A Few Things Ill Considered

A visual approach to the climate debate

Here is a fabulous boil down approach to the climate debate.

The main site is called “Information is beautiful” and like Robert Rhode’s Global Warming Art, it provides a compelling and beautiful graphical presentation of an otherwise rather dry and technical topic.

What do people think? Too simplistic? Too technical for a lay audience?

Comments

  1. #1 James Hrynyshyn
    December 9, 2009

    Works for me.

  2. #2 TB
    December 9, 2009

    I like it – it’s a good primer.
    BTW, I found your site while searching for more information via realclimate.
    I’m trying to find more to read about how local temperature readings, especially historic ones, are adjusted for conditions.
    I’m over from the Intersection where there’s a bunch of skeptics harping on this. And there’s so much internet chatter that Google seems overwhelmed by conspiracy theory sites.
    I’m guessing it’s a technical can of worms, but I’m kind of curious. I imagine there are large factors – like city heat affects – and small ones – like placement of the recording device.
    I’m not even sure if I’m phrasing the question right! Are there any (reliable) sources online?
    Any information is appreciated. Thanks!

  3. #3 carrot eater
    December 9, 2009

    Eh. Simplistic, but not bad for somebody starting out. Admittedly, it’s hard to cram much information into 1-3 sentence blurbs.

    Some points: It isn’t a general statement that tree ring records don’t go past 1980. It might have been true for some particular dataset and graph, at some time.

    And the hockey stick is still in the spaghetti graph in the latest IPCC. At least, MBH 1999 is there.

    As for the MWP, I’d say in addition: so what? If the Earth wasn’t slightly warmer in the MWP, then maybe it was slightly warmer in the last interglacial, or the PETM. What’s your point?

  4. #4 oku
    December 9, 2009

    I disagree. It’s bad. It looks like there were really two valid sides to the issue, but there aren’t. The explanations on the science side (the right one) are also way too simplistic, for example the 800 year delay looks very much like an ad-hoc explanation, but there rally is more to it. The medieval warm period look way too exaggerated.

    I think the idea is good, but the implementation is bad.

  5. #5 maxwell
    December 9, 2009

    It continues to amaze me how much at this site is passed off as ‘science’ or even about science.

    The site linked to above misses just about all of nuance involved in doing research in any field of science, but especially one where less than 1% of the observed variation in ‘the signal’ can be explained.

    Like most other debates that are meant to polarize the public at all costs, the global warming debate, even at a website designed for scientifically literate individuals, seems to be more about drawing battle lines than understanding the underlying unknowns about what climate scientists investigate. The truly interesting aspects of this field of research.

    What is most amusing to me at least is that the author truly believes that the schematics and arguments at linked site encompass the only two possible camps of those interested in this topic of research. It’s just about an unscientific stance as one can possibly take. Again, because there is so very little understood about global mean temperature signal.

    I would say that the truly skeptical approach to this situation would, rather than claiming that man-made global warming isn’t happening at all, state that there just is not enough certainty to make any such claims. Pro or con. Given all of the ‘data’, there still isn’t even a de-convoluted CO2 response from the global mean temperature signal to date. Maybe these researchers should be spending more time working that problem out rather than deterring the publishing of papers they deem costly to their ’cause’. Just imagine how much more we would know about the climate if people spent more time doing the research rather than online calling each other names or insulting each other’s intelligence. You might even have a stronger argument…

  6. #6 Dappledwater
    December 10, 2009

    “I would say that the truly skeptical approach to this situation would, rather than claiming that man-made global warming isn’t happening at all, state that there just is not enough certainty to make any such claims” – Maxwell

    Yup, that will be the deniers final stand as the Earth continues to warm and all their ridiculous canards fall by the wayside – claim the warming is due to some mysterious (but natural of course!) warming.

    “Given all of the ‘data’, there still isn’t even a de-convoluted CO2 response from the global mean temperature signal to date” – Maxwell.

    Do you understand what you typed?. If you are referring to attribution, here, knock yourself out:

    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter9.pdf

  7. #7 Scott A. Mandia
    December 10, 2009

    Maxwell:

    1) The rate of warming since 1975 is well beyond anything that nature can cause and this rate is unprecedented in the past 2000 years.

    2) The troposphere is warming while the stratosphere is cooling which can only be caused by heat being trapped in the lower atmosphere (essentially what GHGs do).

    3) The Arctic is warming much faster than elsewhere. This is consistent with increased GHGs.

    4) Nights are getting warmer faster than days are getting warmer which is also consistent with increased GHGs.

    5) Downwelling LW radiation is increasing which is consistent with increased GHGs.

    6) Outgoing LW radiation leaving the top of the atmosphere is decreasing which is consistent with increased GHGs.

    7) CO2 increases are, for the most part, due to human emissions and land clearance and these CO2 levels have not been observed in the past few million years.

    8) The influence of CO2 on the climate is well established and a doubling of CO2 to 560 ppm will increase the climate by about 1.2C with feedbacks adding another 1-2C.

    9) Every climate model that uses the best science to date shows that the warming since the Industrial Revolution could not have happened without humam emissions of CO2.

    10) Natural forcings should be causing our climate to be cooling since the 1990s and the temperature is still warming. The sun is actually “weak” right now but temps are climbing.

    There are more but this should satisfy anybody. The warming of the climate, especially since 1975 or so, cannot be explained by nature but is very well explained by increased CO2.

  8. #8 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Scott M.,

    I’m not going to rebut all of your assertions, but I do know for a fact that statements about incoming and outgoing long wavelength radiation have a strong caveat associated with them because most models do not predict relative intensities properly and satellite data is from complete. There are also questions about the boundary conditions one uses to compute how LW radiation should or should not be passing back into space. I suggest you look into the research of
    Professor Huang
    of the University of Michigan for further information on this topic.

    I also find it interesting, to say the least, that according to site linked to by the author of this piece ‘skeptics’ cannot bring into play the variation of temperature from standard thinking in local environments because it doesn’t shed light on global changes, but you seem to think that such an argument is just fine. That would also mean that your point about the Arctic is wrong according to ‘informationisbeautiful’ so I’ll let you take it up with them.

    As for GHG signal in lower parts of the atmosphere, that may be true, but it’s hard to say which GHG is doing the work. Because we’re not looking at a spectral response of warming and the fact that water and CO2 have overlapping absorption bands in the IR, just because we may be seeing fingerprints of GHG warming doesn’t equate warming from CO2.

    The rest of your arguments/statements capture the essential essence of what my previous comment. The corner stone science of global warming is hardly more than 10 years old. In the world of cutting edge research, that is simply not enough time to properly vet the advantages and disadvantages of the theory, most importantly whether or not researchers are making assumptions that glance over what they simply cannot predict. Especially if it is true that some of these very researchers who put out this cornerstone science were working behind the scenes to disrupt the publishing of any papers that would call their conclusions into question.

    Are those things you stated in published papers? Yes. Does this fact make them right? No. Only years of raw data on temperature and other parameters is going to free these climate models from their inability to capture much of the variation. Yet you make your statements as though everything has been flushed out. If that’s the case, why are governments spending so much money on research of the climate these days? More than that, why are researchers asking for more money? Couldn’t they just say ‘We got it figured out’?

    More money is needed precisely because those statements you equate with truth have associated with them an uncertainty that doesn’t get spelled out in the media reports or press conferences. In fact, it is my estimation that this uncertainty is very poorly defined because all proxy measurements have no control regime where such an uncertainty can be ascertained. Without this uncertainty, the model outputs really don’t mean much because we don’t have a strong understanding of the error bars.

    So if you’re convinced, that’s great. I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. But it seems a bit shortsighted to believe that because you’re convinced, everyone else should be as well.

  9. #9 TB
    December 10, 2009

    Sorry for being off-topic with my question, but I did find an excellent post here: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/12/willis_eschenbach_caught_lying.php

  10. #10 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Dappledwater,

    I cannot find anything in that chapter from the IPCC report dealing with the CO2 signal specifically. They make a circuitous route of talking about climate sensitivity and then make the claim that based on these assertions, and ignoring issues with their assumptions about the climate, the climate SHOULD be sensitive enough that CO2 causes warming unlike what has been seen without man. There is no assertions that it IS causing warming. These nuances always get lost when you start from a position of arrogance, as you have done here.

    More than that, from the book ‘Statistical Approaches to Climate Research’ by Hans Von Storch (who by the way was made famous again for the past few weeks when it became known that he was pushed out of his editor-in-chief position at the journal Climate Research because he ok’d the publishing of ‘improper’ articles) a very important methodological point is made out. They state,

    “The main methodological obstacle is the lack of observations that sample the ‘control’ regime. Most of the available instrumental records consists of surface observations taken during the last century or so. This record may be contaminated by the greenhouse signal, but more importantly, it is not large enough to provide us with a reliable estimate of the natural variability of the climate on the time scale on which the climate change is expected to occur.”

    You can look at most of the book from
    this Google link
    . I even left in the search parameter ‘CO2 signal’. There have been some detection strategies, as the authors point out, but all of them are mired by methodological issues as you can read further for yourself.

    So again, I would like to point out that the main contention of mine still rings true. You can make statements that sound true all you would like, but it doesn’t change the essential reality of uncertainty that ALL fields of modern research deal with. Just because this POLITICAL issue matters to you and you would like to set in as contrasting terms as you wish, as is done with all political matters it seems these days, does not mean such a stance is reflected in any manner whatsoever in the science itself. The fact that there were disputes between researchers in the emails leaked weeks ago, who supposedly represented a united political front in favor of global warming, pounds this idea home.

    Even in the IPCC report, when discussing the overview of methodological issues with and assumptions inherent in their research(pgs 725-726), the authors still have to use the words ‘strengthen confidence’. There is nothing about these quantities being determined to level of absolute certainty as is presented by most of the commenters here. That’s not how this works.

    Also, after just re-reading the overview section of 9.4 I noticed a key assumption made to ‘improve confidence’. The researchers who can narrow the acceptable, to them, range of possible temperatures have to assume that the changes in climate now are completely independent of changes from the proxied paleo-record. This effectively means that they believe ALL the variation is caused by man. If that is an inherent assumption built into one of the models, how can it not find CO2 as the only forcing causing warming right now? Does that seem like a reasonable assumption to make right off the bat to you?

  11. #11 skip
    December 10, 2009

    Max:

    I want to look at this myself. You’re talking about the 4th Assessment Report, right?

    Skip

  12. #12 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Skip,

    it’s whatever Dappledwater provided in his/her earlier comment. And there is a correction, the part I am citing comes from 9.6.4 and actually the assumption is that the second half of the 20th century not only has a independent instrumental change in temperature from the paleoclimate, but is also independent from the first half of the 20th centruy, when there was a great deal of CO2 output! It’s amazing what has to be done in the name of ‘improving confidence’.

  13. #13 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    It looks like the link to the Google books page for the Von Storch book is not working in my previous comment so I have it
    here
    . Enjoy!

  14. #14 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    It seems as though my html is rustier than I thought. Here is the book. The search parameters are still the same. Sorry about the confusion.

  15. #15 coby
    December 10, 2009

    Hi Maxwell,

    Thanks for the substantive thoughtful comments, it is a refreshing change from most of the drive-by gibberish we get here from “sceptics”. I wish I had the time to go through them more carefully but you raise a lot of seperate issues at once and that makes a thourough reply impossible for me. Hopefully skip will take you up in detail in his next attack of insomnia!

    I will however take a moment to seize on two particular things you say:

    The corner stone science of global warming is hardly more than 10 years old.

    This is not even close to accurate. I suspect you may be thinking of the infamous hockeystick, which is about that age. It is definately NOT anything close to the “cornerstone science of GW“. The science of global warming has developed over more than a century.

    This effectively means that they believe ALL the variation is caused by man. If that is an inherent assumption built into one of the models, how can it not find CO2 as the only forcing causing warming right now? Does that seem like a reasonable assumption to make right off the bat to you?

    No one with any expertise of understanding of climatology thinks all of any climate variation is caused by man. Volcanic aerosols and solar variations are well known examples. about 30% of the 20th century warming is attributed to solar.

  16. #16 Dappledwater
    December 10, 2009

    “These nuances always get lost when you start from a position of arrogance, as you have done here” – Maxwell.

    Are you being ironic?. This from someone who “thinks” they know better than all the scientists who study climate, and the vast knowledge already accumulated on the subject .

    I note that you cannot refute the points raised by Scott Mandia. I wonder why?.

  17. #17 Scott A. Mandia
    December 10, 2009

    Ok, let’s tack a different tack. You strike me as a person who understands probability, so do the following:

    1) Go to: http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_scientific_consensus.html

    2) Then go to: http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_misinformation_galileo.html

    3) Then consider these three conclusions and the probability associated with each one:

    i) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts agree about much of the tenets of AGW and are honest.

    ii) An overwhelming majority of international climate experts are ignorant about their own expertise in a sudden and collective manner.

    iii) They have all agreed to conspire to delude the billions of folks on the planet and just a very tiny percentage of them (and mostly oil-funded and unpublished) are trying to save us all from this mass hoax.

    4) Now ask yourself: “Why is it that I can see the obvious when none of the experts who do this for a living everyday cannot?”

    5) Then ask yourself: “How does a scientist become famous such as Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein? Is it by agreeing with all other scientists or by proving that they are wrong? Now, why are there no scientists that have proved the consensus wrong when there is such a strong personal incentive to do so and such a huge source of money from ExxonMobil that would fund such research?”

    Here is a hint to the last part: The Global Climate Coalition of which Exxon was the lead company funded scientists to research AGW. Guess what their own scientists concluded?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/science/earth/24deny.html

  18. #18 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Dw, again your confusion abounds.

    I am stating these things from a position of confusion. A lack of understanding. I don’t have the answers to the questions that climate science poses, but I am unwilling to just assume whatever researchers say is correct because of the simple reason that they are researching it. Skepticism is a cornerstone aspect of science and as a scientist, I feel that it’s my duty to hold people accountable for what they are claiming based on what they use to make those claims. If you bothered to read the IPCC chapter that you yourself uploaded to this discussion board you would see that there are ample assumptions made that necessitate questioning the conclusions they make when analyzing the data.

    On a side note to your last comment, I did refute the claims of Scott. In fact, the link that the author provides in this post actually refutes one his points. The point is, however, that his being wrong does not depend on my ability to refute all of his arguments. If he is going to make those claims, they he must produce proof that there is no other interpretation to what we see around us other than CO2 forced warming. Not even the IPCC can do that. They have to rely on a process of eliminating the few natural processes that they do understand and assume that the things they don’t understand won’t contribute a larger portion of the temperature signal in time. Quite a sound way of doing science that you deem necessitates radically changing the way the world works on a daily basis.

    Speaking of which, what did you think of the quote of Von Storch’s book? It seems rather damning of the position you seem to take with regards to the detection of the CO2 contribution to temperature. Maybe you should actually read what the experts say before claiming that I am arrogant enough to disagree with them. I’m just making points places like RealClimate and this blog tend to ignore for obvious reasons, but they have all been made by climatologists in the past.

  19. #19 Brian D
    December 10, 2009

    TB, I normally read this blog through a feed reader and didn’t notice your comments until today.

    If you’re willing to pick through scientific literature, the methods that are used by GISS to adjust their temperature data are all fully documented, along with all the raw data and source code being publicly available. You can find it at the second hit if you google for “GISS data” and give that a careful read.

    If you’d rather not sit through the full explanation, I’d suggest hopping over to Tamino’s blog, Open Mind, which has written extensively on most analytic topics. A sample layman-level (math-free) post on surface station adjustments is here, for instance, while one that illustrates the kind of analysis involved with time series data (i.e. historical temperature) is here. I don’t recall Tamino going into too much detail about the exact method of handling older temperatures – possibly because it’s in the peer-reviewed literature – but I could be wrong, and he’s an excellent guy to follow in any case.

    Hope that helps somewhat.

  20. #20 Chris S.
    December 10, 2009

    “Hans Von Storch (who by the way was made famous again for the past few weeks when it became known that he was pushed out of his editor-in-chief position at the journal Climate Research because he ok’d the publishing of ‘improper’ articles)”

    Wow, where did you get this rewriting of history? See von Storch’s version of events here: http://coast.gkss.de/staff/storch/CR-problem/cr.2003.htm

    “I stepped down on 28. July 2003 as Editor-in-Chief of Climate Research; the reason was that I as newly appointed Editor-in-Chief wanted to make public that the publication of the Soon & Baliunas article was an error, and that the review process at Climate Research would be changed in order to avoid similar failures. The review process had utterly failed; important questions have not been asked, as was documented by a comment in EOS by Mann and several coauthors. (The problem is not whether the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the 20th century, or if Mann’s hockey stick is realistic; the problem is that the methodological basis for such a conclusion was simply not given.) It was not the first time that the process had failed, but it was the most severe case. However, my authority as Editor-in-Chief did obviously not cover the publication of an editorial spelling out the problem. The publisher declined the publication, and I cancelled my task as Editor-in-Chief immediately on 28 July 2003.”

  21. #21 Clif
    December 10, 2009

    I wouldn’t say that AGW is science until the investigations underway at Penn State and East Anglia – institutions central to the IPCC product – are complete. And not until there’s real data and methodology sharing.

  22. #22 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Chris S,

    I found the information from a Columbia Review of Journalism blog that cited a Wall Street Journal interview with Von Storch.

    According to the CJR,

    ‘Only The Wall Street Journal seems to have interviewed von Storch, who told its reporters that while peer-review had indeed broken down in 2003, the “gatekeeping” discussed in the e-mails “violated a fundamental principle of science.” Journalists must be careful, however. The Journal article quoting von Storch reported that the e-mails showed the authors “sought” to block the publications of dissenting research. The past tense of that verb, which a few other outlets have employed, implies that they actually tried to carry out the plan. If that is the case, more detail is needed, but at this point, it seems they merely discussed it. Again, it is the job of journalists to find out and report exactly what did, and did not, happen.’

    I found the CJR article from the blog Framing Science right here at ScienceBlogs. The CJR can be found at

    http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/hacked_emails_and_journalistic.php

    So I got the ‘rewriting of history’ from one of the most reputable journalism organizations on the planet to answer your question. Do you have any others?

  23. #23 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Scott,

    your points are very misguided.

    I am not saying anything that climate scientists haven’t already said. In fact, because of some of the things I have brought up here, certain scientists have left organizations like IPCC because the reports neglected to reflect a dissenting perspective from the ‘consensus’ specifically because some of the assumptions made contradict the conclusions.

    What I have brought up also has nothing to do with conspiracy theories or oil companies or money. It has to do with doing sound science. In my personal scientific opinion, I find it hard to believe that one can come to a concrete conclusion about future climate while making all of the assumptions a researchers needs in order to such predictions. From their book ‘Statistical Approaches to Climate Research’, a highly notable scientists, Hans Von Storch and his co-author, seem to agree with me. I’m sure there not the only ones. But like many cases, it is easy to confuse the majority of a group with the loudest portion of that group.

    Now, again, you have given me three options as though they are all of the possible positions for someone to take. They’re stupid really, especially the one where I somehow think that I’m the first person to think of these ideas. What may be true is that I’m the first person to tell YOU about these ideas, but that doesn’t preclude their existence before your hearing of them. I find such logic inherently flawed and it seems to be what got us to this point in the SCIENTIFIC discussion to begin with. Scientists assuming that they construct a small list of possible causes and then assuming away the ones they couldn’t account for. It’s right there in section 9.6.4 of the IPCC report DW linked to on his first comment. I highly recommend giving it a glance.

  24. #24 skip
    December 10, 2009

    I am stating these things from a position of confusion. A lack of understanding. I don’t have the answers to the questions that climate science poses, but I am unwilling to just assume whatever researchers say is correct because of the simple reason that they are researching it. Skepticism is a cornerstone aspect of science and as a scientist, I feel that it’s my duty to hold people accountable for what they are claiming based on what they use to make those claims.

    Max, I have not gone over the parts of the document you mentioned yet, so I also confess to shooting my keyboard off from a position of relative ignorance, but this statement is a version of one that continues to irk me from people denying/doubting/questioning/wondering about the AGW hypothesis.

    This is a recurring theme: “I refuse to accept the consensus because I believe in the virtue of scientific skepticism. If we just believe it because the eggheads say it, then we’re just mindlessly believing a dogma.”

    But Max, scientist that you are, with whose opinions to you go *in practice* on *any* scientific issue other than global warming–and why?

    You can use this logic (“Say it loud: I’m a skeptic and proud.”) to doubt *anything* you want. What about the effects of UV on your skin. The consensus says its carcinogenic; are you going to show those pompous stuffed shirts your skeptical prowess and parade around in shorts in August without sun screen?

    There is also a consensus that excessive alcohol is associated with liver disease, pancreatic cancer, reduced brain function, and aggression. But to hell with the geeks, *I’m* a *skeptic*. I don’t fall for the party line like all you lemmings. Tonight I’m going to drink a bottle of Maker’s Mark to *skepticism* and all its attendant virtues. Consensus my ass! (Actually the bottle of Makers suddenly sounds really good . . . he he yeah . . . consensus *my ass*!).

    Tomorrow they are predicting a major snow/windstorm to hit the Reno-Tahoe region [please don't tangent into how this disproves global warming; I take you more seriously than that]. All the meteorologists agree this will happen (of course if I could hack their emails I’m sure I would find collusion and data fudging). But you know what, I don’t want to believe it. Maybe I don’t totally understand meteorology–I’m in a position of confusion . .. a lack of understanding you might say. But I don’t want to be one of those mindless followers. I will be a *skeptic*. In fact, I am going to parade around in my Speedo with a big “S” on my ass. I’m not afraid of their “snowstorm”. They can’t *prove* its coming. All they have are their “models” and dubious “assumptions”. Its not like they’ve never been wrong before . . .

    Max, I am sorry, but I believe you are confusing abstract “skepticism”–the idea that we never assume any particular scientific model to be absolutely true; that we always need to be open to new data and interpretations–with the freedom to just deny any scientific conclusion you wish willy-nilly.

    The *general* conclusion of AGW is compelling. Yeah, there are limits, uncertainties, (apparently) contradictory data. Its a complex system and its the future. Very tough stuff to know with certainty. Any model should be treated with “skepticism” in the sense that it can be improved.

    But how does this translate into, “Therefore its imprudent to do anything about global warming.”

    I harp on this point constantly and no denier ever responds. How do you get from, “The science is uncertain,” to, “Therefore our publicly policy choices should reflect the assumption that AGW is *certainly* wrong.”?

    Skip

  25. #25 Chris S.
    December 10, 2009

    #20 maxwell.

    I’ve read the article you link to & nowhere does it say that “it became known that he was pushed out of his editor-in-chief position at the journal Climate Research because he ok’d the publishing of ‘improper’ articles” as you state.

    The article (and von Storch himself in the link I gave) state:

    He “resigned soon [after the Soon & Baulinias paper was published], citing a breakdown in the review process that failed to catch severe methodological flaws in the paper and inadequate steps to address those flaws after publication”

    He was not forced out, neither had he OK’d the publishing of ‘improper’ articles (in fact it was the exact opposite of both these statements – he resigned due to the publication of poor science).

    I ask again, where did you get the rewriting of history from?

  26. #26 Scott A. Mandia
    December 10, 2009

    Maxwell seems to have confused the level of certainty of what is causing global warming (humans with very large certainty) with the level of certainty of climate projections (less certain but still certain enough to take action by most experts’ opinions).

    As an aside, here are some of my favorite quotes:

    “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” — Nobel Laureate Sherwood Rowland (referring then to ozone depletion)

    “The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.” — Mark Twain

    Observing a bird in the sky doesn’t disprove gravity” — Dr. Bart Verheggen, Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN)

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” — The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

  27. #27 Chris S.
    December 10, 2009

    #24 Scott

    Another one:

    “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding”

    — Marshall McLuhan

  28. #28 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Skip,

    I would have preferred you read about assumptions made to come to conclusion that are our climate is extraordinarily sensitive to CO2 at this point in time before you questioned my ability to or not be a ‘skeptic’. Now that we have crossed that bridge, however, the difference between AGW and ALL of the examples you provided is that when someone tells me to wear sunscreen, mostly my wife, she doesn’t say ‘There is scientific consensus on UV radiation and cancer’.

    She shows me a Jablonski energy diagram and points out the fact that a typical UV photon has about 4 eV worth of energy while a typical chemical bond is in a potential well of about 1 eV. Therefore, UV photons break bonds. And there is ample data and controlled noise measurements to make this assessment without ever having to pander to a ‘consensus’ perspective. I could go into my lab this afternoon and do an experiment that would lead me to believe this conclusion.

    The same goes for weather, although that’s a stickier situation because there is still a finite chance there will be no snow in Reno tomorrow, even though it is small. But that would mean the next time a similar weather pattern passed through that region weatherman would lower their calculated probability of snow falling there. So it’s like an experiment constantly being run where new data can inform researchers and be useful a week later if the conditions are right. So yes, I would say even in that situation I would have a reason to be slightly skeptical because weather is not a predictive science. It’s a probabilistic science. I’ll still take a jacket, but I still don’t think any of this is here or there. Coming up with a situation where every single practitioner agrees that something will happen is meaningless and doesn’t happen. If just for egotistical reason, people, especially scientists, will always have disagreements about such things.

    On a personal note that is related to this topic, I have been waging a month long argument with my colleague who believes, in his heart of hearts, that there is something fundamental about the interaction of material with the center of very special types of laser beams. When pressed by me for a physical reason why this situation is ‘special’, he cannot muster more of an answer than ‘because this article says it should be so’. More or less a pandering to consensus. Now, from my perspective this is at best a curiosity because without a calculation or experimental evidence, it just doesn’t seem to me that this situation is different from others found in different types of laser beams. I am skeptical of his conclusion because his assumptions are questionable and convoluted and he has no basis on which to base his claims other than his intuition. Should I just assume he’s right because he’s a scientist and knows a great deal about spectroscopy, optics and lasers. I say no. So this is the way I roll, so to say.

    So I would have to disagree with your assessment of my skepticism and say that it serves it purposes rather well for me professionally and personally. Nor would I say that I am hiding behind some ‘veil’ of skepticism that hides my inability to deal with ‘the truth’ about AGW. Nothing I have read in papers, textbooks or government reports leads me to believe that climate science in the context of global warming is any different from other fields of modern where the answers are muddy at best and direction forward hidden by dusk. Again, since you have not read the document in question to see for yourself what kinds of phenomena have to be tossed out or not accounted for at all in these IPCC reports and related publications, I find it hard to even take your assessment of my perspective seriously.

    Finally, Albert Einstein had a great quote about science.

    “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called ‘research’ would it?”

  29. #29 skip
    December 10, 2009

    its a shrewd response Max and you have my respect [and the appreciation of someone who's happy discussing this with someone who actually (a)reads the posts, (b) has a clue what the hell he's talking about], but consider:

    I would have preferred you read about assumptions made to come to conclusion that are our climate is extraordinarily sensitive to CO2 at this point in time before you questioned my ability to or not be a ‘skeptic’.

    I owe you that, and I will read it, but its not germane to the crucial issue I’m driving at here. I am *granting* you a degree of uncertainty and speculation in the AGW hypothesis. There is *no way around that* in climate forecasting. My point is that, even *granting* that, what is the public policy course dictated by what what we do know?

    I could go into my lab this afternoon and do an experiment that would lead me to believe this conclusion [about UV radiation]

    Impressive, but kind of a red herring, Max. This is not how you, or anybody, *typically* make decisions when deciding how to you maximize your chances of hedging against risk.

    Re: your dispute with the colleague. If he’s basing it on one article then its *not* a consensus. But if 97 percent of the people in your field agreed with him (as the Donbar et all survey revealed of climate scientists on the fundamental issue of CO2 forcing), would you be so confident in going to the mat on that issue? Further, what if 97 percent of your colleagues agreed with your associate *and* said there was something *really important* at stake–I don’t know . . . the security of US forces in the field, surgical techniques . . . maybe even the future of the planet? Call me a chickenshit if you must; its true enough. But I’ll take my chances with the consensus and ride my bike to work (and I do) and forgo my next flight to Berlin to hedge against the *risk* of the worst possible effects of AGW. And I don’t think I’m asking intolerable concessions from my fellows when I say gas should be too expensive to drive, say a Hummer–and so forth.

    So I would have to disagree with your assessment of my skepticism and say that it serves it purposes rather well for me professionally and personally.

    I don’t doubt it, Max. But how well is your “skepticism” serving you in your assessment of how humanity should approach the risk of *AGW*?

    To wit: I repeat my key question from above (to which it did not look like you really directly responded):

    I harp on this point constantly and no denier ever responds. How do you get from, “The science is uncertain,” to, “Therefore our publicly policy choices should reflect the assumption that AGW is *certainly* wrong.”?

  30. #30 coby
    December 10, 2009

    Please note comments #19 and #15, late to the party due to the moderation que.

  31. #31 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Skip,

    I haven’t said anything about policy which makes it hard for me to understand how you think I have made the jump from undertaking a policy of ‘do nothing’.

    I honestly don’t know what we should do. Probably try to make smaller, slower cars that run on hydrogen. Make as many household items as streamlined and energy efficient as possible. Make recycling mandatory for federal funding at the local level and cut oil production so that there is actually demand for #4 plastic. I don’t if those things really matter if people don’t take it upon themselves to just consume less of everything.

    All of that said, there are a great number of reasons to be more reasonable with our consumption other than CO2 is destroying the world. Half our water supply has been deemed ‘troubled’ by the EPA. Stopping carbon emission won’t help that. We are terrible as a nation at properly utilizing the full sustainable productivity of our land. Stopping carbon won’t do anything about that either. Nitrate fertilizers are basically killing our country and once that’s done, the companies that make them will move on to other places to destroy them as well. How many blogs have been written about all of these concerns in the past few weeks? And there is much better, reproducible science that backs up the findings of researchers in those fields without having to make caveats and assumptions about the nature of the problem that may or may not be evident for decades due to lack of raw data.

    I also think you’re still stuck in this fallacious thinking that people do research on topics where there is 97% consensus. If everyone knows how your experiment is going to turn out, why would you get funding for it? If my colleague were working on a project that 97% of the molecular physics community knew the answer to we would be out of a job. At least in my current lab. So you’re setting up this idea that isn’t reflected in reality when it comes to the nature of research. Again, remember the Einstein quote. It’s called ‘research’ for a reason.

    And really, where does this 97% number come from? Was there some kind of poll? If so, what was the survey sample and how well does it represent the population of climate scientists as a whole? Were there selection biases? I feel like these kinds of numbers get thrown around to support an argument rather than simply depending on the science.

    I love my home, the earth, very much. Volcanoes are particularly cool. I recycle, compost, use fluorescent bulbs, take the bus, ride my bike and buy as much as I can locally. I try to be as responsible for my consumption as possible. Considering all of that, I still cannot accept that the assumption that the instrumental record of the 2nd half of the 20th century is independent of that of the 1st half in order to get a better boundary on possible future temperatures is a sound judgment. It may what’s possible to do for now, but that’s not good enough to me to justify much of anything.

  32. #32 maxwell
    December 10, 2009

    Scott,

    I don’t understand. Do those quotes contain any information on propagation of errors or conditioning proxy data? I’m not looking for a philosophical explanation of why I’m wrong. If you want to show me why, please make it very clear and thorough. If you want to continue to dabble in this faux-intelligensia air of sorts where you get to make all the rules then I bid you good night. Otherwise, bring the goods. Please show how we have such a high level of certainty in our understanding that CO2 is causing warming when the proxy data used for such determinations has no control for which it can be tested.

    Coby,

    as per your comment in #15, I may have misunderstood the final conclusion made in the assessment for that comment, but I still think it is suspect. Basically, in order to undertake an analysis using Bayesian statistics for multiple parameters one must either have independent parameters or understand the dependence of the parameters on each very well. Since the second option is not going to be fulfilled, some authors argue that the 2nd half of the 20th century is independent of the first half in their respective instrumental records. Without having a strong understanding in the long-lived temperature transients, mostly in the deep ocean, due to the incident sunlight, I don’t understand how this is a sound assumption. The ‘edge effects’ also seem problematic.

    Say for instance, the researchers to make the break between the instrumental records right at 1950. Sunlight from 1948 could have many effects in 1952 or even a few years later in the form of plant growth or recirculation of heat in bodies of water. Then there would not only be a dependence, but a highly complex and variable dependence that would be pretty hard to right down in an equation of sorts.

    So the point still stands in my mind.

  33. #33 skip
    December 10, 2009

    I haven’t said anything about policy which makes it hard for me to understand how you think I have made the jump from undertaking a policy of ‘do nothing’.

    I honestly don’t know what we should do. Probably try to make smaller, slower cars that run on hydrogen.

    Then I guess I’m struggling with your overall angle here, Max. You say we ought to be careful with making rash scientific assumptions and dogmatic acceptance of consensus, (to remain “skeptical”), I guess I would have to say, “Ok.”

    If you are not inferring a public policy prescription and in fact are willing to engage in the lifestyle choices necessary to address this *potential* problem, then I say your closer to my side than the denier.

    What is your fear, here? Are you here strictly out of intellectual curiosity or is there some tangible nuisance you’re actively opposing?

    I don’t have your technical and statistical answers (if I can conduct a simple logistic regression without blinding collinearity from my cheesy social science datasets I feel like I’m part of the Triune), but my guess is someone does.

    Skip

  34. #34 Scott A. Mandia
    December 10, 2009

    Maxwell,

    My Website “brings the goods” from the consensus while using language that is easier to understand than that of the journals from which the information comes. I am not a climate scientist actively doing research. Does that mean I am incapable of reading the literature and seeing the great certainty that humans are causing most of the recent warming and this warming will continue and have negative consequences?

    Are you seriously suggesting that if one takes a position on a scientific issue that we must do our own research and not accept the conclusions from an overwhelming number of experts who do this for a living? Why would they publish if this is true? Why would we read them?

    The effect of CO2 on the climate is pretty well known. A doubling gets us about 1.2C of warming ignoring feedbacks. GHGs are increasing at a staggering rate, the climate is getting warmer, and there are no known forcing mechanisms that can explain this except for CO2. Are you seriously suggesting that we wait a few decades “just to be sure”? Would you wait a few decades if you were diagnosed with cancer “just to be sure”? No, you would act quickly because your experts tell you that you have cancer and waiting will make it worse.

    Here are two more quotes that are more on point:

    “I think we understand the mechanisms of CO2 and climate better than we do of what causes lung cancer…In fact, it is fair to say that global warming may be the most carefully and fully studied scientific topic in human history.” — Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences

    “Consensus as strong as the one that has developed around global warming is rare in science.” — Donald Kennedy, editor of Science

    Some reading material:

    http://wiki.nsdl.org/index.php/PALE:ClassicArticles/GlobalWarming

    http://www.atmos.ucla.edu/~brianpm/download/charney_report.pdf

    http://geoflop.uchicago.edu/forecast/docs/archer.ch4.greenhouse_gases.pdf

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/the-co2-problem-in-6-easy-steps/

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0802/0802.4324v1.pdf

    What exactly is your goal? If it is to sound smarter than the rest of us, then you have likely succeeded. Your posts definitely sound smarter than mine.

  35. #35 J.P.Dimmers
    December 10, 2009

    Bottom line….

    The United Nations has become totally useless at preventing wars, dissuading countries from developing nuclear capabilities. I know!!!! let’s get them to run “Green Inc.”.. And see if they are any better at solving imaginary problems.

  36. #36 Ashpool
    December 11, 2009

    A major problem with the ‘arctic temperature’ graph is that is does not include the period after 2000, when the arctic really has been unprecedentedly warm. Also, the units for the reconstruction from 800AD-today are a bit strange.

  37. #37 maxwell
    December 11, 2009

    Scott,

    I looked over most of the links you provided (speaking of which, why can’t we write our links into these comment boxes) and they all seem to make the same argument. CO2 in a gas cell in a lab will absorb more light as one increases the concentration and that absorbed energy is dissipated via nuclear vibrations, ie heat. No surprise there and I am totally comfortable with this.

    The leap I am not comfortable taking is the one from a gas cell to the atmosphere and making the exact same conclusion. The first thing that jumps out at me is the application of Beer’s law in the context of incident sunlight. Wikipedia has an alright entry on Beer’s law, but goes and violates the rules set for it’s implementation, which is rather confusing to me at least.

    The point is that Beer’s law and the linear absorption regime can only be applied when the incident has a smaller bandwidth than the absorption lineshape, the incident light is fairly monochromatic and the sample is in small enough concentration. The third issue is probably fine in context to atmospheric CO2, but the first two constraints raise red flags for me. Since the bandwidth of sunlight reaching the lower parts of the atmosphere is a few thousands nanometers or wavenumbers, whichever you prefer, wide I would think weird stuff starts to happen, like stimulated emission, which would decrease the influence of CO2 because less of the absorbed energy is dissipated away as heat.

    So even when one takes a ‘basic’ approach to this argument of applying laws useful in a lab to the atmosphere, it still doesn’t add up.

    I think you need to take a long hard look at the inherent assumption involved with the arguments being made, even by sites like RealClimate. They can be hard to find because even scientists don’t want to deal with what they cannot account for in lots of different situations, but it’s a good exercise if you want a stronger argument.

  38. #38 Dappledwater
    December 12, 2009

    “Also, after just re-reading the overview section of 9.4 I noticed a key assumption made to ‘improve confidence’. The researchers who can narrow the acceptable, to them, range of possible temperatures have to assume that the changes in climate now are completely independent of changes from the proxied paleo-record. This effectively means that they believe ALL the variation is caused by man. If that is an inherent assumption built into one of the models, how can it not find CO2 as the only forcing causing warming right now? Does that seem like a reasonable assumption to make right off the bat to you?” – Maxwell.

    Rubbish. 9.6.4 deals with the observational constraints placed on ECS (Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity). The study you mention (Hegerl et al 2006a)) was but one of those considered in the assessment. The result of that study was to place tighter constraints on climate sensitivity. From AR4 9.6.4:

    “Hegerl et al. (2006a) argue that instrumental temperature change during the second half of the 20th century is essentially independent of the palaeoclimate record of the last millennium and of the instrumental data from the fi rst half of the 20th century that is
    used to calibrate the palaeoclimate records. Hegerl et al. (2006a) therefore base their prior probability distribution for the climate sensitivity on results from the late 20th century (Frame et al., 2005), which reduces the 5 to 95% ECS range from all proxy
    reconstructions analysed to 1.5C to 6.2°C compared to the previous range of 1.2°C to 8.6°C.”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v440/n7087/abs/nature04679.html

    and

    http://www.ne.jp/asahi/julesandjames/home/comment_on_hegerl.pdf

    A bit different from your interpretation huh?. In fact your mangling of the facts places you deep in denier territory.

  39. #39 Dappledwater
    December 12, 2009
  40. #40 maxwell
    December 12, 2009

    Dw,

    I love how your argument effectively comes down to calling me a ‘denier’. As though that means something in reality other than the strength of your argument relies on name-calling.

    As for the substance of comment #38, I point you in the direction of comment #32. In order to bring down the uncertainty of the climate sensitivity from the poorly conditioned proxy data, Bayesian statistics necessitates that parameters be independent. Therefore, those researchers assumed that the data they were dealing with was independent of each other. There is no physical basis for this assumption which makes it suspect. I already brought up how issues can arise with such an assumption.

    Oh, by the way, where was your answer to the CO2 signal question? You seem rather adept at ignoring it. I wonder why…

  41. #41 Dappledwater
    December 13, 2009

    “I love how your argument effectively comes down to calling me a ‘denier’.” – Maxwell.

    Nope. My “argument” is with your continued misrepresentation of the facts. The matter of you acting exactly in the manner of a denialist concern troll, well that’s just an observation.

    “Bayesian statistics necessitates that parameters be independent. Therefore, those researchers assumed that the data they were dealing with was independent of each other. There is no physical basis for this assumption” – Maxwell.

    Huh?. From AR4 9.6.4:

    “Annan and Hargreaves (2006) demonstrate that using three lines of evidence, namely 20th-century warming, the response to individual volcanic eruptions and the LGM response, results in a tighter estimate of ECS, with a probability of less than 5% that ECS exceeds 4.5°C. ”

    How exactly are those not independent of each other?.

    As for Hegerl et al (2006a)

    http://www.ne.jp/asahi/julesandjames/home/comment_on_hegerl.pdf

    “In respect of the first point, the recent analysis of ERBE data by Forster and Gregory3
    (hereafter FG) is of particular interest, since it does not involve any detailed modelling and therefore is immune to any claim that shared model biases violate the assumption of independence which we will use. Even though there is some overlap in their observational data set with HCHF, FG’s focus on interannual variability, rather than mean or trend, greatly lessens the possibility of significant codependency in these results.”

    Ditto.

    If you have any suggestions on how to improve understanding on climate sensitivity maybe you can enlighten us?.

  42. #42 sidd
    December 13, 2009

    “Since the bandwidth of sunlight reaching the lower parts of the atmosphere is a few thousands nanometers or wavenumbers, whichever you prefer, wide I would think weird stuff starts to happen, like stimulated emission, which would decrease the influence of CO2 because less of the absorbed energy is dissipated away as heat.”

    This is not even wrong.

  43. #43 Chris S.
    December 14, 2009

    May be of interest to those who are struggling with the CO2 ‘signal’ concept:

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2009/12/co2-in-earths-history.html

  44. #44 skip
    December 14, 2009

    sidd:

    Why?

    Skip

  45. #45 Dappledwater
    December 14, 2009

    Chris S, consider that Maxwell typed this:

    “The leap I am not comfortable taking is the one from a gas cell to the atmosphere and making the exact same conclusion. The first thing that jumps out at me is the application of Beer’s law in the context of incident sunlight.”

    Weren’t you aware that CO2 behaves differently when taken out of the lab?. Sounds a bit kookfart to me.

  46. #46 sidd
    December 16, 2009

    Mr. Skip: Stimulated emission involves photons at the frequency corresponding to the transition, not at other frequencies.

  47. #47 maxwell
    December 17, 2009

    Sidd,

    after excitation of nuclear vibrations by IR light, energy in a molecule is dissipated away in both radiative and non-radiative pathways. In non-radiative pathways (inelastic collisions with other molecules mostly), the nuclear vibrational population passes through many states that have dipole allowed transitions back down to a lower lying vibrational state. Therefore, if there is a photon of a particular frequency interacting with the vibrationally excited molecule, there is a finite probability of stimulated emission occurring. Since the bandwidth of not only sunlight, but Stokes shifted light emitted by the earth is very, very large compared to most practical laboratory light sources and many such frequencies are present, it’s not far-fetched that stimulated emission occurs in the atmosphere. More than that however, if non-radiative dissipation of absorbed energy did not occur, then neither would the greenhouse effect.

  48. #48 skip
    December 17, 2009

    More than that however, if non-radiative dissipation of absorbed energy did not occur, then neither would the greenhouse effect.

    Max: thanks for your input. Would you mind catching up the social scientist dimwit on this? Are you saying that you don’t *think* non-radiative dissipation of absorbed energy occurs, or that you don’t know and you’re wondering?

    Thanks again for your contributions.

    Skip

  49. #49 maxwell
    December 18, 2009

    Skip,

    the only way that dissipation doesn’t happen is if one can completely isolate a system from it’s environment. This is very difficult, if not impossible, to do in any practical way. Even in these ultracold atomic system where the temperature of a few thousand atoms reaches one billionth of a degree Kelvin one cannot completely isolate excited atoms from the energy states of light, even when there is no light present.

    So, no I don’t think that dissipation doesn’t happen. It very certainly happens because there is a real greenhouse effect (it’s relation to AGW is a different story because AGW so strongly depends on feedbacks that are caused by the greenhouse effect, but not on what causes the greenhouse effect itself).

    I think that sidd assumed that there are only two possible transition frequencies at which CO2 undergo an energy transition induced by light. One where it naturally absorbs and one where it emits a large fraction of light after losing energy. This second frequency relies on coupling to light states that cause spontaneous emission. But in response to an excited light state, or photon, the CO2 can emit a photon of a higher frequency and dissipate less thermal energy into the atmosphere. I’m sure that the cross-section for this process is rather small, but it would be interesting to look into how it plays a role in energy getting back out of the atmosphere and into space.

    His comment goes on to prove a larger point about this debate, however. When someone who is seen as a ‘denier’ makes a scientific claim, it often, if not always, ruled to be wrong (I didn’t quite understand the ‘not even wrong’ aspect though). As a scientific problem, climate research necessitates a great deal of imagination. Imagination that is guided by science, but imagination nonetheless. It’s unfortunate that some people ignorant of the science itself confuse this imagination with wrongness and then in their own defense copy and paste, mostly meaningless aspects of, Wikipedia entries. So many individuals I have debated with online claim that if I was open to the scientific evidence my mind would be changed, but are so often completely closed-minded when it comes to my scientific understanding and plausible outcomes. It’s like watching hypocrisy in action.

  50. #50 skip
    December 18, 2009

    Well thanks, Max.

    Like any other dip watching Discovery Channel I like hearing about this stuff, but I’m struggling to pin down what your exact angle is here.

    Is it:

    (1) You think the AGW hypothesis is false, and you want us to disbelieve it?

    (2) You think the AGW hypothesis is speculative and you want us to remain:
    (a) agnostic toward its claims and/or reluctant to base policy on its implications?
    (b) accept it as a speculative risk and act accordingly but always be open minded to its refutation?

    (3) There are aspects of the theory that puzzle you and you are just interested in answers?

    (4) Something else?

    Skip

  51. #51 maxwell
    December 18, 2009

    Skip,

    it’s honestly been fun, but I’ve wasted too much of my time here. If I’ve had to explain the in’s and out’s of all this spectroscopy stuff to you in gory detail, I doubt my concerns are going to mean much to you. There is a level of subtlety necessary for wrapping our heads around these problems that seems horribly lacking from this entire public conversation and frankly I’m tired of being a part of it.

  52. #52 skip
    December 18, 2009

    Come on, it means plenty.

    I’m just trying to understand you’re overall angle, that’s all.

    I never claimed to have answers to these subtleties; my guess is someone does, but I don’t know who. Maybe RealClimate; they are far more technically apt. Remember all Coby promised when he made this blog was responses to “common” talking points.

    When I asked the questions above, Max, I thought they would come off as pretty innocent. I’m genuinely trying to understand, not just your technical concern, but its *implications*: Light striking a carbon molecule in the atmosphere would/might behave thus and so, and therefore . . . [insert implication for AGW and public policy here].

    See my point?

    Skip

  53. #53 sidd
    December 19, 2009

    Mr. Maxwell: Show me the math. Work out a single case where stimulated emission actually occurs for CO2 in the atmosphere. Then cite experimental results confirming your work.

    Of course, you are a busy person, but apparently not too busy to refrain from posting copious amounts on this thread.

  54. #54 sidd
    December 19, 2009

    To add to my comment, you may assume a grad school level of knowledge at the level of say, Herzberg. You may not cite experiments with lasers in the free atmosphere.

    Demonstrate any stimulated emission due to solar radiation on CO2 vib-rot states, with explicit derivation and cited observations.

    I strongly suspect that you will not even make the attempt.

  55. #55 skip
    December 19, 2009

    I just wish I knew what either one of you were talking about.

    But my main question is to Max: Why is this important? If he thinks he has something revelational I wish he would just come out and claim it.

    Skip

  56. #56 skip
    December 20, 2009

    Did anybody check out the Lands End link from the flickering ad at the top of the blog screen?

    I don’t know how much these girls know about global warming, but they look they’re ready for it in any event. This really *is* a visual approach . . .

    At least I can honestly tell my wife what I’m doing online.

    http://canvas.landsend.com/ix/canvas/Canvas/Women/Swim/index.html?catNumbers=2198~2199~2210&store=le&tab=17

  57. #57 ron
    March 1, 2010

    i agree at this rate the world will be complety different for our children