A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming

The pro-anthropgenic global warming comments on the FM site (and emails to me) are so similar that a generic reply will save everybody time and effort.  This post examines 7 8 common elements.  These are general statements.  They do not apply to every individual comment on the FM site or to material elsewhere (in any medium).

  1. Pro-AGW comments often display no signs of having read the skeptics’ work.
  2. Pro-AGW comments often invent assertions which they can easily refute.
  3. Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no awareness of the authoritative reports on this issue.
  4. Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no knowledge of the long struggle to force some climate scientists to release data and methods.
  5. Pro-AGW comments usually show little understanding of the scientific method.
  6. They illustrate the pro-AGW faith in computer models.
  7. They illustrate the irrationality of the “precautionary principle” as commonly used.
  8. Update: Pro-AGW comments usually consider scientists to be authorities, unless they disagree with AGW orthodoxy.  Then they’re cranks. Example here.

This post concludes with a quote from George Orwell, a prescient observer of trends in western culture.

1.  Pro-AGW comments display no signs of having read the skeptics’ work

Pro-AGW Comments seldom make any specific rebuttal to actual skeptics arguments or data.  Often comments indicate that the author writing a rebuttal clearly has not the post in question.  I have seen few pro-AGW comments showing evidence that the author has read much (if any) of the AGW skeptics’ literature in journals, general media, or the Internet.

For an educated audience there are many sites providing easy to understand evidence undercutting the basis for AGW, such as Climate Audit or Anthony Watt’s Watts Up with That.  Of special note is perhaps the best modern example of citizen-science:  Anthony Watt’s surfacestations.org— showing that the US surface temperature measuring system, while accurate for its intended purpose of collecting weather data, is grossly inadequate for measuring long-term climate changes to fractions of a degree.

2.  Pro-AGW comments often invent assertions which they can easily refute.

This is a weird form of the straw man logical fallacy.   “Skeptics deny the existance of climate change” is the most common example.  This is a bizarre claim, as the existence of natural climate cycles — and the difficulty of assigning a weight to human-caused impacts — is central to the “skeptic’s” case.  The world has been warming for centuries as we rebound from the Little Ice Age.

In fact, the opposite is more often the case.  Ask even a well-educated believer of AGW about past climate fluctuations; often they have little knowledge about their magnitude and frequency.  Sad, as this was widespread knowledge a generation ago.  To raise fears about future climate change, discussion of past cycles was eliminated from many textbooks and most mainstream media stories.  Goebbels would be proud of this, another successful use of his methods.

3.  Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no awareness of the authoritative reports on this issue.

Pro-AGW comments prattle on about the “consensus” but tend to go silent when asked about the various authoritative reports on climate change — those done by experts outside the climate change fraternity, such as the North Report, the Wegman Report, and the analysis by Richard L. Smith.  For links, see section 4 on the FM reference page about Science, Nature, and Geopolitics.

4.  Pro-AGW comments usually show little or no knowledge of the long struggle to force some climate scientists to release data and methods.

Much of what we know about the data and methods of the pro-AGW case comes from the skeptics long fight to get vital information into the sunlight.  Freedom of information act requests, pressure from Congress, requests to have professional journals enforce their requirements for disclosure of data support articles — all these and more were used in this long struggle.  A dark one, since the mainstream media refuses to report its existence.  Needless to say, this long campaign of concealment does not create confidence in the pro-AGW case — and prevents the normal routines of scientific progress from operating in climate science.

One of the classic examples of this attitude of many (not all) climate scientists is this vignette.

In response to a request for supporting data, Philip Jones, a prominent researcher {University of East Anglia} said “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

— From the testimony of Stephen McIntyre before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (the July 2006 hearings which produced the Wegman Report).

There are even stories of retaliation against scientists publishing data critical of AGW.  For example, the case of Dr. Lloyd D. Keigwin.  He published a climate reconstruction based on analysis of Sargasso Sea mud in (“The Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in the Sargasso Sea”, Science, v274, 1996).  The backlash was formidable, especially when Exxon ran an advertisement mentioning his work.  Fortunately for his career and continued research funding, he wrote a public letter to Exxon rebuking them for using his work to criticize the AGW paradigm.   (No word yet if upon mailing the letter he muttered that “The mud does not lie.”).  For a brief description of this episode see this:  “Exxon Mobil Uses Scientist’s Data As Evidence of Natural Warming“, Wall Street Journal, 22 March 2001 (subscription required).

For a briefing on this vital subject see “Data Archiving, Disclosure and Due Diligence” at the Climate Audit website.

5.  Pro-AGW comments usually show little understanding of the scientific method.

20th century work to understand the process of science has focused on the role of replication and testing of theories (Karl Popper saw falsification as the key element).  The pro-AGW emphasis on consensus is a step backwards from rigorous science to an almost religious-like process.  In theology church leaders appropriately meet to decide doctrine, and can declare anything outside that approved circle of belief is heresy — to be condemned and prosecuted.

Michael Crichton documents the spread of this into science, using science as a lever to force political change.  This was perfected by Carl Sagan in his campaign about nuclear winter.  For more on these things see:

  1. Nuclear winter: science and politics“, Brian Martin, Science and Public Policy, Vol. 15, No. 5, October 1988, pp. 321-334.
  2. Aliens cause global warming”, Michael Crichton, lecture at the California Institute of Technology, 17 January 2003.

6.  They illustrate the pro-AGW faith in computer models.

The faith of many lay pro-AGW advocates in computer models is touching, despite their poor track record in so many fields — including climate science, finance, and economics.  Would you like to buy some AAA-rated collateralized debt obligations (CDOs); computer models show that the risk is small!  Or perhaps invest in Long Term Capital Management— the Nobel Laureates on their staff have excellent risk control models.

This is not an idle comparison.  The common elements are striking.  Perhaps most important are these.

  • Calculations on the edge of known data and theory.
  • No outside or 3rd party review of the models, let alone auditing of data and methods used.
  • Those using them profess exaggerated confidence in the model’s output.

7.  They illustrate the irrationality of the “precautionary principle” as commonly used.

Another justification for aggressive action to prevent AGW is “We are better safe than sorry, and it is not as if taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a dangerous policy.” (source)

More to the point, it is an expensive policy. And there are many other vital needs that deserve funding, needs far more substantial.  There are a large number of high impact – low probability scenarios (“shockwaves”), of which AGW is just one. We can not defend against them all. I discuss this in greater length at this post; here is the key point:

Commission a group to collect as many shockwave scenarios as possible, with a brief analysis of each. Fortunately there are thousands of interest groups willing to pitch in and help! Then apply a common analytical framework to rate them on both dimensions: probability and impact. The results would prove quite interesting, and allow more rational public policy discussion about which to act upon.

A note from George Orwell

As seen in the comments on the FM site’s climate change posts, most of pro-AGW advocates seem unable to even perceive what the skeptics are saying — despite the skeptics firm basis in traditional concepts of science. This brings to mind the prophetic warning of George Orwell in 1984:

Don’t you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. … Even now there is no reason or excuse for committing thought-crime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp relevance to this topic:

Posts on the FM site about climate change:

  1. A look at the science and politics of global warming, 12 June 2008
  2. Global warming means more earthquakes!, 19 June 2008
  3. An article giving strong evidence of global warming, 30 June 2008
  4. Worrying about the Sun and climate change: cycle 24 is late, 10 July 2008
  5. More forecasts of a global cooling cycle, 15 July 2008
  6. Update: is Solar Cycle 24 late (a cooling cycle, with famines, etc)?, 15 july 2008
  7. Two valuable perspectives on global warming, 4 August 2008
  8. President Kennedy speaks to us about global warming and Climate Science, 7 August 2008
  9. Solar Cycle 24 is still late, perhaps signalling cool weather ahead, 2 September 2008
  10. Update on solar cycle 24 – and a possible period of global cooling, 1 October 2008
  11. Good news about global warming!, 21 October 2008
  12. One of the most interesting sources of news about science and nature!, 27 October 2008
  13. “Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton, 15 November 2008

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

34 thoughts on “A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming

  1. Here are my responses:

    (1) I can’t help mentioning that you yourself employ the same rhetorical devices that you accuse the “pro-AGW” crowd of using. Such as, for instance, the straw-man technique. In relation to the mainstream media’s failure to mention past climate cycles you say “Goebbels would be proud of this.” As if a vast propaganda machine were responsible for such an omission — which, by the way, does not exist. Every time I’ve seen global warming discussed on TV, critics says “well, what about the fact that there are natural climate cycles in the background; isn’t this just one of those?” Secondly, I find it irresponsible for you to say that textbooks have removed discussion of past climate cycles without mentioning the textbooks at issue. I have a textbook on my shelf that discusses these cycles in great detail.

    (2) You write as if anyone who disagreed with Popper’s view of science were ignorant and uninformed, and you treat the “scientific method” as if it were a device perfectly calibrated for the reception pure and unbiased truth. Since you accuse the “pro-AGW” crowd of being uninformed, I don’t mind pointing out that you seem unfamiliar with the work of modern philosophers of science such as Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, and Arthur Fine. The concept of the “Scientific Method” has been roundly criticized in modern philosophical writing, and the view of science as a cure-all for humanity’s problems is viewed by many as an arrogantly dogmatic attitude in which scientists take over the mediating role between the lay community and ultimate reality which priests used to play.

    (3) You seem to think that computer models can never be trusted. Which implies, of course, that you would never think it wise to base public policy on the results of computer modeling of climate. My point, however, is that while computer models are certainly fallible, they are the only tools available to use for predicting future climate states. What do you propose as an alternative? Making policy based on an “all’s clear / no danger” assumption? Or do you think it is never wise policy to respond to a threat that is merely possible?

    (4) You criticize the “pro-AGW” crowd for narrowly focusing on one “shockwave” scenario. Obviously, there are many other low-probability / high impact events which could affect humanity. An asteroid collision, for instance. But before you lump every person who thinks action should be taken into a narrow minded pack who only care about GHG, please take a more nuanced look at some of the more intelligent analysts of the subject. Again, I highly recommend Richard Posner’s, Catastrophe: Risk and Response, which compares global warming to things like asteroid impacts, supercollider accidents, and bioterrorist attacks. It’s quite interesting, and I think it would dispel your idea that people who think climate change is a problem are all irrationally focused on one issue to the detriment of other, perhaps more compelling issues.

    (5) I don’t see anywhere in your post even a summary of an argument that AGW is not occurring. Everything is referenced. I plan to check out the websites you’ve mentioned, but I was hoping that you would present the argument in your post.

    (6) No one, to my knowledge, is being censored. So the reference to 1984 is not exactly relevant.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: By the numbers.

    (1) I do not watch TV, but articles about mainstream articles about global warming almost never mention the existence of past natural climate cycles. For example, in this 600 word comment Grant mentions two such articles, from the New York Times and The Atlantic. Neither mention natural climate change history (although the latter alludes to it).

    (2a) “You write as if anyone who disagreed with Popper’s view of science were ignorant and uninformed … you treat the “scientific method” as if it were a device perfectly calibrated for the reception pure and unbiased truth.”

    An excellent example of something I noted in my post: rebuttal to imaginary statements (#2 in my post). Neither of your assertions have any basis in my text. I referred to the commonly accepted norms of science, and mentioned Popper in passing.

    (2b) “I don’t mind pointing out that you seem unfamiliar with the work of modern philosophers of science such as Thomas Kuhn”

    First, why should I (its not relevant to my post)? Second, I disagree — Kuhn is mentioned in 18 posts on the FM site, and tagged (a significant mention) in 6 posts. Third, how would I display this knowledge in brief mention about the scientific method in a 1600 word post about AGW comments?

    (2c) “the view of science as a cure-all for humanity’s problems is viewed…”

    Totally irrelevant to anything I said (another example of #2 in my post). Nice rebuttal however!

    (3) “You seem to think that computer models can never be trusted.”

    Your comment is a parodoy, right? Did you note my list of the 3 specific characterists of questionable models? Also, I try to avoid the words “never” and “always”, for reasons I hope obvious to most reading this.

    (4) “But before you lump every person who thinks action should be taken into a narrow minded pack”

    This comment must be a parody! In the opening lines I specifically limited my post to discussion of a narrow universe — the comments on the FM blog.

    (5) “I don’t see anywhere in your post even a summary of an argument that AGW is not occurring.”

    If you had read much of the skeptics literature you would learn that their is largely a methodological critic. That is, criticism of the accuracy and reliability of the data — adequacy of the methods. In brief, they say the AGW case is not proven at this time. Not that AGW is not occurring.

    (6) “No one, to my knowledge, is being censored. So the reference to 1984 is not exactly relevant.”

    The quote from 1984 is not about censorship, does not mention censorship. It is about shaping a society’s language in order to force the evolution of a society and control its members.

  2. An interesting list of skeptic’s complaints, but perhaps missing an essential point. Why, if we change the energy balance of the earth should we take as the default assumption that the manner in which the Earth comes back into balance will have little or no consequence?

    The physics of the forcing itself are not that complicated. If one is willing to look at only a global average, Manabe and Wetherald provided an answer with a reasonably simple model back in 1967.

    You make much of the concept of consensus, but little of the vast published research literature that is the cause for much of the consensus. Atmospheric and oceanic science literature has a long history of publication — much more than any one person can keep up with. The physics that has gone into models has been examined and reexamined. One of the differences between modeling the Earth system and problems such as economics, is that it is inherently a problem of physics, albeit physics too complex to be able to do all details justice and impossible to measure all the details of input. That does not imply that the approximations possible are meaningless.

    A good example of this process of science, supposedly ignored, came in the 1990’s when Cess et al. published a study that clouds were “blacker” (i.e. absorbed more) than predicted by theory. Another example occurred when the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo provided an observational opportunity to measure surface temperature sensitivity to radiative changes. Such checking of understanding against observations is a continual process. There is not a simple reliance on models but a reliance on understanding of physics coupled with use of measurement. Yet ultimately, even when all the separate processes are understood, a model may be the only means of exploring the behavior of a complex system with many feedbacks.

    In my prior comment I never said that skeptics disbelieve climate change, at least short of groups disbelieving that the world is old enough to have undergone climate change. It was also intentialal that I referred to climate change rather than “global warming”. The warming is only one aspect, albeit a driving one, of the total feedbacks.

    And skeptics certainly vary, from those who have legitimate arguments on a specific conclusion (and know the research background) to those who wander in from the side without bothering to gain background. There are equally people who make claims about “global warming” without understanding — sufficient to make my eyes roll.

    The problem of detection of an anthropogenic effect from amid the noise is also a separate one from understanding the physics driving both weather and climate. Detection is, in principle, a matter of estimating the level of noise of a trendless system and then estimating the probability of the observed rate and magnitude of change assuming no anthropogenic effects.

    I have known few scientist would are unwilling to talk to or work from a standpoint of improving what we understand about how the Earth responds to an energy imbalance. Given that a number of areas of science have become areas of bare survival under the stress of overcommitment of hours, I also well understand an unwillingness to work with those who have a different agenda than improved understanding and even less understanding of the background. I know of few Earth scientist who entered the area from an eagerness to argue with skeptics. Most simply have a driving obsession with figuring out home things work and improving understanding a bit. I suspect that in most areas of human endeavor, those entering a group with the intention of showing how its all being done wrong rather than improving what’s already being done will find their welcome self-limited.

    Again, however, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gasses implies creating an energy imbalance that the Earth will respond to. If the weight of 50+ years of atmospheric physics is deemed to provide the wrong answer for the nature of that response, it’s certainly interesting to consider what else will provide a better prediction of how the feedbacks will play out.

    For those interested in the physics, something like Piexoto and Oort or Rayner’s Dynamic Climatology are reasonable starts.

    Perhaps those skeptical of the science basis can learn more about it while I can take more measure of skeptic’s comments.

    Unfortunately, what this mode of a priori discounting of any need for prevention and mitigation seems to preclude is discussion of realistic political and social responses that might prove cost effective. Climate feedback to human activities is unlikely to be either a zero or one with nothing in between. That, unfortunately seems to be where the discussion goes, however.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: There is almost nothing here to reply to.

    You must realize that this comment displays most of the characteristics I discuss in my post. You show no evidence that you have read the skeptics work, nor do you mention any of the most imporant specifics elements in their case. Your rebuttal essentially discusses a position you have made up, which I guess makes it easy to win a debate (since you are playing both sides).

    This is esp bizarre: “what this mode of a priori discounting of any need for prevention and mitigation…” This is almost the mirror image of the skeptics actual position.

    Also the comment policy — clearly stated at the end of the post — asks that comments be no more than 250 words. At 800 word this is not even close.

  3. Jeff, I believe you have grossly misinterpreted the aim and conclusions of modern philosophy. Rorty, Quine, and Kuhn would be the first ones to raise their eyebrows at one’s insistence that international consensus has been reached about any subject; in fact, it was the goal of their life’s work to prove that any hypothesis or scientific theory is just that–theory. So, I don’t understand why you keep bringing them up.

  4. “a,” I never said the matter was settled. I said, and say, that AGW is more likely than not. “Truth is what your friends let you get away with” is a line from Rorty. It is hard to find consensus on controversial issues. The debate goes on. However, on this one issue, the wieght of opinion seems pretty heavily stacked on one side. Of course, I’m open to new arguments and reassessments, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed this blog.

    Anyway, I’m not quite sure what you’re saying about Rorty et al. “Has consensus been reached?” is an empirical question. The answer is no of course, as you yourself demontstrate, but that doesn’t mean that nothing can be inferred.

  5. The oil companies are made up of human beings and they would not do anything to hurt us.

    Here is an experiment. Start with a poison, Lead. What would happen if a toxic additive increases performance and profits but poisons the environment? Would these corporation do the right thing, or would the do the most profitable thing? What steps would these corporation take to protect these profits. This lays out pretty well what they will do, and you can safely assume that they will do the same thing with anything that affects their profitability. Wikipedia.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What is the point of this? Private companies have done terrible things. Governments have done terrible things. Doctors have done terrible things. Scientists have done terrible things. Welcome to the human race.

  6. FM: you describe my comment as a parody of your post, but you failed to respond to several of the points that I made (the issue of altered textbooks; the relevancy of the quote from 1984) and you did not answer all of the questions I posed to you. I am particularly interested in how you would answer the following questions (copied from above, with slight changes):

    You seem to think that computer models [predicting future climate states] can [not] be trusted. [Does this imply] that you would never think it wise to base public policy on the results of computer modeling of climate[?] My point was that while computer models are certainly fallible, they are the only tools available to use for predicting future climate states. What do you propose as an alternative? Making policy based on an “all’s clear / no danger” assumption? Or do you think it is [not] wise policy to respond to a threat that is merely possible?
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    Fabuis Maximus replies: I replied to a degree I considered sufficient (400 words, on a 1600 word post). I see not reason to write the equivalent of a post to every comment. Esp as the points you raise have been made so many time in the skeptics literature, which the authors of most of the pro-AGW comments here have obviously never bothered to read.

    (1) “You seem to think that computer models [predicting future climate states] can [not] be trusted.”

    Please read the post. I gave 3 criteria for models deserving skepticism, which also point toward steps to make them more reliable. Third party review by outside experts is an essential first step, the equivalent to double-blind testing for drugs. No drugs can be sold without these, and no climate science policy should be made on the basis of models without this first step (a necessary but not sufficient measure).

    (2) “What do you propose as an alternative? Making policy based on an “all’s clear / no danger” assumption?”

    Those involved in the debate have written about this so many times. Once again…

    (a) We need to greatly improve the various climate data collection and analysis systems. The data collection is not even remotely close to the claimed “high quality.” To give one of many possible examples, the adjustments appear largely ad hoc, and are larger than the effect they purport to measure.

    (b) Third party review of the data and analysis is necessary. Journal peer reviews are nowhere near sufficient a basis to ensure accuracy for large-scale public policy.

  7. One of the best papers on this topic I have seen: “GLOBAL WARMING: FORECASTS BY SCIENTISTS VERSUS SCIENTIFIC FORECASTS“, Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT, VOLUME 18 No. 7+8 2007 (27 pages) — Abstract:

    In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group One, a panel of experts established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, issued its Fourth Assessment Report. The Report included predictions of dramatic increases in average world temperatures over the next 92 years and serious harm resulting from the predicted temperature increases.

    Using forecasting principles as our guide we asked: Are these forecasts a good basis for developing public policy? Our answer is “no”. To provide forecasts of climate change that are useful for policy-making, one would need to forecast:
    (1) global temperature,
    (2) the effects of any temperature changes, and
    (3) the effects of feasible alternative policies.
    Proper forecasts of all three are necessary for rational policy making.

    The IPCC WG1 Report was regarded as providing the most credible long-term forecasts of global average temperatures by 31 of the 51 scientists and others involved in forecasting climate change who responded to our survey. We found no references in the 1056-page Report to the primary sources of information on forecasting methods despite the fact these are conveniently available in books, rticles, and websites. We audited the forecasting processes described in Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s WG1 Report to assess the extent to which they complied with forecasting principles. We found enough information to make judgments on 89 out of a total of 140 forecasting principles. The forecasting procedures that were described violated 72 principles. Many of the violations were, by themselves, critical.

    The forecasts in the Report were not the outcome of scientific procedures. In effect, they were the opinions of scientists transformed by mathematics and obscured by complex writing. Research on forecasting has shown that experts’ predictions are not useful in situations involving uncertainly and complexity. We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming. Claims that the Earth will get warmer have no more credence than saying that it will get colder.

  8. Thanks BC. An interesting paper, not yet read in detail.

    There is indeed more to models than just physics, since all tractable model require approximations. There is a saying that a model should not be more complex than necessary. Neither, however, should it miss important aspects. Between those two lives a lot of tacit knowledge of the modeler.

    One other comment I did note: “The concerns about changes in global mean temperature are based on the assumption that the earth is currently at the optimal temperature and that variations over years (unlike variations within days and years) are undesirable.”

    This is not necessarily the assumption. I believe that it is more that biological distributions of species and our own social and food production systems are adapted to the current regime. If we create relatively rapid climate change (which involves more than just temperature), then we need be prepared to handle a range of adjustments that cross many national boundaries. It’s not at all clear that we have the social/economic organization to accomplish this. It also requires policy and leadership with timescales beyond 4 years.

    The Wegman report also makes an interesting read, BTW.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Your re-statement is equivalent (with more detail) to the original version in the E&E paper. Optimal means “best” or “most favorable” — the unstated assumption being “for us.” Or in your words, “the current regime.” Otherwise the word has no meaning, except perhaps to a theologian as “best in the sight of God”.

  9. I find it encouraging that the comments to the two recent posts on climate change have generally avoided stating that the phenomenon definitely does or definitely does not exist; I find it discouraging that in the ‘mainstream media’ it gets treated as a fact and not a hypothesis.

    My take on the issue, given in response to the Crichton post (that the AGW hypothesis results from a psychological need)- and prefaced with “in my opinion”- makes sense to me because I see a similar dynamic played out in other areas of thought. My idea (perhaps others share it) stems from an interest and concern with the scientific method and with sociology and culture studies, rather than with the particulars (the physics, chemistry, computer modeling) of the AGW hypothesis.

    Most pertinent to the scientific method as I understand it: the unfalsifiability and, by its nature very possibly the untestability of the AGW hypothesis. For these reasons and because the theory often gets spoken of as fact, the beauracratization of science seems to me worthy of exposition/dissection.

  10. Fabius, short of invoking a deity, there can be a distinction. Most favorable/optimal in inherent ability to support life may be different from where we are now — but the transit between the two might be rough, requiring some destruction and resynthesis of current boundaries and infrastructure.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a valid point. It seems a theoretical one, as you are describing a largely non-existent body of pro-AGW work (both by scientists and laypeople) that make your precise distinction. The Green-Arnstrong phrasing better described the body of actual writings on the subject at this time.

  11. The hysteria surrounding climate change (the teminology-du-jour now replacing global warming, as it is more elastic of interpretation) is reminsicent of that over the so-called population bomb in the late 1960s and 1970s. The “Club of Rome,” an assortment of then-esteemed scientists and technocrats, penned the book, “The Limits to Growth,” which forecast (based on computer models) global-wide famine, starvation and the deaths of millions upon millions of human beings as we out-reproduced the carrying capacity of the planet. The only problem is that the predictions have proven almost uniformly false, even embarassingly so. The authors held that modern capitalist economies would be unable to feed their citizens, let alone those of other nations; instead in the years since, humanity has proven much more adept at feeding itself than even the most optomistic observers predicted, thanks to innovation, international free trade, genetic research, and other developments. The man-hours, acreage, and other resources needed to feed each person have decreased radically, not risen, since the 1970s. Not only were the members of the “Club” wrong, they steadfastly have refused, for the most part, to acknowledge their error.

    Many of the same cast of characters that jumped on the population bomb meme have, if not retired or gone on to better things, signed on for the global warming paradigm. Just like old times, no?

    Best to recall the old aphorism, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

    Humankind cannot with any degree of certainty predict the weather or climate next week, let alone a year or a few decades from now. Computer models, as the “Limits to Growth” fiasco has shown, are far-from-reliable predictve tools, and are furthermore captive to the quality of data put in them and the assumptions informing their SW design.

    Global warming alarmists would sacrifice the economic vitality of th west, build over many centuries, on what is essentially a whim, an unproven body of speculation dressed up as real science.

  12. Pete,

    Climate models and weather models are, in terms of physics, converging. One can’t predict weather beyond about a week, because it involves matching particular storms in particular places starting from imperfect initial conditions and an approximate model. Climate, however, is essentially the long-term statistical envelope of weather. Thus it’s a matter not of timing, but of catching the mean and variability of circulation and precipitation. Tim Palmer recently wrote Predictability of Weather and Climate should anyone be interested.

  13. Again, I think it is much more relevant to look at the small scale and treat the situation in simple, state-machine terms. The initial state is a globe that has the petrochemicals buried. Then, they are unearthed and burnt. The followon state is one in which the heat of burning has been released, and the atmosphere has been altered such that what was formerly oxygen is now carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, plus certain particulate matters. Now, either the heat created is dissipated into outer space, or the globe is warmed as a result of the burning itself. And secondly, either the substitution of the carbon monoxide and dioxide for the oxygen, and the addition of the particulates, either makes the atmosphere retain more heat, less heat, or the same amount. This should be fairly simple to model and understand. And again, if the natural processes were trending toward cooling, and the burning of petrofuels leads to warming, that may be a good thing for humanity, at least in the short term. But it does not seem to me that sensors and complex computer models are needed to understand this, at all. A combination of intuition and simple experimentation should indicate what the answer is, at least on the AGM question.

    Mocking or even discussing things like nuclear winter or Club for Growth projections seems at most a side issue. If there is a global thermonuclear war, whether the atmosphere will be that much colder will be the least of our problems. Things would also be very bad if it got a lot hotter, or the temperature stayed relatively the same. When it comes to population and starvation, well, people have adapted, ruining the projections. China with its one-child policy, implemented in ways that would be considered unconstitutional and immoral here. Approximately 43 million abortions in the US. Who knows how many more worldwide, and how many of them would have starved to death if born? Technological advances have improved things, but all are dependent on petrochemicals, which may already have peaked… so perhaps the problem has been deferred and the projections are accurate but mistimed. Humanitarian efforts have also made a difference, and it is also true that in resource-constrained places large civil wars tend to break out, killing many people before they have a chance to starve.

    The burden of proof, it says here, should be on those who believe our current energy and population behaviors are actually sustainable and a good thing, in the face of so much intuitive and quantitative evidence on the other side. Hopefully they won’t use computer models to make their case;-).
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not understand this: “our current energy and population behaviors are actually sustainable and a good thing…” Were our “energy and population sustainable and a good thing” circa 1900?

    First, was progress since 1900 a “good thing”? Perhaps you believe rural women should go back to drawing water by hand from deep wells (perhaps the single largest factor which rapidly aged them), and the birth and child mortality levels should go back to those horrific levels.

    Second, was 1900 technology “sustainable”? Look through your home and workplace. How much technology do you see that was not used in 1900? Why expect the situation to be any different in 2100? Today we are not buried in horse manure, nor is it likely people in 2100 will worry about the “sustainability” of our current primitive technology.

  14. FinancialCrisis wrote:

    My take on the issue, given in response to the Crichton post (that the AGW hypothesis results from a psychological need)- and prefaced with “in my opinion”- makes sense to me because I see a similar dynamic played out in other areas of thought. My idea (perhaps others share it) stems from an interest and concern with the scientific method and with sociology and culture studies, rather than with the particulars (the physics, chemistry, computer modeling) of the AGW hypothesis.

    This is where I come from too. What has intrigued (and disturbed) me for many years is the way in which science has too often become little more than a new religion to the point that far too many scientifically proclaimed ‘facts’ are in fact a priori beliefs backed up by cherry-picked data. So in fact large swathes of society now ‘believe’ that science is giving us ‘proven facts’. In short, we believe in science in much the same way that we used to believe in prophets and priests.

    Either a scientific theory is falsifiable/provable or it isn’t. If it isn’t then it shouldn’t be paraded as a ‘fact’, rather a working hypothesis. More importantly, it seems to me that a large number of guesses masquerading as proven facts exist all over the place, in economics, social theory, history and so forth, to the point where increasingly you find it is hard to witness intelligent debate between informed specialists since each side often ends up seeming like different schools of religion arguing their faith. In short, it appears that the scientific method is quite limited and is now being used to justify belief systems whose field of inquiry goes far beyond the scientific method’s ability to evaluate.

    So we get back to hubris again.

    And interestingly enough, FM’s and Crichton’s suggestion that the scientific method needs regulation! This is true, because when all is said and done, science is a human activity, as such is fallible as well as occasionally brilliant, so it needs checks and balances which currently are not in place nor rarely acknowledged as being critically necessary if scientists are the main adjudicators of what we call ‘reality’ these days, i.e. are the modern day equivalent of priests.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I do not agree with your interpretation of what I said.

    “FM’s and Crichton’s suggestion that the scientific method needs regulation!”

    No. Academic work should have relatively little regulation, other than the obvious. Such as university atomic reactors, experiments on living things (esp people), chemical and biological waste disposal, etc.

    But the standard of proof must be far higher when conclusions from academia (or “science”, more broadly defined) move into the public sphere. Conclusions of “peer reviewed” journals are insufficient to prove drug efficacy and safety. Demonstrate that new construstion methods (e.g., dams) or power systems (e.g., nukes) are safe and reliable. And certainly they provide a grossly inadequate basis on which to restructure the global economy.

    The Obama Administration might implement powerful “anti-carbon” policies, which in a long downturn might wreck the US economy. If so future generations will wonder at our folly, why the greatest nation of this time took such foolish actions — alone among the peoples of the world, with so little effort at otherwise routine measures to verify the soundness of AGW theories.

  15. Update

    Many of the pro-AGW comments here discuss cartoon-like models of earth’s climate (co2 only), to show that AGW is obvious. These ignore important issues of magnitude and feedbacks, not to mention other factors (e.g., solar cycles).

    Meanwhile others AGW-skeptics are doing real work on the issue. Such as examination of the basic climate datasets, revealing major flaws.

    For a current work-in-progress report on the surface-termperture data, see “OK, What Caused the Problem?“, Steve McIntyre, posted at Climate Audit, 16 November 2008. These are key issues in the debate, about which most of those posting pro-AGW comments seem oblivious.

    This issue is at last appearing on the fringes of the mainstream media. In the non-US media, as usual (I find the US media are consistently late in picking up important new stories). Two examples:

    * “The world has never seen such freezing heat“, Christopher Booker, op-ed in The Telegraph, 16 November 2008.
    * “Warmest October ever …Not!“, Lorne Gunter, op-ed in the National Post, 17 November 2008.

    1. Believing in global warmnig has nothing to do with faith/religion. If you are truly an environmentalist, you would pay attention to scientific data, to all the articles written by well-respected experts and look around you. Have you seen An Inconvenient Truth ?You can see pollution in the water and what it has done. Why is it so hard to believe that pollution/emissions in the air, water and earth can’t affect the weather and climate.And relative to faith is this being what God would think of as a good steward of his/her creation. There’s no doubt that climate changes over time. But there are always causes or stimulus that move those changes. What we are seeing now is change pushed to a much accelerated measure by man’s calus disregard for taking care of the earth we live in. Was this answer helpful?

    2. “Believing in global warmnig has nothing to do with faith/religion”

      Who said it does? I mean, who is that daft– except among the weird fringes of no account.

  16. Greg Panfile’s comment hits part of the issue. It is a relatively simple matter to calculate the energy forcing from greenhouse gases. That forcing is not particularly controversial. What complicates the matter is that heating from the initial forcing changes the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, which is also a strong greenhouse gas. Water vapor change also leads to changes in clouds, which can either heat or cool depending on the altitude. Others, such as the Pielkes and Petr Chylek believe that other factors such as land use changes aren’t being fully considered. Roger Pielke, Sr. has his own Climate Science blog.

    In constrast, the Climate Audit and the Wegman report (linked from the Audit) focus on problems in Mann’s analysis of paleoclimate data. The Wegman report notes that the data set “does not provide insight and understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change” and that “What is needed
    is deeper understanding of the physical mechanisms of climate change”. In short, the data set is about detection of change. Pielke et al. are discussing mechanisms.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Agree on all points! What spins the debate out of control IMO is the poor temperature record of modern times — up to and including today; both gound, atmosphere, and satellite. Without reliable current data to anchor the debate, everything becomes a moving target. See the previous comment for a specific example of this.

  17. Admittedly, a lot could be done to better data quality. Policy and funding are often thin and inconsistent which coupled with parochialism in college departments (Wegman report notes that statisticians at same university weren’t consulted) doesn’t help. Gaps in funding for satellites, leading to delays in launching instruments, leading to lack of overlap in measurements also doesn’t help. This was a problem several year back in solar cycle monitoring. The solar cycle effects are not simply ignored, btw. People like Judith Lean have been looking and writing about them for years, including in Science.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Your comments are fascinating. Intelligent and knowledgeable replies to made-up statements. It’s an unusual combination.

    “The solar cycle effects are not simply ignored, btw.”

    To what does this refer? My only mention of solar cycles on this thread is “Many of the pro-AGW comments here discuss cartoon-like models of earth’s climate (co2 only), to show that AGW is obvious. These ignore important issues of magnitude and feedbacks, not to mention other factors (e.g., solar cycles). ” I doubt Dr. Lean (bio) has posted any comments on this site.

    I suggest you look at sections 1, 2 and 3 on the FM reference page about Science, Nature, and Geopolitics. You will see that the FM site has 4 posts about the current solar cycle, lists 5 sites with current coverage, and links to 9 articles on the subject.

    On a different note, re your statement “Policy and funding are often thin and inconsistent which coupled with parochialism in college departments…” NASA and NOAA claim to do rigorous guality control on the surface temperture data, a high priority system vital to climate-related public policy. However, events have shown this to be false (see this, for example). I doubt lack of funding is the problem, given the relatively tiny sums required.

  18. Nice comment by KEG at 4:40PM 17 Nov, and reply by FM. Nothing can be determined until the underlying science is better understood.

    Politics has infringed upon what should be a lively and ongoing scientific debate. Instead of a needed scientific debate we find that science publishers (Science, Nature) and funding agencies have taken a political stance, begging the question as it were. Popular media has allied with the dominant political stance, with its caricatured view of the “science.”

    If the Obama administration decides to kill energy from coal, oil shale, oil sands, heavy oils, and such due to a clownish viewpoint of the dangers of CO2, the US and the parts of the world that depend upon the US economy will have a very difficult next several years.

  19. There are alternative sources of information. Like this: “Solar Cycle 24: Implications for the United States“, David Archibald, International Conference on Climate Change, March 2008 — Excerpt:

    Recently, a Dr Hansen of NASA made a statement that the maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 ppm, about 10% below its current level. To illustrate just how idiotic that statement is, this graph shows Dr Hansen’s danger level of 350 ppm relative to levels that the Earth has experienced from the recent to the distant past. The Earth has happily survived levels more than ten times the level that Dr Hansen considers to be the threshold of disaster.

    Warming gives longer growing seasons. Cold gives us famine. We really need to find out whats going with the environment before we implement policy. Cutting CO2 when perhaps we may need more would be a disaster as well.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for this link! For more about the solar cycle, see sections 2 and 3 on the FM reference page about Science, Nature, and Geopolitics. (Archibald’s paper appears as item 6 in Section 3)

  20. OK, FM, it’s a slow day, I’ll play…

    “Were our “energy and population sustainable and a good thing” circa 1900?”
    — Probably not… would have eventually led to deforestation and desertification, a la the Dust Bowl.

    “First, was progress since 1900 a “good thing”?”
    — Yes and no;-).

    “Perhaps you believe rural women should go back to drawing water by hand from deep wells (perhaps the single largest factor which rapidly aged them), and the birth and child mortality levels should go back to those horrific levels.”
    — -(tic) I’d recommend that women do what they did to get water in ancient Rome, when there was indoor plumbing. I do not see how progress in medicine was driven in any way by running our numbers up to nearly 7 billion and burning up all that oil to drive around.

    “Second, was 1900 technology “sustainable”?”
    — Asked and answered, objection sustained.

    “Look through your home and workplace. How much technology do you see that was not used in 1900?”
    — In a McLuhan sense, none, as everything is merely a mechanical extension of an existing human capacity, whether mental, sensory or physical. Aside from nuclear, though, we have discovered no new energy sources since then. And we still eat the same foods. But again, much or indeed I would assert all of that innovation could have happened without our intense consumption of petrochemicals and without our large population.

    “Why expect the situation to be any different in 2100?”
    — Because I don’t expect a pony to appear. I expect that our current scientific knowledge is simply not going to come up with some heretofore unknown way to create energy, grow food, have fresh water, and support the human population at any growth rate. Barring a flux capacitor or a shrink ray, what you see is what you have to manage.

    “Today we are not buried in horse manure”
    — Read the Internet much;-?

    “nor is it likely people in 2100 will worry about the “sustainability” of our current primitive technology.”
    — If there are people then they will be lucky to worry about whether their donkey will be healthy tomorrow. We already have all the technology we need to solve all of our problems… geometry, and birth control. We lack the wisdom to use them and amuse ourselves with fantasies and abstractions.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: It is difficult to see which of this stuff you take seriously and which is intended as humor. Most of this looks like the latter to me. I don’t have time to play and so will move on.

  21. FM wrote: “No. Academic work should have relatively little regulation, other than the obvious. Such as university atomic reactors, experiments on living things (esp people), chemical and biological waste disposal, etc.”

    I didn’t mean regulation by govt. necessarily. I believe you supported Crichton’s recommendation for institutionalized ‘double-blind’ protocols. If you didn’t, fair enough. But whatever it is called, it is a form of regulation in the basic sense. And without it, the whole field is questionable at this point.

    You say also in yr reply: “But the standard of proof must be far higher …”. Something establishes those standards. Indeed, the existence of such standards is literally a form of regulation. So perhaps this is just a semantic issue. No big deal either way of course.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I suggest you re-read my reply. This time do not skip over this sentence: “But the standard of proof must be far higher when conclusions from academia (or “science”, more broadly defined) move into the public sphere.”

  22. A very interesting video and despite the title it contains much verifiable information. It’s about an hour long.

    The Great Global Warming Swindle – Documentary Film — The film, made by British television producer Martin Durkin, showcases scientists, economists, politicians, writers, and others who are sceptical about the scientific theory of anthropogenic global warming. The programme’s publicity materials assert that man-made global warming is “a lie” and “the biggest scam of modern times.”

  23. FxConde, the Earth, ultimately, will not terribly care what the level of CO2 is. There have been times in the past in which the diversity of life dropped greatly, but eventually, the Earth moves on. The question as to “safe” depends on the definition of “safe for what?”. Perhaps Hansen is simply saying that beyond that mark humans will have to make accommodations for a climate change we produce. This would be based on the underlying physics, not measurements aimed at detection.

    A change in the global annual mean temperature doesn’t speak to regional change, one of the points that Pielke makes. Warmer temperatures can mean longer growing seasons, more snowfall in some areas, or a crop of dryland wheat killed by heat before the rains come. It can also mean a winter snowpack that instead falls as rain and runs off in floods long before it’s needed in the middle of summer. The estimate of global temp. change for doubling CO2, without any other feedbacks is about 1.1 deg C. With other feedbacks, it ranges between 1.6-4.5 deg C with most bets in the 2-3 deg range. The water vapor bit was surveyed in an “Insight” series put out by Nature. That doesn’t say a thing about anybodies own backyard.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: While I agree the remark about “the Earth” is silly rhetoric (something that pollutes both side of this debate), I suspect FxConde refers to the broad historical pattern. The Little Ice Age was a bad time for many northern hemisphere societies, due to repeated crop failures. The warmer “medieval optimimum” was on the whole a better time, food-wise. Several noted aggricultural experts have expressed concerns about the effect of cooling period, given the very low levels of global grain stockpiles (in terms of days-demand, or per capita demand).

    For more on this, see the posts and links to other sources on the FM Reference Page about Food – articles about this global crisis.

  24. Fabius, that comparison between the Little Ice Age and medieval optimum makes sense. A warmer global temperature might conceivably support more food production then we accomplish now. But than goes back to my earlier comments about being adapted to the present versus what might be “optimum” — there could still be adaptions in human systems and shifts in rainfall patterns between the two. Some tropical diseases and other pests could also find new ranges.

    Recent warming years, whatever the immediate cause, have extended the range of pine beetles, first into British Columbia and then jumping into Alberta. Science writer Charles Petit did a profile on a person looking at the connection between bears and whitebark pines. A recent CBC news report says the infestation may be tapering off, only because the beetles have run out of food. Cold winters kill off the beetles, previously limiting their range.

    None of this is unprecedented or the end of the world. Any choice, however, is going to have trade-offs. It’s the comments like one made some years back by a Republican Congressman, “Warmer? I wouldn’t mind a few airports being warmer in the winter.”, that reveal when decisions are made without having a clue or a care.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: There are many questionable assumptions embedded in your comment about making “choices”.

    * That we understand climate processes sufficiently well to draw reliable conclusions.
    * That current changes are above the magnitude of “background” noise or natural variation in climate.
    * That we have the ability to affect these trends.
    * That we can do so at some possible cost.

    Only the latter brings the element of choice into the picture. We are IMO a long way from that point in the decision-making process.

  25. I hadn’t realized when I wrote earlier about bark beetles, BTW, that they are featured in today’s NY Times.

    In 1967, Manabe and Wetherald did a simple study on the energetics, using a radiative-convective model. If they assumed that absolute water vapor was constant, the got a 1.3 deg C change in global average temperature. If they assumed that relative humidity were constant, they got a 2.3 deg change. Both observationally and from consideration of how evaporation, convection, latent heat release, the temperature lapse rate, and radiation to space are tied together, the relative humidity assumption is more likely to be correct. Modern climate models don’t assume relative humidity, but in relating the variables listed above they come close to predicting constant relative humidity. Temperature changes following the Mt Pinatubo eruption also seem to satisfy this.

    So, from fairly basic considerations, this order of temperature change is very feasible if not likely. This says nothing about geographic details or how the planet will distribute such change or about our ability to detect change from under the background of noise. The result, however, is neither trivial nor dumb-minded.

    We make a choice whatever we do. Choosing not to choose is also a choice. I’m not suggesting what policy is possible, but that we do need to take the issue seriously enough to look at policy. Right now the southern part of California has been “infested” with fires, as central California has t-shirt weather. Whether anthropogenic or not, this is a climate variation event. Do we handle such events as isolated incidents or do we notice patterns and do more coordinated planning? As one level, this is the same kind of planning that should be done as to earthquakes or hurricanes. Do what we can to prevent damage, do what we can to mitigate damage, and have some preparation to handle people who need assistance or relocation. Look at the security considerations from what might occur in other countries.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You repeat and repeat that we must do this and must do that. I prefer to wait for some decent data and analysis by 3rd party authorities, and consider it folly to act in advance of these things. You are free to donate funds to charities that can put your ideas into action.

    The California fires — an issue I am familar with — is poor evidence of the need for “policy action” to fight AGW, as they almost certainly result from normal climatic variation. Much of the American southwest is prone to long droughts. That you cite as evidence in the AGW debate re-enforces my point about the need for better understanding of these things before policy action.

    I do not see that you have acknowledged — or even read — any of the points I have raised. This is not only discouraging, but also diminishes my confidence in what you say. I feel like I am talking with a cultist handing out tracts at the airport.

  26. Dear Fellow Sentients,
    We Pentathians of the Scalerian System have noticed that your current earthling obsession with minor points in your Global Warming “Debate” seems to have masked from real consideration the anthropogenic destruction of the life support system of your planet. Obviously, this destruction is the real danger to your humanoid life form. Is it possible that there has a mutation that has introduced a terminator gene into your species? Or, are you just plain stupid?
    Ever So Sincerely, Volgon
    Minister of Planetary Life Systems Maintenance, Pentathian Federation
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Nice to hear from you, space dudes! However your data is somewhat outdated, perhaps due the time lag for light to travel from Earth to your planet (fortunately Internet posting travels instantaneously, depending on your ISP).

    Most forms of pollution have been greatly reduced over the past few decades in our “developed nations” (the rich ones). We expect this trend to continue as our “emerging nations” get rich too. I suggest you order a copy of The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World by Danish environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg (I assume you too have Amazon there). you will find it easy, fun reading while basking under your multiple suns.

  27. Fabius, I’ll quit repeating and simply thank you for hosting an interesting discussion and pointing to some interesting pieces to read. And yes, perhaps being a physicist (among other things) is a bit like being a cultist. Apart from that, I’ll look forward to seeing your thoughts in the other areas you cover.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Being a physicist is not at issue; your statement is hardly fair or reasonable.

    You have made 9 comments, very polite but distinguished by an unwillingness or inability to respond to the data and reasoning given in either the post or the replies. This is a characteristic of cultists, even if you were Einstein. Also remarkable is that you do not explain the several instances in which your “replies” do not match anything said on this thread.

    You repeatedly assert that policy action is needed, despite the deficiencies in pro-AGW case. To mention just a few: the inadequate quality control in the surface temperature data, cherry-picking when selecting of historical proxies, and the lack of outside review of the key computer models. These are serious critiques of the data and methods of the pro-AGW theories, none of which can be waved away with the “I’m a physicist” defense.

    My comment about repeating was an invitation to provide a response, or point to some relevant analysis or data. Responding to nine comments with no sign that you have read them would tax the patience of a better man than I.

  28. Should the government act before we understand the dynamics of AGW? Here is a historical case study.

    The Black Death challenged the people and governments of that time to an extent beyond anything in our time. They responded with many strong measures. One was killing the dogs, suspected of causing or spreading the disease. This was easily done, but proved counter-productive. The dog’s fleas found new hosts, often people. Also, dogs were important in limitign the rat population.

    Something similar happened recently in Sura, India (source).

    The equivalent today might be drastic measures to limit the growth of atmospheric CO2 — at great cost — while the Earth enters a cooling cycle.

    Action without understanding can have unpleasant results.

  29. Greg Panfile wrote in #14: “The burden of proof, it says here, should be on those who believe our current energy and population behaviors are actually sustainable and a good thing, in the face of so much intuitive and quantitative evidence on the other side. Hopefully they won’t use computer models to make their case”

    This looks like a moral and not a scientific argument to me. AGW, or climate change, is the hypothesis…right? So it has to prove its usefulness through testable predictions. Should humans attempt to behave responsibly, in what they feel as befitting a good manner for themselves and others? I think so. But what does this have to do with testing the AGW hypothesis? Unless we continue to release harmful materials into the atmosphere, perhaps we’ll never find out its validity excepting great faith in computer models. Or aliens. And who knows the possible consequences of disagreeing with aliens?

    Erasmus wrote “…if scientists are the main adjudicators of what we call ‘reality’ these days, i.e. are the modern day equivalent of priests.”

    True, both can act as ‘the system colonizing the lifeworld’ (Habermas); but that doesn’t necessarily minimize the value of the scientific method, or even belief systems.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I had considered it a methodological argument, but your viewpoint analysis might better explain the thinking of many (not all) pro-AGW folks. A moral or religious-like belief in AGW explains the indifference to contrary evidence, and unwillingness to even read about it, evident in many comments in the threads about climate change on the FM site.

    Panfile’s comment is essentially “I believe it, so the burden of proof is on you to convince me otherwise.” Which is fine for religious issues, but absurd when he asks for vast resources to be spent.

    Version #1 of this reply was poorly written, so I have revised it in an attempt at clarity.

  30. If I understand your reply correctly, my viewpoint shows an “indifference to contrary evidence, and unwillingness to even read about it”. Similar to “the thinking of many pro-AGW folks.”

    I obviously missed any evidence presented indicating that man made impact on possible climate change might be distinguishable from large scale natural cycles.

    From comment #7: “We have been unable to identify any scientific forecasts of global warming.”

    Your reply caused me much thought and made me doubt my own reasons for entering into a discussion (debate?) as I have no desire to convince anyone of anything.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: My apologies. My reply was poorly written (I have edited it), and did not refer to your comment(s).

    This mis-understanding is why I almost always include direct quotes in my replies, so it is clear what I was addressing. My reply was intended as agreement with your comment, so I did not follow this practice. I also thought your previous comment (#9) was sound.

    Note that comment #7 was a quote from a paper, a 27 page long methodological critique of current climate change research published in the journal Energy and Environment. They provide evidence and analysis to support their thesis, so it is not an “off the cuff” statement.

  31. Fabius, my comment about being a physicist was in response to your comment about being “an airport cultist”. There is a perceptual change that occurs such as discussed by Gary Klein in “Sources of Power”. You have stated that you wish to wait for positive detection of “AGW” to believe in it. You point to critics of the data and processing of data leading to the IPCC claim of such detection.

    That is a different kind of “skepticism” from that which is voiced by an atmospheric physicist such as Roger Pielke, Sr., who also has his differences with the IPCC. Pielke is claiming that the proper term should be climate change, not global warming because global warming is meaningless as to it’s effects on people, most of which are regional. Pielke does not criticize models for their lack of ability to obtain global numbers, but for their inability to make correct regional predictions. He criticizes the IPCC, not for believing in anthropogenic climate change, but for placing all the emphasis on curtailing greenhouse gas emissions while ignoring the climate effects of other anthropogenic activities. He looks, for example, at how deforestation in the Amazon can impact rainfall in the American midwest, an effect called a teleconnection. He points to his recent policy statement on the broader role that humans have in affecting climate. In short, Pielke is operating from a much broader range of data and experience than one can obtain from IPCC. I doubt that he would argue with the 2-3 deg estimate of global surface temperature change from doubling CO2, but would respond that such a number says nothing of the winners or loser or the response required from humans. Pielke also links, from several of his pages, to a National Research Council report on Radiative Forcing of Climate Change.

    In short, both Pielke and I are operating from a different perspective than detection of global warming, which is, in our context, an interesting side-note to the effects of human activities. Our interest is more in the energetic driving of change and how various human activities create significant feedbacks. Pielke’s perspective is essentially one of human activities inescapably changing regional climates. His call is not for ignoring policy, but for broadening policy to deal with changes beyond trace gas emissions, in essence because anthropogenic climate change is inescapable.

    This is a different perspective than the one that you profess, one coming from years of looking at terrestrial interactions and an understanding of how they constrain each other. It is also the manner in which someone like Pielke differs from Crichton.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Another change of subject.

    “This is a different perspective than the one that you profess, one coming from years…”

    While this can be described as a different “perspective”, it is more accurately described as a different analytical question. Certainly an interesting and important one, but not relevant (except tangentially) to the question under discussion. It’s a big world, with many questions. This is why the comment policy asks that comments be related to the specific post. Unless the domain of a discussion is focused, I have found that discussions either collapse into mutually unintelligible babble — or just peter out from topic drift.

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