I stole my headline from RP Jr, who links to the Nature article. RP Jr modestly makes no comment; RP Sr is so modest as to not even mention it (though he is puffing the distinctly dodgy Scarfetta and West paper).

So its up to me to comment, who else? Its a very soft article, nice and gentle. Most (all?) of what is written is true, but the impression left is… well. “To be frank, that irritates the hell out of me,” says Gavin Schmidt is definitely true.

The CCSP report gets a mention: Pielke Sr argued that members of the CCSP committee were focusing on their own work too much, and not including other perspectives that could explain possible discrepancies in the observed temperatures5. RP Sr resigned because he couldn’t get *his* POV across: the Nature article makes it sound like a noble attempt to get diversity in, which is wrong, it was *his* research and views he wanted more prominently.

In fact, neither father nor son thinks that predicting global average climate trends is possible or useful. Sounds odd, and if interpreted literally makes them both skeptics (assuming by “possible” we mean to the degree and within the error bounds that people like the IPCC does).

Comments

  1. #1 Corkscrew
    2006/03/29

    How on Earth could it not be useful???

    [Ah, you can make the case that for many purposes (growing crops etc - I think RP Sr comes from quite an ag background) local temps are more important. For SLR it makes no sense at all (well for thermal expansion: for Greenland melt it might be defensible too; but then polar scales well-ish with global anyway (he said, making things up). I was rather more querying the "possible" half -W]

  2. #2 Lubos Motl
    2006/03/29

    The obvious fact that predicting global average temperatures is neither useful nor possible makes them skeptics. Very good. [deleted]

    [Hi Lubos. Editing your posts for politeness is becoming boring. Behave, or get deleted. If RP Sr or Jr are asserting that *exact* prediction is impossible, they are saying nothing. If they are asserting that prediction within the IPCC-type range is impossible, then its hard to see that as anything other than skepticism. However, I think its more likely that they have been misquoted -W]

  3. #3 John Fleck
    2006/03/29

    If you read the elder P’s work, you’ll see he is generally careful to refer to modeling results as “sensitivity analyses” rather than forecasts or predictions. In other words, they can tell you what sort of changes are worth thinking about, but they can’t be used as predictors.

  4. #4 Dano
    2006/03/29

    Good point Mr Fleck, which is why the IPCC uses scenario analysis.

    Best,

    D

  5. #5 Kevin Vranes
    2006/03/30

    Motl’s got it right, WC. Read the piece again — they very clearly say that “predicting global average climate trends is [not] possible or useful” because real people can’t use such information in their daily lives. Real people need local or regional information. Sure, global info informs that, but our constant focus on global models and global temperatures gives the average citizen almost nothing to base a decision on, much less to base a vote on, or a plea to a decision maker to vote.

    These thoughts make neither me nor the Pielkes skeptics, they make us realists who know how politics and policy works. Nobody’s saying don’t do global work. People are saying, don’t let it be the primary focus of the billions we spend on climate research every year.

    [How people can use information has nothing whatsoever to do with whether that information can be produced, so your (and their?) argument makes no logical sense. I sense a blurring of and/or here coming as an attempt to make sense of what they said. Also, of course, sea level rise doesn't need local info -W]

  6. #6 Steve Bloom
    2006/03/30

    Dano and John, I’ve had so many other unending circular arguments with RP Sr. I’ve never really bothered with this one, but strictly speaking I think the main target of his criticism is the GCMs rather than the IPCC scenarios as such. I’ve never been clear as to the distinction he tries to make between a model prediction with appropriate error bars and a sensitivity analysis, though, so perhaps I’m wrong. On the global average surface temp issue, the problem is that while he does have a candidate to replace it (ocean heat content), getting an accurate read on that appears to be a matter of some years yet, plus it has *nothing* to recommend it as a metric the public can relate to. For regional temps he wants to use the tropospheric average, which also has its drawbacks.

  7. #7 Steve Bloom
    2006/03/30

    Kevin, that’s mighty bold talk for a guy who just admitted his IQ is under 85! :) But just to follow up on my last comment, since I didn’t see yours before posting it, what would you suggest as a metric that people could relate to?

  8. #8 llewelly
    2006/03/30

    I thought climate scientists focused on degrees of global average temps and mm of sea rise in part because these things could be attributed to global warming , and also projected, with much greater confidence than storm intensities, or local weather patterns.

    As to a metric people can relate to, people seem eager to relate to hurricane intensity as a metric of global warming …

    Beyond that, notice what weather forecasters forecast: daytime highs, overnight lows, dewpoints, storms, tornado-forming storms, floods, etc. How will climate disruption affect each of these items? Note they are all extremes, and all local, to one extent or another. In this respect, the recent papers about global warming and hurricanes are encouraging in that they show that scientists have the ability to say something about the kinds of extremes people need to be prepared for. There’s also been recent work on the climate zones in which various popular garden plants can be grown in, and how those zones have been altered by global warming. This might seem unimportant, but people who garden can relate to it. I believe similar work has been done for comericial agriculture.

  9. #9 Kevin Vranes
    2006/03/30

    Geez William, did you actually read the words 1mm above your reply? I say: “Nobody’s saying don’t do global work. People are saying, don’t let it be the primary focus of the billions we spend on climate research every year.” And you come back with: “How people can use information has nothing whatsoever to do with whether that information can be produced”

    um, right. Who is talking about whether information can be produced or not? We’re talking about focus and priorities here.

    [Um Kevin, you need to read your own words here. Which were: they very clearly say that “predicting global average climate trends is [not] possible or useful” because real people can’t use such information in their daily lives. Given there is an “or” in there, we can delete the “or useful” bit to arrive at “predicting global average climate trends is [not] possible” because…. Now if the “because” is to do with how people are using the info, that clearly makes *no sense at all*; which is to say, what the Pielkes are saying here is not really understandable. Probably Nature has misquoted them; don’t go to the stake for a misquote – W]

    Steve, I’m missing the reference….you refering to a post I missed? and damn! did my IQ just go down to 84 for missing it? As far as metrics people can use, I’d say they surround local water and local climate. The intersection of those in the west (recognizing that this is also an issue in NYC and elsewhere) being timing of water delivery, availability and the other factors affecting cost and supply, and then influences on ag, recreation, etc.

    [Sorry about that, it was a Lubos-ism I deleted -W]

    As far as SL rise, yes, important for many, but not everybody. There’s an entire country here inside the coasts and the same goes for the rest of the world. And if you’re going to justify climate funding policy based on nailing down sea level rise, you have serious issues.

  10. William-I appreciate that you alerted your weblog readers to the Nature article. With respect to your question on the article’s text

    “In fact, neither father nor son thinks that predicting global average climate trends is possible or useful.”

    My perspective is accurately discussed in my weblog postings, including, for example;

    [OK, thats very nice, but I tink sending people off to read piles of blog postings isn't really helpful. Better to say: do you agree with Natures characterisation or not? -W]

    “Why We Need to Focus on Regional Tropospheric Temperature Trends”
    http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2006/02/22/why-we-need-to-focus-on-regional-tropospheric-temperature-trends/

    “Science Questions on the Global Surface Temperature Trends”
    http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2005/12/22/106/

    “What is Meant by the “Global Surface-Averaged Temperature?””
    http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2005/11/01/what-is-meant-by-the-%e2%80%9cglobal-surface-average-temperature%e2%80%9d/

    “What is the Relevance of a Tropical Average Surface Temperature Change to Organisms in the Tropics?”
    http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2005/08/16/what-is-the-relevance-of-a-tropical-average-surface-temperature-change-to-organisms-in-the-tropics/

    Also, your comment,

    “RP Sr resigned because he couldn’t get *his* POV across: the Nature article makes it sound like a noble attempt to get diversity in, which is wrong, it was *his* research and views he wanted more prominently”,

    does not accurately characterize what occurred. The Committee was charged to include the diversity of perspectives. Everyone, of course, has a POV. However, much of the POV that I represented in Chapter 6 of the Report, however, was not even included, but was arbitrarily eliminated. This POV is shared by quite a few in the climate science community, as exemplified by the peer reviewed papers that I mention on the Climate Science weblog.

    [I think we'll just have to disagree on that one -W]

  11. William- I will provide a concise answer below:

    “In fact, neither father nor son thinks that predicting global average climate trends is possible or useful.”

    My perspective is accurately discussed in my weblog postings, including, for example;…..

    [OK, thats very nice, but I tink sending people off to read piles of blog postings isn't really helpful. Better to say: do you agree with Natures characterisation or not? -W]

    Predicting global average climate trends, of course, is possible. Such predictions (which have been presented using the term “projections”), are the foundation of the IPCC report. However, skillful multi-decadal predictions of societally important global and regional climate metrics, such as long term alterations of regional weather patterns, have not yet been demonstrated.

  12. #12 Paul
    2006/04/01

    Without falling into torturous debate with either Pielke about the humorous statement that “predicting global average climate trends is possible or useful”, I can’t help but notice one important point.

    The Pielke’s appeared together in Nature, but not in the peer-reviewed literature; they caught the eye of a journalist and were profiled in the news section.

    That says something–both about the field of science and the profession of journalism.

  13. #13 Mary Box
    2006/08/01

    You can’t be 81628 serious?!?

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