other passing responses:

    Sorry, I thought with comments like “we are left with just half of the fingerprint – stratospheric cooling” that you weren’t disputing that very seriously. I don’t think it is worth the time to discuss, given the massive disagreement on how scientific method applies to earth systems discussed to death above. It is of course absurd to argue that the troposphere has not been warming, as all data sets indicate that it is.

    “So, the ‘amplification of the greenhouse effect’, according to Feldman, consists of ‘more CO2. Say what? There was me thinking that it was positive feedbacks from the much more powerful greenhouse gas, water vapour.”

    Water vapor is not “much more powerful” as an absorber than CO2. There is just more of it. Clearly, Feldman is simply using the dictionary definition of amplification as to “increase the signal of something”. Yes, more CO2 increases the greenhouse effect. Yes, water vapor feedback also then amplifies the total radiative effect, as a feedback.

    “Not to mention ignoring the very real possibility of negative cloud/aerosol interactions/feedbacks and the influence of solar variability”

    Scientists of course, have not ignored any of this. Do you want links to the WG1 report sections for these? Perhaps you mean Feldman ignored all this in his study, which is a different kind of wrong:

    (a) Clouds: see if you can work out what the “clear-sky” in “observationally based evidence of clear-sky CO2 surface radiative forcing” means.
    (b) Aerosols: not in general a big deal in longwave – the particles have to be very big and in large numbers. Aerosols are generally a shortwave issue – scatter a bit of incoming sunlight = cooling.
    (c) Feedbacks: the study explicitly deals with WV feedback and Planck response (feedback) in the spectra trends.
    (d) Solar: again, solar radiation is shortwave. Feldman is looking at longwave.

    At this point we are compiling a very long list of examples where you are getting physical facts wrong. Details add up in science/reality, unfortunately. With all due respect, perhaps a good moment to reconsider how well your hurling of insults like “absolute rubbish from a supposed scientist” reflects on the quality of your engagement here.

    You quote Feldman saying that carbon dioxide is “responsible” for warming, vs. these other things; obviously he is talking about causation. He is correct, clouds / water vapor / solar are not currently causing global warming, though water vapor is playing a large role. You pretty clearly appear not to accept this, but you still need to come up with some way to support your contention with compelling logic and evidence, not just fallacies, semantic sleight-of-hand, factual errors, and so on.

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  49. “Your trick, of course, is to encapsulate all this as “one hypothesis” for which you demand some mythical piece of empirical evidence that spans the entire list.”

    Your trick, of course, is to engage in such long-winded waffling and irrelevant, off-target pseudo-intellectual peregrinations that you wear your opponent down with shear fatigue whilst studiously avoiding addressing the simple points which weaken your argument.

    “You won’t like this part, and I understand that, but seriously – apply common sense. If this logical trick really rendered all this science on climate across disciplines to be invalid non-science, would the world’s top scientific thinkers – across the national academies of every nation, the discipline associations across physics, geology, oceanography, biology, chemistry, geophysics, etc in every nation – really all look at this same evidence and come to the common conclusion of supporting AGW? The audacity to believe that you’ve identified this special logical trick that invalidates all of their analysis is genuinely staggering.

    In the five standard tricks used in anti-science reasoning, this is primarily the fourth, impossible demands (combined of course with the fifth – logical fallacies.)”

    Your trick, of course, is to fancily reword the simple consensus and appeal to authority argument. Consensus is not science.

    “Water vapor is not “much more powerful” as an absorber than CO2. There is just more of it. Clearly, Feldman is simply using the dictionary definition of amplification as to “increase the signal of something”. Yes, more CO2 increases the greenhouse effect. Yes, water vapor feedback also then amplifies the total radiative effect, as a feedback.”

    Which part of “Water vapour has a profound infrared absorption spectrum with more and broader absorption bands than CO2, and also absorbs non-zero amounts of radiation in its low absorbing spectral regions” did I fail to understand?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential#Water_vapour

    Feldman is not simply using a dictionary definition of amplification; he is misleading his audience, intentionally or otherwise.

    At this point we are compiling a very long list of examples where you are getting physical facts wrong. Details add up in science/reality, unfortunately.

    At this point, I am calling you out on your pseudo-intellectual hyperbole. Water vapour IS a more powerful IR absorber and re-radiator than CO2. That was not me getting a “physical fact wrong”. There is also a lot more of it (about 60 times as much). This makes it a far more important greenhouse gas in terms of its direct effect upon global temperatures. CFCs have contributed far more to stratospheric cooling than the accumulation of GHGs in the troposphere. That was not me getting a “physical fact wrong”.

    The argument from AGW theorists centres around the fact that increases in CO2 supposedly drive trends in tropospheric and stratospheric water vapour which result in ‘amplification’ of the insignificant contribution to the global greenhouse effect from CO2 alone. They put CO2 in the driving seat and presume an unbroken chain of causality cascading downwards to result in ‘inevitable’ runaway global warming. Anybody who questions the weak links in that chain is an antiscientific global warming denier. But nature is overwhelmingly in control of water vapour concentrations and indeed it is a “physical fact” that the sources and sinks and annual exchange of natural CO2 completely dwarf the contributions to atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuels. These facts are ignored or cleverly side-stepped by climate alarmists to enable them to claim that it is man, not nature, who controls the global thermostat because he has miraculously overridden natural feedback and control systems by virtue of the fact that ‘his’ tiny but very special contribution to CO2 accumulates, year by year, in the atmosphere and will never go away, even though vastly greater amounts of the stuff are recycled on an annual basis.

    Please don’t reply with further contortionist hyperbole because I don’t have the time or the inclination to read it.

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  50. Well, I’m back from my business trip. It’s interesting watching this thread.

    Mr. Price, I’d like to take issue with something you wrote above:

    (b) This forcing dominates other plausible energy influences on the budget (loads of empirical evidence)

    At various times I have read that CO2 constitutes about a third of our impact on the climate since about 1945. I have read quite recently that black carbon soot is responsible for about a third of what CO2 contributes. I have read various figures for the effects of deforestation and for other land use changes.

    When I look at the various charts, they are invariably given in radiative forcing per square meter, but I imagine for reasons of space they pack several items into one category, so it’s actually a bit difficult to disentangle individual contributions. Often CO2’s figure is mixed in with other greenhouse gases, black carbon is lumped in with hydrofluorocarbons, etc.

    CO2 may in fact be the largest influence on the energy budget. But to use the word ‘dominates’ IMO very much overstates the case.

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  51. Geoff Price says:

    “. . . . . it is not the case that model-based climate sensitivity estimates are consistently higher than observational-based estimates.”

    It is the case that more recent observationally based estimates of TCR/ECS constrain the IPCC range of estimates to the lower end of the scale (for ECS), ie. nearer to 1.5C than 4.5C, which is the distribution of likelihoods set out in AR5. Hence Kate Marvel, Gavin Schmidt et al had a paper published in 2015 which attempted to show that based purely on simulations by the GISS-E2-R climate model, estimates of TCR and ECS based on observations over the historical period (~1850 to recent times) were biased low.

    If they weren’t low, why would they bother?

    They did bother, however, and Nic Lewis eventually got Gavin Schmidt to concede that there were errors in the paper and the journal has now published a correction. But, surprise, surprise, this “does not affect the conclusions of the paper”! A prime example of how AGW advocate scientists go about their business. Nic Lewis explains all at Climate Audit:

    http://climateaudit.org/2016/03/11/marvel-et-al-giss-did-omit-land-use-forcing/

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  52. Jaime,

    You seem disinclined to defend your prior claims that the bulk of empirical evidence available do not ‘count’ as empirical evidence, offering instead some throwaway posturing, so happy to let it drop.

    You were trying to argue that CO2 is somehow not very important compared to the dominating role of water vapor in the greenhouse effect, if you recall. As you note there is much (“>60 times” by your count, not sure of that) more water vapor in the atmosphere but it only contributes maybe 3-4 times as much to the total greenhouse effect as CO2 (depending on accounting for overlap). It is fair to argue that this is mostly a reflection of spatial distribution and relative saturation. I was just commenting to highlight that your larger point about CO2 being weak and dominated by the role of water vapor is obviously incorrect.

    “Feldman is not simply using a dictionary definition of amplification; he is misleading his audience, intentionally or otherwise.”

    So you assert, but have struggled to explain. More CO2 increases the greenhouse effect, just as he stated. You appear much stronger on giving insults than supporting them – an opportunity here to balance out your skill set that you may be missing.

    “the insignificant contribution to the global greenhouse effect from CO2 alone”

    Again, this is just counter-factual. It is uncontroversial that a doubling of CO2 on its own drives 1.2°C warming. But there is no “alone” – water vapor amplifies it, and we end up with the total probably in that 2-3°C range. You can stubbornly refuse to understand the concept of causation, but you stand on no logic in insisting that others abandon logic.

    “They put CO2 in the driving seat and presume an unbroken chain of causality cascading downwards to result in ‘inevitable’ runaway global warming”

    It is a rather simple chain of causality. CO2 drives some warming. Clausius–Clapeyron then drives some water vapor increase.

    Your reference to “runaway” global warming is again a stretch – the mainstream view does not claim there is runaway global warming, if you define that to be feedbacks so strong that the oceans will boil away in endless water vapor feedback. The threshold for achieving this (probably Venus-like) result is out of reach for current conditions.

    “the sources and sinks and annual exchange of natural CO2 completely dwarf the contributions to atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuels”

    You are all over the place. This is true, but doesn’t change the fact that humans are responsible for a 40% increase in global concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    “These facts are ignored or cleverly side-stepped by climate alarmists”

    No, they are just considered routine knowledge, things that have been studied, documented and communicated about for decades. Climate contrarians just laboriously tell a lot of stories on blogs about how things are “ignored or cleverly side-stepped”.

    I won’t chase your galloping claims all over the place, so will leave the Marvel/Schmidt topic. What did your preferred recent studies find on ECS – Lewis and Curry found what, a range of 1-4 for ECS? Arguing about 0.5 degree level differences of ECS don’t actually really have policy implications. Partially because everything higher (like above the plausible value of 2.5) is probably out of reach for policy mitigation anyway. And because the differences in when we hit temperature thresholds are not huge (on the order of decades). Some discussion in this SciAm article from a couple of years ago:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-will-cross-the-climate-danger-threshold-by-2036/

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  53. Mr. Fuller,

    “At various times I have read that CO2 constitutes about a third of our impact on the climate since about 1945. I have read quite recently that black carbon soot is responsible for about a third of what CO2 contributes. I have read various figures for the effects of deforestation and for other land use changes.”

    Here is the radiative forcing bar chart from AR5:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/10/the-evolution-of-radiative-forcing-bar-charts/

    Black carbon does appear listed as about a third of CO2. Anthropogenic methane is a bit more than that. It’s true that both of these facts are not often reflected well in public discussion. I can agree that my earlier statement would be strengthened to phrase it as “the combined anthropogenic forcings dominate”.

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  54. Geoff,

    “You seem disinclined to defend your prior claims that the bulk of empirical evidence available do not ‘count’ as empirical evidence, offering instead some throwaway posturing, so happy to let it drop.”

    We’ve been there, done that. I debunked 2 out of 3 of your claimed examples of an empirical anthropogenic fingerprint on global warming, which YOU have not defended, merely engaged in circumambulating and ineffective hyperbole. The 3rd, as I pointed out, is highly dubious. So of course you are happy to let it drop, because you lost the argument.

    “So you assert, but have struggled to explain. More CO2 increases the greenhouse effect, just as he stated.”

    Feldman stated that we are seeing the AMPLIFICATION of the greenhouse effect in the field. Adding more CO2 does NOT amplify the greenhouse effect, it increases it, on a diminishing logarithmic scale I might add. In common climate science terminology, the amplification of the greenhouse effect due to CO2 is given to mean the positive feedback from water vapour. You’re aware of this. Feldman certainly is. To claim that Feldman was entirely correct and not misleading in his choice of words is very disingenuous.

    It’s getting tedious responding to your transparently fake attempts to try and claim the upper hand in this conversation, so I’m not going to keep responding. Obviously, you really get off on this type of activity, so I’m sure you could just go on and on and on.

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  55. Jaime,

    I think you can make the claim that you were always only demanding a “single empirical observation that provides a clear fingerprint of something called ‘dangerous man-made global warming'”, with caveat that it’s a bit of a silly thing to ask for, and thereby deny that you were trying to make a broader point about anything interesting (like climate science or AGW itself). In this way, we can agree that you are indeed victorious, which seems a question of some sensitivity.

    Semantic arguments (“amplification” vs. “enhanced”) tend to be dull, so I’ll give you the last word there as well.

    “Obviously, you really get off on this type of activity”

    I enjoy both science and debate – even when dealing with such elaborate logical fallacies as yours 🙂 – so yeah, something of a 2-for-1 on this topic.

    Hope you enjoy the weekend.

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  56. How ironic – after thousands of words of incoherent drivel, Geoff Price posts a graph that actually makes Tom’s original point that he’d been trying to question, that the science is too uncertain to justify alarm!

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  57. Hi Geoff, it would be a logical fallacy to say that I will enjoy the weekend, seeing as how it is half gone already, but I’ll certainly try to enjoy Sunday!
    Have a nice remainder of the weekend yourself.

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