Reading the Runes part II: Prometheus

Over at Promehteus, there is a forthright post on the latest Hockey Stick stuff. As usual, there is stuff in there whose tone I'd disagree with but there is some rather forthright language which I'd thoroughly agree with:

From the perspective of climate science or policy Rep. Barton’s inquiry is simply inane

is blunt. Or:

Of course, it is doubtful that Rep. Barton’s Committee (on Energy and Commerce, I remind you) actually has any real interest in the science of climate change, except as a tool of tactical advantage in the continuing political battle over global warming. Rep. Barton and others opposed to action on climate change will continue to gnaw at the hockey stick like a dog on a bone so long as they perceive that it confers some political benefits.


The debate also consumes a lot of scarce attention on the climate issue – attention that would be better devoted to debates about policy options.

Quite right. And:

Of course, most Prometheus readers will know that the case for a human influence on climate is well established through multiple independent lines of research.

Tell me that I haven't been paying attention, but I haven't seen that unambiguously on Prometheus before. Lower down, I'd disagree with RP's tone, and he seems to have forgotten that Ammann and Wahl *have* replicated MBH. And It was clearly a mistake to use the MBH studies in the SPM is clearly wrong. Points 2 and 3 are badly wrong too, but hey you can't have everything.


Anonymous said...

Maybe he is starting to realize that it is not the scientists who are politicizing science, but the politicians and special intrest groups.

James Annan said...

Tell me that I haven't been paying attention, but I haven't seen that unambiguously on Prometheus before.

I have, but perhaps only hidden in the comments as a reply to one of the septics who hang on his every word (when they think he is agreeing with them, at least). They must feel quite hurt when they realise that he is not really on their side at all.

As for his point 2, I am sure that a lot of the septics are not in it for the money - I get the impression that many of them are old, stuck-in-their-ways ideologues who hold their beliefs more out of stubbornness and inability to adapt to new evidence, than due to any possible personal financial gain. At least that means that they are dying off fairly quickly :-)

William M. Connolley said...

Yes, I agree its been in (one) comment. But in the main text? Not that I've seen.

Anonymous said...

William and James-

You guys crack me up with your trying to discern good guys/bad guys based on their views of science. I laid out my views on the science of climate change pretty clearly and unambiguously in this peer-reviewed paper years ago and have done so repeatedly in writing in many publications:


I'd welcome your reading of it and any comments. Here is a recent update/extension to the argument:


There really are more perspectives in the climate debate than skeptics vs. you guys. Really! ;-)

James Annan said...

Roger, (if wmc doesn't mind me using his blog to respond)

I have no particular problem with your perspective - and I certainly do not agree 100% with wmc's views.

But I just cannot help but be amused when I see how they fawn on you when they think you are on their side (eg over at climateaudit.com and contrast that with the obvious hurt and betrayal (that eg John A showed) when you write something as unambiguous as you did in that recent post.

William M. Connolley said...

Hello Roger. Well, in terms of GG/BG, you've now unabiguously associated yourself with what it pleases me to call the GG side (ie, in WGI terms) with your most recent post (the one that I was looking at).

But... I'm still a bit doubtful about whether this could have been deduced from past stuff. From the second pdf you quote, I find In short, the idea that science can “detect and attribute” interference in the climate system related to greenhouse forcing is problematic in a world where climate changes on all time scales because of a range of both natural and human forcings. and that looks to me to be challenging the WGI view. Furthermore, that paper speaks only of the "possiblility" of GHGs causing T change. And it says Consider the following thought experiment. Let’s begin with the world as described by the FCCC. In this world the human use of fossil fuels leads to emissions of greenhouse gases, which lead to changes in the climate.... Ie it considers this as a possibility, not a reality. Similarly, the first paper says only that "as a point of departure, this paper begins with acceptance of the conclusions of the IPCC." and that can be read two ways: either that yes, you accept them; or more weakly, that *for the purposes of that paper* you are accepting them. Context suggests that the first reading is probably right, though... Hmm, OK, perhaps that ought to resolve my doubts.

But... to be picky... is there anything from the actual Prometheus posts that you could quote? I could remember nothing, and a quick scan doesn't reveal anything obvious.

Anonymous said...

William and James-

Thanks much for the exchange. James, I see your point. Though I'd observe with some irony that William's post pretty much does the same thing from the other side. ;-) It is always interesting to see one's work cherry picked rather than engaged. I suppose such is the peril/fun of trying to introduce a third way.

William, all of those excerpts seem pretty benign and fair to me. I'd be happy to defend them, but you seem to come to the right conclusion. And from my perspective, all my posts on Prometheus are based on acceptance of WG1 results -- just about every talk I give on climate policy includes a slide stating this. (I do take issue with WGII and WGIII from time to time, but these are my areas of expertise and my work is cited there numerous times). Pretty soon this sort of hard line on science threatens to drift into the "theology" referred to by Margaret Beckett. Policy can, should and has to be able to accomodate a diversity of views on any subject, even if only a subset ultimate prove correct.

But here we are again, talking about science as some sort of litmus test of acceptability. Why?

A reponse I posted on our site earlier today seems relevant, "My case is that action on climate change (and for what I mean by action, read my papers, start here http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resourse-1761-2005.32.pdf) can and should be independent of all of these diversionary debates on climate science, enjoyed a great deal by both sides. In other words, if you think the IPCC is right or wrong, I don't care, I can make a case for actions that do not depend on this difference. This is the proverbial third way."

James Annan said...

Certainly, there are lots of "no regrets" strategies that are worth pursuing irrespective of climate change. But if the science doesn't matter, why do it? My main motivation is mostly that I don't like it when people lie and cheat to get their own way, especially given the apparent trend away from rationality and towards demagoguery.

Of course, this is probably just special pleading for the significance of scientists :-)

Anyway, as you may have seen, I will aim my fire in whichever direction I perceive to deserve it. This week, it is the turn of the alarmists (such as they are).

Anonymous said...


Thanks. I'd suggest that the question is not "why do it?" but "what science should we be doing?" and this latter question, if framed in terms of connecting alterntive possible research portfolios and their potential usefulness to decision makers, is researchable. See: