Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Twitter
Support

 

Recent posts
Recent comments
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« New S&T committee submissions | Main | Orlowski interview with Lord Turnbull »
Friday
Sep172010

Beddington: "We need error bars!"

Sir John Beddington has commissioned a summary of the science of global warming at the GO Science website. My impression, based on a brief perusal of the contents, is that it's largely a standard-issue "we're all going to fry" kind of thing, but perhaps a more detailed look will prove me wrong. This was interesting though:

The fact that uncertainty exists in climate science, as it does in other fields, does not negate the value of the evidence – and it is important to recognise that uncertainty may go in both (or a number of) directions. But an appreciation of the nature and degree of uncertainty is critical if the science is to properly inform decision-making. Indeed, that is what much scientific endeavour is about, describing both what is known and where our understanding is imperfect, and placing “error bars” on the knowledge we have.

This appears to be an admission that we don't as yet have error bars on "the knowledge we have". An important statement, I would say.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (59)

Beddingtons report is another exercise in spin, sprinkling a few truisms whilst accentuating the absolute worst interpretations. I liked the touch of the side box in section 6 on feedbacks that bolded Positive Feedbacks everytime it was mentioned but left negative feedbacks unbolded with a caveat attached that the consensus is really for positive.

I notice another Government alarmist, John Holdren , has just done something similar in the US, with his new report

Climate‐Change Science and Policy: What Do We Know? What Should We Do


This report beats our UK scientific alarmist hands down, Holdrens is really a useful collection of all the worst scenarios mashed together for your delectation and later perusal.

Of particular note he says he wants to redfine "Global Warming" to “Global climate disruption”.

Also one of the "myths" he debunks is:

5. The CRU e‐mails and IPCC mistakes have shown that mainstream climate science is deeply flawed.

He debunks this by saying:

Nothing in e-mails or IPCC controversies rises to a level that would call into question the core understandings about global climate disruption.

Notice how he is already using his newly coined phrase to help bolster his explanations. Pure Orwellian.

Sep 17, 2010 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

One can be pretty sure that their error bands will, a la IPCC, be massively skewed in the worse-than-we-thought direction! - and will be based entirely on the belief system of the warmists!

Sep 17, 2010 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

As someone famously pointed out - and it's very applicable to error bars:

It's not the known unknowns that are a problem. It's the unknown unknowns that bite you.

Sep 17, 2010 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJerry

Can anyone suggest a good reason why we should take seriously, anything Beddington says about absolutely anthing?

Like almost all "Government Scientific Advisors" in recent years, he has less credibility than a second hand car dealer in the back streets of Neasden.

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Can anyone suggest a good reason why we should take seriously, anything Beddington says about absolutely anything?

Err No !!!

Obviously a senior instigator in the recent grand application of Whitewash, hope he realises its caustic and its liberal application can cause burns.

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

Nothing in e-mails or IPCC controversies rises to a level that would call into question the core understandings about global climate disruption.

In that case, dear Sir, why did you feel you needed to change the name?

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterLucy Skywalker

Straight spin and post-normal science. Without an 'appreciation of the nature and degree of uncertainty' and error bars, their 'science' is nothing more than wild guesses supporting the answers that they 'know' are right.

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

And those error bars need to be shown on graphics where the axes have proper full scale deflection.

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

"Global Warming" erm, no it's not, we need a new banner ad.

"climate change" erm, it has done that since time immemorial, we need a new banner ad.

"Climate disruption" Maybe this is little Freudian, he really thinks the Sun is taking industrial action!

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete

Judith Curry would seem to have a similar POV in her recent blog article.
Everyone has to admit to not knowing all the answers.

http://judithcurry.com/2010/09/15/doubt/

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterjazznick

"uncertainty may go in both (or a number of) directions"
Er...does uncertainty have a direction?

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

"the consensus is really for positive" [feedback]. Positive feedback is purely and simply an assumption to get the "correct" alarmist answer. There is no evidence in support of positive feedback. The consensus amongst those who want to promote alarmism or "disruptive climate change", is positive.

Post-modern or post-normal "science".

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm left wondering if Post-Normal (PoNo) thinking is a new fallacy ?
Or a mash-up of existing fallacies ?

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Some of them need window bars, nice padded walls and no access to communications.

I get the feeling some people are latching on to uncertainty as a way of making things worse than we thought. Greater uncertainty, greater scope for even more catastrophic predictions that tame media will lap up. Never mind the physics behind achieving the upper or lower limits of uncertainty, fear sells. One of the commentors neatly demonstrated this over at the Grauniad. Hansen's predictions of sea level rises aren't on track to meet the prediction, but they still seem to think it could happen. Asking how you'd achieve such a rapid increase in the time left just means we're evil fossil fuel funded sceptics and deniers. Go figure.

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

How can you put an error bar on a guess? The two big guesses are:

1. Half the recent rise in temperature can be attributed to natural forcings, CO2 has risen in the last 150 years, so it must be the cause of the other half of the temperature increase;

2. If the temperature rises by 1.2C there will be increased water vapour in the atmosphere and it will cause positive feedbacks that will increase temperatures by 1.5C-5C.

The likelihood of error is clearly very large if you're guessing, but how large? Well they seem to get round this by telling us that they're all making the same guesses, so that makes it highly probable, or very likely.

It really is a crock, and what's more is that either through some misguided allegiance to their fellow scientists, or because they're believers themselves the scientific community has stayed silent and not called these people to account. When the BBC can run a news item saying that a glacier at 26,000 ft was receding because of global warming and not receive a single rebuttal from the scientific community we are in deep doo doo. What the scientists should realise is that this bunch of scientists/activists are going to take science and scientific research down with them if they're not careful.

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

All we need is good science that can be replicated/audited. It's that simple

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

"we're evil fossil fuel funded sceptics and deniers."
Sep 17, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Atomic Hairdryer

You said it.

I proclaim this to be 'Bishopgate' and am uploading it onto servers as I type.

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Zed, you may want to read this-

http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=2773

and learn something about certainty vs uncertainty. Oh, and don't forget it's anti-science to ask inconvenient questions and educate yourself.

Sep 17, 2010 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

"Positive feedback is purely and simply an assumption to get the 'correct' alarmist answer"

Indeed. And if net PF did exist, wouldn't we have fried aeons ago?

Sep 17, 2010 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

“Climate disruption” almost there! Try .....climate corruption.

Sep 17, 2010 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

“Climate disruption” almost there! Try .....climate corruption.
Sep 17, 2010 at 11:38 AM | martyn

Are you able to point to proof of this Martyn? Or is it a vague and baseless accusation?

Sep 17, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed

Atomic Hairdryer,

"I get the feeling some people are latching on to uncertainty as a way of making things worse than we thought. "

The problem with that is that propaganda deals in certainties - well it claims certainties. Latching onto uncertainty to "make things worse than we thought", simply gives the impression that they don't know what they are talking about.

Climate disruption - desperate stuff. People have generally had enough of worsening hurricanes, not happening, drowning polar bears and all the rest, so a rebranding exercise for a product no one wants anymore isn't going to work.

Sep 17, 2010 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

What we know is that climate scientists understood and knew perfectly well the uncertainties in climate science but deliberately chose advocacy over the scientific method. They corrupted the science by establishing dogma, invented a consenus and forced it on others, sexed up the public message with dire warnings, and kept policy makers ignorant of their own concerns.

The only bars required are ones for containing the likes of Sir John Beddington - he should be behind them.

Sep 17, 2010 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Re Cosmic

The problem with that is that propaganda deals in certainties - well it claims certainties.

Not entirely. Propaganda is about plausible untruths rather than certainty. The Kelley affair and Iraq had nice examples. Asking a reasonable question like "how long would it take Iraq to prep and launch a missile?" got a reasonable answer, 45mins. But that then got spun out of all proportion into '45mins from doomsday'. Or more blatant examples, like Rumsfeld's 'fortress of doom' diagram showing the hollowed out mountain of Dr Evil. Presumably the waste heat from that is what's melting Himalayan glaciers.

In climate science. we've already had books like Lynas's "Six Degrees", complete with Big Ben vanishing under a tidal wave. Greater uncertainty could just lead to a sequel, "Eight Degrees" (+/-) and imaginations can really run wild. Never mind the physics, sell the fear. It's worked so far, sort of.

Climate disruption just opens up more possibilities to spin fantasy scenarios. Hard to blame last winter on global warming, but it certainly was disruptive. Partly because Met Office on-message predictions of a mild winter meant we were unprepared. Climate disruption can be spun to cover anything weather related or natural event and widens the sales angles considerably.

Sep 17, 2010 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Quote: "the entire man-made global warming movement is nothing more than a corrupt social phenomenon. It is as much psychological and social phenomenon as anything else” “I argue that by far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized, Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middleclass”

That should be fodder for Zbd.

Sep 17, 2010 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I'm rather enjoying Beddington's post. Very clear.

Sep 17, 2010 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

I've just had yet another virtually identical response from DECC. This is virtually identical to every response I've had from gov't for a couple of years or so. Does it sound familiar to anyone?

"Thank you for your email dated 1 August about climate change. I have been asked to reply and I apologise for the delay in doing so.

The vast majority of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and that warming over recent decades is mostly a result of human activities. They also agree that climate change is a major threat to global security, prosperity and equity. The sooner we act, the more potential we have to manage those threats. The Government is therefore acting now.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report concluded that there is a more than 90% probability that most of the observed warming since the mid-20th century is due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. The IPCC's conclusions are based on their comprehensive review of the scientific evidence, which is presented in detail in Chapter Nine of the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. For the report and information about the IPCC, you can visit their website at: www.ipcc.ch.

Future greenhouse gas emissions are projected to cause rises in global temperature ranging from 1.1 to 6.4oC by the end of this century, compared to 1990 levels, depending on future emissions scenarios. At low levels of temperature rise, warming is predicted to have some positive impacts in some places, and negative impacts in others. However, as warming increases – and particularly if it exceeds 2°C – any benefits are predicted to drop off sharply, with negative impacts projected for global food production, fresh water availability and vulnerable ecosystems. For these reasons, the UK – as part of the Copenhagen Accord – has committed to a goal of preventing warming exceeding 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

The Government considers that it will cost much less, in terms of human suffering as well as money, to go low carbon now than it will to allow climate change to continue unchecked. For example, the Stern Review estimated that the costs of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change will be approximately 1 to 2% of world GDP per year by 2050. However, it also found that the costs of inaction will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year. So we are working to mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the changes that are inevitable and create a sustainable future.

Finally, whether or not you accept the science of climate change, there are a number of benefits of shifting to low carbon. It can reduce our dependency on finite fossil fuels, taking us towards a cleaner, quieter, more energy secure and fairer society. A transition to low carbon can also create high quality jobs in new industries and ensure we live in better insulated, more comfortable homes.

You can read more about DECC’s activities on our website at: www.decc.gov.uk.

I hope this is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Anna Forberg

DECC Correspondence Unit"

Sep 17, 2010 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Philip Bratby reported

The vast majority of climate scientists agree

I ask - what is a climate scientist? At one stage I worked in microclimate studies - as well as atmospheric physics.

At the same time there were atmospheric physicists, climatologists, meteorologists etc.

Was I a climate scientist? Or is there a new species that are true climate scientists that hold the future of the earth in their hands?

Sep 17, 2010 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerry

John, if I may call you that: error bars are not a solution. They line the route on the way to the Hospital for Thirsty People. If your understanding is imperfect and knowledge incomplete, it is OK to admit that. People will understand John. Its not like its the end of the world. Life will go on: trust me on this one John.

Sep 17, 2010 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

Steve2

I met Lindzen once and engaged him in a short discussion. He told me that John Holdren used to send him "hate mail" via the Internet.

Sep 17, 2010 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum

Without a model based on a more complete understanding of the mechanics of climate change, error bars are pointless and meaningless. How well did earlier climate models predict the today's climate?

Sep 17, 2010 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

@DrCrinum
Applying my purely subjective assessment of the two men that doesn't surprise me, I suppose Lindzen gets a lot more flak from his peers than we often hear about. One of the things I admire about Lindzen is that whenever I've seen him he is so calm and succinct.

Sep 17, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

An interesting perspective/set of observations here -

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=203709

Sep 17, 2010 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Jerry:

"What is a climate scientist?" is something I have been asking for a long time. Phil Jones is just a tree ring counter and a data clerk, yet he is a top "climate scientist". Ditto Briffa, ditto Mann. Without a good background in physics, thermal hydraulics, geology, fluid flow etc, you cannot pretend to comprehend the climate. Environmental "scientists" cannot claim to be climate scientists because they do not seem to have any qualifications in these topics - in my opinion.

Sep 17, 2010 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Let me ask you a question Bish. Has the Truro Troll added anything to your hard work? He is a pain all over the Internet on all sorts of topics. The only one that beats him is that Ignicon nutter over on the Telgraph! How many post has he made?

I ask if he has once mentioned a peer review or a scientific theory or paper.

I am all for free speech but this guy is just getting in the way of the debate. Sin bin for the nutter!

Sep 17, 2010 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPete Hayes

Pete

"Climate disruption" Maybe this is little Freudian

Perhaps. Maybe next they will call it , climatus interruptus to give it a "scientific" feel. In short, this change is cognitus interruptus, and just proves that they have no idea what they are talking about. This is very good for the skeptical viewpoint. They are confusing the masses.

Long ago, in one of my many careers, I spent sometime marketing high tech toys in silly con valley, and the primary rule in building a brand, image, or what ever was "BE CONSISTENT" and do nothing to confuse the consumer. First we were killing off the polar bears and flooding our cities with GLOBAL WARMING. This was clearly caused by increased CO2 levels and "proven" by global wide data collected from long dead trees.

Next we had Climate Change -- Cause not explained, and no surprise to anyone who has lived more than 30 years. I personally remember the Blizzards of 1948-49, 1977-78 and 2009-2009 what swept along the New England coast line. And I might add that the same weather affected Europe as well.

Now we have Climate Disruption. Again there is absolutely no indication in Holdren's Power Pointless presentation of what is the mechanism of this "disruption" and how mankind is responsible.

All he has done is confused the issue and lessen the creditability of his position. We are already seeing it in the problems the organizers of COP16 are having.

I say, let them continue with their babbling. Pretty soon even Zed will stop believing them.

Sep 17, 2010 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

@Phillip Bratby

DECC writes

"...shifting to low carbon ... can reduce our dependency on finite fossil fuels, taking us towards a cleaner, quieter, more energy secure and fairer society. A transition to low carbon can also create high quality jobs in new industries and ensure we live in better insulated, more comfortable homes.

Covers all bases except motherhood and apple pie.

Not sure how it will make for a "fairer society" or more "comfortable homes".

Sep 17, 2010 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I think Atomic Hairdryer is right on target about using uncertainty to make matters appear worse than we thought. The "precautionary principle" rules most of the AGW argument. If one can use statistical "error bars" to make a quantum jump into fantasy land, well, beware of what is in store. "Climate disruption"! I interpret Holdren's new phrase to represent an escalation in the rhetoric leading up to whatever doomsday regulations the EPA intends to introduce after the November election. Where John Holdren is involved, expect the unexpected! Remember, he is the over-population-control wacko who believes in mass sterilization of humans by adding drugs to the water supply, as long as the latter doesn’t harm livestock.

http://conservativedailynews.com/2010/08/john-holdren-science-and-technology-czar/

Sep 17, 2010 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum

Phillip Bratby:- "Without a good background in physics, thermal hydraulics, geology, fluid flow etc, you cannot pretend to comprehend the climate."
In my relatively limited experience it is only those without a good background in physics, thermal hydraulics, geology, fluid flow etc who do pretend to comprehend the climate. Those with the qualifications you quote know better.

Sep 17, 2010 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

"high quality jobs in new industries"

If we ignore the Chinese labourers supporting it all, assembling solar panels, toxic light bulbs, etc. for a meagre wage and in rather unpleasant conditions...

Sep 17, 2010 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I'm rather impressed with the new name for Global Warming, after all to prove Global Climate Disruption one only has to mention floods in Pakistan, forest fires around Moscow and ice cream melting temperatures in New York. No need to bring up those messy long term climatic changes (or historical temperature records) that keep going in the wrong direction.

Sep 17, 2010 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrankSW

incredible. we needed telling in high school 'error bars are NEEDED'. to think they need to tell phds this!!

Sep 17, 2010 at 6:56 PM | Unregistered Commentermike

Mike: Hard science PhDs do not need telling this. Only climate "science" PhDs need telling this.

Sep 17, 2010 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Would it be rude to suggest the Governments Chief Scientist attended an 'A' level physics course. He doesn't actually have to pass, just attend. Hoping he may gain an understanding what actually constitutes 'Science' as opposed 'reading chicken entrails'. "Error Bars" are one thing - how do you put Error Bars on something which is a figment of Micheal Manns imagination. Bizarre!

Sep 17, 2010 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

Since I have my 1,500 word done for the day, I put away me fairy tales and decide to pay a visit here.

FrankSW

You make a good point, but the question I asked elsewhere was "But how is this done by human actions?" You do not have a viable mechanism with CO2 increases because it "causes" global warming, "causes" all the polar bears to drown as well as "causes" flooding of coastal cities. Now that they gave up on "universal" warming, what caused the weather -- or is it still climate?-- to be warm in one place and colder in another? Why, I say it is SUN SPOTS. Or the actions of one of my Celtic Lords of the Underworld. Perhaps the Greek Zeus did it. In any case, they have disconnected from the Carbon Footprint Theory and are now in a ridiculous position of saying all their previous work was wrong, but now they have it right. Right.


Beddington: We need error bars!"

When I saw this all I could think was Beddington: We need training wheels!" I assume they have them in Europe for teaching the young how to ride bicycles. More fodder for Josh.

Sep 17, 2010 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Apologies,

Have just had a look at Beddingtons background, error bars will be a new experience for him. Someone mentioned the 'Hard Sciences', err, that just not him.

John's main research interests are the application of biological and economic analysis to problems of Natural Resource Management including inter alia: fisheries, pest control, wildlife management and the control of disease.

He's more from the 'Rat Catcher' side of things.

Sep 17, 2010 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

Jerry asks:

"I ask - what is a climate scientist?"

Beddington defines a climate scientists as any published scientist who works in the field and supports the consensus view. If you are a published scientist who works in the field but question the consensus view, then you are not, by definition, a climate scientist.

Its all part of the post normal lingo.

Sep 17, 2010 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered Commentermpaul

Sir John Bedddington states
“....it is important to recognise that uncertainty may go in both (or a number of) directions.”

This may be true in a new field, but there is evidence that where the consensus is concerned, when assumptions have to be made, or choices made between different scientific conclusions, there has been a very strong bias towards the more alarmist conclusions. For instance, the emphasis on positive feedbacks; the over-statement on climate sensitivities; or the promotion of the hockey stick as secondary verification of recent warming being largely due to anthropogenic factors. Further there has been a public relations failure to challenge unsound science, or wild prediction, or false confirmations. Neither have there been any consensus scientists standing up to emphasise that the model scenarios of future temperature changes are not forecast
The consequence of recognising uncertainty means that an audit is required of the total picture. Each part of the science needs to be graded according to the certainties. Most certain is that a massive increase in greenhouse gases will, ceteris paribus, cause a rise in temperature. At the other extreme are predictions that within a generation the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in summer, or the Himalayan glaciers will have disappeared, or the Maldives disappear beneath the waves. The rhetoric needs to be replaced by establishing the case on a scientific basis.

Sep 17, 2010 at 10:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Sep 17, 2010 at 12:42 PM Atomic Hairdryer:

"Never mind the physics, sell the fear. It's worked so far, sort of.

Climate disruption just opens up more possibilities to spin fantasy scenarios. Hard to blame last winter on global warming, but it certainly was disruptive. Partly because Met Office on-message predictions of a mild winter meant we were unprepared. Climate disruption can be spun to cover anything weather related or natural event and widens the sales angles considerably."

But you can't keep people in a state of fear, without they can see there's something to fear, for very long. Scares and mass manias have their own dynamic, and after they've crashed, they can't be warmed up.

We had Global Warming, now we have Climate Change and that's turning into Climate Disruption. People are turning off or starting to laugh at it. They've lost the audience.

I'm convinced we are seeing first official acknowledgements that the scam is over. Attempts will be made to breath new life into it and to preserve as much as possible of what's been constructed, and it certainly won't go away quickly, but essentially, the scam is dead.

.

Sep 17, 2010 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

"Climate Science"

It's been pointed out in various places that, if a subject has "science" in its title, that is a pretty reliable indication that it is not science.

Sep 17, 2010 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>