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« Quote of the day | Main | More on record-keeping »
Wednesday
Oct122011

This is science? This is progress?

Reports on Progress in Physics, a journal published by the Institute of Physics here in the UK, has published a paper by Raymond Orbach, an engineer a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. It's available in return for free registration, and I actually think it's worth it, if only because it's so toe-curling.

In some ways the paper's title tells you all you need to know about it. `Our Sustainable Earth' looks at (you guessed it) eight climate myths propagated by bad people. Like every other set of climate myths you have ever seen, each of the myths is entirely devoid of sources - Orbach has taken them from this page at his university's website. Where they got them from is a mystery.

In fact, absence of citations is a bit of an issue. Here's how Orbach starts to deal with claims about the medieval warm period.

Climate scientists now understand that the Medieval Warm Period was caused by an increase in  solar radiation and a decrease in volcanic activity, which both promote warming. Other evidence suggests ocean circulation patterns shifted to bring warmer seawater into the North Atlantic.  Those kinds of natural changes have not been detected in the past few decades.

Interesting claims - but where did they come from? We are not told. We are expected to take Prof Obach on trust. At the risk of repeating myself, one would never get away with this kind of thing on a blog.

(PS: Note to Prof Orbach - the ocean near the top of the globe is the Arctic (with a c in the middle). And it's Santer not Senter.

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Reader Comments (88)

The narritive IS science (as long 99.9% of scientists asked agree)

Oct 12, 2011 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJason F

You have to love the revealing thought process implied in this paragraph in the report:

These [reduction in CO2 emissions must take place beginning in 2050] conclusions are not universally accepted. This paper examines eight ‘myths’ that have been generated by climate change ‘skeptics’. There is nothing wrong with challenges to data, or the interpretation of data: that is the scientific method. The response to challenges enriches the science, and so is welcomed. The eight myths are representative of these challenges. The myths and the responses to them are presented here for the benefit of the reader who will form his/her own conclusions as to their validity.

I have taken the liberty of excerpting and stating what I see is implied there:

There is nothing wrong with challenges to data, or the interpretation of data: that is the scientific method.

Great, so he is open to challenges...

The response to challenges enriches the science, and so is welcomed.

And he is open to strengthening the science...

The eight myths are representative of these challenges.

And finally by saying this he implies the "challenges" he sees to climate science actually fall into the category of myths, and so therefore are not actually a challenge but something to be easily derided.

Rather a revealng insight into the climate science mentality, it shows that familiar tendency that really thinks climate science is some sort of pure, moral, complete science (or religion) which is actually impervious to challenges ;)

Oct 12, 2011 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

"Artic" - three times in succession. Haha...

And he says .... Atmospheric warming is a relatively instantaneous effect arising from the 'greenhouse' effect of solar radiation being trapped by gases in the upper atmosphere.

This is physics?

Oct 12, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Note to Bishop Hill. It’s Prof Orbach, not Prof Obach.

Oct 12, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

As we are all being "picky" this morning....

Spelling note to Jason F.. narrative..not narritive

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Peter, there are three dots in an ellipsis, not two or four.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TBYJ: Shouldn't it be "neither two nor four"?

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

It's been picked up by WUWT.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The reputation of British physics will be completely trashed for publishing this...tripe...even tho' the author was American

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Martin A. Orbach is not a physicist. Maybe he believes solar radiation can be trapped by gases in the upper atmosphere. But who peer-reviewed this nonsense? It took 9 months to get through the publishing process, so somebody should have spotted all the nonsense.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Climate scientists now understand that the Medieval Warm Period was caused by an increase in solar radiation and a decrease in volcanic activity, which both promote warming.

Since the Medieval Warm Period was caused by solar radiation (global impact) and a decrease in volcanic activity (global impact) it must have been global in nature. And there was I thinking that climate scientists claimed that the MWP just affected Northern Europe or at most the Northern Hemisphere.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Re: Philip Bratby

> It's been picked up by WUWT.

What! WUWT are reporting on spelling and grammar mistakes on Bishop Hill?

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The Uni of Texas in Austin article was written by Marc Airhart (Airhead?) currently a science writer for the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences.

http://www.nasw.org/users/marcopolo/index.html

He claims "After over a thousand conversations with scientists, I can talk science with the best of them. I'm an accomplished interviewer who can put experts at ease and capture a compelling story. I'm also skilled at condensing technical information into a clear, concise and entertaining presentation."

His first sentence uses "talk" rather than "listen & understand" We have one mouth and two ears!
His last sentence misses one inportant word. That word is "honest".

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

Correction. He is a physicist but has been an administrator for about 30 years. He is either a disgrace to the field of physics or he has forgotten all he ever learnt or......

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Career Profile: Marc Airhart, Science Writer, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin

http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/careerprep/jobsearch/altcareers/airhart.html

Questioner: "Are there any myths about your job that you would like to help dispel?"

Mark Airhart, " I've often come across the mistaken belief that journalists just looked things up in books or on the internet, that we don't go to a primary source for our information, and that we don't check our facts. Nothing could be further from the truth. Good science journalism (or any other kind of journalism) starts with interviewing the experts, and of course we check our facts."

So the primary source for Prof Orbach's paper Mark Airhart claims that all his work has been fact checked, but no sources have been quoted for Airhart's "Climate Myths".

What we have is a profesional scientist Prof Orbach being reliant on a journalist's interpretation of the facts. Now that is dangerous ground to be standing on.

Oct 12, 2011 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I just read quickly about "Myth No. 3: You can’t trust climate models because they do a lousy job representing clouds and aerosols."

It does acknowledge it "The models also divide the atmosphere up into blocks much larger than clouds, so it’s difficult to create realistically sized clouds." "Perhaps the models are missing important effects from clouds and aerosols that would counteract the effects of greenhouse gases on global temperatures."

But then, why is it a myth?, it's actually true. I don't understand these people's logic.

Funny thing is that they even reproduce a picture of the mythological hot spot in their support!

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

He also cannot spell "Miskolczi".

He even gets the URL wrong for the web page that he has copied and pasted (plagiarised?)

Before the list of myths he claims that "The responses are derived here from referenced peer reviewed literature, to which the reader is directed for further details" which is not true, as pointed out by our host.

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Paul Matthews

Nobody can spell Miskolczi.

BH - you know where the volcanism and TSI hypothesis for the MWP comes from ;-)

Mann (2009)!!

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

H/T to a reader for pointing out that Orbach used to be a senior science adviser to the Bush administration

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The report seems pretty rank, but this thread contains some stunning examples of Muphry's Law.

Oct 12, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

Muphry?

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Will the editor of Reports on Progress in Physics be the next one to fall on their sword given they allowed this rubbish into the journal. Or is that just something reserved for those that allow 'skeptical' articles?

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

This is Science? This is Progress?

This is shameful.

Will the editor resign?

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Marc Airhart claims to interview experts and check his facts before publishing any story.

His statement on MWP, "Climate scientists now understand that the Medieval Warm Period was caused by an increase in solar radiation and a decrease in volcanic activity, which both promote warming.", means that he is arguing that the MWP was a global climatic event which runs counter to IPCC statements that the MWP and the LIA were not global events.

It looks like Airhart's statement has been lifted from SkS, a basic level explanation of MWP, "the Medieval Warm Period has known causes which explain both the scale of the warmth and the pattern. It has now become clear to scientists that the Medieval Warm Period occurred during a time which had higher than average solar radiation and less volcanic activity (both resulting in warming)."

Again, as with Orbach and Airhart no sources are quoted on SkS.

So it is incumbent on Prof Orbach who quoted Marc Airhart who quoted SkS to name the experts and the cite sources that support that statement.

As an aside, SkS gives an intermediate level explanation of the MWP, "The Medieval Warm Period was not a global phenomenon", which runs counter to the basic level explanation that infers it was global.

Perhaps John Cook will eventually fix that contradiction!

As a further aside James Hansen has claimed that science is losing the battle over AGW, all due to poor communication.

Is anyone surprised?

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Muphry's law is an adage that states that "if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written". The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy's law.

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

Thanks Kevin, I wondered if it was delibertae!

Oct 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Concerning Orbach's eight climate myths, it is very much easier to demonstrate the existence of certain climate trends rather than to establish their significance, This is where climate science for all its bluster seems at its weakest.

Oct 12, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

"...the 'greenhouse' effect of solar radiation being trapped by gases in the upper atmosphere..."

I have been trying to tell people that the atmosphere is warmed by direct absorption of incident solar infrared radiation, not from the ground up, based upon the hard quantitative fact I uncovered, in my comparison of temperatures in the atmospheres of Venus and Earth, that the Venus T at any given pressure is just 17% higher than the Earth T at that same pressure, and that is just what is required by the difference in the two planets' distances from the Sun, and nothing else. Thus there is no greenhouse effect (greater warming with greater atmospheric carbon dioxide) and no albedo effect (the Venus atmosphere is warmed by 1.91 times the power per unit area as is Earth, again as precisely provided by Venus's smaller distance from the Sun, even though the thick clouds of Venus reflect much of the visible radiation from the Sun). So point Mr. Orbach to my blog article, "Venus: No Greenhouse Effect", where he (and any other interested reader) can see that the atmosphere IS warmed, fundamentally, by absorbing incident solar radiation. No one is going to make progress in climate science until my Venus/Earth comparison is properly confronted and generally accepted, thus establishing a true climate consensus to replace the current incompetent one.

Oct 12, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

What's the only thing that all Left/Greenies share? A profound hatred for, and disconnect from, inconvenient reality.

Oct 12, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Harry,

Is this the article to which you refer. It's a good answer.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=AsSI7kXYoDi5v90bm5HudCbsy6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20101115180437AApqdwG

Oct 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterPerry

I notice that earlier this year Orbach, speaking at the AAAS, strongly opposed the "Singapore Statement of Research Integrity" at the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity. Orbach thinks scientists should police themselves so was especially AGAINST the requirement to report 'suspected research misconduct, including fabrication, falsification or plagiarism, and other irresponsible research practices that undermine the trustworthiness of research, such as carelessness, improperly listing authors, failing to report conflicting data, or the use of misleading analytical methods'. He was against it because (Orbach said) it was an "invasion of personal rights and responsibilities".

Get it? Reporting someone's suspected misconduct is an "invasion of personal rights".

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Oct 12, 2011 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

What a parlous state science is now in. Orbach is a big hitter. There are lots of biographies. Here is the one from the institution he currently is at.

"Created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Raymond Lee Orbach was nominated by President Bush to serve as the first Under Secretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). On May 26, 2006, Dr. Orbach was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn in as Under Secretary on June 1, 2006.

As Under Secretary, Dr. Orbach's primary responsibility was to serve as Chief Scientist for DOE, and to advise the Secretary of Energy on a variety of topics. In addition to these duties, Dr. Orbach was also responsible for leading the Department's implementation of the American Competitiveness Initiative, designed to help drive continued U.S. economic growth. He was also responsible for leading the Department's efforts to transfer technologies from DOE national laboratories and facilities to the global marketplace, serving as Chair of the Technology Transfer Policy Board, responsible for coordinating and implementing the Department's technology transfer and activities.

Prior to and concurrent with serving as Under Secretary for Science, Dr. Orbach served as the 14th Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, after being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 4, 2002 and sworn in as Director on March 14, 2002. The Office of Science is the third largest federal sponsor of basic research and the primary supporter of the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science also provides management oversight of the ten DOE, non-weapons national laboratories, supports researchers at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, and builds and operates the world's most powerful suite of scientific facilities and instruments.

From 1992 to 2002, Dr. Orbach served as Chancellor of the University of California (UC), Riverside. Under his leadership, UC Riverside doubled in size, achieved national and international recognition in research, and led the University of California in diversity and educational opportunity.

Dr. Orbach began his academic career as a postdoctoral fellow at Oxford University in 1960 and became an assistant professor of applied physics at Harvard University in 1961. He later joined the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963, and served as the Provost of the College of Letters and Science at UCLA from 1982 to 1992.

Dr. Orbach's research in theoretical and experimental physics has resulted in the publication of more than 240 scientific articles. He has received numerous honors as a scholar including two Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowships, a National Science Foundation Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship at Oxford University, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship at Tel Aviv University, the Joliot Curie Professorship at the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris, the Lorentz Professorship at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, the 1991-1992 Andrew Lawson Memorial Lecturer at UC Riverside, the 2004 Arnold O. Beckman Lecturer in Science and Innovation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Outstanding Alumni Award from the California Institute of Technology in 2005. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has held numerous visiting professorships at universities around the world.

Dr. Orbach received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1956. He received his Ph.D. degree in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1960 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa."

Oct 12, 2011 at 1:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Harry Dale Huffman

No one is going to make progress in climate science until my Venus/Earth comparison is properly confronted and generally accepted, thus establishing a true climate consensus to replace the current incompetent one.

Then you must publish. At once. Write up your results and submit to all the major journals. If it stands up, it will get accepted.

Blog posts are not the way to overturn the greenhouse effect paradigm.

Oct 12, 2011 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Because Pere Review works and Review doesn't.

Oct 12, 2011 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

Does recycling propaganda work?

Oct 12, 2011 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Pere review?

Don't worry, there is a society for you all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ0nFQgRApY

Oct 12, 2011 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

the Dr professor Orbach does not know how to use a word processor and spell checker , lol
he probably has an assistant for pulling up his pants when he goes to the loo, as well.

Oct 12, 2011 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered Commentertutut

their r people with just 2 many degrees and phds whatever.
what has dr orbach brought to the table? For us to eat.

Oct 12, 2011 at 2:32 PM | Unregistered Commentertutut

I cancelled my subscription to the Austin American Statesman (local paper) about a two years ago (when I emerged from my progressive fog). I happened to see Sunday’s copy: the first page showing was something like “federal officials say change in Texas climate is new norm” written by ... a UT journalism student. That was the only thing I read before tossing it.

Oct 12, 2011 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTrey

ScientistForTruth - so the question is whether he's slipped a few brain cells recently, or whether he's been getting a pass on sloppy work for decades.

Oct 12, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

TheBigYinJames


Peter, there are three dots in an ellipsis, not two or four.

There is an ellipsis and a period. One does not end a sentence with an ellipsis, but uses it simply to show that there are "missing" words. If ending a sentence, there should be a period, question mark, exclamation mark or other appropriate punctuation.

An ellipsis can be used in the middle of a sentence as well, in which case there are only three dots.

There is disagreement about whether there should be a space between the beginning of an ellipsis or not, and generally follows the lines of arguments about spacing around en and em dashes. I follow the argument that there should be spacing to differentiate them from hyphens. Following that argument, I prefer the space before an ellipsis.

tutut Your shift key appears to be sticking. Perhaps you should replace your keyboard. One should begin a sentence with a capital letter.

Kevin B Yes, there is a Muphry's Law -- as I prove every day. :)

I find the grammar and punctuation discussion much more interesting than Dr. Orbach's musings.

Oct 12, 2011 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

It's worse than we thought... AGW leads to catastrophic drop in C levels.

Oct 12, 2011 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

If I was a supporter of the IPCC's alarming AGW by CO2 social movement, I would want to own a journalist.


The climate sci journalists are so conveniently malleable and gullible; every supporter of alarming AGW by CO2 should own one.


And since the journalists learned in ‘progressive’ Schools of Journalism that they are saving the planet from humans, they are probably going to provide their services for free. How nice!


John

Oct 12, 2011 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Whitman

Scientist for Truth,
Report to whom?

Oct 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

Looks to be a cut-and-paste review from here...

http://www.utexas.edu/know/2010/11/08/climate_myth1/

Airhart "The scientific data does not support the claim Earth has been cooling since 1998 and in fact strongly shows a warming trend.

First, it’s important to note that many climate scientists don’t think 1998 was even the warmest year on record. Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) have determined that 2005 was actually the warmest and that 1998 is in a statistical tie for second place with four other years: 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. '

Orbach "The scientific data do not support the claim that the earth has been cooling since 1998, and in fact shows a warming trend (see Figure 7).

Scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) have determined that 2010 statistically tied with 2005 as the warmest on record and that 1998 is in a statistical tie for second place with five other years: 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2009."

etc.

Oct 12, 2011 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Oct 12, 2011 at 1:53 PM | BBD

"Then you must publish. At once. Write up your results and submit to all the major journals. If it stands up, it will get accepted."

We could also just peer review blog like posts or have a blog like journal. Academia needs to change its way anyway to cope with the internet/open source revolution over the past 20 years or so since I left academia. As Latimer said a few days ago academia is being left behind completely by lots of other things happening in technology in the IT and Communications industries.

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

In his position at the DOE, Dr. Orbach was in charge of a budget of over US$ 4 billion annually, most of which went to research funding. That includes the funding for Dr. Ben Santer's climate modeling at Lawrence Livermore Lab among many others. The budget for the group that includes climate research is over US$ 300 million for this year.

I find it very easy to imagine that not many scientists who did not share Dr. Orback's CAGW viewpoint were able to get funding for their research. (This department funded Phil Jones in the past).

Aside from the strong evidence of prejudice against differing viewpoints, his treatment of the tropical tropospheric hotspot is ludicrous. Even Dr. Syukuro Manabe, the godfather of CO2 climate modeling, now admits that Fred Singer (and Douglas, Christy, McKitrick, McIntyre, etc.) was correct, there is no tropical tropospheric hotspot and the models overstate the warming by 2-4 times (Fu, 2011).

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff

Airhart: "The scientific data does not support the claim Earth has been cooling since 1998 and in fact strongly shows a warming trend.''
...
Orbach "The scientific data do not support the claim that the earth has been cooling since 1998, and in fact shows a warming trend (see Figure 7).

Not exactly cut & paste. They clearly disagree on certain points.

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

j ferguson "Scientist for Truth, Report to whom?"

'Relevant authority' according to the text. What that authority is open for discussion, but it has to be relevant. If you have no 'relevant authority' then you deny the possibility of any potential corruption being reported, except in the media, which would shy away presumably because of libel. This seems to be the situation that Orbach favours, based on what I've seen of his comments. If there are no means of reporting misbehaviour such that it can be investigated then you can be sure that misbehaviour and corruption will spread. Where research is being publicly funded and the results have significant policy implications there must surely be some body to whom misbehaviour can be reported. Obviously, lots of scientists like Orbach don't want that accountability.

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Geoff

there is no tropical tropospheric hotspot and the models overstate the warming by 2-4 times (Fu, 2011).

You mean all the RAOBCORE data fiddling, Santer's stretching error bars or the postmodern color ramp scale with red at zero have been a futile exercise?

Oct 12, 2011 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

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