2005-01-29

Did you know there are three IPCC working groups?

I realise (because of a comment my wife just made on reading my blog) that I've been a bit free with my "WGI"'s in the last post or so. So...

WGI means IPCC working group one. There are three, and you can download the three reports from http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/.

When people *say* IPCC, they tend to mean WGI - "The scientific basis". The one about past and future climate changes, etc. The other two are less well known: WGII is "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" and WGIII is "Mitigation". For myself, I have to admit I've never read II or III. One problem I know they have is that the three reports come out at much the same time, which is a problem, because logically WGII&III should be using the results of WGI. I think they fix this by getting preprints and drafts but its a teensy bit unsatisfactory. Logically, they would be staggered at approximately 2 year intervals over the approximately 6 year IPCC cycle.

ps: this blog is now proud to be a listed on Planet Fleck, a blog-aggregation service run by John Fleck. Apologies for spamming it with three posts in a row - don't worry, I'm not usually this prolific.

Betting on climate

Theoretically, those who believe the IPCC predictions should be able to make piles of money off those who are skeptical, because they wrongly predict minimal warming and we correctly predict... well, I can never remember what is is exactly: about 3 oC at CO2 doubling with error bounds. Now there are problems with making piles of money, because this is 50+ years in the future, and trying to predict with shorter horizons runs into problems with natural variability. But still, its an interesting idea. One of the other problems with trying to make bets is that the septics turn chicken on you... here for example we see James Annan trying to get Steve Schulin to face up to his words - an embarassing spectacle.

However, Mark Bahmer is made of sterner stuff perhaps - see comment 6 here.

I'll put this post up now as a marker for the idea.

Science and Policy

Well, here is the long-anticipated :-) post about science and policy/politics. But first a disclaimer: since I'm writing about policy not science, I'm on weaker ground. And since I haven't thought this through carefully I regard myself as at liberty to change my mind on some of this stuff if people argue cogently against me. Oh, and since this is policy, perhaps I should say I'm an active member of the UK Green Party. That out of the way, lets continue...

A good and interesting context to talk about this is the Landsea-leaves-IPCC/IPCC is politicised fuss. Personally, I think he's just flounced out (ooh am I ever going to regret that if I have to work with him... fortunately you don't get too many hurricanes in the Antarctic). But just to push this further: Landsea said: It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda... and in this case he is talking about hurricanes. *But* if you read carefully you find that Landsea is writing a paper with Patrick Michaels. And if there was ever someone pushing unsupported agendas, its Michaels. So, how come Landsea, oh so scrupulous about who he works with, is happy to work with Michaels but can't cope with Trenberth? It doesn't add up, to my mind.

So... RP has a recent post A Good Example why Politics/IPCC Matters. This appears to suggest that because the CEI doesn't like what Pachauri says, he should keep quiet. Or rather, he should guard the IPCCs role as an honest broker. I don't agree: the CEI is going to attack the IPCC for politicisation come what may: there is no point at all in pandering to them.

And then again... Reader Mail on Political Advocacy is also highly relevant (whether you disagree with RP or not, there *is* an awful lot of intersting stuff on his blog; and not just cos it refs me...). I half agree (at least) with RP here: the head of IPCC has to remain apolitical (not having looked closely enough I don't know whether he has or not). But the bit I object to is So long as people within the IPCC leadership sees its role as political advocate rather than honest broker. This appears to be asserting entirely too much. I'm sure the IPCC leadership *do* see its role as to be "honest brokers" (or maybe they don't, since thats RPs phrase not theirs: OK, I expect that they *do* see their role as providing an honest and objective report of the state of the science of climate change). In the past they have succeeded magnificently in achieving this - it would be nice to see more people recognising that.

Now back to musing about sci/pol in an aimless way. RP is strong on the idea that they can't really be separated: But none of this is to suggest that the IPCC should withdraw from discussion of policy. In fact, trying to cleanly separate science from policy can make things worse. To the contrary, the IPCC is at risk of politicization because it tries (WGI at least) to remain mute on policy (here). I don't fully understand that comment. It assumes that the *IPCC* is already engaging in discussions of policy, and I don't see that. It suggests that WGI should not be mute on policy and I disagree on that and I'm pretty sure most of the WGI folk would agree too. But (having established a sort of context for the idea of sci/pol mixing) why is it so difficult to imagine them separate (for WGI at least)? They have been for the reports up to now, and its worked well for the science. Arguably (I would argue) not enough has been done about climate change, but I don't see how IPCC getting mixed up in the pol would help there. Hmm... now I seem to be arguing *for* RP's other point... shurely shome mishtake? But no, because I'm not opposed to individual IPCC folk speaking out, it would be bizarre if they had to be silent.

2005-01-24

The Dark Side of wikipedia

I've been quite keen on wikipedia - here and in sci.env and in a number of places. However, it has a downside, which is laid out on the table for you to view its entrails at: Requests_for_comment/William_M._Connolley if you want to see something ugly.

Maybe they prefer uncertainty

Science has an article "NOAA Loses Funding to Gather Long-Term Climate Data" (available from Science if you
have the subscription; it looks like the full text is available from
here anyway).

To quote: Congress has eliminated funding for a fledgling network of 110 observation stations intended to provide a definitive, long-term climate record for the United States..

And more cuts too, including to the CO2 monitoring at Mauna Loa. This is bad: long term monitoring of the climate is boring but necessary. The current US adminstration policy on climate change, as near as I can understand it, is that the uncertainties are so great that more research and data is needed: I don't agree with them about the uncertainties but I do agree that data gathering is good. So why are they cutting the data? Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section at the National Center
for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, is quoted at the end of the article as saying: It's almost as if some people don't want to know how the climate is changing, he says. Maybe they prefer uncertainty, so that they can avoid taking action. Seems plausible to me.

2005-01-21

Perfecting Imperfect Models

I was at the Royal Met Soc wednesday meeting today. The abstracts are here: page 1 and page 2.

So... just for once I'm reviewing people I know, in some cases, so let me please stress that these are my personal reactions to the talks, not reflections of their true worth. These notes were written on friday, so I've forgotten some stuff. The meeting was quite full: about 170 people they said, once the late arrivals were in, which meant a very long coffee queue.

Anton Beljaars - in principle, this seemed like a nice idea - NWP and climate models are very similar (in code) so you can study errors in the climate version by looking at how the NWP version works, which is nice because then you are in a more controlled state. However, I didn't get much from his talk.

Mike Davey - this was the one in which I got Weather out and started reading about global dimming... sorry. The bit I remember was that it might be possible to improve seasonal forecasts by correcting the known model drift. Which is fair enough if you're interested in seasonal forecasts, but I'm not.

Steve Woolnough - a good talk. Largely about the MJO (which I have finally sorted out from the *QBO* (please don't laugh at me)). Anyway, model deficiencies in simulating the MJO, etc. Then (and this was the bit that interested me) the idea that maybe this is because of the failure of SST response in hadcm3, and maybe this was because of the once-a-day ocean/atmos coupling. But if you switch to hourly coupling, it makes little difference (aside: I've tried this too. I too noticed that it made little difference, though I was mostly interested in the Antarctic ice. There was alwaysa slight worry that the model wasn't behaving right, since no-one uses anything other than once-a-day). But then they tried altering the thickness of the model top level from 10m to 1m, and this makes a difference, because it makes the layer thin enough to allow a noticeable diurnal cycle, which affects the mean SST. So I liked that. As far as I remember, though, he didn't then go back and say, aha, with this the MJO is better. And he didn't say how it improved the overall SST sim (poss made it worse, since the SST gets bumped up by several oC during ?active? MJO periods).

Dave Sexton Stuff from climateprediction.net. I've always been a teensy bit dubious about this (see recent sci.env for some of my provably invalid objections :-) but the talk was very good. So, they have a big perturbed-physics ensemble (see-also QUMP) - 2000 members??? - which ?does/doesn't? include those rejected at the spin-up end as failing the "fits basic climatology" test. And then you get a spew of future projections, with a noticeable tendency to bunch at what looked about consistent with what we all think anyway. Someone in the audience pointed out that the fit-to-clim tests were very primitive, and that many of the passed members would have failed more stringent tests. I think DS accepted this point. I think that he said that this would be appearing in Nature soon.

[My wife says: Stoat stoat stoatety stoat stoat stoat (ho ho, that will teach her to edit my posts while I'm not looking, I've left it in...)]

Then it was tea break, and I listened to Alistair McD patiently explain basic radiation theory to William Ingram :-)

Tim Palmer TP, superstar, and he did give a good talk. This was about using cellular automata as a possible alternative subgrid scale parametrisation. I haven't heard this before; JCK says he heard it recently at a conf; this pdf contains quite a lot of the stuff in the talk (and more: there were no buttterflies in the talk; the CA stuff starts at p29); and the pdf references Palmer, 1997. I think the idea of the CA is that its very cheap, but can nonetheless allow communication between nieghbouring points in a way that tradiational params can't.

Alan Thorpe At NCAS, but newly appointed Chief Exec of NERC (story here) so he pays my wages... so I'd better be polite. I didn't think it was desperately impressive. He seemed to have been seduced by the Earth Simulator and showed a truely beautiful movie of 1km-scale clouds it had generated. It must have been beautiful (it was) because its pushed everything else he said out of my mind :-(

After that there was a Panel discussion at which ones heart sinks, because these are the sort of things that sound like a good idea at the start but come 5pm people are thinking of running off to their trains. But, in fact, it was good. It was sort-of lead by AT, because he put up some points for discussion, the first of which was "we don't need params, because in 10-15 years we'll be running globally at 1km in climate mode". Errr... well no-one was falling for that. Probably it was just to stimulate talk, fair enough. And what people said was: no way do we get to 1lm in just 10-15 years; and even at 1km you need params, just different ones. Paul Mason called ensemble forecasting a dead-end; when pressed (by an anguished TP) as to whether he really meant this he said yes, though possibly a necessary dead end.

Then I speed-walked back to Kings Cross via Mornington Crescent, which is fun, *and* I got a seat on the train home. And I read the latest Viz - and I must say, its better than it used to be.

[nb: this post is the winner of todays vote-a-post contest, so gets its timestamp changed to push it to the top of the stack]

2005-01-20

Peer Review: A Necessary But Not Sufficient Condition

You want to read Peer Review: A Necessary But Not Sufficient Condition on RealClimate.

Risk assessment: nuclear vs coal

Experiment #3. So far, WV is winning & will be done tonight.

Science/Policy interface

This is an experiment. I'm going to put up a few headings (this is the first) as reminders to me of things I intend to write about. But (and this is the exciting part, though doomed to fail :-) you (yes you) can influence what order I end up writing them, by voting with a comment!

Thursdays winner was: WV (2 votes!)

Water vapour is not the dominant greenhouse gas

OK, so it may not surprise you that I'm going to have to qualify the headline a bit lower down, but the point itself remains.

Why does anyone care about this? Answer, of course, that one of the std.septic arguments is "there is no point in worrying about human emissions of CO2, because water vapour is the dominant GHG". This argument is nonsense (which is why there is no k) but if you don't know the science thats no obvious. So...

Lets start by looking at what fraction of the current GHE *is* caused by water vapour. Its not terribly easy to find these estimates, mostly because scientifically its not an interesting question (see below). The ones I've found I've collected onto the wiki page Greenhouse effect; refs to all of this are available there. Probably the best one is IPCC '90 (first report; sadly not online) which estimates 60-70%. I presume thats a global value. Locally, instantaeously, it would vary wildly according to local conditions. If you start omitting various gases, you can push the numbers up high: Soon and Baliunas quote 88%, considering only WV and CO2. Lindzen quotes 98% (Even if all other greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) were to disappear, we would still be left with over 98 percent of the current greenhouse effect). I don't think thats plausible (incidentally I seem to have misrepresented it on the wiki page... oops). He doesn't quote a source for this value and may well have made it up. But apart from providing word-bites for skeptics to take out of context, there doesn't seem to be much point in these numbers. Because the main point is...

Water vapour is a "reactive" GHG with a short atmospheric lifetime of about 1 week. If you pump out a whole load of extra water vapour it won't stay in the atmosphere; it would condense as rain/snow and we'd be back to where we started. If you sucked the atmosphere dry of moisture, more would evaporate from the oceans. The balance is dynamic of course: humidity of the air varies by place and time, but its a stable balance.

In contrast, CO2 has a long lifetime (actually calculating a single "lifetime" for it doesn't work; but a given CO2 pulse such as we're supplying now will hang around for.. ohh... a century or more). It doesn't rain out (amusing factoid: the surface temperature of the deep interior Antarctica in winter can be colder than the freezing point of CO2; but this doesn't lead to CO2 snow (sadly, it would be fun) because the freezing point is lower because of the lower pressure because its higher up). So if you put in extra CO2 the climate warms a bit; because of this move WV evaporates (it doesn't have to, but just about all models show that the relative humidity tends to be about constant; so if you heat the atmos that means that the absolute humidity will increase). This in turn warms the atmosphere warms up a bit more; so more water gets evaporates. This is a positive feedback but a limited one: the increments (if you think of it that way) get smaller not larger so there is no runaway GH effect.

So: adding CO2 to the atmosphere warms it a bit and ends up with more WV. Adding WV does nothing much and the atmos returns to equilibrium. This is why WV is not the *dominant* GHG; its more like a submissive GHG :-)

[Update: 2005/02/09: http://www.radix.net/~bobg/climate/halpern.trap.html is worth reading]

Following David King

This is interesting... "Sir David King said he was being followed around the world by people in the pay of vested-interest groups that want to cast doubt on the science of climate change....". But I do seem to be straying from the science a bit :-(

2005-01-18

Landsea contrasts

Don't you just hate gratuitous puns in titles, especially when they don't work very well?

Anyway, I said I would post on sci/pol, well that gets pushed on to the stack (remember, urgent points before big ones) by the post Chris Landsea Leaves IPCC on Prometheus. BTW, Landsea is a colleague of Pielkes, which I learnt by reading More on Hurricanes and Climate Change on the same blog. That post is well worth reading and relevant to the current situation.

So... Landsea was one of the 139 authors of the IPCC TAR chapter 2 (though he wasn't one of the 8 lead authors or the 2 co-ordinating lead authors). Incidentally, one of the lead authors was John Christy, who is generally reckoned a skeptic via his custodianship of the S+C MSU record. He's said some pretty skeptical things and has ventured into the political arena, eg here. Its a fair safe bet he disagrees with some of the slant the IPCC TAR took: yet he didn't walk out. Why has Landsea got so huffy?

Landsea is an expert on tropical cyclones, hurricanes, atlantic strorms, that kind of thing. See his bio for details. I'm not. So I'm not going to quibble with his science POV. In fact I agree with quite a bit of the substance of his complaint - that people do tend to get rather carried away and explain trends in storms by GW even when it isn't clear that such a trend exists. However, I disagree with his tone. Landsea says, for example, even though it is quite clear that the TAR stated that there was no connection between global warming and hurricane activity. Weeeeeelll... is that true? The TAR is rather more nuanced, and the SPM says Changes globally in tropical and extra-tropical storm intensity and frequency are dominated by inter-decadal to multi-decadal variations, with no significant trends evident over the 20th century. Conflicting analyses make it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about changes in storm activity, especially in the extra-tropics. But I really didn't want to quibble about the science. For the rest of this post, lets assume that L is dead right on the science and the he has Trenberth bang to rights on that.

So where I really disagree with him is that the "Trenberth incident" was grounds for leaving the IPCC. I'm sure Landsea gets really annoyed because time after time people misrepresent the science on this. But thats all the more reason to stay in the IPCC to make sure it correctly summarises the science. Throwing around aspersions of "politicisation" on evidence this flimsy is distinctly dubious. Trenberth was speaking for himself; being introduced as a convening lead author is irrelevant to that. Landsea seems to think that this proves that the IPCC won't include his comments objectively; this implies without directly saying so that he thinks he would be leant on to sex up his work to make it fit some agenda. But he has no evidence for this. had he stayed onboard, done his best, and got leant on, *then* he could have complained. As it is, his response seems to me an over reaction.

Lastly... all this happened some time ago, early December 2004. And last-lastly, read the last piece of pdf correspondence, which is a letter from Susan Solomon to Landsea. Its odd. Its not the "would you reconsider?" letter you'd expect; its a so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-fish letter. I wonder if there is some other correspondence there we're not seeing.

[Update: 2005/01/20: Meanwhile, Roy Spencer seems to be going rather wonky over at TCS. How can you call for balance and yet write an article like that?]

[Update 2005/01/21: Reuters story and Steve Schulin provides a transcript of the pdf exchange for the many who had trouble reading those files.

And a bit more. ES points out that Landsea is writing a paper with Michaels. How can you criticise Trenberth and work with Michaels? Well, the obvious answer is: because you're a skeptic]
]

2005-01-17

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum :-)

Most days I can think of only one thing to say at best, today I have two things (not counting the polar bears, which is just for fun), but the second (science/policy interface) will have to wait till tomorrow. Todays is about the proliferation of on-line discussion possibilities. Its prompted by a thoughtful comment from James Annan about my last post:

Private sites are always subject to arbitrary censorship, and the increasing fragmentation into disparate forums and bulletin boards makes it hard for any one person to keep up with what is being said. By all means archive your more substantive comments here and/or realclimate.org, but IMO debate belongs in the public domain.

Usenet may be awful, but it is still probably better than the alternatives...


As it happens, I've been thinking about this myself recently, prompted by the number of venues I've been reading and the difficulty of keeping up with them all. The other irritation is that even if you read them, posting replies is tedious, with the variety of identifications in use.

So... in chronological order of me... I've participated in:

The newsgroup sci.environment. Advantages (as JA implicitly says) is that its a primary forum available to all (via groups.google.com if nowhere else) and that everyone is equal. Disadvantage is the high noise level. The latter isn't as bad as you might think. Its probably a problem for newcomers, but once you've been around a bit and know who's who, you can blip though the junk pretty quickly. At least you can using tin; it may be harder via a browser. Though as I write this the current top post is an example of the kind of offensive trash that is unavoidable on an unmoderated group.

Wikipedia, in particular the pages related to climate change. Advantages: as above, anyone is equal. Being newer, its a bit less primary than sci.env. I like it because its constructive and complements sci.env. Sci.env suffers in that good material just disappears into the archives; with wiki you can build up decent pages, but there are talk pages for discussion too. The disadvantage is that any old bozo has the same editing rights as me; and when we disagree and reason fails there is little alternative but an edit war. A few other sci.env folk have contributed there too. One could argue that discussion on wiki is fragmented amongst the various pages, whereas in sci.env its all in one list, so you see it all. Still, maybe it helps to concentrate on one topic at a time.

Blogs. Advantages: you get one persons POV, and responses if you choose to read them, which makes for clearer discussion. Also, you get to read a fairly intelligent and coherent posting, assuming you haven't chosen some wacko's blog of course. Disadvantages: very asymmetrical relationship (the ones I read don't abuse their position by censoring stuff they don't like (within bounds) but still there is the feeling-before-posting that you may be wasting your effort because someone might just cut your comment). Also, there are so *many* of them! In order of me reading them, first was Quark Soup, which I first started reading in Nov 2003 after reading a post about it on sci.env. That was about the MBH/M&M controversy and QS had the breaking news. Sadly QS suffered a data-loss of its archives so I don't think you can read those old posts now... ohhhh, I've jsut checked, you can get them via The Wayback machine. Splendid. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes... so, tracking QS, and the comments on it, was not too much of a task. And it was interesting that the community of people there (and blogs do seems to attract communities, for better or for worse) was different to sci.env. But then (via QS I think) I found...

(Aside: I've made a point at attempting cross-fertilisation, by mentioning wiki on sci.env for example. But its slow.)

Deltoid, Tim Lamberts blog. Its mostly about the evils of John Lott etc, but he found time to take apart some of McKitricks errors (you want to see an alternative side? Try McIntryres site, though with caution). So now browsing Deltoid went on my list. "Fortunately" both QS and D don't post climate stuff too often.

Then along came RealClimate to which I contribute, and the workload went up rather more.

Then there are other blogs that I found incidentally and occaisionally visit, with the somewhat guilty feeling that I ought to take the time to read them more, but I don't have the time, so I have the guilt. But only mildy. Examples: John Fleck and Prometheus/James Pielke.

So... were does that all end up? Sci.env and wiki stand up by themselves, so there is no need to worry about them. But the blogs are badly in need of some method of at least integrating their output. Perhaps a newsgroup sci.env.blogs, to which posts like this, and QS, and Prometheus, and so on, are automatically posted as they are put on the blogs. That *would* be a good idea I think. I wonder if its possible? I get an email from me whenever I post stuff here; in theory I could either procmail that off somewhere, or maybe blogger could redirect it for me, and surely there are mail-to-newsgroup gateways? Gmane for example. If anyone thinks this is worth trying, do let me know.

Polar bears in Antarctica?

OK, leaving aside the seriousness for a moment, here's a fun question prompted by Eric Swanson from sci.env: the ">" is him, the reply is from me:


>Well, there is always adaption.
>"We" could always move the polar bears to Antarctica, where they would have
>lots of land to roam around without bumping into civilization and move the
>penguins to the Arctic Ocean, where the declining sea-ice might be a better
>home(??) for them than the oceans around the Antarctic.

Its an interesting point... purely as a though experiment, I suspect it
wouldn't work, though I'm not sure. Don't polar bears retreat equatorwards
in the wintertime? For most of Antarctica, you can't do that, since you'd
fall into the sea.


So... anyone know? Could polar bears survive in Antarctica, especially over winter?

2005-01-16

Science and Politics; opposing the extremes

Roger Pielke has a nice blog called Prometheus which is about science policy. Not just climate science, but others too. I only ever read the cliamte bit, naturally. RealClimate is about climate science, and we do our best to avoid policy and messy stuff like that. P's Jan 15 post is a response to RealClimate and it raises some interesting issues, although I disagree on some of them (which is why I commented on the post at his site. As an aside, its a shame how few comments he does get, given the quality of the site; perhaps his points are so completely argued that no-one needs to comment... that must explain my site, too :-).

His post makes four main points, which are:

1. No free passes.

He wants RC to attack hyperbole from the enviro side as well as the septic side. This is a semi-fair point. Its only semi-fair because, in the USA at least, the bias seems to be wildly on the septic side (I would place P himself on the skeptic side, though mildly). And also because I don't think P himself passes this "test". I said that in my comment (I was thinking of this post, in which he appears to be suggesting that Singer endorses the consensus, which is bizarre); he has responded; and I've responded to his responses; I won't detail it here, go to his site and see. But let me give on specific topical example (not about P) in this regard: I've read an awful lot of septic pieces attacking the enviro's for linking the recent tsunami with GW; but I haven't seen much in the way of enviro pieces doing the linking.

2. Be transparent.

This one was itself rather opaque, but P provided some links in response to me saying that. I've looked at the first two and I don't find them convincing. #3 is a bit better, but publishing your thoughts in Nature (scroll down to the bit by Rahmstorf) is hardly being secretive. #4 is in German, which I regret I can't read.

Our policy is, to blog about the science, and to do that fairly. Mind you, we *haven't* mentioned von S yet, on my part because I don't know whether I understand his paper yet, and nor have I finished Rutherford et al 2004.

3. Be diverse.

Ie, invite guest editors. Well, we do (we've had one from Michael Tobis already) and we'll have more. We won't be inviting Singer, but Lindzen is a possibility (whether he wants to write for us would be quite another matter). Von S? Maybe, but he's been a bit rude in the popular press.

4. Distinguish policy and politics.

We're doing our best to steer clear of both, perhaps because we (I) aren't terrbily good at distinguishing them. No, sorry, I shouldn't be flippant. We're avoiding policy because we're scientists and we're not good at policy, in general (though *of course* we could run the country better than those silly politicians). Oops, done it again. Policy is messy, hard to make sense of, and causes endless argument. That will do for now.

2005-01-14

Global dimming

There was a Horizon prog last night about global dimming. I didn't see it but I've read the transcript.

I've seen a number of comments on the prog so far, so before I go any further, let me say very clearly:

Never ever ever believe any science just because you see it on TV.

I won't say "if you see it on TV its wrong" (though you can be pretty sure its misinterpreted or sensationalised) but please don't believe it without checking. The
wiki page has seen a bout of editing, and who knows what state its in when you read this, but it does have some useful links. In particular, the Liepert paper would seem to be useful.

Before going on, the other thing to point out that whatever the decline in sunshine, this is *at the surface of the earth*. Solar output, over the same period, has varied very little - certainly by less than 1%, probably by no more than 0.1%. Whatever is going on is due to changes in absoption/reflection within the atmosphere.

The BBC transcript quotes a variety of figures - 22% in Israel, almost 30% in Russia, and so on; over a slightly unspecified period but about the last 50 years. Liepert says 4% between 1961-90, or 3% between 1958-92, but those are global figures.

But what of the basic idea... well, the decline in global temperature between the 40's-60's is usually attributed to sulphate aerosol. To that extent, the whole thing is mainstream. The idea of the programme, though, is that the aerosol effects have been *underestimated*. If that was true, then their cooling effect would be stronger: so in order to balance the obs, that would mean that the CO2 warming effect would have to be stronger too. Which would, in turn, imply a higher sensitivity to future CO2 levels - ie, more warming than previously predicted (or projected, if you're feeling cautious). BTW, the fact that CO2 warming overwhelmed the cooling in the mid-70's doesn't mean that the sulphate effect has gone: sulphate aerosol is still extering a cooling effect. In future, the CO2/sulphate forcing ratio is expected to increase, at least in part because sulphate aerosol == acid rain, and people really don't like acid rain.

So overall I'll stick with the existing projections until I see something more convincing.

2005-01-13

Hobbes

From a life of Hobbes, by John Aubrey [1]:

One time, I remember, going into the Strand, a poor and infirm old man craved his alms. He beholding him with eyes of pity and compassion, put his hands in his pocket, and gave him 6d. Said a divine (that is Dr Jasper Mayne) that stood by - 'Would you have done this, if it had not been Christ's command?' 'Yes,' said he. 'Why?' said the other. 'Because,' said he, 'I was in pain to consider the miserable condition of the old man; and now my alms, giving him some relief, doth also ease me.'


If you haven't done so already, read Leviathan.

2005-01-12

Attacking the Consensus

The paper by Naomi Oreskes in Science (see also RealClimate commentary) has stirred up a bit of a backlash by people who would like to disbelieve it. A quick refresher: the paper argues that, contrary to various septic claims, when you actually look at the literature the number of dissenters form the consensus is small.

Lets look at some of the attempts to "disprove" Oreskes.

From CNS news we find:

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free market environmental group Competitive Enterprise Institute, also criticized the idea that there is a "scientific consensus" on "global warming."

"Publishing such an easily debunked falsehood in an erstwhile reputable, peer-review publication (Science Magazine) demonstrates either a new low in desperation or a new generation believing there are no checks and therefore no limits," Horner told CNSNews.com.

After all, past nonsense brought increasing taxpayer funding for decades. What would make them think they can't just make things up?" Horner added.


Errr... and thats it. The strategy appears to be, assert that its easily debunked, and hope that no-one notices you haven't even attempted to debunk it.

Elsewhere (its the same thing picked up by another organisation, but variety is the spice of life), we get stuff like:

"Whatever happened to the countless research papers published in the last ten years in peer-reviewed journals that show that temperatures were generally higher during the Medieval Warm Period than today, that solar variability is most likely to be the key driver of any significant climate change and that the methods used in climate modeling are highly questionable?"

Well, fair question, where indeed are these papers? Why isn't a single one referenced? This seems to be stragetgy number 2: assert the existence of some papers but... ah... time is to short to actually find one.

Roy Spencer (an actual scientist, but on the skeptical side) wrote:

In her Science editorial, Ms. Oreskes also makes a curious claim about past research on "climate change": that of 928 climate research paper abstracts published from 1993-2003, none rejected the consensus view on climate change. While I doubt that I've read this many climate change papers, I do have several in my office that specifically state that quantitative estimates of global warming are not possible without further knowledge of certain elements of the climate system (e.g. Renno, Emanuel, and Stone, 1994; Grabowski, 2000) or that current climate models are overly sensitive (e.g. Hu, Oglesby, and Saltzman, 2000).

This is better. He has actually referenced some real papers. But... he is being careless. None of these include "global climate change" (or even climate change) as keywords, so none would have been part of the sample that Oreskes used. Spencer ought to know this; possibly he was too rushed to do his work properly. And worse than this, when you read them (I had a quick browse) they still don't support S's point of view: none of them are consensus busting (see sci.env for some futher commentary on this and other mistakes Spencer makes in his TCS piece).

So far, the sepics have done a poor job: not a single paper to disprove Oreskes claim.

See-also: Quark Soup




Stoat: Consensus science

2005-01-09

Jerry Springer: the Opera

No, not science in disguise: this really is about JStO. I was at my mothers so I got to watch it. The website is http://www.jerryspringertheopera.com/jerry_opera.html. I woudn't normally watch opera but the shrieks of the Christian Fundamentalists burning their TV licences were so loud (see Google News) I thought I'd give it a go. BTW, I really ought to say "Life of Brian" somewhere, so here will do. I had thought about blogging about the Tsunami (in comparison to the Congo war, since you ask) but decided on something less controversial. Also, I've never watched the JS show (except poss a clip or 2 of people fighting) so know little about it beyond the obvious. On...

JS is an American thing, and I think JStO is British, so I don't know how many of you out there have seen it, or can make sense of this. The thing on the TV was a filming of the play at the Cambridge Theatre, in London.

Anyway, just as the Opera starts, I should start, by saying: there are words and concepts in this post that may offend the delicate.

Right, you were warned. On we go...

The basic format of the opera is in two parts: the JS show (complete with audience, warm-up-man, security, and David Soul as JS) is part 1. Then JS gets shot and decends into Hell is part 2, and here the format is mostly maintained too. And it is opera - everyone sings, except for JS. The CF's say its blasphemous, and I presume its mostly part 2 they mean - part 1 didn't seem to contain anything terrible, beyond rude words (dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians might offend some, but not for blasphemy... and most people say fuck in most sentences). A small side point is that because everyone sings, its quite often hard to hear what they are saying - you have to strain to be offended, so to speak (old joke: woman in hotel room: manager! i'm disgusted! you can see a naked man from my room [manager arrives]: where madam? i can't see one. woman: oh no, you have to stand on the washbasin and peer out of the side window...).

Purely as entertainment, its OK. Part 2 is better than part 1 (both ideas and song quality).

To show you how good I am at this stuff, it wasn't till after the finish that I realised that the story of Jonathon the warm up man (we start the show with him, getting the on-stage audience to sing Jerry-Jerry, etc; a bit later he starts getting too big for his boots; then JS sacks him; then in the shooting incident which ends part 1, Jonathon ?hands a gun? to an enraged participant and moves his arm so JS is shot. In part 2 the same actor returns as the character of Satan) is parallel to the story of Satan. Ha! Clever eh?

Other actors also take parts in part 1 and part 2. This is probably where the most blasphemous bits are, by implication rather than explicit. In part 2, Satan has dragged JS down to hell to organise a version of the show for him, in which he will confront various people - Jesus, Adam/Eve, Mary, God - and try to get an apology from them. P2 starts with a Satan song that recapitulates a sort of paradise-lost version of Satans fall. JS knows that getting an apology is hopeless (and indeed sugests to S that it is unjustified, too), and only Satans graphic threats to fuck him up the ass with barbed wire make him continue. A rather fat actor who in part 1 was a guest with a need to be babied to "improve things in the bed department" becomes Jesus in part 2. In part 1 this actor sings a song (not one of the better ones) about needing to shit his nappies, strips off his suit and wears just a nappy (diaper, for you transatlantic folk out there...) and an idiotic-beautific/smug smile. In part 2, the same actor now wears a neatly-draped loincloth, but has the same jiggly-fat-breats and smug smile, and I guess that probably winds up the fundi's no end.

Various other stuff occurs (why does Baby Jane play so large a part?) and then God comes in singing about, well, essentially the problem of evil, in the form of it-isn't-easy-being-me, people go around making all the wrong decisions and then blame it on him (which, err, doesn't really deal with tsunamis etc, but lets not get into that here...). God wants JS to come to heaven to help him; JS jumps at the chance but Satan won't let him go; fight. JS is then forced to try to settle all the problems but can't (surprise: (a) neither side will listen to the other and (b) the problems were probably insoluble anyway and (c) JS repeatedly says he doesn't do conflict resolution but ?TV?). So he ends with something like "fuck the lot of you" and, I think, who-can-tell-right-and-wrong-anyway. Which I thought a rather poor end. but then there is a song-and-dance recapitulation of the songs, and fini. Somewhere towards the end, Steve the faithful security man hold the dying JS is a pose presumably like that of Pieta (have I got the right reference here?). And I suppose that might offend too.

How does it portray JS? We see him exploiting the people on the show, which is perhaps nasty, but in the opera at least he doesn't dig at them: just asks q's and they unfold. he also gets to say, later, don't bitch at me, you *wanted* to come on, and you got to stay in a 3 star hotel. His firing of Jonathon is callous. But overall, fairly sympa, I'd say.

And his guests? They are seen as losers (I think the on-stage audience shout this at them from the start), mostly (e.g. Peaches) as sad victims. Some of them (the woman who wants to pole-dance, and who becomes Eve in part 2) as people nearly crushed by their lives but with, occaisionally, the strength to try to attain their dreams (however odd those dreams might be). So they get sympathy for that too. In contrast to the usual tv/stage puff-perfection, no one looks pretty.

And religion? well... now I come to write this, I can't really say. If you strip away the disrespect (in which I include the comment-by-implication in the choice of linking Jesus to the shitting man, which seems more an unfair slur than a comment), there really isn't much comment on religion, mostly just a bit from Paradise Lost, like wot I said before.

Its life-of-brian all over agina, guv.

[Update: monday: I talked about JStO with Tom at work, a (liberal) Catholic. He too could not quite work out why it was supposed to be blasphemous, and he could not work out what if anything it was saying about religion (is that its sin? using religion as a backdrop?). *He* hadn't realised the Jonathon-Satan parallel at all; OTOH when I mentioned it he said, but doesn't that make JS God then, cos Jonathon is his right hand-man? But then that doesn't make sense either, both from the general presentation, and because God appears separately. Well, maybe the analogies can be pushed too far.]

[Another update: tuesday: see the wiki entry - I missed the split between acts 2 and 3, though this doesn't matter much.]

2005-01-06

CO2 levels and me on Deltoid

Tim Lambert has a nice post today on Hissink, CO2 and conspiracy theories, and its good not just because it happens to mention me in passing... :-)

Everyone sane believes that CO2 levels have increased because of human activity. Sometimes, semi-sensible septics will say "but *no-one* suggests otherwise", to try to emphasise how sensible they are. So its nice to see an example of truely way-out wacky septicism to remind ourself what is waiting out there on the fringes.

Its also nice (look at the graph TL reproduces) when the mistake is so *obviously* wrong. It just isnt even vaguely plausible that all the dots could be correct because, as TL points out, the variation is just too hugeous. Most of them are, presumably, just early measurements that are simply wrong.

2005-01-05

Early version of temperature history

Just a little post to hold a factoid.

Some of the stupider class of septics try to assert that the IPCC airbrushed the LIA and the MWP out of its temperature record. wiki discusses this a bit (OK, I admit it, I wrote that page). The relevance of the MWP claims is the (bogus) assertion that "there used to be a consensus that that the MWP was much warmer than now, until the IPCC arbitrarily adopted a new record".

But: I've only just realised that some of the earliest work on long temperature records - as reported in the 1975 NAS/NRC report - contradicts this. They show (their figure A.2(b)) the last 1000 years and they clearly show "the present" (then: ie, 1900 onwards; or perhaps 1940's: the graph is not too clear and the label contradicts the axis legend) to be warmer than any other time in 1000 years. Now admittedly that graph appears to be based on "Eastern Europe" data ("winter severity index, and from *Lamb*, the very person so often quoted in favour of the MWP...), but it does destroy the myth. Isn't that cute? (Whats even cuter is that you are very unlikely to have access to that picture, so can't check. But trust me, I'm telling the truth).

2005-01-03

Consensus science

Happy New Year to all.

There is a vein of septicism going around, roughly to the tune of "Science isn't done by consensus. There is a consensus on global warming. Hence, global warming must be wrong". Put as baldly as that, the argument is obvious nonsense (note, BTW, that this abandons another of the favourite septic arguments - that there is no consensus on GW. But consistency was never a strong point of the septics).

So, here is my take on it, intended to make the subtle distinctions clear:


  1. There *is* a consensus on global warming (see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=86).
  2. The consensus is based around the IPCC reports which (by synthesising a vast number of scientific papers) do a fine job of outlining what is and what is not known, and carefully referencing everything back to the original papers.
  3. Scientifically, you cannot argue "There is a consensus: therefore...". But you *can* argue "The IPCC says such-and-such; therefore...". Because the IPCC is reporting the science; and if you disagree you can go back to the original papers and find out why.
  4. The argument that "Science isn't done by consensus" is irrelevant. Its close to true (I suspect that various philosophical strands would argue that the current scientific paradigm does indeed influence what research is done) but its irrelevant. Because no-one is arguing that. Science *is* done by saying: "these papers say such-and-such, therefore...".
  5. Sometimes, people say "but the best science is done by breaking with consensus". It certainly true that the most groundbreaking stuff is done this way - just about by definition. But that arguement *can't* be used to imply that the current consensus is wrong. Its simply a logical fallacy.
  6. The most obvious groundbreaking work in the 20C was relativity and QM. But in both those cases they were *not* sudden shifts from there-is-a-consensus-on-the-old-theory-everything-is-OK to spiffy-new-theory. Instead, there was a slow accumulation of results inconsistent with the old theories, and leading scientists grew more and more unhappy, and various theories were proposed to solve this. That doesn't fit GW very well - most of the GW septics are grumpy old men, not groundbreaking young scientists.


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