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Irregular Climate: a new climate podcast

Posted on 4 June 2010 by John Cook

There is a great new climate podcast, Irregular Climate by Dan Moutal (who also runs the Mind of Dan blog). I've become addicted to podcasts of late and have had trouble finding good climate podcasts so this new addition is very welcome. His second podcast has just come online today. In this latest entry, he discusses the New Scientist series on Skepticism vs Denialism, covers the issue of attribution (what's causing global warming) and touches on Climategate just to mention a few. Lastly, the latest podcast also includes a new feature - a 'Skeptic debunk of the week' by yours truly.

The idea with 'Skeptic debunk of the week' is each week, I pick a skeptic argument and record a one to two minute debunking. As this is the first time I've tried my hand at audio recording, I took baby steps, opting for the relatively low lying fruit of "human co2 emissions are tiny". Any feedback for future debunks is welcome - constructive criticism and suggestions on how to improve in future recordings would be much appreciated. One obvious area of improvement - I probably need a better quality microphone. Unfortunately, I can't do much about my mumbly Australian accent.

It's also worth mentioning that Dan is putting out a call for help with the podcast. Primarily, he needs a co-host to discuss climate with and also needs some help with theme music. You can find out more and get in touch with Dan here.

Lastly, I just had a look at Dan's Comment Policy and I'm quite impressed with his grounds for deleting comments:

Carl Sagan was known for saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. If you make an extraordinary claim (such as saying that mainstream science on global warming is wrong) then I will require extraordinary evidence. Failure to provide such evidence is grounds for your comment to be edited or deleted. And if you have some extraordinary evidence, you owe it to all of us to submit it to real scrutiny and publish it in the scientific literature.

Hmm, food for thought for the Skeptical Science Comments Policy.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 110:

  1. the "mind of Dan blog" link points back to your article.
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    Response: Fixed, thanks for the heads up, Gary.
  2. I agree with your proposal (inspired by Dan's policy) for modifying your own policy.
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  3. Second MattJ on moderation policy considerations, if for no other reason than avoiding pointless repetition of faulty claims eliciting impassioned rebuttals, dooming us to boredom and ennui.

    As to the Australian accent, Subaru sold millions of cars here in the U.S. thanks in part to their relentless application of that accent. Somehow it's inherently cheerful and positive to those us of us in the upward pointing region of the English speaking world. Don't sell it short!
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  4. Alas, such a policy would have doomed the Copernican paradigm (an extraordinary claim in its day for which extraordinary evidence emerged only because the hypotheses stimulated others to search the skies with telescopes)and Keppler's refinements to the dustbins of history.

    It would also make a very interesting site which I look forward to reading deadly boring. As at present, you have succeeded in engaging folks from both sides of the Climate divide in spirited debate - something sorely lacking on other sites.
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  5. chriscanaris, I can't see the Copernicus or Keppler connections, because they had theories which were based on evidence and were testable (eventually). Big difference from some of the ideas posted on here by various individuals below the articles !

    And they weren't that extraordinary, either, because theories of heliocentrism had been around for nearly two thousand years - it was just very difficult to prove it more reliable against the Ptolemaic system, which worked pretty well at explaining and predicting planetary motion. Again, I have seen no so-called skeptic giving even a hint of any ground-breaking science - usually they try to assert that they have discovered something that no-one else has; try to overthrow the laws of Physics; or just type what they believe to be the case, no matter the lack of proof.
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  6. Much as I agree some of the arguments (e.g. 'greenhouse warming violates the second law of thermodynamics') are absolutely ridiculous and result in long debates which often go nowhere... you'll never be able to prove to someone that they are spouting nonsense by shutting them down / deleting the posts. Even telling them where to read up on the underlying science isn't likely to accomplish much IMO as they likely wouldn't be making 'extraordinary claims' if they were the kind of people who can weigh all the evidence dispassionately and come to a logical conclusion.

    Sometimes the only way to make progress is to engage with someone and SHOW them where there positions are clearly wrong. Yes, that means disruption and argument and yes it often doesn't do any good... but deleting such views will ALWAYS fail to convince them.

    So it really comes down to where you want to set the balance between 'trying to educate people' and 'trying to keep the discussion focused and constructive'.

    If you do adopt a stricter policy for discussions in general I might suggest having an area set aside for such 'extraordinary claims' and other contentious topics. Essentially, shunt these things off to the side (where they don't disrupt regular discussion) rather than banning them entirely.
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  7. chriscanaris writes: Alas, such a policy would have doomed the Copernican paradigm (an extraordinary claim in its day for which extraordinary evidence emerged only because the hypotheses stimulated others to search the skies with telescopes)and Keppler's refinements to the dustbins of history.

    That's one way of looking at it, I suppose. My perspective is a bit different.

    If you want to use the Copernican Paradigm as an analogy, Copernicus is somewhat equivalent to Arrhenius -- the early proponent of a new theory, at at time when most of the data needed to test the predictions of that theory weren't really available. At first, both theories languished because the scientific community saw no clear benefit in adopting them.

    Over time, however, thanks to technological improvement and the collection of new data (telescopes and more precise planetary observations in the 1500s, computers and global geophysical data collection in the 1960s++) a body of evidence began to accumulate in support of these theories. In addition, advances in related fields provided complementary support (Galileo and Newton for Copernican theory, lots of advances in earth science and oceanography for the theory of an anthropogenically enhanced CO2 greenhouse effect). Thus, in both cases the scientific community gradually became convinced of the explanatory value of the new theory.

    In this analogy, how should we consider claims like those of Gerlich and Tscheuschner (there is no greenhouse effect) or E.G. Beck (CO2 is not rising; it fluctuated wildly in the recent past) or Don Easterbrook (the Earth is cooling, not warming)? I'd submit that those claims might have been worth debating a half-century ago, but in 2010 they should absolutely be regarded as "extraordinary claims that require extraordinary evidence," comparable to the idea of someone promoting the Ptolemean paradigm over the Copernican in 1750, long after a scientific consensus had developed that the heliocentric model was superior to the geocentric model.

    I don't express any particular opinion on the relevance to the Comments policy here ... but I do think that this is a useful way of understanding the broader context in 2010 ... and I strongly concur with the idea that people promoting some of the more extraordinary "contrarian" arguments need to provide truly extraordinary evidence, and that failing such their arguments deserve to be dismissed.
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  8. "Carl Sagan was known for saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. If you make an extraordinary claim (such as saying that mainstream science on global warming is wrong) then I will require extraordinary evidence."

    It may not be possible to 'disprove' the AGW hypothesis. Popper's assertion that a scientific theory must be able to be falsified to qualify as science is barely (?) true of AGW (?), at least for various century-scale projections.

    Popper once stated that the theory of evolution by common descent isn't really science because it can't be falsified, (presumably because it largely deals with the past), until someone pointed out that you can easily falsify it by finding a rabbit in the Precambrian. He retracted. Once again, that very under-rated branch of science-the stratigrahpic record-came to the rescue. (I think this record has a few more surprises for AGW proponents).

    I think the only way one could possibly falsify strong AGW is if the world got colder over the next few decades, but I would actually be interested to hear a few ideas of what sort of evidence would actually put some serious doubt into it. Slowing sea level rise, flattening Earth T, no increase in hurricanes, flattening ocean temperatures, oceanic islands expanding, snowy Washington winters, poorly thought out Met office forecasts- none of these of course prove or disprove anything, so what kinbd of evidence would actually thoroughly deflate the AGW hypothesis?
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  9. thingadonta wrote :"Popper once stated that the theory of evolution by common descent isn't really science because it can't be falsified, (presumably because it largely deals with the past), until someone pointed out that you can easily falsify it by finding a rabbit in the Precambrian. He retracted."

    Of course, a good deal of suspicion would be directed toward the finding itself. How sure are we that the rocks are that old ? Might the rabbit fossil have been planted as a hoax ?

    But let us suppose that all agree the fossil is clearly a Pre-Cambrian rabbit.
    This finding would not be an instant falsification of all of evolutionary theory, because evolutionary theory is now a diverse package of ideas, including abstract theoretical models as well as claims about the actual history of life on earth. The theoretical models are intended to describe what various evolutionary mechanisms can do in principle. Claims of that kind are usually tested via mathematical analysis and computer simulation.

    But a Precambrian rabbit would show that somewhere in the package of central claims found in evolutionary biology textbooks, there are some very serious errors.

    The challenge would be to work out where the errors lie, and that would require separating out and independently reassessing each of the ideas that make up the package.


    Sounds strangely familiar and yet we still await the climatological rabbit...
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  10. thingadonta writes: what kinbd of evidence would actually thoroughly deflate the AGW hypothesis?

    In order for the theory of AGW to be a useful description of the earth system, all of the following have to be true:

    (1) CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
    (2) We're increasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.
    (3) The net impact of all feedbacks to a radiative forcing of the climate system has to be positive or neutral, not negative.

    So, there are several kinds of evidence that would falsify the individual components:

    * You could show that the past two centuries' measurements of the spectral absorptance of CO2 are erroneous and CO2 is not a greenhouse gas.

    * You could show that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are much smaller than we think they are.

    * You could show that the climate system is dominated by negative feedbacks and that the earth's climate tends towards homeostasis (i.e., climate is strongly resistant to changes over time). This would probably necessitate either proving the nonexistence of the LIA, MWP, and Pleistocene glacial/interglacial cycles, or else discovering a new forcing that's large enough to have overpowered this homeostasis.

    If none of those sound very likely, well, that's probably because AGW is in fact a useful description of the climate system, just as plate tectonics is a useful description of planetary crustal geophysics ... so it's unlikely that AGW will be falsified just like it's unlikely that plate tectonics will be falsified.

    A less rigorous way of looking at it is "are there lines of evidence that would contradict the end result of AGW theory" rather than contradicting its specific mechanisms. In this case, AGW is supported by multiple lines of evidence, so it would really be necessary to have multiple lines of evidence against it before most scientists would be convinced. Perhaps you'd want to see several of the following:

    * Sea levels stable or falling over the long term (they're actually rising at the upper range of IPCC predictions). One caveat to this would be that one could imagine a world where AGW caused a huge increase in snow accumulation in polar ice sheets, leading to a reduction in sea level rise ... so you'd really want to see no evidence of thermal expansion contributing to SLR.

    * Long-term temperature trends explainable solely by other forcings without reference to CO2 (currently, they're not).

    * Clear evidence that ocean heat content is not increasing. (Past OHC data aren't great but they don't indicate that the oceans aren't accumulating heat).

    * Clear absence of any of the expected "fingerprints" of CO2 induced warming (greater warming at nights and in the winter, polar amplification, cooling in the stratosphere, etc.)

    Anyway, you get the idea. The things you list ("Slowing sea level rise, flattening Earth T, no increase in hurricanes, flattening ocean temperatures, oceanic islands expanding, snowy Washington winters, poorly thought out Met office forecasts") are either not actually happening (SLR, temperature) or are basically irrelevant (snow in Washington, inaccurate weather forecasts).
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  11. thingadonta

    What would falsify AGW? Go back to the rocks. Find a paleoclimate example which contradicts carbon dioxide's influence on climate.

    Such examples have been offered such as the glaciation at the end-Ordovician, but have stood up to further scientific inquiry

    Tony
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  12. I've been looking for a podcast like this, much appreciated.
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  13. The strength of this blog is manifest. It sticks to broadly technical arguments and refrains from questioning of motives for posting arguments and avoids the political or personal.

    The discussion of 'Robust Warming of the Global Upper Oceans' was an excellent example of 'robust' technical argument by both AGW adherents and those who disagree with the so-called 'concensus' of overwhelming evidence for AGW by CO2GHG means.

    That discussion ended with the 'Robust Warming of the Upper Oceans' looking distinctly non-robust and those such as DougB lamenting the lack of good measurement and good data (in sympathy with Dr Trenberth).

    The argument that 'its there but we just can't measure it' is wearing a bit thin. The argument that 'it might not be there at all - or could be there in reduced numbers' may well be equally valid in scientific terms.

    I detect that the switching of recent discussion to thoughts censoring the non-believers might be motivated by the realization by the owner of this blog that the deeper we go into technical examination of the science, and particularly the bases of the warming imbalances and the quality of the data and measurement accuracies -the greater we understand the uncertainties and weaknesses in the current state climate science.
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  14. Ken Lambert at 23:13 PM on 4 June, 2010

    Not really Ken. The notion that one can "declare victory" despite the uncertainties in the measurements isn't very scientific or even that interesting. I don't think there's much doubt that oceans are continuing to absorb heat in response to a radiative forcing. As the "falsification" discussion on this thread indicates, one needs to consider evidence in its entirety. For example, it's difficult to square an absence of ocean heat uptake, with continuing sea level rise that can't be accounted for by land ice melt contributions. One may as well wait until these fundamental uncertainties are resolved.

    In other words focussing on areas of uncertainty (or apparent uncertainty) and then assuming that one's (or someone elses!) interpretation of where the numbers would lie if there wasn't uncertainty, is (also) non-scientific. I think most of us are pretty relaxed about these peripheral uncertainties that relate to very short monitoring of noisy signals, and don't feel the need to make comprehensive interpretations.

    I would suggest that your apparent desire for a "killer" observation that casts strong doubt on the science isn't helping you to understand the science...witness your unconsidered cheerleading for Arkadiusz's incorrect analysis of early 20th century sea ice loss on the "Abraham shows Monckton...." thread. One really needs to be more relaxed about the science and less concerned with point scoring. That to me is the strength of this blog where the science can be dicussed in detail.

    I suspect your desire to jump to comfy self-supporting conclusions is also the reason for your point about "censoring the non-believers" on this thread for which the evidence is also decidedly thin.....
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  15. JMurphy @ 5

    Copernicus' system was less reliable than the Ptolemaic system which relied on a scheme of in which regression of planetary motion in the heavens was based on cycle and epicycles. Copernicus was further restricted by the dominant paradigm which declared circular motion to be 'perfect.' In fact, Kepler had to break out of this paradigm by proposing elliptical motion thus providing a reliable model which corresponded to then observable data. Copernicus theory was untestable when first proposed.

    I harbour no delusions that my contributions on this blog reach Copernican heights. I have learnt a great deal from reading John's posts and from responses from 'warmists,' 'lukewarmists,' and 'sceptics' (if you'll pardon my resort to labels). I'd like to see this continue. I'm very comfortable with John's 'warmist' perspective - you have to have a firm working hypothesis to generate robust debate.

    Moreover, shutting out non mainstream perspectives freezes science. I could best illustrate this by talking about my own field - psychiatry. Fifty years ago, my field was dominated by a psychoanalytical paradigm which has now receded giving way to neurobiological, cognitive, and behavioural perspectives. Psychoanalysis would be on the margins and yet the contributions of its proponents still provide useful insights without which my field would be impoverished.

    I appreciate my comments might be strictly off topic - however, in any scientific field of endeavour, many schools of thought contend. The minority schools are vital to the integrity of science - otherwise, important questions go unasked.

    Ken Lambert's comments about the possible impact of the complexities, uncertainties, and weaknesses in climate science resonate strongly with me. My own field requires great tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. Whenever I have delved more deeply into any issue over the course of my career, I have found myself confronting Socrates' maxim: ‘One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.’
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  16. Ken writes: The strength of this blog is manifest. It sticks to broadly technical arguments and refrains from questioning of motives for posting arguments and avoids the political or personal.

    Yes, I agree.

    Unfortunately, Ken then continues: I detect that the switching of recent discussion to thoughts censoring the non-believers might be motivated by the realization by the owner of this blog that [...]

    Ironically, Ken here engages in exactly the kind of ungenerous speculation about motives that he was previously praising the site for avoiding.

    I really don't see any suggestion that "non-believers" should be "censored". At the very end of his post, John considers the idea of expecting anyone who is making an extraordinary claim to back that up with extraordinary evidence. This really ought to be common sense, and it's remarkable that we need to debate this at all.

    If someone wants to dispute plate tectonics, electromagnetism, biological evolution, or other aspects of mainstream science, we should expect them to provide very convincing evidence. It's not sufficient to suggest "Well, there's some uncertainty about geophysical processes in the upper mantle so plate tectonics isn't true."

    Likewise, mainstream science doesn't offer any support (that I'm aware of) for the idea that doubling or tripling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would lead to a runaway greenhouse effect a la Venus, where temperatures rise high enough to boil away the oceans. If I were to propose such an idea here, I would expect you to demand that I provide not just speculation or hints to back it up, but very serious and direct evidence to support my radical proposal.

    Personally, I would be embarrassed to be suggesting that asking people to provide concrete evidence when they make extraordinary claims is somehow tantamount to "censorship". If your ideas can't be supported with any convincing evidence, perhaps you should reconsider them?
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  17. chriscanaris at 00:23 AM on 5 June, 2010

    I think your comments are on topic, at least in relation to the discussion that has evolved from the "Comment Policy" bit of the top article. Perhaps it is me that is going off topic by developing your point about psychoanalytical paradigms. With great respect to your field, I would suggest that the possibility for embedding "mainstream perspectives" at the expense of alternative theories and approaches is bound to be much stronger in the psychological/neurological sciences and their interface, compared to the physical sciences.

    In any field with large and fundamental uncertainties like psychiatry (considering more broadly the neurological basis for behaviour and personality), the fact that the uncertainties are large allows for the possibility of real (and probably justifiable) factionalisation of views and therapeutic approaches. You can correct me if you consider that's incorrect, but I would consider the physical sciences (including climate science) to be far less susceptible to this simply because the evidence base and the causal relationships are so much more strongly defined.

    That doesn't mean that uncertainties don't exist of course. But we should be honest about these uncertainties, and how these impact on our essential understandings of the subject and its sub-subjects...
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  18. In the course of a very interesting post, chriscanaris (or should that be Chris Canaris?) writes: Ken Lambert's comments about the possible impact of the complexities, uncertainties, and weaknesses in climate science resonate strongly with me. My own field requires great tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. Whenever I have delved more deeply into any issue over the course of my career, I have found myself confronting Socrates' maxim: ‘One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing.’

    That's interesting. An alternative view, however, is that we do know something. In fact, thanks to the vast expansion of data collection and scientific computing since WWII, we really know quite a lot about the earth system. To be sure, we don't know everything ... but if that were a necessary criterion for action, none of us would get out of bed in the morning.

    I don't know much about psychiatry, so I can't really say much about the current state of knowledge in your field. But in earth science, I think it would be incredibly wasteful to essentially wave away everything that's been learned since the days of Roger Revelle and decide that the uncertainties are just too large for us to say anything about how the earth system works.

    The big "ocean heat content debate" is a good example. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the exact trend in OHC over the past half-century, and realistically that will probably never be completely resolved since there's no way to go back in time and collect better data.

    But there are other areas with much less uncertainty (e.g., sea level rise, as the other Chris points out). The logical response is to base your scientific understanding on the lines of evidence that are most clear. Even if we never measured the temperature of the deep ocean, there would be plenty of lines of evidence in support of AGW. Insofar as the attempts to reconstruct the time evolution of OHC don't contradict those other lines of evidence, I see no reason to reassess our thinking on AGW. If, at some point, someone comes up with a very convincing reconstruction of OHC that shows strong evidence that the oceans have been losing heat since 1970, then I would agree that the conflicting lines of evidence need to be reconciled and one outcome might be ditching AGW.

    But that's not remotely the situation we find ourselves in. Instead, you (and others) are trying to hold up uncertainty in areas X, Y, and Z as a reason to throw out certainty in areas A, B, and C. We don't do that in other aspects of our daily lives and I see no reason to do it here.
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  19. Ken Lambert wrote :"I detect that the switching of recent discussion to thoughts censoring the non-believers might be motivated by the realization by the owner of this blog that the deeper we go into technical examination of the science, and particularly the bases of the warming imbalances and the quality of the data and measurement accuracies -the greater we understand the uncertainties and weaknesses in the current state climate science."

    I'm afraid you are detecting, as far as I can see, something which is not only not there but not even anywhere near reality. How many articles are you thinking of that are switching this discussion ?

    Your use of a word like 'censoring' suggests that you feel victimised directly or indirectly by the deletion of nonsense arguments which anyone feels like posting without the need for any sort of evidence or back-up. Why ?

    Your use of the term 'non-believers' suggests that you look on global warming as a religion, as opposed to so-called skepticism which you would call...what ? Rational and empirical ?
    How many religions are based on science ?

    Your final views about the science betray a lack of awareness (probably deliberate) of both the vast amount of science available on this site and the vast majority of scientific studies which continue to confirm global warming; and betray your lack of awareness of the uncertainties that already exist in climatology and related fields - why else do you think people are continuing to study the subject and bother to bring out more studies ?
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  20. Carl Sagan was known for saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

    It is a wonderful illustration of the topsy-turvy CAGW world to suggest that the skeptics are the ones making extraordinary claims.

    Climate alarmism is constructed out of "Extraordinary Claims" while skeptics are unimpressed with the evidence produced to support them.
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  21. gallopingcamel at 01:23 AM on 5 June, 2010

    The problem there is one of definition gallopingcamel, your post being a sort of vague list of value-laden descriptors. There are lots of examples on this thread about what is meant by "extraordinary claims" in the context of attempts to overthrow fundamental knowledge (see examples in posts by CBDunkerson, Ned, JMurphy....).

    You need to do similar and define what you mean by "Extraordinary Claims" as well as "skeptics" and "climate alarmism". Otherwise your post doesn't really have meaning. In any case I don't think anyone on this thread has suggested that "skeptics are the ones making extraordinary claims".
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  22. gallopingcamel, perhaps you could list some of those "Extraordinary Claims" made by 'Climate alarmists', and some of the evidence (along with the relevant counter-evidence) that 'skeptics' are 'unimpressed' with.

    I won't hold my breath, though...
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  23. gallopingcamel... No. Climate alarmism (I don't totally reject that term because this is a very alarming situation) is constructed from a large body of research science that is all pointing to the same general conclusion. There is an extraordinary amount of evidence that this is real. Thus, it would take something extraordinary to counter that amount of evidence.

    I keep using the puzzle analogy. Science has pieced together a puzzle, using 150 years of solid research, and that puzzle is 95% complete. We're highly confident what the picture tells us. Deniers try to come along with single pieces here and there saying that the whole puzzle is wrong and they have the "real" answer. Problem is, all those other pieces of the puzzle can't just be discarded. You would have to completely rebuild the puzzle, using the existing pieces, and make them fit the new paradigm. That would be an extraordinary feat!
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    Response: Hey, that's my analogy! I've spent years beating it to death :-)
  24. gallopingcamel, someone is "topsy-turvy" here, but it isn't climate science.

    I do find it ironic, however, that you use that word "alarmism". The main embodiments of the consensus view of climate -- the IPCC WG1 reports, Spencer Weart's history, basic textbooks, etc. -- are simply realistic, not alarmist. Everything is very clearly documented, and the IPCC generally errs on the side of caution (see, e.g., sea level rise).

    There is, however, one area where there's no shortage of alarmism. Over and over again I see "skeptics" abandon all shreds of actual skepticism when the subject turns to economics. People who nit-pick over details of peer-reviewed climate science blithely assert that mitigation of climate change would cost hundreds of trillions of dollars, would lead to economic collapse, or would require everyone to return to the Stone Age. (I believe the expression "billions are bound to perish" is still present in one comment that somehow made it through the moderation policy yesterday, despite the inflammatory and alarmist language....)

    Climate scientists have done the hard work of setting up a process to review and summarize the peer reviewed knowledge of their field every few years. Those summaries tell us convincingly that if we proceed with business-as-usual, a wide variety of adverse consequences are likely to follow.

    Now, the "economic alarmists" can claim that trying to mitigate those adverse consequences will cost too much. But until they have a similarly convincing mechanism for compiling and explaining the evidence, I see no reason not to ignore them. There's plenty of peer reviewed evidence that we can make a reasonably large dent in our CO2 emissions with current technology.

    So if you're really concerned about "alarmism" take it up with the people who are claiming that we can't cut back on CO2 emissions without destroying the economy.
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  25. robhon at 01:59 AM on 5 June, 2010

    Actually rob, we do have to be careful with terminology. By common understanding "alarmism" indicates needless or inappropriate alarm. I'm sure gallopingcamel was using it in that sense, and I would suggest that's the sense in which the word should be understood. A prognosis can be truly alarming without being alarmist!

    Of course we can only determine whether a prognosis is alarming or alarmist by considering specific examples in the light of the evidence.
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  26. chris writes: In any case I don't think anyone on this thread has suggested that "skeptics are the ones making extraordinary claims".

    Given that they are clearly in the minority here, I guess I can understand why they would leap to that conclusion. Thus, I was very careful in my comment here to use an example of an "extraordinary claim" coming from the opposite side (doubling or tripling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would lead to a runaway greenhouse effect a la Venus!).

    It would be nice if we could all agree on the general principle that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" ... but even that seemingly common-sense statement triggered cries of "censorship" in this thread.
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  27. Chris... You're totally right. I was just trying to making a point that the situation IS alarming.
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  28. Ned at 02:11 AM on 5 June, 2010

    Yes O.K. Ned...but I was really trying to recover a sense of meaningful terminology and "reclaim" a proper meaning for the word "skeptic"!

    So a true skeptic wouldn't claim that (referring to the examples on this thread) "there is no greenhouse effect" or "CO2 is not rising; it fluctuated wildly in the recent past" or "the Earth is cooling, not warming" or "the greenhouse effect disobeys Thermodynamic Laws" , or even your "runaway greenhouse" example. That's not skepticism. It's something else.

    So it is in the sense of the real meaning of "skeptic" that I said "In any case I don't think anyone on this thread has suggested that "skeptics are the ones making extraordinary claims". By definition a true "skeptic" would be unlikely to make "extraordinary claims" and they did they'd be certain to have some decent supporting evidence.

    I certainly agree with your general principle. Any skeptic would!
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  29. Ah, sorry, Chris. You are of course correct.

    I guess we just need to be able to conduct these conversations without labels for people. It's certainly not appropriate to allow one side to monopolize the term "skeptic". I understand that they don't care for the term "denialist" either. I'd prefer that they don't refer to me as "pro-AGW" (I'm not in favor of cooking the planet, after all) and the term "warmist / warmer" also annoys me. Oh, well.
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  30. Yes, I agree Ned...it's important to be clear about what we mean, and not to use labels unless we're pretty clear that their meaning is unambiguous. Unfortunately some perfectly good words (like "skeptic") have been battered out of recognition in pursuit of dodgy agendas...so we're forced to keep redefining them whenever we wish to use them meaningfully.
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  31. Ned and Chris... I believe part of the idea of John's website is to take back the term "skeptic." That term properly belongs within all science because the entire process of science is based in skepticism.

    There is a larger body of research that suggests that AGW is real and should be considered a serious concern for humans. If you are a researcher in an area of climate change then you are automatically a skeptic. If, like me, you are outside of research and trying to come to a personal opinion then you either believe that larger body of research or you reject or deny that research.

    So, I believe the most accurate terms are AGW believer and AGW denier... for those of us who are NOT researchers.
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  32. Gishgallopingcamel:
    Climate alarmism is constructed out of "Extraordinary Claims" while skeptics are unimpressed with the evidence produced to support them.
    This is the argument from ignorance. As summarized by Ned, the claims in support of AGW aren't extraordinary to anyone who is competent in the natural sciences. Given that Ned's three statements are as yet unfalsified, counter-claims are extraordinary prima facie, and thus require extraordinary evidence to support them.
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  33. #31 robhon at 03:00 AM on 5 June, 2010
    So, I believe the most accurate terms are AGW believer and AGW denier... for those of us who are NOT researchers

    That is not so. Whenever some piece of natural science is actually settled, researchers should be able to make it transparent and understandable for anyone outside the field provided she has a firm grasp of some basics like the underlying physics and some inclination to math. If they fail to do so, the science is not settled. It is as simple as that.

    Moreover, an outsider like this is able to spot inconsistencies, sloppy methods, omissions, circular reasoning and the like.

    If you don't accept this, there is no way for you to tell crackpot and genuine science apart.

    There are experts of homeopathy, astrology or parapsychology with their respective huge underlying bodies of knowledge. These are complex fields requiring many years of study and they even claim to do original research.

    Your approach can be translated to this context as there being genuine homeopathy researchers while anyone else is either a believer or a denier. As they have peer reviewed journals as well, to be a denier is obviously foolish.
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  34. BP:

    As [homeopathy enthusiasts] have peer reviewed journals as well, to be a denier is obviously foolish.

    Now that's a twist. First definition that popped up via Google: "Peer, a person who is of equal standing with another in a group."

    But there are distinctions between groups, of course. Let me point out redundantly that a peer group called the National Academy of Sciences accepts anthropogenic warming as what scientists regard to be factual:

    A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems...

    Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.


    Read the facts here.

    So for virtually all of us denizens in the lower orders of peer groups, the remaining quibble is "very likely." In order to best the peer group called the National Academy of Sciences, find a more likely explanation it's necessary for us to substitute better research than what lead the NAS to its conclusions. That's not very likely.
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  35. "Whenever some piece of natural science is actually settled, researchers should be able to make it transparent and understandable for anyone outside the field provided she has a firm grasp of some basics like the underlying physics and some inclination to math. If they fail to do so, the science is not settled. It is as simple as that."

    Yeah? How many people outside of particle physics really understand the standard model? It might be wrong but ... if it's wrong, it's not simply because it's complex and largely impenetrable to those outside the field.
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  36. The basic science of climate HAS been shown in a transparent and understandable way in the IPCC reports. The NAS report is also written in a transparent and understandable way. The people who deny this are not reading what has been put before them. While we engage them here, we often have to review basic physics that is well understood (like the long review of heat released by fossil fuels last week). This is not because the science is not clear, but due to a lack of effort to understand by the "sceptics". I like this give and take because I often have to engage students who read the sceptic websites and have the same talking points. From Sceptical Science I learn how to counter these arguments.
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  37. dhogaza @ 35. Very good point. Although I have only a rudimentary understanding of particle physics, I'm certainly flummoxed by the more complicated ideas. In such cases, I defer to the greater knowledge of those who've made Particle Physics their life's work, even if I don't understand it myself. I certainly don't go around saying "well I don't understand it, so a boson & muon can't actually be real". Yet this is, in some respects, what the more extreme "skeptics" seem to be doing. Worse still, is they seem to do the equivalent of saying "well I don't believe in a muon or a boson, because I don't understand it, but says that atoms are actually made up of gnomes. That sounds much more plausible to me, & I like the person saying it, so that's what I choose to believe!"
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  38. Sorry, another point I'd like to raise. If its off-topic, then please delete.
    A false assertion some "skeptics" make is that those who accept AGW are completely closed minded towards the possibility of the warming being caused by something else. This is patently *untrue*! About a decade ago, the blogs lit up with claims by the skeptics that "the sun was to blame"-with links to papers that backed up that position. My first response was not disbelief. No, my first response was "well, it certainly *sounds* plausible". My second response was guarded relief. After all, if the last 60 years of warming was just a part of the suns larger cycle, then it meant we had nothing to worry about! However, when I read all the papers on the subject, it made it clear that-though solar variation could explain the bulk of climate change over the last 12,000 or so years (if not more) it was completely *unable* to explain the warming of the last 30-60 years. Needless to say I was not happy because-contrary to some people's opinions-I gain no pleasure about being on the "right" side of the AGW debate. If being "right" is a victory, then its an extremely bitter victory to me-because in this case being "right" means that-unless something is done to correct the problem-we're very likely headed towards a bad end. That knowledge gives me no joy whatsoever!
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  39. Ned @ 18:

    '...or should that be Chris Canaris?'

    The possibility that I might be commenting so transparently reflects the respect I have for this Blog and John's efforts in maintaining fair debate. :-)
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  40. I think gallopingcamel might be talking about figure 21.
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  41. chriscanaris writes: The possibility that I might be commenting so transparently reflects the respect I have for this Blog and John's efforts in maintaining fair debate. :-)

    A nice statement. Likewise, my question (of whether you prefer to be addressed here as "chriscanaris" or "Chris Canaris") reflects the respect I have for your generally polite, thoughtful, and on-topic contributions here.
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  42. gallopingcamel at 15:31 PM on 5 June, 2010

    Yes, it's Figure 20. And of course it has to be interpreted correctly, so we should look at the various projections (not "predictions") and assess these in relation to the scenarios investigated. It also helps to look at the supporting text. This indicates that the 21st century temperature rise is projected to be in the range 2-7 oC of warming above the 1800-1990 (pre-industrial) baseline, depending on emission scenarios, and given known uncertainties (see shaded areas on graphs).

    Since we've already had nearly 1 oC of this warming, it's not too surprising to expect that even if we take rather dramatic steps to reduce greenhouse emissions, we're not going to avoid at least another 1 oC of warming this century (B1 scenario; 2.5 oC mid-range projection over pre-industrial baseline, with a lower bound near 2 oC).

    At the top end (essentially a "business as usual" scenario with unconstrained economic expansion and a heavy reliance on coal; A1F1), a mid range temperature rise near 5 oC above pre-industrial temperatures (~4 oC of 21st century warming to come) is projected.

    Since our uncertainty in climate sensitivity (Earth surface response to radiative forcing equivalent to 2x[CO2]) is large (2-4.5 oC of warming per doubling), this really has to be included in the temperature projections.

    So the (unlikely) A1F1 emission scenario combined with the (less than likely we hope) top end of the climate sensitivity gives a possible temperature rise near 7 oC.

    Is that alarming? Yes indeed. Is it alarmist? No not really. It describes a specific (and hopefully unlikely) emissions scenario and accommodates the (hopefully!) top end of the uncertainty in climate sensitivity.

    Of course if one was to assert "The IPCC and Copenhagen Diagnosis says we're going to warm by 6 oC during this century." that would be alarmist. But they don't. These groups carefully spell out the range of likely temperature rises according to various emission scenarios and accommodating known uncertainties in the Earth surface temperature response to greenhouse forcing.....
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  43. Chris, thank you for that very clear and reasonable explanation of 21st century temperature projections.
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  44. Thank you Ned. That's very kind of you. I guess I prefer chriscanaris. Commenting in the blogosphere under your real name with no semblance of disguise can overamplify your Internet footprint.

    I did think your comment @ 18 about the things we do know to be very valid. In dealing with an area like AWG, we have to do the best we can with what information we possess.

    Part of the problem in an area like AWG is that we are dealing with an issue on a global scale. Today's knowledge explosion however forces most of us to be 'specialists' - the polymaths of yesteryear are rare indeed.

    A specialist is sometimes described as one 'who knows more and more about less and less.' Hence, attempts at consensus in a field often involve simplifications which often irritate the specialist.

    I found your comments on economic alarmism @ 24 very relevant - economists of necessity simplify very complex systems sometimes with major unintended consequences. Yet policy makers do have to make decisions balancing out popular perceptions, pressures from special interest groups, etc (ie getting votes) whilst taking advice from economists. In the political sphere, this can translate into an argument that is 'clearer than truth.'

    I see parallels between the AWG debates and competing economic paradigms.
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  45. damn looks like this blog is going to go the same way as WUWT and RealClimate. A borefest of mutual backslapping.

    Can somebody point me to the peer-reviewed paper that delineates what idea is acceptable and what is extraordinary?
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  46. HR, please review the previous comments on this thread. Your mistaken assumptions have been responded to clearly.

    There is such a thing as common sense, and we can informally apply it to assess whether a given claim is moderate and reasonable or extreme and improbable, in light of current scientific understanding.

    Consider the example I used above. Suppose someone were to come here and suggest that we need to cut CO2 emissions now because "doubling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would lead to a runaway greenhouse effect a la Venus, where temperatures rise high enough to boil away the oceans".

    Most people, I think, would recognize that as a rather extreme claim. There is no known physical process operating today that could amplify the warming from 2XCO2 that way. No model or paleoclimate study suggests such a thing is possible.

    So if I were to make that claim, you really ought to expect me to provide some non-trivial reasoning or justification.

    Does this expectation really seem unreasonable to you? Frankly, I would be insulted at the idea that my ideas are so poorly grounded that I need to be exempted from providing any evidence for them.
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  47. #40 gallopingcamel at 15:31 PM on 5 June, 2010
    One of the many gems is Figure 20 which predicts temperature increases ranging from 2.5 to 7 Kelvin by the year 2100

    Camel, there are problems with Fig. 20 (and the related text) in The Copenhagen Diagnosis indeed, but your interpretation is not among them.



    (click on image for enlarged version)

    The Report (pp. 44) gives Kaufman 2009 as reference.

    Science 4 September 2009:
    Vol. 325. no. 5945, pp. 1236 - 1239
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1173983
    Recent Warming Reverses Long-Term Arctic Cooling
    by Kaufman & al.

    However, Fig. 20 is not the original one from this paper, but, according to the caption is "modified by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research".

    The original (except some explanation in indigo) looks like this:



    From this figure it is obvious that according to Kaufman 2009 the step-like temperature increase occurred in the first half of the 20th century when CO2 emissions were an order of magnitude lower than they are today. Therefore it does not support the claims expressed in the Copenhagen Diagnosis, quite the opposite (I've told you it was soot). But the text of the Report fails to mention this particular detail.

    On top of that there is the modification done by UCAR (the red patch in Fig. 20). You can have a closer look at it.

    As it extends the graph to about 2040, it can hardly be anything else but an attempt to mix up fact and fiction. This small detail also goes unnoticed in the text and the modification is not supported by any peer reviewed reference either. What can I say? One simply never ever does such a thing in a scientific report.

    One more thing (and here we return to Camel's claim). The last segment of the red line looks really steep and frightening, but actually it has a slope of about 2°C/century. Taking into account Arctic amplification, (even if it were real) it would suggest a 1°C/century global average temperature rise, lower than the low end of IPCC projections. Needless to say, the Report also fails to elaborate on this question.

    So no, Camel, Fig. 20 of the Copenhagen Diagnosis bogus it may be, definitely does not "predict temperature increases ranging from 2.5 to 7 Kelvin by the year 2100"
    Moderator Response (to gallopingcamel #40) Would you prefer to demonstrate your case or would you instead prefer to have your opinion deleted without trace?

    If you can demonstrate your case, please do so in a constructive way.

    In either event this particular post will be deleted; this is simply a courtesy explanation of why that will happen and how you can avoid such wasted effort in the future.
    Don't do that please. The discussion here, taken as a whole, is self-correcting. By deleting posts simply because they don't suit your personal taste, grave obstacles are raised against this process.
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  48. HumanityRules: I hope John reconsiders - I share your feelings about WUWT.
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  49. Berényi there's a vast gulf between GC's style and yours.

    Regardless of whether you're right or wrong, you invest time and effort in your remarks and claims, offer specific information you believe backs up your assertions. You provide us with food for thought. You also ask questions or make statements that do not always have patently obvious answers or rebuttals. This helps folks such as myself to test whether I'm in the realm of faith or reason.

    Your post elaborating on GC's empty comment serves as a good example of what I'm speaking of. In the case of GC, his remarks on this topic were confined to mockery, devoid of reason and not useful, whereas you took the time to make a detailed description of why you believe your assertion to be true.

    I think you're correct that threads tend to be self-correcting. However there's a certain threshold below which any utility is absent, leaving only noisy verbiage that must be filtered out for folks trying to improve themselves by reading or participating in discussion. There's no value in introducing errors of this kind requiring correction.
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  50. Berényi Péter at 22:43 PM on 5 June, 2010

    No I'm pretty sure gallopingcamel was referring to Figure 21 (which I meant to say in my post just above but just repeated camel's mistake!). That's the Figure that addresses the projections through the 21st century that camel was discussing. That's the Figure (and text) we should be discussing if we wish to address camels point as described here. You simply can't say anything about projected 21st century global warming from a figure describing Arctic paleo and 20th century temperature anomalies.

    As for your points re Figure 20 of the Cophenhagen report.

    Firstly, I agree with you that the presentation of this Figure is poor. However you're overdramatising its flaw by pretending that the error indicates that the Report is trying to "mix up fact and fiction" by extending to 2040. Here's what has likely happened:

    (i) The report wants to present a consistent graph style and in reproducing Kaufman et al (2009)'s data from Figure 3C of that paper (see link in Peter's post) they wish to remove the Overpeck et al data that slightly clutters the Figure.

    (ii) They put (as far as I can see) exactly the same data in the new Figure 20 of the report as Figure 3C of Kaufman et al (2009). This is the full proxy reconstruction (10 year averaged) referenced to the 1961-1990 Arctic summer temperature anomaly (blue) and the 1961-1990 referenced Hadcrut3 10 year averaged Arctic temperature through 2008 in red.

    (iii) For some reason they've messed up the overlay. The red plot should only extend to 2008 (or 2004 for a 10-year mean?) but as you say it seems to go to a later date. Part of the problem is the thickness of the line (15-20 years wide). But otherwise it seems to be the same data as presented in Kaufman's Figure 3c. It reaches a temperature anomaly of 0.8-0.85 oC just as in Kaufman's Figure.

    So nothing untoward I think; however not the finest piece of graph reproduction.

    Some of the relevance of rapid early 20th century warming is described here as described here. I can’t remember whether the deposition of sulphurous aerosols and black carbon in Greenland cores is consistent with a dominant contribution to early 20th century warming. Do you have the relevant cites?
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