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« Moonshine | Main | Dixon's cunning plan »
Sunday
Aug242014

GCMs and public policy

In the thread beneath the posting about the Chen and Tung paper, Richard Betts left a comment that I thought was interesting and worthy of further thought.

Bish, as always I am slightly bemused over why you think GCMs are so central to climate policy.

Everyone* agrees that the greenhouse effect is real, and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
Everyone* agrees that CO2 rise is anthropogenic
Everyone** agrees that we can't predict the long-term response of the climate to ongoing CO2 rise with great accuracy. It could be large, it could be small. We don't know. The old-style energy balance models got us this far. We can't be certain of large changes in future, but can't rule them out either.

So climate mitigation policy is a political judgement based on what policymakers think carries the greater risk in the future - decarbonising or not decarbonising.

A primary aim of developing GCMs these days is to improve forecasts of regional climate on nearer-term timescales (seasons, year and a couple of decades) in order to inform contingency planning and adaptation (and also simply to increase understanding of the climate system by seeing how well forecasts based on current understanding stack up against observations, and then futher refining the models). Clearly, contingency planning and adaptation need to be done in the face of large uncertainty.

*OK so not quite everyone, but everyone who has thought about it to any reasonable extent
**Apart from a few who think that observations of a decade or three of small forcing can be extrapolated to indicate the response to long-term larger forcing with confidence.

So, let me try to explain why I think GCMs are so important to the policy debate.

Let us start by considering climate sensitivity. As readers here know, the official IPCC position on climate sensitivity is largely based on the GCMs. This time round we have had some minor concessions to observational estimates, but a significant proportion of the probability density of the observational studies remains outwith the IPCC's likely range of 1.5-4.5°C. Proponents of GCMs might counter that the upper end of the GCMs are ignored too, but I would suggest that one should conclude that an ECS of 5-6°C in the light of temperature history.

Estimates of climate sensitivity - and therefore in practice GCM estimates of climate sensitivity - directly inform estimates of the social cost of carbon. So when people like Chris Hope are arguing for a carbon tax of $100/tCO2, this is a function of GCMs. I recall, I hope correctly, that Chris suggested a figure of $18/tCO2 if one used an ECS of 1.6, in line with observational estimates. This matters of course, because the policy response, if any, to an $18 problem is significantly different to that for a $100 problem.

Wherever we look in the interactions between scientists and politicians on climate questions, we see an emphasis on catastrophe. We see no confessions of ignorance, but only occasional reference to uncertainties. Here's some notes of Tim Palmer addressing the All-Party Climate Change Group:

With the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, future emissions will need to be reduced by half to that of historical emissions to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C. However, if emissions are not curbed (under the business as usual scenario), the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be three times the historical emissions and the temperatures might rise up to 4°C.

And on the other hand they might not. This idea does not, however, seem to have been put forward for consideration.

Readers might also wonder what explanations were given to our political masters on the credibility of the GCMs. Here's what Palmer said:

Climate models are only flawed only if the basic principles of physics are, but they can be improved. Many components of the climate system could be better quantified and therefore allow for greater parameterisation in the models to make the models more accurate. Additionally increasing the resolution of models to allow them to model processes at a finer scale, again increasing the accuracy of the results. However, advances in computing technologies would be needed to perform all the necessary calculations. However, although the accuracy of predictions could be improved, the underlying processes of the models are accurate.

Apart from the transport of heat to the deep ocean, if Friday's paper from Chen and Tung is to be believed.

You can see that policymakers are getting a thoroughly biased picture of what GCMs can do and whether they are reliable or not. They are also getting a thoroughly biased picture of the cost of climate change based on the output of those GCMs. They are simply not being asked to consider the possibility that warming might be negligible or non-existent or that the models could be complete and utter junk. They are not told about the aerosol fudging or the GCMs' ongoing failures.

And this is just scratching the surface.

[BTW: Could commenters who like to amuse themselves by baiting Richard please refrain from so doing!]

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Reader Comments (306)

Very good to surface this Bish.

Aug 24, 2014 at 10:53 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

'They are also getting a thoroughly biased picture'
for some that is exactly what they want

Its easy to drop the whole scam unto 'the Team ' and friends , but there times when their role has been as a supplier to demand .
While many others have jumped on the AGW bandwagon for their own reasons , such has financially or ideological, they did not create the bandwagon in the first place.

Aug 24, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

You can see where a number of the alarmists are going. We do not know (strange how 20 years ago they did) and so there is a chance of catastrophic AGW! The fact that the models are so poor at reflecting the real world, why believe any projection from them never mind base policy on their output!

It is strange how other possible catastrophes - disease (thing of flu in 1919), comets, meteorites, etc. - do not seem to figure next to CAGW.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Evidence in support of the hypothesis that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide MUST inevitably lead to an increase in global temperature exists only in the Models. As is confirmed by observations, there is not a shred of evidence that it exists in the real world. In fact, observations over the past 18 years point to a zero correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature.

Perhaps this truth, and the unlikelihood of catastrophic climate change is what Richard Betts was alluding to (albeit obliquely) in his Comment.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Dawkins

Excellent post, these are the basics that most people are concerned about as the link between the science and the policy is what most politicians espouse as a reason to tax the population more.
The subject is so important that I would expect the voices of various members of the establishment, scientific and political to be opined in order to find current position of political reliance upon the science.

Come on guys, inform us.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

The IPCC climate models exaggerate atmospheric heat generation by c. 37%. You prove this by a simple energy balance: the temperature predictions have no credence; the original mistakes were made by Sagan in 1965.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

Richard, previously, your support for GCMs has been (among other things) based on them recapitulating circulation elements of the climate system in an emergent manner - such as Hadley cells and cyclones. Why not accept some GCM output when they show clearly show they are good for others? - the question went.

The problem that needs solving, however, is not the fixed elements of the climate system but the reproducible recapitulation of variability of the fixed elements. In other words, the metric is not cyclone production but cyclone number, intensity and pathway from year-to-year.

Presently, GCM reproduction of global surface temperature variability is zero. The models show no meaningful decadal scale temperature variability. How do you then trust long-term of evolution of same metric?

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:12 AM | Registered Commentershub

shub:

How do you then trust long-term of evolution of same metric?

Same method as in other areas. Retire before conflicting data becomes available.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

If CO2 is indeed a GHG, then some warmish wizzard should be able to explain to Harry Dale Huffman whyso Venus is not hotter

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul the Nurse

GCMs are used to skew the precautionary principle. 'It could be 6 degrees C' distracts from 'It will remove funding from more immediate concerns / the cost of prevention will degrade our ability to adapt and advance / it grants governments even more unaccountable authority over us'.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

If we don't use the models where are we getting our view of the future from?

If the models are not right then we are basing policy on erroneous data.
How could the models be wrong? Well here are 39 things that scientists now think might be causing the pause. These things obviously were not in the models otherwise the models would have predicted the pause. http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/updated-list-of-29-excuses-for-18-year.html

Does anyone think that man-made CO2 is causing all the warming? No-one I have asked does. What about natural CO2? Is it really always in balance? what about other gases, what about deforestation what about the 39 new excuses above. Then there is always the sun of course but while lack of solar activity can cause lack of warming, we are told the converse does not apply. On the water planet we must not forget the clouds, either.

The models may be helpful to scientists but until they can be guaranteed to get close to the right answers then they should not be used for policy. The precautionary principle does not apply - it is nonsense. Who in their right mind would pay much more in insurance premiums than they would ever get back when a disaster occurred? Anyway, to do the job properly you would need to list all the possible future disasters, then look at the probabiities and consequences before prioritising them. Currently, we have just picked CO2 and have forgone the due dilligence.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:26 AM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Firstly, I think this is wrong and is essentially the point that Richard was trying to make (and I think he makes a very good point, FWIW)


As readers here know, the official IPCC position on climate sensitivity is largely based on the GCMs.

GCMs clearly play a role, but our understanding of climate sensitivity is not determined primarily/only by GCMs. There are also paleo estimates and energy budget estimates. Yes, they don't exactly overlap, but they do overlap quite substantially. Richard can correct me if I'm wrong, but even if we didn't have GCMs, our estimate of climate sensitivity would not be wildly different to what it is today. Although GCMs do provide another line of evidence, their main role could be regarded as providing more detail about regional effects (maybe only on continental scales, but still more detail than simple global energy budget type models).

Here's what I think your argument is. You're trying to argue that GCMs are crucial to estimating climate sensitivity. You're then trying to argue that GCMs are still unreliable (true in some sense but maybe look at the recent Annan & Hargreaves paper). Then you're trying to use that to argue that we should simply ignore all of this. Essentially your argument is "don't do anything complex because if you don't instantly manage to reliably match reality in all aspect we'll ignore everything these models are suggesting". To me, you're trying to use that GCMs aren't perfect to de-legitimise all of climate science. I don't find that particularly compelling, but maybe I'm alone in that regard.

I'll add that I don't think this is strictly true


Wherever we look in the interactions between scientists and politicians on climate questions, we see an emphasis on catastrophe.

but a corollary might be that whenever one sees interactions between skeptics (for want of a better term) and politicians, we see an emphasis on everything being fine, don't do anything.

There me ask a serious question though. Given the range for climate sensitivity, it is clear that it is possible that we could follow a reasonably high emission pathway and not warm substantially (okay, this may not be true if we follow a particularly high emission pathway, but let's agree that there is a possibility that warming will not be substantial for some reasonable emission pathway). However, it is also possible that warming could be substantial and could take is beyond the range that any economic model has been able to study (i.e., more than 3 degrees by 2100). Is this a risk you think we should taking?

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Jack Dawkins wrote:

"Evidence in support of the hypothesis that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide MUST inevitably lead to an increase in global temperature exists only in the Models."

It bears repeating that the output of computer models isn't "evidence" of anything, but I'm sure you know that.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAsmilwho

Paul the Nurse: I suggest Richard Betts grapples with Montford not Huffman. Same with turnedoutnice's oft-repeated claims about Sagan. I'd snip you both. Host magnanimity can be good but this key debate (agreeing with Beaverbrook and others) might best be conducted with minimum distraction.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Well spotted, Bish. Richard Betts said:

Everyone* agrees that the greenhouse effect is real, and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
Everyone* agrees that CO2 rise is anthropogenic
Everyone** agrees that we can't predict the long-term response of the climate to ongoing CO2 rise with great accuracy. It could be large, it could be small. We don't know. The old-style energy balance models got us this far. We can't be certain of large changes in future, but can't rule them out either.

So climate mitigation policy is a political judgement based on what policymakers think carries the greater risk in the future - decarbonising or not decarbonising.
----------------------------------------------------------------------
From a political and policy perspective, the biggest problem with GCMs is that they focused on one thing - CO2. Politicians and bureaucrats were led to believe that not just CO2, but human-caused CO2, was the source of future disasters. The leaps of non-logic in this argument do not require a degree in atmospheric physics to perceive.

Many people who have forgotten more about modelling than I will ever know have delved into the limitations of CGMs. But the fundamental problem is that they started out with the "answer", and then went backwards. In fact, they missed the fundamental, and most important step, of using a rigorous process to formulate the question. Then, they missed the next step of figuring out to what extent the available (or available in the near future) tools might be able to answer it.

I am looking at this from the perspective of someone who has been a project manager and a policy adviser/analyst, not as a scientist.

But, they broke every rule in the book - hence the long, slow, train crash that we are seeing now with their predictions.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:35 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Mr. Physics: here's the problem - you don't read carefully.

Stating the 'IPCC position on climate sensitivity is largely based on GCMs' (Montford) is different from "argu[ing] that GCMs are crucial to estimating climate sensitivity (your interpretation of Monford)."

Starting from this position - one entirely of your own making - you go on to state Montford is "trying to use that GCMs aren't perfect to de-legitimise all of climate science."

This is simply ridiculous. Why is it not possible to have a decent discussion without adding confusion and misrepresentation?

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:47 AM | Registered Commentershub

Perhaps the esteemed Betts might also like to comment on the fact that last night's -2 deg C was the lowest ever recorded Northern Ireland August temperature and the outrageous, anti-scientific suggestion by igorami like me that this (1) might just indicate that the GCM's are rendered useless by basic flaws in IR physics and (2) we are entering a new LIA.....:0)

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

"Could commenters who like to amuse themselves by baiting Richard please refrain from so doing!"

That's harsh.

If RB were to return to the detection and attribution arena, having been in the forefront of the IPCC's efforts in the past, perhaps he could add to our understanding of how the position has changed. And how the degree of doubt now expressed can be seen in the summary for policymakers. Or if it is not there, what effort was made to put it in and who threw it out.

I do not regard RB's position as consisent with what it has been in the past. Is it just me?

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Shub,


Why is it not possible to have a decent discussion without adding confusion and misrepresentation?

I don't know. Only you can answer that question. Quite how largely and crucial are different is somewhat beyond me. Given that I quoted what Bish said, that was what I was disagreeing with. So, change crucial to largely then. It's not a complicated concept. Just try a little harder (well, to be decent, that is - you're doing a great job of being quite a [Mod : redacted]).

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Everyone???

The GHE is NOT real.

CO2 cannot be called a GHG because though it is a IR adsorber it is also a IR emitter. To be a GHG it must not emit any IR like nitrogen.Which is why nitrogen is put into double glazing units not CO2. (A practical example of the GHE not working). CO2 actually cools the atmosphere.

CO2 is rising in the atmosphere but fro where? Volcanogenic CO2 is isotopically identical to FF burnt CO2 and volcanoes produce 100 times more than we do. There is no way to blame our CO2 production on the current atmospheric rise.

But since CO2 cannot affect climate why are we bothered with this life giving gas without which this planet would be a lifeless wet rock. We actually need more in the atmosphere to get back to the geological historic average (~2500ppmv) then we would see real plant/crop growth.

Aug 24, 2014 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Having gcm shown little usefulness on any manageable timescale, scientists are now wasting time to concoct regional models which cannot possibly have any predicting skill whatsoever, as recognised even by the RC luminaries. Reality divorce is complete and legislators will adapt to the number of angels standing on pins . What a sad sad story for our wasted billions and their wasted minds.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Physics, you blockquoted a sentence from the post and misunderstood/misinterpreted its thrust in your very next sentence. You tried to frame a question about policy-relevance of GCMs as a delegitimisation of "all of climate science" (your words). It is a tired and shop-worn tactic - to frame specific questions as "delegitimization" of everything.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub,


You tried to frame a question about policy-relevance of GCMs as a delegitimisation of "all of climate science" (your words).

That's my interpretation. You telling me that I'm wrong, does not convince me that I am. Of course, if this is simply about the policy relevance of GCMs, then Richard's original point stands. We don't need GCMs to estimate climate sensitivity. In fact, as I understand it, we can even make estimates of changes to the water cycle without GCMs. So, it does seem as though people are using limitations with GCMs to argue that we know little of things that - in fact - we can estimate without GCMs.


It is a tired and shop-worn tactic - to frame mere questioning as "delegitimization" of everything.

Given how you typically engage with me, this has to be one of the most ironic things I've read for a long time. If don't know the meaning of the word "ironic", which would appear to be the case, look it up.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Recap....Betts: gcms not central to climate policy. Bish: here a ton of examples showing they are central to climate policy. Troll: we don't need gcms to estimate sensitivity.

In other news:we could measure moon distance by triangulation. Lasers aren't central to moon distance policy.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:19 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

ATTP and Shub - any chance of taking your brawl elsewhere? The Bish has raised a very interesting point here, and scrolling through your semantic biffo is like having dinner with Mosher (shudder).

Get a room. Or two rooms.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Johanna,


any chance of taking your brawl elsewhere?

With pleasure. In fact, I'm a happy to drop it altogether as it is an illustration of just how chilidish this can become. Comparing me with Mosher and suggesting I get a room with Shub has really put me in my place. I shall remember this in future as a warning :-)


The Bish has raised a very interesting point here

I agree, hence my comment. I might disagree with what I think is being said, but that doesn't mean that it isn't an interesting point.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

Sorry johanna, the problem was I actually read what he wrote.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:30 PM | Registered Commentershub

Omnologos,


In other news:we could measure moon distance by triangulation. Lasers aren't central to moon distance policy.

Exactly, lasers aren't crucial (although, I don't think triangulation works, but I get your point). You can largely do it without them.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

rhoda:

"Could commenters who like to amuse themselves by baiting Richard please refrain from so doing!"

That's harsh.

Oh come on. For one of numerous examples look carefully at this comment from Richard Betts - and more importantly its context - in January:

Richard Drake - thanks for challenging Stephen Richards's rudeness. I agree that this kind of thing is distracting and reduces the credibility of the discussion.

To which I replied:

Not just [the credibility] of the discussion, which it does, but of scepticism as a whole. You may not be as concerned about that as I am, for which I cannot blame you. We all have much to learn.

There are many other occasions where I've remained silent while groaning internally by our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot rather than concentrate on matters of substance with courtesy. Surely our host is thinking of the distraction and reduction of credibility caused by needless rudeness mentioned here? This isn't all about you!

johanna's right to say "The Bish has raised a very interesting point". For me he's well within his rights to add "Could commenters who like to amuse themselves by baiting Richard please refrain from so doing!" Richard and Andrew, please consider all this noisy preamble, greenhouse doubters and all, and ignore almost all of it!

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

@ ATTP

"However, it is also possible that warming could be substantial and could take is beyond the range that any economic model has been able to study".

It is also possible that I will tick two more items off my bucket list (learn to ride a horse and obtain a helicopter rating) in the next three years before I hit 70.

However in neither case (yours nor mine) do I see any convincing evidence of probability. Therefore you and I - and my wife - can probably stop worrying, and instead focus on something more worthy of our concerns, energies and intellects.

In my case that's how to survive an upcoming house move. What's yours?

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJerryM

Asmilwho:

...the output of computer models isn't "evidence"…

You would appear to be confusing "evidence" and "proof."

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Dawkins

Ting, ting, ting ... ladies and gentlemen, is there any serious contention that GCMs have driven climate "science" and resultant public policy?

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

rhoda

as I commented on the earlier thread I think Richard Betts has moved in his position. "Everyone** agrees that we can't predict the long-term response of the climate to ongoing CO2 rise with great accuracy. It could be large, it could be small. We don't know." is somewhat different from "we all agree CO2 is a GHG and it is simply a matter of how much warming it will cause" or words to that effect which I think is where Richard used to be. In fact his new position is bang in line with luke warming thinking which I think many of the denizens here would support.

I would be interested to know if this is now the official position of the UKMO

On the question of GCM's Judy Curry is on the record as saying the detection and attribution of the human fingerprint in global warming relies 100% on them (the GCM's). The GCM's put the A in AGW. Without that A there would be no Climate Change Act and there would likely be a sensible energy policy in the UK.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

H2O:

In fact his new position is bang in line with luke warming thinking which I think many of the denizens here would support.

This is one of the things it would be very helpful for Richard to clarify.

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Bish

for the record Richard Betts comments were on the Atlantic wot dunnit thread

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

JerryM


However in neither case (yours nor mine) do I see any convincing evidence of probability.

Then I think you're not looking hard enough. You may not like the IPCC projections or the other estimates of climate sensitivity, but they do exist and they do suggest that the warming could be large. They also suggest it might not be. Assuming that the latter is more likely than the former would seem to be ignoring evidence. I guess I could rephrase my question as "given that evidence exists that warming could be large for certain emission pathways, is there any reason why we should not do anything to avoid such a high emission pathway"?

Aug 24, 2014 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered Commenter...and Then There's Physics

The proof of the falsehood of Bett's and pals is that if the GCM's were working as they wish they were working, all we would hear day and night is how accurate the models are.
So like fundamentalists of all faiths do when their prophecies fail, Betts and the true believers in the climate apocalypse just pretend their failed prophecies and prophets do not obviate their underlying faith.
So we see the ridiculous defenses offered by ATTP and and the other troll/fundies: No actual addressing of the issues at all. And in the larger world we see the rent seekers who control the information still pretend they are having an honest presentation of the climate case to political and corporate decision makers. The AGW social mania is now down to clinging to power (and money) for its own sake and in keeping the faithful in line. Like a parody of the worst sorts of televangelists, basically.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"So climate mitigation policy is a political judgement based on what policymakers think carries the greater risk in the future - decarbonising or not decarbonising.

A primary aim of developing GCMs these days is to improve forecasts of regional climate ......."

What happens if a regional climate 'benefits' from a change predicted by GCMs?

The UK would benefit by having a slightly warmer temperature. Why should its citizens pay to minimise 'local warming'?

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

"Perhaps the esteemed Betts might also like to comment on the fact that last night's -2 deg C was the lowest ever recorded Northern Ireland August temperature and the outrageous, anti-scientific suggestion by igorami like me that this (1) might just indicate that the GCM's are rendered useless by basic flaws in IR physics and (2) we are entering a new LIA.....:0)
Aug 24, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice"

Add to that an increase Glacier type conditions in Scotland
http://www.thegwpf.org/glacier-like-conditions-forming-in-scotland/
Many Low Temp Records broken in the USA during August
http://sunshinehours.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/noaa-1025-low-max-records-broken-from-aug-1-to-aug-21-some-by-16f/

http://sunshinehours.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/noaa-184-low-min-records-broken-from-aug-1-to-aug-21-some-records-demolished-by-11f/
and this
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/23/cold-summer-us-daily-record-minimum-outnumbering-record-maximums-3-to-1-in-the-last-30-days/

Sorry but I am afraid Nature is calling the IPCC and Mr Betts misinformed, to put it politely.

Then we have multiple evidence of Temperature Data Tampering in both the USA (see Steve Goddard's many posts) plus
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/23/ushcn-monthly-temperature-adjustments/
and Australia's BOM
http://joannenova.com.au/2014/08/the-heat-is-on-bureau-of-meteorology-altering-climate-figures-the-australian/

Who do you believe?

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

Climate models are only flawed only if the basic principles of physics are, but they can be improved. Many components of the climate system could be better quantified and therefore allow for greater parameterisation in the models to make the models more accurate. Additionally increasing the resolution of models to allow them to model processes at a finer scale, again increasing the accuracy of the results. However, advances in computing technologies would be needed to perform all the necessary calculations. However, although the accuracy of predictions could be improved, the underlying processes of the models are accurate.

There are so many self-contradictions in this paragraph, both within a given sentence and between sentences, that it's hard to know where to begin. The first sentence is especially self-contradictory ( assuming there are degree of self-contradictions ). There are a very large number of procedures and processes applied to the model equations between the continuous equations and the coded solution methods in GCMs. It is critical that the actual coding be shown to be exactly what was intended as guided by theoretical analyses of the discrete approximations and numerical solution methods.

Climate models do not attempt to solve the fundamental, un-altered "basic principles of physics". Never have, and highly likely never will. This critically important aspect of GCMs has been discussed for decades in the peer-reviewed literature. Importantly, it is the parameterizations of the sub-grid processes and phenomena that do all the heavy lifting relative to attaining a degree of fidelity between the model and the physical world.

Ultimately the numbers calculated by the GCMs are the outcome of numerical solution methods applied to algebraic approximations to the continuous equations on discrete temporal and spatial grids. It is not yet known if the application procedures of the GCMs are in the asymptotic range of the theoretical order of the discrete approximations. So far as I am aware there has been no Verification, ( are the equations are correctly solved ? ), for all the model equations and associated numerical solution methods for any GCM. There are in fact aspects of the modeling that ensure, with absolute certainty, that the discrete approximations are limited to at most an order of one. Some parameterizations, for example, are functions of the size of the discrete spatial approximation. The coarse size of the discrete grid used in applications cannot resolve the topology of Earth's surface, so that as the grid is refined the topology changes; another first-order effect.

A more nearly realistic characterization of the GCMs, relative to that portrayed by the quoted sentence and Climate Science in general, has been recently summarized in this peer-reviewed paper: Christopher Essex, Does laboratory-scale physics obstruct the development of a theory for climate?, JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH: ATMOSPHERES, VOL. 118, 1218–1225, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50195, 2013. The discussions about the parameterizations, in my opinion, present an excellent summary of the situation. The discussions about climate as an IVP vs BVP are also excellent. The GCMs are all formulated and solved as an IBVP. The very long-term response times of the oceans, for example, ensures that the BVP argument is not correct. Not to mention that the hypothesis of the balance of radiative-energy transport at the TOA cannot be imposed as a boundary condition; straight-forward mathematics, and common sense, tells us this.

BH said: [BTW: Could commenters who like to amuse themselves by baiting Richard please refrain from so doing!]
I don't know who Richard is, so I don't know if I have baited him.

As an aside, a technical editor instructed me decades ago that "accurate" means exactly what it says; "more accurate" doesn't make any sense; "more nearly accurate" is more nearly correct, you might say.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDan Hughes

John Marshall is quite correct. The Met Office state "The 'greenhouse effect' is the way the atmosphere traps some of the energy we receive from the Sun (infrared radiation or heat, ultraviolet and visible light) and stops it being transmitted back out into space". Carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas as it is an emitter of IR out to space and cannot trap energy. Oxygen and nitrogen are greenhouse gases as they do not emit IR and thus "trap" energy. Water vapour is a semi-greenhouse gas as it "traps" latent energy, but emits IR to space.

That's why there is no evidence for CO2 causing warming. Evidence from ice core data shows the opposite.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:14 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Richard Betts makes a lot of sense about the state of the science..And good sense with the following,

"So climate mitigation policy is a political judgement based on what policymakers think carries the greater risk in the future - decarbonising or not decarbonising."

I don't agree with the following, which seems to me is derived from the precautionary principle: "Clearly, contingency planning and adaptation need to be done in the face of large uncertainty."

Planning and adaptation carries with it the notion of substantial investments in infrastructure. The World Bank is keen to make loans to developing countries to support investment in infrastructure for adaptation to climate change. The ADB is promoting loans for both mitigation and adaptation. Other multinational and bilateral entities follow the lead of the ADB and WB.

The problem as I see it is that there are many more pressing needs in most developing countries: water and sanitation, (which are probably the foremost welfare sectors); and infrastructure for primary education and highway building, (which are probably the highest public-sector income-generating investments).,

The risk in developing countries is mis-allocation of resources to high cost infrastructure for adaptation to climate change that may never happen. And even if the projections were certain, why should developing countries invest NOW in adaptation to climate change which under most IPCC scenarios will not be critical for at least 30 years?

And why would these countries commit scarce resources to climate mitigation when reduction of their emissions can have no measurable effect on climate even given the most alarming scenarios? (I am thinking of countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, and Bangladesh rather than India and China.)

In developed countries the big risk is reducing GDP in modern industrial economies by policies that effectively ration energy use. The risks are not merely economic but also political.

In my opinion, continental Europe is at risk to political instability that would result from long-term high rates of unemployment and increased internal migration from poorer to richer regions.

The best economic, social and political strategy for the immediate future is to do nothing except roll back the climate adaptation and mitigation policies already in place.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Colbourne

Richard Betts makes a lot of sense about the state of the science..And good sense with the following,

"So climate mitigation policy is a political judgement based on what policymakers think carries the greater risk in the future - decarbonising or not decarbonising."

I don't agree with the following, which seems to me is derived from the precautionary principle: "Clearly, contingency planning and adaptation need to be done in the face of large uncertainty."

Planning and adaptation carries with it the notion of substantial investments in infrastructure. The World Bank is keen to make loans to developing countries to support investment in infrastructure for adaptation to climate change. The ADB is promoting loans for both mitigation and adaptation. Other multinational and bilateral entities follow the lead of the ADB and WB.

The problem as I see it is that there are many more pressing needs in most developing countries: water and sanitation, (which are probably the foremost welfare sectors); and infrastructure for primary education and highway building, (which are probably the highest public-sector income-generating investments).,

The risk in developing countries is mis-allocation of resources to high cost infrastructure for adaptation to climate change that may never happen. And even if the projections were certain, why should developing countries invest NOW in adaptation to climate change which under most IPCC scenarios will not be critical for at least 30 years?

And why would these countries commit scarce resources to climate mitigation when reduction of their emissions can have no measurable effect on climate even given the most alarming scenarios? (I am thinking of countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, and Bangladesh rather than India and China.)

In developed countries the big risk is reducing GDP in modern industrial economies by policies that effectively ration energy use. The risks are not merely economic but also political.

In my opinion, continental Europe is at risk to political instability that would result from long-term high rates of unemployment and increased internal migration from poorer to richer regions.

The best economic, social and political strategy for the immediate future is to do nothing except roll back the climate adaptation and mitigation policies already in place.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrederick Colbourne

On the question of GCM's Judy Curry is on the record as saying the detection and attribution of the human fingerprint in global warming relies 100% on them (the GCM's). The GCM's put the A in AGW. Without that A there would be no Climate Change Act and there would likely be a sensible energy policy in the UK.

Said H2O - the miracle molecule
--------------------------------------------------------
I don't agree that you should attribute statements like that to Dr Curry without her consent. Certainly, there are other lines of research (e.g. ice cores and tree rings, plus untold pseuedo-biological studies) along those lines. Whether those studies are worth anything is another question. But, if you are going to bandy about a woman's name, be very careful. :)

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:21 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

You can see from Betts' notes here that the 'science is settled' is totally engrained in their psychy.

Everyone* agrees that the greenhouse effect is real, and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
Everyone* agrees that CO2 rise is anthropogenic
Everyone** agrees that we can't predict the long-term response of the climate to ongoing CO2 rise with great accuracy

Since when have any of these statements been proven. Who is "everyone". Since when has all the co² rise been Anthro-driven? Do the oceans contribute nothing ?

GREAT PIECE spot on. Aug 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDan Hughes

Certainly some people realise that GCMs cannot predict ! so why do Betts et al always quote GCM results , Why do polis, Greenpiss and the left always quote GCM outputs. This is another example of climo-garble akin to the rubbish that Slingo spouted recently.

All I seek from all the mets and climos is HONESTY. As my Uni mentor told just before the Viva. OPEN and HONEST. If you don't know, say so. You can provide some possible theories but be certain to understand the principles behind your propose theories otherwise you will be shot down and failed.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Climate models are only flawed only if the basic principles of physics are, but they can be improved

That one statement says it all. It isn't about the fundamental priciples of physics even if they are absolute, which I doubt, it's about the interfaces in the software between each of the interacting parts of the climate system. If they are not absolutely correct and match the real climate precisely, the models are useless. And that is what they have proven themselves to be.
Finally, it is not unreasonable to assume that the climate is neither linear nor deterministic but mostly chaotic. No-one has has yet found a way to model chaos, to my knowledge.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Bish, as always I am slightly bemused over why you think GCMs are so central to climate policy.

From wiki - Climate Change Act 2008

A scientific assessment at the 2005 international Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change conference, held in Exeter under the UK presidency of the G8,[7] concluded that at the level of 550 ppm it was likely that 2°C would be exceeded, based on the projections of more recent climate models.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterH2O: the miracle molecule

I don't agree with the following, which seems to me is derived from the precautionary principle: "Clearly, contingency planning and adaptation need to be done in the face of large uncertainty."

Frederic.


Exactly; I was a senior project manager just before my retirement and risk assessment was a fundamental part of the planning procedure.

If uncertainty is large, and clearly if you have nothing with which to predict the future, it is, then you have to assess degree of impact, cost of mitigation, cost of adaption, cost of doing nothing. Again, I have seen nothing from the C Community which would indicate any knowledge or understanding of these subjects.

AND nore importantly, none of this work can take place when one party conducts a witch hunt against the other. I will say this for Betts, his forays into the world of the sceptics is not so blatantly obnoctious as gavin eta

Based on impact, risk opportunity, cost benefit, etc I have seen zero understanding of this concept by anyone from the crimatology community.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

There is not ONE school child left in any school in the world that has seen any Global Warming. I refuse to use Climate Change.

Not one model predicted, projected or saw coming, this event. It is not a pause, it is not an hiatus it is a stop.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Ting, ting, ting ... ladies and gentlemen, is there any serious contention that GCMs have driven climate "science" and resultant public policy?
Aug 24, 2014 at 12:42 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

No disagreement from me, johanna. I think it is partly a techno-sociological result of the times we live in.

Computers and computer models are, necessarily, becoming more important in so many aspects of human life. They are frequently very useful tools when used appropriately. But this has happened during our lifetimes. An awful lot of people are still susceptible to the implicit argument that runs

"But the computer doesn't make mistakes, and it says this. So it must be right."

I suspect this works by putting some distance between the the model outputs and those culpable for their creation and implementation. The models are, after all, just the manifestation of the modellers own imperfect understanding of the real world. Worse than that, the models are really the product of a 'committee' because they are too large and complex to be the product of one human brain.

But politicians (and others) who are mathematically and scientifically-challenged often have neither the confidence nor the competence to ask the right questions of the people who present them with the grand-synthesis of their model output. They are thus more easily deceived by modellers who have already deceived themselves.

It is probably no accident that climate-sceptic MPs like Graham Stringer (Lab) and Peter Lilley (Con) actually studied the natural sciences during their university education.

Aug 24, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

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