Tag Archives: climate change

Testing Skeptical Science: is Roger Pielke Sr. a climate misinformer?

Summary: A post last week examined a darling of the Right, Zero Hedge. This post takes an equally harsh look at a darling of the Left, Skeptical Science. Both show how our stronger loyalty to tribe than truth encourages our information providers to feed us a mix of fact and politically appealing misinformation, shaping our beliefs and maintaining internal cohesion of the tribe (and our distrust of the “others”). We’ll remain gullible and easily led until we learn skepticism and demand more accuracy from those we trust.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Truth is strong enough to overcome all human sophistries.”
Timarchum by Aeschines (389–314 BC).

The Truth is Out There

Smearing scientists is a staple on both sides of the climate wars — the debate about the public policy implications of climate change. Such smears not only overflow the comment sections of popular websites, they’re often seen in the writings of major players on the public stage.

For example, see the 40 “climate misinformers” listed on John Cook’s Skeptical Science. It’s one of the climate-focused websites most widely cited on the Left, known for its flamboyant claims.  This post examines the first of 4 SkS page about eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr.

Before examining the details of SkS’s content, note the vast amount of work that went into creating it. The 4 pages about Pielke Sr. are one of 40 about “climate misinformers” — which is one of 10 “resources”, which are just one part of the SkS website (which has aps for iPhone, Android, and Nokia). This shows a major difference between the websites of climate “warriors” and “skeptics”. Despite claims that the skeptics have vast funds from evil oil, their websites are a ramshackle pile of contributions from volunteers (however skilled). Several the climate warriors have professional-quality websites.

About a misinformer

What was are the myths of Roger Pielke Sr.? How do SkS’ claims look today? The SkS page (it’s undated) gives ten quotes which they call “myths”. Not one of their rebuttals looks correct. A lot of the SkS content is like that, which is why people so often report their critical comments get deleted (no Smackdowns page there). I’ve slightly expanded some of Pielke’s quotes, and made small edits for clarity (e.g., numbering the myths).

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Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!

As we approach November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris climate activists will warn of dismal futures, while others assure us that we need take no action. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report 5 (AR5) provides a context for evaluation of these claims, from the horrific to the panglossian. This looks at the dark side of the range, scenarios possible but perhaps unlikely. {Revised July 20.}

World burning

In AR5 four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) describe scenarios for future emissions, concentrations, and land-use, ending with radiative forcing levels of 2.6, 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5 W/m2 by 2100. Strong mitigation policies result in a low forcing level (RCP2.6). Two medium stabilization scenarios lead to intermediate outcomes: (RCP4.5, RCP6.0).

IPCC's AR5: 4 RCPs

RCP8.5 gets the most attention. It assumes the most population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions. (For more about these RCPs see van Vuuren, Detlef P. et al 2011. “The representative concentration pathways: an overview”, Climatic Change 109: 1-2, pp 5-31. Source of these 2 graphics.)

People — from scientists to journalists — often describe RCP8.5 as the baseline scenario (“business as usual”), a future without policy action, resulting in severe climate impacts amidst a nightmarish world — but that’s an inaccurate description. Including such a scenario in AR5 would have been useful.

RCP8.5 shows the result of some extreme trends with little or no mitigation efforts. While conservative planning requires considering such extreme outcomes, journalists seldom discuss its assumptions or likelihood.

RP8.5 assumes population growth at the high end of the current UN probabilistic forecasts: 80% odds of between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people by 2100 (Gerland, P. et al, Science 10 Oct 2014). Most of this growth occurs in Africa, which in turn assumes that Africa can support that many people.

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Another disturbing article about climate change. Fortunately we have the IPCC!

Summary:  Climate change is among our most important public policy issues, and shows our broken ability to see and understand our world around us.  Today Esquire gives us a powerful but misleading story about our imminent doom, one rich with lessons for us. Expect to see many more of these before November’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.   (2nd of 2 posts today.}

“The unwise man is awake all night, worries over and again. When morning rises he is restless still.”
— Norse proverb.

Overton Window

Today’s reading is “When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job” by John H. Richardson in Esquire — “Among many climate scientists, gloom has set in. Things are worse than we think, but they can’t really talk about it.”

It’s a sad story, but not the one Richardson thinks he’s telling. Glaciologist Jason Box has an apocalyptic forecast for climate change. This has taken a psychological toll on him and his family. Richardson misrepresents the story, however, by neglecting to mention that Box’s views are outside the consensus of climate scientists as seen in the reports of the IPCC.

Like most alarmist articles in the media, the letters “IPCC” don’t even appear. Focusing on the views of scientists with forecasts more extreme than the IPCC while discrediting those on the other side of the curve (“skeptics”) is an attempt to shift the Overton Window — and increase public support for large-scale regulation of energy and economic activity.

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Do models accurately predict climate change?

Summary: Climate models are important for several reasons. Large flows of tax dollars go to their construction and operation. Their predictions dominate the public policy debate about climate change (to the exclusion of other tools, such as predictability studies). In this post eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr. explains that long-term model forecasts have shown little skill at forecasting. Post your questions in the comments; he’ll answer as time permits.  {1st of 2 posts today).

“I offer a toast to the future, the undiscovered country.”
— Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek IV.

The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns, puzzles the will and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of? …And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.  {Hamlet}

Temperature change in NOAA's GFDL CM2.1 model.

Projected change in annual mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century (1971-2000 average) to the middle 21st century (2051-2060 average). This is based on a “middle of the road” estimate of future emissions ( IPCC SRES A1B). These results are from the GFDL CM2.1 model, but are consistent with a broad consensus of modeling results. From NOAA.

How accurately do the global climate models simulate the real climate?

Guest post by Roger A. Pielke Sr.

The climate models are useful as sensitivity experiments but using them to claim an ability to skillfully project climate, even on the global scale, in the coming decades has not been shown.

The new seminal Stephens et al paper provides a clear documentation of the level of model skill: “The albedo of Earth” in Reviews of Geophysics, March 2015. There is also a power point talk on this: “Is the Earth’s climatesystem constrained?” Among their conclusions is that …

“Climate models fail to reproduce the observed annual cycle in all components of the albedo with any realism, although they broadly capture the correct proportions of surface and atmospheric contributions to the TOA {top of atmosphere} albedo. A high model bias of albedo has also persisted since the time of CMIP3, mostly during the boreal summer season. Perhaps more importantly, models fail to produce the same degree of interannual constraint on the albedo variability nor do they reproduce the same degree of hemispheric symmetry.”

The technical term albedo “is the fraction of solar energy (shortwave radiation) reflected from the Earth back into space. It is a measure of the reflectivity of the earth’s surface. Ice, especially with snow on top of it, has a high albedo: most sunlight hitting the surface bounces back towards space” (From the Earth & Space Research website). CMIP3 is phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) of the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP). They collect the output of global climate models (i.e., coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation models).

Stephens et al further bolsters the conclusions we summarized in the preface to Climate Vulnerability: Understanding and Addressing Threats to Essential Resources (5 volumes, 2013)…

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Jeb Bush speaks to us about climate change. Is he a denier?

Summary:  American political campaigns are the longest and most expensive in the world, but consist largely of both sides kicking sand into our eyes. The result leaves us less informed and more divided, and gives the victor no mandate. Campaign 2016 has begun. The reaction to Jeb Bush’s remarks about climate shows that we’ve learned nothing from the spectacle of past campaigns.

Jeb Bush logo


  1. Jeb Bush talks about the climate. The Left smears.
  2. What do climate scientists say?
  3. What does the American public say?
  4. Do we need more innovation?
  5. For More Information.

See tomorrow’s post, where eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr. answering your questions about climate models.

(1) Jeb Bush talks about the climate. The Left smears.

The Left warms up for the 2016 election with smears to arouse the dwindling faithful…

Two stories are the most often cited to support these statements. Neither remotely justifies them. First there is this…

“It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view.” {Fox News, August 2011}

And this, more recently…

“The climate is changing. I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted. For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you. … It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it, even.”

Bush said that climate change should be just “part of, a small part of prioritization of our foreign policy.” He suggested that the United States should encourage countries that have higher carbon emissions rates to reduce them. “We’ve had a pretty significant decrease and we’ll continue on, not because of Barack Obama, but because of the energy revolution.” He credited hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling and an increased use of natural gas for helping cut American carbon emissions.

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What happened to NASA’s missing weather satellites & their vital data about global warming?

Summary: The world has a new and serious mystery, right up there with “Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?” and “The President’s plane is missing!” What happened to NASA’s satellites that measure global temperatures? They appear to have disappeared from the nation’s major newspapers, their valuable information about global warming lost from view. Today’s post retrieves it to help you understand one of the top public policy issues of our time.  {1st of 2 posts today.}



  1. Where are NASA’s satellites?
  2. How warm was May?
  3. Watch the trend in temperatures!
  4. Climate models predict too much heat.
  5. Who measures the world’s temperature?
  6. For More Information.
  7. Another view of the satellites.
  8. Giving the IPCC the last word.

(1)  Where are NASA’s satellites?

NASA has launched a fleet of satellites which (among other things) since 1979 have measured Earth’s temperature in the lower troposphere, with better coverage and consistency than the surface temperature networks — with their spotty coverage of the world’s seas and scores of national weather bureaus (many poorly funded) that the collect land temperatures. Being careful and thorough, NASA pays two teams to analyze the data:  Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Here are the satellites whose sensors — at vast cost — have driven the RSS dataset since 1979, among the most valuable results from the space program (see the end of the post for a more detailed chart).

Oddly, the results of the satellites’ temperature measurements have almost disappeared from much of the news. As a crude measure, there are 2,970 Google News stories in the past year mentioning “hottest year”, but only 637 (21%) include the word “satellite” — and few of those are in the mainstream news. For example, per Google News only 1 of the many “hottest year” stories in the New York Times include both terms, 2 of the 49 science articles in the Washington Post (here and here), and 6 of the 17 in the Wall Street Journal.

The eclipse of this data is mysterious since it would provides a contrary perspective to the “hottest year” stories, since neither RSS nor UAH shows 2014 as a record (details here). But whatever the reason, we need not rely on journalists to tell us the expensive findings of this NASA research.

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About the imminent spike in global warming

Summary: Our dysfunctional politics result largely from polarized views of Americans, both sides shaped by skillful and expensive propaganda. To break free we’ll need to learn their methods and develop far deeper skepticism. This is another in a series of posts looking at examples of our minds being molded by pros. It discusses the work of climate activists, but it’s vital to understand that both sides do this — because it works.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Global Warming

Yesterday’s post discussed the largely erroneous framing in an article about climate change by investment expert Barry Ritholtz at Bloomberg. How do intelligent, educated people become so convinced by the propaganda of climate activists, dismissing any who disagree with them as “deniers”?

We might find an answer by looking at the work of activists, such as Joe Romm (note that most climate activists are paid employees, unlike most of those on the Right). This post follows his chain of evidence in a typical article, showing how his bold conclusions rest on misrepresentations of the literature, and exaggerating the scope and certainty of specific papers.

The work by activists have large effects because liberals often read only activists, giving them a misunderstanding of climate science — exacerbated because activists seldom cite the work of institutions like the IPCC (designed to make the work of scientists understandable to laypeople).

Today’s example: “NOAA Study Confirms Global Warming Speed-Up Is Imminent” at ThinkProgress, 5 June 201 — Opening …

A major new study from NOAA finds more evidence that we may be witnessing the start of the long-awaited jump in global temperatures. As I reported in April, many recent studies have found that we are about to enter an era of even more rapid global warming. … The new study in Science from a team of NOAA scientists, “finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century,” as NOAA explains.

… What happens when these various temporary factors stop? Karl explained: “Once these factors play out, and they may have already, global temperatures could rise more rapidly than what we have seen so far.” In other words, the long-awaited jump is global temperatures is likely imminent.

The cracks appear right at the start of this. Note the jump between Karl’s careful “may have already … could rise” and Romm’s “likely imminent”. Romm also omits the cautious language Karl gives in the NOAA’s well-written (as always) press releases (first one, second one) …

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