If the science is settled, why do we need all these people working at it?

I had hoped to spend more of my time and energy on subjects other than ‘climate change’, apart from completing my ‘perspective’ summary. But in the last few days there has been some ‘news’ in this domain, and this  post is devoted to it.

I begin with the email that the CEO of CSIRO, Dr Larry Marshall, sent to his staff, letting them know that about 350 jobs would be terminated, a lot of them in the ‘climate change’ area. That was bad enough , as far as climate botherers were concerned. But it was his rationale that really stirred them up.

“We have spent probably a decade trying to answer the question ‘is the climate changing?'” he told Fairfax Media.
“After Paris that question has been answered. The next question now is what do we do about it? The people that were so brilliant at measuring and modelling [climate change], they might not be the right people to figure out how to adapt to it.”

Around the world, at least the blogospheric world, that explanation, in its dreadful simplicity, has left both botherers and sceptics open-mouthed. If the science is really settled, then we don’t need people who have shown this to be the case. They might as well go to other virtuous pursuits. The cartoon by Josh (http://www.cartoonsbyjosh.com) appeared in the UK and USA simultaneously, and is reproduced here with permission. The figure holding his ice-hockey stick is Michael Mann, who did not work for the CSIRO, thank goodness.

postparisprognosis_scr

The botherers, in particular, have been caught on the hop. What has been their response? The President of the Australian Academy of Science was forced to use a pathetic sporting analogy.

Our climate and environmental scientists are some of the best in the world. We wouldn’t stop supporting our elite Olympic athletes just as they’re winning gold medals. Nor should we pull the rug out from under our elite scientists.

The gold-medal equivalents our ‘elite scientists’ have won seem to me hard to find. No matter. That link will lead you to a dozen or so shock/horror reactions, from people who have either been in the Australian ‘climate change’ community or are colleagues from afar. How can you do this? they keep asking. We thought this was going on forever. I am reminded of the Peter Sellers portrait of Harold Macmillan as Prime Minister saying, sententiously, ‘When I said “You never had it so good!” — I didn’t mean that good.’

The trouble is that if you want to respond, as they all do, that climate science isn’t really settled, you will become another kind of denier, because Al Gore said the science was settled nine years ago, and the phrase has been official mantra ever since. Now if it’s not settled, then perhaps we should be looking past carbon dioxide and much harder at the interactions of natural variability and greenhouse gas emissions, or at climate sensitivity, or at clouds, or at the data that we have for temperature, and the dreadful contortions that some climate scientists get into  when they ‘grab the data by the throat and scream “Speak to me!”‘ — a line I heard fifty years ago in the US about the perils of factor analysis.

And that brings me to the second piece of news, which is an essay by Kip Hansen published by Judy Curry on Climate etc. ‘Can we hit the ‘Restart’ button? he asks, and he means by that a new direction of climate science research. Hansen is a climate writer (he has published some good essays at WUWT). This is also a good piece, and I was struck by this largely rhetorical question.

Has Climate Science become hopelessly bogged down? Has Climate Science reached a point where misbehaving programs [paradigms] are using 99% of research efforts and thus draining away – frittering away – the field’s resources? Are far too many precious hours, days, years being spent fighting the Climate Wars – the deadlocked scientific and policy debate surrounding climate change issues – defending scientific positions, many untenable, most based on their policy implications, rather than attempting to discover the underlying nature of the Earth’s climate itself?

I think the answer is ‘Yes’. Not everybody does, of course, and as usual the Comments section for this Climate etc essay are thoughtful and helpful. Kip Hansen’s horizon here is wider than Larry Marshall’s, but one can detect in both an impatience to get out of the deadlock we are in. Judith Curry herself has written posts with the same message, and you will see links to them there.

Finally, Dr John Christy, who is one of the satellite database gurus, gave some more testimony last week to the US House Committee on Science, Space & Technology, and submitted a written paper to accompany it. This paper is a marvellous piece of work, particularly in his careful and comprehensive account of how the satellite measurements of temperature are achieved, and why they are superior to the land-based and sea-surface temperature datasets.

His main support is that that the two satellite datasets not only accord with each other but they also accord with the radiosonde balloon measurements which  are quite separate in character, organised by different people altogether, and have been going for much longer than the satellites. He shows a comparison of the measurements taken by the satellite and balloon measurements, the latter at 59 American and Australian balloon sites; the correlation is 0.98. Moreover, while these measurements are steady, and show little change over the past 37 years (the balloons show an increase of +0.079 degrees Celsius per decade, the satellites +0.091 degrees C) the average of the GCM model runs over  the same period show an increase of +0.214 degrees per decade — and the disparity between them widens each year. Something is wrong with the models.

Christy is  well-published climate scientist, and is not easy to disregard, though of course the climate establishment tends to ignore what he says. His long section on models and modelling is very good indeed and, following on from his comparison of models with observations, I finish with this wise summary of climate science today:

A fundamental aspect of the scientific method is that if we say we understand a system (such as the climate system) then we should be able to predict its behaviour. If we are unable to make accurate predictions, then at least some of the factors in the system are not well defined or even perhaps missing… merely replicating the behaviour of the system (i.e. reproducing ‘what’ the system does) does not guarantee that the fundamental physics are well known. In other words, it is possible to obtain the right answer for the wrong reasons, i.e. getting the ‘what’ of climate right but missing the ‘why’.

There is such a lot of good stuff in this paper. I recommend it without reservation.

Join the discussion 76 Comments

  • Alan Gould says:

    Yes,
    That last cited para from Christie is a clincher….alas in an intellectual climate immune to the dissenting clinch.

  • JMO says:

    I remember the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, walking out of the House of Representatives chamber after passing the Clean Energy Bill 2011saying dismissively to the sceptics outside “the science is settled”. Well “settled” as in the Earth has warmed since the end of the Little Age and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution”. “settled” as in CO2 is a (mild, nay wimpy) infrared absorbing gas and, yes we have emitted enough CO2 to increase its atmospheric concentration by 0.012% (280 ppm to 400ppm) which has contributed to global warming since 265 years.
    But what is disturbing is despite the $billions in climatic research ( salaries, overseas junkets, measurements etc) we still could not reliably predict what is going to happen. There is literally a plethora of false, failed and fallacious predictions. To compare climate science to say astronomy (or cosmology) it has not accurately determined its Hubble constant, ie Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. The IPPCC’s AAR5 WP1 puts it at 1.5C to 4.5 C – a 200% wide approximation or error. To continue the astronomical analogy further it is like saying the Hubble constant is between 33.9 and 101.7 km/sec/mega parsec; it is now calculated to be 67.8+/- 0.77 km/sec/mega parsec ie a 1.136% wide error!.

    The intellectual and academic arrogance displayed to any person who deviated from the (near) alarmist or even catastrophic view was breathtaking. Well let us say they have paid for their hubris and for them the gravy train is over.

    Meanwhile what has happened to our El Nino summer, it started of warm to hot and dry but these last few weeks have been raining almost every day – see another failed prediction; they cannot even predict weather variability let alone future climate.

    • Alan Gould says:

      JMO,
      Mind you, in a sense the Science is settled, because Climate will unfold as it must, irrespective of human panic. Do you know the last couplet of Louis MacNiece’s poem ‘Bagpipe Music’.?

      The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,
      but if you break the bloody glass, it won’t hold up the weather.

  • NameGlenM says:

    While it is always trying then you lose your employment- and one hopes they can find something, it beggars belief that the numbers quoted doing useful work seems improbable.A bit like the sinecures at our universities where academics sit back and exchange e-mails and do bugger all.Not true?.Dontcha bet on it Charlie!

  • BoyfromTottenham says:

    Hi Don.
    Not often commented on, but I noticed that Dr Marshall also said “For example in land and water we have a large number of social scientists who have been focused on attitudes to climate change and attitudes to mining, and how humans respond to those things.”

    So it looks like quite a few of the jobs being lost are not ‘climate scientists’ at all but ‘social scientists’ studying “attitudes”. Sort of undercuts the argument that the President of the AAS tried to make, doesn’t it?

  • Aert Driessen says:

    Don, you are being too kind, as usual. CSIRO’s zombie climate scientists were not part of a climate change community, but industry. Hundreds of billions of dollars down the S bend. As for the Academy of Science, they should hold their collective heads in shame, especially Kurt Lambeck who was denigrating real scientists like Plimer. The kindest thing that can be said about these people is that they are guilty of gross negligence in exercising due diligence. I got an overall impression from your piece that you saw this as the beginning of the end. I am not so optimistic. Reading CSIRO’s chief as saying that the time has come to now do something about climate change, what is he going to do? I suspect pour more money down the S bend because his premise will be that Earth’s climate is heading for dangerous warming. All his mitigation strategies will be to this end because he knows that the science is settled. I doubt that you’ll see research on frost-resistant crops. And how do we get all of this junk science, there with the imprimatur of the Academy of Science, out of our schools? This rent-seeking scam has set us back decades. Lastly, who will have the guts to sort out the politics of this mess? To say to the UN and world, you can all go ‘carbon neutral’ if you think fossil fuels are a threat, but we have the world’s best resources of coal, and that’s what we will use because that is the cheapest and most efficient source of energy. Enough said for the moment.

    • Aert Driessen says:

      Don, I’m having more concerns about this episode. Until now, CSIRO has simply ignored the evidence that CO2 has little to do with atmospheric warming,, particularly on a global scale, and now they are making a conscious decision to ignore it. Fait accompli. Very concerning.

  • Entropy says:

    Don’t worry Aert. If CSIRO starts focussing on adaptation by breeding crops resistant to a drier, warmer world they will also coincidently grow quite well on marginal land.

  • George says:

    From Rafe Champion’s Roundup for Feb 7 at Catallaxy Files (quoting from an editorial in The Lancet from April 2015):

    “The editor of The Lancet is worried.

    The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put their reputational weight behind an investigation into these questionable research practices. The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants.”

    The full editorial is wrth reading, it is here http://goo.gl/Yeu7Jz

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Yes, the editorial is excellent. The possibility that much published research is untrue, and a lot more true but valueless, has been around for a while. I’ve mentioned it before with respect to John Ioannidis and his work. But this editorial is a strong statement. One can only hope that we move past editorials to action. It will be a hard slog. For Ioannidis, see http://donaitkin.com/research-shows/

  • Greg says:

    It’s an old saying, with many examples to demonstrate its truth:

    Science progresses one funeral at a time.

    The current stable needs to be cleaned out so new scientists can enter who don’t have careers to defend. Only then will the truth be revealed.

  • ColinD says:

    I see the development of a seamless shift from Climate Change to adaptation; there has already been quiet a shift from Global Warming to Climate Change. This will keep the gravy train running.

    • Peter Kemmis says:

      ColinD

      If that were all to it, we would not be hearing the screams. I think Larry Marshall has been deliberately appointed, in part to change the CSIRO direction on AGW. Of course Turnbull has danced the Paris waltz, which as we know is just a waltz. I suppose to be fair to him, it was politic for him to do so. I’ll forgive him that, provided he is playing a sound end game. Yes, the gravy train will run for a while, but at least produce more protein. Sometimes, softly softy catchee monkee.

      • dlb says:

        Peter,
        I turned on the SBS news tonight and caught a segment with outraged Australian climate researchers including Karolly and Church sounding off about the change of direction at CSIRO. One of the scientists confronted Malcolm Turnbull, interestingly he seemed to be in no mood for engaging, laughing off the confrontation and making some pun about climate. I wonder if he is getting some sound advice?

      • bobo says:

        Larry Marshall’s credentials aren’t better than mediocre, so yes Peter, I think you’re seeing the tactics for what they are.

  • Rasputin says:

    One would have thought that they would claim that the reason their theories have not been corroborated by reality was that lack of temperature increase was forestalled by the actions implemented on their recommendations. Now that would be frightening.
    No one seems to have yet accounted for the fact that we burn hydrocarbon, rather than carbon, and I am inclined to believe that if the water released over the last century of this has not resulted in any sea level rise, one would be searching hard for the reason? I would but then I think they are all wankers!

  • Dane says:

    Just read your article regarding the ACT energy supplements. Very interesting perspective.

    I believe that while the current Administrator’s of our region may well be promising and promoting something unattanable (something ALL politicians do regardless of their governance or opposition, to all sections of our land), i think that at least a supplement to energy requirements is better than nothing. I think that if anyone were to think the winds were to blow everyday (perhaps having the turbines connected to all House’s of Parliaments may guarantee their 24/7 usage?) , or having the sun shine 365, then they are the fool. Given the proposal of a light rail system for our (small) community, i would prefer to see the idea scrapped and the funds put towards more beneficial sectors (eg. health, energy, policing and other emergency services)

    Supplementing is a far more sensible option than nothing at all. Supplementing is beneficial in all walks of life. Financial, dietry, knowledge, socially and yes energy.

    Hopefully Science would agree with that statement, given that they haven’t finished their work, nor will they ever. That’s the way of the scientific world. When they think they have a solution, they search for a better way. Like all Acedemics, I’m sure you will agree, the search for truth and knowledge never ends.

    I look forward to your future correspondence and thoughts.

    Regards,
    Dane

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Dane,

      I have no objection to supplements per se, but wind is really an expensive fantasy. I have more time for solar, and feel that in the long run we will unlock solar power successfully, probably not with the current technology. At the moment it’s OK for rooftops in the suburbs and out in the bush, provided you have a battery. These aren’t cheap and their production involves a lot of carbon dioxide emission. So the net effect of the supplements may be very small indeed. In any case, the actual reduction of temperature (which is what all this is supposed to be about) is infinitesimal. And why should the ratepayers of Canberra be supporting the construction of wind power stations in other states? As I said in the newspaper piece, we’re really the only jurisdiction that is wealthy enough and nutty enough to go ahead with it.

  • Boxer says:

    I went looking for a mission statement or other foundation objective for the IPCC and this document, https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ipcc-principles/ipcc-principles.pdf is the nearest I have found. Within it is the following paragraph:
    “ROLE
    2. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies.”

    This document dates back to 1998, but appears to have been reaffirmed/amended as recently as 2013, so I take it that it is a current description.

    It is obvious that the IPCC was never intended to be scientific organisation, it was established as a political organisation using selected scientific information to pursue the “risk of human induced climate change”. The human fascination for impending catastrophe seems to be inescapable. Perhaps many scientists became involved in ignorance of the fundamental raison d’etre and once inside the tent, well, one must eat. Plus we all develop vested social or psychological interests in relation to our careers and other activities. An anecdote I recall from around the 1990s was that the world did not have the computing power to accurately model the turbulence in a cup of tea, so modelling the entire atmosphere was, and is, ambitious. A political IPCC objective was a more tangible basis for making a living.

    So when it comes to the questions raised by Don, Kip Hansen, John Christy and others of “can we restart the process?” and “how do we unscramble these eggs?” it will take a political fight to put the IPCC off to one side where it belongs and re-establish a truly scientific endeavour to understand the causes of climate change. If this were to happen, how would we prevent the IPCC’s scientific successor organisation becoming equally contaminated by politics?

    More likely we will have to let the saga follow its own course, which would be more typical of the scientific convention. I have greater concern for the credibility of science generally. Actual climate science remains important. While climate fluctuates naturally under a large number of influences, we have only formed complex societies and proliferated during a favourable inter-glacial period. “Natural” is not “benign”. When such swings in climate occur in the future, the economic disruption to 9 billion people will be more complex than a mere global financial crisis, or the roiling brawl in the Middle East. Which demonstrates that hypothetical impending catastrophes fascinate me too.

    • David says:

      Boxer
      How does you IPCC quote support your claim that “It is obvious that the IPCC was never intended to be scientific organisation,….
      Shouldn’t there be some supporting argument in between.?

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        David, that the IPCC is a political, not a scientific, organisation is ‘settled’ science.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        David, maybe you should check its membership, most of which don’t even have a ‘scientific organisation’.

      • Boxer says:

        If the IPCC had been established by scientists under scientific principles, not by activists from a scientific background working with professional politicians, the organisation would have sought to explore all the causes of climate change. To isolate “human-induced” implies that either humans are the sole cause of climate change, or that it was a political stunt to garner public support for the so-called scientists’ field of interest.
        We can reasonably assume that these “scientists” were clever enough to know that there are other factors in climate change. Isolating human induced from natural causes was scientifically incompetent to the point of stupidity, because even if CO2 emissions were a significant factor, no true scientist would seek to understand a complex system by focussing upon one trace greenhouse gas. It was a cynical attempt to attract funds. The human induced catastrophe is a political winner because we should be able to do something to avert catastrophe if we are causing it, and it even has overtones of the eternal human sin, repentance and the rest of it.
        If the inevitable changes in climate are the result of factors beyond our control, funding research into those factors becomes politically difficult. That’s the risk we face next; as the IPCC collapses, the public will recoil from supporting any climate research, and perhaps other fields of science will be dragged under at the same time. We can see many faults in government funded science, but I doubt the private sector will (or can) fund anything that relates to events beyond the immediate future and returns to shareholders in six months.

    • David says:

      Boxer, the argument that AGW is some money making exercise for the IPCC, is not supported by the facts. According to the Wall Street Journal the annual budget of the IPCC is $7 million. As I understand it the climate scientists who agree do the literature reviews for the IPCC will be funded by their own universities.

      Your claim that “A political IPCC objective was a more tangible basis for making a living” is fanciful.!

      • Boxer says:

        David, the money trail is not as direct as money being given to the IPCC and the IPCC distributing it to its favourite scientists. The individual scientists seek their own funds from (in my experience) a range of government sources either directly or via their organisation’s structure. It is also not just the 1,000-odd scientists who are conducting reviews directly for the IPCC; there are many many more scientists who work on climate-change related fields, who make submissions for government grants, with the applications titled “The effects of climate change upon ….. (insert the topic of your field of expertise here)”.
        I have just left a field of research and our group included hydrogeologists, ecologists, ag scientists and economists, and engineers – we all survived on climate-change related grants. Many of our group came from the field of agricultural land degradation back in the days of the Australian secondary salinity disaster, so climate change was actually the second gravy train for some of us. None of us had any contact with the IPCC, but we knew people who did, and we all sheltered under the same umbrella.

        (The term “gravy train” – climate change is real and at some time it will inevitably be extremely difficult to deal with. We need to understand the climate system. Likewise secondary salinity is still real and is causing enormous economic and ecological damage. But when politics become too important within a field of science, it inevitably causes the science to become a victim of politics, which has a concentration span measured in parts of a second.)

        The scientists who work more directly with the IPCC operate under the same general principles – you can get funding if you can point to a problem looking for a solution, preferably a problem which has political attention focussed upon it. Politicians are not captivated by the inevitability of naturally-caused serious climate change because it’s outside the personal experience of contemporary society. It’s a bit like considering the risk of catastrophic asteroid impact – we will only seriously turn our minds to such a thing when we realise a specific asteroid is on a collision course and will hit us next January 22nd at 1403 hrs GMT.
        It is an unfortunate feature of the natural sciences now that to get funding to actually operate, and often to get the funds for your own salary as well, you have to either research a cute mammal with large eyes which the public believes is on the verge of extinction, or you need to portray yourself as saving the world from some environmental threat.
        The IPCC and the climate-bothering industry is an ecosystem in itself with many sources of cash, but the whole system is based upon a misconception. By essentially excluding natural causes for climate change from consideration back in 1998 for political advantage, and claiming CO2 is the largest single factor before anyone really knew whether or not that was the case, the IPCC and its associated community is headed for a fall. There is some remote chance that by a stroke of good luck the IPCC has chosen the appropriate trace greenhouse gas to focus upon and CO2 does control the climate of the planet, but given the complexity of the atmosphere, the oceans and the sun combined, experience tells me that no single factor is going to be as important as the IPCC et al say it is. Especially when models are used as the basis of “truth”, instead of being used as tools to explore the topic of interest and identify the significant factors. An alternative truth will succeed the current one, it always has. But this crash will be a big one.

        • David says:

          Boxer you make a lot of claims, but your post is evidence free. What “natural causes” do you have in mind? I am skeptical. A stand alone “natural causes” argument is like claiming to have an imaginary friend. Give these “natural causes” a name. Collect some data. Analyse your results and publish your argument.

        • David says:

          This funding argument is silly. Climate skeptics (e.g. Curry, Spencer etc) operate under the same funding guidelines as climate scientists with orthodox views. And a paper with a skeptical conclusion by virtue of being one of a few is more likely to be cited than a paper with an orthodox conclusion, which will be one of many. And even if people cite a paper to disagree agree with its conclusions it still improves its citation index, which is seen as a key indicator of the paper’s importance. Under the current system there are plenty of incentives for a researcher to publish a paper with unorthodox conclusions.

          Curry and Spencer are on the same “gravy train” as you call it as academics like Mann.

          • JimboR says:

            Not only are they still on that gravy train, but presumably they get to top it up a bit with all the TV appearance fees.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    I have said here (and elsewhere) that if the glaciers are melting at current temperatures, forestalling a two degree rise in global temperature is not likely to stop them. A scientist who actually accepts settled science is a refreshing change.

  • Neville says:

    Interesting graphs from the Royal Society showing all the models for SLR for the next 300 years. If you believe all their models we can say there is no SLR problems for the next 300 years. All Antarctic models show a negative SLR. Bit of a bummer for the urgers and extremists, trying to get us to waste endless trillions $ to fix a non problem?
    So if even their modelling shows no chance of their CAGW for 300 years, then why are we pouring trillions $ down the drain for a guaranteed zero return?

  • Neville says:

    Here’s a link to the Royal Society graphs, mentioned above.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/roypta/364/1844/1709/F4.large.jpg

  • bobo says:

    Hi Don

    I wonder if you can provide a reference where a climate scientist says unequivocally that “the science is settled”? As I read your essay I can’t help feeling that you are once again let down by a lack of attention to detail.

    Here’s what Anderegg et al (2010) say:

    “…we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field surveyed here support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”

    As for a definition of the IPCC “tenets of ACC”, we have:
    “the primary tenets of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report [are] that it is “very likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature in the second half of the 20th century.”

    Don, you’re just echoing a straw man meme without the slightest bit of skepticism.

    As for your paragraphs on TLT satellite temp measurements, these are not measurements of surface air temperature! Moreover, they have a margin of error that is five times the margin of error of surface temperature. You have not established that these two data records are even contradictory.

    As for CHristy
    “His main support is that that the two satellite datasets not only accord with each other”
    What about the enormous lack of agreement between the official 5.6 satellite data and the unpublished 6.0beta4? Presumably Christy ignores the large margins of error in his House Committee paper, a paper which has absolutely zero relevance to the scientific literature – it’s equivalent to a blog post.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Bobo,

      I have not claimed that any climate scientist has said that the science is settled, nor that the Archbishop of Canterbury has done so. If you want a reference go and search for one.

      I, me, personally, saw Al Gore say that on television in December 2007, and I wrote that in an earlier post. It is politicians who say these things, so that they can get one with the much more interesting business of designing policies to forestall climate change.

      • bobo says:

        You’ve missed the point Don, I looked, I found nothing. The closest I could find to the statement that the “science is settled” from a climate scientist or climate science literature was that statement in the Anderegg et al paper.

        As is often the case, you seem confused and mired down by the linguistic games of others, and sidetracked by the words of advocates with very little expertise, so here it is with maximal clarity: within climate science, some things are settled (beyond reasonable doubt) such as the “tenets” (confidence GW is occurring >95%, confidence AGHGs are the cause of the GW >95%), many details are not (e.g. regional effects much smaller than continent size, temporal effects on scales much less than about 30 years). This is well documented in the literature for anyone who cares to look (e.g. IPCC reports), and the universal denialist glee that suddenly climate scientists are forced to admit that “the science isn’t settled” reiterates how little they know of climate science itself, and how strongly they believe that the climate scientists have until now been claiming that the “science is settled”. Subeducated sea-cucumbers all.

        • JimboR says:

          Bobo, there you go again with all those pesky confidence levels. All that maths is for over-educated nerds. Skeptics can just feel it in their waters. Sometimes all you need in life is a bit of “common sense”. You just need to pass a “reasonable eye” over the datasets and then simply declare which ones you “prefer”. It’s the datasets that skeptics reject that make their analysis the best.

          • David says:

            JimboR, your comment reminds me of Don’s claim that “…climate science is pretty weak when it comes to statistics.”

            http://donaitkin.com/the-virtue-in-reading-the-comments/

          • Don Aitkin says:

            for David, I relied in that assertion on Wegman in the USA and the IAC in the UK, both saying that climate scientists were weak at statistics,and needed to draw in professional statisticians into their networks rather than do statistical work themselves in an amateurish and sloppy way.

          • JimboR says:

            Don, you reliably make comments that demonstrate you’re well out of your depth in the field of statistics, so it’s not surprising people don’t pay much attention when you critique others in the field (even when you do rely on third parties).

            I’ve suggested some undergraduate courses you can take that might help, but all I get back is “I once taught this stuff”, and I struggle to reconcile that dichotomy. One possibility is that the field has evolved since you were last involved with it, but you decline to offer up the name of the text you taught from, so it’s hard to know.

          • bobo says:

            Don writes: “I relied in that assertion on Wegman in the USA and the IAC in the UK, both saying that climate scientists were weak at statistics,and needed to draw in professional statisticians into their networks rather than do statistical work themselves in an amateurish and sloppy way.”

            Re Wegman, is he repeating something that someone else said or wrote? 🙂

            On the topic of statistics, do you have any thoughts about the temperature reconstruction by Berkeley Earth? They focussed heavily on using optimal statistical methods and consequently their temperature reconstructions have a smaller margin of error than the reconstructions by NASA, NOAA, HadCRU.

            Don, re a previous claim of yours (uncertainty is too large to know if warming is really occurring), take a look at the techniques Berkeley Earth use to estimate global temperature (Kriging estimation) in section 3 of
            http://climatechange.procon.org/sourcefiles/berkeley-earth-temperature-averaging-process.pdf
            Note this paper describes the temperature averaging process over land only.

            For a comprehensive peer-reviewed paper which discusses the Berkeley Earth ocean air temp averaging process as well, see
            http://www.scitechnol.com/berkeley-earth-temperature-averaging-process-IpUG.pdf

            According to the analysis,
            “180 ideally distributed weather stations would be sufficient to capture nearly all of the expected structure in the Earth’s monthly mean anomaly [temperature] field. This is similar to the estimate of 110 to 180 stations provided by Jones 1994. We note that the estimate of 180 stations includes the effect of measurement noise.”

            Don, I’m looking forward to your specific criticisms as to why the process Berkeley Earth uses is unsuitable for estimating uncertainty.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Jimbo: for Wegman and what he said and where he said it, just Google.

            BEST temperature estimates are probably the best we have (no pun intended). But they’re not very good, even then, for all the reasons I’ve given elsewhere (look them up). I’ve agreed with Stephen Mosher (look him up) that they are about as good as we are going to get for those that are land-based. If I want to take part in discussions about temperature I have to use some data. I prefer satellite data where they are applicable. Enough said.

  • Peter Donnan says:

    Hullo Don,

    You commence this column with the sentence: ” I had hoped to spend more of my time and energy on subjects other than ‘climate change’, apart from completing my ‘perspective’ summary. But in the last few days there has been some ‘news’ in this domain”.

    For many readers of this site, the challenge of keeping abreast of climate change developments, and the literature and significant studies around it, are a significant challenge, especially if you are are as busy in other areas of life as you are.

    Many readers of this site may be interested in a recently published book, ‘Mirrors and mazes: A guide through the climate change debate’ by Howard Brady. Detail at: http://www.mirrorsandmazes.com.au I am drawing attention to this book because I have read five chapters and it presents perspectives that challenge mainstream believers of climate change, or ‘climate botherers’ as you call them, Don.

    Professor Peter Flood, in reviewing this 2016 book on climate change, writes that Canberra author Dr Brady ‘welcomes the installation of a variety of experimental alternative energy plants. However, he criticises the present climate panic that has led to the large-scale industrial development of expensive infant technologies with subsidies that are ballooning the national debt in many countries’.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Oh dear. Autocorrect didn’t correct — ‘a day or two’!

  • bobo says:

    The Tony Abbott-appointed CEO of the CSIRO, Larry Marshall, is sailing very close to the wind in repeating some well worn tropes of denialism:
    -“There’s a lot of emotion in this debate – in fact it almost sounds more like religion than science to me”
    -He acknowledges that the “climate is changing” but makes no reference to what he thinks the cause could be

    His decision to completely cut all climate science research and the consistency of that with the bigger picture – the coalition’s climate denial agenda – strongly suggest that the cuts aren’t being imposed out of some kind of naivety, rather that he is an eager proponent of the coalition’s anti-climate policy, and he believes that the CSIRO, a statutory agency, should closely align itself with the coalition policy of the day.

    • David says:

      Yes who knows, if they kept those climate scientists on at the CSIRO, they might stumble upon those “natural causes” the skeptics love to bang on about. 🙂

      • bobo says:

        Shooting the messengers buys more time and money, the vested interests are hoping.

        Shooting the messengers attracts more in political donations, the coalition is hoping

        Shooting the messengers buys more time for bloggers on their never-ending quest for a natural cause. Some gamble.

    • dlb says:

      -“There’s a lot of emotion in this debate – in fact it almost sounds more like religion than science to me”

      Sounds like a fair statement to me, even if TA appointed him.

      “strongly suggest that the cuts aren’t being imposed out of some kind of naivety,”

      I’d say your right, thank God!

  • bobo says:

    Don writes: “I relied in that assertion on Wegman in the USA and the IAC in the UK, both saying that climate scientists were weak at statistics,and needed to draw in professional statisticians into their networks rather than do statistical work themselves in an amateurish and sloppy way.”

    Re Wegman, is he repeating something that someone else said or wrote? 🙂

    On the topic of statistics, do you have any thoughts about the temperature reconstruction by Berkeley Earth? They focussed heavily on using optimal statistical methods and consequently their temperature reconstructions have a smaller margin of error than the reconstructions by NASA, NOAA, HadCRU.

    Don, re a previous claim of yours (uncertainty is too large to know if warming is really occurring), take a look at the techniques Berkeley Earth use to estimate global temperature (Kriging estimation) in section 3 of
    http://climatechange.procon.org/sourcefiles/berkeley-earth-temperature -averaging-process.pdf
    Note this paper describes the temperature averaging process over land only.

    For a comprehensive peer-reviewed paper which discusses the Berkeley Earth ocean air temp averaging process as well, see
    http://www.scitechnol.com/berkeley-earth-temperature-averaging-process -IpUG.pdf

    According to the analysis,
    “180 ideally distributed weather stations would be sufficient to capture nearly all of the expected structure in the Earth’s monthly mean anomaly [temperature] field. This is similar to the estimate of 110 to 180 stations provided by Jones 1994. We note that the estimate of 180 stations includes the effect of measurement noise.”
    Don, I’m looking forward to your specific criticisms as to why the process Berkeley Earth uses is unsuitable for estimating uncertainty.

  • Dai Davies says:

    A problem for CAGW deniers is that we’ve become bored with repeating the arguments on natural variability. I presented some of my results modelling southern ocean temps on this site a while back and, as I remember it, tried to engage David in a discussion but he dropped out. My overview of the topic is written up in http://brindabella.id.au/etc/Climate-PP.pdf if you are really interested.
    Of course, reviewed papers are more significant than my scatty ramblings. Try searching for Nicola Scafetta – a good starting point for published solar modelling. Then you could try the extensive work done on cosmic ray cloud seeding confirmed at CERN and elsewhere – search Henrik Svensmark, though the effect was discussed as plausible as far back as the early 1960s to my knowledge.
    I took Nicola’s sunspot model and applied it to ocean temps, and a few hours with a spreadsheet gave me a model that beats anything the IPCC has come up with. Others have gone much deeper into the topic.

  • bobo says:

    Just posting this again without links, as been sitting in moderation for a while:

    Don writes: “I relied in that assertion on Wegman in the USA and the IAC in the UK, both saying that climate scientists were weak at statistics,and needed to draw in professional statisticians into their networks rather than do statistical work themselves in an amateurish and sloppy way.”
    Re Wegman, is he repeating something that someone else said or wrote? 🙂
    On the topic of statistics, do you have any thoughts about the temperature reconstruction by Berkeley Earth? They focussed heavily on using optimal statistical methods and consequently their temperature reconstructions have a smaller margin of error than the reconstructions by NASA, NOAA, HadCRU.
    Don, re a previous claim of yours (uncertainty is so large it’s impossible to know if warming is really occurring), take a look at the techniques Berkeley Earth use to estimate global temperature (Kriging estimation) in
    [search google for “Berkeley Earth Temperature Averaging Process”]

    According to the analysis,
    “180 ideally distributed weather stations would be sufficient to capture nearly all of the expected structure in the Earth’s monthly mean anomaly [temperature] field. This is similar to the estimate of 110 to 180 stations provided by Jones 1994. We note that the estimate of 180 stations includes the effect of measurement noise.”
    Don, I’m looking forward to your specific criticisms as to why the process Berkeley Earth uses is unsuitable for estimating uncertainty.

  • bobo says:

    Don, you wrote:

    “BEST temperature estimates are probably the best we have (no pun intended). But they’re not very good, even then, for all the reasons I’ve given elsewhere (look them up). I’ve agreed with Stephen Mosher (look him up) that they are about as good as we are going to get for those that are land-based. If I want to take part in discussions about temperature I have to use some data. I prefer satellite data where they are applicable. Enough said.”

    The Berkeley Earth uncertainty analysis seems to catch all the uncertainty you mention quite rigorously. And within the uncertainty envelope, it is easy to see that we are in a period of prolonged warming. There is a small probability that higher surface air temps than today occurred somewhat early in the records, because the uncertainty margin is so large early on, but if this occurred, any such periods high temperatures did not persist for long. What’s currently being experienced is a multidecadal period of sustained high temperatures that is gradually increasing over long time intervals. In the early part of the Berkeley Earth reconstructed record, the uncertainty envelopes simply don’t allow such long term warm periods to occur with anything more than the most minute of probabilities.

    Regarding your preference for TLT satellite data, I’m yet to see how it even contradicts surface air temperature particularly given that the margin of uncertainty for TLT is 5 times the margin of uncertainty for surface air temp. As discussed at the end of last year, the different processing algorithms between the UAH 5.6 data set and Spencer’s 6.4 beta set yield very different temperature reconstructions; 5.6 shows a 20 year warming trend that is greater than that of the HadCRU surface temp record, but the 6.4 beta set has no statistically significant warming trend. I am guessing that both of these temp records lie within a huge uncertainty margin. If on the other hand they are inconsistent with each other, this suggests serious problems with methodology (most likely this would occur in the unverified 6.4 beta reconstruction).

    On the other hand, Berkeley Earth surface air temp reconstructions appear very similar to the NASA, NOAA and HadCRU reconstructions. Surely even your cynical self must be impressed by that.

    I don’t think your concerns about surface temp uncertainty justify tossing out the Berkeley Earth analysis, because I think they’re well addressed. You’d have to be more precise to mount a convincing argument for that. What’s fascinating is that you have a tendency to ignore a lot of sets which have inconvenient trends, but you don’t give very precise reasons – you don’t roll out hard, concrete numbers. I personally prefer to accept all sets (including RSS and UAH) unless there is a very good reason not to (e.g. Roy Spencer’s 6.4 beta set is unacceptable because the processing algorithm has not been released for independent verification).

    • David says:

      Nice post. I enjoy your work bobo.

    • David says:

      Bobo

      I was always impressed by the size of the data set that was analysed by this research unit.

      ““The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753. Previous data sets created by Nasa, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Met Office and the University of East Anglia’s climate research unit only went back to the mid-1800s and used a fifth as many weather station records.”

      And

      “Unlike previous efforts, the temperature data from various sources was not homogenised by hand – a key criticism by climate skeptics. Instead, the statistical analysis was “completely automated to reduce human bias”. The Best team concluded that, despite their deeper analysis, their own findings closely matched the previous temperature reconstructions, “but with reduced uncertainty”.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jul/29/climate-change-sceptics-change-mind

      And Muller was a professed skeptic before this analysis and was surprised by his results.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Oh dear, I’m not going to repeat myself about all this. Berkeley is good for land surface. There is no equivalent for the ocean, 70% of the planet. What is measured there is not surface air temperature, but sea-surface (!) temperature, and not even that, as I’ve pointed out again and again. You can’t put the two together to produce an average. At least, people do, but what we get is nothing of consequence, and not even apples and oranges..

    I can see that you want to believe that it’s all OK. Go ahead. I don’t think so, and feel that I have good reason to hold my view.

    • David says:

      Don,

      You have raised this measurement issue many times. Bobo, JimboR and myself have each tried to explain to you why your line of argument is unconvincing. We have each presented what we understand to be the conventional approach to statistical analysis and as such our comments are in broad agreement.

      You can combine land and sea temperatures to produce an “average”. Part of the reason this can be done is because the AGW hypothesis is primarily interested in the rate of change in temperature over time, rather than “report” a mean.

      I am not a statistician and must rely on a few basic concepts to get me by. So I often used to wonder, after I posted critiques of your analysis, if a real statistician lurking on the website might come to your defense and explain my error-bias discussions of your analysis were wrong. But that has not happened. What does that tell you?

    • bobo says:

      Don,

      If SST is used instead of ocean air temperature, you should get a lower bound on surface air temperature warming, because water doesn’t warm up as fast as air, and evaporation transfers heat from water to air, i.e. water cools down with evaporation. The temperature of surface ocean air should also generally be very closely correlated to surface sea temperature.

      “You can’t put the two together to produce an average.”
      Actually there is a way you can put them together. Instead of using temperature, you think about the thermal (heat) energy associated with a change in temperature. Energy, unlike temperature, is an additive quantity: the change in thermal energy that has occurred in all the various components of the climate system can be determined and added together to determine the total change in thermal energy in the climate system. Global warming is the increase of thermal energy in the whole climate system.

      Don, your approach seems to lack rationality:
      1. You cherry-pick data sets. That is very poor form from a scientific perspective.
      2. Even less rational is that the cherry-picked data set that you implicitly refer to repeatedly, Spencer’s 6.4 beta UAH reconstruction, has not been verified independently.
      3. You reject all non-satellite reconstructions because you say the uncertainties have not been handled in a rigorous way. But you can’t even demonstrate explicitly, concretely why/how the uncertainties aren’t being treated properly. Your claim would have weight if you or someone else showed that there were long term likely temperature profiles that were more likely to have occurred than the analysis suggests. Basically the uncertainty claim of yours is completely baseless without detailed evidence and reasoning.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        See below to David.

        • bobo says:

          Sure, there is more uncertainty prior to Argo but provided that the uncertainty is handled rigorously that is not an issue.

          If you say that the uncertainty is not handled rigorously, you need to provide quantitative evidence for this claim.

          If you say the uncertainty is analysed properly but based on the analysis it is impossible to determine whether global warming is likely to be occurring, you are mistaken. Long term periods of temperatures as high as today in the early part of the record, when uncertainty is highest, is extremely implausible. Probability considerations rule it out.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            It would be helpful if you set out why you think that the uncertainty, mostly due to the lack of instruments in most of the oceans, can in principle be handled rigorously, let alone that they have been. Mine is a perfectly sensible position — and I have read, I think, the central papers on how SST data have been assembled and ‘adjusted’. I’m not persuaded that one can say much as a result, but if you think one can, by all means set it out.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    David,

    I’m not trying to convince any of you. I put down what seems to me reasonable and defendable in terms of observations and arguments. You are not convinced. Fine. No doubt there are many others in a similar frame of mind. You aren’t even a lost cause, for I recognise that I might be wrong, too, and do my best to check. A lot of this stuff is conjectural. I’ll keep going with Popper in the next essay, because one of his points is that we need to remember that we do not have all the information, and never will have.

    You aren’t, as I understand it, putting forward ‘the conventional approach to statistical analysis’. Rather, you are offering a possibility that might be useful, if, and if, and if. For example, if you could regard SST and land measurements as the same, and people do, then you could report a mean, and they do, and if you could have a mean, then you could report a rate of change in it. Since the SST come from an area more then twice as large as the land data, and are irregularly sited, and are subject to all kinds of measurement errors for which one has to make arbitrary adjustments to all those data, and people do. You have confidence in the outcome. I don’t, and I think I am right in shaking my head at what has been done.

    Now that could be explained by saying that I am sceptical about AGW in its catastrophic form (the reason people want carbon taxes and ETSs), and you believe the doom-sayers. So be it.

  • David says:

    Let me put it this way. When I hear you say that there is not much coverage for sea temperatures, I am then expecting to hear some evidence about systematic bias. For example the ocean currents have caused the temperature buoys to drift towards the equator. And this drift has not been controlled for in current models. But simply telling me that ocean coverage is “sparse” is an incomplete argument.

    I don’t see myself as a doom-sayer. 🙂 And if its any consolation I am less certain about AGW than I was three years ago before I came to your site. 🙂

  • Don Aitkin says:

    David,

    You don’t remember what I have said before, and that is obvious. I’m not going to repeat myself. Go and read what I have written before about sea surface temperatures. Before the Argo buoys we have nothing of any real significance. Nothing.

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