Which Blogs Should You Read?

By September 3, 2012Climate Change, Other, Politics

Madankerr criticised me for my climate science blogroll, which he/she saw as unbalanced. I said that I would fix it up in time, and here is part of the process. A preliminary question: why go to blogs anyway? Why not read the peer-reviewed articles themselves? A good answer, if you are not part of a university department which subscribes to nearly everything, and aren’t part of its network, is that going to blogs is a great way to find out what is being published, and whether or not a given article is relevant and useful.

And that is what I do. I have navigated over a sea of blogs, hundreds of them, in the past few years, and have narrowed down my landing ports to quite a small number. If something important appears in a website that I don’t know about, I’ll usually find out about it because one of my usual set refers to it, and off I go. Quite a lot of papers are behind paywalls, but then someone who is a subscriber will often publish it for others to read. In the long run I want to see all publicly-funded research made publicly available from the beginning, but that is another topic.

Another preliminary comment: most websites are partisan, and they use articles and perspectives that agree with their point of view. Some are loath to accept criticism at all, and simply send critical posts to the electronic wpb. I guess we are all captive of our own points of view, but it is instructive that so many sites, on all sides of the climate science and climate policy debates, are predictable almost at once. I hoped that mine would not be, and that is why madankerr’s comment was a spur to action. While my position on global warming is agnostic, I do consider articles, data and arguments that support the orthodoxy — I don’t just dismiss them.

What follows is a comment on what is the core of my new list.

My favourite is ‘Climate etc’, hosted by Judith Curry, a noted climate scientist at Georgia Tech. You could call her a lukewarmer, a label that would now apply to me, too. She encourages conversation between those of different perspectives, and publishes new posts regularly. I have learned more from the debates on her site than from anywhere else.

The standard orthodox website is ‘RealClimate’, established by a group around James Hansen of NASA-GISS. It is good at explicating new research that supports the orthodoxy, but is dismissive of critics. It has adjunct or supporting sites like ‘Tamino’ and ‘Rabett Run’.  I understand that RC was set up in opposition to ‘Climate Audit’, which is one of the standard sceptical sites, established by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician and mining consultant, when he became suspicious of some climate science papers which looked to him like dubious mining prospectuses. He is basically interested in analysing climate data. So am I, which is why I like his site.

Then there is Anthony Watts, a meteorologist, whose ‘Watts Up with That?’ is probably the most visited sceptical site. He is a meteorologist who publishes at least once a day, and maintains a most useful data file on most aspects of climate. ‘Bishop Hill’ is run by Andrew Montford, who wrote a good book on the Climategate emails and on Michael Mann’s ‘hockey stick’. I don’t go there much, but he is literate and civilised.

The misnamed ‘Skeptical Science’ website is actually a temple of orthodoxy, and its main service is in presenting what it sees as typical ‘sceptical’ objections to AGW and dismissing them with scientific ripostes. If you want a counter to Skeptical Science, then go to Lubos Motl’s website ‘The Reference Frame’. Motl is a Czech physicist interested in string theory, but is quite wide-ranging. If you read his response to Skeptical Science you’ll get some idea why this whole  domain is so difficult. My reading is that we know much too little about our climate, but the stakes are said to be very high. So there is undue certainty, both ways.

Now come three Australian sites (incidentally, ‘Skeptical Science’ is run by another Australian, John Cook, also a physicist). ‘Deltoid’ is a completely confident AGW site run by Tim Lambert, a computer scientist. It’s been a bit quiet lately. Jennifer Marohasy, an environmental biologist (jennifermarohasy.com) and Joanne Nova, a science communicator (joannenova.com)) both run sites questioning the orthodoxy, and both have scientific credentials; I would classify each of them as ‘lukewarmers’ — that is, adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere must in time increase temperature, all other things being equal. Whether or not this will happen quickly and whether or not the effects  will be harmful or beneficial — these matters are unclear. This is my current position, too.

There are two Roger Pielkes, the Senior, who is a climate scientist, and the Junior, who is more of a social scientist. Both have blogs, the Senior’s being very much an account of his published work and his comments on others’ work, the Junior’s being much more wide-ranging (he has already made a comment on the Gillard Government’s decision to link the carbon tax to the EU ETS). I often go their sites, usually because someone else has commented on an essay there.

I like to go to Lucia Liljegren’s ‘The Blackboard’. Her site is about statistics and about statistical argument. I have learned a lot there, too. It is paradoxical that in a domain where numerical data are the basis for almost everything, climate science is poorly serviced with good statisticians, a lack that has been pointed out by review groups. I have an old basic knowledge of statistics, but it needs constantly to be updated, and Lucia’s site is a good place to see clever people at work on numbers.

Finally, I approve of ‘Climatedebatedaily’, though I don’t go there often because I see the relevant articles elsewhere. It a New Zealand site that presents both the orthodoxy and the dissent about AGW, neutrally and without comment. It’s worth having a look at.

That is my basic reference group of climate-related blogs. I like the ones where I learn something, and where the discussion is reasonably temperate. I recognise that many people, right across the debate, are absolutely sure that they are right; I’m not in that company. If you think I am missing a good website let me know, and I’ll check it out.

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • madankerr says:

    Thanks Don, you’re looking a lot more agnostic now! Cheers….

    I’d be interested to read a post outlining your thoughts about the peer review process in general, and the role of peer review in discussions about climate science. The mainstream view is that virtually no peer reviewed science supports the various contrarian positions, especially the outright denial that the planet is warming. Is that your perception?

    Many scientists are VERY concerned (i.e. not luke warm) about the trend in Arctic sea ice. Where is the peer reviewed science that says this is not likely to be a problem anytime soon?

    • donaitkin says:

      OK. I’ll put peer review in the list of forthcoming posts

    • DonAitkin says:

      OK. I’ll put ‘peer review’ in the list of future essays.

    • Jennifer Marohasy says:

      Forget about the mainstream view. What about the facts? There has been no warming for about 15 years now. The warming that did occur from about 1965 through to 2000 was not much in the scheme of things. The rate and magnitude of warming, however, was very significant during the late Pleistocene with sea levels rising at a great speed back then. Over a period of how many thousand years the waters around the southern Australian coastline rose by somewhere between 90 and 110 metres? Remember, when Tasmania was connected to the mainland/

      • madankerr says:

        Oh dear, next you’ll be saying that Arctic ice isn’t melting at a record rate, ice sheets and glaciers aren’t melting, and oceans are not the most acidic in 300 millions years (http://www.livescience.com/18786-ocean-acidification-extinction.html). You’ll say that plants and animals are not moving closer to the poles in response to global warming (http://epa.gov/climatechange/kids/impacts/effects/ecosystems.html). You’ll say that insurance claims for extreme weather events are not rising steadily, even when population growth and infrastructure changes are taken into account.

        Thanks for mentioning the Pleistocene. Do you have any sources that say the RATE of warming then was comparable to now? Everything I have read says that changes took place over geological time – centuries and millenia, whereas our changes are occuing over human time – years and decades. Many times faster. It is taking us to a climate very different from the climate that humans and the plants/animals we depend upon evolved – the holocene.

        There are so many strands of evidence pointing in the same direction. You have to deny or ignore an awful lot to maintain “It’s not warming”. I can only suggest that you try to get your information from reputable scientists and ignore the noisy crowd who cling to discredited opinions. The mainstream scientific view is firmly based on peer reviewed science.

        • Jennifer Marohasy says:

          Oh dear, you have no idea. Your understanding is based on government propaganda and the popular press!
          Try reading the technical literature… you will find that the story here is at complete odds with the popular mythology.
          Here are a few references to papers that might give you some idea of past versus present rates of change in sea level with particular reference to Australia:

          Sea-level change through the last glacial cycle: geophysical,glaciological and palaeogeographic consequencesKurt LambeckC. R. Geoscience 336 (2004) 677–689
          ******Spatial and temporal variability in the Holocene sea-levelrecord of the South Australian coastlineA.P. Belperio a,*, N. Harvey b, R.P. BourmanSedimentary Geology 150 (2002) 153–169******Holocene sea-level change on thesoutheast coast of Australia: a reviewCraig R. Sloss,* Colin V. Murray-Wallace and Brian G. JonesThe Holocene 17,7 (2007) pp. 999–1014****Mid-late Holocene sea-level variability in eastern AustraliaStephen E. Lewis,1,2 Raphael A. J. Wu¨ st,1 Jody M. Webster1 and Graham A. ShieldsTerra Nova, 20, 74–81, 2008

          You might have to go to a library to find the above. And this is just a quick cut and past from some front pages in my soft collection.

          I did see a recent article in ‘The Journal of Quaternary Science’ (2012 vol 27, 64-70) limited to recent changes in relative sealevel in the British Isles that you can download directly from near the home page of that journal. From memory Figure 3 gives some perspective on the present for the British Isles.


          • jennifer marohasy says:

            Sorry the formatting is not so good in the above – it looked Ok until I pressed post – i have provided references to five papers. If you want soft copies of the first four, send me an email. Perhaps read the fifth one listed first, to get an idea as to whether or not you can handle the science.

          • madankerr says:

            Thanks Jennifer, don’t jump to conclusions about what I read. I find that the technical literature supports the view that greenhouse gases keep the planet warm and that rising GHG emissions due to human activity are causing the planet to heat up. The warming is already having consequences that are easily seen, some of which I outlined in an earlier comment.

            Thanks for the reading suggestions. The Lewis et al paper is interesting, I note that they find “the rates of sea level
            rise and fall (1–2 mm yr) during these centennial-scale
            oscillations are comparable with current rates of sea-level rise.” That’s interesting. It doen’t invalidate the view that current sea level increases are due to anthropogenic global warming.

            I understand that currently observed sea levels are tracking at the upper range of the IPCC
            projections. When accelerating ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica
            are factored into sea level projections, the estimated sea level rise by
            2100 is between 75cm to 2 metres.

            However, from what I read, it seems that ocean acidification is likely to be a more immediate problem than rising sea levels – except for countries like Bangladesh.

          • Jennifer Marohasy says:

            So now you switch tack, I can provide many rEferences and a good overview of the ocean acidification issue, but first I would like an acknowledgment from you that the technical literature does not suggest that there is any thing unprecedent in the current magnitude or rate of sealevel rise.
            There is also no evidence to suggest an AGW driver.

          • madankerr says:

            The paper notes that sea level rise along the Queensland coast during the holocene (1-2mm a year) was similar to current rates. However NCDC notes that current rates are increasing. “Since 1993, global sea level has risen at an accelerating rate of around 3.5 mm/year”. (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/indicators/)

            You haven’t demonstrated your claim that there is no evidence to suggest AGW as a driver. NCDC says “Much of the sea level rise to date is a result of increasing heat of the
            ocean causing it to expand. It is expected that melting land ice (e.g.
            from Greenland and mountain glaciers) will play a more significant role
            in contributing to future sea level rise.”

            True, ocean acidification is *another* result of increasing CO2 emissions and it’s worrying. But we needn’t start on that one yet. You’re still trying to make headway on the issue of rising sea levels.

          • Jennifer Marohasy says:

            Now you are appealing to the concept of an increase in the rate of sealevel rise sometme in the future when your first comment suggested it was already happening at an unprecedented rate. You are clearly a true believer and I would be wasting my time providing more technical references that contradicted your belief in AGW nonsense.
            Good bye.

          • madankerr says:

            Jennifer, you seem to confuse past tense with future tense. The NCDC statement is past tense – “Since 1993, global sea level has risen at an accelerating rate of around 3.5 mm/year” – “has been’ is past tense. I stand by my statement that sea levels are rising faster than in the geological past. The Lewis paper did not disprove this. It says 1-2mm/year in the holocene and NCDC says 3.5mm/year since 1993. Which number is bigger?

            I certainly do stand by the evidence provided by reputable scientists, peer reviewed studies and major scientific insititutions. They all point to anthropogenic global warming at rates that will have drastic impacts on human society as we know it.


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