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A new climate science player

There has been a certain amount of excitement on upholder blogs this week - the cause being the news that the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has decided to involve itself in the climate change wars in the USA. NCSE has been at the forefront of efforts to keep intelligent design out of the classroom so this latest move represents a broadening of its focus.

Their website incorporates a shiny new climate change section, including a Climate Change 101 page. From there comes this paragraph on detection and attribution:

To ensure the accuracy of the models at projecting future climate trends, the models are often run backwards in time to “retrodict” past climate changes, and then compared with paleoclimate observations. The models through this process have become remarkably accurate and give the climate research community confidence that the future projections are robust.

Remarkably accurate? Is that right? And do we think they have portrayed the uncertainties in a reasonable fashion? Or in any fashion at all?

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Reader Comments (52)

This 'retrodiction' which, because of the false ''back radiation' feedback loop predict 3-5 times real present warming assumed mostly from CO2-AGW when experiment disproves that claim, is done by assuming twice the real optical depth for clouds and experimentally unproven net AIE probably of the wrong sign.

Stick in variable fudge factors and you can retrodict virtually anything. However, they can't predict the future because the physics is fundamentally wrong.

When will this programme come under the control of quality scientists instead of devious, lying zealots?

Jan 18, 2012 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

20/20 hindsight, that is all it is.

Jan 18, 2012 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

The models are exceptional at hindcasting. All one has to is tweak some of the parameters to get the desired accuracy.

The problem lies in that all models have different parameters that need to be tweaked. One will be aerosols. Another land use. Another solar. Cloud feedback... etc through all of the dozens of models.

This means of course, that in the very best case, all but one of the models will be wrong, because all but one, they tweaked the wrong parameter, to get the right answer.

Of course, worse case is all are wrong. But they still all hindcast wonderfully.

Wrong method + right answer = bad science


Jan 18, 2012 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterLes Johnson

I'm going to seem like a scratched record soon. But the met office prediction graphs need the widest possible circulation if you ask me.

Jan 18, 2012 at 6:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Complete nonsense. Run them backwards, hands-off, in a double-blind experiment and see what they get.

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This is bad news. The NCSE is a substantial organisation with 14 staff members, and a claimed membership of some 4,500. It is an experienced campaigner from its work related to the teaching of evolution and creationism in schools. It seems to be adopting a bog-standard alarmist position on the causes and consequences of climate variation, and it is probably in a position to make a real and appreciable nuisance of itself in attacking schools and school administrations in which there is an explicit effort to take a broader, more scientific, and less emotive view of the climate system.

Two straws of hope I clutch from a quick excursion around their website are these:

(1) Everything they describe about their role would be a better match if they supported the so-called sceptical view of climate change. Try, if you will, substituting ‘climate alarmism’ for phrases such as ‘climate change’ or ‘climate change denial’ on their web site and you may find the text makes better sense here and there.
(2) Their familiarity with engaging with arguments based on faith and appeals to authority will stand them in good stead as and when they spot similar arguments on the part of climate alarmists.

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Oh my, oh my. Isn't this supposed to be the National Centre for Science Education? Shouldn't they, at the very least, try to keep up the appearance of unbiased and impartial presentation of divergent theories and points of view? If so, then why does the site say things like:

"which shows that climate change is not caused by solar activity, contrary to claims by some climate change deniers."

Why go there? Why denigrate one point of view by labeling them 'deniers?' Furthermore, I must have missed the alleged 'proof' that the energy output of the sun has no effect on the Earth's climate - a position that I find curiously at odds with everything that I've read and everything that I have experienced over the last six decades.

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterCrusty the Clown

Models don't have a clue about precipitation, neither hindcasting nor forecasting. Are we going to say precipitation is a minor, irrelevant nuissance?

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

Models don't have a clue about clouds either.
So much focus on temperature is because by fiddling with parameters is very difficult to get more than a couple of variables correct.

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

"To ensure the accuracy of the models at projecting future stock-market trends, the models are often run backwards in time to “retrodict” past stock-market changes, and then compared with historical market observations. The models through this process have become remarkably accurate and give the investment community confidence that the future projections are robust."

How many fortunes have been lost due to this kind of thinking?

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterCurt

Nope, sorry! Models can neither predict nor retrodict. Models are not theories or hypotheses. Models are reproductions of reality. All they can do is reproduce past reality to some specified degree. Models are constructed to reproduce the past. In practical terms, they are very sophisticated extrapolations from lines on old graphs. Unfortunately for modelers, models have not been able to reproduce those past graphs of climate with a degree of reliability that would be useful to a corporate planning department.

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Education??? I've just heard Professor Brian Cox(!!) telling viewers of 'Stargazing Live' on BC2 that, although Venus exists in the Sun's 'habitable zone' it cannot support life because of its 'extremely high temperatures brought about by a runaway greenhouse effect caused by CO2' (I paraphrase slightly as I didn't manage to recall verbatim).

I'm not a scientist (you don't say!), but even I am tearing my hair out at this sort of thing!!!

Jan 18, 2012 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket


Jan 18, 2012 at 8:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

Paleo Climate "Observations" are "Assumptions" at best. This means their WAG is as good as the paleo WAG, GIGO. With enough smoothing and latitude you can get anything to fairly match.

Jan 18, 2012 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Davis

Modelling proxy "observations"?? That would mean tree ring widths and the like. Methinks they mean proxy based temperature reconstructions, or modelled temperatures of the past.

I suppose successfully modelling modelled temperatures doesn't sound quite so robust. It isn't.

Jan 18, 2012 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

I wonder if NCSE can actual identify anyone that denies climate changes ?

Well oddly if you look at Mann's fine example of BS you will notice he getd quite close to that over quite long period as an ironic side-product of 'removing ' the MWP and the LIA,. I wonder will NCSE be calling him an denier ?

Jan 18, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

One can fit polynomial series (a + bx + cx^2....) to any data to any accuracy of fit one likes (similar things can be done with sine waves). There are an infinite number of series that will give excellent fits to historical data. These series produce an infinite number of curves tightly modelling the historical data but deviating wildly from each other when projected forward beyond the end of the historical data series.

Goodness of fit on historical data tells one absolutely nothing about the correctness of the model, and gives no predictive capability whatsoever.

Jan 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

If NCSE are true global warming believers and against Intelligent Design, I may have to reluctantly consider that ID has some merit.

Jan 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

The word "retrodict" does not show up in my dictionary.

Retro means "a prefix occurring in loanwords from Latin meaning “backward”".

There is no "dict" but "diction" means "style of speaking or writing"".

So retrodiction could mean speaking out your asterisk.

Jan 18, 2012 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

@ James Evans

Yes, the Met Office decadal forecast from 2005 shows an expected (mid-range) increase in global temperature from 2006 to 2012 of well over 0.2 degC. I see current temperature now appears to be falling outside the lower 90% confidence band. So, for a forecast started in 2005 the utility and expertise of the projection has been a total failure. More than 0.2 degC discrepancy is a big FAIL by any standards.

That makes this claim "The models through this process have become remarkably accurate and give the climate research community confidence that the future projections are robust" sound completely foolish. Hasn't the climate community noticed the discrepancy between the global temperature and the decadal projections started just a few years ago? What confidence can one have in the models when their projections have actually been a FAILURE? Who is in denial now?

Jan 18, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

Their page on "climate change denial" gives a measure of the scientific nature of this site

Note also the links to SkS and RealClimate in the sidebar

Jan 18, 2012 at 11:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterandy scrase

On the models, do they actually run them backwards, or do they start at a past point in time and run them forwards?

Jan 18, 2012 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterandy scrase

Computer modelists have used climate data to try and determine how the atmosphere works. That 'run backwards' the models apparently match the data the functions were derived from shouldn't be a massive surprise to anyone. That still doesn't validate the models.

Jan 18, 2012 at 11:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Jan 18, 2012 at 10:45 PM | Jeff Norman

Fair enough, but the term was preferred by Rudolf Carnap and Paul Oppenheim who were pathfinders in the study of scientific method.

Jan 19, 2012 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

"...give the climate research community confidence that the future {FUNDING} projections are robust."

Jan 19, 2012 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn R T

Any site that references 3 of Gavin Schmidt articles is not worth ever looking at again. He is one of the most troubling of the AGW fabricators since he is a paid government scientist who lets his politics guide his science.

Jan 19, 2012 at 12:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterLarryT

Pardon me for excerpting a post I made at Curry's site:

We need to develop an imagination for climate models. For example, assume you have a model that perfectly reproduces some climate graphs into the distant past (no such exist). Climate scientists attempt to account for the role of CO2 by taking such a model and changing some variable, such as the variable for clouds, as a way of expressing the “best guess” effect of CO2 on clouds. Then they create a simulation (run the model). Do you know what they call the simulation? They call it a prediction. Is that not totally nutty.

The simulation is nothing but a pipe dream about the past. And it has neither scientific (synthetic) value nor analytic value. The past is gone. As for the future, the simulation assumes that nothing else changes. How reasonable is it to believe that nothing but cloud behavior changes? The assumption is based on no empirical research whatsoever. It is all “a priori” work.

Climate scientists, as scientists, have an overriding moral duty to present to the public how they propose to get from their models to empirical research. But they do not have a clue how to do that.

Jan 19, 2012 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

"NCSE has been at the forefront of efforts to keep intelligent design out of the classroom"

Gee, I wonder what they could be afraid of? I think I know. Intelligent Design begets Intelligent Process -When Keepin' 'em Dumb is the goal, such destructive machinations cannot be allowed.


Jan 19, 2012 at 12:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

My inference is that this is another example of the progressives taking over a group that started out with a rational and arguably legitimate focus. This encompasses GreenPeace (with whom I did not agree) and the WWF (which I did).
Unfortunately we are now in the area of political ideology and not science.

Jan 19, 2012 at 1:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Daddis

"Remarkably accurate? Is that right?"

Yep - remarkable, wouldn't you say, that we can spend billions and still fail to do better than "Farmers Almanac"? Personally, I find it quite remarkable. Of course, it may have been somewhat less misleading to the casual reader if the had said "remarkable LACK OF accuracy", but that's just a quibble on style, not the facts.

Jan 19, 2012 at 1:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Fisher

Unbelievable stupidity on the part of the NCSE.......they now qualify as full members of the CCC (Climate Clowns Club).

Jan 19, 2012 at 3:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurice@TheMount

Unbelievable stupidity on the part of the NCSE.......they now qualify as full members of the CCC (Climate Clowns Club).

Jan 19, 2012 at 3:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurice@TheMount

I've been a supporter of the NCSE for a very long time, and have met Eugenie Scott, the NCSE director. The board at NCSE that decided to expand into the climate wars is the same board that has been there all along. There are no new Progressives.

I've been in contact with Eugenie Scott over their new climate project, expressing my serious dismay and disappointment. Eugenie is certain they have done the right thing. It appears they took their position, though, without ever having interviewed any AGW-skeptical scientists. I emailed John Christy and Dick Lindzen about this, and neither had been interviewed. They are both very prominent, if not preeminent, in their respective fields, they are both publicly outspoken AGW-skeptics. They should have been the first people contacted by the NCSE board to evaluate the skeptical view of the science.

Eugenie wrote implying there were no credible scientists taking a skeptical position on AGW. Anyone supposing that merely reveals a thorough unfamiliarity with the debate. As though to reassure me, Eugenie also mentioned that they'd taken on Peter Gleick as their consultant for climate. That name ought to bring a bitter laugh to readers here. John Christy, on being so-informed, observed that Peter Gleick is far from impartial, and is a water use activist rather than a climate scientist. I passed his comment on to Eugenie Scott, along with a link to Roger Pielke Sr.'s post describing the defamatory "hatchet job" Gleick, Kevin Trenberth, and John Abraham had done on Roy Spencer's scientific integrity. I've not heard back from her since.

I have also submitted an essay to NCSE Reports, in response to David Morrison's recent article, in which he vilifies AGW skeptics as creationist-equivalents, science deniers, and, effectively, extremist-fringe liars. His article is violent green polemics and virtually bereft of science; hardly what one would expect in the house organ of an organization standing in defense of scientific integrity. My reply is strictly scientific, showing that models have proved useless and including references to my own work showing that neglect of measurement error in the surface air temperature record renders it no more accurate than (+/-)0.5 C (at best). I.e., not only can no one predict future air temperature, but no one accurately knows past air temperature, either.

How NCSE responds will be a test of their commitment to science.

Jan 19, 2012 at 3:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPat Frank

While reading the previous thread, I was tempted to add a note -one that has often been mentioned-, that should CAGW hypothesis prove false, then in public opinion the credibility of not just Climate Science but any and all sciences will be under threat. I was going to point out especially the Intelligent Design mob who would be clamouring to draw parallels between Biology and Climate Science.

And now we have an institution which reportedly led the charge against Creationists and other assorted religious nuts throwing its lot with climate doomsday cult.

For a mainstream atheist leftie like me who happens to be a climate skeptic, the world is ever smaller and lonelier. I can count dozens of names, blogs and institutions whose efforts and aims I can identify with fully but who remain completely alien to me for embracing the scientific religion that CAGW is. One more won't make much difference.

Jan 19, 2012 at 4:21 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

See video of Eugenie Scott presenting her argument for this 'brilliant' move here:

Bradley Fikes (who runs a blog at the North County Times (San Diego, CA) tapped it at the last meeting of the National Association of Biology Teachers last fall (2011).

He's posted the videos and some commentary. I alerted him to the opportunity and the group graciously allowed him to tape the presentation. No questions were allowed.


Jan 19, 2012 at 4:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterSusan C.

From NCSE "Defending the Teaching Evolution and Climate Science" website:

In the legal case Kitzmiller v. Dover, tried in 2005 in a Harrisburg, PA, Federal

District Court, "intelligent design" was found to be a form of creationism, and therefore, unconstitutional to teach in American public schools.

As the first case to test a school district policy requiring the teaching of "intelligent design," the trial attracted national and international attention. Both plaintiffs and defendants in the case presented expert testimony over six weeks from September 26 through November 4, 2005). On December 20, 2005, Judge John E. Jones issued a sharply-worded ruling in which he held that "intelligent design" was, as the plaintiffs argued, a form of creationism.

As a matter of principle, I've always opposed the use of judiciary in matters of science or religion. Really, the best a jury can do in their 'fact-finding' mission is to establish what sociologists call "social facts".

But it is high time that Climate Science and all its catastrophes is put before a jury where both sides can present their evidence, call their own expert witnesses, and enjoy a true fair hearing in equal time.

I don't fancy the chances of climate doomsday cultists in such a courtroom scenario.

Jan 19, 2012 at 5:03 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

"Oh, well' for the HTML error.

Jan 19, 2012 at 5:05 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I know how you feel. The damage done to science will take a lot of repairing. When it sometimes gets beyond depressing, I cheer myself up by reminding myself that, in the end, the facts will have the last word. And before that, China and India and most of the world will carry on developing using fossil fuels no matter what is said by Jones, Hansen, Mann, Trenberth, Richard Black, the BBC, etc etc. Time really is on the side of 'Climate-infidels'.

Jan 19, 2012 at 5:21 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Here is Eugenie Scott of said institution talking of "deniers and creationists"

Jan 19, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterandy scrase

There is a very efficient tool to reconcile discrepancies between observations and forecasts, no matter how big thedifferences are. That tool is completely impermeable to attacks based on rational arguments. It is also very efficient at providing convoluted delusional explanations with a superficial resemblance of rationality. Unfortunately, once this tool is applied to a human brain the damage is irreversible. It is called Faith.

Jan 19, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPatagon

"deniers and creationists"

I do object to being tarred with the creationist brush. It is the alarmists whose objectivity has deserted them and who cling to their beliefs, irrespective of evidence. They are the creationists.

Jan 19, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

“Climate Change 101”

Is that like Room 101..?

Jan 19, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Don Pablo says; 20/20 hindsight, that is all it is.

Reads more like 10:10 hindsight to me!

Jan 19, 2012 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Pat Frank - thanks for that, please keep us posted.

Here is, IMO, a shocking picture of climate science education:

It is not clear if Revkin thinks this is good, bad or indifferent but he states:

"With all of this in mind, I’m going to try to do a series of pieces on educational experiments aimed at exploring climate science and climate choices (hopefully not mashing these two very different subjects up) in ways that foster understanding and engagement."

I hope he takes the trouble to check out Anthony Watt's work and offers some comment on the educational value of proper experimental practice instead of forgery to "foster understanding and engagement."

"Mr. Gore’s Climate 101 experiment is falsified, and could not work given the equipment he specified. If they actually tried to perform the experiment themselves, perhaps this is why they had to resort to stagecraft in the studio to fake the temperature rise on the split screen thermometers.

The experiment as presented by Al Gore and Bill Nye “the science guy” is a failure, and not representative of the greenhouse effect related to CO2 in our atmosphere. The video as presented, is not only faked in post production, the premise is also false and could never work with the equipment they demonstrated. Even with superior measurement equipment it doesn’t work, but more importantly, it couldn’t work as advertised.

The design failure was the glass cookie jar combined with infrared heat lamps."

Jan 19, 2012 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I seem to recall Roy Spencer and a few others being creationists, sorry, I mean ID believers, which if true would most likely be why their opinions were never asked for.

But surely, the creationists here are the cultists from the Mann Made Globsl Warming religion?

The amount of projection from warmists is amazing!


Jan 19, 2012 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Amusing that a website opposed to creationism is a proponent of economic creationism...

Jan 19, 2012 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

"I seem to recall Roy Spencer and a few others being creationists, sorry, I mean ID believers, which if true would most likely be why their opinions were never asked for." --Mailman

You're probably right. AGW religionists have their ad hom thinking ready at all times to chase away any rational thought. It's their fallacy of choice.

Jan 19, 2012 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Many years ago I heard a rather cynical organic chemist say of his colleagues who were physical chemists, "a physical chemist can predict any known chemical fact."

The talk about "remarkably accurate" climate models reminded me of that cynical old organic chemist's opinion of physical chemistry. However I am sure that if he were still around he would have to admit that the physical chemists were "remarkably accurate" - in comparison with climate scientists!

Jan 19, 2012 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Only just chanced upon this thread via Climate Audit, where the quote from NCSE obviously crystallized an important line of thinking about models for Steve McIntyre. I know two days is an age in climate blog time but anyhow ...

Best wishes to Pat Frank in receiving a proper, scientific consideration of his message from his estwhile friends at NCSE. Respect to my atheist friends, as always.

Entering slightly deeper waters, it may well we true that NCSE stands against the teaching of both youth-earth creationism and intelligent design in schools. But it's wrong to identify the two. ID is a set of arguments from within science, as David Hagen spelled out pretty well ten days ago on Judith Curry's:

It is because of what is known of stochastic processes in chemistry and biochemistry compared to the results of intelligent agents that there is an inference to an intelligent cause behind the detailed purposeful “factories” that are observed in biochemistry. See Behe The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, for current evidence. See especially page 146 The probability of a double CCC is one “in 10^40. There have likely been fewer than 10^40 cells in the world in the last four billion years. . .” and “I Nanobot” in the appendix.

Youth-earth creationism on the other hand starts with a quirky, very literal (and for me completely unsupportable) approach to biblical interpretation. In this regard it's very different to ID.

The NCSE, Pat Frank, Richard Lindzen and many others, scientists and otherwise, may judge that ID proponents are wrong in their arguments. Perhaps - I for one rule nothing out - even the great creator of all things agrees with them! But the structure of the argument in both cases is quite different. What would be useful in schools, I think, is for students to be taught to spot this kind of thing and make discriminating judgments between the options presented, just as in climate science.

Jan 20, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

@ Susan C

thanks for the link, I despair.

we in blogland, thanks to Bish/MC & others think we are progressing, but again this shows how the mountain of entrenched polices & PR (in concert with I now believe to be signed up supporters of UN Agenda 21) will drive this misinformation forward for there own ends.

all we want is an honest discussion on policy decisions (re - the science/facts) is that to much to ask ?

Jan 21, 2012 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterdfhunter

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