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Climate Change and the Integrity of Science: a letter to Science

Posted on 8 May 2010 by John Cook

A letter Climate Change and the Integrity of Science has been published in the journal Science. It's written by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel laureates (here's the complete list plus their university affiliations). I recommend reading the entire letter but here is an excerpt:

There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet...

... The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:
  1. The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
  2. Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
  3. Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
  4. Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.
  5. The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.
Much more can be, and has been, said by the world's scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business-as-usual practices. We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the un restrained burning of fossil fuels.

The scientists are the members of the NAS most familiar with climate science, as explained by lead signer Peter Gleick:

It is hard to get 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to agree on pretty much anything, making the import of this letter even more substantial. Moreover, only a small fraction of National Academy members were asked to sign (the signatories are all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences but were not speaking on its behalf). Because of a desire to produce a statement quickly, the coordinators of the letter focused on those sections of the NAS most familiar with climate science and the ongoing debate. But the NAS (and Academies of Sciences and other professional scientific societies from dozens of other nations) has previously published a long set of assessments and reviews of the science of climate change, which support the conclusions laid out in the Science essay.

Lastly, here is a link to the National Academy of Science's Policy advice, based on science, to guide the nation's response to climate change.

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Comments 151 to 200 out of 239:

  1. tobyjoyce at 18:15 PM, it is all very well to have multiple lines of converging evidence, but the point they are converging on must surely be whether the climate has an inbuilt mechanism to self correct, that is, it inherently is of low sensitivity producing a nett negative feedback, or not. For me this has always been the crucial question that has until now not been resolved, and I find that whenever I bring the matter up, up most pro AGW believers try to avoid addressing it as there are only opinions, nothing conclusive, to support their own tightly held opinion. One of the reasons I accept the proposition that there is a nett negative feedback system is because it is compatible with what I have observed and experienced over many decades in both equatorial and temperate climates, occupied generally outdoors where an awareness of both short term and long term weather conditions was both relevant and necessary. There is no doubt in my mind that there are short and long term cycles in play that are measured in decades that occupy the greater part of centuries, and that an extended swing towards one set of conditions sets in place events that will cause an eventual correction or even over correction. Backing that up has been theories developed by suitably qualified scientists that seem to be based on sounder logic than the alternative, and importantly recognises that it is still an unresolved matter, rather than assuming one way or the other. I do not expect those whose world is mainly indoors with lives that are not weather dependent to share the same position, as how it reads in theory may be more important to them then how it relates to the physical world, especially in rural and remote locations far removed from many of the influences of crowded human civilisation.
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  2. @SS #137 Peer-review is not perfect -- it's capricious, cumbersome, and often painfully adversarial. But I don't know where this view of it as an old boys club comes from. One is not allowed to have people you have recently collaborated with in any way review your papers for any decent journal, and especially in venues like Science and Nature you tend to get tough reviewers. The competition among scientist is fierce due to self interest, as the letter we're discussing states, but you have to accept when its a good peice of science. I have rejected papers of acquaintances I know and like and accepted those of others I didn't particularly care for and I don't review papers I feel I have any sort of conflict about. I think the vast majority of scientists do the same.
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  3. @SS #137 Peer-review is not perfect -- it's capricious, cumbersome, and often painfully adversarial. But this view of it as an old boys club doesn't match my experience. I have rejected papers of acquaintances I know and like and accepted those of others I didn't particularly care for and I don't review papers I feel I have any sort of conflict about. I think the vast majority of scientists do the same.
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  4. Riccardo at 18:23 PM, we will have to wait to read the final paper when published. The peer review process was apparently quite rigorous, the paper being rejected for publication initially. Either Spencer's persistence wore down the reviewers or he convinced them of the validity of his methods and conclusions.
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  5. Stephen Baines at 19:23 PM, I hope that what you were trying to say did not come out right, hence the double post, because your first post made it seem that an old boy's club is entirely possible, only avoided if the reviewer himself decides whether to participate or not. Hopefully not a case of the mike being left on? :-(
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  6. @johnd #152 There has been efforts to show an inbuilt cyclical mechanism in the earth's climate, such as the abortive effort of McClean et al to show a connection with ENSO cycles. McClean, de Freita et al There are other, even less impressive efforts to show 60-year cycles. I think these can be dismissed, unless you have new data you want to discuss. Using my own (modest enough) statistical knowledge, I have examined these cyclical models and found them to be fatally flawed, as many others have. Why should we wait around to see if something pans out, something which the evidence does not support right now? From what I read, Dr. Roy Spencer is about to bring forward a paper to support low climate sensitivity. This seems to me to be the last effort by those sceptics who still retain some credibility to win back the scientific high ground. Again, it is not good science to base your beliefs on what you have "observed and experienced". I doubt if my or yours or anybody's personal experiences carry a tither of credibility here, unless backed by evidence. Science works by "inference to the best explanation". Global warming is still the best explanation for multiple phenomena, and not even Roy Spencer is offering an alternative.
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  7. tobyjoyce at 19:52 PM, even pro AGW scientists concede that the question as to whether the climate sensitivity is low or high remains unresolved. Obviously they prefer to support the theory of high sensitivity otherwise their whole AGW hypothesis crumbles. If you have evidence that validates their theory then you should reveal it to them as it is such evidence that they are lacking. With regards to observations and experience, it is not generally necessary to wait until the weather report on the evening news provides enough evidence to allow you to determine the credibility of the person who earlier in the day told you that he was experiencing a hotter or colder day than normal. Unless of course you never get out away from the TV, then that would be understandable. At some point in time, most people will find that the physical conditions they experience generally reflects the scientific understanding of such conditions, because in the final analysis, the scientific understanding can only be validated by what can be measured in the physical world, not the other way around as you seem to suggest.
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  8. johnd, if the forthcoming paper by Spencer turns out not to be the comforting answer you are looking for (i.e. he doesn't satisfactorily prove the case for low climate sensitivity), will you just hang on and wait for the next paper which might come along with the same argument ? Or the next ?
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  9. In this comment from the previous page, NewYorkJ points out that skepticstudent's claims about 2008 temperatures are wrong, and rightly says Persistent unsubstantiated claims don't add value to any thread. I agree, and this is getting a bit frustrating. skepticstudent first made the claim (2008 temperatures were the third coldest since 1775!) in another thread. I immediately replied, pointing out that actually 2008 was the 10th warmest year, not 3rd coldest year on record. In fact, every year since 2001 has been in the 10 warmest years in the record. There was no response in that thread, but skepticstudent repeated the claim in this thread, this time referring to the winter of 2008 ("2008 had the 3rd coldest winter since thermometers were created in 1775.") Well, that's wrong too, as I pointed out in this comment, which skepticstudent ignored (winter 2008 wasn't in the top ten, but it was much warmer than the average). Skepticstudent, I would strongly encourage you to spend more time reading this site, to cut down your volume of posting by about 50% at least, to check your facts before posting and and to include sources or links as much as possible. When someone just churns out huge numbers of comments that include no sources or citations and are riddled with factual inaccuracies, it seriously degrades the quality of the site for everyone.
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  10. johnd: I saw some literature recently that puts the reasonable minimum climate sensitivity at around 1.8ºC. This doesn't mean that the climate sensitivity is 1.8ºC, just that it's highly unlikely to be lower than this. Confusing uncertainty with improbability is fairly common among so called sceptics of AGW. I think the "climate sensitivity is unknown" argument is a good example of this.
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  11. johnd @ 100 "Plants and soil account for about 100Gt of carbon in and out each year" you need to be very careful making arguments that involve exchange fluxes. The rise in atmospheric CO2 depends on the difference between total emissions and total uptake, the volume of the exchange flux is essentially irrelevant. If you halved the terrestrial emissions, but also halved the uptake, it would have no effect on the atmospheric concentration. So reducing the amount of forests doesn't necessarily lead to an imbalance, especially as uptake in old-growth forest is balanced by emissions. "When land use changes are made, there may be a one off release of carbon, but over and above that a certain percentage of land will be permanently withdrawn from the carbon exchange cycle, so the one off loss continues to multiply forever." What is your evidence that this is not already accounted for in the land use emissions data? Scientists are not stupid, if their was an obvious substantial discrepancy in the carbon budget, it would be talked about quite openly (that is exactly how the fact that there was a "missing sink" was identified). "the 100Gt exchange in and out between the plants, soil and atmosphere continues to decline" Environmental uptake is increasing, not declining. To see that, plot the difference between annual anthropogenic emissions and annual atmospheric increase. That gives you the difference between environmental emissions and environmental uptake. It is negative and becoming more negative. The rate at which it is increasing is (possibly) in declining. I went to a talk last week that discussed the change in the airborne fraction, and the speaker (Prof. Corinne Le Quere) made it clear that the downward trend in the airborne fraction is not (yet) statistically significant.
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  12. JohnD@103 says: "despite your detailed analysis concluding "it is arguably the mainstream that is concentrating on the basics there" it seems that the mainstream have hitched their horse to the wagon that is based on a foundation of a high climate sensitivity." No, mainstream science hasn't "hitched any horses", it has formed an opinion based on an analysis of the available data. That is the way science works, when new data comes in that refutes current thought, the theories are revised accordingly. "Not only is this most important pivotal question unresolved, not that you would think so given the strength of the assertions all dependant on a high climate sensitivity scenario," No, go have a look at the IPCC report, you will find that the mainstream are quite happy to talk about the uncertainties in climate sensitivity. "but it is increasingly appearing to be wrong with gathering evidence that low climate sensitivity may instead be the case, some such evidence soon to be published." Such as? I would also point out that the mainstream view can hardly be criticized on the basis of a paper not yet published! There is other evidence that suggests climate sensitivity MAY be even higher than the mainstream view. You can't pick and choose which data to look at according to your prior view, you have to take each paper on its merit, and decide where the balance of evidence puts climate sensitivity. If climate sensitivity is low, then there will be questions raised about paleoclimate data that can no longer be understood, or an explanation needs to be given why climate sensitivity is higher now than it used to be.
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  13. scepticalstudent @ 103 said "It's neither here nor there of course but after reading the papers of M&M from Canada I would not consider statisticians to be mere anything. There science is just as valid as climatologists. In fact statisticians should be better able than anyone else to tell if climatologists are staying true to the scientific method." You could have picked a better example (the M&M papers I have read have had significant statistical flaws), but the real point is that criticizing scientists according to their background is simply an ad-hominem and should be avoided. If someones paper is wrong is is wrong because of the content of the argument, not the source.
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  14. johnd@146 said "Albatross at 16:57 PM, Spencer has a paper about to be published, it is currently being printed, that analyses 9 years of satellite data and concludes that indeed the climate sensitivity is low. Should make interesting reading, it apparently did get a good going over by the peer review process in order to be accepted for publication." Much the same was said about Linzen and Choi, but it turned out to be a damp squib as the argument put forward had significant flaws (as exposed by Roy Spencer, for example). It is a mistake to think that just because something appears in a peer reviewed journal that it must be correct. That is not true, the value of a paper is demonstrated by the research community citing the paper and taking up the argument and methods it puts forward. That takes time. It will of course make interesting reading, as did Lindzen and Choi.
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  15. @johnd Explain yourself a bit better please. The person who "gives the weather report on the evening news" are usually not climate scientists. They are not the people we are discussing here. Are you saying the chorus "Cold winter, therefore global warming is not happening" was correct? If you are saying the mass of people confuse weather and climate, that is pretty much expected by everyone. But you seem to do so also. Please supply references to buttress the assertion: "...even pro AGW scientists concede that the question as to whether the climate sensitivity is low or high remains unresolved. " Name a few such scientists, for starters. Alos indicate "evidence that they prefer to support the theory of high sensitivity otherwise their whole AGW hypothesis crumbles". This are wild and sweeping statements, which I believe are without foundation. Since you made them, please support them with facts. I suggest you read the entry on this blog for a discussion and refutation of the denialist argument about sensitivity. Climate sensitivity is low
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  16. @johnd #157, I take exception to this remark, which betrays a certain insecurity in your demeanour: "Unless of course you never get out away from the TV, then that would be understandable." Sarcasm may be ok in the right palce, but I think it is against the spirit of this blog, which is wonderfully moderated well by John. No one has directed similar remarks at you or scepticalstudent, so I hope you will refrain from any repetition
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  17. SkepticStudent "Especially when 3/4 of the "peer reviewed" Emperical evidence has been reviewed by the chums of the author rather than pure peer review of un biased reviewers and editors " Do you have any evidence that 3/4 of such papers have been reviewed by chums? That's an awfully large number. RE #116: A few mistakes in calculations there. Radiative forcing for CO2 is logarithmic with concentration, whilst climate sensitivity is generally assumed to be approximately constant across our temperature range (assuming no 'tipping points' are hit!). So your maths needs re-working. Your picking of a single year start point also confuses transient and secular responses and is also very vulnerable to noise. The assumptions you've made there look completely invalid to me. There is extensive literature on the expected temperature increases with different CO2 pathways, on the impacts for different temperature rises and on the economic costs of different actions. The IPCC technical summaries are a pretty good place to start and will give you some idea of which papers to look for. I've read a number of papers that conclude that the cost of restricting warming to <3C is of the order of under 1% of GDP, or equivalently delaying a doubling of global wealth by a couple of years. Costs of 3C< warming are typically beyond 1% of GDP.
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  18. johnd, you may have noticed that i didn't say he's wrong, so no surprise that the paper passed peer review. What I said is that explicitly or not his analysis may be related just to the fast component of the climate system. I'd not claim that climate sensitivity is low overall as you did.
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  19. I don't think I am being unfair or offensive by claiming that Skeptical Student is trolling. It is obvious by the way he/she gives no references (except to blogs or media reports); makes accusations and assertions without any attempt to back them up; denies science because it is based on peer-review, and makes up claims about taxation and a supposed return to the stone age.
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  20. Sorry about the double post everybody. The screen hung after submitting my first reply. johnd at 155. I reread my post and you'll have to enlighten me further. How is the system that I described -- where you acn't review papers of those with whom you have conflict of interest, and which fosters intense competition that ensures you will face critical opinions -- likely to produce an old boys network. I don't see it.
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  21. A very short question for skepticalstudent... Of all the arguments you've put forth, do you think you've presented anything that the 255 NAS letter signatories have not carefully considered? I would note again that these are the supposed to be the 255 NAS members who are most familiar with climate science.
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  22. Toby, i think my ability to come in here and face the other side is proof that I am not faint of heart. Naomi Oreskes of the famed paper that says supposedly there are no scientific peer reviewed journals disputing ACGW. I would like to ask you how you can still quote the Mann paper as a viable piece of science when Mann gave M&M his information of his own volition from his ftp server. He forgot to remove the "classified" section which he talked about in the infamous hacked e-mails. With the FORTRAN program removed and the Graybill/Idso data removed which they said should NEVER be used for such purposes which right there makes it bad science. Then they ran over 10000 tests without the FORTRAN program and without the Greybill/Idso information and not once did they receive a hockey stick like effect. They put the FORTRAN and the Grebill/Idso back in and ran 9000 different runs with various data inputs, including lottery ticket numbers and phone numbers and they got consistent hockey stick effects. Mann made numerous comments in his “classified” file about not being able to get the hockey stick effect without the Greybill/Idso information from that group of trees. He chose to use information that was widely known not to be used for information science on temperature issues because these trees were an anomaly. If you wish to continue to state that such work as a fantastic piece of ACGW work that is your choice, however it is my choice to look at the information at hand and state categorically that it is not only bad for science but bad for educations.! Phil Jones and Michael Mann but discussed what a travesty it was that there was no way of making the Medieval warming period, and the little ice age disappear. When Mann put his paper out, he made them disappear and make it appear that there was a consistently smooth timeline of co2 and temperature until evil man started putting out that extra co2. And I would daresay that unless there was a typo that I missed it looked like John was agreeing with my point of view about tree regrowth being in unexpectedly large numbers in regards to larger amounts of co2. In fact at the end of his comments he said. It is indeed because of large amounts of carbon that the trees are having a faster than expected regrowth. I have not seen one good piece of empirical evidence that the M&M paper was incorrect. Mann has tried to say initially that they picked the wrong information. Then he sent them the link directly to his ftp server and said here use this information. He forgot to remove that infamous “classified” folder and has ever since tried to discredit McIntyre and Mckitrick not their science. And the comment you made about Oreskes saying there are multiple cross-threads of study showing that the globe is warming but the skeptics continue to ignore it is a total Non-Sequiter Skeptics including myself say and have said ad-nauseum, that skeptics deny that it is either anthropogenic, catastrophic, global or overall warming in nature.
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  23. johnd at 19:27 PM on 9 May, 2010 I suspect that Spencer's paper was allowed through once he removed any suggestion that his model and analysis has any particular relationship to the climate sensitivity as it is commonly understood (i.e. the change in the Earths equilibrium surface temperature in response to a radiative forcing equivalent to a doubling of atmospheric [CO2]). So for example Spencer and Braswell have qualified their description to point out that their analysis doesn't necessarily have much to say about climate sensitivity [***]. Particularly in the physical sciences, papers can be published that pursue a particular analysis in line with simplified physical models, even if these don't have any necessary relationship to the real world. I think this is one of these. No doubt it will take its chances and sink or swim according to its ultimate usefullness/validity (which on past experience is likely to be low). Of course we can be sure it will be trumpeted all over the blogosphere as (another!) "proof" that science has got it all wrong on atmospheric physics, the greenhouse effect and climate change. Plus ca change... ----------------------------------- [***]e.g. Spencer and Braswell conclude:
    "Although these feedback parameter estimates are all similar in magnitude, even if they do represent feedback operating on intraseasonal to interannual time scales it is not obvious how they relate to long-term climate sensitivity." and "Since feedback is traditionally referenced to surface temperature, extra caution must therefore be taken in the physical interpretation of any regression relationships that TOA radiative fluxes have to surface temperature variations."
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  24. Perhaps if you ignore "scepticstudent" he will go away. He seem to me to not adding anything useful to the discussion.
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  25. Chris and Riccardo,may I gently suggest that you copy your comments about Spencer to a thread about sensitivity? Then perhaps our host can remove those comments from this thread and delete all subsequent comments by anybody on sensitivity from this thread?
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  26. @scepticstudent #172, A friend of mine once told he saw a drunken man bang his head repeatedly against a stone wall "to show what a brave man could do". I hope you agree that there are different types of courage, and sometimes faintness of heart is a Darwinian advantage. On the substantive point, or points (I lost count),I am going to kick for touch, and refer you to another part of this blog, where you can comment as you wish: Broken Hockey Stick
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  27. tobyjoyce at 23:25 PM, the use of the word "you" was not directed at you personally, perhaps it would have been better I had used the word "one" instead. The use of the word is no indication of my demeanour, merely how is is generally used amongst my peers. Political correctness often catches us out and I apologise to those who are sensitive to such gaffs. Obviously in the first paragraph, and in the last sentence, the you does refer to, well, you.
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  28. @skepticalstudent... Maybe you should consider a different approach to presenting what you have to say. Many times frustration comes not from what someone says but how they say it. I can definitely see the frustration from those engaging you in this conversation. You seem to assert positions and cite little to back it up. Most of the people here are working scientists. Teachers. If a student turns in a paper making a lot of statements (like "it's the coldest since 1775") without backing it up somehow, that student would get a failing grade. If you are indeed a "skeptical student" rather than a "student of skepticism" then I would suggest you slow down with the rants and listed to criticism of your statements. Do what a student does. Learn.
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  29. @skepticalstudent... I'd also highly suggest that you take one issue at a time and edit your posts for brevity.
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  30. omnilogos, I can cite easily cite examples from the history of science where the 'mainstream' view was later overturned, or where the view of a single or few 'eminences' the mainstream view. (There's a fine example in the early history of malaria research, for example, where the mistaken claim of an eminent parasitologist misguided the course of research for decades.) Now all you need to do is establish that this is what's going on in year 2010 climate science, which is not exactly in its infancy, is not controlled by the view of one or a few scientists, as has vocal 'skeptics' publishing peer--reviewed work (e.g, Pielke Sr., Lindzen, Christy).
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  31. lost in edit: "where the view of a single or few 'eminences' over-influenced the mainstream view"
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  32. @Steven Sullivan... Your reference is really interesting but I would suggest that we're likely charting very new territory here on this issue. Can you think of a time when the media had as much influence on driving opinions that are counter to the mainstream science? Maybe with Darwin? There have been times when science was coming to conclusions that were not politically convenient and have come up against the establishment, so nothing new there. I think there are some ways to consider what is going on now that is both similar and very different from the past, that could potentially be very helpful to addressing the looming problem. What concerns me most is what I see happening in terms of potential damage to the whole scientific process.
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  33. @johnd, I am sure you will agree that some contributors to this site do get a bit science done between watching episodes of their favourite soap operas. Perhaps you will now return to addressing the sudstantive points of #165.
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  34. @Steven Sullivan, Of course, there are times where the accepted scientific consensus is overthrown. One good example is the theory put forward in 1985 by Marshall and Warren that bacteria caused gastric ulcers. It took 20 years for them to move from scorned outsiders to the Nobel Prize. The best philosophical description of this is Thomas Kuhn's book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". His view is that science works for long periods in "normal" mode in accepted "paradigms" (Kuhn invented the word, which he later regretted!). A paradigm is not rejected if it does not explain all the data - science is inherently conservative, and scientists will "save the theory" by tweaking the accepted paradigm to account for new data. For example, when it was found Newton's Theory of Gravity did not explain the orbit of Mercury, the theory was not rejected, because it worked so well elsewhere. However, if the old paradigm fails to account for the new data, & more holes appear, science enters a period of what Kuhn called "revolutionary science", like physics after the negative result of the Michaelson-Morley experiment, or Photoelectric Effect. You could say that gastrology entered a period of "revolutionary science" when Marshall and Warren first advanced their theory. The more it was shown to account for the data, the more adherents it gathered. Max Planck said a new paradigm triumphs because the adherents of the old one just die off! Is climate science in a period of "revolutionary science"? I think not. I do not see an alternative paradigm to AGW, nor is CO2-driven AGW failing to account for the data. Perhaps out there, a Michaelson-Morley experiment is happening that will turn everything on its head, but that has not happened so far. And, incidentally, new paradigms usually come from science and scientists, not the media.
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  35. Tom Dayton at 06:40 AM on 10 May, 2010 Tom, you're probably right. However I was responding to a direct question by johnd about the new paper by Spencer. Since I am the slightly priviliged position of having seen both an earlier version and the in press version, I was able to answer the question directly, and illustrate my response with some direct excepts from the paper. And that paper and my post bears pretty directly on the subject of the "Integrity of Science" (e.g. the manner in which efforts are made to introduce analyses into the scientific literature that are more widely used to pursue agendas with a less than scientific basis; the question of the dissemination of science to the general public and the extent to which a balanced representation of the science finds its way into outlets that influence public perception....) So I find it slightly odd that my post was removed (or moved? how can one tell??), and yet this thread (and especially the "Kung Fu" one) have been allowed to be usurped by tedious bouts of trolling.... ...oh well...
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    Response: I've reinstated that old comment - we're playing around with moving comments around but still need to work a few things out.
  36. No problem John. If you want to remove this post and the one directly above [chris at 18:14 PM on 10 May, 2010], please do so. I think this site really benefits from the strict moderation you've used - it makes it so much better as a resource than other sites. It's tedious to have to moderate, but I wonder whether you might ease the situation by having an occasional "open thread", where lots of the stuff that isn't relevant to a particular thread can be discussed. You could even have "themed" open threads (e.g. "questions and answers" for those that want to ask specific questions about aspects of the science; "contentious publications" for those that want to talk about papers that support opposing viewpoints etc.....).
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  37. I'd like to add to tobyjoyce's comment that looking specifically at physics, often, though not always, a new theory "simply" highlights the limits of the current theory more than contradicting it. As for climate science, AGW has been the new rejected paradigm for decades untill relatively recently. It certainly has its limits, some of them we are already aware of. It should come as no surprise when someone will come out with a different theory on the behaviour of a part of the climate system. It might change the final outcome somewhat but a complete dismissal of the AGW theory is not at hand. This is how science normally works. Does it have anything to do with this post? Yes, I think. When you see hundreds of top scientists write a letter so strongly worded it must mean something. I believe that they feel that the standard scientific process is under attack, something from outside (politics? vested interests?) is trying to undermine the pillars that hold the whole building. This fear is shared by others, for example see the recent Position Statement of the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Executive Council on Cuccinelli's investigation of Michael Mann. The Statement ends with these words: "The Attorney General’s use of his power to issue a CID under the provisions of Virginia’s FATA is an inappropriate way to engage with the process of scientific inquiry. His action and the potential threat of legal prosecution of scientific endeavor that has satisfied peer-review standards send a chilling message to scientists engaged in basic research involving Earth’s climate and indeed to scholars in any discipline. Such actions directly threaten academic freedom and, thus, our ability to generate the knowledge upon which informed public policy relies." Others used even stronger words. Ken Caldeira (comment #12) says: "There is a historical example where politicians went after scientists because the politicians didn’t like scientific results. The example is Lysenkoism. The country was the Soviet Union. Are American politicians following in the footsteps of Stalin?" Hopefully this is just an isolated extremist political move, but still it's the air scientists breath every day. Should this fear turn out to be real, we're sailing really dangerous waters. There are several examples from the past, some even from a not that distant past. None of them I'd like to recall.
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  38. tobyjoyce at 23:17 PM, perhaps reading this might offer some insight into the uncertainities that exist as mentioned in the first section. http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/022.htm
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  39. "Much more can be, and has been, said by the world's scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from BUSINESS-as-usual practices." "Integrity of Science" - of course, the economics ? I'm curious, how many economists are signed in this? UNEP: "Cost-benefit analyses (CBA) should be used as decision criterion only if there is nothing of moral importance at stake (Randall 2002). Therefore CBA should not be decisive in climate change issues. It should be used as a piece of information among many. The idea of calculating an economically optimal (‘efficient’) climate path is misleading. There is no single utility function for mankind over centuries. Moreover, many value-laden problems are implicitly entailed in economic modelling (value of a statistical life, damage function, rate of discount, distribution of benefits and disadvantages, etc.). These variables must rest on ethical judgments and cannot be derived from empirical facts alone. Cost-benefit analyses and other economic evaluations often rely upon discounting. Discounting implies the possibility of severe accounting errors in long-term environmental problems (see contributions in Hampicke & Ott 2003). For ethical reasons, it remains highly doubtful whether global climate change falls within the scope in which ‘normal’ discounting should be applied. The debate about the so-called Stern-Report has been a debate about the very low discount rate (0.1%) being used in the report. Such discount rates can only be defended on ETHICAL GROUNDS." Mine, and V. Klaus for example, quoted by him, Schmidt’s (unless a Nobel laureate?), in the above text, and: "Climate Change and the Integrity of Science"; raises concerns: perspective - range = up to 100 years - !!! - "Future generations "?!; and over of ideology - "ethical grounds" - used to identify the "business-as-usual practices. "
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  40. @Arkadiusz Semczyszak #189 Jeez, seems to me you are arguing that climate scientists should throw up their hands in case the bean-counters get their sums wrong. Not for nothing is economics called the "dismal science". Paul Krugman (Economics Nobel Laureate 2008) wrote a lengthy article on a "Green Economy" in the NYT. Paul Krugman: Climate Change - Green Economy My rudimentary understanding is that all forms of pollution are a "negative externality" on a business, or on society as a whole. The classic study is by British economist Arthur Pigou in the 1920s. Pigou used an example of lettuce growers and rabbit breeders. The lettuce growers regard the rabbits as a negative externality because they have to incur extra costs in defending their crops. Clearly such a society of rabbit breeders and lettuce growers is not at its optimum economically because the growers cannot expand their business or employ more people. The answer is a "Pigovian tax" imposed on the breeders to induce them to pay their fair share in reducing the destruction caused by rabbits. Incidentally, many radicals opposed Pigovian taxes on polluters since they said taxing something made it morally acceptable. At least we have gone past that, and such taxes are accepted as the free market solution. Commentators who are against taxes have not come up with a viable solution to rival Pigou's. Now carbon is turning out to be a massive negative externality on the globe as a whole. The costs incurred in the massive dislocations that may take place must be balanced somewhere. This makes sense even if such dislocations are "only a risk". The energy sources which compete with carbon-based fuels are not at the level where they can compete with oil e.g. prices of electric cars. The solution is "Pigovian txes" on oil and coal to help countries wean off dirty energy and transfer that money into developing alternative energy sources. Hence cap-and-trade, regulation etc. Krugman's bottom line: "Its the nonnegligible probability of utter disaster that should dominate our policy analysis. And that argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions, soon".
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  41. Quite amusing reading 'Marketing Advice for Mad Scientists' by Steve Goddard and Anthony Watts over at the WUWT skeptic site, supposedly posted as a "satire." Despite the list of 255 distinguished scientists of the NAS, most of them Ph.D.'s with a varied range of expertise including paleoclimatology, geology, geophysics, physical oceanography, atmospherics, etc....Goddard and Watts disingenuously stated it was "signed by 250 biologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, etc. in defense of climate science." They also added some nice sniping like: "In addition to the condescending tone, the use of the d-word, and lack of open access to an 'open letter' and companion editorial, the letter was so poorly written, that we thought we would pitch in and lend them a hand." Then they attack the scientist signatories: "All in all, this letter is a PR train wreck. then there's the signatories.....After the first 20 names, they are batting 0.000 (as far as true 'climate scientists'). The 266 responses get even better, as can be expected! wattsupwiththat.com/2010/05/07/marketing-advice-for-mad-scientists/#more-19277
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  42. @chris, #185 No doubt, "usurped by tedious bouts of trolling," which is mainly why I posted #191 to see how the peanut gallery is being incited towards rioting, when it comes to real scientists signing a letter like this from the NAS.
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  43. @johnd, #188 I looked at the link indicated and found a page from the IPCC TAR. Hardly a place to demonstrate "...even pro AGW scientists concede that the question as to whether the climate sensitivity is low or high remains unresolved. " and "evidence that they prefer to support the theory of high sensitivity otherwise their whole AGW hypothesis crumbles". Perhaps you misdirected me by mistake. I will await your response.
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  44. I find the post somewhat intriguing and feel it simply exemplifies an attempt to place credibility on the IPCC's report. First let me say that the issue of climate change and the probable cause of climate change are two distinct issues. If a person does not agree or feels the IPCC has not followed appropriate steps in arriving at their conclusions, that does not mean he or she is a denier of climate change. Unfortunately those who support the IPCC's conclusions fail to recognize this difference. The authors of the article number 250, while the NAS membership exceeds 2000. There would have been more credence to the report had it been published by the NAS - however it wasn't and that should speak loudly by itself. The NAS has been cited many times as a supporter of the findings of the IPCC. However that is misleading. While their statement acknowledges the conclusions of the IPCC, there is nothing in the wording that is close to clearly supporting the conclusions. What they do address is climate change itself and how governments should respond to it. http://www.nationalacademies.org/includes/G8+5energy-climate09.pdf (sorry but your tip to post links does not work with the browser I use) Finally it is interesting to note that the NAS as a part of the InterAcademy Council Committee will be participating in a committee that has been asked by the UN to conduct an independent review of the procedures and processes of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change....so from my perspective, the jury remains out on the IPCC's reports. http://nationalacademies.org/morenews/20100503.html
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  45. @tobyjoyce, #156: "Global warming is still the best explanation for multiple phenomena, and not even Roy Spencer is offering an alternative." First off, Dr. Spencer's webpage is a perfect example of a lead skeptic showing a steady warming trend from 1979 to the present through satellite data, with Jan. 2010 being the warmest January in 32 years and Feb. 2010, being the 2nd warmest February in 32 years of satellite data. www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures Secondly, because of CO2's inescapable greenhouse effect, contrarians like Roy Spencer, holding out for a natural explanation for current global warming, need to explain why, in their scenarios, CO2 is not compounding the problem.
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  46. Ok people..having read and re-read some of the posts here, I felt that should add my 2 bits worth. Re temperatures - recent investigations have thrown a question on the validity of the temperature studies undertaken by NOAA (cherry picking). Until their conclusions have been verified and the data examined, we cannot carry out any logical argument regarding recent global temperatures. Using world average temperatures, is in my view incorrect - the median should be used instead. Averages can be too easily manipulated through the inclusion or exclusion of outliers. Forecasts predicting large sea level rises are meaningless - as is any forecast that simply takes current observations and projects the trend indefinitely into the future. Mann's hockey stick forecast is a prime example. Having worked with a variety of forecasting models myself I personally know how difficult it is to reach and logical conclusion - (read near impossible) yet amy climate scientists seem to believe that forecasts using their models are to be accepted. Modeling does not work that way, no matter how much time and effort is placed into building it. While ocean acidity is of concern, linking any increase to high volumes of CO2 is really stretching it. SO2 is likely playing a more significant role in reducing pH than CO2 - I haven;t heard of any lakes becoming acidic due to acid rain involving CO2 - there are many cases of those lakes forming as a result of SO2 emissions. In my years as a field geologist, I under took many regional geochem surveys involving collecting and analyzing soil, water and sediment samples. From that experience I found it quite common to observe the pH of stream and lake waters to range from a low of around 4 to a high of 9. When you factor all other potential reasons for a change in ocean pH, I cannot accept the reasonableness of a slight drop in pH being related to increased carbonic acid. Just as a side note, a friend of mine who lives in wester Sweden recently told me they had snow for all the winter - the first time that has happened in their region for over 100 years - scientific?..of course not; interesting tidbit?..of course!!!! :)
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  47. @geo guy, #198: "I found it quite common to observe the pH of stream and lake waters..." Comparing apples to oranges, since sea water is inherently alkaline due to the dissolved solids, and being a much larger body of water does not change as rapidly as smaller fresh water lakes and streams. Sea life is optimum between 8.1 and 8.4 pH, and the latest oceanographic studies have said the average is now at 8.1, and forecast to drop even further as this century progresses with additional dissolved CO2.
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  48. @Geo Guy... Can you try to cite information on some of the claims you make here? Not challenging them, just would like to be able to properly evaluate them. I would also ask, how familiar are you with Mann's forecasting models? I keep hearing this refutation of modeling but I also know that science gets a tremendous amount of information through modeling. Don't you think it would be a mistake to throw the baby out with the bath water? SO2 and CO2... again, citations. Just as a side note, MY friend who lives in Portland ME said they got very little snow this year. As interesting a tidbit? I would also note that Rutgers just published data on snow cover in N. America and it was the lowest in the 40 years. Tidbits tend to be a double edged sword.
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  49. @geo guy, #198; BTW, instead of parroting the usual cold and snowy stories for the winter of 2009-2010, as I posted in #197, even lead skeptic, Dr. Roy Spencer stated that Jan. and Feb. 2010 were the 1st and 2nd warmest globally in his 32 years of satellite data. Another thing, you might want to research this past winter's extreme negative Arctic oscillation by the NSIDC, which made the Arctic warmer than normal, and the mid-latitudes quite a bit colder. (i.e. Sweden) nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2010/010510.html
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  50. @geo guy, #198 Instead of parroting the usual stories of cold/snowy winters for one region over another, try to stick with the longer trends to make a point. BTW, the NSIDC explained the winter of 2009-2010 quite well as an extreme negative phase of the Arctic oscillation from a natural pattern of climate variability. Seems as if the Arctic was warmer than average and the mid-latitudes were colder. (i.e. Sweden) nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2010/010510.html
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