The seminal Myles Allen

[This one for James, of course.]

I do so love the word “seminal”, it brings back my public school days. Anyway, Nurture writes: Oxford climatologist Myles Allen and collaborators, who, in April this year, published two seminal papers in Nature…, which were Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne and Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C. I’d say both are mere headline-grabbers of little scientific novelty and doomed to be rapidly forgotten.

And do you know, as I was driving in this morning, I was thinking to myself ” you know I really ought to try to be nicer and more positive about things”.


  1. #1 Eli Rabett

    It would be a good thing.

    While Eli realizes that you and James have a Myles Allen aversion, still the guy did a pretty good job on the smiling Lomborg

    [*Everyone* has done a good job on Lomborg :-) -W]

  2. #2 Hank Roberts

    On the other hand:

    “… people in a negative mood were more critical of, and paid more attention to, their surroundings than happier people, who were more likely to believe anything they were told.”

  3. #3 Justin Wood

    if I asked nicely — and I am — would anyone explain the problem regarding Mr Allen (from William and James’ perspective)?

    [Myles has kind of cornered the market in writing guff like Nature thinks is seminal, which irritates people doing real work :-). And there was the uniform priors stuff: try -W]

  4. #4 Magnus Westerstrand

    Yeah, we want explanations! :) or the next time mail him!

    (Nature promoting itself… does the readers by that?)

  5. #5 crandles

    >”of little scientific novelty and doomed to be rapidly forgotten”

    Ahh, but this will make all the difference:


    [Since I was trying to be nice I deliberately refraimed from mentionning that site -W]

  6. #6 BryanLawrence

    I’m with Eli on this one … you can disagree all you like with the detail of Myles’ work (and his prognostications, as indeed I do often), but in general he’s doing sound science. And he’s getting the right sort of attention from the public, and as far as the latter goes, the axes of importance in science don’t all point at the Nobel, those kind of papers run along another important axis!

  7. #7 Eli Rabett

    If you seriously think everyone has done a good job on Lomborg, you are one sick puppy

  8. #8 James Annan

    Since my name has come up, I should clarify that I have no problem with a lot of the work that Myles Allen does, I do think he came badly unstuck in his attempts to redefine probability theory, and it’s a pity that decided to dig his heels in rather than admit his mistakes – but I suspect we all do that more than we should.

  9. #9 Justin Wood

    @James, much obliged for that (probability theory issues)

    I would like to know though, is the trillionth tonne assessment inaccurate, in your [collective] view? I hesitate to say this lest I make an idiot of myself, but… well doesn’t this broadly accord with the, ahem, seminal Meinshausen et al paper in Nature in April?

    [Perhaps I should have been clearer. By I’d say both are mere headline-grabbers of little scientific novelty and doomed to be rapidly forgotten. I didn’t mean that they were wrong – quite the opposite. Just uninterestingly correct -W]

    As for — if it helps to communicate the overarching message that 1. drastic emission cuts are needed yesterday, and 2. the longer we wait the steeper the annual cuts required, what’s wrong with that? The details are no doubt crude approximations, but the ultimate point is clear enough.

    I suppose I don’t quite understand the cynicism directed against others who are all working to avoid catastrophe. Surely the septics do quite enough of that for us all?

  10. #10 Justin Wood

    meh, no edit function.

    @WC — cheers for the response, I hadn’t noticed it when I posted #9

  11. #11 crandles

    ‘Uninterestingly correct’ and ‘doomed to be forgotten’. Does that mean you think that the bandwagons to set stabilisation levels will continue ignoring the (correct) science that the temperature rise is better constrained by total emissions than by the stabilisation CO2 level? Perhaps because people feel they need to do something (set a level) to create a measurable target? And without a target, progress won’t be made?

    What is your opinion of: The precise stabilisation level can be left until later because what needs to be done in the next couple of decades is the same regardless of which stabilisation level you want to aim for?

  12. #12 Maurizio Morabito

    As it happens, Myles Allen is back on the BBC News website.

    The point of being “uninterestingly correct” in Allen’s case might be similar to the reporting of the name and birthplace of the “6th billion baby”, apparently Adnan Nevic from Sarajevo on Oct 12, 1999. Newspapers full of it today, newspapers empty of it tomorrow.

    Baby 6B+1 of course doesn’t make any difference, like carbon tonne 1T+1. Therefore the symbolic goal turns inexhorably into a media gimmick, whilst, in the background, the problem remains there to be tackled. And cynicism starts to increase as babies 6B+3, 6B+4, etc etc come to life without anything actually happening.

    All in all, a waste of time, an accident of having a numeric system based on the number 10. Would the Babylonians have worried for carbon tonne #743,008,370,688 (10,000,000,000 in base 12)?

  13. #13 Steve Bloom

    Nice try at an irrelevant smokescreen, Maurizio.

    Re the trillion ton business, it seems clear that it was developed as a paradigm to compete with 350 ppm. While both are imperfect, 350 ppm is better due to the ASAP embedded in the concept. A year ago when the trillion ton concept was being developed it may not have been clear that Hansen would be able to organize the troops in favor of 350 ppm, but now that it is the former should just be allowed to fade into obscurity.

  14. #14 Maurizio Morabito

    Steve Bloom – the “smokescreen” of “the trillionth tonne” is not mine…

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