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APS shows the way

Judith Curry is recounting her experiences with the American Physical Society, which has decided to update its public position statement on climate change. This last happened in 2007, so one assumes that the move is prompted by the publication of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report.

It's fascinating to see that the APS seems to have taken on board the criticisms of outsiders and has gone out of its way to put the process in under the control of people who are "above the fray". They have also adopted a policy of transparency in reaching their conclusions, a process that is ongoing. This even extends to holding hearings and publishing the transcripts.

Learned societies in the UK would do well to follow suit.


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Reader Comments (79)

As Maguro has stated, 'cereal crops 'heart' global warming. Read the history of agriculture in the UK, the USA and Europe during the LIA if you really want to understand what too much cooling will do to and for humans. If your stated Scots-sounding name is genuine, you will know why the Scots and the Norse peoples used oats and not wheat as dietary staples. Their homelands were too cold to grow wheat successfully in any quantity..

Feb 21, 2014 at 3:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Conor, have you not heard of the "dumb farmer syndrome"? It's the naive belief that farmers are so dumb they will continue to plant crops that won't grow. Its brother complaint is "warming will never lead to any good conditions for growing" which is the naive belief that we when the world warms there won't be areas that move from temperate to tropical climates. To have this belief requires you to have either, never visited the tropics, or, visited with a bag over your head. Both these lead to another naive belief and that is tropical weather doesn't increase fecundity. Other than that your theories might be spot on.

Feb 21, 2014 at 5:25 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Conor, I might add that when I gave lectures on markets I coined the phrase "static analysis" which was the propensity to tke two variables, assume everything around them stayed static, and forecast the future state based on the changes made in the two variables. The classic example of this is T. R Malthus' theory of population v. agricultural growth, where good old Malthy forgot to take into account increasing knowledge, technology and farming methods.

The Warmies are the present day "Malthys" making forecasts, in the face of a huge body of empirical evidence showing the foolishness of such a methodology, that they believe will come true based on static analysis.

Feb 21, 2014 at 5:34 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

At the risk of being a bore (probably too late), if cereals are the mainstay of social diet, can I see evidence of your protests at turning over land for biofuels?

Feb 21, 2014 at 5:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

can I see evidence of your protests at turning over land for biofuels?
Feb 21, 2014 at 5:37 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Hey, I was going to say that!

Feb 21, 2014 at 8:50 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Harold w

Now we wait and see. :-)

Feb 21, 2014 at 9:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

If you folks plan big increases in cereal production, are you sure you'll have the energy to produce the fertiliser?

The Haber process is a glutton for energy and feedstock.

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Getting back to the thread topic, I am still reading the APS transcript. Its a long haul, but it is well worth the effort. This is the first time that I have seen a really honest dialogue on some of the truths about climate modelling and where the uncertainties and unknowns lie.

Milankovitch is a good one - 100 w/m^2 in the Arctic, no/minimal role for CO2...

DR. KOONIN: If I could try to summarize my own words. What I just heard in the last two minutes is that the CO2 feedbacks are too small to plausibly play a significant role in driving the Ice Ages?
DR. LINDZEN: My feeling is that the CO2 effects are not as focused as Milankovitch. Milankovitch is telling you whether the ice survives or not.

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist


Winter wheat which is sewn late in the year, as grown in the US mid west and Canada requires cold winters for it to produce a useful yield. Spring wheat which is sewn in the spring requires different conditions. Both crops require specific conditions for harvesting. Changing rainfall patterns and winter temperatures will require a change in agriculture methods - but some degree of accuracy for forecasting the weather is necessary to produce consistent crops. The ability for countries in the higher latitudes to produce to cereal crops per year will reduce.

Feb 21, 2014 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterConor McMenemie


mmmmmm Have to look up my protests on that matter. I did try o bring this to the attention of the Grantham Inst (ICL) but found they were just a bunch of opportunists. DECC were also on the mailing list - much the same. MY continuing protest (of which I spoke on the fone to 'The Bish' yesterday was about various institutions trying desperately to avoid the fact that the planets largest weather system* has altered and is causing CC - not emissions.

*reduction in the mass of easterly waves within the ITCZ.

Feb 21, 2014 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterConor McMenemie

The cause of the reduced easterly wave mass may be repeating itself in California and the US mid west. Also cereal yields are increasing due to EPAS stipulations for more biodiesel. Yet the duopoly of lower yield per acre, and higher percentage of said harvest going for ethanol production puts strain on global markets for all other cereals. The volatility of winter wheat production is the big issue, forget sea level rise, plagues of frogs and al gores new diet.

Feb 21, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterConor. Mcmenemie

Careful, Conor. Mcmenemie, the minds you are tangling with on this site on not all the undergrads you are perhaps more used to dealing with; there are some serious scientists here, not all gulled by the hope of more grant funding; merely spouting the propaganda you have heard elsewhere will get you treated with harsher treatment than you perhaps feel is fair.

Feb 21, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Conor, case in point: what is the difference between “sewn” and “sown”? To make that error once is a typo; to do it twice suggests either ignorance or – far, far worse – sloppy working.

Feb 21, 2014 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

If you folks plan big increases in cereal production, are you sure you'll have the energy to produce the fertiliser?

The Haber process is a glutton for energy and feedstock.
Feb 21, 2014 at 10:06 AM r Entropic man

No problem, EM. We'll get the energy by burning biofuel - maize, most likely.

Feb 21, 2014 at 2:03 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

My research is the result of investing my own time and money into producing my own tidal and river turbine and its subsequent possible use in the river Nile. At that point it became evident that Nile flow and rainfall on the sub Saharan continent demonstrated an almost possible relationship. All further delving into matters climatic stem therefrom. If you are the desirous scientist you claim, then I suggest you go to the 'Nile climate engine' and apply your wits to the chart showing blue Nile/Aswan Nile flow, then go to chart showing Atlantic SST/subsaharan rainfall. It would make a nice change to have a real scientist produce a DEFFINITE answer rather than an offhand opinion.

Feb 21, 2014 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterConor. Mcmenemie

Still reading the transcript - got past lunch and all the presentations. Just at the break bfore discussion (page 466).

Thought this very thought provoking question from Lindzen is worth highlighting:

DR. LINDZEN: In the models, what causes the 1919 to 1940 warming?
DR. HELD: The models tend to underestimate it. There is no model shown here.
DR. LINDZEN: No, no, I am saying what do they do?
DR. HELD: Well, they miss the peak of the warming. The greenhouse gases leveled off in the World War II years.
DR. LINDZEN: It's not going to be greenhouse.
DR. HELD: I think there is some internal variability there in the models. And there are some models that can produce this with internal variability. So, it's not implausible that some of this hiatus period or most of it is internal variability as well, which I think is what Kosaka and Xie point to as well.
(my bold)

Sometimes its the blindingly obvious question that upsets the nice "on message" story....and yet another reminder from the serious physicists at APS discussing the issues as reported in this transcript that there is agreement that there is no significant anthropogenic warming in the early part of the 20th Century, its all natural warming over that period.

Feb 21, 2014 at 4:52 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

One reason why I ask is that, offhand, I can't think of many sceptical papers.
Feb 20, 2014 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Then you have not looked very hard, try the archives of The HockeySchtick and

Feb 21, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

Entropic Man, the Haber process may use lots of energy (but perhaps you'd like to quantify how much?). But in two or three decades we will generate nitrogen in the field by genetic modification (either of plants or of bacteria). We could do it more quickly if we spent on nitrogen-fixing research a small fraction of what we're spending on subsidising windmills.

Feb 21, 2014 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterosseo

A C Osborn

Have you read the papers on the Popular Technology list? I once went through a random sample of their list. The authors would have been greatly surprised to find themselves supporting a sceptical position.

Feb 21, 2014 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

As soon as someone questions the climate change orthodoxy, they kill it. One of the the most essential tenets of this faith is that if you believe part, you must believe all - everything from Extreme Weather to the apparent belief of some alarmists that the global sea level has already risen 20 feet.

Give it to a bunch of physicists to discuss and they will just tear it apart! Bits will stand, other bits will fall, and what is left may be a global warming theory, but it won't be the RIGHT global warming theory.

The alarmists are quite right to stifle all debate!

Feb 21, 2014 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Gus


The Haber process produces 500million tons of nitrogen fertiliser annually, using 3-5% of world natural gas production and 1-2% of world energy production.

Without that fertiliser world food production would drop by 75%.

Feb 21, 2014 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

" Without that fertiliser world food production would drop by 75%."

would this help us reduce CO2 emissions?

Feb 21, 2014 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Have you read the papers on the Popular Technology list? I once went through a random sample of their list. The authors would have been greatly surprised to find themselves supporting a sceptical position.
Feb 21, 2014 at 7:28 PM Entropic man

From the list:

It is explicitly stated in the disclaimer that, "The inclusion of a paper in this list does not imply a specific personal position to any of the authors. While certain authors on the list cannot be labeled skeptics (e.g. Harold Brooks, Roger Pielke Jr., Roger Pielke Sr.) their paper(s) or results from their paper(s) can still support skeptic's arguments against ACC/AGW alarm. This is a resource for skeptics not a list of skeptics.

Feb 22, 2014 at 12:04 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Radical Rodent." I remember well how we were taught to tell the difference. "His wife was sewing his shirt, the farmer was sowing his field. They were both s*wing - can you spell it?"

Conor, I call it "static analysis" not my field the history of wheat, but I'd wager that there was no such thing as "spring" wheat or "winter" wheat at some time in the past. Nor is it beyond the realms of possibility that faced with a shortage of wheat we could change our staple to something which can grow in the conditions we find ourselves. We'd have to or face extinction. Finally you are taking the view that all change is for the worse in the face of ALL the evidence. God knows we've got a bit to go, but there have been massive social, technological and economic changes in the western industrial civilisations that have made us by any measure you care to make the luckiest human beings in history. Lucky enough indeed to have enough money to spend on hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people spending their entire lives studying at universities.

We should have known of course from past experiences that there are always human beings who forecast a dire future. In the past they constituted priests of religions, now we've more or less dispensed with the notion that believing in a god somehow confers soothsayer abilities on the blessed, up pop the academics with the edge over the rest of us inbeing "highly educated" to continue the age old custom of keeping the people in a permanent state of rolling their eyes and rending their clothes in fear of the future. Shame on them they can no more foretell the future than those priests pretending to read birds' entrails.

Well that's my opinion, at least.

Feb 22, 2014 at 1:03 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


Thanks for sharing - you are a black belt in the grammatical discipline of putting seeds and needles in their appropriate place, yet wanton in knowledge of feeding the masses. Poor me for getting my priorities wrong. The matter remains: net reduction in the mass of easterly wave cloud over the equatorial atlantic..........

Feb 22, 2014 at 2:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterConor McMenemie

Conor, let me tell you something about feeding the masses. In the neighbourhood I lived in as a boy most families had more than two children and a lot of people actually ran out of the money to feed the children by Wednesday, with Thursday/Friday night the next time their husbands could provide money for their families. If they were lucky, and this is true, they could persuade the local greengrocer to let them have a loaf and half a pound of margarine to feed their kids on toast until the money arrived. There were also what today are the equivalent of pay day lenders who would lend them 2 shillings at 10 per cent interest. If they could do neither of those things in the absence of help from relatives the kids did without food until Friday lunchtime. I've seen kids arrive at school without shoes and food, and I'm not 90 years old this was Liverpool in the 50s. That is now unthinkable unless the parents are particularly feckless, and is a direct result of the increase in wealth arising from cheap energy.

So let me put it another way to you, all this sacrifice and danger you expect from the comfort of the halls of academia is actually happening to people in real life now, and nothing can be worse for billions of people than it is now. So they're not interested in tales of doom from the safety of the western industrialised societies.

Feb 22, 2014 at 5:54 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Conor, I apologise I can't engage any more because it's derailing the thread. Please take the opportunity to correct/berate me but as interesting as I think you've been we must take up our cudgels another day on a more apposite thread.

As for the AMS, could I take the opportunity to warn against being over optimistic as to the results of this exercise. The AMS has gone pretty far out on a limb with their previous statement on climate change and it is going to be difficult, unless they've lost a large number of people who put out their statement to move to even a slightly neutral position. For me the sceptics made a good case, and to be fair the physicists seemed pretty clued in to the pitfalls of modelling, but it a simple thing to declare confidence in the models, they've been given plenty of reasons to say why they're confident in the way the models are calibrated, (also plenty of reasons that they shouldn't be confident) but as with all inquiries the judgement can be made either way by saying they're more satisfied with one explanation than another.

There will be no big reversal from the AMS, because it would be too embarrassing for those involved with the last statement, or, more likely, they believe that the alarmist cliscis are right.

There I've said it, but bear in mind that my judgement on the first episode of Coronation Street was that nobody would be interested in the boring lives of (us) the working classes and it wouldn't go beyond the sixth episode.

Feb 22, 2014 at 7:27 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Geronimo, whatever the subsequent outcome of the new statement by the APS on climate change, the on-the-record transcript of the discussions of pro/sceptic climate scientists and independent physicists on the findings of the IPCC is invaluable.

The transcript is really worth reading in full and is a gold mine of confirmation about the real uncertainties in climate modelling. On the record. No more claiming the "hiatus" or "stasis" is an imaginary invention by sceptics, even Ben Santer uses those words.

Feb 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

TS, you are, of course right, I've only read to page 169 and agree with you, but don't underestimate people who can change the goalposts in full view of the whole world and still be believed. However. note my vies of Corry for my expert judgement - I won't tell you what I said about email. However I've lived my life by what my Mam told me as a child, "Everyone makes mistakes son, that's why they put rubbers on the end of pencils"

Feb 22, 2014 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

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