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« Benny Peiser on LBC | Main | Scientivism Media Centre on Bengtsson »

The ERL reviewer's report

Environmental Research Letters has published a statement on the Bengtsson affair, protesting its innocence over the accusation that it rejected the paper on political grounds. At least it seems to be arguing that there were scientific, as well as non-scientific reasons for rejecting the paper; certainly the offending editor's quote is acknowledged:

Summarising, the simplistic comparison of ranges from AR4, AR5, and Otto et al, combined with the statement they are inconsistent is less then helpful, actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of "errors" and worse from the climate sceptics media side.

Regarding the scientific issues, the journal says it is trying to get permission to publish the referees' reports and indeed the first of these appears at the bottom of the statement. As far as we can ascertain from this, Bengtsson's paper focused on similar ground to the Lewis/Crok GWPF report, namely the stark difference between GCM estimates of climate sensitivity and those derived from the observational record and energy budgets. The referee quoted seems to object to this approach because of claimed inadequacies in the nergy budget approach. He says in essence that you wouldn't expect consistency because the energy budget approach is flawed.

People closer to the climate sensitivity debate need to look at the full review, but  noted something rather interesting among the list of objections to energy budget models. This is the paragraph that caught my attention:

Even more so, as the very application of the Kappa model (the simple energy balance model employed in this work, in Otto et al, and Gregory 2004) comes with a note of caution, as it is well known (and stated in all these studies) to underestimate ECS, compared to a model with more time-scales and potential non-linearities (hence again no wonder that CMIP5 doesn't fit the same ranges).

I'm going to check my facts, so I'll leave this as a tease for you.

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Reader Comments (32)

The energy budget may be flawed but so is a climate sensitivity that fits model outputs but not observational record.

But that's Climate Science, until it gets it head round this issue it is simply Voodoo Science.

May 16, 2014 at 2:02 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

In her posting on the Bengtsson affair (on her blog) Judith Curry said "I will have much more to write about this in a few days".

That may be interesting.

May 16, 2014 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered Commentersplitpin

One wonders if that referee has inadvertently declared flawed and invalid a large section of what passes as climate science. Has anybody alerted Dear Kev as yet?

May 16, 2014 at 2:26 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

ps would the IPCC's own attempts at comparing models to observation have passed the publishing criteria for the "Summarising" referee?

May 16, 2014 at 2:28 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

From the published reviewer:

AR5 has not put so much weight on these satellite observations, due to still persisting potential problems with this new technology

So 30 year old satellite records are "new technology" whereas GCMs requiring use of supercomputers that weren't available 10 years ago are establised science. Bias perhaps?

actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of "errors" and worse from the climate sceptics media side.

Now a clear confirmation of bias, in the refence to another side. Well that's all good then.

May 16, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

Do they not think it extraordinary that one of their eminent referees should refer in his report to the likely reception in the sceptical community were the paper to be published - a self-evidently political consideration?

May 16, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Now a clear confirmation of bias, in the refence to another side. Well that's all good then.
May 16, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Registered Commentersteveta

How about his confidence that he/she will be understood rather than scolded?

May 16, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Nicholas Hallam, clearly they don't see this as even an issue. Dr. Nicola Gulley, Editorial Director at IOP Publishing, quite clearly by publishing this thinks that it resolves the issues, rather than exposes the obvious bias of the reviewer.

May 16, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta

Provides a whole new understanding of Gullible.

May 16, 2014 at 3:18 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

another question...if politicised statements don't raise any many referees regularly mention the "climate sceptics media side" as reason to publish or not to publish a paper?

May 16, 2014 at 3:34 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Many climate scientists think they are pure seekers after truth, and potential savers of the planet, under attack from a mob of anti-science defenders of the status quo. No doubt most if not all the journal editors and management share this kind of view of sceptics, encouraged by sections of the environmentalist media.

We basically have yet another civil war created by environmental concerns, the latest in a long line. I think we should seek to dampen rather than fan the flames.

My scepticism has been greatly fueled by the obvious attempts by The Team to downplay uncertainty, inconsistency and incompleteness. Maybe it would encourage more climate scientists to go sceptic if it were to become known that uncertainty is a sign of strength rather than weakness, and would not be exploited by the majority of sceptics.

May 16, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikky

omnologos said: "ps would the IPCC's own attempts at comparing models to observation have passed the publishing criteria for the "Summarising" referee?"

Great question. So is your last one.

The science is being tailored to the agenda and the criteria are flexible to that end. Of course, that's always been the case.

May 16, 2014 at 4:09 PM | Registered Commenterpottereaton

"oversimplified claims"

Describes Climate Change in two words

May 16, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

If Gulley is willing to release such a damning referee report while thinking it is perfectly unbiased, can you just imagine what one would encounter in the behind-the-scenes e-mails cluttering up Gulley's e-mail register.... If there were only a leaker....

May 16, 2014 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrcrinum

The emerging reality is that instiutional science is so corrupted by the climate obsession that they will simply dismiss counter-arguemnts as self-evidently wrong by the mere fact of challenging the obsession.

May 16, 2014 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Just as I'm still waiting for the empirical evidence to back up the global warming scare stories so I am still waiting for someone to specify (ie name names) which publications comprise the "climate sceptics media".
With the possible exception of the occasional article in the Mail the rest of the MSM appear to be pretty much committed to the party line.
Colour me confused.

May 16, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I want to hear howls of despair when the same reviewer rejects warmie papers with high sensitivity estimates.

May 16, 2014 at 5:33 PM | Registered Commentershub

Reading the full review report, it becomes obvious that there were "errors" in the rejected paper - it also becomes obvious that they were errors of doctrine rather than science.

This is all really becoming quite medieval ( except for the warmth of course).

May 16, 2014 at 5:34 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Perhaps a name change to Consensus Research Letters would be appropriate.

May 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

The referee quoted seems to object to this approach because of claimed inadequacies in the nergy budget approach. He says in essence that you wouldn't expect consistency because the energy budget approach is flawed.

Just suppose that Bengtsson's "flawed" methodology had led to a value of climate sensitivity that supported the alarmist position. Would the anonymous reviewer have recommended rejection then and would the journal editor have acted accordingly?

Perhaps someone with the right contacts should put this question to the editor.

May 16, 2014 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Two further large discrepancies were posted at climate etc. Nic Lewis in 2011 on how AR4 transmogrified the Forster and Gregory 2006 ECS from a mode of 1.6 to a mode near 3. I posted in 2012 on how Annan's 2011 Climate Change paper using informed priors to constrain the high ECS tail FAILED to note that their published figure 2 produced modes of 1.8 to 1.9 depending on prior. The the discrepancies from 3 were already out there. And showed how 3 got maintained through provably faulty methods. AR4 chapter 10 even said the ECS was most likely between 2 and 3, then settled on 3. In their own final text.
ERL did not want to acknowledge all this, which is why ERL rejected this. And why other papers factually pointing them out got rejected. This is getting good, because the soft underbelly of settled science is not just being exposed, it's being ripped open and eviscerated. ERL played right into Bengtssoms hands, as Pielke Sr. predicted on Twitter.

May 16, 2014 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

Not included in the errors mentioned, is the grammatical one of "less then helpful" which should have been "less than helpful". While this is too often these days a mistake seen made by well educated people, it tells me that there were several such in this loop - the author and all the individuals who read it, having the opportunity to suggest/make a correction. It doesn't make the orginating publication look very "learned" in my opinion.

Maybe this lack of proper grammar comes from absence of sentence diagramming in English classes for past 40+ yrs... :) As a work-around, suggested for author & reviewers are numerous websites demonstrating proper use of "then" and "than".

May 16, 2014 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterKitty Antonik Wakfer

Lennart Bengtsson interviewed in May:

Mojib Latif once said at a conference of the WMO (in 2009) “we have to ask the nasty questions ourselves”. Do you think the climate community is doing that (enough)? or are others like the GWPF needed to ask these “nasty” questions? If so, what does this say about the state of Academia?

I think the climate community shall be more critical and spend more time to understand what they are doing instead of presenting endless and often superficial results and to do this with a critical mind. I do not believe that the IPCC machinery is what is best for science in the long term. We are still in a situation where our knowledge is insufficient and climate models are not good enough. What we need is more basic research freely organized and driven by leading scientists without time pressure to deliver and only deliver when they believe the result is good and solid enough. It is not for scientists to determine what society should do. In order for society to make sensible decisions in complex issues it is essential to have input from different areas and from different individuals. The whole concept behind IPCC is basically wrong.

I noticed that some climate scientists grow more sceptical about global warming after their retirement. Can you confirm this? Does it apply to yourself? Is there a lot of social pressure to follow the climate consensus among working climate scientists which can explain this?

Wisdom perhaps comes with age. I also believe you are becoming more independent and less sensitive to political or group pressure. Such pressure is too high today and many good scientists I believe are suffering. I am presently a lot on my own. As I have replied to such questions before, if I cannot stand my own opinions, life will become completely unbearable.

May 16, 2014 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered Commenter52

The problem seems to be the assumption that models should show some agreement with observation before you base climate science on them and claim the science is robust and settled. As far as I can tell, expecting the models to agree with reality is considered to the error.

I guess I would be no good at this because you have to learn a whole new scientific method and type of logic.

May 16, 2014 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

RE: "Some wry laughter from Steve McIntyre in response to the ERL statement."

This is reminiscent of Kevin Trenberth's remarks several years ago about models not doing predictions. It was something those in that part of climate science could have been well aware of but the wider audience of policymakers and, wider still, the public could easily have been ignorant of.

In this instance discrepancies between observations and models is acceptable within the confines of that particular corner of climate science but could not be allowed to be published in language the public might understand. Unless you compare observations to model output then claims based on internally consistent simulations cannot be falsified.

May 16, 2014 at 7:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

It is quite simple, really:

papers which ignore or minimize discrepancies between observations and GCMs are "scientific" and unbiased

papers which examine seriously discrepancies between GCMs and observations are inherently defective and likely to be bad for "The Cause"

Everyone clear on that now?

Thank You!

-- The Monolithic Consensus --

May 16, 2014 at 8:14 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

'actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of "errors" and worse from the climate sceptics media side.'

Let us repeat tthe words of his most holy Jones who brought unto us the 'light and wisdom of the cause'

lets us hold hands brothers and sisters and cast out the evil 'critical review' which for to long has been the normal way of doing good science and welcome this new do not look for it , hide it , BS it or don't even think about it approach to doing 'science'

May 16, 2014 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

I liked this bit:

" i.e. the Otto et al forcing is deliberately "adjusted" to represent more closely recent observations, whereas AR5 has not put so much weight on these satellite observations, due to still persisting potential problems with this new technology"

How terrible! They've been "adjusting" (don't you love the scare quotes?) their inputs to match observations! No wonder the two don't match - one of them is based on observations, while the other is based on "expert based assessments". It's simply ridiculous to expect energy flows to balance in expert assessments from climatologists!


May 16, 2014 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Mosher addresses (at CA) something I'd been wondering about but have no way to speak to myself (not knowing these kinds of papers): is the reviewer's hurdle for what the paper needed to do, in order to be publishable, actually reasonable, or not? Also, how many papers in that field have successfully addressed the kinds of issues that this reviewer demands of Bengtsson?

Steve Mosher at CA

Steven Mosher
Posted May 17, 2014 at 12:08 AM | Permalink | Reply

“–> “A careful, constructive, and comprehensive analysis of what these ranges mean, and how they come to be different, and what underlying problems these comparisons bring would indeed be a valuable contribution to the debate.”

Basically the reviewer is asking for something that NO STUDY HAS EVER DONE, that is explain “how they come to be different”

There are studies of single models that hint at it, but nobody has explained this for a study of “models” why? Because nobody understands enough models in detail to explain why they differ. The models are roughly 1 million LOC.

May 17, 2014 at 6:58 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

May 17, 2014 at 6:58 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I too would like to applaud Mosher's comment. Climate models do not have the same structure as scientific theory and any two climate models that have different internals, whether that be sets of differential equations that always solve to different results or whatever, are distinct models and cannot be compared as comprehensive models.

By contrast, scientific theories specify their evidence by implying it and any two theories that imply all and only the same evidence, total set of observation statements, are comparable because they imply the same observations. If time reveals that one of those two theories has implied an observation statement that proves to be false then that theory is likely to be rejected in favor of its competitor. No such external standard exists for models.

Models must be judged on standards different from those used by science. Models cannot be used for prediction, unlike genuine scientific theories. If this point gains wide understanding then this controversy over a rejected article will be worth the time and effort of everyone involved.

If computer models of climate are of some benefit to humanity then climate modelers must explain what the benefits are. They have not done so.

May 17, 2014 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

"(A)s the models are calculating true global means"

There you have it. The IPCC's claim to be a priestly class who uniquely hold the codices to TRUTH.

May 18, 2014 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterNICK

"...expectation that models be consistent with observations."

Isn't that what in the real science world they call Empirical Evidence?

May 18, 2014 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

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