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Real experts don't know everything

Posted on 10 November 2010 by Stephan Lewandowsky

A short piece for the general audience of RTR radio, Perth, Australia.
(listen to the original audio podcast)

What does the color of tomatoes have to do with the price of catfish in Venezuela?

Nothing whatsoever, as far as I know.

Now suppose your gardener claims to be an expert tomato chromatologist one day, and then a leading ichthyologist the day after. Would you trust his expertise?

And would you trust this guy if he first claimed that tomatoes weren’t red and then tried to convince you that catfish don’t have gills?

Probably not.

We all know that we must trust experts at one point or another; we must trust our dentist to decide how to fill our teeth, for example, and we must trust the plumber’s advice on our broken hot water system.

But we also know that experts are experts precisely because they specialize in one thing and one thing only. We would not trust our plumber with doing a root canal or with the welfare of Venezuelan fish.

So if anyone claims to be an expert on completely unrelated things, we should become suspicious. And if that person says the opposite of everything we’ve ever heard before, then we should be doubly suspicious.

This is one of the many reasons we should be very, very suspicious of the so-called “skeptics” who deny the basics of climate science. Many of the same so-called “skeptics” who presently seek to create doubt about climate science are the very same people who 20 years ago tried to tell us that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer.

Yes. The very same people who denied the link between smoking and ill health are now also denying the basic laws of physics when it comes to climate. Oh, and they also denied the link between CFCs and ozone depletion, and they also denied that acid rain posed a problem in the 1980s.

The very same people and the very same shadowy “think tanks” and “policy institutes.”

This common denominator underlying the repeated denial of scientific knowledge has been revealed with devastating clarity in a brilliant recent book by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Their book revealed how a network of think tanks aided by a tiny number of politically-motivated scientists was able to forestall action on many issues that affect our daily lives—from our own health to the future well-being of our planet.

This is a fascinating story; and it is a story you can hear from Professor Oreskes herself, because she will be visiting Perth on the 22nd of November, where she will give a free lecture at UWA about those “Merchants of Doubt.” That’s a Monday evening, 22nd of November, 6pm in the Social Sciences Lecture Theatre at UWA.

LISTEN TO THE AUDIO PODCAST 

Details of Naomi Oreskes' events

Place Time Details
Sydney Monday
15 Nov
6.00 to 8.00pm
Where: University of New South Wales, Law Theatre (Law Building)
RSVP: No booking required.
Presented by: Climate Change Research Centre and Faculty of Arts & Social Science
(Prof. Oreskes will be introduced by Robyn Williams, Presenter of the ABC’s The Science Show)
Brisbane Tuesday
16 Nov
5.30 to 6.30pm
University of Queensland, Abel Smith Lecture Theatre, St Lucia.
VP: http://gci.uq.edu.au/naomi-oreskes
Presented by: The Global Change Institute.
(Prof. Oreskes will be introduced by Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director of the Global Change Institute. Merchants of Doubt will be available for purchase.)
Melbourne Wednesday
17 November
5.45 to 7.00pm
Where: Experimedia, The State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne.
RSVP: No booking required
Presented by: The Monash Sustainability Institute & The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. (Prof. Oreskes will be introduced by Prof. Karoly, with Q&A moderated by Prof. Dave Griggs, MSI. Merchants of Doubt will be available for purchase before the lecture, with signing and sales afterwards.)
Adelaide Thursday
18 November
6.00 to 7.30pm
Where: RIAus @ The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide.
RSVP: http://www.riaus.org.au/events/2010/11/18/merchants_of_doubt.jsp
Presented by: RIAus 
Perth Monday
22 November
6.00pm
Where: University of Western Australia, Social Sciences Lecture Theatre (parking P3, Hackett Entrance)
RSVP: No booking required.
Presented by: The Institute of Advanced Studies.
(Merchants of Doubt will be available for purchase from 5.30pm with the author signing afterwards.)

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Comments 51 to 89 out of 89:

  1. #48 JMurphy,

    Check out Post 21 by Poptech.
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  2. Tarcisio José D'Avila @ #47

    Yes, the physics is wrong for do not consider the evaporation of water from the soil. By failing to analyze whether the soil has enough water to control the temperature of the planet.

    Are you arguing that climatologists, geologists etc. have "failed to analyze" evapotranspiration? I've been reading papers on AGW for nearly 30 years, and I've never noticed any lack of attention to this topic. Here's an article by the Royal Society from 1948: Natural Evaporation from Open Water, Bare Soil and Grass. Here's a more recent paper from the NOAA: Energy Budget-Based Simulation of Evapotranspiration from Land in the Great Lakes Basin. And here's a recent article on a global study of evapotranspiration, which states:

    Most climate models have suggested that evapotranspiration, which is the movement of water from the land to the atmosphere, would increase with global warming. The new research, published online this week in the journal Nature, found that's exactly what was happening from 1982 to the late 1990s.

    But in 1998, this significant increase in evapotranspiration -- which had been seven millimeters per year -- slowed dramatically or stopped. In large portions of the world, soils are now becoming drier than they used to be, releasing less water and offsetting some moisture increases elsewhere.


    I could post many, many more links on this subject. What makes you say scientists have "failed to analyze" it?
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  3. Norman, which comments do you think raise "valid objections" - based on published science please?

    You go on about proof again. Proof belongs to mathematics. What do you think scientific proof looks like? We have a working model of what causes ice-ages that claims orbital-induced variations in insolation magnified by feedbacks in albedo and GHGs reproduce the effect. To harp on a point, IPCC WG1 Chapter 6 discusses this and points you to the seminal papers. Better than a website. If you want entertain the idea the orbital cycles can do this by themselves, then why arent hemispheres anti-phased? And the early objection to milankovich cycles was that the insolation change is way too small to create that much variation. You need the feedbacks. (Note that you can introduce all manner of fantasy models for explaining the world if you remove the constraint that the arithmetic must add up - but that isnt science).
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  4. Post 21 by Poptech - seriously?? perhaps you should study how modelling is climate modelling is actually done and verified to evaluate that.
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  5. #53 scaddenp

    Not sure what you are asking. My field is Chemistry. It is one of the Classic and solid sciences. Scientific proof is not achieved by a series of math equations even if they add up. Scientific proof is empirical evidence. An experiment or test that either confirms or rejects an idea about how something behaves.

    Fuzzy science is the realm where you stretch back in time or go smaller than you can test. Places you can not directly test. Earth's climate millions of years ago is fuzzy. It is based upon lots of proxy data that may be valid but then again maybe it doesn't work the way researchers believe it does. You don't have a way to verify the proxy with an actual test or measurement. You have to make assumptions, you have to trust some unknown that you did not think of is effectin a proxy.

    If a system gets too complex the model gets fuzzy really fast. Case of point. Our solar system functions in a nice model perdictable fashion. We have One much larger central mass and the laws of gravity can do very well to predict orbital motions of planets. But in a Solar system with multiple stars and planets the simple law of gravity will not allow a simple model to predict the motions of such planets. They become much more chaotic and unpredictable. Climate is a similar complex system. The fundamental science behind climate is well established and tested (radiation properties, thermodynamics etc) but the overall system is complex and chaotic and even models with the largest computers will not be able to contain all the interactions.

    Albedo can change, the Earth does change its position to the sun in orbital cycles, clouds are really random and dynamic and very hard to model, water vapor is very complex as it will increase and decrease based upon other variables in the system.

    Don't know if this helps. I am working to understand what your points are, what are you getting at.
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  6. 55: "Fuzzy science is the realm where you stretch back in time or go smaller than you can test. "

    So you reject as fuzzy sciences: Earth science, cosmology, quantum mechanics, etc. If so, you must reject the benefits of said sciences: But you drive a car which runs on petroleum found by earth scientists, use a TV or computer which runs on electronics described by quantum behavior and most likely use a GPS device which requires general relativity to work correctly.

    Are there no model equations in Chemistry? No statistical behavior? Nothing 'fuzzy'?

    "Climate is a similar complex system. The fundamental science behind climate is well established and tested ... but the overall system is complex and chaotic and even models with the largest computers will not be able to contain all the interactions." So you object to the scale of the problem? How many molecules of a gas do you measure to determine its properties? Certainly not all of them.

    One doesn't need to include all the interactions to understand a system governed by what you describe as 'well-established and tested' science. If the fundamental science is well-established and tested, then the predictions made by that science are no different than those from any other science. Where's the real fuzzy stuff coming from? The cherry-pickers and denialists who discount the expert analysis and repeat whatever the meme du jour happens to be.
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  7. #56 muoncounter

    Now where in my post did I say I reject fuzzy science? If something works you can still use it and build technology based upon it. Scientists are not sure what gravity or or how it is produced or if it can be manipulated. But they can certainly test an experiment with it to learn how it works and behaves and develop technology with this in mind (even if they do not grasp how it works at a deeper level). Fuzzy is a place where you can not empirically test your ideas. In Chemistry they had many models and ideas of what atoms where and how they behaved. They started running tests and found out their assumptions were not correct...Quantum theory came from empirical tests. They thought atoms were little hard balls, but when they shot radiation at it the radiation went on through except small amounts that bounced off the nucleus. I was just making a point between a hard tested science and the other that you can only logically infer but can never actually test. See the difference?

    I think my solar system analogy of complex systems did not convince you. It is not the scale of the climate system that is the problem, it is he complexity. Once a system is chaotic the ability to predict it will become increasingly difficult. It is why local weather is so very hard to predict. It is a chaotic system where small changes can have large outcomes in the future and the best models and calculating machines cannot overcome this fact.

    "One doesn't need to include all the interactions to understand a system governed by what you describe as 'well-established and tested' science. If the fundamental science is well-established and tested, then the predictions made by that science are no different than those from any other science."

    Maybe if you looked into chaos theory and predictability. The laws of gravity are very well established but predicting orbital motions of a multistar solar system may not even be possible.
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    Moderator Response: Search for "chaos" in the field at the top left.
  8. Norman #55

    You have to make assumptions, you have to trust some unknown that you did not think of is effectin a proxy.

    You also have to make assumptions when you claim that climate models based on basic physical laws are wrong, or much more likely to be wrong than right, or much more likely to err on the side of "alarmism" than complacency.

    You seem to worry about trusting "some unknown" not to falsify climate models, but you also seem to be implying that we should trust that some unknown will falsify climate models. And as I see it, the grounds for assuming that some unknown process will result in a much happier outcome than the best available science predicts are actually much "fuzzier," in terms of their evidentiary basis, than the models you're trying to critique.
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  9. muoncounter,

    Here is a quick look at chaos theory.

    Chaos theory.
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    Moderator Response: Norman, the topic of chaos in climate change is well known. Type "chaos" into the Search field at the top left of this page.
  10. %58 Phila

    I think my communication skills are very lacking and I am sorry for this. My points are that models of complex systems are inherently unpredictable. You can tweek them forever and have them mimic past events, but it does not make them able to accurately predict the future of a chaotic system. I hope you take the time to read the link I posted for muoncounter about Chaos theory.
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    Moderator Response: Norman, type "chaos" into the Search field at the top left of this page.
  11. Norman wrote : "The comment "...prior to 1970 all warming was natural, according to the IPCC" was based upon the visual analysis of the Model runs from IPCC. Look at the graph. He did not put a quote around the statement as it did not come from any text. Before 1970 the natural and anthropogenic CO2 produced the same effect."


    He did not put a quote around the text because then it would be too obvious that he is pushing his luck. It is always best to read the original words that came with the graphs; words like these :


    There is very high confidence that the net effect of human
    activities since 1750 has been one of warming.

    (i.e. prior to 1970 all warming was NOT natural, according to the IPCC)


    During the past 50 years, the sum of solar and volcanic
    forcings would likely have produced cooling.

    (i.e. that is why the bands diverge from that period onwards)


    Norman also wrote : "So did you take the time to look at any of his graphs and conclusions? Or did you stop at this statement and conclude he was incorrect and the rest of the site was useless?"


    By the time I had gotten to the graphs, I had also come across the non-scientific and emotive term "warm-mongers", and a reference to claims made by Steve McIntyre.
    He has his agenda and he intends to fit his case around that. If that is what you prefer to read too, I'll leave you to it.
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  12. Norman

    "Scientific proof is not achieved by a series of math equations even if they add up. Scientific proof is empirical evidence. An experiment or test that either confirms or rejects an idea about how something behaves."

    And yet if someone suggested a chemical reaction that did not obey the law of conservation of mass, or thermodynamic contraints on kinetics, you would hesitate to believe it, no? The moles and energy need to add up. If they don't you are throwing away centuries of science and opening up the range of possibilities to a degree that makes progress impossible.

    "You don't have a way to verify the proxy with an actual test or measurement."

    One calibrates (and validates) proxies against known instrumental records. Different proxies are compared to ensure consistency when back casting. As the proxies act by independent means, agreement means something. Are they perfect..no? Temporal resolution is course and varies among proxies, and other factors can affect them. But when independent proxies agree that gives us more confidence that what they see is correct. To throw that information away simply it seems fuzzy compared to a chemical reaction under controlled conditions in the laboratory seems disingenuous to me.

    "Climate is a similar complex system. The fundamental science behind climate is well established and tested (radiation properties, thermodynamics etc) but the overall system is complex and chaotic and even models with the largest computers will not be able to contain all the interactions."

    Should we not believe reaction kinetics because it does not explicitly consider all the shifts in quantum state that constantly occur at the atomic and molecular level? No, because we can generalize about the average behavior of compounds in solutions without that specific knowledge. We also cannot predict when an individual atom of a radioactive isotope will decay, but I can predict with amazing exactness the half life of a mole of C14. Likewise, we cannot predict what the winds will do in Sumatra next week, but we can be darn sure that as CO2 increases the radiative balance of the earth will change and that this must be reflected in a changing heat balance, which has predictable consequences for average conditions on earth, based on long standing physical principles.

    That we do not know everything does not mean that we know nothing and that generalization is not possible in any science. I long ago learned not to dismiss too quickly how another science goes about its business. Smart people find ways of dealing with the problems thrown up by the systems they study, and it takes a lot of experience to understand why experts in the field have taken the approach they have.
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  13. Norman wrote : "#48 JMurphy,
    Check out Post 21 by Poptech."



    Sorry, but the question I asked was :

    Do you have more details of these "many", and what scientific evidence they are using for their "valid counter points" ?

    Your response fails on both counts, I'm afraid.
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  14. Here is an example article of why, in a complex system, no easy answer is the "Be All" of understanding the situation.

    Climate models predicted a warming Arctic and the current warming found in the region may seem to verify the model is accurately predicting what is going on (CO2 increase by man is heating the Arctic region and causing increased summer ice melting). However this arcticle points out that another forcing factor is better at explaining what is going on in the Arctic then the AGW theory.

    A possible alternative explanation of Arctic warming than AGW.
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  15. I realize many are satisfied to some extent there is enough proof that CO2 is the primary agent of global warming. However, to Norman's point there are other variables we do not totally understand, or cannot have a high level of confidence in them at this point in time. With that in mind, can we proceed with policy decisions that will drastically affect so many? That is my dilemma, and what I am looking to answer. Has the science come to a point where additional discovery will only be minor, is the best solution confirmed?
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  16. Norman @ #60

    I hope you take the time to read the link I posted for muoncounter about Chaos theory.

    Thanks, but (like most people here, I suspect) I'm actually familiar with the basic concepts of chaos theory and nonlinear dynamics.

    Putting aside the question of why climatologists stubbornly persist in modeling and prediction, despite the easy online availability of pop-science articles on chaos theory, I'd like to ask again why you seem to feel that uncertainty is grounds for inaction or complacency.
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  17. Phila at 10:13 AM on 12 November, 2010

    Phila,

    You have hit on exactly what is required to determine action/inaction. Model refinement should continue, and additional emperical data included until we reach the low levels of uncertainty that give confidence to the decision making process. At which point the question is asked; Is there enough certainty? If yes, then move forward. If not, wait and continue to collect the data.
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  18. PaulPS @ #65

    With that in mind, can we proceed with policy decisions that will drastically affect so many?

    To me, the basic problem with this question is the (seeming) assumption that business as usual is not a policy decision that will "drastically affect so many."

    The amount of warming generally agreed to be inevitable will drastically affect people all over the world. Inaction, according to the best peer-reviewed science available to us, is a policy decision that will lead to an even worse outcome. And I'd argue that this outcome logically includes greater political and economic instability, more drastic government action, and less freedom overall. More, in short, of everything the people who counsel inaction so often say they wish to avoid.

    The cancer analogy is probably overused, but if five doctors told you you needed chemotherapy, and one doctor told you that chemo would do more harm than good, and thinking positive thoughts would induce spontaneous remission, who would you believe? Many of us, I think, would go with the five doctors. But if we chose not to, we couldn't pretend that we hadn't made a "policy decision," for better or worse (statistically speaking, probably worse). The choice isn't between acting and not acting; it's between different actions that involve risks and consequences, as all actions always have.

    The main reason the cancer analogy breaks down, of course, is that it's about gambling only with one's own life.
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  19. PaulPS wrote : "At which point the question is asked; Is there enough certainty? If yes, then move forward. If not, wait and continue to collect the data."


    Can you define the level of certainty you are looking for ?
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  20. Re: PaulPS (65)

    Excellent question, Paul. At what point do we deem we have enough information to make an informed decision on anything? ow do we know the "experts" know what they're talking about?

    As I see it, we have two choices:

    1. We can go learn the topic ourselves & then decide. This works for things like changing lightbulbs or putting in a new toilet float. Really complex stuff, like pacemakers, I leave to experts.

    2. We can solicit the help, aid, opinion of someone who knows the subject. Better yet, several. This has the advantage of being quicker and involving strenuous effort on the part of ones gray matter. But on a certain level it involves trust. Trust that you can decide whom to believe.

    For home repairs, I do stuff myself. Cardiac stuff, I trust a cardiologist (auto repairs, I solicit referrals from trusted friends). For science consensus statements, I trust credentialed scientific bodies.

    In this regard we are fortunate: in May, the National Academy of Science release a consensus statement, "Advancing the Science of Climate Change", wherein was found this statement:
    "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."
    (here's the page with the specific quote).

    That comes from highly educated professionals who have spent their lives devoted to the study of science.

    So, if warming is an established fact, and that we are the likely cause, should we do something about it? Consider this: the last time the atmospheric concentration reached current levels was about 15 or so million years ago. Thick forests grew north of the Arctic circle. Global temps were at least 3 degrees C higher. Sea levels were much higher. A completely different world, climatically, then the one present for much of civilization:



    So, to avoid having to add an arrow on the right side of the chart with the caption "agriculture ends here", should we try to avoid the worst of the effects of climate change while we still have some say in the matter? If soldiers waited until seeing the sniper picking them off one by one before taking evasive action, that would be kinda nutso, wouldn't it?

    So maybe a better question is this: Since we're performing an experiment that can be run once (with no reset button), shouldn't we take action to err on the side of caution?

    The Yooper
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  21. Thanks Phila, JMurphy, and Yooper. Need a little time to digest.
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  22. Norman at 09:49 AM re "I think my communication skills are very lacking and I am sorry for this."

    Norman, you have nothing to apologise for, the presentation of your arguments are very lucid, IMO.
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  23. Re: Norman (55 - "clouds are hard to model")

    Hmmm, you really should read this then, from the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, which says otherwise.

    The Yooper
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  24. "Scientific proof is empirical evidence. An experiment or test that either confirms or rejects an idea about how something behaves."

    A test or experiment can DISPROVE but there is no way it can prove - another experiment might invalidate it. You will search in vain for proof. However, if you want empirical evidence of climate theory, then John compiled this and this. Also this from another source. All referenced to published papers. Nature is doing the experiment all the time - models are checked against it.

    As to paleoclimate - well I'm geologist/geophysicist of sorts. How I prefer to think of geological evidence is in terms of constraints of what could or could not have happened. Its useful for checking models (if they couldnt account for glacial cycle or PETM hyperthermal then no good) but climate theory comes from physics not geology.

    I can appreciate your feelings given parents past but nothing distorts reality like looking at it through a political lens. You dont want One World Government? Good, neither do I. Lets find solutions that dont need One World Government or fit any other agenda other than fixing the problem. Adapt politics to reality, not the other way round.

    As for chaos - well see links - but remember everything in a chaotic system is obeying physical laws all the time. Weather is chaotic but it is far from clear whether climate is.
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  25. Moderator John deleted my reply (11NOV) to multiple critics so I will engage in a careful tippy toe to avoid anything remotely controversial. Good to see a bit of passion in the old gang - CBD, JM, DB (Yooper), PC.

    PC: "Models based on physics should always be trusted over measurements made with sensititve equipment subject to many potential errors.

    It's funny how skeptics are also eager to cast suspicion on obseved data if it does not show what they want."

    There are three possibilities for error, and only one possibility for 'getting it right'.

    The Model could be wrong, the measurement could be wrong or both could be wrong.

    To get it right - both the measurement and the Model must be right to a reasonable degree of accuracy.

    Climate Models are much more than robust extension of basic laws.

    Constants are assumed, and unsettled science like feedback mechanisms and cloud albedo etc *estimated* in order to cycle models.

    Let me give you a simple example: the portion of Solar radiation assumed to be reflected from the atmosphere and surface is quoted as about 30%. ie. 0.7 of about 340 W/sq.m gets through to play in the biosphere. That means that about 240 gets through and 100 is reflected out.

    How accurately do we measure this 30% or 100W/sq.m? One percent??
    So if the actual number is 29.7% or 30.3%, then the amount reflected could be 99W/sq.m or 101W/sq.m. The amount getting through could be 241W/sq.m or 239W/sq.m.

    The TOA imbalance is supposed to be 0.9W/sq.m. So varying just one assumption by 1 percent means that my warming imbalance could be 0.9 +/-1.0W/sq.m - more than a 100% error margin.

    We could have twice as much warming imbalance or no warming imbalance by varying one important factor by one percent.

    Cycle a 1 percent error through a Model yearly for 50 years and what do you predict? (1.01)^50 = 1.65. 1 percent becomes 65 percent.

    Are we measuring any of these climate variables to an accuracy of 1 percent? I don't think so.
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  26. Also, by the way when looking at past conditions and past forcings, remember that issue here is RATE of change. A warmer world might be a whole lot better - provided we got there slowly. Global temperature changed at rates an order of magnitude or more slowly than current rate of change for normal glacial cycle. Have there been times of rapid temperature change in past? yes, and evidence too from species loss that these were highly stressful times to live in.
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  27. #75 scaddenp

    I think this might go on awhile to find some sort of understanding of conceptual material. Your quote: "A test or experiment can DISPROVE but there is no way it can prove - another experiment might invalidate it. You will search in vain for proof"

    Consider this. I am an early chemical researcher. I have bottles of oxygen and hydrogen. No one has reacted them so far so I am not sure what will happen. I have some ideas based upon some other reactions I have performed but I am not certain. My ideas before the test are what I will prove or disprove. I mix them, nothing happens. I heat it and I get flame and water. By actually running the test I establish that mixing hydrogen and oxygen will produce heat and water. It will either confirm my previous ideas or cause them to be rejected.

    Another case. I am Newton and want to learn about gravity. How do I do it? I start dropping things and seeing what happens. I find it seems to pull all types of materials. I can see the objects accelerate by observation. Now I get a time piece and measure the time it takes to fall a certain distance. I start doing a series of measurements and find the gravity attraction causes an acceleration of 32 ft/sec^2. By doing experiments and tests I find the accleration of gravity. I prove it. Doing a series of experiments finds relationships among variables.

    Your other comment: "As for chaos - well see links - but remember everything in a chaotic system is obeying physical laws all the time. Weather is chaotic but it is far from clear whether climate is."

    I agree that chaotic systems obey physical laws. They are just hard to predict. Like the IPCC predictions about increasing severe weather events caused by Global warming. Maybe but chaos theory may invalidate these predictions. The only certain conclusion I could establish from Global warming is that the average temperatures will go up. The rest is speculation to me. Kind of like using fear to illicit a response or action.

    From what I have read Climate would definately be classed as a chaotic system. A warming globe can increase ice melting that can alter albedo, but a warming globe can increase water vapor that condenses into clouds and blocks solar energy. From the large and rapid global temp changes in the past, it would be a very strong indication of a chaotic system.
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    Moderator Response: Further discussion of chaos must be done on the thread Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted. Comments elsewhere will be deleted.
  28. #77 scaddenp

    "Also, by the way when looking at past conditions and past forcings, remember that issue here is RATE of change. A warmer world might be a whole lot better - provided we got there slowly. Global temperature changed at rates an order of magnitude or more slowly than current rate of change for normal glacial cycle. Have there been times of rapid temperature change in past? yes, and evidence too from species loss that these were highly stressful times to live in."

    From my eyeballs all the past warming slopes look about the same including the one we are on.
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  29. #57: "where in my post did I say I reject fuzzy science?"

    I thought you made a clear distinction between your 'Classic and solid science', provable by experiment rather than reliant on 'a series of math equations' vs. the fuzzy side, which lacks a 'way to verify the proxy with an actual test or measurement'. Fuzzy as in 'assumptions, you have to trust some unknown'. To me, that read that the former is good science, the latter not. If that wasn't your intent, I misread.

    "I was just making a point between a hard tested science and the other that you can only logically infer but can never actually test" That's where I think you and a lot of so-called skeptics are wrong. Climate science predictions were tested last summer; look to heat waves and accelerating ice melt as verification.

    "models of complex systems are inherently unpredictable. "

    That's why there are such things as statistics. In my spare time, I count muons (cosmic rays). There is ample physical theory regarding cosmic rays, but there is no way to predict any specific arrival or event. And yet anyone working in the field can tell you to a reasonable level of accuracy the number of muons that just passed through your head while you were reading this. We can know the 'cosmic ray climate' without any ability to predict the 'cosmic ray weather.'

    "this arcticle points out that another forcing factor is better"
    Or not. Chylek was reviewed here some time back and found wanting. Why is climate science held to the impossible standard that there must only be one interpretation or its all wrong? No other science has to meet that test.

    "Unbroken chain of life for billions of years." Well, no. Look harder: Climate change has had tremendous effects on life throughout the geologic record.

    One thing for you to read: How warm was summer 2010? I've quoted this before, but it continues to be relevant here:

    Weather in a given region occurs in such a complex and unstable environment, driven by such a multitude of factors, that no single weather event can be pinned solely on climate change. In that sense, it's correct to say that the Moscow heat wave was not caused by climate change.

    However, if one frames the question slightly differently: "Would an event like the Moscow heat wave have occurred if carbon dioxide levels had remained at pre-industrial levels," the answer, Hansen asserts, is clear: "Almost certainly not."
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  30. #80 muoncounter

    My main objection is when people take a item from "fuzzy" science and make it as solid as the empirical tested science. In the fuzzy world the reality of statement is a probability. In the empirical world of actual tests, it is a fact. This is a difference I am trying to emphasize. I am not against research in the fuzzy world, it's great. Here is a case of point. Based upon models of stellar dynamics and different stars it is probable that the Sun was 70% as bright billions of years ago. It is not a proven fact, (tested and verified...hard science) but on numerous web sites people use it as a verified fact and it just isn't. Maybe the average does not understand the difference between facts arrived at by actual experimentation and direct observatin and facts arrived at by mathematical application of various theories.

    Fuzzy science will forever remain in the realm of probability mentality. Hope that clears my point up for you.

    Another point from you: "Unbroken chain of life for billions of years." Well, no. Look harder: Climate change has had tremendous effects on life throughout the geologic record" I did not state that life has gone through trials and tribulations and had massive extinctions. But nothing has happened at Earth that totally broke the chain of life so it had to start all over from scratch. Conditions have never become so bad in billions of years and vastly different climates that life did not manage to survive.
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    Moderator Response: Further conversation on how certain the science is, really is more appropriate for other threads such as The science isn’t settled. Further conversation on how bad this change is, is more appropriate for other threads such as It's Not Bad.
  31. I have replied on the thread The science isn’t settled, to Norman's comment on this thread "In the fuzzy world the reality of statement is a probability. In the empirical world of actual tests, it is a fact."
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  32. Norman, I have responded on chaos over on here as requested.

    Now climate, geology, etc are not like chemistry in that you cant just take an earth and try your experiment in a lab with different conditions. However, the basic philosophy of model-predict-observe still applies. Look at all the successful "experiments" so far? And obviously paleoclimate consists of another set of past experiments though we cant read the measurements as accurately.

    "The only certain conclusion I could establish from Global warming is that the average temperatures will go up." No it doesnt. It says that stratosphere will cool, nights warming than days etc. I gave you a long list of prediction/confirmation - how can you assert that in face of them?

    As to your eyeballs on rate (I hope you dont do chemistry with such eyeballing), note where that graph came from? Icecore. "zero" is 1905. Even if you add the instrumental data to it, on that x-scale you cant easily differentiate rates. Current rate 0.08/decade. Glacial-interglacial is 0.007/decade.
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  33. "But nothing has happened at Earth that totally broke the chain of life so it had to start all over from scratch." Sounds like you are arguing against yet another strawman. Care to show me a paper that suggests warming would do such thing? Certainly nothing in the IPCC WG2. However, we arent just protecting ourselves from extinction, we also want to protect our way of life, maintain our mortality rate etc. I am sure our species would survive, just not as many of them.
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  34. #82: "the difference between facts arrived at by actual experimentation and direct observatin and facts arrived at by mathematical application of various theories."

    Yep, you gotta watch those theories, they sneak in everywhere: The application of quantum field theory (QFT) to chemical systems and theories has become increasingly common in the modern physical sciences. ... of interest in many fields of chemistry, including: nuclear chemistry, astrochemistry, sonochemistry, and quantum hydrodynamics.

    Makes climate science seem real in comparison.

    "Conditions have never become so bad in billions of years and vastly different climates that life did not manage to survive"

    I guess that's a question of the point of view you get when you study Earth Science.
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  35. #85 scaddenp

    There is a person named Leland Palmer on differnt blogs that works to convince everyone that we will have a "runaway" greenhouse like what is speculated happened to Venus and all life will become extinct. Not getting that from any official document.
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  36. Norman wrote : "There is a person named Leland Palmer on differnt blogs that works to convince everyone that we will have a "runaway" greenhouse like what is speculated happened to Venus and all life will become extinct. Not getting that from any official document."


    Then why not stick to "official document(s)" ? Anyone, on any blog, can say or write anything - do you believe them all ? Why believe in anything that is contained in any blog (to do with AGW) unless it's backed up by evidence or peer-reviewed papers, etc ? And that means more than one paper usually - many so-called skeptics try to claim that one particular paper (or one particular person) is the right one, and try to ignore all the others that state otherwise.

    Unless, of course, you WANT to believe what you are reading on certain other blogs...
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  37. Norman #64: "Climate models predicted a warming Arctic and the current warming found in the region may seem to verify the model is accurately predicting what is going on (CO2 increase by man is heating the Arctic region and causing increased summer ice melting). However this arcticle points out that another forcing factor is better at explaining what is going on in the Arctic then the AGW theory."

    Chylek's claim of correlation between the AMO and Arctic sea ice decline, followed by the assumption that this supposed correlation equals causation, is (like AGW theory) a theoretically possible explanation.

    However, the claim that the issue ends there with two possible explanations is pure nonsense. We can gather data and test these ideas to see whether they hold up or not.

    If the AMO were responsible for Arctic sea ice decline then we should have seen a reversal to increasing Arctic sea ice some time around 2000. The AMO period isn't absolutely fixed so it could run over a few years, but we're now at ten and the decline of Arctic sea ice is still accelerating. In short, data contradicting this idea is accumulating. Every year the ice continues to decline is another year against it. Also, if this were just a case of oscillation within normal climate bounds the long term average should be flat... but it isn't. Ice volume now is lower than it was during the last AMO cycle. That indicates that we aren't just dealing with an oscillation that moves heat back and forth, but rather an increase in the total heat input.

    On the other hand when we go to check AGW theory against data we find that ocean temperatures world-wide are increasing, that some of this warmer water is flowing into the Arctic from the Pacific and contributing to melt, that LAND ice is also melting (AMO obviously isn't causing that), that we see changes in upwards and downwards radiation matching what AGW should cause, that the warming is seasonal (more pronounced in Winter) as it should be under AGW (and would not be if AMO were responsible), and a thousand other things which match up.

    So no... it isn't just two different ideas about what could be happening. It is one idea which fits the observed facts and one which does not.
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  38. Norman, then please argue with him directly. On this blog, it sounds like you are arguing with the science which absolutely does not believe we are going to have a runaway greenhouse. (you'd notice scientists at Reaclimate explaining why not).
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    Moderator Response: Indeed, this site addresses the argument Positive feedback means runaway warming.
  39. I ask myself when I read this article: does this article try to scientifically address the argument skeptics make or is this article trying to impose guilt by association?

    I also ask myself why any motivation behind a persons argument is of any significant for the validity of the argument itself? I can only see that a person makes an argument for some kind of motivations but I can not see how the validity of the argument is relevant to these motivations.

    If there is any significance to the motivation behind making a argument then I would like to know the OP's, Stephan Lewandowsky, motivation behind making his argument here before I make up my mind in this issue.
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