Cage fight: Ridley vs Romm

W00t, its the Big Fight, or at least its the spat du jour. Does anyone outside the little blogospheric circle care? My guess is no. As I said over at Timmy's recently, my personal "does-the-outside-world-give-a-shit-o-meter" (as applied to the latest septic nonsense to hit the blogospheric fan) is "has anyone tried to push it into any of the major GW type articles on wikipedia"? By that test, the latest stuff from Lewis scores zero. Even Schwartz managed better.

But (whilst Romm wouldn't be my choice as the prime upholder of Truth and Light) the latest to-and-fro provides an interesting way to tell who is lying to you. To no-one's great surprise, the answer is... available at the end of this post. Its all out in the open, and verifiable to everyone (the one unverifiable aspect is who has changed their postings since they were first written. I've taken snapshots of how things are now).


* Joe Romm demonstrates himself to be an angry know-nothing in his attack on Matt Ridley’s WSJ essay – Ridley responds - Ridley at WUWT [cite], complaining about...
* Error-Riddled Matt Ridley Piece Lowballs Climate Change, Discredits Wall Street Journal. World Faces 10°F Warming - Romm at TP [cite], complaining about...
* Matt Ridley: Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change - Ridley's piece [cite] puffing Lewis's piece about sensitivity.

For the moment, we care not whether Lewis's original is correct or not (I still think its wrong, but have done no real analysis, that you'll have to wait for. I'm still hoping someone competent might do it - hint, hint). I think Romm's headline assertion that Ridley has "Discredit[ed the] Wall Street Journal" is dubious, on the grounds that it had no reputation to lose on the subject of Climate Change. But on...

Part the first

From Ridley:

He [Romm] quotes a scientist as saying

it is very clear water vapor … is an amplifying effect. It is a very strong warmer for the climate.

I agree. My piece states:

water vapor itself is a greenhouse gas.

So there is no confusion there. At least not on my part.

But this is indeed confused by Ridley, in an important way. The WV feedback is important, and Ridley can't be unaware of that. By confusing this with the doubted-by-no-one statement that WV is a GHG, Ridley is throwing up squid ink. Though I'm dubious he really understands this stuff at all - there is a fair chance that some of his errors are simply caused by his own lack of competence.

Part the second

Ridley continues:

However, I do discuss the possibility that clouds, formed from water vapor, either amplify or damp warming – and nobody at this stage knows which. This is the point that my physicist informant was making: the consequence of increased temperatures and water vapor in the atmosphere may be changes in clouds that have a cooling effect. You will find few who disagree with this. As the IPCC AR4 said:

Cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty.

Joe Romm disagrees with this consensus, saying

The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive.

He gives no backing for this dogmatic conclusion.

Romm, correctly, points out that his "The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive" is taken from the AR5 draft, and says so (at least it currently says so. Whether it originally did, I can't say. However Ridley really can't fulminate about "no backing" and "dogmatic", because it really is sourced).

What AR5 says (at least in part) is:

Therefore, there is very high confidence that the net feedbacks are strongly positive and the black body response of the climate to a forcing will therefore be amplified. Cloud feedbacks continue to be the largest uncertainty... New approaches to diagnosing cloud feedback in GCMs have clarified robust cloud responses, while continuing to implicate low cloud cover as the most important source of intermodel spread in simulated cloud feedbacks. The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive, although a negative feedback (damping global climate changes) is still possible.

The AR4 was less certain: on cloud feedbacks. Despite some advances in the understanding of the physical processes that control the cloud response to climate change and in the evaluation of some components of cloud feedbacks in current models, it is not yet possible to assess which of the model estimates of cloud feedback is the most reliable. However, progress has been made in the identification of the cloud types, the dynamical regimes and the regions of the globe responsible for the large spread of cloud feedback estimates among current models. This is likely to foster more specific observational analyses and model evaluations that will improve future assessments of climate change cloud feedbacks.

So it appears to me that:

(1) AR5 has strengthened the assessment of cloud forcing, which is now thought to be likely (which is weak, but its there) to be positive,
(2) AR4 and AR5 both say cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty. Ridley is right to quote this, but wrong to imply that this is the last word the IPCC has to say on the subject,
(3) Ridley is wrong to say that by asserting (1) Romm is denying (2) - the two are entirely compatible. Obviously: they're in the same IPCC paragraph,
(4) Ridley is wrong to say that Romm's assertion is dogmatic, or not backed. Its a quote from the draft, and its fully backed up.
(5) Ridley is wrong to state, of the cloud feedback, that "nobody at this stage knows which... You will find few who disagree with this". That would have been defensible from the AR4, but not now.


I think its most likely that Ridley is incompetent - if he knows what he is actually saying, then he knows he is wrong on all these counts, and he knows that anyone competent will be able to see that. Of course, he may just be playing to the gallery.

If you want more, in a bit I didn't bother look at Ridley tries to drag in Schlesinger onto his side. Alas, Schlesinger will have none of it, and Romm quotes a letter from Schlesinger: Matt Ridley mentions the findings of my Climate Research Group’s paper... In his article, Mr. Ridley is just plain wrong about future global warming...


* Neven on AR5 sea ice

More like this


Forest Mims just misquoted an article to give the impression that there is no trend in water vapor; see my latest post. Any one with access to the literature is able to read the entire paragraph an spot the problem.

Alec Rawls, who made the Second Order Draft of the AR5 public, recently misquoted this draft to claim that the IPCC had changed its stance on the influence of the sun. Anyone downloading the draft he had linked, could see that this was not true.

Why shouldn't Ridley be just as bold?

By Victor Venema (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink


How about an opinion on whether AR5 draft includes weasel words:

"There is very high confidence that climate models realistically simulate the annual cycle of Arctic sea ice extent, and there is high confidence that they realistically simulate the trend in Arctic sea ice extent over the past decades. {9.4.3}."

No problem with the very high confidence first bit - that seems a weak claim as it would be alarming if models didn't peak and trough at right times of the year.

Is this weasel words with 'past decades' excluding the current decade? Or is high confidence reasonable? or something else?

Neven taking up Geoff Beacon

Is it a political problem to try to avoid rubbishing the models because consensus wont be reached by doing that?

What ought to be said and is that any different from what will be said?

[I haven't read that bit yet (indeed, I haven't read anything not directly connected to this nonsense). If they are discussing trends, then they would need to include the past decade, and judging from Neven's post they do. They wouldn't need to include 2012. I'd be surprised if they could find "high confidence" in trends-to-2011... or would I? If you take out 2007, and naturally ignore 2012, perhaps -W]

The interesting thing are the bounds on the uncertainty.

The punch and Judy crowd act as if

"the largest source of uncertainty."

means that the uncertainty is unbounded. It ain't

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

The Murdoch press continues to be a ready market for this sort of thing, so I don't expect it to end soon. At least the respectable press has mostly stopped with it, although instead of good coverage we have largely a lack of coverage.

I notice that Ridley doubles the total of overtly septic viscounts.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

Climate septics probably believe the mood is made of green cheese as well.

Except for those who hold it is made of ooblek.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

Chris, last time I checked only CCSM managed to catch (barely) the current trend, although IIRC that was prior to this season. The statement seems strange.

Part of the problem is that the IPCC continues to provide cover for the crap models, although as noted the non-crap ones are still off somewhat.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

Moon, not mood.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

David, I thought the moon was made of Wensleydale?

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

Ridley: competence in this domain:
See The global warming guerrillas, from Feb 2010.

'contrast it with, a site founded in November 2006 by a former Californian television weather forecaster named Anthony Watts. Dedicated at first to getting people to photograph weather stations to discover how poorly sited many of them are, the site has metamorphosed from a gathering place for lonely nutters to a three-million-hits-per-month online newspaper on climate full of fascinating articles by physicists, geologists, economists and statisticians.

Or take a book published last month called The Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Montford, a rattling good detective story and a detailed and brilliant piece of science writing.'

Ridley @ Tim's:

'Matt Ridley // Dec 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm ...
I think you misread my lecture. I said “a particular method of” PCA, meaning Mann’s version of short-centred PCA. Fully agree with you that this is not how PCA is supposed to be done. Steve McIntyre’s, Andrew Montford’s and Edward(?) Wegman’s accounts all confirm this tendency to overweight some samples at the expense of others.'

Let's see: the MM paper that had that used code with1:100 cherry-pick (falsification), that far outweights any PCA issue, see DC and Nick Stokes.
and Wegman almost certainly used similar code, which he promised to Henry Waxman in 2006, but told falsehood about Navy release.

Of course, as for Montord, he relied on my favorite dog astrology journal (or at Rabett's.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 22 Dec 2012 #permalink

In ethics there is a distinction between consequentialism and deontology, which do not fit together well.

Consequentialism is the class of normative ethical theories holding that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness of that conduct.

Deontological ethics or deontology (from Greek deon, "obligation, duty"; and -logia) is the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on the action's adherence to a rule or rules.

Maybe you could see Ridley as someone using consequentialist logic. If the conclusion is nice, the argument is right. We have a tendency to use deontological reasoning. If the argumentation is right, the conclusion must be right.

That would avoid having to call Ridley a liar. He probably finds his argument to be right, because it leads to the right conclusion that government should not do do anything about climate change.

By Victor Venema (not verified) on 23 Dec 2012 #permalink

See, human ingenuity has its limits, too!


By Alexander Ač (not verified) on 23 Dec 2012 #permalink

Ridley is in the top ten of my list of people who on paper are highly intelligent, capable etc. When in fact they have massive blind spots and let their ideology overshadow their scientific training to such an extent that they spout rubbish and lies.

Victor, the difficulty with that reasoning is that it admits utter incoherence to polite discourse and demands that it not be answered in kind.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 23 Dec 2012 #permalink

Steve, I comment at WUWT once in a while and can vouch for the impossibility of a polite rational debate.

By Victor Venema (not verified) on 24 Dec 2012 #permalink

Today's Krugman column is topical.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 24 Dec 2012 #permalink

On the subject of cloud feedbacks: My understanding is that this is very difficult to determine from modelling alone but the feedback of atmospheric aerosols *plus* cloud effects can be determined more accurately from palaeoclimate data, even though the effect of clouds *on their own* is much less certain. The reasoning is that we have fairly accurate figures for greenhouse gas and surface albedo changes (slow feedbacks) and we can be confident about the water vapour feedback, so what's left is mainly aerosol and cloud changes, so their combined effect can also be quantified fairly accurately. The fact that fast feedback climate sensitivity derived from palaeoclimate data agrees well with that derived from climate models indicates that there aren't likely to be any large surprises from cloud feedbacks.