Dueling Hypotheses

The Trenberth article contains so many glaring errors and biased assumptions, it’s hard to know where to start.

First of all, the difference between theory and hypothesis:

The problem is not with dueling hypotheses, it is with dueling theories regarding the processes resulting in observed global warming. One theory states: Observed global warming is the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. Another theory states: Observed global warming is not caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, but is a result of natural geophysical processes.

The statement, “Global warming is the result of human greenhouse gas emissions” is not an hypothesis, it is a proposition, or at best, a simple theory. A theory is an explanation of process based on a body of observation.

Hypotheses, on the other hand, are predictive “if…then” statements used to test a small subset of a theory as an adequate explanation of observations, thus either strengthening or weakening the theory. The results of an individual hypothesis never disprove a theory. A theory can only be weakened and eventually replaced by the accumulation of a body of evidence that contradicts the theories explanation of observations, and the formulation of a new theory that provides a more adequate explanation.

We can test the theory of anthropogenic global warming with the hypothesis: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should find a positive correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is weak test of the theory, since, if we find such a positive correlation, we merely confirm the existing theory. No new information is gained. If we fail to find the positive causal correlation, it may be because we just have not looked hard enough yet, or haven’t looked in the right places. The truth is still out there!

The null hypothesis would be stated as: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should not find a negative correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is a much stronger test of the hypothesis, since it only takes one instance of negative correlation to negate the hypothesis and weaken the theory as an explanation of observations.

This is the process of Science, the Hypothetico-deductive Method of Theory Confirmation.

Secondly, Trenberth repeatedly fails to make a distinction between Global Warming and Anthropogenic Global Warming. There is no question that the average global surface temperature of the Earth has been increasing steadily over the past 20,000 years or so, else, we would still be skirting glaciers on our daily commute. The question is: What is the contribution of anthropogenic greenhouse gases to this warming, and, what effect will reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gases have on this on-going global warming, if any?

Since we do not yet fully understand the natural geophysical processes that result in observed climate variations over geologic time periods, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully understand the contribution to global climate variation resulting from anthropogenic greenhouse gases. Wild predictions of future catastrophic weather events are simply science fiction prognostications with as much scientific validity as a Star Wars movie.

The periodic reports by the IPCC are not scientific documents, they are produced to give policy-makers estimations of the relevant probabilities of various climate scenarios, as an aid in preparation of national and international policies dealing with climate variation. These statements of probability have been inflated by the world press and by politicians anxious to make a name (and fortune) for themselves. Probability has been turned on its head into certainty and is being used by all manner of organizations and individuals to forward their individual agendae. Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.

At some point, increasing evidence of negative correlations between global average atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global average surface temperature will falsify the null hypothesis and greatly reduce the adequacy of the anthropogenic global warming theory as an explanation of observed global average surface temperature increase. Environmental organizations, politicians and science policy organizations will find they’ve hitched their wagons to a black hole. Their unceasing drum-beat for Anthropogenic Global Warming will ultimately discredit their otherwise worthwhile and necessary programs to reduce human pollution as a result of unrestricted human population and economic growth.

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Dave

That about sums it up!

Mindert Eiting

‘… then we should not find a negative correlation..’. I don’t see why this is a stronger prediction as it only says that we should find a zero or positive correlation (or regression). The point is that correlation results from a compound of millions of factors including perhaps a CO2 forcing. A more fruitful question would be how strong the CO2 forcing is, compared with all the others (natural variability). Call it the strength of a signal. Consider the following answer. Non-zero strength implies that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is false. Since the latter is true, CO2 forcing must be zero. This is quite simplistic of course, but you may understand what I mean.

fredj

“At some point, increasing evidence of negative correlations between global average atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global average surface temperature will falsify the null hypothesis and greatly reduce the adequacy of the anthropogenic global warming theory as an explanation of observed global average surface temperature increase”.
There have been negative correlations of increasing CO2 with average annual global temperatures within recent decades but this has not convinced the AGW believers nor the policy makers. How many years of negative correlations will be needed to make them see sense?

“The null hypothesis would be stated as: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should not find a negative correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise.”
This is obviously wrong. A strong negative correlation tends to favor causation just as much as a strong positive correlation. (Neither proves, but both would lead us to favor the causation.)
In this case the fact that disproves the attempted hypothesis is not a correlation as such, but a time-shift. Over the millenia, CO2 and temperature have some correlations, but in the periods where we can see the correlation, CO2 is the lagging variable.
Phase and frequency are relevant here, correlation is not.

KnR

‘Their unceasing drum-beat for Anthropogenic Global Warming will ultimately discredit their otherwise worthwhile and necessary programs to reduce human pollution as a result of unrestricted human population and economic growth.’
And that is the reason that some people are so concerned about the miss-handling and miss-use of AGW, and oddly why some will defend the theory until death. As all eco-issue have become linked to AGW in the public mind , through the deliberate actions of WWF Greenpeace etc, should AGW fall the real danger is it takes everything else with it. After all why would you trust the same people and organisation on anything after they were caught out massively lying over AGW?
Most people experiences of this issues has been the hectoring they been getting, the diet of doom they been feed and increases prices they had to pay, in its name.
And they will not forget that in a hurry.

Katherine

Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.
For some reason, I got the impression that the scare stories were being used to justify de-industrialization and de-development, not continued human growth and development. And while I won’t argue that air, water and soil pollution occur, I don’t think adding CO2 (the GHG Villain of the Decade) to the atmosphere counts as increasing air pollution.

John Marshall

Sounds to me that Dr. Trenberth is trying to cover his own back without actually acknowledging his crass errors in his theories. Theories they will remain.

Peter O'Brien

This comment may be off target here but I’m asking WUWT contributors to help me clarify my thoughts.
I’m sure this has been debated before but I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, so please correct me where necessary.
What’s been occupying my mind, lately, is human contribution to global warming. I’m a CAGW sceptic. I do accept a human contribution, but, on balance, I don’t believe it’s significant.
When I first started to seriously investigate something that seemed counter-intuitive to me, I came across the IPCC AR4 Summary for Policy Makers. It showed a number of very impressive ‘hockey stick’ graphs (at that stage I hadn’t yet learned the significance of the term ‘hockey stick’!), showing CO2 and temperature growth.
One day, in my Internet perambulations, I noticed another ‘hockey stick’ graph. This was one graph that I believed. It showed human population growth, and looked remarkably like the IPCC graphs – indeed you could superimpose it seamlessly. What it showed is that, in 1950, world population was 1.5 billion people. Today, we are nearly 7 billion – more than FOUR times in ONLY SIXTY years.
We sceptics talk a lot about Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI) – primarily as an artefact that is used to correct a highly artificial metric called ‘Annual Global Average Temperature’ (an artefact in itself). We talk about the reflective effect of tarmac and so on.
But it seems to me that UHI is more than that. UHI has a reflective component and a generative component.
If we talk about the temperature at the surface of the Earth, we needed to consider four things:
Heat incoming from the Sun,
Heat reflected from the Earth’s surface and associated feedbacks,
Heat emanating from the Earth’s core, and
Heat being generated at the surface.
Accepting that all animals (human and otherwise) are in a closed CO2 atmospheric loop, and ignoring the ‘greenhouse effect’, we need to consider that what sets us apart as humans – indeed the essence of our humanity – is that, as opposed to animals that adapt to their environment, we change our environment to suit ourselves. This means, at the most basic level, that we do things to keep ourselves warm – we burn stuff and generate heat. As we advance we burn more stuff to make our food more palatable. Then we generate more heat to make things, like musical instruments, that we don’t really need for basic survival. Now we have automobiles and aircraft and TV to make our lives even more enjoyable. They all generate heat.
THAT’S A LOT OF HEAT!
Is it being considered in the IPCC models?

Girma

Michael Lewis
“We can test the theory of anthropogenic global warming with the hypothesis: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should find a positive correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise.”
Let us do that!
As shown in the following data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre:
http://bit.ly/gIkojx
1) Average consumption of fossil fuel per year from 1910 to 1940 was about 1 Billion metric tones
2) Average consumption of fossil fuel per year from 1970 to 2000 was about 5 Billion metric tones (an increase by 5-times compared to the period from 1910 to 1940)
b) As shown in the following data from the Climate Research Unit:
http://bit.ly/bUZsBe
1) Increase in global mean temperature from 1910 to 1940 was about 0.45 deg C
2) Increase in global mean temperature from 1970 to 2000 was about 0.45 deg C (no increase compared to the period from 1910 to 1940)
From the results above, the increase in human use of fossil fuels by 5-times has resulted in no change in the global mean temperature.
As a result, the data contradicts the theory of man-made global warming.

robertvdl

IF if if if . The question is , would it be so bad for our Earth to be warmer than today when we know that in the past Earth nearly always has been warmer than today. I can´t imagine cooler would be better.
Robert

robertvdl

“After all why would you trust the same people and organisation on anything after they were caught out massively lying over AGW? ”
KnR
January 16, 2011 at 3:26 am
Because they are in power. Look at the economic crisis .The people that didn´t see it coming now tell us what to do to get out of it. You trust them? But don´t protest because then YOU get arrested not the real criminals.

Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.

I think there should be some kind of negative in there. Something like “… have been used to justify halting human growth …”
Maybe I’m reading it wrong, though.

Mike Haseler

First I think your distinction between theory and hypothesis (whilst in common use) is a bit like that between climate and weather — there is no real difference other than one or others tends to be used to cover phenomena in one or other area in a continuous range. Likewise theory and hypothesis really mean the same thing, but theory is used in a broader way than hypothesis.
Still, this is an interesting article, because I’m right this moment struggling with the same lack of rigour in the area of “experimental” archaeology. The problems I have are:
– many use “experiment” interchangeably with “try out” as in “experiment with a recipe”. The idea of controls, testability etc. are not even considered.
– many archaeological “experiments” are neither intended to be scientific nor would they provide the same useful information if they were conducted that way. A good example is the way an archaeologist learnt to form glass vases and by learning the process they could determine that some features suggested as being an artistic choice by the ancients, were actually a natural limit to what could be achieved practically.
– if archaeologists did use the “beyond all reasonable doubt” test of science, then most of history would consist of statements of this or that artefact having been discovered and no concept of how they were actually used less what society looked like.
– finally, how can you apply the “scientific method” to history? History isn’t repeatable, and therefore is not testable – and often there is a very limited number of artefacts which cannot simply be destroyed for “science”.
So, I have some sympathy with the climate “scientists” because in many ways they suffer from the same problems of archaeologists, (although archaeologists are honest and don’t call themselves “scientists”)
– How do you conduct an “experiment” on the atmosphere to test whether CO2 leads to warming.
-How do you have a control?
-How do you make use of historic data from the past in “experiments” which cannot be repeated and where there is huge doubt about the validity of the measurements.
The two share a very common theme, both archaeology and climate science struggle to be more rigorous in their approach and desperately wish to be “scientific” whilst simultaneously dealing with data/experiments which cannot be conducted in a scientific way due to the historic nature of data and the limited scope for meaningful testing of their hypothesis.
There other common theme is that neither climate scientists nor “experimental” archaeologists seem to have a clue about even the basics of the scientific method.

Mike Haseler

Sorry — should have added that both archaeologists and climate scientists are being pushed to provide information “beyond the facts”. They both have a public pushing them to go further than the scientific method allows. It’s quite understandable why, but in both cases scientific rigour is sacrificed to allow some kind of answer (aka speculation) … except of course climate “scientists” claim their speculation is science!

Bob Barker

Katherine says:
January 16, 2011 at 3:35 am
I concur with Katherine’s question and comment.
Politicians (and scientists?) should be careful what they classify as pollutants, especially if they intend to take action. Already the path to global warming mitigation is strewn with unintended consequences. Forcing inappropriate applications of natural gas, ethanol, CO2 sequestration, windmills, solar panels are producing negative consequences which overshadow any measureable positive result.

RichieP

JER0ME says:
January 16, 2011 at 4:51 am
“‘.. used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources ‘
I think there should be some kind of negative in there. Something like “… have been used to justify halting human growth …””
Yes, it does read as if there’s a word missing here, especially since the whole scam is designed to reduce growth and development, vilifying it rather than justifying it.

Brad

This is so extreme that it may finally be seen as such by other scientists, they may finally see that the Emperor has no clothes…time will tell.

Spen

A negative correlation between temperature and C02 concentration would not definitely rule out AGW. It could mean that the onset of natural cooling mechanisms masked the AGW effect. The corollary is that in periods of natural warming any greenhouse effect would amplify the effect.
The stumbling block with determing the temperature effect attibutable to AGW is we do not know what the temperatures would have been had we not produced CO2 or hadn’t decimated the world’s forests. Model’s are not proof as they can be tweeked to represent the known historical conditions.

“…Their unceasing drum-beat for Anthropogenic Global Warming will ultimately discredit their otherwise worthwhile and necessary programs to reduce human pollution as a result of unrestricted human population and economic growth. “

I hate to pick at your last sentence Professor Lewis. Your post is most helpful explaining the difference between hypothesis and theory. But…
World population has grown at an unprecedented rate for the last 400 years. During that time pollution has been declining not increasing; in both absolute and per capita terms. Human control of natural destructive forces, such as fire and erosion, combined with an unceasing improvements in efficiencies of controlled combustion and in the handling and discharge of human generated waste streams – its really hard to argue that the world is “more” polluted today than 50 or 100 or 200 yeas ago. Yes, I know, only anthropogenic pollution counts. Uncontrolled wild fires don’t pollute and are not destructive.
But look at just the anthropic-environment. Our urban and rural environments are dramatically cleaner and continually cleaner, worldwide. The long correlation between our cleaner environment and growth is unmistakable. If these “necessary and worthwhile programs” you advocate are aimed at reducing population/economic growth. I hope they are discredited. The sooner the better.
If you mean the simple rules that have been in place for a long, long time; that you can’t dump your refuse in the commons. Don’t you worry – there is vigorous support for that type of regulation worldwide – and support and enforcement will only increase if population expands and more of us are showing up to use the commons.

We already have a negative correlation, about 15 years so far of no statistically significant rise in global temperatures while CO2 concentrations continue to climb. If the next three decades resemble the predictions of Joe Bastardi & Piers Corbyn, temperatures will decline (Bastardi says to 1970s levels), while CO2 continues its relentless climb. We shall then have quite a window of negative correlation!
Will it be enough?

John R T

Katherine, JERoME, and Bob Barker offer a correction.
With that correction, I agree with this useful critique.

Curiousgeorge

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

Jimbo

Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.

I there a typo somwhere?

Khwarizmi

Hyperinflated scare stories of sea level rise, catastrophic flooding, heat waves and droughts have been used to justify continued human growth and development in the face of dwindling natural resources and increasing air, water and soil pollution, all in the name of environmental justice.
Specifically, what resources are dwindling?
============
We Must Preserve The Earth’s Dwindling Resources For My Five Children
By Brenda Melford
June 28, 2006
As we move into the 21st century, it is our responsibility to think of the future of the earth—not for ourselves, but for those who will inherit what my husband and I leave behind when we’re gone.
http://www.theonion.com/articles/we-must-preserve-the-earths-dwindling-resources-fo,11239/
============
🙂
The growing abundance of natural resources (Paul Ehrlich loses $1000 on a famous bet.)

While technically true, I think calling AGW a ‘theory’ gives it way too much credibility. And in fact, the previous theories surrounding the existence of Roman and Medieval Warming periods that IPCC ‘scientists’ attempted to debunk with shoddy tree ring data. In fact the recent divergence from the reality of modern temperature records proves the tree ring analysis was shoddy and ripe with uncertainty, therefore the IPCC hypothesis that the Roman and Medieval Warming Periods were lesser than today’s warm period were weak and proven wrong.
Moreover, the IPCC and others did hypothesize that CO2 increases would lead to a myriad of results. One of which was a .3°C increase in global warming per decade – a hypothesis which has never come to pass. The others were sea level rises, increased hurricanes, droughts and the loss of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035.
The fact is as you stated it – the Earth has been warming for many millennium, and recently for centuries since the Little Ice Age. What has the IPCC proven?
Nothing except they don’t have the data and mathematical analysis to make any claims whatsoever. What we have learned since Climategate is the uncertainty in their past, current and future temperature records and analysis results dwarfs the claimed decadal and century rises. We know there is no way to determine a global average temperature index within a fraction of a degree even today, with the world surrounded by temperature sensors of various types and quality. The idea that the record of global temperature in 1850 is .15°C less accurate than today is mind boggling naive. I would suggest that kind of claim would require a person to return their PhD due to credibility abuse.
If the current definitions of theory, hypothesis and simply wild eyed concept allow what the IPCC passes off as being tested and credible, then science needs to take back science and begin raising the bar back up again. The entire domain of global warming ‘science’ as applied by the IPCC and Al Gore is an affront to real scientific investigation and methods. Hiding a divergence in the data that proves a key proxy is incapable of accurately reflecting even local temps, let alone global ones seems to be a clear case of fraud in my book – and NASA’s.
If that hidden data was engineering data predicting the strength of Shuttle tile or foam to hits by ice chunks, and it was later found out that someone covered up the portion of the data that showed in certain flight regimes there could be catastrophic damage, they would be fired and up on criminal charges.
Since the data hidden by Mann, CRU, Jones, Briffa, et al was about the dangers of CO2 to humanity, it seems the potential impact on the world’s entire population verses a crew of 7 people would make the fraud even worse. But no – no one is looking at the cover up which created the Hockey Stick, which was supposedly proof there has NEVER been warming like this ever before.
We now know all those claims to be false, since Mann, CRU and the IPCC have all had to walk them back in the face of real analysis and the discovery of the cover up of diverging tree ring data. Yet here we have the desperate AGW Klingons still peddling false and misleading claims. When will society hold them to the same standard as a TV commercial? When will society investigate these charlatans – after another 30 years of disproved hypotheses?
The US Congress has an opportunity to correct this mess through fair and balanced and educational hearings. A lot of them. To bring the populace up to speed on the complexity of climate and the falsifying of data will take a long time.
But it will be time well spent.

Curiousgeorge

@ Mike Haseler says:
January 16, 2011 at 5:04 am
Perhaps you would find this useful. This is a on-line preprint, the full book is available thru Amazon ( where else 🙂 ):
PROBABILITY THEORY:
THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE
by
E. T. Jaynes (deceased )
Wayman Crow Professor of Physics
Washington University
St. Louis, MO 63130, U.S.A.
http://omega.albany.edu:8008/JaynesBook.html

Olen

Some are looking at the precession of the earth’s rotational axis and how it results in changes in the earth’s climate. That of course along with the sun and moon would be difficult to tax and a poor reason to turn corn into fuel and drive electric cars.
If you ask me and no one has, it seems instead of predicting global disaster from climate which they can’t prove we should be thankful that we live in a time of relative good weather and take advantage of it. Of course you could not tax good weather to save the planet. Then at some time if and when there is proof of impending climate disaster the problem can be look at with calm deliberation rather than hysterical fanaticism.
By hysterical fanaticism I am referring to politicians who are willing to destroy our economy and way of life based on claims not proven. Don’t get me wrong, research in climate is important and should continue but with the wheat separated from the chaff.
As complex as weather and climate are nailing it to one thing such as CO2 resulting from man and the modern world seems to be a bit too convenient and too easy to tax.

Suzanne

There are other equally relevant null hypothesis in the AGW debate such as “High cosmic rays does not cause increased low cloudiness in the tropics” or “Rising CO2 in the atmosphere is not amplified by positive feedbacks. These null hypothesis are actually currently being tested. Also the statement “There is no question that the average global surface temperature of the Earth has been increasing steadily over the past 20,000 years or so, else, we would still be skirting glaciers on our daily commute.” is rather simplistic. The Greenland ice cores and multiple paleoclimatologic records show a slow, irregular cooling since the Holocene Optimum about 5,000 th 2,500 BC with good evidence that the “Minoan” Warm period”, Roman Warm Period, and Medieval Warm Period were warmer than the present. Some time in the future we may well be skirting glaciers.

Ian L. McQueen

Picky, picky, time…..
“agendae” is a “false plural”. “Agenda” is already plural, the plural of “agendum”. There is more information than you really want to know about this at http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/agendum
I was remote from being a scholar in Latin, but some things stick in my mind.
IanM

James Barker

Just a thought, but rather than trying to measure our possible contribution to GW in a percentage of CO2 concentration, compared to an unknown natural CO2 concentration, is there a way of estimating the human contribution in terms of waste heat generated, compared to natural heat generators? If all of human society in the last several thousand years could only generate the equivalent heat of say one volcano, then the entire argument would seem to be over. Am I just looking at the problem simplistically?

James Sexton

Peter O’Brien says:
January 16, 2011 at 4:22 am
“One day, in my Internet perambulations, I noticed another ‘hockey stick’ graph. This was one graph that I believed. It showed human population growth, and looked remarkably like the IPCC graphs – indeed you could superimpose it seamlessly. What it showed is that, in 1950, world population was 1.5 billion people. Today, we are nearly 7 billion – more than FOUR times in ONLY SIXTY years.”
========================================================
Peter, I can’t help you with what direct effect our heat generation has on the global temps, but I think its rather transient and insignificant. A better perspective might be, in terms of global population, to understand that if we placed everybody in the world shoulder to shoulder, we’d all fit in the state of Texas with room left over. It is every bit as relevant as graphing CO2 in ppm.
Peter, you’ve ambled across the pertinent graph in the whole CAGW discussion. You can indeed superimpose population graphs with hockeystick temp graphs. This isn’t accidental. From Ehrlich to Mann, the message is the same. Indeed, before Ehrlich, Malthus. And a litany of other characters before and aft. The underlying recurrent theme is that humanity is destructive and evil and harms the rest of the world. That, instead of being part of nature, we are an aberration of nature. Further, the solutions to the humanity difficulty is always destructive and harmful to humanity. It is always to control and regulate the very nature of mankind that is seen as a remedy for these perceived difficulties.
Indeed, a recent speaker inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he stated, “But there’s another kind of doubt that doesn’t rely on the vagaries of Mother Nature. It is manufactured by man, specifically by a small group of influential libertarians in the U.S. who have led a decades-long ideological fight, first against the communists and then the health community and now environmentalism.”
They are all cut from the same cloth. They all seek the same thing. This is why your graphs are identical.
http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Climate+change+deniers+skilfully+fuel+doubt/4114099/story.html

Mike Haseler

Curiousgeorge says: @ Mike Haseler says:
Perhaps you would find this useful. This is a on-line preprint, the full book is available thru Amazon ( where else 🙂 ):
PROBABILITY THEORY:
THE LOGIC OF SCIENCE
Curiousgeorge, thanks, but that’s just a tad too simplistic for the problem I’m looking at. What you’ve got to consider is that there are many ways to derive knowledge or truth. When you have a problem suitable for the scientific method, then clearly the scientific method is to be recommended, but if the problem has more nebulous information and particularly when you need to use your experience as a human, you clearly have to use methodology from other areas such as the social “sciences” and/or politics. Take for example relationships — do you really think an approach of insisting on null hypothesis regarding your spouses new hair is going to “solve” the problem of a marriage?
Where many people make a mistake (and climate “scientists” are notable for this) is to assume that science is ALWAYS the answer.
Now there are subjects like archaeology, economics and perhaps social “sciences” which are close enough to real science to use many of the ideas of science to derive data etc., but are far enough into the more nebulous areas to have to combine the scientific technique with other tools for assessing validity of ideas – and that is my problem, how to meaningful combine the two without do the climate “science” trick of pretending to be science without doing real science.
The problem I highlighted were areas like climate “science” and “experimental” archaeology which make some kind of claim to be “scientific” without fully endorsing the scientific method. All too often what you find is people calling what they do “science” — but when you check (as e.g. Trenberth reversal of the null hypothesis), you find they call what they do “science” but really they pay no head to the accepted methodology.
Perhaps, what we need is to divide climate “science” into different areas: Climate measurement – the scientific measurement of climate; “climate forecasting” – the use of models to forecast climate – and the testing of the validity of models by their ability to forecast, and climate “policy” – which would be a less rigorous subject which allowed people to express their non-scientific views using the standards of politics and other akin subjects and would be an ideal place for people like Trenberth.

Mats Bengtsson

The article states:
“The null hypothesis would be stated as: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should not find a negative correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise. This is a much stronger test of the hypothesis, since it only takes one instance of negative correlation to negate the hypothesis and weaken the theory as an explanation of observations.”
That is not the null hypothesis. But it could be a theory weakening evidence. It does not even differentiate between coordination and cause. My alarm clock rings every day close to the rise of the sun. There is a correlation that can be found. But the alarm clock is not the cause of the sun rising. There is a huge difference between correlation and causes.
— Mats —

Since one of the hypothesis of AGW is more heat waves, does this mean that the theory has been weakened?
http://cdnsurfacetemps.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/more-heat-waves-expected/

pat

Dramatic Ocean Circulation Changes Caused a Colder Europe in the Past
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110114155336.htm
“Dr Thornalley said: “These insights highlight just how dynamic and sensitive ocean circulation can be. Whilst the circulation of the modern ocean is probably much more stable than it was at the end of the last Ice Age, and therefore much less likely to undergo such dramatic changes, it is important that we keep developing our understanding of the climate system and how it responds when given a push.”
I suppose that is the cookie thrown to the Warmists. But the story confirms otherwise.

Mike Smith

“… as a result of unrestricted human population and economic growth. ”
Surely you do not mean to say that these things should be restricted.

Excuse me for nit picking but the earth has not “been continuously warming for the last 20,000 years”. We had a very sharp warming ca 12,000 years ago, a sudden cooling (the Younger Dryas) and then a renewed warming to a max. ca 8000 years ago, and then a long cooling trend. COOLING for 8,000 or so years, punctuated with shorter warming/cooling cycles.
If we compare the Holocene with the Eemian (the previous interglacial), we see that the Younger Dryas event blew a hole in what might have been an earlier and higher warming peak. Warming early, and then a long cooling until things tip into the next glacial period.

While I agree over all with the article, there is some confusion regarding the terms “theory” and “hypothesis.”
In general, a theory makes testable predictions, as in the theory of relativity. A hypothesis is a testable conjecture. This article explains the diferences between a law, a theory, a hypothesis and a conjecture.
Also, Mats Bengtsson is right. There is some confusion regarding the null hypothesis. The definition of a null hypothesis is “the statistical hypothesis that states that there are no differences between observed and expected data.”
In another thread, Richard Courtney gave a good example of the null hypothesis, and why it is relevant:

A scientist has to work within the scientific method. He/she does not have the luxury of changing the method because of any personal desire. And part of the scientific method is an acceptance of the nature and importance of the null hypothesis in any investigation.
The null hypothesis is that in the absence of evidence of a change then it has to be assumed there has been no change.
So, in the case of AGW, it has to be assumed that climate behaviour has not changed from previous climate behaviour unless and until there is evidence that climate behaviour has changed.
There can be no compromise with this.
The null hypothesis in AGW is that climate behaviour has not changed as a result of the anthropogenic emission of GHGs (i.e. following the industrial revolution) and it is the ONLY scientific assumption because there is no evidence – none, zilch, not any – evidence of such a change. If such evidence were produced then the null hypothesis would be disproved and there could be investigation of what caused the change. But unless and until such evidence exists there is not – and there cannot be – any scientific purpose in investigating the cause (perhaps AGW or something else) of a change which is not known to exist.

Trenberth’s problem is that the planet’s temperature, the rate of change, trends, etc., are all well within the same parameters that existed throughout the Holocene.
CO2 is like a placebo: some folks truly believe that it makes a difference – but there is no measurable difference compared to the climate prior to the industrial revolution. All the CO2 that has been added amounts to .o1% of the atmosphere. It’s not surprising that there has been no detectable difference with such a minuscule change.
A common thread in the catastrophic AGW crowd is that they ignore the scientific method. Since Trenberth cannot falsify the null hypothesis, he now proposes to replace it with his own alternate hypothesis. But since there can be many alternate hypotheses to the null, Trenberth is simply engaging in scientific charlatanism.

PJP

@Peter O’Brien
I have had similar thoughts.
If you just think about the amount of electrical energy delivered every second of every day, a fraction of that goes into doing some form of work, moving something from here to there, shuffling electrons around inside computers etc. But the vast majority ends up as heat. Also consider that the generators themselves are only 50% (or so efficient), and an equal amount of heat is generated there (that’s why they have those huge cooling towers), then thee is the 30% or so “lost” in transmission … lost being a euphemism for turned into heat.
Then we can start thinking about transport. Again, only a tiny proportion of the energy used goes into moving lumps of matter from A to B.
Then there is the biological component. Every human being on the planet consumes food. The processing of the food generates heat. Ever notice how warm a room gets when filled with people and there is no AC?
If someone had access to all the relevant data, I think we would find that heat islands are not just caused by the roads and buildings holding the day’s heat, but by the huge amounts of energy dumped into them by electricity, vehicles and people.

Roger Otip

The null hypothesis would be stated as: If observed global warming is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, then we should not find a negative correlation between the amount and rate of greenhouse gas production and global average temperature rise.

This would only be the case if one were suggesting that the warming over the past century were solely caused by human activity, but no one is suggesting that. The IPCC said most of the warming over the last 50 years is very likely due to human activity. There are of course other drivers of our planet’s climate, and these have been studied at length by climate scientists. They recognize that human activity (greenhouse gas emissions + changes in land use such as deforestation) is one of a number of drivers of temperature, though most climate scientists are of the opinion that human activity is the main driver of the recent warming due to the preponderance of evidence supporting this view.

Roger Otip

James Barker

Just a thought, but rather than trying to measure our possible contribution to GW in a percentage of CO2 concentration, compared to an unknown natural CO2 concentration, is there a way of estimating the human contribution in terms of waste heat generated, compared to natural heat generators?

It’s not our direct production of heat that’s the problem, rather it’s our production of heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. Through estimates of the ratiative forcings of these compounds we can calculate the warming effect of our emissions.

Curiousgeorge

@ Mike Haseler says:
January 16, 2011 at 8:38 am
Mike, in the context of your post, Jaynes book may not be suitable re your area of interest, but I’d hardly call his work simplistic. Are you familiar with his work?

Darkinbad the Brightdayler

A nice summation of the position apart from the last paragraph which is, in itself, an opinion, not an argument.

dp

Mark Haseler sed :
“- if archaeologists did use the “beyond all reasonable doubt” test of science, then most of history would consist of statements of this or that artefact having been discovered and no concept of how they were actually used less what society looked like.”
I would expect sociologists and anthropologists, not archeologists, to explain such things as what purpose has the red box and iron implements therein that was found in an underground chamber next to an apparently self-propelled chain-driven two-wheeled vehicle.
I expect archeologists to map the locations of the findings and endeavor to place them on an historical timeline, and to associate them with other similar finds. Is that a wrong notion?
I have similar old world views of climate science and climate scientists. They should tell us, in unbiased clarity, what they know, not what they believe, not what their models predict, and let society’s elected representatives work out a response.

Roger Otip

John Johnston

about 15 years so far of no statistically significant rise in global temperatures while CO2 concentrations continue to climb.

You appear to be misunderstanding Phil Jones’s use of the term “statistical significance”.

In my essay “The Art of Controversy” (http://retreadresources.com/blog/?p=670) just posted on 15th I talk about Art Schopenhaur’s 19th century essay call The Art of Controversy. In it he list 38 ways or tricks (his words) to win an argument. We have all seen them before and many were learned in debating and speech perpetration course work. It is the art of sophistry and propaganda. We should not be the least bit surprised when an advocate for any side of any argument uses these techniques almost all going back to the invention of discourse. It is interesting to notice that believers seem not to notice when facts or reality is obfuscated, while nonbelievers pick every subtle point.
The only true test is does the speaker remain true to his philosophical principals? Given the principals underlying the philosophy of science are being decimated, this fellow fails the test.

R. Gates

Interesting post, and it seems readers would do well to keep the these terms in mind:
Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Model:
Conjecture: Simply an educated “guess” about the something. The key word is EDUCATED. It means the person or persons has the background of experience, education, and knowledge to make the conjecture. Many famous conjectures were based on intuition, and turned out to be true.
Example: You CONJECTURE that your two new work associates, Bill and Sue, who are both single and like to ski, will end up dating.
Hypothesis: An explanation of observable events based on measurement and data.
Example: You see Bill & Sue (from the example above) at a bar in a dark corner laughing and having drinks and you make the HYPOTHESIS that they are dating.
Theory: A explanation of a general phenomenon that has been throughly tested through observation, experiement and analysis and is ususally accepted by the majority of experts.
Example: You see Bill & Sue kissing passionately in the parking lot and then she gives him and quick swat on the butt before winking and getting into her car and driving away so you THEORIZE that they are likely dating. You discuss this with other co-workers and they add their similar observations to yours and so the THEORY that Bill and Sue are dating is created. One co-worker had never seen the two of them together in a romantic way and disagrees with your THEORY.
Model: A mathemetical or physical construct that represents the dynamics of some phenomenon or group of phenomenon. Models are based on established prinicipals, laws and observations. Models of non-chaotic systems will tend to be more reliable and accurate than models of chaotic systems, or systems existing on the edge of chaos, such as the climate. Models are constantly being refined with new observations.
Example: One could create a mathmatical MODEL of Bill and Sue’s relationship, giving various values to variables such as attractiveness to each other, common interests, values, etc. and predict the liklihood that they would get together and how their relationship might progress. Similar kinds of MODELS actually exist, and are the basis of such web services such as match.com and eharmony.com.
In general, a CONJECTURE can become a HYPOTHESIS, which can then become a THEORY. MODELS are independent of all of these and can exist at any stage, but tend to come in at the hypothesis stage and develop and change constantly.
Let’s look at the history of the AGW Theory (at least some could argue it is now a theory)
______
1859 – Tyndall first CONJECTURES that changes in GHG’s could bring about climate change.
1896 – Arrhenius CONJECTURES that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 could warm the planet and publishes the first calculation for this effect.
1897 – Chamberlin produces the first MODEL for global carbon exchange
1938 – Callendar, using collected DATA, makes the first HYPOTHESIS that AGW is underway and is being caused by CO2.
1956 – Phillips produces the first computer MODEL of the global atmosphere.
1956 – Plass uses a MODEL to calculate that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will have signficant effects on the radiation balance.
1958 – Keeling makes the first modern direct measurement of CO2 in the atmosphere at 315 ppm and begins making regular readings.
1963 – It is first CONJECTURED that feedback with water vapor could make the climate much more sensitive to CO2 increases.
1965 – Lorentz et. al., first CONJECTURE that the climate, being a chaotic system, could be subject to sudden shifts.
1967 – Manabe and Wetherald make a mathematical MODEL that doubling CO2 would raise world temperatures a couple of degrees.
1969 – Budyko and Sellers present MODELS of catastrophic ice-albedo feedbacks.
1975 – Manabe et. al. produce complex computer MODELS which show a temperature rise of several degrees for doubled CO2.
1979 – US National Academy of Sciences report finds the CONJECTURE that doubling CO2 will bring 1.5-4.5°C global warming to be highly credible.
1981 – Several scientists CONJECTURE that the greenhouse warming “signal” should be visible by about the year 2000.
1985 – Ramanathan and collaborators CONJECTURE that global warming may come twice as fast as expected, from rise of methane and other trace greenhouse gases.
1990 -First IPCC report makes the HYPOTHESIS that the world has been warming from CO2 and future warming seems likely.
1995 -Second IPCC report detects “signature” of human-caused greenhouse effect warming, declares and THEORIZES that serious warming is likely in the coming century.
2001 -Third IPCC report states that anthropogenic global warming, unprecedented since end of last ice age, is “very likely,” and THEORIZES possible severe surprises.
2002 -Studies find surprisingly strong “global dimming,” due to pollution, has retarded arrival of greenhouse warming, but dimming is now decreasing.
2007 -Fourth IPCC report warns that serious effects of warming have become evident; cost of reducing emissions would be far less than the damage they will cause.
2007 – Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and Arctic Ocean sea-ice cover found to be shrinking faster than expected.
2009 – Many experts warn that global warming is arriving at a faster and more dangerous pace than anticipated just a few years earlier.
2009 – Level of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 385 ppm.
2009 – End of the warmest decade on record.
2010 – Tied for warmest year on record, and is wettest year on record globally. Atmospheric water vapor continues to rise (a far more potent GH gas) as first conjectured to be a result of increased CO2 in 1963.
It would seem that the AGW conjecture first became a hypothesis in about the 1930’s and probably sometime in the 1990’s made the transition to become a theory. As such, as Trenberth clearly points out, the burden of proof would be on competing theories to explain the body of global climate phenomenon that AGW Theory does. A competing theory or theories would have to at the minimum explain the combined and simultaneous occurances of:
* Declining sea ice (seasonal and decade to decade)
* Increasing ocean heat content
* Increasing atmosphereic temperatures (decade to decade)
* Decreasing stratospheric temperatures (decade to decade)
* Melting permafrost
* Acclerations in the hydrologcial cycle
* Increasing atmospheric water vapor levels
* Increasing ocean acidity
Many competing hypothesis are out there, but they are mostly incomplete, and don’t explain the simultaneous occurance of all these phenomenon as the AGW Theory and related models do. It will be interesting to see if any ever can, and if one should arrise, and be accepted by a large body of qualified scientists then it would become a competing theory to AGW. I won’t be holding my breath on that one.

rbateman

AGW assumes that increasing CO2 increases temperature and is responsible for the majority of the 20th Century warming.
That assumption fails the observed archeological record.
Anybody want to buy shares in a Lemon scheme?

Roger Otip

robertvdl

The question is , would it be so bad for our Earth to be warmer than today when we know that in the past Earth nearly always has been warmer than today.

Throughout human history the earth’s climate has been pretty stable. When temperatures were a lot hotter than they are now, that’s when dinosaurs ruled the earth and the only mammals were small rodents.
You also need to consider the rate at which the planet is warming. A gradual change, as most past climate changes have been, would give us and other species time to adapt to the new conditions, but the current rate of warming is, when compared with previous changes, very rapid, such that if we experience warming of more than a couple of degrees C before the end of this century the major adadptations our societies would have to make, particularly the agricultural sector, would be extremely difficult and would likely result in food shortages in some regions, particularly teh equatorial regions where subsistance farming is common.
For more info see the Skeptical Science page on this and the IPCC’s Working Group 2 report, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

R Gates,
You obviously didn’t read this article explaining the differences between Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory and Law. If you did read it, retaining what you read was like water sliding off a duck’s back.
You replaced “Law” with “Model” [Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Model]. I suppose in your world that makes sense. In the real world, it is nonsense.
Your rambling misrepresentations are simply alarmist spin. A few examples: first, AGW was proposed as one alternate hypothesis to the null hypothesis. Now, you attempt to make it a theory. But AGW cannot make accurate predictions – one of the hallmarks of a theory; for example the Theory of Relativity, which makes numerous accurate predictions.
AGW [and the ridiculous CAGW] cannot be defined as theories. CAGW is nothing more than a failed conjecture, with no empirical, testable evidence to support it. The predictions it made have failed.
Models, upon which your conjectures depend, predicted the tropospheric hot spot as the “fingerprint” of AGW. The models were wrong. They failed to accurately predict.
Next, you mistakenly make the assumptions: “2009 – End of the warmest decade on record.” And: “2010 – Tied for warmest year on record…”
Nonsense.
Finally, it is no surprise that you implicitly agree with Trenberth that his CO2=CAGW conjecture should replace the null hypothesis. Your post shows desperation on Trenberth’s part, and a misuse of scientific terms on your part.
Spin, spin, spin.