The APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate: reply to Roger Cohen

American Physical Society

American Physical Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guest post by  Warren S. Warren

A reply to Roger Cohen from a fellow Executive Committee member

In a recent posting on your web site, Roger Cohen, who was on the Organizing Committee for the APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate and just resigned from the Executive Committee, posted his resignation letter with an expanded “explanation”.  As a member of both committees, I consider his letter to be a direct attack on my integrity, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Since I have been involved in organizing the Topical Group from the beginning, my views on climate change are relevant.  I have never published in that field (my background is chemical physics, and research focus is on medical imaging) and I am not an advocate for either “side” in this discussion.  But I could make the same statement about virtually everyone else involved on those committees.  I don’t buy the arguments that only “experts on climate change” can understand the data and draw conclusions-any more than I would accept the same argument about astrology or homeopathic medicine.  I can say that I am appalled by the highly unscientific and highly unprofessional way I see many prominent individuals, on both sides of this discussion, behave in public.  For example, every tiny bit of new noisy data seems to get blown up into “conclusive evidence” one way or the other-ignoring what Judith Curry is fond of calling the uncertainty monster that clearly has not been tamed.  I also feel that the APS statement on climate change (with the word “incontrovertible”) was very ill-advised, but the controversy focused on one badly-chosen word has harmed science by discouraging other scientific organizations from helping to sort wheat from chaff in this field.  Finally, I think formation of the Topical Group on the Physics of Climate is a very positive step, and has the potential to dramatically improve the scientific discourse in this field.

In Roger’s post on this website, he presented himself as the voice of sanity in a biased group.  That is certainly not the way I remember our interactions on that committee.  But I will not try to tell stories; instead, I will let him speak for himself.  Start with his consulting work on carbon remediation:

http://globalthermostat.com/team/roger-cohen

(and just in case he gets that taken down, here is a copy: https://www.dropbox.com/s/nu1o1ksyhc5u891/roger-cohen.htm)

and then reconcile this viewpoint with what he expressed in the Wall Street Journal:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html

Many other people have trouble speaking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.   I will not miss him on the Executive Committee.

Much more importantly, the GPC Executive Committee and Program Committee has put together an extremely balanced set of speakers for the March 2013 meeting, including several Roger suggested.  As I am not the chair, I do not feel it is my place to reveal the program, but I think nobody will look at the set of speakers at the March meeting and find them unbalanced.  In addition, absolutely any APS member can submit an abstract, which by APS bylaws will be accepted for presentation.

Bottom line:  if you are interested in climate science, as divorced from climate policy, and an American Physical Society member, GPC is a natural home for you and your input is welcome.

==============================================================

NOTE: I agree with his views on uncertainty and the elevation of weather noise to “conclusive evidence” but I don’t agree with Mr. Warren’s characterizations of Mr. Cohen. But, in the interest of fairness I have allowed this rebuttal, even though he has used a personal cheap shot about “speaking out of both sides of their mouth”. We’ll hold judgement on the speakers list for March 2013 until we see it. At that time it can be determined how balanced it is.  – Anthony

===============================================================

UPDATE:  a comment from APS see below.

Submitted on 2012/10/25 at 8:05 am

Dear Mr. Watts,

The trademarked APS logo must be removed from this site because the American Physical Society did not give permission for its use. Furthermore, the headline, “The APS Topical Group on the Physics of Climate, reply to:” should be removed because it is misleading. It wrongly implies an official APS endorsement of the reply to Mr. Cohen’s resignation.

Sincerely,

Tawanda W. Johnson

Press Secretary

American Physical Society

REPLY: Dear Ms. Johnson. The logo is from Wikipedia, and it is used here (like many other content items from Wikipedia) under the exception for fair use. Under fair use, I do not require permission from APS to use the logo that is at Wikipedia. They state:

Use of the logo in the article complies with Wikipedia non-free content policy, logo guidelines, and fair use under United States copyright law as described above.

If you wish to take the issue up with them, and if you are successful in having them remove it from Wikipedia I will follow suit. Bear also in mind that this logo comes up in WordPress automatically in the Zemanta free “cleared” content available to thousands of WordPress users. So you’ll also have to take the issue up with WordPress.com to get the hundreds and perhaps thousands of other uses of the logo also removed.

Until such time, for my part to ensure no unsuspecting reader might be influenced by the logo as you suggest, I’ll put the comment and my response in the main body of the article. – Anthony

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Keith AB

Why did he fold in homeopathy and astrology?

Poor Yorek

I wonder why this site refers almost invariably to “Dr. Svalgaard,” but to “Mr. Warren” or “Mr. Cohen” in the post above when, presumably, all three hold the Ph.D. degree? I’ve noted at other sites a tendency to refer to those with whom we agree “Dr.” – if appropriate – and those with whom we do not “Mr.” but I would have hoped for better from WUWT whose efforts I have much appreciated.

BioBob

” I don’t buy the arguments that only “experts on climate change” can understand the data and draw conclusions”
excellent point and one that I entirely agree with.
And since the uncertainty is infinite with so many sample sizes equal to ONE, this point is also important. So little reliable data, just so MANY statistically invalid conclusions….

Gary

Equating climate change science, homeopathy, and astrology? Do I smell a Mike Mann lawsuit threat?

terrybixler

16 years and no hockey stick in sight. OHC declining and no hockey stick in sight. “incontrovertible” still in the mission statement and hockey sticks only visible either on the hockey rink or in government supported Climate literature. Lets have an unbiased equal footing discussion about climate change (AGW). Follow the money it is all in the grants not the science.

I would appreciate Dr. Warren’s stating why the APS refuses even to remove the objectionable, anti-scientific word “incontrovertible” from its statement and whether it was indeed written in as cavalier a manner as Dr. Cohen describes? Thanks.

Duster

Keith AB says:
October 24, 2012 at 10:06 am
Why did he fold in homeopathy and astrology?

Actually, it could be a positive sign. The implication was that it does not take an expert to understand current climate science, any more than it takes an expert to understand what homeopaths and astrologers say. The “team’s” repeated defense has been that somehow their understanding of climate and the effects of CO2 were more esoterically informed and thus more valid than say Steve McIntyre’s. That Steve never made an actual argument about how climate works – that I have ever read any – and criticises their statistical methods, implies that somehow “climate” mathematics operates differently than mathematics in other disciplines. That would be the sole defense for not having their mathematics and statistical methods subjected to an outside review – only climate scientists can understand climate statistics and physics. That approach is pure esotericism.

As a member of both committees, I consider his letter to be a direct attack on my integrity, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.
I also feel that the APS statement on climate change (with the word “incontrovertible”) was very ill-advised,
If he had integrity wouldn’t he resign over the use of the word “incontrovertible”?

Juan Slayton

Dr. Warren: I have consulted your links and I don’t see the problem. Perhaps you could spell out what you consider inconsistent….

JJ

But I will not try to tell stories; instead, I will let him speak for himself. Start with his consulting work on carbon remediation (link) and then reconcile this viewpoint with what he expressed in the Wall Street Journal(link).
Many other people have trouble speaking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.

How do those links demonstrate that Cohen is “talking out of both sides of his Mouth?” Only one of them quotes Roger Cohen saying anything. The Globalthermostat link doesn’t point to anything Cohen said. Ginning up a contradiction from that requires a lot of assumptions and other acts of imagination.
And if you do that, what are you left with? The letter in the WSJ to which he added his endorsement is a statement against interest. That adds credibility. Contrast this with the people stumping for CAGW, while personally benefitting from the scare they are helping to perpetuate.
If you are going to bark up that tree, you need to do a better job of it.

nvw

Dr. Warren,
I read your reply. I had hoped for something better to support your statement that Dr. Cohen speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Your citation to globalthermometer.com shows a corporate website with Cohen’s bio. So he is being paid based on his experience as a corporate industrial scientist – that’s a crime now? You could argue that Cohen’s position is in fact more sincere – by publicly stating he doesn’t believe the anthropogenic CO2 caused warming yet pocketing the lucre seems more sincere than say, Al Gore’s faux concern about sea level rise coupled with his lavish lifestyle and personal wealth gain. Our webhost, Anthony Watts, claims to drive a hybrid car with good gas mileage – are you going to accuse him of being a hypocrite too for not owning a gas-guzzler?

Arguments among hoity toit academics are akin to playing “catch as catch can” with bacon producing entities in a hole filled with oil well drilling fluid.

Lance Wallace

Warren S. Warren says:
“I also feel that the APS statement on climate change (with the word “incontrovertible”) was very ill-advised, but the controversy focused on one badly-chosen word has harmed science by discouraging other scientific organizations from helping to sort wheat from chaff in this field.”
What in the world does this mean? I would love to know what “scientific organizations” were discouraged from issuing yet another useless “policy statement” designed to assure the Federal government that they are on the right side of the funding issue.

jhborn

Did I get the right hyperlinks in Dr.Warren’s post?
If so, his evidence that Dr, Cohen cannot be a “voice of sanity” and that he was “speaking out of both sides of [his] mouth” is a pair of links to documents that establish nothing more than that Dr. Cohen is a skeptic. If Dr. Warren thinks merely being a skeptic disqualifies one as a voice of sanity and proves that one speaks out of both sides of his mouth, then it’s quite likely that his APS committee is indeed, as Dr. Cohen’s post contended, using a person’s skepticism as a reason for excluding that person’s input.

Peter Miller

The point I like here is Anthony allows rebuttals. Can you imagine that ever happening at Real Climate or Skeptical Science, where only the repetitious chants from the CAGW bible are allowed.

Warren isn’t lumping climate skepticism together with homeopathy and astrology. It is the climate science consensus that he is lumping together with these more questionable practices.
The consensus claims that the only one’s who should be listened two are those who have the credentials that the consensus doles out, and that the only papers that should be looked at are in the peer reviewed journals that the consensus controls. That is like saying no one can judge astrology but an astrologer, credentialed by high society of credentialed astrologers. Warren hits the nail on the head.

Tim Walker

I looked at the two sites that Dr. Warren provided. In the first there is a statement of the organization about Dr. Cohen, one of either their consultants or technology advisors. Dr. Warren should’ve realized we look closely at evidence. There is no where in this statement that says anything of what Dr. Cohen’s opinions are. Kudos to this organization for having someone helping with an open mind. No kudos to Dr. Warren, he has failed to provide any proof of as he so crudely puts it, ‘speaking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.’.
This leads me to believe that this might be a situation of a guilty conscience lashing out at the one making him uncomfortable. I do not believe that Dr. Warren has helped his case. Instead it appears that he is stooping to the lowest of political tools; trying to smear the reputation of one bringing light to a situation.
Kudos to Mr Watts for allowing both sides to present their case.

Snotrocket

I notice that the Global Thermostat was formed in 2006 and seems most concerned with CCS. That might be something, from a project planning point of view that Dr Cohen could get involved in, given his CV.
.
But then, I notice that the letter to the WSJ was dated 24th Oct 2012.
Is it at all possible that in the intervening six years Dr Cohen has seen the light and changed his mind about AGW ‘science’ and the kinds of people/organisations who support the AGW brief; especially those who – purporting to represent physics and science – come up with a statement that says ‘the’ Science is ‘incontrovertible’, when science is no such thing. And then being so pusillanimous as to say the statement cannot be changed.

Neil

Why does Roger Cohen’s bio say that he was a lead author on many IPCC chapters? Is there even one?

An Opinion

Dr. Warren doesn’t seem to understand the phrase “Many other people have trouble speaking out of both sides of their mouth at the same time.” The arguement that APS should not make a promouncement that any scientific theory is incontrovertible, which is what he is telling APS, and that APS should focus on science, and not policy, is not at odds with statements he makes to other audiences.

TomRude

Interesting: having worked for Exxon should invalidate Cohen’s opinion. I suppose that opinions’ of anyone with an energy portfolio in his 401(k) are therefore tainted… It’s “tell me who you work for and I’ll tell you your opinion doesn’t count”, hardly a great line of defence.

Honza

This guy sounds like extraterrestrial. There were billions of $ wasted already on fighting “incontrovertible” AGW. So it is not just a gentlemanly discussion on “ill-advised statement on climate change” any more. He is 20 years too late. 😉

John West

Warren S. Warren
Try to understand that government regulations can create a NEED for something that isn’t really NEEDED. If the EPA, for example, were to require carbon capture then it’s not duplicitous to design, build, and sell carbon capture equipment to those subject to such regulations even if you don’t believe it’s necessary to “combat” Anthropogenic Global Warming.

“I also feel that the APS statement on climate change (with the word “incontrovertible”) was very ill-advised, but the controversy focused on one badly-chosen word has harmed science …”<
No.
The controversy over the word has not harmed science,
the use of the word has.
Take responsibility for the mistake, correct it, and move on. Blaming someone else for your “very ill-advised” statement won’t fly here.

Betapug

No need for apologies about the inconvenient “incontrovertible”.
I will let Robert L. Byer, the President of the APS deny it:
“The statement does not declare, as the authors of the op-ed suggest, that the human contribution to climate change is incontrovertible.” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203711104577199330965279516.html

Robert Austin

It appears that Dr. Warren is much to sensitive and full of himself to enter the CAGW fray. The APS had the opportunity to remove the word “incontrovertible” but chose not to, thus displaying their true biased nature. Indeed, why do these alleged “scientific” organizations feel compelled to issue statements of opinion in fields of nascent science. As a rebuttal to Dr. Cohen’s resignation letter, Dr. Warren’s is risibly pathetic. There is a war going on over CAGW and if Dr. Warren wishes to join the fight, he should grow some stones and a hard shell.

Rik

Why does he feel it is necessary for scientific organisations to sort out the wheat from the chaff? Why not allow an open debate among scientists, engineers and others who are able and provide a forum where such a discussion can take place? Why indeed, is a bureaucracy needed to define the thruth?
This assumption of his doesn’t square with my understanding of “integrity”.

TinyCO2

I don’t know much about scientific societies and even less about APS but can I ask if you have a society position on all the important issues? Do you have a position on female circumcision? Does the APS have a stance on capitalism? Do you alert the World to how you feel about the atrocities in Syria? Or, if you only take a stand on scientific issues, can I ask what the APS advises on H5N1, the cut off date for abortion, the safety of the Large Hadron Collider or the lack of funding to look for NEOs? No? If so why does the APS air its views on CAGW?
Could it be you feel the other issues are under the aegis of respectable bodies and only climate science needs the helping hand of its more senior fellows to give it credibility?

Manfred

He did not address Cohen’s points. He came up with something else.
This is not a rebuttal.

Snotrocket

The more I think about it, Dr Warren, the more I come to the conclusion that you are a rather snide piece of work. Evidence not only your rather puerile comment about Dr Cohen speaking out of both sides of his mouth, but your rather slimy little dig with your link to The Global Thermostat: ‘…(and just in case he gets that taken down, here is a copy…’. As if Dr Cohen had any kind of control over a web site he did not own. In any case, what was there to be so ashamed of in his CV that he would not like to see it in the public domain. (It raises the question: What have you got to be so proud of in your life’s work? Certainly, not this rebuttal post.)

ckb42

Mr Warren,
You are going to have to spell out what you are getting at with whatever problems you are seeing with the two links you provided. I am missing it. Do you see some sort of conflict of interest? What is it?

I *think* that Dr Warren’s argument about “both sides of the mouth” is this:
Since Dr Cohen has associated himself with the WSJ article saying “there is no need to panic”, it might be inconsistent to then be associated with the carbon capture product from Global Thermostat.
I’m not sure that I can agree with Dr Warren, but that is what I believe he means.

JJ

I also feel that the APS statement on climate change (with the word “incontrovertible”) was very ill-advised,…
Was? It is still in there, Warren.
… but the controversy focused on one badly-chosen word has harmed science by discouraging other scientific organizations from helping to sort wheat from chaff in this field.
One badly chosen word? Try 157. And all of them, including the one that you admit was “ill advised” are still in there. And all of them, including the one that you admit was “ill advised”, are supported by the 2010 “Commentary”, which is the sort of unquantified, unscientific, ad hoc, ad verecundium, politicized pablum that one certainly does not expect to see coming from physicists. If other scientific organizations have been dissauded from following you down that decidedly unscientific path, then that has helped science. We don’t need any more content free “me too” position statements.
Maybe you should stop making fallacious (and false) ad hom attacks against Cohen, and start listening to him. Until you do, stop whining about attacks on the “integrity” that you are not demonstrating.

davidmhoffer

Dr Warren;
I also feel that the APS statement on climate change (with the word “incontrovertible”) was very ill-advised, but the controversy focused on one badly-chosen word has harmed science by discouraging other scientific organizations from helping to sort wheat from chaff in this field.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
This is hardly “one badly-chosen word”. That single word is central to the entire APS statement!
But thankyou for admitting that it is a badly chosen word, that it is in fact “very ill-advised”, my questions to you are:
What are you going to do about it?
What word or words would you support instead?
Do you agree with Peter Gleick’s statement on this site that “settled” is also inapprorpiate?
How do you reconcile the APS statement with the IPCC AR4 WG1 2.9.1 “Uncertainties in Radiative Forcing” which classifies the level of scientific understanding of no less than 9 of 14 categories as either “low” or “very low”? Does this not seem to you an expression of far less certainty than the APS statement which purports to be supportive the science as represented by the IPCC?
The range of aerosol forcing values used in the various IPCC climate models is much broader than their output results, which in turn have a range from low to high of more than double the expected warming, and which in turn have proven to all over estimate warming by a considerable margin when compared to observations. How do you reconcile these things with a statement that suggests climate science is credible at all, let alone “settled” or “incontrovertible”.
I’d also like to add my voice to the list of commenters asking how the links you posted equate to showing that Dr Cohen is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Graphite

Entirely off-topic (appropriate, as you seem to have received a deserved kicking over the on-topic stuff), how do you discern if someone is being friendly or rude when they call out, “Hey, Warren”?

thisisnotgoodtogo

OK, I “get” this guy!
The controversy harmed Science – and *not* the unscientific and ill-advised propagandist use of the word.
And doing nothing to reprove it, that is what shows the real integrity.
Got it!

stephen richards

“Is it at all possible that in the intervening six years Dr Cohen has seen the light and changed his mind about AGW ‘science’ and the kinds of people/organisations who support the AGW brief; especially those who – purporting to represent physics and science – come up with a statement that says ‘the’ Science is ‘incontrovertible’, when science is no such thing”
This is to the point I think. Warren warren (rabbit?) has totally missed the point as many supporters of the incontrevertable science seem to. Cohen was, in my opinion absolutely correct and did what I would do (I am no longer a MInstPhys but was). Perhap Mr Warren Warren might consider doing the same thing as his group has singularly failed to get the most unscientific statement to be made by a scientific organistion modified or rescinded.
“Is it at all possible that in the intervening six years Dr Cohen has seen the light and changed his mind about AGW ‘science’
If he has then good for him for that is what a good scientist does. Weighs the evidence over time, does a bit of research and comes to a conclusion.

stephen richards

Warren Warren should have thought more carefully about his reply here that he apparently did about the APS statement. He only made himself look petty and ill informed.

Dave N

Neil:
“Why does Roger Cohen’s bio say that he was a lead author on many IPCC chapters? Is there even one?”
Without verifying the case for Cohen, it’s been a practice of the IPCC to retain author’s names in their reports, even if all of the contributions of those authors were edited out, or the authors had them removed. Professor Reiter (an expert in Malaria) had to threaten legal action to have his name removed.

stephen richards

A Physicist ashamed !!!

Jeremy

Cohen’s offense is “not towing the party line”. Only political egotistical people are deeply offended by those who openly disagree with them. This response says more about the kind of political animal that is Warren S. Warren than anything else…

thisisnotgoodtogo

THE APS-foisted meme was and is still damaging to APS not only because it stinks, but because so many alarmists added it to their repertoire
Here is ThinkProgress using it right now.
http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/10/22/1057251/will-this-be-the-first-time-the-debates-are-silent-on-climate-since-1984/
“Today, the science of climate change is incontrovertible. The past 17 years have been hotter than 1988”

Warren S. Warren said,

As a member of both committees, I consider his letter to be a direct attack on my integrity, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

============================================================
This confused me for a minute, because I had read Cohen’s post. Given the large number of committee members, I see no way that you could possibly imagine Cohen’s as an attack on your integrity, unless there was something inferred which only members of the committees would understand. Interested readers should refresh their memories by going here….. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/10/22/more-turmoil-at-the-american-physical-society-over-global-warming-issue/
This only brings me to the conclusion that Cohen didn’t share all that he was frustrated about, and Warren didn’t bother to bring it up, either. But, did take the time to express his indignation. I think the links provided tell some of the untold story.
Cohen mentioned no one by name, except for Dr. James G. Brasseur, to whom his resignation letter was addressed. Warren S. Warren stooped to personal attacks. Enough said.

kuhnkat

“In Roger’s post on this website, he presented himself as the voice of sanity in a biased group. That is certainly not the way I remember our interactions on that committee. But I will not try to tell stories; instead, I will let him speak for himself. Start with his consulting work on carbon remediation:
http://globalthermostat.com/team/roger-cohen
Well. if I am an animal control expert and someone comes along who believe black cats are bad luck and wants to pay me to round up all the black cats on his plantation, do I try to convince him he is deluded or make the money??
Sorry, not a viable argument.

kuhnkat

And if I KNOW that there are many rich people who are afraid of black cats I might just start a consulting business to take advantage of their beliefs!!

Dr. Warren, if you feel the term “incontrovertible” was very ill-advised, then logically, you MUST also feel this portion of the APS statement, i.e., “If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now”, is problematic as well.
The obvious weakness of your argument is your focus on the word “incontrovertible”. Anyone with a high school education can see the majority of the APS statement reads like the empassioned plea of an advocacy/lobbying group, not of a scientific organization. The “…mitigating actions…” and “…must reduce greenhouse gases…” portions of the statement are only logical & reasonable responses if you believe in the term “incontrovertible”.
Eliminating or changing the term “incontrovertible” changes very little. So, is it really just your strawman-like argument of a single word that you have trouble with, or is it the subject of english?

davidmhoffer

kuhnkat;
Well. if I am an animal control expert and someone comes along who believe black cats are bad luck and wants to pay me to round up all the black cats on his plantation, do I try to convince him he is deluded or make the money??
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Yeah, when the Y2K scare came along, I patiently explained to a lot of people, even wrote some articles, that the scare was far over blown. When tenders were issued for Y2K audits, I bid on them and won a number of them. That’s not talking out of both sides of my mouth. That’s being honest about the issues, and if someone wants to spend money to obtain my skills regardless, then that’s their choice. There’s nothing two faced about it, and my clients got the services they insisted upon. Had I not taken those contracts, someone else would have, the money was going to be spent either way.

Frank

Dr. Warren: A significant number of members of APS have challenged the scientific validity of the APS’s statement concerning climate change. Why is your committee unwilling to hear from the presumably well-qualified speakers this group recommends? Are you afraid that skepticism about climate change might be infectious or that your reputation might be damaged by listening to these dissenters? If those speakers can create some doubt in members minds – which should be unlikely if the consensus opinion is scientifically robust – there will be plenty of time for the consensus to respond. For any science to progress, scientists must be exposed to new observations that challenge existing theories and alternative theories that explain existing observations. In climate science, however, the need to promote legislation that will save the planet appears to be suppressing all doubt about the consensus. It’s time for scientists to regain control of their profession from those on both sides who wish to use science for political purposes.

rgbatduke

As an ex-APS member myself, I was personally offended by the original statement. I cannot think of one single positive thing to be gained from this sort of statement on the part of what should be the world’s most objective, skeptical, and open minded organization (all at the same time!). Where but in physics would we openly tolerate the “discovery” of neutrinos that go faster than light in spite of our strong opinion that no, they probably don’t? The evidence for the speed of light being the upper limit of speeds of things in our Universe is overwhelming, the theoretical support for this is equally if not more so, it would require the literal rewriting of all of our understanding of nature if it were so, and yet did the APS issue a statement condemning the result as wrong because of the “incontroverible” evidence against it?
Of course not, because it is not true. The history of physics is full of “incontrovertible” results that were, in fact, controverted (is that even a word?) starting with its first modern era discoveries. Doubters should begin with “Saint” Bellarmine’s letter to Galileo, and take the occasional turn through the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics as well as the contemporaneous idiocy of those physicists or public figures who rejected them as “obviously wrong” because they considered the alternative hypotheses incontrovertible. Of all of the scientific groups in the world, the APS should know better. I’m not alone here — I know a number of other members or ex-members of the APS who feel the exact same way. It was a shameful day for the entire organization no matter how the issue turns out!
The simple fact of the matter is that the issue is not only controvertible, the scientific hypothesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming — where every one of these terms has to be true to make the issue “newsworthy” and warrant any sort of statement at all — is supported by the shakiest of arguments. For one thing, climate science is an extension of hydrodynamics, and the Navier-Stokes equations on a good day are the most fiendishly difficult equations in all of physics (in my opinion, anyway). The particular set of them that describe the coupled equations for atmosphere and ocean, rife with state changes, in a thermodynamically open system, with nonlinear drivers, unmeasured parameters, unproven processes, and initialized and parameterized on the basis of quantities (like “global temperature” and “insolation”) known in even the recent historical past only with enormous uncertainties and by means of noisy and questionable proxies on top of these uncertainties before that have to be the most controvertible science on Earth — a place where even a few moderate mistakes well within the limits of reasonable uncertainty would nullify, or significantly weaken, the entire CAGW argument.
That doesn’t make the CAGW false, any more than the arguments and evidence in favor of it make it true. It makes investigating it as a hypothesis science, where good science never fully accepts or rejects any hypothesis, certainly not in an obviously political statement by an organization that remains officially open minded about things with far stronger evidence against them, and hypotheses with far greater support for them than CAGW. Personally, as a professional physicist, ex-member of the APS only out of laziness, not because I don’t qualify and could not rejoin, referee and author of many papers in not only physics but other fields as well, I find the evidence in favor of some measure of GW over the last 150 years “incontrovertible” but irrelevant to both the C and the A, and the A plausible, to some degree, the C highly implausible, and hence reject CAGW as implausible, AGW (to some extent) probable, and am open minded about the degree to which humans and CO_2 have affected it because a) the evidence is rather ambiguous and inconsistent; b) the evidence in favor of it has been both manifestly cherrypicked and in many cases has been supported by the highly dubious use of poor statistical methodology (something I am something of an expert in, and hence am reasonably qualified to judge); and c) the entire discussion has become horribly politicized. It is no longer science, it is religion! On both sides, sadly.
Such as Mann: Trying to have a journal editor fired for publishing an article that you disagree with? Puh-leeeze. That’s why God invented “letters to the editor” or “comments” sections of journals. Fight it out on paper, in public, honestly.
How dare the APS speak for me, speak for all of my other colleagues who have never even considered the question, put the honor and integrity of all physicists for the rest of time on the line on this issue when you couldn’t get a roomful of physicists to completely agree on anything, even things in the textbooks! Because you can bet your sweet ass that if CAGW turns out to be false, if AGW turns out to be false (and it could, even now, be not just irrelevantly true — too weak to matter — but actually false), if global temperatures have the temerity to actually descend with the solar cycle over the next twenty or thirty years, then every member of the APS will be viewed as gullible fools. Science itself will suffer as the integrity and objectivity of even physicists, the one group that should know far better than to endorse anything as certain knowledge, will forever be shown to be corrupt.
If you want me to take you, or your committee in the APS, seriously, Dr. Warren, I would strongly suggest that you do so by publicly rescinding the original statement, in its entirety, and replace it with a public statement to the effect that the science is in fact open like all science and that the APS like all scientists should weigh the evidence and arguments one at a time, on their own merits, and not make public statements on behalf of the imagined beliefs of its members.
If you want something humorous, look at the George Mason survey of members of climate scientists — actual members of the AGU, for example. 15% of them (IIRC) do not accept even AGW as proven fact. Over 2/3 of them do not accept CAGW as proven fact. CAGW isn’t even the opinion of the simple majority of climate scientists, when they are anonymously surveyed, and this is actually reflected in the working groups in the IPCC.
So Dr. Warren, please speak out for the physicists who do not agree with the APS statement — who do not believe that right or wrong it should have been made in the first place, let alone the many APS members whose personal opinion is that it is wrong. Right or wrong, it is political and a horrible risk, horrible because the fair odds that it is wrong aren’t small, things one might consider to be “incontrovertible” odds, one in a thousand (what are the odds that neutrinos go faster than light? you’d need a log scale in decibels to describe them, for most physicists, yet we were respectful when they were experimentally reported and didn’t publish press releases denying the result). Not even one in a hundred. Even climate scientists only support a one in three chance that they are right, and a somewhat greater chance that humans are responsible for some (but who knows how much!) of the warming post Little Ice Age when it was so cold there wasn’t any way to go but up, except of course for further down.
rgb

JJ

rgbatduke says:
October 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm

^^^^ Guest Post Material.

Keith AB

+1
RGB has laid it out succinctly.