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« The Crazy Gang | Main | Nordhaus and the sixteen »
Wednesday
Apr042012

Another rebuttal

Richard Betts points us to this paper by a group of climatologists who seek to rebut Richard Lindzen's talk at the House of Commons the other day. The authors are, in the main, familiar names. John Mitchell and Brian Hoskins featured regularly in the Climategate emails and both were involved in the coverups too; Eric Wolff made a couple of brief visits to BH in the wake of the Cambridge Conference last year, but was put off by the over-hostile reaction from commenters; Tim Palmer has been mentioned on the pages of BH a couple of times. Keith Shine is less familiar to me although he too has been mentioned before as one of the members of the Royal Society's advisory panel on climate change (as indeed are most of the others).

With my current focus on climate models, here's an interesting excerpt:

At every stage models should be evaluated by exhaustive comparison with observations. The models encapsulate our understanding of the basic science of the climate system, including for example, Newton’s laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics and the quantum theory of radiation. When deficiencies are found at one level then improvements are sought and the lessons learnt should cascade to models at other levels. This is, of course, the ideal: the actual development of the science is rather more irregular but very definitely in this direction. Even the models at the more complete and complex end contain many uncertainties and deficiencies, which are widely recognised within the modelling community, but they are the best guide we have as to how the climate system may change in the future. Their results are not to be accepted in an unquestioning manner; they should be analysed in detail, with the dominant processes behind any climate variability and change thoroughly investigated using observations and simpler models in the hierarchy.

I think the words "out of sample" need inserting in a couple of places in that paragraph. I think it would also have helped if Hoskins had reiterated his earlier clarification about the limitations of climate models - namely that they are "lousy".

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    [...]- Bishop Hill blog - Another rebuttal[...]

Reader Comments (212)

Damm android ;-)

Martyrdom equals 'inserted'

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Apr 4, 2012 at 11:48 AM | Robin Guenier

nowhere does the paper demonstrate a strong warming/catastrophe connection

Indeed. Without wishing to speak for them, I would expect that Hoskins et al would (like me) be unlikely to talk about "catastrophe". However, again like me, I imagine they consider the clear evidence of a perturbation to the climate system as something that is a serious issue.

The impacts stuff is from different scientists, and is indeed far less certain than the atmospheric physics stuff - but uncertainty cuts both ways, and even though we are not certain that impacts will be nasty and difficult to adapt to, we're not certain that they won't be either. It's all about risk.

As TheBigYinJames says, responding to this risk is a value call. Hoskins et al just want the value call to be made on the basis of proper understanding of the science.

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Phillip Bratby

Hi Phillip

It's not "passing the buck", it's staying within our area of expertise.

Cheers

Richard

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Buck

Can someone point me to the model which predicted no statistically significant warming over the last 15 years?

Sure - the Met Office model did - or at least, it was within the uncertainty range even if it was not the central estimate.

Cheers

Richard

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

We do need insights into what motivates these men, such as the authors of this essay, who wish to alarm us all about airborne CO2. Their motivation and their reasoning processes and their words when dealing with each other and with the rest of us are all worthy of study. They are, after all, part of a key cog in the political machinery which has produced, for example, the UK's Climate Change Act - potentially the most expensive and the most destructive Act ever passed by our Parliament. It has also produced wave after wave of educational and media materials to spread the alarm throughout society.

So I very much welcome this essay, and hope we shall be able to learn a lot from it.

Here is one sentence which caught my eye:

'We do agree with RSL that “obsessing” over the global-average temperature is not useful. However a global average is not exactly “an obscure statistical quantity”.

I believe Mitchell, one of the essay authors, was instrumental in getting the MBH hockey-stick published by the IPCC, and widely used within its materials. (It was of course widely used by polemicists such as Al Gore to great effect later on, but let us not get diverted here by his sorry tale of sound and fury.) As far as I can recall, global mean temperature changes, past and projected have been a major focus, perhaps even an obsession, of the IPCC - the Third Assessment Report being described in one authoritative analysis, well known to denizens of this blog, as starting to 'look like a locker room, it was so full of hockey sticks.' But the hockey stick turned out to be, to borrow a phrase, an illusion and they have backed well away from it in later reports. Were they embarassed by their previous 'obsession'. Has the recent divergence of IPCC projections of temperature away from observations made that 'obsession' a bit of an embarassment in more recent years? Now the talk has shifted to variability, to extremes, to disruptions, even to admitting that natural variability obscures the signal in temperatures. Interesting indeed. Only their models can lift that signal out of the quagmire of measurement error, reconstruction uncertainties, observation sparseness, and weaknesses in our grasp of system complexities. So let the models be exalted as 'the best guide we have as to how the climate system may change in the future.' They are the Emperor's New Clothes. Look at how wonderful they are! Others look and see nothing, or rather see a reliance on complex computer code as very foolhardy indeed given our modest abilities in that department. And am I right in thinking that their performance while poor on temperatures, is actually worse on everything else e.g. on precipitation? Ah, but maybe we are not to 'obsesss' about such details?

As for global mean temperatures, I have not actually come across a definition of them. I assume they involve some level of statistical computation to cope with missing values, and to standardise to some nominal height above sea level. They do remain obscure to me, but perhaps someone can post a link here to help me out on that?

It is interesting stuff, and is worthy of study. But the political machine was formed, whirred and clanked, got impressive results, and been made more robust. It may no longer need that 'computer says' cog, nor the '97% scientists agree' cog anymore. As long as the established authorities in this area don't go standing on rooftops shouting out 'We were wrong! We were naive! We were foolish!', the machine will continue to whirr and clank without really needing them anymore. It can run on the fuel of 'sustainability' for quite some time. It can deploy any one of dozens and dozens of administrative and NGO cogs newly created or newly enriched by the earlier runs.

So maybe climate science is going to go back to being a bit of an academic backwater. Wealthier than it was, with a lot more computers and a lot more people, but no longer to be the darling of the politicians. The UN conference on sustainable development in June might give a glimpse into how this might unfold.

Be that as it may, the topic of how we got to this pass is surely well worthy of study. It won't stop the machine that has been created, but it might make it harder to construct the next one.

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:38 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

It's interesting that the link to the paper indicates that it is an 'opinion' piece. Obviously the writers, or those that prompted them to write it, felt that Lindzen's presentation was important enough to need a balancing opinion. I imagine my question to Richard Betts would be to what extent is the group of writers actually engaged in scientific (not opinion piece, or PR) correspondence with Lindzen. Do they email him, or attend the same meetings? Do they indeed invite him to their meetings/seminars. When he was in the UK did neither party feel it appropriate to meet and discuss? Was he invited to the 'World under pressure' meeting, or whatever it was called?

If not, why not?

If the writers feel they are not called upon to comment on 'policy' then why are they and their colleagues so involved in policy making? Is Lindzen not 'one of them'? A scientist who has a contribution to make to the policy discussion?

So many questions...

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Some comments

Since we know from the IPCC that there is massive uncertainty about the way in which climate works, the statement that " the models encapusulate our understanding..............." is plain wrong and is not the scientific method at work especially as all the models are based upon CO2 and feedback as the key drivers for which there is no evidence.

In SREX, the IPCC has confirmed that we cannot ascribe severe weather to man despite the screaming headlines.

Betts and the scientists he mentions seem to live in some kind of bubble where they are oblivious to the impact of their "science". For example, the grand theft that is windfarms, the absurdity of biofuels, the destruction of German power generation as a result of vast and pointless investment in solar and wind, the idiocy of our aid programme being used to pay the WWF to promote propaganda, Brazil, a country that will soon be richer than us and so on and so on.

I could go on but .....

Regards

Paul

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Maynard

tbyj: We are at some sort of watershed, but I don't know what it is. Why do they feel the need for the rebutal, it's a mystery to me? RSL's talk has been almost completely ignored outside of the blogoshpere.

Is it an ad hom if you say that you suspect the motives of someone who gave the CRU a fig leaf of respectablilty by approving the papers they, the CRU, chose for examination of the science (which wasn't done anyway) on behalf of the RS. Allowing the UEA to tell the world that the papers chosen for non-inspection by Oxburgh had been selected by the RS?

Isn't John Hougton the man as Chairman of the IPCC, who overturned decades of temperature reconstructions by hundreds of scholars to present the world with MBH 1998 as the definitive temperature record of the last 1000 years?

As far as I can see at least three of these eminent scientists are environmental activists, at least two of whom have done good work for the "cause", RSL isn't an activists, he's a scientist challenging their activism. they have every right to rebut him, but anyone reading their rebutall also has every right to take on board their previous activism in considering their judgement of his case.

I'm sorry Richard if you believe that I'm playing the man not the ball, but the self-serving suggestion that climate scientists aren't trying to shape policy is, frankly, astonishing.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Richard Betts

I think you've missed my point. Go back to my post at 9:49 AM. I said there that I read the paper keeping in mind Lindzen’s introductory comment (Slide 2):

The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes. The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such.

That, as I've said, is Lindzen's key point. (And, I suggest, rightly so because it's fears of catastrophe that, we're told, justify draconian action.) So, for from rebutting Lindzen, for Hoskins et al to ignore "catastrophe" means they haven't even understood what he said.

As for risk, you say that you "completely agree" with TheBigYinJames. Yet he said "The whole 'climate war' is whether you believe that "guess" is good enough to start enacting draconian expensive, possibly catastrophic, measures or it isn't. At the end of the day it's a value call - which is why there's a 'debate' at all ..." Well, at least in the UK those draconian measures are already in place, supported by the sort of statements from politicians that I quoted above - so far as I'm aware, unchallenged by scientists. So would I be right to assume that you and other government scientists agree that, despite the acknowledged uncertainties, the "guesses" made to date justify such measures? If the answer is "Yes", it would be interested to know your reasoning. If the answer is "No", why don't we hear about it?

You may of course say - along with the authors of this paper - that it's not the scientists' job to comment. But to my mind, in view of the importance of this matter, that would be a cowardly evasion: for example, science must surely have a view on the negative consequences of such measures?

Or maybe you'd say "The impacts stuff is from different scientists". Well, in that case, as Lindzen's position is essentially about impacts, the authors of this paper are not the right people to attempt to rebut him.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

"Sure - the Met Office model did - or at least, it was within the uncertainty range even if it was not the central estimate."

Richard, when did it predict it, was if before, or after IPCC AR4?

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

@ Athelstan

I see blood on the hands of the one who points to the "stars".
Can I respect that?

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterSleepalot

Richard Betts; if your ex-teacher [and by implication you] believe in the Trenberth et. al. 2009 Energy budget with 'back radiation' [assuming GHG warming in the atmosphere produces an energy source] and that the earth acts as a black body, it's scientific lunacy.

I spent years measuring coupled convection and radiation in various forms of natural and forced convection. We built our own sensors so I know the practical physics well. For the emissivity of sand, 0.85, you need ~100°C before radiative flux exceeds natural convection in air.

Climate science's apparent claim that the IR flux is set by the black body S-B value with the atmosphere acting as an energy source can never have been proven experimentally. The 'discipline' has clearly misunderstood what a radiometer actually measures.

The [pyrgeometer] signal is thermopile output calibrated by a known radiative emitter with reference to the internal black body at the temperature of the instrument. The act of shielding the upward-going radiation reveals the Prevost Exchange Energy from the [cooler] air normally exactly offset by upward-going Prevost Exchange Energy from the instrument. This is the oldest law of Radiation [1791].

The instrument does not measure ‘back radiation’. In the absence of a temperature inversion it measures the radiative flux which communicates between the two IR densities of states. This cannot do thermodynamic work by being converte3d to heat. It's an artefact of the measurement process.

Please, go to your colleagues and tell them they have been seriously deluded. The pyrgeometer salesmen have flogged them a very expensive thermometer which measures the temperature of the atmosphere convolved with its local emissivity, nothing to do with IR from the Earth’s surface.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

H'mm

Their concluding remark

'On this basis we reassert that there is a substantial risk of human-induced climate change considerably larger than 1C in global average this century and beyond.'

is as weak as a baby. 'Considerably' is undefined, 'substantial' is undefined, 'and beyond' is undefined.

I wasn't wetting my knocikers about AGW before I read this, and I am tsil not doing so.

If this is the strongest rebuttal to Lindezn they can manage, then it seems he got the substance of his February talk just about right.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

'Eric Wolff made a couple of brief visits to BH in the wake of the Cambridge Conference last year, but was put off by the over-hostile reaction from commenters'

Poor dear. He must lead a very sheltered life in his ivory tower. These poor Professors are such fragile little plants aren't they?

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM | TheBigYinJames

“The Met office (as part of Climate Science in general) have been asked for their "best guess". They admit their best guess is not as good as they would like it to be, but assure us it's still the best they have (which I think we'd all agree it is the best they have, despite its shortcomings)

Whilst I would like to agree with “it is the best they have” I have a nagging doubt and I cannot get any answers. It is a plain and simple and simple question - is our ability to forecast/predict/project future global temperatures improving or not?

If it is not, then it cannot be "the best they have"

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:33 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

My first comment on reading the article is that the authors are providing a specific scientific rebuttal to a presentation intended to be understood (I believe) by a lay audience. That is of itself unreasonable.

Secondly, I found the following comments nonsensical:

"Contemporary science suggests unambiguously that there is a substantial risk that these feedbacks will lead to human-induced surface temperature change considerably larger than 1oC in global average this century and beyond."

It cannot both be unambiguous ("without uncertainty") and have a risk associated with it.

Also:

"On Slide 3, RSL claims that the derived sensitivity of climate to a doubling of CO2 is less than 1oC, based on the assumption that all the observed warming is due to atmospheric greenhouse gases. This claim would be wrong even without this assumption, because it confuses the transient warming as CO2 rises with the larger warming that would later be achieved as the oceans, with their large thermal capacity, come into equilibrium with the changed atmospheric state."

I thought I knew a little physics, but that seems to describe a perpetual motion machine. Surely the oceans, with their large thermal capacity, act as a buffer to slow any temperature rise - or does heating the atmosphere cause the oceans to release heat and therefore cool themselves? Makes no sense to me.

Finally this statement:

"On the other hand, RSL’s assertion that the water vapour feedback may be negative goes against the body of observational, theoretical and modelling evidence which indicates that it is strong and positive. Modelling and observational studies do not rule out the possibility of a negative cloud feedback, though most models suggest a weak to moderate positive cloud feedback (there is not a strong positive feedback in models as RSL insinuates). In short, there is little credible evidence to support the low climate sensitivities that RSL proposes."

I think this sentence is quite carefully crafted. Lindzen is talking about the overall net climate sensitivity but this carefully splits the water vapour and cloud parts. Note they assert the "observational, theoretical and modelling evidence" for strong positive feedback from water vapour (which is generally accepted physics, I believe) but then say that modelling and observational studies do not rule out negative feedback from clouds and then go on to assert that models suggest a weak to moderate postive cloud feedback. That is not evidence and I have no reason to suppose that the models could be right on that point because the observational data is also consistent with negative feedback.

As far as I am aware, all the methods based on observations that try and estimate the overall net effect suggest a low climate sensitivity. Some citations on the observational evidence for the overall climate sensitivity would be nice - all the ones I have seen put the net climate sensitivity slap bang where Lindzen states right up front. Trying to dissect out the individual parts is a "these are not the droids you are looking for" moment.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

"the best they have" I meant in the relative literal sense. The models represent their best understanding of the principles. So it's the answer they give when asked to give their best guess. I don't think we should beat them up on that point.

I think where we are all frustrated is that on the one hand scientists with their scientist-hats on seem to be able to talk about the uncertainty and lack of skill of the models, but with their activist-hat on dismiss those uncertainties as unimportant. And increasingly they seem to do both in the same paper, where it should only being scientist-hat speaking.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Since he featured my PSI publication, Tallbloke (Roger) has just published another of the six publications on the Principia Scientific International site.

http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/joseph-postma/

Compare: http://principia-scientific.org/publications/Copernicus_Meets_the_Greenhouse_Effect.pdf

By the way, PSI members (nearly 40 of us now) far outnumber the original eight authors who have been called the "Slayers" after the title of their book.

PSI is a rapidly growing group of scientists and others with appropriate knowledge who have banned together to expose the AGW hoax.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cotton

So does that feedback thingummy apply to all warming, or only to the CO2 component of it? In the past when drivers have changed for orbital reasons, was the water vapour feedback in evidence? Does it work in reverse? When we cool a bit, does the feedback make it worse? Does that happen seasonally or can it only be seen over decades? Come to think of it, why would it not happen on an hourly basis?

Richard, please tell us the best example of your model being validated by an observation. What is the Trenberth budget shown by your model, (if you can see it in those terms)? Asked in hope but of course you are not a performing monkey and you are courageous to come on here at all, don't feel obliged to answer.

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:50 PM TheBigYinJames

" The models represent their best understanding of the principles."

Do they? If today's latest models are showing less skill in forecasting future global temperatures than their predecessors from the last century can we really say that they"represent their best understanding of the principles"

Surely we can only make that claim if the models are clearly demonstrating an improving skill?

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:06 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

ThinkingScientist; the report is disingenuous. Lindzen and Choi [2nd paper published in Korea] showed was that if you plotted TOA IR vs sea surface temperature, you get a positive correlation.

The IPCC models predict the opposite: as higher SST gives more H2O in the atmosphere, there is supposed to be more 'trapped energy', more 'back radiation' which causes the sea to warm etc.

The explanation of this massive failure of science is that 'back radiation' defined as radiative flux which can be converted to heat energy, does not exist. I'm also working on the IR physics. That is very wrong too because most of the warming in IRE absorption experiments is at the walls of the container, so intrinsic CO2 climate sensitivity is probably << 1 K!

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Green Sand,

For the definition of "best" it should mean "models the known processes more accurately" rather than "fitting the actual temperature record".

Any fool can write a polynomial to curve fit. It's much more difficult to write something which attempts to model all the processes - I'd rather have a model that includes solar, wind and clouds but which DOESN'T match temperature very well in the short term, than one without that fits temps exactly but which doesn't model some essential process which must play a part.

I'm not excusing the Met Office for overplaying their models - personally, I think temperature is not computable (and while I'm not a climate scientist, numerical computing is an area where I am literate), since it's a random walk on top of too many deeply coupled and badly-understood processes.

We're being just as bad as some of the loons in demanding unreasonable things of RB in particular. Whilst we should ask him some stuff, we cannot take all his time, and we can't take his inability to answer some as some sort of conspiracy. We absolutely should not ask him to criticize his colleagues as a pre-requistite to being civil to him here. Some things are more important than winning an argument. Winning the "war", for example, and we won't do it by driving moderates to extremism.

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Can we please get this thread back on topic - the arguments in the Lindzen and Hoskins et al papers.

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

@ Richard Betts

"perturbation" [sic]

perturbed

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

What irritates me most about this debate is the notion that climate change can be "fought". It is not even too clear as to whether there is any "climate change", beyond the normal variables that have been deduced from historical records, or what the cause(s) (if any can be identified) of this are.

Perhaps these "fighters" of climate change will go the whole hog, and claim that we can gain control of the weather, allowing us to dictate where and when it will rain (which is tantamount to what they are actually saying, as the climate they want to fight is far larger than mere weather). Of course, they will need even more money for this.

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

"We're being just as bad as some of the loons in demanding unreasonable things of RB in particular. Whilst we should ask him some stuff, we cannot take all his time, and we can't take his inability to answer some as some sort of conspiracy. We absolutely should not ask him to criticize his colleagues as a pre-requistite to being civil to him here. Some things are more important than winning an argument. Winning the "war", for example, and we won't do it by driving moderates to extremism."

Could not agree more, I am on record with a similar statement a long time ago, but my last comment on this point is very, very simple, the models stand or fall on their skill, irrespective of the principles involved, either they predict or they do not! I suspect that we are losing not gaining skill.

I will now exit stage left!

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:32 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Hi Philip
That is completely and utterly wrong, the models do treat the Earth as spinning sphere!!!! Where did you get the idea from that they are flat earth models??? Cheers Richard

Richard,
Could you develop on that a bit please?
I would just add that the first mention I came across linking the models with a flat earth assumption (or a constant irradiance model, if you like - isn't that the the same thing when all comes to all?) was in chapter 2 by Alan Siddons in the 'Slaying of the Sky Dragon' book.

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

Richard Betts
While disappointed I am not surprised by your Clintonesque reply to mydogsgotnonose's reasonable question and follow up observation. He asked a question (which I have emphasized for your convenience) as well as an observation about one possible answer.

Richard Betts: does Keith Shine believe the IR flux from the Earth's surface equals that predicted by the S-B equation for a black body in a vacuum? And does he agree that this is because the measured IR flux has added to it 'back radiation' from the atmosphere acting as an energy source?

If so then he's absolutely wrong and if you ask any other process engineer who has actually measured coupled convection and radiation, they will confirm this.

To which you reply, somewhat derisively:

I'm very sorry, and this honestly is not meant to be rude, but the very idea of you telling Keith Shine that he is "absolutely wrong" about atmospheric physics and radiative forcing actually made me laugh out loud!

Now everybody in my office is looking at me...... :-)


I believe that mydoghasnonose asked a respectful and legitimate question.
Perhaps you should pop over to Keith's office and ask the question instead of making funny remarks that reflect poorly on yourself.

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Richard B: "It will be interesting to see the discussion that follows here. Will people focus on the scientific content, or on your remarks about the authors?"

A little of both I suspect. I do wish one of them would take My Song's Got One Note on a weekend away and go through his theories with him. That's not to say I believe mdgnn to be wrong, because at first blush his argument is from practical experience, i.e. observations, and seems to hold together, but I'm not educated enough to have an opinion as to its worth.

"Even the models at the more complete and complex end contain many uncertainties and deficiencies, which are widely recognised within the modelling community, but they are the best guide we have as to how the climate system may change in the future."

I don't understand this statement, I've been pondering whether, like the Horizon programme by Paul Nurse which purported to be about science being ignored, but turned out to be really about climate science, there is another agenda other than the rebuttal, which they don't seem to have done, of RSL. Maybe it's to fight the corner for the climate models, I don't know. Maybe it's to fight the corner for using climate models. I just don't understand why they felt the need to provide a rebuttal at all, as I've said before it might just as well have not happened given its coverage in the MSM. But saying the models aren't perfect but they're all we have doesn't fill me with warm feelings. How not perfect are they? Surely nobody seriously believes we can build a model that will come anywhere near to forecasting weather with any form of accuracy.

As I understand it the models assume positive feedback from water vapour, but as Rhoda has pointed out above, any increase in heat will cause more water vapour and hence more positive feedback, so if the temperature is going up for any reason there will be positive feedback and the world will self-destruct as the borneo cockroaches move north and destroy corn crops etc. etc. Then there's the burning question (pardon my pun) put by so many electrical engineers, why hasn't the earth self-destructed before, I note the IPCC has, to me, mysteriously, capped the rise through positive feedbacks at 3.3C. Again I don't understand why it the rising temperatures would self-regulate at 3.3C.

Finally a question for Richard, who has had something of an unfair deal here today. What portion of the current 0.8C anomoly from pre-industrial temperatures is caused by feedback caused by the extra water vapour put into the atmosphere by the extra heat? Do we know?

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Don Pablo de la Sierra Apr 4, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Hear ! Hear!

There have been a lot better people than Keith Shine in all walks of life who have been absolutely wrong in the past.

Does the reply from Richard fall into the category of "Appeal to Authority"?

Thanks for re-asking the question

Sandy Sinclair

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

We should be grateful to Richard for drawing attention to this “rebuttal” of Lindzen’s presentation. The way it addresses it highlights the issue at the heart of the climate debate. As ThinkingScientist says, the presentation was addressed to a lay audience and it addressed the intelligent layman's main concern: are the claims by politicians**, the media and “informed” commentators that we face catastrophe if draconian measures are not taken based on sound scientific reasoning and considered advice?

When Lindzen says “The debate is simply over the matter of how much warming the increase in CO2 can lead to, and the connection of such warming to the innumerable claimed catastrophes”, he is quite right: that is precisely what we want to know. So, if he’s correct in stating that the “evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal”, it’s a fundamentally important claim.

Yet the paper doesn’t attempt to rebut it. Indeed, its statement that “the best guide we have” contains “many uncertainties and deficiencies” would seem to confirm that Lindzen is right.

** For example, see my Gordon Brown quotation at 11:48 AM above. And here’s an extract from a speech made in July of last year by Chris Huhne (then UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary): "This is the last Parliament with a chance to avoid catastrophic climate change".

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:28 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

SandyS

Does the reply from Richard fall into the category of "Appeal to Authority"?

Is the Pope Catholic? This is religion and dogma. Richard should figure out that many of us are not impressed. Now, it isn't that I agree with mydoggotnonose on all his points, but at least he backs them with facts, figures and accepted physics.

I applaud Richard for standing up and making his case. But let him do it with logic and not rhetoric.

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

In other words these models are guesses , intelligent guesses perhaps but still just guesses .
And on these they demand, not ask , for massive political change, massive lifestyle changes for millions and the spending of trillions.
And then they wonder why this idea falls flat with the public and increasingly the politicians . You make great claims and demand great changes at others cost , you better make dam sure you got great evidenced to support them when challenged . That is a truism both in science and life. Climate science and its ‘small club’ mentality has forgotten that at its own and everyone else’s cost.

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

"The models encapsulate our understanding of the basic science of the climate system, including for example, Newton’s laws of motion, the laws of thermodynamics and the quantum theory of radiation."

Then you can show us these apart from your model or models, right? And we will see that these are not merely textbook formulations of these principles but rigorously formulated physical hypotheses that were formulated for the special needs of climate science at this time. Then you will show us the confirmation record.

However, there are no well confirmed hypotheses governing feedbacks, especially cloud behavior, so you could not show us how those are incorporated in your model.

Apr 4, 2012 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Re: Apr 4, 2012 at 3:28 PM | Robin Guenier

Indeed, and isn't it the Met Office itself that's pushing the 'catastrophic' agenda - for example these are all quotes from the booklet it produced just prior to the Copenhagen conference

“It’s now clear that man-made greenhouse gases are causing climate change. The rate of change began as significant, has become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long-term.”

“It’s a problem we all share, because every single country will be affected. Together, today, we must take action to adapt to it and stop it — or, at least, slow it down.”

“What will happen if we don’t reduce emissions?
If emissions continue to grow at present rates, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is likely to reach twice pre-industrial levels by around 2050. Unless we limit emissions, global temperature could rise as much as 7 °C above pre-industrial temperature by the end of the century and push many of the world’s great ecosystems (such as coral reefs and rainforests) to irreversible decline.
Even if global temperatures rise by only2 °C it would mean that 20–30% of species could face extinction. We can expect to see serious effects on our environment, food and water supplies, and health.”

“Are computer models reliable?
Yes. Computer models are an essential tool in understanding how the climate will respond to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, and other external effects, such as solar output and volcanoes.
Computer models are the only reliable way to predict changes in climate. Their reliability is tested by seeing if they are able to reproduce the past climate, which gives scientists confidence that they can also predict the future.”

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/p/a/quick_guide.pdf

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Don Pablo de la Sierra Apr 4, 2012 at 3:33 PM

I like MyDogsGotNoNose's objections, very simplistically I equate the problem to measuring the co-efficient of thermal expansion for a liquid, where something else gets involved in the measurement.

Sandy Sinclair

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:02 PM | TheBigYinJames

Science is never settled. It never has been and never will be. You need to fix that in your head. Secondly, the Met Off have said nothing offially about "guessing". I suggest you read their site more closely and the words spouted by their senior managers, Slingo and Napier. There is no mention of the word "guess".

Thirdly, and this is from memory, Richard B has supported the applicable nature of models and their ability to forecast the future.

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

I don't remember mentioning science being settled, and I'll fix whatever I want in my head, thanks very much. I want no dogma from either side! I have 3 science degrees, and am a keen student of the history of science, so I don't need to fix anything.

When opinions change, the last thing that changes is the 'Official Line'. The first thing that happens is that internally, in secret at first, people start questioning it. Going hard on individual people working for that organisation because of an official line not changing is working against the greater good.

RB works in an area that most of is would agree is a partially useful spend of research money - adaptation measures required if warming occurs and causes problems.

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

In other words these models are guesses , intelligent guesses perhaps but still just guesses .


Computers are as far away from intelligent as we are the cockroach. Models do one thing and one thing only. They express the opinions and knowledge of the people who wrote the software and, UK Met Off, bigger computer and faster computers mean that the garbage arrives that much quicker for collection.

The £MILLIONS spent by the UK Met Off every year would be totally unacceptable if I was paying my taxes there. I still believe, vehemently, in the privatisation of all meteorology and climate organisations with none of their funding coming from the taxpayer. It would create an open, honest and competetive market where governments, NGOs and the media could buy their services from the organisation that suits their objectives. At least the biases and prejudices would be overt.

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:31 PM | TheBigYinJames

I also have 2 science degrees both in physics and am a qualified electrician, electronic, radio and telecomm engineer. I spent 13 years of my life working and studying 14 hrs a day travelling 160 miles regularly to my university.

I objected to settled science when I first saw mentioned some 20 yrs ago and have fought hard since to eradicate the thought. So, apologies if you thought it was brusque because it was meant to be firm and polite.

It seems the Bish also has trouble with my firm and polite mais sans faire rien, c'est la vie.

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

And James, by the way, I like your last post. It's a good'un. However, The most annoying and frustrating episodes in this 'settled science' is that not one of the many thousands of physicists, engineers, meteo scientist have come out and said the same thing.

It is really really annoying when the Met Off UK writes what to me is a purely political but polite response to commenters (not necessarily here) who question the consensus.

Everybody trained as a real scientist knows that consensus science is unethical, totally, utterly unethical and yet we see very few of them putting their heads above the parapet.

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

SandyS

Mydoghasnonose tends to get riled up a bit. However, he does know what he is talking about. I prefer even more simplistic but nevertheless correct analogies and arguments. Hence my "You can't boil water by adding ice unless you are Harry Potter" remark. The best of all, of course, is Josh, who with a pen and few lines on a piece of paper use his superb rapier wit to skewer. In short, Less is More.


and to stephen richards
I am as guilty as you and others of engaging fingers on the keyboard while angry about some obvious bullshit someone has written. I try hard to put it aside and come back to it later. "Fight with your head and not your heart" is good advice. I enjoy your posts and think that they are well thought out, but in need of tempering. Of course, you are not as bad as some of our departed Trolls, but the Bishop appears to be trying to throttle the invective that has occurred in the past. It is, after all, his house.

Apr 4, 2012 at 4:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo:

You say you "applaud Richard for standing up and making his case". Maybe - but I'd applaud rather louder if I knew what his (and Hoskins et al's) case was. They're supposed to be rebutting Lindzen's presentation, the essence of which was that the evidence of a connection between predicted warming and the catastrophes regularly claimed by our politicians is minimal. Very simply (Richard): is Lindzen right or wrong?

Apr 4, 2012 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:38 PM | John Shade

I believe Mitchell, one of the essay authors, was instrumental in getting the MBH hockey-stick published by the IPCC, and widely used within its materials.

Hi John,

I don't think this is correct. The Hockey Stick's first and most famous appearance in IPCC was in the Third Assessment Report chapter on Observations (go to "The Scientific Basis" and then "Chapter 2"), but John Mitchell wasn't an author on that (not even a contributing author or review editor).

Cheers

Richard

Apr 4, 2012 at 5:28 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM Richard Betts


Apr 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Buck

Can someone point me to the model which predicted no statistically significant warming over the last 15 years?

Sure - the Met Office model did - or at least, it was within the uncertainty range even if it was not the central estimate.

Cheers

Richard

I think Don Pablo de la Sierra might categorise this reply as "Clintonesque". But he is polite.

Unless there were Met Office memos dated 1998 that said "Note to executive committee: Our model predicts no significant warming for the next 15 years." then they DID NOT predict warming in any meaningful sense of "predict".

--------------------

Based on this new (post modern?) meaning of "predict" I can now reveal my own contribution to the science of modelling and prediction.

I have a computer program I wrote that models the dynamics of a six-sided die and without fail, correctly predicts the next number to be given by a roll of the die.

That is to say, the number actually given by the die is invariably within the uncertainty range (from 1 to 6) of my program's prediction. (In 16.7% of runs, the model actually produces precisely the number thrown!.)

Apr 4, 2012 at 5:30 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Apr 4, 2012 at 12:18 PM / Richard Betts

"... and even though we are not certain that impacts will be nasty and difficult to adapt to, we're not certain that they won't be either."

Yet there seems to be no uncertainty in the Met Office promoting this kind of alarmist view to the public:

"Our well-being will be threatened by more frequent and intense heatwaves, floods, storms, wildfires and droughts."

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/p/a/quick_guide.pdf (cited by Marion)

Apr 4, 2012 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterCassio

"I was unhappy with the statement that
'Contemporary science suggests unambiguously that there is a substantial risk that these feedbacks will lead to human-induced surface temperature change considerably larger than 1oC in global average this century and beyond'
Apr 4, 2012 at 9:09 AM | Phillip Bratby"

I am unhappy that you (or they) did not write 1°C or 10 deg C (the latter if the problem is just a bad keyboard).

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexej Buergin

Martin A - Indeed. But remember that climate scientists know all about loaded dice don't they - skip to 5.35 !

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2011/11/18/the-myles-and-mike-show.html

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:00 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

In answer to Don Pablo: I only get 'riled up' when people (a) try to steal my food and (b) when they try to claim science that is provably wrong according to the tried and tested laws of classical physics!

Here's why climate science is wrong about its 'back radiation' myth. Imagine two plates with perfectly insulated backs close together in a vacuum chamber. The emissivities and absorptivities are >zero. . Because the view factor is unity, there is no heat transfer to the walls.

According to classical physics, the colder plate warms and the hotter plate cools until the temperatures are equal. However, according to climate science's view [the IPCC 'Energy Budget'], the hotter plate emits at the S-B prediction for a black body and the difference of the energy it would emit for its emissivity and temperature, and a black body [emissivity = unity] at that temperature comes from the colder body as 'back radiation'.

This is tantamount to claiming the Stefan-Boltzmann constant is an inverse function of temperature, asymptoting to infinity at absolute zero. I rest my case.........

[I do love the taste of reductio ad absurdum in the evening....]

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

mydogsgotnonose

You can blame it all on Harry Potter. He has the Half-blood Prince's spell book, and on page xiv, it explains how to do that. Obviously, Harry (I wonder if he it the same one of UEA's email fame?) is doing climate models.

Apr 4, 2012 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

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