The Island of Doubt

In the past couple of days a pernicious little meme has appeared in two leading North American newspapers. I refer to the notion that there is such a thing as “settled science.” First, on a column about climatology Monday the Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente asked not-so-rhetorically “So much for the science being settled. Now what?” The following day the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial page weighed in with a review of “what used to be called the ‘settled science’ of global warming.”

Both offerings betrayed a solid lack of understanding, not only of recent events involving recent allegations of errors in IPCC reports, but also of how science works, further reinforcing the thesis that journalists who write about science really should take a few courses in the subject first.


The Wall Street Journal editorial, it will come as no surprise, is the most egregious of the two when it comes to misrepresenting matters climatological. Citing Jonathan Leake of London’s Sunday Times demonstrates just how little respect the WSJ editorialist has for responsible journalism. But Wente does more or less the same thing; she just doesn’t bother to source her statements back to the discredited journalists who first came up with some of the more outlandish allegations.

More troubling, though, is the fact that both writers just don’t seem to get the nature of the scientific process. Science is never completely “settled.” Of course, much our understanding of the way the universe works has long been nailed down to the point where there’s little to no controversy among scientists. But even on the most fundamental matters generally taught to students as an established fact, there are always scientists poking around the edges, looking for flaws in the ointment. Nothing is ever settled. Indeed, almost every scientist makes his or her living challenging what others have already agreed.

Read through the archives of magazines like New Scientist, for example, and you’ll find plenty of features investigating such things as modified Newtonian dynamics (maybe F doesn’t always equal ma), or theories that suggest the speed of light might actually change over time, or that Darwinian natural selection might be in need of some rethinking. Papers are being written every day that remind us that our understanding of nature is an evolving and neverending process. We’re forever refining and reforming our model of reality. Anyone who suggests that the science is “settled” is missing the point.

So if ever there was a straw man in climatology circles, it would be that the science of anthropogenic global warming is “settled.” It isn’t and never will be.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t widespread agreement on the basics as currently understood. We’ve known since the early 19th century that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. We’ve known since the middle of the 19th century that CO2 could be warming the planet. The first estimates of how much warmer a doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels would make the planet are more than a hundred years old (and surprisingly similar to current calculations).

The precise details of the physics and chemistry are always changing, of course, as technology and techniques and theories improve. But we don’t wait for the science to be settled before taking action based on scientific understanding, because that would mean never doing anything. If the Wall Street Journal and Margaret Wente believe otherwise, perhaps they should restrain their pontificating to less serious subjects.

Their failure to grasp this fundamental concept is important because it affects their ability to interpret the details. Both writers invoke British climatologist Phil Jones — the man at the centre of the University of East Anglia email drama — who in an odd little interview with the BBC, agreed with the meaningless question “Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming.”

Here’s his response (which suggests Jones is in need of some media training, but that’s another matter):

Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

Which the WSJ and Wente (and countless others) have interpreted as definitive proof that global warming has stopped.

And therefore…

… The science isn’t settled.

You don’t have to be a trained climatologist or statistician to know just why the question was meaningless. It helps, but isn’t necessary (I’m talking to you, BBC). Here’s the bottom line: Climate is all about long-term trends. Fifteen years is a short period. So you wouldn’t expect to to extract a statistically significant trend for such a period. And it’s an arbitrary time period. Change the start and end times and you get different results. The only thing that matters is the long term.

And when you look at the long term, the only signal that emerges is a gradual warming of the planet, one that tracks global emissions of fossil fuels. Again, that doesn’t mean the science of global warming is “settled,” but it does mean that arguments based on short, arbitrary time periods do not challenge our current understanding.

Comments

  1. #1 Mystyk
    February 17, 2010

    Also see this part of the coordinated denial hit pieces which appeared in the Las Vegas Review Journal:
    http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/but-i-thought-the-science-was-settled-84333847.html

    One part of it reads as a consolidated list of links to other denialist sties, all offered up as though they were mainstream, honest, and objective.

  2. #2 Neil B
    February 17, 2010

    Saying this is considered impolitic or “unfair” in view of the false equivalence in eg High Broderism, but: I and many others have noted a propensity for right-wing/libertarian types – even the non religious “rationalistic” wing – to indulge logical fallacies and brut, simple intuitive real man/woman type thinking and sentiments etc. about issues like climate change. That’s not a pre-judice on my part, it is an observation (as from bitter (sic) experience.)

    Note also, the climate deniers harp on the empirical data and evade the theoretical issue, known since the 19th Century, about CO2 absorbing IR and warming the air. Do they not know of the classic work by Svante Arrhenius in freakin’ 1896:
    “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature of the Ground”, Philosophical Magazine 1896(41): 237-76
    BTW speaking of carbonic acid in solution, that is messing up our oceans as well.

    PS: We do need more looking into possible loose ends in science, like mentioned above. Also, let’s more widely admit that climate science is not about certainties and talk “risk factors.” That’s enough reason to change course.

  3. #3 Elfie
    February 17, 2010

    Ever since people like Al Gore decided to pick this issue up as their pet cause – everything was doomed. WSJ isn’t responding to people like you, actual scientists, they’re responding to the inaccuracies in the media campaign from people like Gore. The dramatization they added to this issue has permanently tarnished this debate.

    Lesson learned? If you care about a scientific issue, fight like hell to make sure nobody from Hollywood ever becomes an advocate.

  4. #4 freelunch
    February 17, 2010

    Elfie,

    No, it’s about economic interests. Just as the tobacco lobby told lies for decades to keep the right to poison its customers so the coal and oil lobby are lying as much as they can so they can continue to sell their products without taking responsibility for the consequences.

    It’s money. Nothing more. Nothing less.

  5. #5 Mystyk
    February 17, 2010

    @4, freelunch:

    I also firmly believe based on the method of argument from most deniers that the majority view it as an economic issue rather than a scientific one. Also, keep in mind that many of the lobbyist groups representing the coal/oil industries in their fight against science are the same firms that were used by the tobacco companies not too long ago. Even the rhetoric is regurgitated with but a few words changed.

  6. #6 ChicagoMike
    February 17, 2010

    Elfie,

    I think you are wrong to paint Al Gore as the problem. There’s probably no other person in America who has done as much to publicize the issue, and whatever errors he has made are trivial compared to the deliberate disinformation being spread.
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/02/al-gore-no-exaggeration-roger-pielke-andy-revkin/
    If you’ve read Our Choice, it’s plain to see that Gore has taken the time to understand the science and the solutions better than almost anyone in the public sphere.

    And the WSJ absolutely is responding to “actual scientists” by taking quotes and data out of context, as in the case of Phil Jones above.

    I agree that we need more diverse voices in the struggle to preserve a livable climate, but I don’t think it makes sense to suggest that one of our strongest voices remain silent.

  7. #7 Monte Davis
    February 17, 2010

    @45, mystyk: Bingo — although keep in mind that the lobbyists get most traction by embedding their narrative in existing ones. In the 1990s one could see new denialists chiming in month by month, usually around some variant of “This is a global redistribution scheme — it will hamstring advanced economies while China et al go steaming past us.” That, not disagreement over data or models, is the motivating passion.

    You can trace the sentiments enlisted backward through New World Order wingnuttery around 1990, and forward to today (I mean, has anyone actually seen Mullah Al Gore’s birth certificate?)

  8. #8 Alex Besogonov
    February 17, 2010

    “More troubling, though, is the fact that both writers just don’t seem to get the nature of the scientific process. Science is never completely “settled.””

    Yet we have ‘settled’ questions. F=ma for all practical purposes, so it’s ‘settled’.

  9. #9 Erasmussimo
    February 17, 2010

    Alex Besogonov, F≠ma. That equation is correct over a huge range of behaviors, but at quantum sizes and relativistic speeds, it is incorrect. First Einstein altered F=ma to include relativistic factors, then in the 1930s the quantum revolution altered it at the atomic level. There might well be further adjustments with time.

    Yet it is also true that F=ma for all motion observed by humans. If politicians were considering a policy involving the veracity of F=ma at non-relativistic speeds and non-quantum sizes, then we would be justified to say “That F=ma is true is settled science”.

  10. #10 dhogaza
    February 17, 2010

    If politicians were considering a policy involving the veracity of F=ma at non-relativistic speeds and non-quantum sizes, then we would be justified to say “That F=ma is true is settled science”.

    One is tempted to say that “F=ma is good enough for [most] government work” …

  11. #11 Brian Schmidt
    February 17, 2010

    One lesson from Jones’ interview: provide the facts but not the gotcha quote. He could’ve said, “1995 to 2009 is a short period to establish statistical significance. The measured warming of .12C is statistically significant to a 90% confidence level, so we are 90% confident that the measured warming is a real change and not random variation. Most measures of statistical significance use a 95% confidence level.”

    And then end there, don’t provide the gotcha quote.

  12. #12 Gerard Harbison
    February 17, 2010

    It would be nice to pretend that no proponent of the AGW hypothesis had ever claimed it was settled science. Problem is, you’d have to ignore this:

    http://legacy.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060712/news_lz1e12somervi.html

    This is not the only occasion on which Somerville used the phrase, either. I didn’t see a whole lot of climate scientists correcting him

  13. #13 Erasmussimo
    February 17, 2010

    Gerald, it’s true that many proponents of AGW have called it “settled science”. However, I think that we’re splitting hairs here. We could use a variety of other phrasings to connote the same basic idea, such as:

    “The basic science behind anthropogenic climate change has now been established to the satisfaction of the great majority of climatologists.”

    However, this is a long and unwieldy quote. The media want something punchy. How does one express the concept in terms short enough for the media to understand? How about some of these:

    “The science is solid.”
    “The science is confirmed.”
    “The science is certain.”

    Every one of these statements misrepresents the truth. Here’s the problem: the truth itself is complicated. The IPCC devoted a thousand pages to answering the basic science question, and they did not actually present all the scientific results — they presented only a digest of the conclusions.

    Truth is big. Truth is complicated. Truth takes a lot of words to get right. But the media doesn’t want a lot of words. The media wants headlines no more than 6 or 8 words. Ergo, the media doesn’t want the truth — they want a grossly simplified version of the truth. The problem here isn’t with the science or the scientists — it’s with the media and the audiences they serve.

  14. #14 Raging Bee
    February 17, 2010

    …they’re responding to the inaccuracies in the media campaign from people like Gore.

    What, exactly, did Gore say that was inaccurate? Can you recall specifics, or are you just bashing Gore because that’s a standard denialist shrieking-point?

  15. #15 Gerard Harbison
    February 17, 2010

    Well, then you have people like Scienceblogger Stoat, who deny the phase has ever been used:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:William_M._Connolley/The_science_is_settled

    Yes, I agree it’s infuriating dealing with the media. The problem is, too many scientists cave and give a simplistic sound-bite. And Somerville, who was a drafting author on the IPCC AR4 summary for policymakers, had a thousand words in his column to make the point more carefully. Instead, he chose to castigate ‘denialists’.

  16. #16 Russell
    February 17, 2010

    It’s curious how the wingnuts use misattributed phrases to smear their opponents. The other one that comes to mind is reference to Islam as a “religion of peace.” That phrase comes from none other than George W. Bush. Yet from reading Free Republican and similar blogs, you would think it is a liberal refrain.

  17. #17 Mark Hadfield
    February 17, 2010

    Gerard, we have Richard Somerville saying here

    http://legacy.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060712/news_lz1e12somervi.html

    that “Instead, among experts, it’s just settled science that people are changing the climate.” and you (appear to) claim this is a refutation of “Scienceblogger Stoat” here

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:William_M._Connolley/The_science_is_settled

    who says “There are no known examples of its use outside the skeptic press, though some of the statements that were made have similar implications” where “it” is the phrase “The science is settled”.

    Somerville’s statement surely comes into the category of statements with similar implications, of which Stoat gives several examples. It differs from a blanket statement about the science settled in two ways: the leading qualification “among experts”; and the clarification about what is settled “that human beings are changing the climate” (a statement that many climate skeptics and contrarians agree with, or claim to).

    Anyway, the Somerville quote is another sighting of the elusive beast (or one of its close relatives). I’ll tell Stoat about it right away, assuming he still cares!

  18. #18 toby
    February 17, 2010

    Elfie said:

    “Ever since people like Al Gore decided to pick this issue up as their pet cause – everything was doomed”

    That proves how irrational and stupid the denialists are. Conservative politicians like Arnold Schwartzenegger, Angela Merkel, Nicholas Sarkoczy and David Cameron can publicly declare they accept the science of global warming without attracting saliva-dripping outpourings of rabid hate from right-wing fundamentalists.

    If you believe it is all down to the personal grudge of a few powerful people, and you blame Al Gore for provoking it, then you are encouraging their irrationality and obscurantism.

  19. #19 Jody
    February 17, 2010

    As a layman, I always tend to remember — and have personally used — the phrase “settled science” as a synonym for the lack of controversy among climatologists that the Earth is warming and that we are, to a large part, responsible.

    It must have something to do with the nuances of common language vs. direct scientific discourse. There isn’t a debate in the literature about the Earth warming… as I recall, there is even a research study on publications re AGW that backs this up… nor about how closely it tracks with fossil fuel use. That sounds settled to me, but it’s obvious after reading this, and reflecting on college science classes, that, technically, it isn’t “settled.”

    So what do term do I use when discussing this with other non-scientists? I know what Jones meant regarding the confidence level over just a few years, but it reads to the public — especially in the quote mine — like he’s changed his mind.

  20. #20 Lance
    February 18, 2010

    One is tempted to say that “F=ma is good enough for [most] government work” …

    Unless that government work involves calibrating GPS satellite data.

  21. #21 Jim Prall
    February 18, 2010

    Great discussion! This “settled” phrase is certainly a pivot point. I do see a tendency for climate contrarians to harp on this distinction, driving the discussion into semantics instead of substance.
    If you argue the science “is settled” then opponents will shoot back with any single point that actually is still up for debate (e.g. hurricane frequency/intensity/wind shear, etc.) No
    If you agree the science “isn’t settled,” then listeners or readers will assume we need to wait while the “sides” continue to “debate” it; policy action should only take place when the question has been “settled.”
    That’s a totally unhelpful way of framing the issue. It’s great polemics but terrible for advancing the discussion.
    On the topic of Richard Somerville, here’s a forceful statement he’s released on this, in which he does use the language “solid settled science”:

    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/somerville-response-to-denialism/

    I think he hits the nail on the head here, despite the problem of his opponents wanting to play semantic games over “settled/not settled.” Some basics really are settled – the existence of the greenhouse effect, for instance; yet even that appears to be up for grabs if you read some of the contrarian rhetoric.

  22. #22 Jim Prall
    February 18, 2010

    Maybe the problem is not so much with the word “settled” as it is with referring to “*the* science.” *Which* science? Which bits of *the* science? The risk is that listeners will lump together every aspect of this complex topic, from detection and attribution of the warming signal, through inferred sensitivity to 2xCO2 and on to projected impacts on sea level rise, drought, storm intensity, ocean acidification, and on and on. Which part of all those was “*the* science”? They are all addressed in the IPCC reports. If you say “*the* science” is still under debate on, say, hurricane *frequency*, should listeners be left free to jump to the conclusion that we are also still up in the air about attribution of the past century’s 100 ppm rise in CO2 as being down to fossil fuel combustion, or not?
    Taking the whole 3000 pages of the IPCC AR4 as a “take it or leave it” proposition seems a bit over the top. I claim a rational person can and should still say “leave off the 2035 date in volume 2, but keep all the well-documented science about glacier retreat covered in volume 1 – and all the dozens of other subjects.”
    Making this about *the* science seems to be the core problem – either the IPCC is flawless and inerrant, or all “the science” is a big lie/’tainted’? I hope people can still spot a false dichotomy.

  23. #23 Rob
    February 18, 2010

    As a non-scientist, it seems to me that despite it’s lack of complete accuracy (and the danger of its misuse by denialists), some kind of shorthand like “settled science” is necessary to communicate to the public at large what’s “solid” and what’s not. The need is particularly acute because of the public’s (understandable) cynicism about the more hyperbolic claims of scientists about likely outcomes if certain problems aren’t corrected. As someone old enough to remember past debacles like the impending Ice Age claims of the 70s and the “population bomb” claims of the 80s, *and* as someone who would like to see real and responsible action on climate change, I can’t say that I have an obvious solution to propose.

  24. #24 maxwell
    February 18, 2010

    James,

    for railing on journalists for not being up on the scientific method, you sure have some funny examples of how science is never ‘settled’.

    You’re missing the distinction between settled science ‘facts’ and settled science ‘questions’. If we did find some small aberrations in the speed of light we wouldn’t throw out Maxwell’s equations. If we saw some variations in mass we wouldn’t throw out Newtonian mechanics either (we haven’t). Maybe those ideas wouldn’t be useful in all situations, as they are not, but there are plenty of worthy scientific questions where introducing constant speed of light or constant mass allows one to produce an answer that is ‘settled science’. Emission and absorption lines of hydrogen are a great examples of settled ‘facts’ where such approximations can be useful.

    Now, the question becomes ‘what has climate science been able to settle upon in the last 20 years?’ (since global warming became a political issue). It seems to me there has been very little to settle on.

    Basically all that can be said with confidence is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (not attributable to climate science), CO2 concentration has been increasing (not attributable to climate science) and that temperature has been increasing (also not attributable to climate science). I’d say we could discuss these attributions though since I have an inkling people may disagree with me.

    The basic question of ‘what is definitively causing the warming we are seeing?’ seems very far away from an answer at this point in time.

    This is a very different situation than saying ‘well we don’t know if the 17th significant figure of the speed of light will change by 1 over the course of several billion years’. These are worlds different from one another and it seems to me that someone willing to claim that other journalists ‘don’t know about science’ would be able to appreciate these differences. Except this isn’t about science.

    How can I tell? The Phil Jones quote sums it up rather perfectly. He’s saying that within the method that scientists use for such matters there has been no warming over some recent decadal timescale.

    Now I agree with you that this statement and fact do not really mean all that much politically. But it means A LOT scientifically. Why? Because expectations were not matched! We expected a linear to super-linear (assuming positive feedbacks) response in temperature with respect to CO2 emissions. Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time. When something unanticipated happens you get excited as a scientist or science enthusiast.

    Instead, you make the same claim as Jones and point out that this warming ‘almost’ matters. Why? Because that is politically useful for you. If it was ‘almost’ warming, then that should still matter politically even if it is insignificant from a science perspective.

    It seems to me that while you would like to hold other journalists feet to the fire under the auspices of ‘not really knowing how science works’, you do the same thing. You pick a side politically and then claim that the science is on your side, practicing damage control as necessary to preserve the narrative you’ve determined ‘correct’ going in the right direction.

    Pot meet kettle.

    PS, I think after this whole Himalaya situation it might be wise not use New Scientist to make any points about how the research world works. Their standards seem to be a bit different than Physical Review.

  25. #25 Erasmussimo
    February 18, 2010

    Maxwell, you make a good point. But let me add a distinction here that, I think, reduces its overall impact. Let’s differentiate between “settled science” as seen from a purely scientific context and “settled science” as seen from a political context. The former is not obtained until it has been munched over by thousands of scientists over many decades. Before something goes into the textbooks, we really want to subject it to lots of intellectual mastication.

    However, science operates on a high standard of veracity: we don’t want to say something is settled until we’re really, really certain of it. On the other hand, when faced with public policy questions, the decision criterion is not “Has it been settled by strictly scientific standards?” Instead, we must make a choice between taking action and not taking action. Not taking action when the science is right can be as disastrous as taking action when the science is wrong.

    This distinction is distantly analogous to the distinction between criminal and civil litigation. In criminal litigation, we want to be certain “beyond a reasonable doubt” before we impose punishment upon somebody. But in civil litigation, there are two sides, and one side must lose; therefore, we use the much looser standard “preponderance of evidence”. If these ideas were expressed numerically (and they aren’t), then for criminal verdicts we need something like 99.9% certainty, but for civil judgements we need only 50.1% certainty.

    The same thing applies to climate change theory. It would be foolish to wait until we’re 99.9% certain of the science before we take action. Given the fact that we must make a choice one way or the other, and either choice can have disastrous consequences if wrong, we must base our decision on the preponderance of evidence. I think it’s obvious to all that the preponderance of evidence lies heavily in favor of the basic AGW hypothesis — much greater than 50.1% although far short of 99.9%. Thus, while we can’t say that the science is settled in the strictly scientific sense of that term, I think we *can* say that the science is settled in the policymaking sense of that term. Indeed, since the NAS has weighed in with its official judgement on the matter, I think it correct to say that the science *is* settled in terms of policymaking — the NAS is the legally designated institution for deciding such issues. They’re like the Supreme Court for science. And their decision is quite clear.

    Back in 1941, a number of physicists approached President Roosevelt and urged him to fund research work on an atomic bomb. The science was most certainly *not* settled back then, not in the strictly scientific sense of the word. But it was clear enough to convince those physicists that the USA should spend a billion dollars — that’s a billion dollars of 1941 money! — on building a bomb. Mr. Roosevelt, fortunately for us, did not share the frame of mind of our modern-day denialists. Even though the scientists couldn’t prove that they were right, he accepted their advice — and the rest is history. Did Roosevelt err?

  26. #26 maxwell
    February 18, 2010

    Erasmussimo,

    I don’t understand the context of your comment. I am not making any sort of argument for or against ‘action’. I am merely pointing out that the James’ argument is flawed. And ultimately his concerns are not about science or the understanding of science (because his understanding is suspect as well), but about politics.

    Since the Nazis never did develop a bomb, I wonder if Roosevelt was right to do what he did. It has definitely changed the world we live in and made it possible for humans to enter the very short list of species that can destroy themselves. I wonder what Sagan would about Roosevelt’s actions in this regard.

    Having said that, there is a great deal to detail in determining what the best course of action is in regards to climate change and human activity. As for now, since we cannot quantify our certainty about the predictions climate science has produced let alone start talking about reaching some level like 99.9% certainty that not even quantum mechanics has reached, I would say that there is a great deal more science to do.

    There’s a good strawman argument to take on though. The ‘we can’t wait til we’re 99.9% certain, so let’s do something now’ argument. How about we become some number certain about these predictions before we start throwing this guy around, shall we?

  27. #27 Hank Roberts
    February 18, 2010

    > settled
    Perhaps that’s another word for “precipitated”

    As we said in the 1960s, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the precipitate.”

    In related news:

    OIL MONEY FUNDS CLIMATE DENIERS AND ATTACKS ON CLIMATE SCIENTISTS
    http://www.prwatch.org/node/8892
    The multinational energy company ExxonMobil has given hundreds of thousands of British pounds in grants to free-market, anti-climate change think-tanks to wage a coordinated, orchestrated campaign against climate change science, and undermine public acceptance of the idea that global warming has a man-made component. The campaign includes attacks against scientists who support the idea that climate change in man-made. Funding has gone to groups like the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in the U.S., and the International Policy Network in the United Kingdom, which have organized international seminars that pulled together climate change deniers from around the world.
    SOURCE: UK Independent, February 7, 2010

  28. #28 Jerry
    February 19, 2010

    How can I tell? The Phil Jones quote sums it up rather perfectly. He’s saying that within the method that scientists use for such matters there has been no warming over some recent decadal timescale.

    OK, let me sum up what people are trying to tell you:

    “No significance in trend over 14 data points” does NOT mean “evidence that there is no trend”. It means “14 points is not enough data to establish significance, even if the trend is really there” (we can check that by looking at the previous record).

    Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time.

    Well, no it hasn’t.

    Let me put it this way. You buy a golden-egg-laying goose at your local fairy supermarket. The goose is guaranteed to lay more golden eggs than plain eggs. You wait until the goose has laid 10 eggs, and notice that it has “only” laid 8 golden eggs. 8 out of 10 is insufficient to establish significance (p>.05, 1-tailed). Are you entitled to sue the fairies?

  29. #29 Dr Dan
    February 19, 2010

    Thanks for the great post. I am a bit of a novice when it comes to climate change and you just gave me some good arguments next time someone questions me about something I know very little about. All I know is that it is an established and proven theory by scientists.

  30. #30 maxwell
    February 19, 2010

    Jerry,

    Within that time period there was no trend. That’s the point I was making. There are plenty of other situations where 14 points is more than enough to determine if a trend is or isn’t present. We do it on a daily basis in our lab and the results are always publishable.

    Now, there may be a longer time trend and I am not denying this fact. I am merely saying that when push came to shove, the scientist who is more familiar with this than either of us said there was no statistically significant trend over that time period. As a scientist, that seems interesting to me people would be puzzled and intrigued by this fact rather than saying things like there is ‘almost’ a trend or that there not being a trend doesn’t mean anything, as you’ve done.

    Do I think global warming stopped? No, but the temperature not changing in the way scientists thought it would (positive change to positive changes in CO2) seems to me a very interesting result.

    As for the egg analogy, I think my suing these fairies would have more to do with the contract we agreed upon rather than the statistical significance of the outcome. I’m sure some legal precedent would have to be involved as well. Then again, I’m not very familiar with fairy courts.

  31. #31 Derr Hog Hozer
    February 19, 2010

    The believers are becoming increasingly shrill as the “proof” behind the faith circles the toilet drain.

    Lovin it. heh heh.

  32. #32 Erasmussimo
    February 19, 2010

    Maxwell, you write:

    I am not making any sort of argument for or against ‘action’. I am merely pointing out that the James’ argument is flawed.

    But James *is* making an argument that relates to action. When we say that “the science is settled (or reliable or confirmed or justified, whatever)” the thrust of the point is that we need no longer argue about the science and should instead proceed to arguments over the policy response.

    And ultimately his concerns are not about science or the understanding of science (because his understanding is suspect as well), but about politics.

    I think your claim here is contradicted by the substance of James’ comments. His arguments concern science, not politics. My own experience is that it is the deniers who don’t give a damn about the science; they twist and distort it shamelessly. My own position is that we should terminate this silly argument over scientific results that are quite clear, and proceed to discuss the policy response we should make. The argument over the policy response is a highly debatable issue; I would hope that deniers would be honest enough to address themselves to the truly debatable matter. But instead they concentrate their efforts on a non-issue. I certainly hope that, when the evidence in favor of AGW becomes so patent that the deniers are utterly discredited, their arguments with respect to policy responses are treated with the same disdain that their arguments about the science will be regarded. Cosmic justice, as it were: somebody who shamelessly lies will be disregarded even when they do manage to make a truthful statement.

    On the matter of the atomic bomb, I believe that its use on Japan was ultimately to the benefit of both Japan and the USA — but that’s a long argument.

    I strongly agree with you on this:

    there is a great deal to detail in determining what the best course of action is in regards to climate change and human activity.

    But then you follow with this:

    since we cannot quantify our certainty about the predictions climate science has produced let alone start talking about reaching some level like 99.9% certainty that not even quantum mechanics has reached, I would say that there is a great deal more science to do.

    When have we ever quantified our certainty regarding any political decisions we make? Were we 99.9% certain that Iraq possessed WMD? Were we even 50.1% certain? We couldn’t quantify that answer, but we went ahead and spent a trillion bucks and 5,000 lives on the hunch that Iraq did have WMD. Oops. Health care? Tax policy? Military spending? Abortion? Can you quantify the confidence of ANY significant statements regarding such issues? Of course not! So why do you demand quantification of the confidence of scientific statements regarding climate change? If George Bush was justified in invading Iraq based on his gut feelings and shoddy intelligence, why can’t we commit to tackling CO2 emissions based on solid science?

  33. #33 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    Within that time period there was no trend.

    Uh, the lack of statistical significance does not equate to your statement that it means there was no rise in temperatures (which is what you clearly believe from other portions of your posts, i.e. “Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time”) .

    Temperature actually rose at a rate of +0.12C/decade over that time frame. How does that equate to “this response stopped”?

    All the lack of significance says is that “we can not reject, with 95% confidence, that the observed rise in temperature was due to natural variability”. That’s very, very different than saying “the response stopped”. The +0.12C/decade rise is observed, it’s real, its only its *meaning* that statistical significance addresses.

    It doesn’t lead, for instance, to this conclusion:

    “No, but the temperature not changing in the way scientists thought it would (positive change to positive changes in CO2) seems to me a very interesting result.”

    Ahem, again, global temps rose +0.12C/decade during that period of time.

    The WMO talks about change over 30 years being long enough to discuss statistical significant. At current rates of warming, some climate scientists talk about somewhere between 15-20 years being sufficient.

    A 15-year period is *just on the edge* of where some climate scientists, at least, expect there to be a statistically significant signal emerging on the edge. Phil Jones stated that for the particular 15-year period he was asked about, the +0.12 rise was *just on the edge* of statistical significance.

    Jones hints, though, that we can reject that null hypothesis “just shy of” the 95% confidence level. 93%? 94%? 90%? I won’t claim that a plane is safe just because someone can only show with 94% confidence that it’s going to crash on its next flight. I won’t hold out for a 95% certainty.

    After all, that 95% isn’t written on God-provided stone tablets. It’s not a fundamental property of statistical theory. It’s a convention, a useful convention but still, just a convention. Is the difference in meaning between a 95% confidence level and a 94% confidence level itself statistically significant to the 95% confidence level? Enquiring minds want to know …

    And, of course, the GISTEMP trend does meet the conventional 95% confidence level. The difference between GISTEMP and HadCRUT? HadCRUT ignores the arctic, which is warming more rapidly than the rest of the northern hemisphere, while GISTEMP uses the principle of teleconnection as the theoretical basis for interpolation of temperature anomalies into the arctic.

  34. #34 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    Something else whackadoodle about this statement:

    “Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time”

    This implicitly raises the strawman argument that science claims that only CO2 affects global temperature.

    Even if your claim that temps didn’t rise because the trend is not significant over the 15 year period (using *one* dataset) was true (rather than our having observed a +0.12C/decade warming), it doesn’t lead to the conclusion you make.

    Exercise left to the poster. The phrase “strawman argument” should make it easy for you to figure it out.

  35. #35 maxwell
    February 19, 2010

    Erasmussimo,

    I don’t understand what you’re saying.

    What is scientifically ‘settled’ to the point that the scientific debate does not matter besides those points I have mentioned in my previous comments?

    I still think there is a significant scientific debate going on as we speak. There are many predictions that can be made better and outcomes restrained to levels that better inform what our options are. You even agree about that. James isn’t discussing that in any context other than to attempt to undermined what he perceives as attack on his political position. The examples of alternative theories to the speed of light or mass prove this to me.

    As for the bomb, Japan had nothing to do with Roosevelt’s actions. He chose to pursue the bomb because people like Einstein could not handle the idea of the Nazis having one and told him so. The notion to bomb Japan when Truman was president is an entirely different deal.

    What I think you’re missing in all of your examples of situations where certainty was unknown is that we were dependent on scientific knowledge in very few of those situations. Abortion and tax laws deal with personal freedoms and government’s responsibility to govern, respectively, which have nothing to do with scientific certainty. They are matters of political philosophy.

    In the case of Iraq and WMD’s I would argue that they (Bush et al.) did not have sufficiently certain knowledge to do what they did and that this fact, in the end, has done a great deal more damage than Hussein or any other Iraqi could have done.

    Is that the standard for climate policy? Really?

    dhogaza,

    I had presumed, perhaps wrongheadedly, that everyone here understood that more than CO2 affects climate. Since you’ve referenced my other comments, you know I have often referred to these other causes. Your conflating the issue here merely points out you lack of ability in engaging in meaningful argument.

    Also, there are two possibilities from a significance test. Either the variable has a significant effect on an outcome, or it doesn’t. There isn’t an ‘almost’ significant notion, except when matters become political and that’s my point. This becomes part of the argument because it can still be effective politically because 93 or 94 look like big numbers or very close to 95. There is a reason, however, why 95 is chosen and if you don’t know why, you should figure that out.

    If the roles were reversed, however, and one proposed a significance in the placement of weather stations in the warming signal that was significant to 93% but not 95% confidence, I’m sure your tune would change.

  36. #36 Lee
    February 19, 2010

    maxwell, dhogaza,

    Remember also that the uncertainty around the measured trend of 0.12C / decade is on BOTH sides of teh trend. We can’t quite reject that a trend of 0 lies within the uncertainty – e also cant reject that a true trend of 0.24C / decade lies within that uncertainty.

  37. #37 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    I had presumed, perhaps wrongheadedly, that everyone here understood that more than CO2 affects climate.

    Then what led you to claim that “”Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time” when, in actuality, temps rose +0.12C/decade during that period of time.

    It’s not the validity of the *observation* that Jones is subjecting to a statistical test.

    It is whether or not we can say, with confidence, that observing a +0.12C/decade in 15 years enables us to separate the warming single from climate noise.

    Nothing more.

    Also, there are two possibilities from a significance test. Either the variable has a significant effect on an outcome, or it doesn’t.

    “Not enough data to tell” is also a possibility. How much data is needed is a function of comparative magnitude of noise and signal in the data.

    We *know* (can compute) that 15 years doesn’t give us enough data given measured climate noise and a +0.12C/decade increase in observed temperatures. This is why Jones talks says “it’s difficult to get significance over shorter periods of time”.

    This becomes part of the argument because it can still be effective politically because 93 or 94 look like big numbers or very close to 95. There is a reason, however, why 95 is chosen and if you don’t know why, you should figure that out.

    It’s a convenient, practical, rule-of-thumb measure.

    It is due to Fisher, who did not cast it in stone as you suggest. There’s no *mathematical* basis for his choice.

    Here are some thing Fisher said about it:

    … it is convenient to draw the line at about the level at which we can say: “Either there is something in the treatment, or a coincidence has occurred such as does not occur more than once in twenty trials.”…
    If one in twenty does not seem high enough odds, we may, if we prefer it, draw the line at one in fifty (the 2 per cent point), or one in a hundred (the 1 per cent point). Personally, the writer prefers to set a low standard of significance at the 5 per cent point, and ignore entirely all results which fail to reach this level. A scientific fact should be regarded as experimentally established only if a properly designed experiment rarely fails to give this level of significance.

    Fisher appears to have accepted the notion that evidence can be meaningful even if analysis doesn’t rise to the “convenient” 95% confidence level:

    ..P=.089. Thus a larger value of 2 would be obtained by chance only 8.9 times in a hundred, from a series of values in random order. There is thus some reason to suspect that the distribution of rainfall in successive years is not wholly fortuitous, but that some slowly changing cause is liable to affect in the same direction the rainfall of a number of consecutive years.

    Though in other examples of his doing analysis he rejected close-to-significant results. It seems clear that there’s been a bit of seat-of-his-pants thinking in his work.

    There’s no magic dividing line between 94% and 95% confidence. It’s a rule-of-thumb, a convenient way to catalog results.

    “Part of the reason for the apparent inconsistency is the way Fisher viewed P values. When Neyman and Pearson proposed using P values as absolute cutoffs in their style of fixed-level testing, Fisher disagreed strenuously. ”

    Here’s another statistician, pointing out that the 95% level is somewhat arbitrary, and picked for practical, not purely theoretical, reasons:

    Bross points out that the continued use of P=0.05 as a convention tells us a good deal about its practical value.

    The continuing usage of the 5% level is indicative of another important practical point: it is a feasible level at which to do research work. In other words, if the 5% level is used, then in most experimental situations it is feasible (though not necessarily easy) to set up a study which will have a fair chance of picking up those effects which are large enough to be of scientific interest. If past experience in actual applications had not shown this feasibility, the convention would not have been useful to scientists and it would not have stayed in their languages. For suppose that the 0.1% level had been proposed. This level is rarely attainable in biomedical experimentation. If it were made a prerequisite for reporting positive results, there would be very little to report. Hence from the standpoint of communication the level would have been of little value and the evolutionary process would have eliminated it.

    How many thousands of references of this sort would you like?

  38. #38 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    Remember also that the uncertainty around the measured trend of 0.12C / decade is on BOTH sides of teh trend. We can’t quite reject that a trend of 0 lies within the uncertainty – e also cant reject that a true trend of 0.24C / decade lies within that uncertainty.

    Yes, of course, I am aware of that.

    I’m hammering on the insistence that an observation of a +0.12C/decade rise in temperature shows that “Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time” just because there’s not enough data to reject the null hypothesis given that particular observation.

    It’s a good point to make explicit, though.

    Maxwell, we can say with equal authority (i.e. none) that “something unanticipated happened that this caused the response to increase, bumping the trend to 0.24C/decade!”

  39. #39 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    If the roles were reversed, however, and one proposed a significance in the placement of weather stations in the warming signal that was significant to 93% but not 95% confidence, I’m sure your tune would change.

    Actually, no, my tune would not change. I’d say “that’s strong evidence”. And really, all the 95% confidence level tells us is that “that’s very strong evidence”.

    If something’s extremely crucial, you might find that the conventional 95% confidence level is *not* accepted as conclusive enough.

  40. #40 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    Actually, the source I was using, Why p=0.05? is worth a read, so there’s a link.

    As to the author’s credibility, judge for yourself:

    Gerard E. Dallal, Ph.D. Chief, Biostatistics Unit Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University

  41. #41 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    One last quote from that source, because it’s a good one, then I’m done:

    The fact that many aspects of statistical practice in this regard have changed gives Bross’s argument additional weight. Once (mainframe) computers became available and it was possible to calculate precise P values on demand, standard practice quickly shifted to reporting the P values themselves rather than merely whether or not they were less than 0.05. The value of 0.02 suggested by Fisher as a strong indication that the hypothesis fails to account for the whole of the facts has been replaced by 0.01. However, science has seen fit to continue letting 0.05 retain its special status denoting statistical significance.

    Now, I began by saying this:

    After all, that 95% isn’t written on God-provided stone tablets. It’s not a fundamental property of statistical theory. It’s a convention, a useful convention but still, just a convention.

    To which Maxwell responded, in essence telling me I was wrong, like this:

    There isn’t an ‘almost’ significant notion, except when matters become political and that’s my point. This becomes part of the argument because it can still be effective politically because 93 or 94 look like big numbers or very close to 95. There is a reason, however, why 95 is chosen and if you don’t know why, you should figure that out.

    I stand by my first statement.

  42. #42 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    bb b b b bbbb but it HAS to be true. otherwise i’ve wasted my life clinging to my religion and typing thousands of lame comments on 3rd-rate pseudo-science blogs. it’s all I got : (

  43. #43 maxwell
    February 19, 2010

    (yawn)…you’re right. A 95% percent confidence level is a convention. A convention that Phil Jones was using when he stated there was no statistically significant CO2 induced temperature increase over the last 15 complete years. And?

    The point I was making is that using said convention, as you have already pointed out is a convention that basically all scientists agree is what determines statistical significance in such cases, the CO2 induced warming trend is not significant. End of story scientifically because that’s the convention we use.

    Now the only reason you gave a history lesson on confidence intervals is because it’s a convenient argument to point out that 95% is merely ‘conventional’. But if all other arguments are going to held to this convention, as is done in the literature, as was done Phil Jones, what’s your point? The warming induced by CO2 is still insignificant.

    I’ll admit that I hadn’t thought through the expectations of climate scientists when I made the original statement about ‘unanticipated results’. It does make sense that one knows the mean much better when one can reduce the standard error of measurement. I mean, that’s the measure of the confidence right?

    Was there a statistically significant CO2 induced warming in the preceding 15 years? If there was, why were the next 15 years different?

  44. #44 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    yawn)…you’re right. A 95% percent confidence level is a convention. A convention that Phil Jones was using when he stated there was no statistically significant CO2 induced temperature increase over the last 15 complete years. And?

    The point is that since this is simply a convention, to state that 94% confidence makes the data meaningless while 95% makes it golden is stupid. 94% confidence is very suggestive, while 95% is more so. 99% is far better, and yes, statisticians recognize this.

    But if all other arguments are going to held to this convention, as is done in the literature, as was done Phil Jones, what’s your point? The warming induced by CO2 is still insignificant.

    No. As Lee most properly points out, you can not reject a hypothesis on the upside of the distribution any more than you can on the zero side.

    All you can say is what Jones was implying: you need more data. But not much.

    Now the only reason you gave a history lesson on confidence intervals is because it’s a convenient argument to point out that 95% is merely ‘conventional’.

    No, it was to point out that your refutation of my statement about it being convention, not a choice that falls out of theoretical statistics, was wrong.

    And to point out that your suggesting that 93% or 94% confidence allows you to say “Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time” is simply wrong. Very, very wrong. The fact that the +0.12C/decade rise doesn’t lead to a statistically significant trend doesn’t let you say that the temperature, in effect, didn’t rise.

  45. #45 dhogaza
    February 19, 2010

    The warming induced by CO2 is still insignificant.

    And, no, you don’t get to reach this conclusion, either. All you can say is that the signal doesn’t separate from the noise in 1995-present at a rate of warming +0.12C/decade.

    That doesn’t mean that there’s no signal, or only an insignificant signal, or that what’s being observed is only noise.

    1994-present is, apparently, significant using the HadCRUT (or so I’ve been told, I haven’t done the computation myself). GISTEMP 1995-present gives a significant trend.

    Still want to defend your claim that “Something unanticipated happened and this response stopped over some appreciable period of time”?

  46. #46 Lee
    February 19, 2010

    maxwell, saying that there was no warming over the last 15 years – significant or otherwise – is simply not true. The last 15 years warmed at 0.12C / decade – that is the observed value, it is what it is. That’s how fast it was warming over those 15 years. We know that, it is what we measured – statistical analysis doesn’t change that measured value. To say, or even imply, that warming somehow stopped, is simply false.

    What the statistical analysis tells us is that over those 15 years we cant quite distinguish whether that much warming is possibly due entirely to random happenstance in the year-to-year variations, to “noise,” or whether it reflects an underlying warming trend.

    Note that the statistical analysis also cant tell us whether the noise might have caused us to undermeasure the true trend by 0.12C / decade, with the actual underlying warming trend being as high as 0.24C / decade.

  47. #47 Erasmussimo
    February 19, 2010

    Maxwell, you write:

    What is scientifically ‘settled’ to the point that the scientific debate does not matter besides those points I have mentioned in my previous comments?

    What is scientifically settled is the basic AGW hypothesis: that human emissions of CO2 are changing the climate in ways that will impose very high costs upon us in the future. And by “settled”, I mean “established with enough confidence that society can proceed with its policymaking with the expectation that the hypothesis is true.

    There’s still plenty of doubt about some specifics of the AGW hypothesis. But the overall preponderance of evidence is very strongly in favor of the AGW hypothesis. There’s really no scientific debate on that point.

    I’d love to discuss the history of the atomic bomb, but that’s too digressive here, so I’ll have to let that pass.

    What I think you’re missing in all of your examples of situations where certainty was unknown is that we were dependent on scientific knowledge in very few of those situations. Abortion and tax laws deal with personal freedoms and government’s responsibility to govern, respectively, which have nothing to do with scientific certainty. They are matters of political philosophy.

    I’ll certainly agree that the abortion debate boils down to a purely subjective issue, but the other three topics I mentioned — health care, tax policy, and military spending all hinge on perceived truths. Nobody argues health care policy based on exclusively subjective factors — people bring in their own knowledge of the perceived cost of health care, the cost of medical malpractice litigation, defensive medicine, profits of pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies — that debate is full of numbers. The same thing goes with tax policy. People argue about the size of the deficit, the tax burden on the middle class, how much money wealthy people pay versus poor people, the effects of income tax versus sales tax versus inheritance tax — again, the debate is full of numbers. And military spending arguments all hinge on estimates of future threats. Thus, all sorts of policy debates hinge on the values of different numbers — numbers that are themselves questionable. When the Bush Administration passed the prescription payments bill, they told Congress that it would cost only about $350 billion. It turned out that the actual cost was more like $500 – $600 billion. How much confidence should Congress have had in that $350 billion figure? How confident are we that inheritance tax has an injurious effect upon our economy? 99%? 60%? 15%? How much confidence can we have in ANY of the numbers being tossed around in these debates?

    You seem to think that evidence produced by scientific means should be held to a different standard than evidence produced by other means. I disagree. Evidence is evidence, regardless of its source. We should apply the same expectations of confidence to ALL the evidence used in our political debates. Holding climate change policy to a stricter standard than we apply to other political debates is illogical.

    (BTW, I’m glad that you agree that Mr. Bush erred in invading Iraq, and I’m pleased to make the acquaintance of one of the few people who, along with me, opposed that invasion at the time.)

    A 95% percent confidence level is a convention. A convention that Phil Jones was using when he stated there was no statistically significant CO2 induced temperature increase over the last 15 complete years. And?

    The statement as you worded it is not correct. The correct statement is as follows:

    “The evidence of temperature increase in the last 15 years is statistically significant at the 90% level.” (or whatever number is appropriate. That’s the most complete, most strictly correct way of presenting the information. You seem to thing that there’s a boolean function here: if it equals or exceeds 95%, then it’s a dead sure thing and if it is less than 95%, then it’s absolutely false. That’s not how statistics works. The opening sentence in this paragraph is the most accurate way to characterize the evidence.

    Moreover, as others have pointed out, the 15-year interval is simply not that important. If you want to confine your time window to 15 years in the past, then you can use that evidence to look 15 years into the future. If you want to make valid predictions far into the future, you must look far into the past. And the data for the last hundred years clearly shows an accelerating increase in temperatures. Therefore, the simplest interpretation of that evidence is that we can expect accelerating increase in temperatures for the next hundred years. Of course, this is the crudest, first-order way of interpreting the data. I use this interpretation only to discredit the use of a 15-year time window to assess the state of AGW.

    Was there a statistically significant CO2 induced warming in the preceding 15 years? If there was, why were the next 15 years different?

    Why stop at 15 years? Why not use a one year time window? Was last year warmer than the year before? If you’re going to use windows so small that they’re meaningless, why not go all the way and talk about changes from year to year, month to month, week to week, or hour to hour? There’s a reason why 15 years is too short a time interval, and that’s why we don’t really bother with that window size.

  48. #48 dhogaza
    February 20, 2010

    You seem to thing that there’s a boolean function here: if it equals or exceeds 95%, then it’s a dead sure thing and if it is less than 95%, then it’s absolutely false.

    Yes, indeed, he seems to think that a 94% confidence level says we’ll all live to be 102, while a 95% confidence level dooms us to an early death.

    Anyway, good post, Erasmussimo, as are all your posts …

    It’s an interesting weirdness that is brought to the table by those who’ve learned things like “statistical significance” by rote, rather than real knowledge, no?

  49. #49 Pete
    February 20, 2010

    “What is scientifically settled is the basic AGW hypothesis: that human emissions of CO2 are changing the climate in ways that will impose very high costs upon us in the future. And by “settled”, I mean “established with enough confidence that society can proceed with its policymaking with the expectation that the hypothesis is true.

    There’s still plenty of doubt about some specifics of the AGW hypothesis. But the overall preponderance of evidence is very strongly in favor of the AGW hypothesis. There’s really no scientific debate on that point”

    Dream on Libtards. You want it. You need it. You worship it. But none of that makes your dreams and wishes for your religion come true. Sux to be you.

  50. #50 Richard
    February 20, 2010

    This is a letter professor Richard Lindzen of MIT sent to the Boston Globe.

    b bb b b bb bb b bbut he’s a LIAR!

    “Climate changes are proven fact’’ is more advocacy than assessment. Vague terms such as “consistent with,’’ “probably,’’ and “potentially’’ hardly change this. Certainly climate change is real; it occurs all the time. To claim that the little we’ve seen is larger than any change we “have been able to discern’’ for a thousand years is disingenuous. Panels of the National Academy of Sciences and Congress have concluded that the methods used to claim this cannot be used for more than 400 years, if at all. Even the head of the deservedly maligned Climatic Research Unit acknowledges that the medieval period may well have been warmer than the present.
    The claim that everything other than models represents “mere opinion and speculation’’ is also peculiar. Despite their faults, models show that projections of significant warming depend critically on clouds and water vapor, and the physics of these processes can be observationally tested (the normal scientific approach); at this point, the models seem to be failing.

    Finally, given a generation of environmental propaganda, a presidential science adviser (John Holdren) who has promoted alarm since the 1970s, and a government that proposes funding levels for climate research about 20 times the levels in 1991, courage seems hardly the appropriate description – at least for scientists supporting such false alarm.

    Richard S. Lindzen
    Cambridge
    &
    Alfred P. Sloan, professor of atmospheric sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  51. #51 dhogaza
    February 20, 2010

    Panels of the National Academy of Sciences and Congress have concluded that the methods used to claim this cannot be used for more than 400 years, if at all.

    False.

    Even the head of the deservedly maligned Climatic Research Unit acknowledges that the medieval period may well have been warmer than the present.

  52. #52 JS Samuel
    February 20, 2010

    Thanks for writing ad sharing this thought-provoking article.

  53. #53 Lee
    February 20, 2010

    Lindzen isn’t even pretending any more, is he? Hes he given up entirely on any claim of a scientific approach to this?

    “Panels of the National Academy of Sciences and Congress have concluded that the methods used to claim this cannot be used for more than 400 years, if at all. Even the head of the deservedly maligned Climatic Research Unit acknowledges that the medieval period may well have been warmer than the present.”

    Talking about the MWP requires that one talk about where,not just when. The MWP was almost certainly regional, or at least asynchronous across the globe – Lindzen needs to qualify his statement to point out that it doesn’t apply to global temperatures – if Jones even said that at all.

    The National Academy report said that the DATA for the early papers they examined were not sufficient to adequately narrow the uncertainty before 400 years ago. They discussed one method, not “methods,” pointed out that one method had a flaw, and then that the flaw can’t have been critical because other later papers using different methods reach the same conclusions.

    “Despite their faults, models show that projections of significant warming depend critically on clouds and water vapor, and the physics of these processes can be observationally tested (the normal scientific approach); at this point, the models seem to be failing.”

    This is just wrong – so wrong I don’t know where to start. yes, the models can be tested, no they dont “seem to be failing.” Global relative humidity does seem to be staying aobut constant, as the models reveal, and thus the absolute humidity is increasing, as the models reveal. The recent paper on stratospheric water vapor seems to be revealing something quasi-cyclical, and certainly does not invalidate the models – its likely to add further relevant understanding to incorporate into the models. The trop-trop hotspot nonsense is beneath Lindzen to cite. Cloud dynamics are uncertain, but the constraints we have from observational data are almost all within the range of what the models use. In some whys, the models are understating the severity of change – that isn’t a failure, its an alarm bell we need to notice.

    Lindzen knows this – I have a hard time seeing Lindzen’s letter as anything other than a deliberate lie.

  54. #54 dhogaza
    February 20, 2010

    Lee …

    Lindzen knows this – I have a hard time seeing Lindzen’s letter as anything other than a deliberate lie.

    A man who will lie about the science linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer and heart disease may be expected to lie about anything …

  55. #55 Erasmussimo
    February 20, 2010

    Yes, Lindzen is certainly an eminent scientist, in the sense that he has done excellent work in the past, and he certainly deserves his seat on the NAS. However, his behavior in the last five to ten years has grown increasingly bizarre and I fear that the old gentleman has lost his grip on reality. It’s sad, and I can understand why others would want to use his statements in support of their claims, but he has gone so far off into the ozone that I think it best that we treat Mr. Lindzen with embarrassed silence. He won’t be with us much longer; although we can contest his statements, I would prefer not to vilify the old man.

  56. #56 Phil
    February 20, 2010

    “at this point, the models seem to be failing”

    heh heh

    -cheers

    (maybe we can hide that!)

  57. #57 dhogaza
    February 20, 2010

    No, I think we want to keep that comment by Lindzen out in the open for all to see, for scientists working the field know it to be false.

    As Lee says:

    Lindzen knows this – I have a hard time seeing Lindzen’s letter as anything other than a deliberate lie.

    If you prefer to believe the lie, that’s fine. Won’t change the fact that it is a lie.

  58. #58 Erasmussimo
    February 20, 2010

    Isn’t it pathetic how the deniers are now reduced to drive-by comments — little one-shot bits of insinuation and diatribe? They don’t dare hang around for an actual stand-up discussion, so they resort to sniping from the bushes and sneaking away.

  59. #59 Tsukasa
    February 21, 2010

    @Erasmussimo

    Yup, a clear lack of brain matter will tend to reduce one to the sporatic sputtering you so mentioned.

  60. #60 Martin
    February 21, 2010

    It’s only a ‘strawman’ if it was never argued for in the first place.

    There was a considerable number of statements along the lines of ‘man-made global warming is fact‘ or ‘the debate is over‘. Either we feel the science is settled enough to make those statements in which case those articles are justified to argue against it (even if their arguments are not very strong) or it’s not in which case they are still justified to argue against such statements of near-certainty.

  61. #61 dhogaza
    February 21, 2010

    It’s starting look like Maxwell’s demons have got the best of him …

  62. #62 dhogaza
    February 21, 2010

    Either we feel the science is settled enough to make those statements in which case those articles are justified to argue against it (even if their arguments are not very strong) or it’s not in which case they are still justified to argue against such statements of near-certainty.

    Come back when you can show that

    1. CO2 does not absorb long-wave infrared radiation

    and

    2. Relative humidity does not tend to remain relatively constant across a wide range of average global temperature.

    and

    3. There are negative feedbacks sufficient to overwhelm #1 and #2 (that’s not a complete list, but they’re responsible for something like 70% of observed warming).

    and

    4. that a coherent theory built around #1-#3 explain paleoclimate as well or better than conventional climate theory.

  63. #63 Lance
    February 22, 2010

    dhogaza,

    No scientist disputes no 1.

    As to no.s 2 and 3.

    In a paper accepted for publication by the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology, three scientists – two Australians and one American, revisit data on upper-atmospheric humidity. The three are Garth Paltridge, Albert Arking and Michael Pook, and they have found that, contrary to climate model predictions, water vapour in the upper atmosphere is acting as a brake on global warming.

    Established climate models assume constant humidity at all levels in the atmosphere as the temperature rises. But, using data from weather balloons accumulated over 35 years, these researchers find this is not so. At the lower levels, it is higher than expected, dropping below normal at the higher altitudes.

    This, they say, implies that “long-term water vapour feedback is negative – that it would reduce rather than amplify the response of the climate system to external forcing such as that from increasing atmospheric CO2.”

  64. #64 Lee
    February 22, 2010

    Lance,

    Rather than cutting and pasting denialist blurbs about that paper, you might actually read it. Teh abstract include the sentences:

    “It is accepted that radiosonde-derived humidity data must be treated with great caution, especially at altitudes above the 500 hPa pressure level.”

    “The upper-level negative trends in q are inconsistent with climate-model calculations are are largely (but not completely) inconsistent with satellite data.”

    and

    “In this context, it is important to establish what (if any) aspects of teh observed trends survive detailed examination of the imapct of past changes in radiosonde instrumentation and protocol within the various international networks.”

    In other words, they are saying that this data is almost certainly flawed, that it largely does not agree with data from the satellites, and that it remains to be seen if any of their results can survive checking for the known problems in the data. And you denialists – who dismiss any of the thousands of papers supporting positive feedback if it has th slightest data problem – are glomming onto this as the paper that proves that feedbacks are negative. Which, fo course, is why you are denialists and not skeptics.

  65. #65 Erasmussimo
    February 22, 2010

    First, I’d like to give Lance credit for talking science rather than opinion. We’ve had plenty of drive-by deniers here who just pop in, toss around some invective, and then pop out. I think it’s creditworthy that Lance addresses actual scientific issues.

    That said, the paper Lance cites requires careful interpretation. The overall impression I get from the paper is that the authors are pointing out an inconsistency that may be due to instrumental factors or may represent a previously unappreciated factor worthy of our consideration. The inconsistency, if real, will require us to adjust our global circulation models. However, even if there is a previously unappreciated factor at work, I do not consider it to have major implications. Yes, adjustments will be required, but no, this certainly doesn’t topple the AGW hypothesis even if it is real.

    The next step is for us to wait for responses to appear in the literature. A lot of people seem to think that, once something is published in peer-reviewed literature, it’s God’s Truth Chiseled in Stone. That is not the case. Publication in peer-reviewed literature means only that the material is apparently sound and contains no obvious bloopers. The next step, which takes a couple of years, is for other scientists to weigh in with their own work on the topic. The discussion may bounce around in the literature for years before a consensus is reached. For the moment, the only conclusion we can draw is “Hmm… that’s interesting.” Certainly, this paper refutes nothing and does not in any fashion constitute a fundamental challenge to the AGW hypothesis.

  66. #66 dhogaza
    February 22, 2010

    The inconsistency, if real, will require us to adjust our global circulation models.

    More than that. It will also mean that the AIRS sensor on the AQUA satellite is malfunctioning.

  67. #67 dhogaza
    February 22, 2010

    Following up on Lee’s comment …

    Lance, why do you say:

    The three are Garth Paltridge, Albert Arking and Michael Pook, and they have found that, contrary to climate model predictions, water vapour in the upper atmosphere is acting as a brake on global warming.

    When they say:

    “long-term water vapour feedback is negative – that it would reduce rather than amplify the response of the climate system to external forcing such as that from increasing atmospheric CO2.”

    Which is a hypothetical? Also, it seems quite clear that this is not the full quote, that something’s missing in front of the words “long-term”, something that makes the statement very obviously a hypothetical one, rather than a statement of fact.

    In other words, I suspect Lance has quote-mined the abstract.

    Let’s see if The Google can help us educate Lance as to the futility of easily-checked quote-mines.

    Yeah, here’s the full sentence:

    Negative trends in q as found in the NCEP data would imply that long-term water vapor feedback …

    A caveat has been deleted by Lance. Such a surprise. And, as Lee points out, the entire abstract is chock-full of caveats that make it clear the authors don’t have a hell of a lot of confidence in the robustness of the data they’re working with.

    Lance: quote-mining is a sin.

    Lurkers: when I claim that Lance is dishonest, episodes like this are why.

  68. #68 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Gee, who to believe on the topic of anthropomorphic global warming? Oops, I forgot, we changed the name to anthropomorphic climate change in keeping with a changing reality. But I digress. Who should we believe? A “freelance” — read, “unemployed” — journalist with an unusable degree in an obscure science discipline, or a professional meteorologist who is regarded as the best long-range predictor — read forecaster — of weather in the business? I’ll go with the latter, thank you.

    Just last night, February 22, 2010, Joe Bastardi of AccuWeather made the compelling case in dressing down Bill Nye the Science Guy — that’s a laugh — see the exchange here: http://global-warming.accuweather.com/2010/02/joe_bastardi_versus_bill_nye_t.html#comments

    The money quote from Joe Bastardi: “What you have to believe, folks, is this: That the Sun plus the Ocean plus the Volcanic Activity plus Natural Reversal has less effect than the yearly human contribution equal to the width of a hair on a 1 KM bridge of a trace gas needed for life.” What that means is that NATURE is far more powerful than the sum of us poor mortals. Whoda thunk it?

    For those of you who still want to believe that man can warm or cool the Earth, don’t look up because the SKY IS FALLING!!! AH-HA-HA-HA-HA. Only self-important narcissists, who think they are god-like could be so conceited as to believe such nonsense!!!

    Ivan

  69. #69 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Debunking the myth that man can control weather - Suppose you can determine the hemisphere with the largest mass of human life-form; and you could pick a certain hour on a certain day when the critical human mass of that hemisphere is facing the Sun; and you communicated to every man, woman and child who are experiencing daylight — everything from dusk to dawn — on that date and at that time to jump up and down for ten minutes. Could this intentional activity possibly knock Earth out of orbit? Could it? I didn’t think so. Likewise, we don’t have the ability to alter climate. If we could, we would have a long time ago.

    Why don’t you AGW freaks try something a little more modest first; like maybe bring rain to the Sahara Desert or Death Canyon, or transform Antarctica into a destination resort, prior to attempting to alter the climate of the entire planet? Prove you can work miracles on a small scale before attempting it on so grand a scale. Just sayin’.

    Ivan

  70. #70 dhogaza
    February 23, 2010

    bb b b bubbbb bubub bbubbb bbut 3 ppm of Carbon Dioxin Plant Food. whargarbly whargarbly whargarbl

    You don’t understand Ivan. I NEED this crisis. It’s all I got.

  71. #71 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    To revise and extend my remarks.

    Oops, I meant “Death Valley”, not Death Canyon. But the challenge remains the same: Manipulate physical nature sufficiently to convert Death Valley into something akin to the Salinas Valley; make the Sahara Desert the “bread basket” for Africa and Anatolia — that would be Asia Minor, for you over-educated pin-heads — to feed those impoverished folks; and while you’re at it, make Mexico a paradise so that her displaced peoples will return home. What’s that? Oh, Mexico is already a paradise? It’s just that it’s an untapped, under-utilized paradise. I see…

    Ivan

  72. #72 Ivan Yurkenov
    February 23, 2010

    Now, here’s and idea whose time has come:

    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/climategate-and-the-law-senator-inhofe-to-ask-for-congressional-criminal-investigation-pajamas-mediapjtv-exclusive/

    Let’s have “Nuremberg-style trials” for AGW Hoaxers!!!

    Ivan

  73. #73 dhogaza
    February 23, 2010

    Here’s a guest blog on RPSr’s site, in regard to the Paltridge et al paper.

    Apparently, the caveats are more accurate than the tentative conclusion.

    Mind you, RPSr isn’t exactly an icon of “alarmism”, Lance, being one of the denialisphere’s most popular professional scientist skeptics.

  74. #74 mandas
    February 23, 2010

    Ivan

    “….Gee, who to believe on the topic of anthropomorphic global warming? Oops, I forgot, we changed the name to anthropomorphic climate change in keeping with a changing reality….”

    It’s ANTHROPOGENIC not anthropomorphic.

    Anthropomorphic means to project human characteristics onto something that isn’t human (like Disney animals).

    Anthropogenic means caused by human activity.

    So we never changed the name to ‘anthropomorphic climate change’. At least get the subject correct if you want to debate the issues. Your posts would have a little more credibility (there is really only one direction for them to go from here) if you used the correct words.

  75. #75 Lance
    February 24, 2010

    dhogaza,

    I hardly “quote mined” the paper. While it does make the point that their findings would be at variance with other accepted findings on water vapor feedback the data is what it is.

    Does one paper overturn currently held positions on water vapor feedback, no? Does it cause one to question the currently accepted position?

    Well, if one is not a dogmatic sycophant it should.

  76. #76 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    I hardly “quote mined” the paper.

    Like hell, liar.

    While it does make the point that their findings would be at variance with other accepted findings on water vapor feedback the data is what it is.

    They went far beyond that in their caveats about the reliability of that data.

    They’re honest. You’re not. It’s quite clear that their caveats *should* have forestalled dishonest quote-mining such as you’ve done, but it didn’t.

    Does one paper overturn currently held positions on water vapor feedback, no? Does it cause one to question the currently accepted position?

    Well, if one is not a dogmatic sycophant it should.

    Lance has staked himself to a position that not even RPSr, exalted among the denialist camp, will not take.

    That’s all we need to know, right, Lance?

    I wouldn’t buy a used dollar bill from you for a penny, you dishonest disgrace to the human race.

  77. #77 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    How do you deal with people like Lance, the intellectual equivalent of those who insist the moon landing didn’t take place?

    I’m at a loss. I’ve never met anyone like this in real life except for one schizophrenic and another bipolar person.

  78. #78 Lance
    February 24, 2010

    dhogaza,

    You are quite a tiresome fellow with your shrieks of “LIAR!”

    Here is a more complete summary of the paper in question.

    The Abstract states:

    The National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis data on tropospheric humidity are examined for the period 1973 to 2007. It is accepted that radiosonde-derived humidity data must be treated with great caution, particularly at altitudes above the 500 hPa pressure level. With that caveat, the face-value 35-year trend in zonal-average annual-average specific humidity q is significantly negative at all altitudes above 850 hPa (roughly the top of the convective boundary layer) in the tropics and southern midlatitudes and at altitudes above 600 hPa in the northern midlatitudes. It is significantly positive below 850 hPa in all three zones, as might be expected in a mixed layer with rising temperatures over a moist surface. The results are qualitatively consistent with trends in NCEP atmospheric temperatures (which must also be treated with great caution) that show an increase in the stability of the convective boundary layer as the global temperature has risen over the period. The upper-level negative trends in q are inconsistent with climate-model calculations and are largely (but not completely) inconsistent with satellite data. Water vapor feedback in climate models is positive mainly because of their roughly constant relative humidity (i.e., increasing q) in the mid-to-upper troposphere as the planet warms. Negative trends in q as found in the NCEP data would imply that long-term water vapor feedback is negative—that it would reduce rather than amplify the response of the climate system to external forcing such as that from increasing atmospheric CO2. In this context, it is important to establish what (if any) aspects of the observed trends survive detailed examination of the impact of past changes of radiosonde instrumentation and protocol within the various international networks.

    The paper concludes:

    It is of course possible that the observed humidity trends from the NCEP data are simply the result of problems with the instrumentation and operation of the global radiosonde network from which the data are derived. The potential for such problems needs to be examined in detail in an effort rather similar to the effort now devoted to abstracting real surface temperature trends from the face-value data from individual stations of the international meteorological networks. As recommended by Elliot and Gaffen (1991) in their original study of the US radiosonde network, there needs to be a detailed examination of how radiosonde instrumentation, operating procedures, and recording practices of all nations have changed over the years and of how these changes may have impacted on the humidity data.
    In the meantime, it is important that the trends of water vapor shown by the NCEP data for the middle and upper troposphere should not be “written off” simply on the basis that they are not supported by climate models—or indeed on the basis that they are not supported by the few relevant satellite measurements. There are still many problems associated with satellite retrieval of the humidity information pertaining to a particular level of the atmosphere—particularly in the upper troposphere. Basically, this is because an individual radiometric measurement is a complicated function not only of temperature and humidity (and perhaps of cloud cover because “cloud clearing” algorithms are not perfect), but is also a function of the vertical distribution of those variables over considerable depths of atmosphere. It is difficult to assign a trend in such measurements to an individual cause.
    Since balloon data is the only alternative source of information on the past behavior of the middle and upper tropospheric humidity and since that behavior is the dominant control on water vapor feedback, it is important that as much information as possible be retrieved from within the “noise” of the potential errors.

    Now, I think any objective reader would agree with my assessment of the paper. That it indicates that water vapor acts as a negative feedback based on the radiosonde data analyzed in the study.

    Are their caveats? Sure. Does this one paper prove that water vapor is a negative feedback? no.

    Does it give evidence that it might be? Yes.

    You’re ad hom laced diatribes only highlight your lack of
    objectivity and inability to discuss these issues in anything remotely resembling good faith.

    Still I engage you in the hope, so far in vain, that you will engage in earnest, civil and rational discussions of climate science and its attendant issues.

  79. #79 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    Does it give evidence that it might be? Yes.

    earlier lance:

    water vapour in the upper atmosphere is acting as a brake on global warming.

    “is” != “evidence might be”, Lance.

    I wouldn’t call you a liar based on this single misstatement. It takes a body of work. You have such a body of work.

  80. #80 Lance
    February 24, 2010

    dhogaza,

    Now who is quote mining.

    Here is my complete statement,

    “The three are Garth Paltridge, Albert Arking and Michael Pook, and they have found that, contrary to climate model predictions, water vapour in the upper atmosphere is acting as a brake on global warming.”

    Their paper found just what I claimed it found, that water vapor is acting as a negative feedback counteracting the warming due to CO2 forcing.

    You continue to misrepresent my remarks, smear my reputation and call me names.

    It’s getting very old.

  81. #81 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    Their paper found just what I claimed it found, that water vapor is acting as a negative feedback counteracting the warming due to CO2 forcing.

    That’s not what they said, Lance, the caveats have been posted by me and others above.

    They said that if the data’s accurate – and the make clear that they have doubts that it is – then that would be the implication.

    They did not find that water vapor is acting as a negative feedback. They found that water vapor might be acting as a negative feedback, if the notoriously shitty radiosonde data can be trusted.

    And how trustworthy is that data? In the abstract they say:

    In this context, it is important to establish what (if any) aspects of the observed trends survive detailed examination of the impact of past changes of radiosonde instrumentation and protocol within the various international networks.

    They’re open to the possibility that the entire observed trends in the dataset might be garbage! They have not said what you claim they say.

    Now, go read that smackdown of this paper at RPSr’s site.

  82. #82 Lance
    February 24, 2010

    dhogaza,

    You seem to have a basic misunderstanding of scientific research.

    You use this misunderstanding to smear other people.

    If research points to your preconceived personal preferences you herald it as “truth”. If it points away from these notions it is tentative or just wrong.

    Every credible study has “caveats” and error estimates. This study pointed towards water vapor being a negative feedback and said so.

    Of course you don’t care about science. You only care about promoting your personal views and smearing people that do not share them.

  83. #83 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    lance,

    dhogaza,

    You seem to have a basic misunderstanding of scientific research.

    You use this misunderstanding to smear other people.

    If research points to your preconceived personal preferences you herald it as “truth”. If it points away from these notions it is tentative or just wrong.

    Every credible study has “caveats” and error estimates. This study pointed towards water vapor being a negative feedback and said so.

    Of course you don’t care about science. You only care about promoting your personal views and smearing people that do not share them.

  84. #84 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    Every credible study has “caveats” and error estimates.

    I’ve read a paper or two. I can’t remember ever seeing one saying, in essence, “this data may very well be garbage, but assuming its not …”

    Of course you don’t care about science. You only care about promoting your personal views and smearing people that do not share them.

    Bullpucky. Look in the mirror. And quit lying.

  85. #85 Lance
    February 24, 2010

    Yeah, these guys collaborated for months collecting data analyzing it and them presented a paper they knew was “garbage” to a reputable scientific journal who knew it was “garbage” and the journal published it.

    Yes, your understanding of science is quite impressive.

    It couldn’t be that you are smearing the paper, and its authors, and the journal that published it because you don’t like its conclusions?

    No, you never smear anyone right?

    Oh, wait a minute…

  86. #86 DSC
    February 24, 2010

    “The science of global warming isn’t settled. It isn’t and never will be” – admits global-warmingist.

  87. #87 dhogaza
    February 24, 2010

    Yeah, these guys collaborated for months collecting data analyzing it and them presented a paper they knew was “garbage” to a reputable scientific journal who knew it was “garbage” and the journal published it.

    I didn’t say the *paper* was garbage, I said that they clearly state that the data it uses *might be* garbage.

    For instance, their results contradict the standard expectation regarding water vapor in the atmosphere. This could lead to more work by others that, as they say, may lead to the water vapor trend data from these radiosondes “not surviving”. Useless for climate work (nothing they were never designed to provide data for).

    Though that would invalidate their conclusions, the paper still would’ve been useful, for having strongly pointing out that one of two things must be true – the data sucks or the standard expectation of atmospheric physics types sucks.

    It couldn’t be that you are smearing the paper, and its authors, and the journal that published it because you don’t like its conclusions?

    I’m not smearing the paper – it seems to very properly point out that it’s quite likely that the data set is at fault.

    You’re the staked to an absolute “it has been shown that water vapor is a negative feedback” conclusion, not the poor authors of the paper who you so badly misrepresent.

    Have you read the smackdown at RPJr yet?

  88. #88 Erasmussimo
    February 24, 2010

    Sheesh. Ivan Yurkenov, you have succeeded in setting a new low for denialism. I didn’t think it possible, but you have managed to come up with posts even stupider than the standard. You are a disgrace to denialism — if I were a denier, I’d be attacking you even more vociferously than the scientifically literate people are, because your posts are towering pillars of stupidity and bathymetric trenches of ignorance.

    I refer to your latest stunt: reposting messages you presented in another discussion. Posts #68 and #69 are copies of messages from another discussion. In that other discussion, I comprehensively refuted your claims. You slunk away from my arguments, lacking the courage or knowledge to respond. So now you slink here and repost the same material that I have already refuted. As I said, this is a new low.

    Lance, I disagree with this claim of yours:

    I think any objective reader would agree with my assessment of the paper.

    because you contradict yourself in the very next sentence. First you write:

    That it indicates that water vapor acts as a negative feedback based on the radiosonde data analyzed in the study.

    Then two sentences later you write:

    Does this one paper prove that water vapor is a negative feedback? no.

    Does it give evidence that it might be? Yes.

    So which is it? A possibility or a demonstrated fact? You have been arguing all along that the paper demonstrates it as a conclusion, but now you seem to be backing off from that claim and instead suggesting that it is only a possibility. I hope, therefore, that you can I can agree on this interpretation of the paper:

    “This paper demonstrates that there is a possibility that water vapor is providing negative feedback in a previously unanticipated manner.”

    Can we agree on this?

  89. #89 dhogaza
    February 25, 2010

    I can. The guest post over at RP Sr’s I linked to makes me think it’s highly unlikely, though.

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