Real Science Debates Are Not Rare

Guest Post by Dr. Robert G. Brown

The following is an “elevated comment” appearing originally in the comments to “A Rare Debate on the ‘Settled Science’ of Climate Change”, a guest essay by Steve Goreham. It is RG Brown’s reply to the Steven Mosher comment partially quoted at the beginning of the essay. This essay has been lightly edited by occasional WUWT contributor Kip Hansen with the author’s permission and subsequently slightly modified with a postscript by RGB.


October 3, 2014 at 8:41 am

“…debates are rare because science is not a debate, or more specifically, science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences. You can win a debate and be wrong about the science. Debates prove one thing. Folks who engage in them don’t get it, folks who demand them don’t get it and folks who attend them don’t get it”.

Steven Mosher – comment

Um, Steven [Steven Mosher], it is pretty clear that you’ve never been to a major physics meeting that had a section presenting some unsettled science where the organizers had set up two or more scientists with entirely opposing views to give invited talks and participate in a panel just like the one presented. This isn’t “rare”, it is very nearly standard operating procedure to avoid giving the impression that the organizers are favoring one side or the other of the debate. I have not only attended meetings of this sort, I’ve been one of the two parties directly on the firing line (the topic of discussion was a bit esoteric — whether or not a particular expansion of the Green’s function for the Helmholtz or time-independent Schrodinger equation, which comes with a restriction that one argument must be strictly greater than the other in order for the expansion to converge, could be used to integrate over cells that de facto required the expansion to be used out of order). Sounds a bit, err, “mathy”, right, but would you believe that the debate grew so heated that we were almost (most cordially 🙂 shouting at each other by the end? And not just the primary participants — members of the packed-room audience were up, gesticulating, making pithy observations, validating parts of the math.

You’re right that you can “win the debate and be wrong about the science”, however, for two reasons. One is that in science, we profoundly believe that there is an independent objective standard of truth, and that is nature itself, the world around us. We attempt to build a mathematical-conceptual map to describe the real terrain, but (as any general semantician would tell you) the map is not the terrain, it is at best a representation of the terrain, almost certainly an imperfect one. Many of the maps developed in physics are truly excellent. Others are perhaps flawed, but are “good enough” — they might not lead someone to your cufflinks in the upstairs left dresser drawer, but they can at least get someone to your house. Others simply lead you to the wrong house, in the wrong neighborhood, or lead you out into the middle of the desert to die horribly (metaphorically speaking). In the end, scientific truth is determined by correspondence with real-world data — indeed, real world future data — nothing more, nothing less. There’s a pithy Einstein quote somewhere that makes the point more ably than I can (now there was a debate — one totally unknown patent clerk against an entire scientific establishment vested in Newtonian-Galilean physics 🙂 but I am too lazy to look it up.

Second, human language is often the language of debates and comes with all of the emotionalism and opportunity for logical fallacy inherent in an imprecise, multivalued symbol set. Science, however, ultimately is usually about mathematics, logic and requires a kind of logical-mathematical consistency to be a candidate for a possible scientific truth in the sense of correspondence with data. It may be that somebody armed with a dowsing rod can show an extraordinary ability to find your house and your cufflinks when tested some limited number of times with no map at all, but unless they can explain how the dowsing rod works and unless others can replicate their results it doesn’t become anything more than an anecdotal footnote that might — or might not — one day lead to a startling discovery of cuff-linked ley lines with a sound physical basis that fit consistently into a larger schema than we have today. Or it could be that the dowser is a con artist who secretly memorizes a map and whose wife covertly learned where you keep your cufflinks at the hairdresser. Either way, for a theory to be a candidate truth, it cannot contain logical or mathematical contradictions. And even though you would think that this is not really a matter for debate, as mathematics is cut and dried pure (axiomatically contingent) truth — like I said, a room full of theoretical physicists almost shouting over whether or not the Green’s function expansion could converge out of order — even after I presented both the absolutely clear mathematical argument and direct numerical evidence from a trivial computation that it does not.

Humans become both emotionally and financially attached to their theories, in other words. Emotionally because scientists don’t like being proven wrong any more than anybody else, and are no more noble than the average Joe at admitting it when they are wrong, even after they come to realize in their heart of hearts that it is so. That is, some do and apologize handsomely and actively change their public point of view, but plenty do not — many scientists went to their graves never accepting either the relativistic or quantum revolutions in physics. Financially, we’ve created a world of short-term public funding of science that rewards the short-run winners and punishes — badly — the short-run losers. Grants are typically from 1 to 3 years, and then you have to write all over again. I quit research in physics primarily because I was sick and tired of participating in this rat race — spending almost a quarter of your grant-funded time writing your next grant proposal, with your ass hanging out over a hollow because if you lose your funding your career is likely enough to be over — you have a very few years (tenure or not) to find new funding in a new field before you get moved into a broom closet and end up teaching junk classes (if tenured) or have to leave to proverbially work at Walmart (without tenure).

Since roughly six people in the room where I was presenting were actively using a broken theory to do computations of crystal band structure, my assertion that the theory they were using was broken was not met with the joy one might expect even though the theory I had developed permitted them to do almost the same computation and end up with a systematically and properly convergent result. I was threatening to pull the bread from the mouths of their children, metaphorically speaking (and vice versa!).

At this point, the forces that give rise to this sort of defensive science are thoroughly entrenched. The tenure system that was intended to prevent this sort of thing has been transformed into a money pump for Universities that can no longer survive without the constant influx of soft and indirect cost money farmed every year by their current tenured faculty, especially those in the sciences. Because in most cases that support comes from the federal government, that is to say our taxes, there is constant pressure to keep the research “relevant” to public interests. There is little money to fund research into (say) the formation of fractal crystal patterns by matter that is slowly condensing into a solid (like a snowflake) unless you can argue that your research will result in improved catalysis, or a way of building new nano-materials, or that condensed matter of this sort might form the basis for a new drug, or…

Or today, of course, that by studying this, you will help promote the understanding of the tiny ice crystals that make up clouds, and thereby promote our understanding of a critical part of the water cycle and albedo feedback in Climate Science and thereby do your bit to stave off the coming Climate Apocalypse.

I mean, seriously. Just go to any of the major search engines and enter “climate” along with anything you like as part of the search string. You would be literally amazed at how many disparate branches of utterly disconnected research manage to sneak some sort of climate connection into their proposals, and then (by necessity) into their abstracts and/or paper text. One cannot study poison dart frogs in the Amazon rainforest any more just because they are pretty, or pretty cool, or even because we might find therapeutically useful substances mixed into the chemical poisons that they generate (medical therapy being a Public Good even more powerful that Climate Science, quite frankly, and everything I say here goes double for dubious connections between biology research and medicine) — one has to argue somewhere that Climate Change might be dooming the poor frogs to extinction before we even have a chance to properly explore them for the next cure to cancer. Studying the frogs just because they are damn interesting, knowledge for its own sake? Forget it. Nobody’s buying.

In this sense, Climate Science is the ultimate save. Let’s face it, lots of poison dart frogs probably don’t produce anything we don’t already know about (if only from studying the first few species decades ago) and the odds of finding a really valuable therapy are slender, however much of a patent-producing home run it might be to succeed. The poor biologists who have made frogs their life work need a Plan B. And here Climate is absolutely perfect! Anybody can do an old fashioned data dredge and find some population of frogs that they are studying that is changing, because ecology and the environment is not static. One subpopulation of frogs is thriving — boo, hiss, cannot use you — but another is decreasing! Oh My Gosh! We’ve discovered a subpopulation of frogs that is succumbing to Climate Change! Their next grant is now a sure thing. They are socially relevant. Their grant reviewers will feel ennobled by renewing them, as they will be protecting Poison Dart Frogs from the ravages of a human-caused changing climate by funding further research into precisely how it is human activity that is causing this subpopulation to diminish.

This isn’t in any sense a metaphor, nor is it only poison dart frogs. Think polar bears — the total population is if anything rapidly rising, but one can always find some part of the Arctic where it is diminishing and blame it on the climate. Think coral reefs — many of them are thriving, some of them are not, those that are not may not be thriving for many reasons, some of those reasons may well be human (e.g. dumping vast amounts of sewage into the water that feeds them, agricultural silt overwashing them, or sure — maybe even climate change. But scientists seeking to write grants to study coral reefs have to have some reason in the public interest to be funded to travel all over the world to really amazing locations and spend their workdays doing what many a tourist pays big money to do once in a lifetime — scuba or snorkel over a tropical coral reef. Since there is literally no change to a coral reef that cannot somehow be attributed to a changing environment (because we refuse to believe that things can just change in and of themselves in a chaotic evolution too complex to linearize and reduce to simple causes), climate change is once again the ultimate save, one where they don’t even have to state that it is occurring now, they can just claim to be studying what will happen when eventually it does because everybody knows that the models have long since proven that climate change is inevitable. And Oh My! If they discover that a coral reef is bleaching, that some patch of coral, growing somewhere in a marginal environment somewhere in the world (as opposed to on one of the near infinity of perfectly healthy coral reefs) then their funding is once again ensured for decades, baby-sitting that particular reef and trying to find more like it so that they can assert that the danger to our reefs is growing.

I do not intend to imply by the above that all science is corrupt, or that scientists are in any sense ill-intentioned or evil. Not at all. Most scientists are quite honest, and most of them are reasonably fair in their assessment of facts and doubt. But scientists have to eat, and for better or worse we have created a world where they are in thrall to their funding. The human brain is a tricky thing, and it is not at all difficult to find a perfectly honest way to present one’s work that nevertheless contains nearly obligatory references to at least the possibility that it is relevant, and the more publicly important that relevance is, the better. I’ve been there myself, and done it myself. You have to. Otherwise you simply won’t get funded, unless you are a lucky recipient of a grant to do e.g. pure mathematics or win a no-strings fellowship or the Nobel Prize and are hence nearly guaranteed a lifetime of renewed grants no matter how they are written.

This is the really sad thing, Steve [Steven Mosher]. Science is supposed to be a debate. What many don’t realize is that peer review is not about the debate. When I review a paper, I’m not passing a judgment as a participant on whether or not its conclusion is correct politically or otherwise (or I shouldn’t be — that is gatekeeping, unless my opinion is directly solicited by an editor as the paper is e.g. critical of my own previous work). I am supposed to be determining whether or not the paper is clear, whether its arguments contain any logical or mathematical inconsistencies, whether it is well enough done to pass muster as “reasonable”, if it is worthy of publication, now not whether or not it is right or even convincing beyond not being obviously wrong or in direct contradiction of known facts. I might even judge the writing and English to some extent, at least to the point where I make suggestions for the authors to fix.

In climate science, however, the ClimateGate letters openly revealed that it has long since become covertly corrupted, with most of the refereeing being done by a small, closed, cabal of researchers who accept one another’s papers and reject as referees (well, technically only “recommend” rejection as referees) any paper that seriously challenges their conclusions. Furthermore, they revealed that this group of researchers was perfectly willing to ruin academic careers and pressure journals to fire any editor that dared to cross them. They corrupted the peer review process itself — articles are no longer judged on the basis of whether or not the science is well presented and moderately sound, they have twisted it so that the very science being challenged by those papers is used as the basis for asserting that they are unsound.

Here’s the logic:

a) We know that human caused climate change is a fact. (We heard this repeatedly asserted in the “debate” above, did we not? It is a fact that CO2 is a radiatively coupled gas, completely ignoring the actual logarithmic curve Goreham presented, it is a fact that our models show that that more CO2 must lead to more warming, it is a fact that all sorts of climate changes are soundly observed, occurred when CO2 was rising so it is a fact that CO2 is the cause, count the logical and scientific fallacies at your leisure).

b) This paper that I’m reviewing asserts that human caused climate change is not a fact. It therefore contradicts “known science”, because human caused climate change is a fact. Indeed, I can cite hundreds of peer reviewed publications that conclude that it is a fact, so it must be so.

c) Therefore, I recommend rejecting this paper.

It is a good thing that Einstein’s results didn’t occur in Climate Science. He had a hard enough time getting published in physics journals, but physicists more often than not follow the rules and accept a properly written paper without judging whether or not its conclusions are true, with the clear understanding that debate in the literature is precisely where and how this sort of thing should be cleared up, and that if that debate is stifled by gatekeeping, one more or less guarantees that no great scientific revolutions can occur because radical new ideas even when correct are, well, radical. In one stroke they can render the conclusions of entire decades of learned publications by the world’s savants pointless and wrong. This means that physics is just a little bit tolerant of the (possible) crackpot. All too often the crackpot has proven not only to be right, but so right that their names are learned by each succeeding generation of physicist with great reverence.

Maybe that is what is missing in climate science — the lack of any sort of tradition of the maverick being righter than the entire body of established work, a tradition of big mistakes that work amazingly well — until they don’t and demand explanations that prove revolutionary. Once upon a time we celebrated this sort of thing throughout science, but now science itself is one vast bureaucracy, one that actively repels the very mavericks that we rely on to set things right when we go badly astray.

At the moment, I’m reading Gleick’s lovely book on Chaos [Chaos: The Making of a New Science], which outlines both the science and early history of the concept. In it, he repeatedly points out that all of the things above are part of a well-known flaw in science and the scientific method. We (as scientists) are all too often literally blinded by our knowledge. We teach physics by idealizing it from day one, linearizing it on day two, and forcing students to solve problem after problem of linearized, idealized, contrived stuff literally engineered to teach basic principles. In the process we end up with students that are very well trained and skilled and knowledgeable about those principles, but the price we pay is that they all too often find phenomena that fall outside of their linearized and idealized understanding literally inconceivable. This was the barrier that Chaos theory (one of the latest in the long line of revolutions in physics) had to overcome.

And it still hasn’t fully succeeded. The climate is a highly nonlinear chaotic system. Worse, chaos was discovered by Lorenz [Edward Norton Lorenz] in the very first computational climate models. Chaos, right down to apparent period doubling, is clearly visible (IMO) in the 5 million year climate record. Chaotic systems, in a chaotic regime, are nearly uncomputable even for very, simple, toy problems — that is the essence of Lorenz’s discovery as his first weather model was crude in the extreme, little more than a toy. What nobody is acknowledging is that current climate models, for all of their computational complexity and enormous size and expense, are still no more than toys, countless orders of magnitude away from the integration scale where we might have some reasonable hope of success. They are being used with gay abandon to generate countless climate trajectories, none of which particularly resemble the climate, and then they are averaged in ways that are an absolute statistical obscenity as if the linearized average of a Feigenbaum tree of chaotic behavior is somehow a good predictor of the behavior of a chaotic system!

This isn’t just dumb, it is beyond dumb. It is literally betraying the roots of the entire discipline for manna.

One of the most interesting papers I have to date looked at that was posted on WUWT was the one a year or three ago in which four prominent climate models were applied to a toy “water world” planet, one with no continents, no axial tilt, literally “nothing interesting” happening, with fixed atmospheric chemistry.

The four models — not at all unsurprisingly — converged to four completely different steady state descriptions of the planetary weather.

And — trust me! — there isn’t any good reason to think that if those models were run a million times each that any one of them would generate the same probability distribution of outcomes as any other, or that any of those distributions are in any sense “correct” representations of the actual probability distribution of “planetary climates” or their time evolution trajectories. There are wonderful reasons to think exactly the opposite, since the models are solving the problem at a scale that we know is orders of magnitude to [too] coarse to succeed in the general realm of integrating chaotic nonlinear coupled systems of PDEs in fluid dynamics.

Metaphor fails me. It’s not like we are ignorant (any more) about general properties of chaotic systems. There is a wealth of knowledge to draw on at this point. We know about period doubling, period three to chaos, we know about fractal dimension, we know about the dangers of projecting dynamics in a very high dimensional space into lower dimensions, linearizing it, and then solving it. It would be a miracle if climate models worked for even ten years, let alone thirty, or fifty, or a hundred.

Here’s the climate model argument in a nutshell. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Increasing it will without any reasonable doubt cause some warming all things being equal (that is, linearizing the model in our minds before we even begin to write the computation!) The Earth’s climate is clearly at least locally pretty stable, so we’ll start by making this a fundamental principle (stated clearly in the talk above) — The Earth’s Climate is Stable By Default. This requires minimizing or blinding ourselves to any evidence to the contrary, hence the MWP and LIA must go away. Check. This also removes the pesky problem of multiple attractors and the disappearance and appearance of old/new attractors (Lorenz, along with Poincaré [Jules Henri Poincaré], coined the very notion of attractors). Hurst-Kolmogorov statistics, punctuated equilibrium, and all the rest is nonlinear and non-deterministic, it has to go away. Check. None of the models therefore exhibit it (but the climate does!). They have been carefully written so that they cannot exhibit it!

Fine, so now we’re down to a single attractor, and it has to both be stable when nothing changes and change, linearly, when underlying driving parameters change. This requires linearizing all of the forcings and trivially coupling all of the feedbacks and then searching hard — as pointed out in the talk, very hard indeed! — for some forlorn and non-robust combination of the forcing parameters, some balance of CO2forcing, aerosol anti-forcing, water vapor feedback, and luck that balances this teetering pen of a system on a metaphorical point and tracks a training set climate for at least some small but carefully selected reference period, naturally, the single period where the balance they discover actually works and one where the climate is actively warming. Since they know that CO2 is the cause, the parameter sets they search around are all centered on “CO2 is the cause” (fixed) plus tweaking the feedbacks until this sort of works.

Now they crank up CO2, and because CO2 is the cause of more warming, they have successfully built a linearized, single attractor system that does not easily admit nonlinear jumps or appearances and disappearances of attractors so that the attractor itself must move monotonically to warmer when CO2 is increasing. They run the model and — gasp! — increasing CO2 makes the whole system warmer!

Now, they haven’t really gotten rid of the pesky attractor problem. They discover when they run the models that in spite of their best efforts they are still chaotic! The models jump all over the place, started with only tiny changes in parametric settings or initial conditions. Sometimes a run just plain cools, in spite of all the additional CO2. Sometimes they heat up and boil over, making Venus Earth and melting the polar caps. The variance they obtain is utterly incorrect, because after all, they balanced the parameter space on a point with opposing forcings in order to reproduce the data in the reference period and one of many prices they have to pay is that the forcings in opposition have the wrong time constants and autocorrelation and the climate attractors are far too shallow, allowing for vast excursions around the old slowly varying attractor instead of selecting a new attractor from the near-infinity of possibilities (one that might well be more efficient at dissipating energy) and favoring its growth at the expense of a far narrower old attractor. But even so, new attractors appear and disappear and instead of getting a prediction of the Earth’s climate they get an irrelevantly wide shotgun blast of possible future climates (that is, as noted above, probably not even distributed correctly, or at least we haven’t the slightest reason to think that it would be). Anyone who looked at an actual computed trajectory would instantly reject it as being a reasonable approximation to the actual climate — variance as much as an order of magnitude too large, wrong time constants, oversensitive to small changes in forcings or discrete events like volcanoes.

So they bring on the final trick. They average over all of these climates. Say what? Each climate is the result of a physics computation. One with horrible and probably wrong approximations galore in the “physics” determining (for example) what clouds do in a cell from one timestep to the next, but at least one can argue that the computation is in fact modeling an actual climate trajectory in a Universe where that physics and scale turned out to be adequate. The average of the many climates is nothing at all. In the short run, this trick is useful in weather forecasting as long as one doesn’t try to use it much longer than the time required for the set of possible trajectories to smear out and cover the phase space to where the mean is no longer meaningful. This is governed by e.g. the Lyupanov exponents of the chaotic processes. For a while, the trajectories form a predictive bundle, and then they diverge and don’t. Bigger better computers, finer grained computations, can extend the time before divergence slowly, but we’re talking at most weeks, even with the best of modern tools.

In the long run, there isn’t the slightest reason — no, not even a fond hope — that this averaging will in any way be predictive of the weather or climate. There is indeed a near certainty that it will not be, as it isn’t in any other chaotic system studied so why should it be so in this one? But hey! The overlarge variance goes away! Now the variance of the average of the trajectories looks to the eye like it isn’t insanely out of scale with the observed variance of the climate, neatly hiding the fact that the individual trajectories are obviously wrong and that you aren’t comparing the output of your model to the real climate at all, you are comparing the average of the output of your model to the real climate when the two are not the same thing!

Incidentally, at this point the assertion that the results of the climate models are determined by physics becomes laughable. If I average over the trajectories observed in a chaotic oscillator, does the result converge to the actual trajectory? Seriously dudes, get a grip!

Oh, sorry, it isn’t quite the final trick. They actually average internally over climate runs, which at least is sort of justifiable as an almost certainly non-convergent sort of Monte Carlo computation of the set of accessible/probable trajectories, even though averaging over the set when the set doesn’t have the right probability distribution of outcomes or variance or internal autocorrelation is a bit pointless, but they end up finding that some of the models actually come out, after all of this, far too close to the actual climate, which sadly is not warming and hence which then makes it all too easy for the public to enquire why, exactly, we’re dropping a few trillion dollars per decade solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

So they then average over all of the average trajectories! That’s right folks, they take some 36 climate models (not the “twenty” erroneously cited in the presentation, I mean come on, get your facts right even if the estimate for the number of independent models in CMIP5 is more like seven). Some of these run absurdly hot, so hot that if you saw even the average model trajectory by itself you would ask why it is being included at all. Others as noted are dangerously close to a reality that — if proven — means that you lose your funding (and then, Walmart looms). So they average them together, and present the resulting line as if that is a “physics based” “projection” of the future climate. Because they keep the absurdly hot, they balance the nearly realistically cool and hide them under a safely rapidly warming “central estimate”, and get the double bonus that by forming the envelope of all of the models they can create a lower bound (and completely, utterly unfounded) “error estimate” that is barely large enough to reach the actual climate trajectory, so far.

Meh. Just Meh. This is actively insulting, an open abuse of the principles of science, logic, and computer modeling all three. The average of failed models is not a successful model. The average of deterministic microtrajectories is not a deterministic microtrajectory. A microtrajectory numerically generated at a scale inadequate to solve a nonlinear chaotic problem is most unlikely to represent anything like the actual microtrajectory of the actual system. And finally, the system itself realizes at most one of the possible future trajectories available to it from initial conditions subject to the butterfly effect that we cannot even accurately measure at the granularity needed to initialize the computation at the inadequate computational scale we can afford to use.

That’s what Goreham didn’t point out in his talk this time — but should. The GCMs are the ultimate shell game, hiding the pea under an avalanche of misapplied statistical reasoning that nobody but some mathematicians and maverick physicists understand well enough to challenge, and they just don’t seem to give a, uh, “flip”. With a few very notable exceptions, of course.


Postscript (from a related slashdot post):

1° C is what one expects from CO2 forcing at all, with no net feedbacks. It is what one expects as the null hypothesis from the very unbelievably simplest of linearized physical models — one where the current temperature is the result of a crossover in feedback so that any warming produces net cooling, any cooling produces net warming. This sort of crossover is key to stabilizing a linearized physical model (like a harmonic oscillator) — small perturbations have to push one back towards equilibrium, and the net displacement from equilibrium is strictly due to the linear response to the additional driving force. We use this all of the time in introductory physics to show how the only effect of solving a vertical harmonic oscillator in external, uniform gravitational field is to shift the equilibrium down by Δy = mg/k. Precisely the same sort of computation, applied to the climate, suggests that ΔT ≈ 1° C at 600 ppm relative to 300 ppm. The null hypothesis for the climate is that it is similarly locally linearly stable, so that perturbing the climate away from equilibrium either way causes negative feedbacks that push it back to equilibrium. We have no empirical foundation for assuming positive feedbacks in the vicinity of the local equilibrium — that’s what linearization is all about!

That’s right folks. Climate is what happens over 30+ years of weather, but Hansen and indeed the entire climate research establishment never bothered to falsify the null hypothesis of simple linear response before building enormously complex and unwieldy climate models, building strong positive feedback into those models from the beginning, working tirelessly to “explain” the single stretch of only 20 years in the second half of the 20th century, badly, by balancing the strong feedbacks with a term that was and remains poorly known (aerosols), and asserting that this would be a reliable predictor of future climate.

I personally would argue that historical climate data manifestly a) fail to falsify the null hypothesis; b) strongly support the assertion that the climate is highly naturally variable as a chaotic nonlinear highly multivariate system is expected to be; and c) that at this point, we have extremely excellent reason to believe that the climate problem is non-computable, quite probably non-computable with any reasonable allocation of computational resources the human species is likely to be able to engineer or afford, even with Moore’s Law, anytime in the next few decades, if Moore’s Law itself doesn’t fail in the meantime. 30 orders of magnitude is 100 doublings — at least half a century. Even then we will face the difficulty if initializing the computation as we are not going to be able to afford to measure the Earth’s microstate on this scale, and we will need theorems in the theory of nonlinear ODEs that I do not believe have yet been proven to have any good reason to think that we will succeed in the meantime with some sort of interpolatory approximation scheme.


Author: Dr. Robert G. Brown is a Lecturer in Physics at Duke University where he teaches undergraduate introductory physics, undergraduate quantum theory, graduate classical electrodynamics, and graduate mathematical methods of physics. In addition Brown has taught independent study courses in computer science, programming, genetic algorithms, quantum mechanics, information theory, and neural network.

Moderation and Author’s Replies Note: This elevated comment has been posted at the request of several commenters here. It was edited by occasional WUWT contributor Kip Hansen with the author’s approval. Anything added to the comment was denoted in [square brackets]. There are only a few corrections of typos shown by strikeout [correction]. When in doubt, refer to the original comment here. RGB is currently teaching at Duke University with a very heavy teaching schedule and may not have time to interact or answer your questions.

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John Robertson
October 6, 2014 9:36 pm

Interesting reference to Einstein – one could easily say that his model worked as predicted. He predicted that there was a gravity well around the sun that would show up as a variation in the orbit of Mercury and sure enough, at the next solar eclipse, this variation was noted as a partial validation of his theory. Not a full proof of course, but when predictions work, then theories are considered more valid and one can then legitimately expect that one can use said theory to more accurately predict the world around them – like nuclear energy, etc. Didn’t predict the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for example – but did work in far more situations than Newtonian physics did.
Not going to mention the missing hot spot now, am I?

Danny Thomas
Reply to  John Robertson
October 8, 2014 1:19 pm

Sincerely interested in an understanding, so requesting assistance please. I am by no means a scientist, but believe I’m of average intelligence and capable of some critical thinking. As such, I’m seeking input from all sides of this discussion and I appreciate seeing seemingly reasoned responses here. Not much comes across as “an attack” but instead my perception is “reasonable doubt” exists on this format.
I believe G.W. is occurring, but not sure to what extent. It follows that we humans are having some impact, as yet to be “proven” as we impact our planet in numerous ways and many are negative. But I’m unsure of cause(s).There appear to be stronger than typical storms (I.E. Katrina, Sandy), but frequency according to NOAA has not increased out of historic ranges. It seems that droughts are increasing (Australia, Texas where I live, et al). I’m aware of El Nino/La Nina and would not be surprised to find that other as yet uknown/understood cyclical events such as this can impact weather. Fronts have atypically moved from east to west. All this is evidence in my feeble mind that some changes are occurring.
I, for one, am all for reasonable approaches to changes in human behavior in order to provide a sort of “insurance” just in case we are having a negative impact on our environment (AGW), but not at extreme costs until (and if) certainty exists.
The topic of GW and AGW seems to have become (unnecessarily) a political football and the current state of politics is win/lose and compromise seems to have become a lost art.
I read, hear from a seriously activist pro-AGW friend, hear from another friend who’s much more moderate like I am. I hear “97% of climate scientists agree” but that comes across to me as science by consensus and not by fact.
So, I guess what I’m wondering out loud here is there no mutually beneficial middle ground that can satisfy all sides until either theory has become fact no matter the resolution? Is that worth the effort of all sides?
It seems that I take a lot of flak by not (yet) believing “the sky is falling” and I’ve never posted to this site or any other “contrarian” sites before. It will be an interesting social experience to see how I’m received here as a seriously moderate but very interested person. Not at all interested in beating up the “other side” but instead I’m hopeful for reasoned response.

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 4:44 pm

“Believing” that GW is happening is a futile thing to do. If you take 500 My of data – proxies mostly, and direct measurements in the recent past – it is plain that depending upon the length of the record you chose to look at, the globe is warming, cooling, or not changing. ALL of these are “true” and therefore all are scientifically meaningless. Nothing tells us about the effects we may be having on the weather.
“Insurance” is the precautionary principle in action. However, precautions are meaningful only if there is some genuine hazard over which we have some control, that appropriate precautions would mitigate. Climate change is not “caused” by anything but changes in weather. If we can engineer weather, well then we might really consider taking steps to avoid unpleasant changes in weather. As Robert pointed out however, weather is a mathematically chaotic system. We have known this since Edward Lorentz discovered first known strange attractor while attempting to model weather. Weather cannot at our present level of understanding be engineered, and if we cannot engineer weather there is absolutely no possibility of engineering climate. If this is true, then “behaviour changes” meaningless ritual and the effects upon poor people by these “behaviour changes” are in effect no more than human sacrifice writ large.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 5:39 pm

Duster, Thank you for your response. I’m new to this site but could find no reply button to respond after your reply.
Apologies if I didn’t make myself clear on the “insurance” part of my comment. I have insurance against other hitting my car, storms that damage my home, etc. Of course, I have no control over those “possible” events. This is the context in which I’d intended my thought process.
I would presume, but cannot prove, that potentially GW has some man made causes. I don’t disagree of the contributions that you’ve suggested but I also believe that just as GW & AGW activists cannot (yet) prove that man contributes, we also cannot (yet) prove that man doesn’t. Not at all intended to be argumentative. But does that knife not cut both ways?
This is a good example of what I’m (obviously poorly) trying to say. Does there have to be winners/losers in this debate at this point, or could we possible implement “common sense” changes (not at any expense) at least at the local level just in case?
Thanks for your consideration!

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 6:44 pm

Danny, without going into extreme details, your example of “insurance” is appropriate to my remarks. You have in storms and accidents “real” hazards. Some really are out of your control – e.g. storm damages, but they are also subject to actuarial models and an insurance company can offer you coverage that theoretically protects you from the financial element of the risk – although many policies rule out “acts of god” as covered events. If you are driving, there are riving practices, such as not talking on your cell phone, signaling lane changes, and never trusting a bicyclist that can reduce your risk of accident. If you are in a collision, an adjustor will go over the accident report in detail, before paying out anything. If the adjustor decides you ignored or failed to practice appropriate precautions, the payout will be reduced and your rates will go up, if they don’t drop your coverage completely.
Climate change on the other hand is not only problematic, the risk is undefined and undefinable, partly because we have no functional definition of climate that does not reduce to “weather over time.” If you do not know whether your tomatoes are going to freeze or die of drought, what is an appropriate precaution to take? Weather does nothing but change, so what precautions should you take that would control “weather over time”? Right now, we do not know how weather operates in sufficient detail to forecast with any accuracy much beyond about a week, so how can we possibly chose appropriate “precautions”? That is on a strictly local level.
What precautions would you take for global warming, or climate change? How would you guard against triggering a catastrophic ice age accidentally, while attempting to prevent excess warming? How would you even define excess warming (or cooling)?
I have to repeat. If you take the available proxy data for the Phanerozoic (roughly the last 500-million years), there is some indication of a maximum global mean temperature at – IIRC – about the 20-deg C range. That is the apparent upper limit of warming that planet can experience. Geological evidence also indicates that for more than half the Phanerozoic, the planet has dwelt at about that level, regardless of for instance atmospheric CO2 levels. The conclusion to be drawn from that might be that we are currently enjoying (or suffering through) an excessively cold period. I said before, you can show, using data spanning the Phanerozoic period, that the planet is warming, cooling, and unchanging simultaneously! Scientifically that can only be meaningless, but it is not a joke. It implies that the entire debate may be utterly misdirected and poorly framed. There might be no ground of any sort to settle on, middle or otherwise, because everyone, “warmist” and “sceptic” alike, is arguing about a complete misunderstanding of the natural world as if it were true.
With that much uncertainty, asking the very poor – and I am not talking “poor” as conceived of in developed countries – to suffer physically and nutritionally, to accept unnecessary disease and death as a “precaution” to protect – well – polar bears, cannot be regarded as justified let alone moral.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 7:58 pm

Outstanding! Thank you so much for helping me to understand. (Wish I would have taken more scientifically/mathematically/statistically oriented classes back in school in order to comprehend more thoroughly). I’ve obviously come at this from the angle of my belief that GW is occurring and felt that this is supported by one (obviously) more knowledgeable and educated than I (Dr. Brown–unless I completely misread/understood based on this:”1° C is what one expects from CO2 forcing at all, with no net feedbacks.). But maybe it’s inappropriate to take that interpretation further. My read led me to interpret that this increase is well within the historical ranges, which is why I base my beliefs: 1.)Warming is occurring. 2). It’s not as catastrophic as led to believe by the GW/AGW activists based on our collective knowledge at this time. 3.) We’ve got a lot more yet to learn.
I guess I have (potentially) mistakenly taken this indication of warming further than I should which is why I’m seeking further knowledge.
I read that polar bear populations may indeed actually be increasing, even if habitats are affected. Evidence of the recent occurrence of a “northwest passage” supports unprecedented melting in the Arctic. Unusually strong hurricanes, if not outside historic ranges of frequency, seems atypical. East to west flow of fronts, not unprecedented but certainly unusual is evidence of change. Et al.
I’m not sure I’m comfortable with taking a 500 million year range vs. a 10 year range as one being more valid than the other. This is part of my personal dilemma in that each seems more extreme than say a 50 to 200 year range (thinking industrial age).
I grew up hearing about the coming ice age of the ’70’s and this experience leads me to moderate my thinking both directions.
I personally would never ask those in less developed countries (assuming we’re {the west} are really the more developed) to pay for our consumption of “good climate”, so please do not infer that to be the case. To the contrary, it would be much more likely that we (the west) should absorb those debts. If indeed we’ve spent that capitol, it’s up to us to create the solutions.
To more directly answer your question, if I were the ultimate decision maker, I’d err on the side of taking as much CO2 out of the system as we (developed countries) have put in to the best of our ability to return us to as close to the state we were in at the beginning of the industrial age as we can considering reasonable expenses. It seems this could be done (and maybe I’m a bit pollyanna here) with those who’ve benefited the most from the addition of this greenhouse gas bearing the brunt of the cost of removal. If we were to do so, it would at least remove the “debate” over this as the cause of any negative repercussions and allow us to then focus on methane or other causes..
No matter, I wish to thank for a respectful conversation as it’s refreshing. Some of my experiences have been different elsewhere. I’d love to continue the sharing.

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 8:22 pm

Arctic sea ice melt is not the least bit unprecedented. The NW Passage was even more open during the 1920s to ’40s & sea ice was essentially nonexistent during summer in the Holocene Optimum, ie for thousands of years. Same for previous even warmer interglacials.
Tropical storms are not increasing in either frequency or strength. The US, for example, is in the middle of the longest hurricane drought on record. This is what would be expected in a warmer world. Storms are driven by the difference in T between high & low latitudes. Colder worlds are stormier worlds. This applies not only to earth but to her sister planets.
Not that the world is warming any more now, but it’s naturally warmer than it was during the Little Ice Age of c. AD 1400 to 1850.
There is no evidence whatsoever of human GHG caused warming on global T, although there may be some trivial to negligible undetectable effect within the margin of error of measurement.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 9:09 pm

Hi milodonharlani,
I see that at least partially the NW passage is not unprecedented, but has (from what I’ve been able to find) reached lower lows recently (2013). Again, I’m looking this in the nearer term (Industrial Age) as going back through the ancient ages brings up many more variables and uncertainties. I also cannot prove it, but have to believe that our data set is improving with more current technologies than going back to ancient times. I’m happy to correct that thinking given evidence to the contrary. I’m really not trying to focus on the specific events (I’m not communicating well) but instead am looking more at the confluence of events.
I fully agree that the frequency of hurricanes (just did this recently in discussion with my activist buddy) has not increased outside historic ranges. My activist buddy provided a re-insurers data set that I found troubling as that re-insurer has “skin in the game” by being able to charge higher prices as a result of their analysis. When I went through it year by year going back about 30 years I didn’t get the same read as they did and felt that his use of that re-insurers data was “suspect” due to potential profit motives. I used NOAA assuming no ulterior motive (and I certainly could be wrong about that). I did give him the outliers of Sandy and Katrina as being atypical or unusual just for the sake of argument. My research, for the past ten years for example, came up with 3 average years, 3 above average, and two below average (referring to frequency only).
Please help me to understand how I can validate the argument that: “Not that the world is warming any more now, but it’s naturally warmer than it was during the Little Ice Age of c. AD 1400 to 1850.” Is there proof that it’s warmer now, but not due to human activity? I truly do not know and only ask to learn and not to be argumentative. My only motive here is to learn. I’ve been lambasted a few times elsewhere for not yet being convinced of AGW either way. I’m here, and will remain as long as you’ll let me, only to learn and try to absorb.
My experience is that as Dr. Brown indicates, emotions take over and folks have some inherent need to win even if they’re wrong. I’ve not yet experienced this here yet. Yes, I see overtones in some comments, but none has yet been directed at me and I appreciate that more than you would know.
I have no idea which side is “right” and which is “wrong” and frankly don’t think anyone else does with irrefutable proof, but the mutually respectful communication is refreshing. I thank you for that. What I’m seeking is mutually beneficial discussion and honestly, it’s hard to find.

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 10:40 am

Danny, the 1-deg. C per doubling of atmospheric CO2 essentially tells us at present that the next “degree” will be seen when the current level (<400 ppm) is doubled (<800 ppm). At the current rate that atmospheric CO2 is increasing, that will require (if my arithmetic is correct) about 360 years. You also have to keep in mind that the predicted effect of the doubling is the result of assuming "all other things being equal." That is, the real world atmosphere behaves precisely like a laboratory sample of CO2 in a jar did, and the rest of real world essentially lacks any properties that are not present in that jar. That assumption is self-evidently false to fact. There is no convection and minimal conduction in that jar for example. We absolutely know that “all other things” are not equal.
And consider, 1 deg. C is not in any manner a frightening number (unless it is the change between 99 and 100 degrees in water in a closed system). A one-degree change is unlikely to produce any discernible change in weather. The change between the Late Glacial Maximum and now is more like 15-deg. C. There is considerable debate, but a reasonable estimate is that life zones moved about 500 km toward the poles at the end of Pleistocene. For each degree of change that is about 33 kilometers (19 miles). Not even Canadians will notice a 19-mile change in where they grow tomatoes. Minnesotans will still be longing for global warming. No atolls will have vanished under the waves due to melting (at least not melting caused by warming); soot could be a different story.
If you look back in history 360 years, you are gazing at the mid-17th century – about 1650. When we look forward in time that far, we are very probably in just about the same state of knowledge as our 17th C ancestors were about the present. That is, we know nothing at all.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 11:41 am

I found this discussion from EPA: “The average length of the growing season in the contiguous 48 states has increased by nearly two weeks since the beginning of the 20th century. A particularly large and steady increase occurred over the last 30 years (see Figure 1).
The length of the growing season has increased more rapidly in the West than in the East. In the West, the length of the growing season has increased at an average rate of about 22 days per century since 1895, compared with a rate of about eight days per century in the East (see Figure 2).
In recent years, the final spring frost has been occurring earlier than at any point since 1895, and the first fall frosts have been arriving later. Since 1980, the last spring frost has occurred an average of three days earlier than the long-term average, and the first fall frost has occurred about two days later (see Figure 3).”
I’m not saying that 1 C is alarming or catastrophic, but with a 30 year time line trend towards an increasing growing season along with other indicators (glacial melting, droughts, etc. {you probably know them better than I}) there appears to be reason for concern leading me to revisit the “insurance” thought process.
I find that the 400 ppm volume was reached after a 25% increase dating from 1958. So assuming that trend continues, would we not then reach 500 ppm (25% increase of 400 ppm=100 + 400) in 66 years w/o other changes then 625 ppm then 781 (I get 192 years). Yes it’s a long time (I won’t be here) but it’s the trend that’s concerning. And if that trend continues, what then?
If we change our growing seasons based on my (admittedly elementary) math by 10 days/each 25% we’re looking at 6 weeks at the end of that 192 year time frame. And I think I’m being potentially generous as the EPA site link provided above shows that 10 day expansion of the growing season occurred in 30 years. Using that time frame we’d potentially be looking at a better than two month change in those 200 years. This does alarm me. I’m not sensitive so any correction to my math is more than welcome. I believe I’ve portrayed this fairly, and assume all other things are equal and as you said that’s not likely as our planet and it’s systems are not static.
Each time someone is kind enough to respond it triggers me to look in to the details, and I really cannot thank you all for helping me through this.

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 12:12 pm

Danny Thomas
October 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm
There are ample paleoclimatic proxies & (for the LIA) actual instrumental readings from all over the world showing that the LIA was a lot colder than now at its depth c. 1700 & for most of its existence (c. AD 1400 to 1850). Like all such centennial scale phases, it also included pronounced counter-trend cycles. The warming after its depths (c. 1710-39) was greater & longer than the late 20th century warming (c. 1977-96).
The LIA was preceded by the Medieval Warm Period, which was warmer than the Modern WP so far. The Medieval WP followed the Dark Ages Cold Period, which followed the Roman WP (warmer than the Medieval), which followed the Greek Dark Ages CP, which followed the Minoan WP (warmer than the Roman). As did the LIA, the Dark Ages CP had a sharp counter-trend cycle, the Sui-Tang warm interval.
The Arctic was not only ice free during summers in the Holocene Climatic Optimum, c. 5000 to 8000 years ago, but also during the heights of the Minoan, Roman & Medieval WPs. In fact, for well over half of the Holocene (the past ~11,400 years) there has been less Arctic ice than now. Many proxies show this to be the case.
Katrina & Sandy are memorable because they hit big cities. Katrina was also a powerful hurricane when it made landfall. Sandy however wasn’t at hurricane strength when it struck NYC. There has been no warming along its path, so “global warming” had nothing to do with it in any case. The last hurricane to make a direct hit on New York was in 1821, when sea level was perhaps a foot lower (being during the LIA), & Sandy came ashore at high tide. Had NYC invested in storm surge barriers as have so many other vulnerable cities, there would have been no serious damage, but “environmental” concerns kept the city from building such a system, which would have cost less than the damage done by Sandy.
Hurricanes & tornadoes have been markedly less frequent during the warmer 1980s-2000s than during prior cooler decades. Nor has there been any statistically significant global warming for over 18 years or longer, depending upon data set, despite the surface record’s having been “adjusted” so heavily that its mother wouldn’t recognize it.
Thus, alarmists cannot reject the null hypothesis, ie that nothing out of the ordinary is happening with earth’s climate that can be pinned on people.
Higher CO2 has so far been beneficial for the planet & organisms living upon it.
Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Alarmism (CACA) is without scientific basis.

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 1:00 pm

Danny Thomas
Yes it’s a long time (I won’t be here) but it’s the trend that’s concerning. And if that trend continues, what then?
If we change our growing seasons based on my (admittedly elementary) math by 10 days/each 25% we’re looking at 6 weeks at the end of that 192 year time frame. And I think I’m being potentially generous as the EPA site link provided above shows that 10 day expansion of the growing season occurred in 30 years. Using that time frame we’d potentially be looking at a better than two month change in those 200 years. This does alarm me.

Why does a longer growing season “concern” you?
Why is more food because of greater CO2 levels in the atmosphere “alarm” you?
Why does a 1/2 of one degree warmer world “alarm” you?
Do you want millions of people, plants and animals depending on those plants to die an early death due to YOUR requirement for higher energy prices so YOU do not have something in the far future to fear?
Do YOU realize that CO2 only benefits the world – except for those who want to restrict its use and increase its prices for money, political power, money, academic recognition and power, money, more research grants, money, and the deep desire to worship the new “god” of Gaea and one-world-dictatorship?

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 1:09 pm

A little self correction.
I went thru all 55 years of data from this:
I came up with 1.65 ppm average increase in CO2 per year over that 55 years. Then starting at 400 ppm/1.65 I came up with 242 years to reach 800 ppm.
Just for giggles, I ran the 10 year avg. and it’s 19% higher at 2.05 ppm/year leading me to 195 years with a worrisome change in the rate of increase.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 1:24 pm

Hi RACookPE1978,
It seems to me that if the growing season continues to be extended then eventually we’ll lose the “seasons” . In other words, we’ll only have “summer”. Land in current agricultural production will move north and more southerly lands may become unusable based on my understanding. I’m not saying I expect that, by any means, but in researching in my likely less than scientific (or at least elementary) way it’s the trends that are bothersome.
Some increase in CO2 may be beneficial, but if it never ends (taking to a worst case scenario) then would out atmosphere not become toxic to humans leaving any discussion about need for food as moot? Again, I’m not saying I believe this will occur but having been led to look into the time frame it would take for CO2 concentrations to double as a result of the comments by Duster as well as their perception of the changing growing seasons I just threw out what I found with the hopes I’ll be corrected and educated as necessary.
I’ve not said I’m concerned about 1/2 a degree or even one degree of change, but at some point if that temperature change continues to increase then my worry does kick in.
Am I misunderstanding your point?

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 2:09 pm

Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 at 1:24 pm
Growth in CO2 will end far below levels required to suffocate humans, which may occur at concentrations of 7 to 10%, even in the presence of sufficient oxygen, manifesting as dizziness, headache, visual & hearing dysfunction, & unconsciousness within a few minutes to an hour. But 70,000 to 100,000 ppm is not possible.
It has been estimated that burning all recoverable fossil fuels over the next few hundred years might get atmospheric levels from the present 400 ppm to about 600 ppm. Actual greenhouses keep CO2 around 1300 ppm to encourage plant growth.
The GHG effect of 600 ppm is negligible, as it’s a logarithmic function. But in any case, humanity is liable to switch to alternative energy sources long below the healthy for plants concentration of 600 ppm could be attained.
Even the “Father of Global Warming”, Wallace Broecker, acknowledges that within 1000 years of man-made CO2 peaking, its level in the air will return to that which is commensurate with ambient temperature, thanks to natural sinks.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 2:58 pm

Hi milodonharlani,
I’m really not saying that I expect CO2 to build up to some toxic level, but was just responding to RACookPE1978. It’s the trend that I find disconcerting.
But what I wonder is what would “turn off” the CO2 increase? I really don’t know. The first thing I thought of when you said rates that would be toxic to humans cannot occur, was Venus. So by this comment, I’m assuming you mean on this planet. I googled Venus and the first thing that popped up was which made me giggle a little. I’ve gotta go read on that one.
I have real trouble with taking this discussion back so far in time as where is the line drawn? It’s my understanding our global climate has gone through many cycles over the millennia. Our atmosphere going way back was predominately CO2 if I recall my early education correctly. Continents move, animal populations rise, extinctions occur, and so on. The most current few hundred years seem most relevant to me but I’m open to your input as to why this should not be so. If the debate is between naturally occurring changes, vs. (potentially) man caused my thinking is we should therefore limit the time frame to when man began to impact our planet more widely (I.E. Industrialization). Any correction to this thinking is appreciated.
I asked this before: “Please help me to understand how I can validate the argument that: “Not that the world is warming any more now, but it’s naturally warmer than it was during the Little Ice Age of c. AD 1400 to 1850.” Is there proof that it’s warmer now, but not due to human activity? ” and still seek guidance. Mostly because of the time frames being within a comfort zone of when man’s impacts began to expand, so I appreciate your tolerance with me here.
I fully agree with this: “But in any case, humanity is liable to switch to alternative energy sources long below the healthy for plants concentration of 600 ppm could be attained.” as I hope/believe that we’re smart enough as a species to not stand around and watch ourselves just die off. Plus we’re an adaptable species.
And as you said, technology will change, fossil fuels will run out, many, many variables exist.
I see I need to respond to another note you posted. For some reason I missed that one and I apologize for that.
Thanks again!

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 3:09 pm

What will turn off CO2 increase is humans releasing less & that already in the atmosphere being rained out of the air & into the many naturally occurring sinks.
Present 400 ppm is a good thing & 600 ppm would be even better for plant life. You are correct that earth’s early atmosphere resembled that of Venus & Mars, with ~95% CO2. In the more recent past (Cambrian Period), ~540 million years ago, CO2 was still as high as 7000 ppm. In the succeeding Ordovician Period, there was an ice age with CO2 higher than 4000 ppm. CO2 just doesn’t matter much to climate above the first 200 ppm or so. It’s an effect of temperature, not a primary cause.
The evidence for higher temperatures earlier during the Holocene & prior interglacials without benefit of man-made CO2 is overwhelming & not in doubt. Not even CACA spewers try to dispute this fact (although they do try to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period since it’s so relatively recent). Here is just one instance of the abundant evidence for this observation:

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 3:57 pm

Hi again Milodonharlani,
I’m responding to the post of yours that I missed. I’ve got some research to do here and need your help with acronyms, please. Keep in mind I’m a rookie here.
Modern WP (guessing warming period)
Dark ages CP (guessing cooling period)
CACA —Ha, ha, even I get this one
Is there a site with a chart that you can share?
Looks like some good information that I need to read and absorb and once again offer my appreciation.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 4:14 pm

Okay Milodonharlani, thanks for your efforts. I’ll look this over.
The only issue I see at first glance is the “turning off the CO2 by us issuing less” is not occurring according to NOAA. In fact it’s increasing. Over the past 55 years the average is 1.65 ppm increase and shortening to the last 10 years it’s gone up to 2.05ppm.
But I’ve got lots to look over and absorb. Much appreciated.
Wish I knew how to respond to the message you sent instead of it coming back to the bottom. Thanks for your patience with this.

Reply to  Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 4:15 pm

Danny Thomas
October 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm
Charts abound from all over the world. I linked to one from the Greenland ice cores.
Here’s one from the first IPCC report, based upon the reconstructed Central England Temperature curve for the Medieval Warm Period & Little Ice Age:
Here’s the Greenland ice sheet core data again, from a longer perspective:
But it’s not just earlier in the Holocene that was warmer than now. The previous interglacial, the Eemian, was even warmer (Scandinavia was an island & hippos swam in the Thames at the site of London), without benefit of a Neanderthal industrial age:
The interglacial of MIS 13 (c. 400,000 years ago) was if anything hotter still, again without benefit of a Homo heidelbergensis industrial age, although this particular chart doesn’t show that global average:
There is no scientific basis for concluding that humans are responsible for the mild warming during recovery from the LIA so far.

October 6, 2014 9:36 pm

What seems to me to be unique about the theory of CAGW is the number of educated supporters who simply want to stifle any form of debate.
From my experience in Engineering and Marketing, naturally, i liked nothing more than to be proven right about a pet project by healthy and vigorous argument . And occasionally to be proven wrong. – both are desirable outcomes for the long run delivering success or preventing erroneous, expensive time-wasting implementation,
Simply clamping off all opposition is just plain stupid and is reminiscent of belief systems that require a massive “leap of faith” AKA suspend all logic THEN “sign here, press hard, two copies” please.

Michael Wassil
Reply to  cnxtim
October 6, 2014 10:33 pm

cnxtim October 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm
As Dr Brown has so ably demonstrated in so many specific ways, CAGW is not about the science. It’s ‘sciency-sounding’ but its proponents care neither for “delivering success” nor “preventing erroneous, expensive time-wasting implementation.” Quite the contrary.

Reply to  Michael Wassil
October 9, 2014 10:46 am

If you read the Climategate emails, it is plain that the “Team” had many of the same reservations about the “models” as the sceptics. Trenberth went so far as to call the disjoint between theory and data a “travesty.” Of course, he blamed the data rather than the theory. It is clear that they really did “believe” they were right. At the same time, it is also clear they were assiduously protecting their bailiwick and funding. Science is an ideal; scientists are human beings.

Reply to  cnxtim
October 7, 2014 12:14 am

CAGW is a Social Construct not a Scientific Construct.

Reply to  AlexS
October 8, 2014 3:20 am

Simple and well put.
If any value can ever come out of climate science, it is in understanding how psychology/sociology can so adversely affect the objectivity of scientific process.

Reply to  AlexS
October 9, 2014 10:51 am

Science itself is a social construct. We retain it because it is (or was) productive in knowledge and materials.

Reply to  cnxtim
October 8, 2014 2:30 pm

One of my kids’ favorite books included a passage that ran something like, “It is a short leap to the Isles of Conclusions, but a long swim back.” It is something I keep in mind at all times. Humans are remarkably good at discerning “patterns,” real or not.

Cold in Wisconsin
October 6, 2014 9:42 pm

You state that science concerns itself with truth. I certainly always thought so. However, my brother-in-law (who was a high school science teacher for 30 or so years) tells me that I am all wet. Science does not care about the truth, it only cares about “the answer that best describes observations.” I would appreciate any thoughts about “truth” versus “the best answer.”
Quite frankly, if science is not searching for the truth, then I am going to look around for something that does, because mankind needs it. And if they are not looking for the truth, they better forget about the money because society doesn’t need to pay for answers that are sold as the truth.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 6, 2014 10:40 pm

Which is why climastrologists have attempted to elevate GCM outputs and reanalyses as “observation,” and redefined actual temperature data as “observed in-situ estimates.”
With that sleight of hand, the observed estimates (the real data) can now be adjusted to meet model outputs.

Michael Wassil
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 6, 2014 10:43 pm

Cold in Wisconsin October 6, 2014 at 9:42 pm
Not to be pedantic, but ‘the best answer’ is the ‘truth’ until a better answer replaces or augments it. If you’re searching for ultimate and eternal ‘truth’ check out religion; they claim to have it, apparently.

Paul McGuane
Reply to  Michael Wassil
October 7, 2014 8:46 am

Agreed. The destination is “the truth.” The “best answers” are guideposts (sometimes wrong) on the journey to that destination. To reach the destination, one must always be open to the idea that the most recent guidepost wasn’t actually the destination (The Truth).

Reply to  Michael Wassil
October 7, 2014 4:09 pm

Also agree. Science advances by improving the quality of the approximation. I.e., we can successfully model APPROXIMATE truths, and science does let us discover objective truth in that limited sense.
That is a lot, and it is good enough. It would be no fun, if absolute certainty were too easily available. 😉

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 6, 2014 11:29 pm

Each observer sees the universe differently. Which one sees the “Truth”?

Reply to  ferdberple
October 8, 2014 3:25 am

Well, that ones easy. Subjectively each one of us sees the truth, objectively truth is what what a certain group at a certain point in time agrees to being the truth.

M Courtney
Reply to  ferdberple
October 8, 2014 3:39 am

…objectively truth is what a certain group at a certain point in time agrees to being the truth.

So if everyone agrees that they can fly if they only flap their arms like Wile E Coyote then, yes – they fly in truth?
I refute your claim with a “poof”.

Robert B
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 6, 2014 11:39 pm

There was a comment about science being a map and not the actual terrain.
It needs to be a good enough representation of the truth to be useful and sometimes what is closer to the truth is too unwieldy to be useful.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 12:40 am

Observations _are_ truths: drop an apple and observe the truth, the fact, of gravitational attraction.
Science attempts to _describe_ the observations. The theory may be wrong, but the fact;
the observation remains.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 2:46 am

Science seeks the truth. Your brother-in-law is wrong, but right in the sense that explaining observations is the method of science. The “best” explanation may be disputed and new observations will cause us to amend explanations so sciences are in a flux, so to speak. This is the dynamics of science. Nevertheless the ultimate standard sought by science is the truth, which goal we seek by our limited means.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 4:08 am

I shudder to think of your brother in law as a teacher.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 5:39 am

In absolutes, there is only one truth from which everything could be explained. It would be the TOE. But we haven’t figured that one out yet, so we have to settle for the best answer for now.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 6:06 am

Any scientist worth their salt will seek the truth. It is just that we can never be sure that we have found it, and we must always be ready to be proven wrong.
There likely is a lot of truth in current science that will never be overturned, but only qualified. Examples:
– Inheritance is mediated by DNA – but it turns out that RNA and even proteins (prions) can do it, too.
– The genetic code is universal across all forms of life – but it turns out that some codons may be reassigned in the odd bacterium or organelle.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the cause of the eponymous disease – but it turns out that some other mycobacterial species can occasionally cause it, too.
Such later qualifications are important, but they don’t devalue the original, ground-breaking discoveries that fundamentally enlarged our understanding of the world.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 6:28 am

This is a fine and acute point.
And the answer such as it is, is a philosophical one.
Science has the a priori assumption that there is a Truth out there, and the nearest we get to that truth is the data of impartial observation.
Beyond that, the constructions we create to reduce those observations to a rule set that allows accurate predictions to be made – and it is algorithmic compression of the data itself into generalised principles of ‘natural law’ – are always of necessity a step further away from the truth than observation is.
Philosophers of the better sort have always understood this: Korzybski summed it up by saying ‘the map, is not the territory’ And Robert touches on the map analogy in his post.
The map is not the territory, and at best its a limited but useful approximation to it. And if it fails to show public houses, its useless and knowing where to get a drink. So to speak. A map is an algorithmic compression of PART of the truth.
And can be represented in different ways. One might draw contour lines., or have spot heights marked everywhere.
Occam’s Razor is the expressions of pragmatism. It says ‘if contour lines are easier, use them’ What it does not do, is make contour lines more true than spot heights.
And therein lies the final rub. No theory is, or ever can be True. They are an order less true than the data from which they are derived and against which they are tested.
And that is why your brother in law is right to say ‘we don’t deal with truth, only what works’.
However this is radically different from saying that there is no truth or that science doesn’t get you closer to the truth.
To make a statement that ‘there is no truth’ is to immediately contradict yourself. And make all debate meaningless. That the world appears to exist and have substance independently of any conscious effort on your part to will it into existence means that either your subconscious is godlike in its creativity, or that there is an order that exists independently of your perception of it. (or both. but we won’t go there) So we conclude that a Truth of some sort exists, as independent of our powers to alter it.
We have maps, but there is a territory there as well.
And the confusion vanishes if you understand these points: there is a Truth, beyond our conscious ability to create realities (real or imagined) and theorise. But we will never get to it by theorising alone (Kant) and although its convenient internal shorthand to regard derived theoretical entities like ‘gravity’ ‘electron’ ‘muon’ ‘carbon dioxide’ as ‘real’, they are not real. They are set-theory categorisations of the nearest thing we get to reality, namely our objective perception of the experience of existence. We must categorise experience to deal with it, we ‘reify’ things, we invent time, space, matte, energy, causality and a thousand different qualities in order to be able to remember and discuss, even to ourselves, what is happening around us. Already we have lost touch with the direct experience. So busy are we dealing with these derived quantities and entities that the time when we just sat there,. gurgled, wetted our nappies and experienced everything in our world without knowing anything about it, are long gone.
This is Kant’s and Schopenhauer’s point as I understand it., The world is real. Experience is real, but ‘things in the world’ – causality time space matter energy – these are human inventions. We invent categories (things) and we invent relationships between them that work (laws and causality)
And we get so absorbed into these derived entities that we think they are real, and all that reality is. There is an order to things. we dimly understand that, and call it ‘natural law’ or ‘god’ and sometimes we can sense the order well enough to make a equation about it that works. THAT is as near as science can get to truth.
An equation that works
An equation that works is more true than one that doesn’t.
THAT is the sole justification for science, as against mumbo jumbo, religion, or plain making stuff up.
Anyone can say ‘this is a gun, and if you don’t do what I want I will shoot you’ but its the man who has fathomed out a reliable way to cause explosions and work metal who isn’t bluffing.
And thereby hangs the moral of this philosophical diversion. Until the trigger is pulled and the gun fails to go off, a man who understands explosives metals and guns is indistinguishable from a complete charlatan, if you yourself know nothing about guns.
17 years and no warming? where is the corpse? where is the smoking gun? Of course it COULD be a real gun, that’s just misfired……

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 7, 2014 11:55 am

“This is Kant’s and Schopenhauer’s point as I understand it., The world is real. Experience is real, but ‘things in the world’ – causality time space matter energy – these are human inventions. We invent categories (things) and we invent relationships between them that work (laws and causality)”
Kant invented his 12 categories. Kant says that causality is such a category.
In other words, he describes himself – a person that invents categories and invents things that are not real.
His work is a giant manifestation of projection.

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 9, 2014 5:28 am

Awesome comment. I agree, um, “categorically”, and said as much myself somewhere below…:-)

Mike Lewis
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 6:55 am

It sounds like your brother-in-law has borrowed from the Indiana Jones line in the Last Crusade. “Archaeology is the search for fact… not truth. If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.” Truth has a broader definition than fact and can mean different things to different people. Science searches for facts – let the philosophers argue about the truth of those facts.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Mike Lewis
October 7, 2014 9:09 am

Actually science searches for relationships between what are already accepted as facts. Mostly causal relationships.
“Peter is dead” (two facts)
“how did he die?” (causality says there should be a reason)
“someone must have shot him” (a hypothesis implying a relationship between shooting and dying)
and so on.
What science is most concerned with is establishing the general case
“People who are shot, die”
Because that whilst not factual – no one needs to die to make that statement, but a lot of people have to die before its a well supported hypothesis – it is useful.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 9:20 am

Science does not care about the truth, it only cares about “the answer that best describes observations.” I would appreciate any thoughts about “truth” versus “the best answer.”

Curiously, I have written extensively about this It is one of my passions. You can read a draft of my musings at:
In a nutshell, the reason science doesn’t search for Aristotelian or Platonic Truth (note the capital T and boldface!) is because we can never find it. Seriously. This is a very, very serious problem in philosophy. How do we know what is Truetm with regard to assertions about the physical Universe? All we have to work with (in the end) is the aggregate information input through our senses into an internal, imperfect, “mental, semantic” Universe!
These sensory impressions of reality are not, themselves, reality. They are a map, a model. Everybody here loves to disrespect modelling, but everything you or I or anyone you know think that they “know” about the Universe that they appear to be living in as one tiny but highly organized temporally persistent structure is nothing but a model. Furthermore, that model is all built up by a complex process that mixes mathematics and logic (deductive stuff) with inference (inductive stuff).
Neither mathematics nor induction can be proven without assumptions, assumptions that are loosely called “axioms” (or “postulates”, or “physical laws” or… hence the title of my book) that cannot, themselves, be proven. Hence the foundation of all human knowledge is, in some sense, rotten in a very deep and profound way at the core. We literally cannot be certain of any of our beliefs but the one Descartes pointed out long ago — that as sentient beings we cannot reasonably doubt our own existences as the act and ability “to doubt” empirically contradicts the thing being doubted, until the day we die and it doesn’t. All of this was pointed out by the great Skeptic and empiricist, David Hume, who basically proved that in this deep sense, all of philosophy (but especially the formal philosophy of e.g. Plato, Aristotle, and all of the others who believed that Pure Reason was able to deduce Pure Truths that had to be true independent of any need to establish correspondence between the beliefs and observations of reality) was bullshit.
Thus matters stood for at least 200 years. Yes, Kant and many others attempted to overcome Hume’s objections, but they deeply failed, because his objections are correct. We have names for them — they are the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc (after a thing, therefore because of a thing), which we say in English as correlation is not causality (temporally ordered or not). In the meantime, his conclusions not only became stronger, but the mathematical community discovered that even mathematical “truths” — things like the theorems of Euclid in plane geometry, which were held up as a shining example of perfect truth that in no way depended on correspondence with reality — were not, actually, perfect truths, they were at best contingent truths. Sure, the sum of the angles of a triangle add up to \pi in a plane, but what about curved space geometries? Change the axioms of the theory and you get a different, equally (contingently) valid theory! Which one is “true”? Either? Both? Which set of axioms are “true”? How can we tell? They are assumptions, so at best mathematical and logical reason yields contingent truth predicated upon an unprovable base of assumptions.
Worse, the grand attempt of Hilbert to axiomatize mathematics came to a crashing halt when another paradigm-shifting upstart, a buddy of Einstein’s named Godel, derived a startling theorem in number theory, one of the branches of mathematics Hilbert was trying to reduce to the cut and dried. He proved, basically, that one cannot fully axiomatize any mathematical theory complex enough to include simple arithmetic. Geometry made the cut — one can axiomatize geometry. Almost everything else, including number-based science, did not! That is, not only can we not arrive at Perfect Truths about the Universe practically, as finite imperfect inference engines operating through a sensory filter with a limited perception and range and resolution, we cannot even arrive at them in principle. As soon as the Universe passes a certain critical threshold in its complexity, it becomes in some sense unknowable, which is quite relevant to the remarks above on chaos and nonlinearity arising from internal feedbacks within dynamical systems in general. All of this is described in lovely detail in Morris Kline’s book Mathematics, the Failure of Certainty.
Thus matters stood until the mid-1940s, when two people working on quite distinct problems made another startling discovery, or perhaps “invention” is a better word. Physicist Richard Cox was trying to come up with a clear axiomatic basis for the Gibbs prescription in statistical mechanics, which is basically the way we form a picture of not the “certain” evolution but the most probable evolution of systems of many, many particles in physics. This is, in fact, the problem climate science is trying to solve, but at the time the greater concern was simply explaining equations of states of liquids, solids, gases, understanding phase transitions and critical phenomena — the idea of computing something as complex as a turbulent fluid was foreign to nearly all physicists, and the few who attempted it got the answer horribly, horribly wrong (although it took decades to figure that out). Cox proposed three very simple, “common sense” axioms from which a Theory of Probable Inference followed — you can see how it works if you buy his lovely monograph on the subject. From this theory, statistical mechanics could be axiomatically described.
Almost immediately after this, a researcher named Claude Shannon working for Bell Labs invented a mathematical description of the way information degrades when being transmitted on a noisy transmission channel — a theory with profound and immediate practical benefit, but one that has obvious connections to our own ability to make inferences about the outside Universe via information received through the noisy transmission channels of our senses and internal brain structures. His invention of Information Theory turned out to fundamentally be equivalent to the axiomatic theory of Cox — one can be derived from the other, and both provide a sound basis for the concept of entropy as the natural log of the missing information, the information lost when averaging a system from the microscopic to the macroscopic level.
A third physicist, E. T. Jaynes, realized that these two theories were the same, and that they had a profound consequence. The “logic” of science, and indeed the basis of all ontology and epistemology, is not the Boolean/Aristotelian algebra of True/False dichotomy, it is Bayesian probability theory the algebraic theory of soft logic originally described by Laplace, written out by George Boole in his fundamental book on logic and reason but without proof (since he lacked the axioms to prove it from a common sense foundation), and (perhaps surprisingly) developed by a number of people include John Maynard Keynes who were writing treatises on probability theory from the point of view of maximum likelihood estimates that essentially embody maximum entropy as a guiding principle without ever naming it or making the connection to physics and science in general.
Cox and Jaynes also realized that the Cox axioms finally resolved the problem of David Hume and put the theory of knowledge on a sound basis. The proper basis of knowledge isn’t the logical positivism where meaning comes from the ability to be empirically proven (an assertion that is in fact inconsistent as it cannot be empirically proven) or the notion of falsification advanced by Popper and others to repair some of the inconsistencies — it is probability theory wedded to skepticism at a very deep level. We can never prove any non-contradictory proposition about the real world to be unconditionally true or unconditionally false. The best we can do is demonstrate a kind of consistency in a process of iterative recomputation of posterior probabilities of a model as it is compared to data, to evidence. Positive evidence increases our degree of belief. Negative evidence decreases our degree of belief. Over time agreement with positive evidence increases our degree of belief to near certainty, but the limit of “unquestionably true” cannot be reached by any amount of finite evidence. Over time negative evidence (which is very broadly interpretable!) can and should decrease our degree of belief to near certainty that the belief is false, but we can never be absolutely certain of that because our entire system of beliefs about the Universe Itself could be false — we cannot be certain of the Bayesian priors we are using to interpret the evidence, however consistently they appear to be working and however high their posterior probabilities as we add more data.
All of this can be boiled down (by me:-) into a pithy little English language sound bite rule that one can use as the basis of all epistemology and worldview building, an embodiment of the Cox axioms and Jaynes prescription suitable for use in everyday life:

It is best to believe that which you can doubt the least, given the evidence and the entire network of coupled, evidence supported best beliefs, you have so far!

Note well that this is a dynamic, iterative prescription. You should doubt everything. Somebody says “God exists!” You should doubt this! Give it a try. Somebody says “God exists and is male and His name is Allah and…(etc)!” You should doubt this more, mathematically, because the probability of a conjunction of probabilities is their product, so the probable truth of this statement is strictly less than the probable truth of a single one of its components. Ockham’s razor is thus automatic — more complex propositions are less probable and require more empirical support to raise to a high degree of belief. In all cases, the sole valid basis for increasing degree of belief is hard, unbiased, empirical evidence. You may think God is a lovely idea — just as Plato thought that Spheres and Forms were lovely ideas, as Einstein thought that certain geometries were lovely ideas — but the beauty of an idea is not the same thing as objective unbiased (e.g. double blind) empirical support. Even personal “experience” of God is not to be trusted, at least not very far, because most of us have lived long enough to mistrust our own brains and perceptions and this sort of experience is far too easily explainable by alternative hypotheses for the “evidence” to have much resolution, even more easily doubtable as we increase the specificity of our belief system.
This is even a moral system. It asserts pure common sense. Of course we should believe that which we can doubt the least. What is immoral, in some deep sense, is to promulgate easily doubtable, uncertain assertions as probable truth when they are in direct contradiction of existing knowledge and evidence, or when it is simply the case that the evidence isn’t sufficient to advance belief much either way.
So this is what your friend probably means — science isn’t a search for Truth. It is a search for that which it is best to believe, given the evidence, so far. Hope that this helps. It also will help you understand the way physicists temper their “beliefs” in even such well-demonstrated things as gravity, let along things like the Higgs boson or photons or magnetic monopoles. We believe in them quite strongly (well, not so much with monopoles:-) when and as evidence supports the belief, but until then we treat them as plausibly true conjectures and afterwards we consider them to be part of a working model for the theory of everything that itself is subject to any revision required by new evidence and lines of reasoning as they accrue. We know better than to get attached to things like Classical Mechanics or its functional replacement, Quantum Mechanics, or even to good old gravity. All too often in the past, these sorts of things have been resoundingly proven almost certainly false after being strongly believed for a very long time.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 10:46 am

Dr. Brown, thank you again. Your comments/writings jog my mind quite deeply. I am at awe at the wisdom you must possess as it is only possible to express a very small bit of that in writing and even more so in a series of blog posts/comments.Thanks again for participating in the discussions here on WUWT. I am much the better for it and am most certainly not alone in that regards.
The ensuing discussions on this thread have been quite enthralling.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 12:01 pm

Reality is what refuses to go away when you stop believing in it. (I think Philip K Dick)

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 7:26 pm

Where is Diogenes and his lantern when one needs them.
Truly excellent dissertation on truth and our convoluted search for truth, one slow sure step after another.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 7:51 pm

You gave a good description of scientific truth. Mathematical truth is a different beast. It has certainty constrained by well-defined conditions. Wittgenstein said mathematics is a consistent tautology. Unlike science, it is neither empirical nor probabilistic. Truth in social science is yet another animal. The criterion is simpler. It is true because we all said so. And that is good enough.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 8, 2014 3:35 am

“What is truth?”…
Pontius Pilatus, circa 32 AD

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  rgbatduke
October 8, 2014 1:08 pm

We face a problem in discussing climate models that is described quite well in a quote from David Garcia-Andrade’s essay “Science on New Foundations – A Radically New Theory of Nature with Implications for Evolution” (2001) p89.
The erroneous assumption with AGW is that, “certain features associated with the current formulation of the theory are absolute and final” the most prominent being that small amounts of CO2 added to the atmosphere have a strong warming effect on the whole system. He cites David Bohm pointing out that such a limited view excludes so much that ‘new causal laws’ would be required to make the world work that way.
From David Garcia-Andrade: (emphasis added)
“John von Neumann offered a proof that it is impossible to find any new ‘hidden variables’ that would help define quantum systems better than the current formulation of quantum theory. This proof, however, assumes that at least a part of the description of the current state of a system depends on the ‘observables’ of current quantum physics and that ‘hidden variables’ only make this more precise. It’s quite possible that the level below the quantum one is ‘distant’, so to speak, and that these hidden variables are central while the ‘observables’ at the higher quantum level do not figure significantly down there at all — just as the causal laws that tell us how molecules of a gas move about individually are entirely different from the statistical mechanics that describe the laws of gasses (made up of these molecules) relating temperature, pressure and volume at a much higher level. Bohm dismisses von Neumann’s proof saying “For it leaves out the important possibility that as we go to a sub quantum mechanical level the entire scheme of observables satisfying certain rules that are appropriate to the quantum mechanical level will break down, to be replaced by something very different. In other words, it is quite possible that the whole system of observables applies to a good degree of approximation in the usual quantum mechanical domain but becomes completely inapplicable in the treatment of deeper lying levels. In this case, the proof of von Neumann would not be relevant, since the conditions considered here go beyond the implicit assumptions needed to carry out the proof.” (pp 95-96) (Von Neumann’s theorem also makes other assumptions that might not be true.)
“David Bohm summarizes:
” “We see, then, that both in the case of the indeterminacy principle and in that of von Neumann’s theorem, conclusions have been drawn concerning the need to renounce causality, continuity and the objective reality of individual micro-objects, which follow neither from the experimental facts underlying the quantum mechanics nor from the mathematical equations in terms of which the theory is expressed. Rather, they follow from the assumption (usually implicit rather than explicit) that certain features associated with the current formulation of the theory are absolute and final, in the sense that they will never be contradicted in future theories and will never be discovered to be approximations, holding only in some limited domain. Such an assumption so severely limits the possible forms of future theories that it effectively prevents us from considering a sub quantum mechanical level in which could take place new kinds of motion to which would apply new kinds of causal laws.” (p 96)”
The GCM builders are explicitly, not implicitly, stating that adding CO2 causes a lot of warming, whereas the null hypothesis has not first been falsified. The CAGW proponents are attempting to build ‘new climate physics’ around this faulty assumption and it is not going well for them.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 8, 2014 1:58 pm

Consider me a novice within this, but the term truth seems to be problematic. I also find the terms “best to believe” and “doubt the least” a little vague. I think that maybe the term truth can be made superfluous if we also consider the terms standard uncertainty and systematic error. For me it his useful to think that: Science is about developing a model that without significant systematic errors and within stated uncertainties can predict a measurement result for a well defined measurand when the input parameters, input variables and their uncertainties are known.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 9, 2014 6:17 am

You gave a good description of scientific truth. Mathematical truth is a different beast. It has certainty constrained by well-defined conditions. Wittgenstein said mathematics is a consistent tautology. Unlike science, it is neither empirical nor probabilistic.

Dear Dr. Strangelove,
I would strongly recommend:
The first reviews the history of mathematics to demonstrate the startling discovery — that Wittgenstein, Hilbert, Whitehead, and even Russell got wrong — is not, in fact certain. It is, as I said, at best a kind of contingent truth. Specifically, we can formulate any mathematical theory as a sort of modus ponens: If the following set of unprovable axioms/propositions are assigned a value of “True”, then the following set of contingent propositions (theorems) can be proven to also be “True”. The resulting set of definitions (another kind of proposition), axioms, and proven theorems constitutes a “theory”.
But who dictates the truth of the original propositions? How can they be proven? And for that matter, how did you end up making up that set of propositions and proving the particular set of interconnected theorems that make up your theory? How many theorems are there? Can the theory be shown to be complete (where all true theorems can be proven)? Can it be shown to be consistent (specifically, can it prove its own consistency within the theory to avoid the need for a recursive chain of reason with no end)?
The answer is unsurprisingly “nobody” for the first, hence mathematics is at best a kind of consistent fantasy, a contingent consistent tautology. The use of the term “true” in the above is also a bit odd, and we should really replace it in our minds with something different, as it means provable from axioms, not true as in one to one correspondence with something possessing the existential property, something objectively real! The invention/discovery of curved space geometry as a secondary consistent set of “perfect truth” to add to Euclidean geometry was a paradigm shift that was as philosophically crushing to the philosophers of its day as any revolution in physics (including Einsteins, which basically said not only are non-Euclidean geometries mathematically consistent theoies, they are theories that are in a better correspondence with observational reality than Eucliden geometries, a point quantum mechanics drove home with a vengeance. I will skip a digression into Hilbert Space, especially Hilbert space supported on a manifold, or conformal topology.
The answer to the second set of questions is:
Basically, no you cannot ever, even in principle, prove all the theorems in a theory with anything but the most trivial set of axioms (e.g. plane geometry is OK, arithmetic is not). And no, you cannot prove a theory to be consistent within the theory. Wittgenstein’s assertion is simply incorrect. Any theory more complex than arithmetic is not even a set of (contingent) tautologies, because it cannot demonstrate its own consistency. Worse, if one can internally demonstrate the consistency of some theory within the theory, it is certainly false!
Mathematicians have invented an elaborate apparatus to deal with the requisite layering of reasoning these theorems have brought about — first and second order logic, for example, because one cannot prove the consistency of first order logic within first order logic, but one can prove first order logic with second order logic. Self-referentiality is a big part of the problem — as soon as a theory becomes complex enough to make assertions about itself, you are almost certainly in trouble.
The second book by Polya is a classic and timeless contribution to the theory of mathematical reasoning. In it, Polya points out, tirelessly and with countless examples, that inference and induction are alive and well and at work in almost all non-trivial mathematical developments and discoveries over recorded history! We tend to think that mathematics works by brilliant minds coming up with a set of axioms that somehow descend from the heavens already inscribed on stone tablets with some sort of certificate of truth, so much so that the very word axiom is often taught to the ignorant to mean “a proposition whose truth is so plain as not to need any further examination or explication”, that is, self-evident truth. The empirical truth is that nothing of the sort happens.
Mathematicians discover things the same way physicists do, but in a quasi-empirical playground. Number theories observe certain regularities by playing with numbers. For example, Or Fermat’s infamous last theorem. These conjectures are found to be empirically true long, long before they are proven. They may not be provable (Godel states that number theory contains an infinite number of true but unprovable theorems and Goldbach might be one of them!) Geometry is no better — the truths about triangles and straight lines were without any doubt observed by Euclid before he was able to invent the reasoning process by which he proved them, many of them observed and/or proven by the Pythagoreans. That is not to minimize the power of axiomatic reasoning once one does infer a set of axioms capable of deriving truths — the discovery of irrational numbers being an unexpected cautionary tale in that regard. Sometimes you get what you do not expect, because our ability to “see” things or even imagine them is so very limited.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 9, 2014 11:39 am

Doctor Brown, I would strongly suggest that Alfred Tarski’s Undefinability Theorem be added to the list alongside Geodel. Tarski’s theorem is generalizable to all non-trivial semantic systems. He showed that for any given formal system “truth” cannot be defined within that system. You can enter into an infinite regression of formal systems of increasing order that encapsulate lower-order systems and can define “truth” for the lower order system, but no such system can define truth for itself. Goedel seems to have discussed the same concept in a letter to John von Neuman 1931. There’s a good entry in wikipedia about Tarski.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  rgbatduke
October 9, 2014 10:58 pm

But who dictates the truth of the original propositions? The mathematicians.
How can they be proven? Either they are self-evident or simply taken to be true.
And for that matter, how did you end up making up that set of propositions and proving the particular set of interconnected theorems that make up your theory? The set is chosen to prove the theorems that make up the theory. Remember mathematics is a self-consistent tautology.
How many theorems are there? The minimum amount needed to prove the theory.
Can the theory be shown to be complete (where all true theorems can be proven)? Can it be shown to be consistent (specifically, can it prove its own consistency within the theory to avoid the need for a recursive chain of reason with no end)? Godel answered those questions.
“The answer is unsurprisingly “nobody” for the first, hence mathematics is at best a kind of consistent fantasy, a contingent consistent tautology.” = That is correct. That’s what Wittgenstein said.
“Wittgenstein’s assertion is simply incorrect.” = So mathematics is an inconsistent reality and absolutely true?
“Any theory more complex than arithmetic is not even a set of (contingent) tautologies, because it cannot demonstrate its own consistency. Worse, if one can internally demonstrate the consistency of some theory within the theory, it is certainly false!” = Godel’s theorems do not apply to the whole of mathematics. If you are just counting real objects, as people do since time immemorial, 1 + 1 = 2. There is mathematical certainty in simple arithmetic equations. Logical paradoxes arise when the ancient Greeks included logical statements and elaborate methods of proof. They invented abstract mathematics detached from the real world of counting apples and bananas.
“Mathematicians discover things the same way physicists do, but in a quasi-empirical playground. Number theories observe certain regularities by playing with numbers.” = If this is true, mathematicians will not waste time studying 100 dimensional space or infinities. They have never observed 100 dimensions or infinities. They should only study what physicists can observe. Instead they studied all sorts of Lie groups before physicists learned how to use them or even if they have no use at all. For mathematicians, numbers are symbols. It doesn’t matter if they do not represent any real objects. Physicists use math as a tool to study the real world. Mathematicians are more interested in the hammer than building a house.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  rgbatduke
October 11, 2014 12:18 am

Mathematics is like chess. In principle, a supercomputer can compute all the possible games of chess. But this is a very large set and will take a very long time. Because the human brain is not a supercomputer, humans learn chess empirically, by trial and error, by playing many games. Deep Blue defeated the chess champion Kasparov in a tournament. How did the computer learn chess? It didn’t. It simply computed all its moves.
Like chess, math appears to be empirical but it is not. Science is empirical. Math is decidedly rational. In principle, you can master it by pure thought alone. Scientists discover the laws of nature by observing. Mathematicians invent axioms, algorithms and proofs by thinking.
Asking how do we know if the axioms of mathematics are true is like asking if the rules of chess are true. They are true because we made them up. If we change the rules, the new rules will also be true. It doesn’t matter what the rules are. What is important is consistency. As long as we’re playing the same game, the same rules apply.
In axiomatic geometry, Hilbert said we can replace points and lines with chairs and tables, and the whole theory will still be true. Apparently mathematicians don’t care if the things they’re studying do not represent anything in the real world. Of course the ancient Egyptians didn’t care about chairs and tables. They invented geometry to measure land areas.
The same thing with non-Euclidean geometry. Riemann defined a flat space if a triangle in that space has 180 degrees, and a curved space if the triangle is not equal to 180 degrees. We can observe this to be true in 2-space but nobody has ever seen a 10-space or 100-space. We have no idea what a triangle in 10-space looks like. It doesn’t matter. Riemann made it into an axiom and axioms, by definition, are true. He might as well replace the triangle with a banana.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  rgbatduke
October 13, 2014 12:40 pm

Enjoying the philosophical conversation within discussion of debates within science.
It seems, based on “that which it is best to believe, given the evidence, so far” then leads me to consider that those that “believe” in catastrophic AGW are then correct as are those who do not believe in the same. This is based on not being clear on who (which observer) chooses what’s best to believe.
Then, based on the last sentence above ” All too often in the past, these sorts of things have been resoundingly proven almost certainly false after being strongly believed for a very long time.” both will likely be proven inaccurate.
No wonder the debate rages on. I know it’s still ongoing inside my much lesser educated mind.
It appears that many here agree that GW is occurring, but that it’s not atypical in a historic context. I find that interesting in and of itself. The question seems to be more between AGW and GW, if what I’ve learned from my readings is anywhere near accurate.
Thanks specifically to you Dr. Brown, for writing on this topic and generating this discussion.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 10:22 am

Cold in Wisconsin, don’t be upset by your brother-in-law’s claims. In a strict and literal scientific sense, he’s right. But all he’s saying is that the best answer might not be the final answer. Just as general and special relativity overrode Newtonian physics, and then quantum mechanics put all of physics into the realm of the statistical, which does poorly at scaling to the cosmological. No theory as of yet joins quantum mechanics to relativistic or Newtonian physics. The hypothesis that correctly unifies those things could upset the whole apple cart, again. Impact events and sudden catastrophic flood events overturned the “truth” of geological “uniformitarianism.” In medicine, the notion of ultra clean and radiation-free environments actually harming people (by suppressing normal immune system responses) is making a mockery of previously held “truths.”
We take baby steps toward ultimate truth, and even missteps tell us something. The captial “T” truth is a lofty goal, at which humanity may never arrive. Humility and circumspection, and sense of history of science should make us highly averse to claiming arrival at that goal. And this is where “the science is settled” notion within climate science fails us at the most profound levels.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 10:56 am

“The answer that best describes observations” is as close to “truth” as we can get.

Bob Kutz
Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 12:24 pm

Science is not the search for the truth. As Dr. Jones told his class; If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall.
Truth, in that sense, is a matter for epistemology, the study of your system of beliefs and what constitutes true knowledge. Religion is for when you believe you have found the truth and wish to tell others about it.
If mankind needs religion (which I strongly agree that belief in a supreme being or “Great Architect of the Universe” makes people better in a lot of ways) then please at least agree that you won’t force support forcing it on people. Forcing religion on people creates more problems than it solves and I don’t believe Jesus would have been too fond of the crusades.
Anyway, back to the story;
Science, really, is just the proper application of the scientific method, not truth.
The scientific method allows us to improve our knowledge over time by replacing our understanding of natural phenomena with theories that do a better job than the old.
On another board, one contrary poster told me that ‘back in my day, you had to provide proof or it wasn’t science’, and that ‘science does not change’. Well, his notions of science are a bit medieval, in my opinion. You do have to provide proof. Or at least data that agrees with your theory. Over and over. You have to show (not prove) that your theory is better than alternative theories and/or the null hypothesis. But even with this “proof” you haven’t proven your theory correct, you’ve only proven it works better or explains one particular set of facts. And it’s open for attack. Anyone can attack it at any point, showing how it fails. They don’t even have to provide a better working hypothesis. Just demonstrate that your model fails.
If it fails, even one time, it looses some, most or all of it’s validity. If someone comes along and explains why your theory failed and can demonstrate a better solution, we now have a better working model and additional knowledge. All of this without ever casting the notion of ‘truth’ on the matter.
As such, any current science can always be supplanted by something better. Einsteins work was significantly revised (supplanted) by Hubble. That doesn’t make Einstein’s work unimportant. But it does make the notion of ‘settled science’ completely laughable. Einstein basically replaced everything Newton had done. Yet we still teach Newtonian physics. His equations are still useful in lots of situations. In my own endeavors in the world of ballistics, Newtonian physics is the accepted vernacular of the science. No one is concerned with the relativistic effects on internal, external or terminal ballistics of a firearm.
And it’s a lot easier to begin teaching physics with simple algebra than with tensor calculus or the lie 8 group. If we insisted on only teaching accurate physics, we would have very few physicists or engineers.
I believe that most people who want to tell me what science is don’t really know. I may not have a perfect grasp on the topic, but I do know that once a particular scientific discipline becomes bogged down by ‘truth’ it becomes dogmatic and quickly ceases to be science. Sometimes it approaches religion.
Anyway, my $0.02 for the day.

Bob Kutz
Reply to  Bob Kutz
October 7, 2014 12:31 pm

a quick note; none of the (better) replies above appeared before I posted mine. Sorry for repeating what everyone else had said better.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 3:48 pm

Science shouldn’t be looking for anything, this is the problem when people of small minds and high ambition look for something they find it whether it is there or not. Science is about try to understand nature by observation and interpretation, finding flaws in your understanding should be seen as a good thing. Truth is an absolute, our understanding of nature never will be.

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 7, 2014 5:33 pm

In response to TYoke: There is a quote attributed to Voltaire: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.—Voltaire” I think it applies to “Climate Science”(tm)

Reply to  Cold in Wisconsin
October 8, 2014 3:22 pm

Truth is a philosophical and logical concept. In philosophy truth is considered transcendent and not something the dwellers in Plato’s cave can directly perceive. We do not for instance perceive gravity; merely its effects. In logic truth is a matter of argument form. Properly framed an argument is “true” regardless of the factual character of its assumptions. Lewis Carrol played with this idea extensively. Postmodern or “post-normal” views tend – IMHO – to dismiss truth as an actual irrelevancy. Probably the neatest consideration of “truth” is such works as Tarski’s “unidentifiability theorem” and Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorems. No axiomatic system can demonstrate completeness. There will always be “absurdities” that simply are inherent. This is especially instructive when you consider AGW, since those “models” are all very strongly rule-bound and hence are inherently capable of producing absurd results, which is what CAGW likely is.
As Robert said however, in science we assume – or some of us do – that there really is an “empirical reality” whose workings we attempt to understand. Considerable ink has been spilled attempting to properly describe how science works (how we derive understanding) from Francis Bacon who was the first to delineate a concept of genuine experimental science, Karl Popper and logical positivism and logical empiricism, Kuhn and paradigms, through postmodernists like Feuerabend and Deridda. You could liken the difference between postmodern science and empirical science as the difference between worrying about whether the bus is real, and worrying about how big a mess the momentum of the bus and one’s own inertia will make if you don’t get out of the way.

October 6, 2014 9:45 pm

Well worth elevating RGB’s comment to a head post. Thank you for doing so.
The walkthrough of the approach to modeling is very helpful for the educated lay person to understand; as well as the discussion of peer review and debates in science. Worth bookmarking for friends and family who are sincerely interested in understanding some of what is going on in the climate “science” arena.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  climatereflections
October 7, 2014 7:22 am

Climatereflections, there is a much simplified, illistrated version of RGB’s most excellent essay in my forthcoming book. The essaynis titled Models all the way down, in honor of the remarks made by Stephen Hawking in his book A Brief History of Time. The entire book is aimed at exposing bad science (climate, renewables,…) for an adult lay audience. Foreward by Dr. Judith Curry.

David A
October 6, 2014 9:47 pm

Well Mr. Mosher’s comment is certainly accurate to his own style of debate (even if it was not cogent to science) as certainly he is above it. Any science that advocates social change and greater central authority of the State, should be openly debated in the public arena. More esoteric science should certainly have formal debate and exchange of ideas within the field of those who study it.

Louis Hooffstetter
Reply to  David A
October 7, 2014 3:43 am

First they said the debate was over.
Then they refused to debate.
Then they said science isn’t done by debate and that it’s pointless.
This is how witch doctors do science.
Most climatologists are witch doctors, not scientists.

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
October 8, 2014 3:28 pm

You are being grossly unfair to “witch doctors,” many of whom were extraordinarily pragmatic. Their biggest shortcoming was that, being underfunded, they could not institute a program to separate the grain from the chaff so to speak. So they replicated precisely what apparently worked. Remember digitalis, as a heart medicine, was discovered by “witch doctors.” So were the health effects of tumeric, which one American University tried to patent, even though their work only verified the “witch doctors'” assertions.

Joel O'Bryan
October 6, 2014 9:49 pm

Wow. Well said.

October 6, 2014 9:50 pm

I eagerly anticipate Mosher’s response supporting the climate models 😉

Reply to  Streetcred
October 6, 2014 9:59 pm

I’ve heard ‘It’s the best we can do with the tools that we have’. Cop out

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alex
October 6, 2014 10:13 pm

non-computable. Always was, always will be.

Reply to  Alex
October 6, 2014 11:31 pm

a dart board performs as well at a fraction of the cost.

Reply to  Alex
October 7, 2014 9:42 am

Which is not an answer to the real question: Would you bet $250 billion a year on it and condemn literally millions of people to a horrible death from preventable poverty and disease and starvation due to inflated energy prices and misdirected elective global national product on “the best we can do with the tools that we have” when we lack even a theoretical reason to believe that the tools are capable of solving the problem in a meaningful way?
Because that’s the way the bet is going down right now. More people have died, worldwide, as a direct consequence of our response to the threat of “catastrophic” future global warming than have died from global warming itself. Many orders of magnitude more people. It’s difficult to attribute a single specific death to “global warming”, especially given the tenuous basis used as the WHO projections. It is bone simple to attribute them to the consequent increases in energy costs and subsequent inflation in a society with utterly inelastic energy requirements.

Reply to  Alex
October 7, 2014 4:32 pm

As an amen to RGBs comment above, the precautionary principle arguments typically fail to acknowledge the near certain BENEFITS of CO2 release.
It is possible to do high quality controlled CO2 fertilization experiments of increases in forest/marine/agricultural productivity using so-called FACE (full access CO2 enrichment) experiments. A CONSERVATIVE estimate is that the 40% increase in CO2 levels of the past 150 years have led to a 10% planetary increase in bio-productivity. There are 7 billion people on the planet, so in purely human terms that means 700 million are now getting their daily bread due to CO2 fertilization.

David A
Reply to  Alex
October 7, 2014 9:09 pm

Tyoke, 10% is conservative, and 15 % is more accurate. That 15 % increase in biomass did not require any additional water, a double boon. Ask any alarmist if they could, would they right now move this world to a 280 PPM CO2 world. Most will say yes. Then ask them why they just started WW3, as millions will be starving. The IPCC even recognizes that now the benefits outweigh the projected harms.
The benefits of CO2 are KNOWN. The feared harms have failed to manifest. The 2 C warming is looking like it will may not happen in this century, if ever, so they are again moving the goal post to outrageously blame every climate event on CAGW.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Alex
October 13, 2014 1:07 pm

Interestingly, referring to rgb’s $250B/yr bet.
The “Big 5″ (BP, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, Shell) had profit’s of $93B by themselves, in 2013 so aren’t we sorta doing this: ” due to inflated energy prices and misdirected elective global national product” any way?
If we added in Saudi Aramco (couldn’t find their numbers but regarded as the world’s most valuable company) and Gazprom ($40 B profit–Russian) and all the other energy companies I’d bet the number would be in the trillions.

Reply to  Alex
October 13, 2014 1:21 pm

Danny Thomas
October 13, 2014 at 1:07 pm
You’re wrong. Not even close to a trillion:
Total company profits for the year 2012:
1. ExxonMobil | $44,880,000,000
2. Gazprom | $38,086,200,000
3. Royal Dutch Shell | $26,592,000,000
4. Chevron | $26,179,000,000
5. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) | $18,195,900,000
6. Petronas | $16,001,000,000
7. BHP Billiton | $15,417,000,000
8. Total | $13,743,200,000
9. Statoil (tie) | $11,600,000,000
9. BP (tie) | $11,600,000,000
10. Petrobras | $11,000,000,000
The top ten companies produced a total of $233,292,000,000 in 2012 profits.
Much of Aramco’s profits show up in its partner companies, eg ExxonMobil. But even evaluating it separately wouldn’t add much to this tabulation. It may well have higher margins than some other companies or consortia, but at most its $311 billion annual revenues would yield perhaps $30 billion in profits.
And what exactly do you have against profits, anyway? IMO it’s good for energy companies to make profits for states to tax & to fund exploration & other operations. By contrast, “Green energy” relies on subsidies, robbing the global economy of needed investment while killing people, birds & bats.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 13, 2014 5:22 pm

Hi Milo,
I have nothing at all against “profits”. But the term used was ” inflated energy prices” and as we taxpayers subsidize much of these worldwide (ah, does that lead to another debate?) it could be assumed that at least some of these prices are inflated.
And the “Big 5” plus the others you used are only some of the top “oil” companies. There are how many other “energy companies out there”. Wind, solar, water, nuclear, natural gas, and so on. Without days of study to find out their profits and add them together, I think I”m safe with trillions.
Loping off a bit of (admittedly assumed as) inflated profits. Think we’d get to that $250B figure in order to insure (there’s that word again) that those folks are not condemned to “horrible death by preventable disease”. That was my (apparently) poorly made point.
I may indeed be wrong, but I could be much closer to accurate if put in the correct context.
So now I will ask you. Apparently there are issues with subsidies for “green energy” companies on your part and yet much of this conversation encompasses “subsidies” (IE Research Grants) for the scientific community on both sides of the climate conversation (and elsewhere). And many of those grants to the scientific community are used in research of energy of all kinds including “green”. What’s good for the goose should be good ……………you know.
I certainly don’t have answers, but I find the discussion informative and fascinating. I’m learning from both sides.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 13, 2014 7:23 pm

Interestingly, I see where oil has reached $88/bbl today, down from $115 in 2013. Are we to believe the $115 was not an “inflated energy price”? 24% reduction in it’s “value” strictly based on supply and demand? Then this discussion:” Oil prices sank again on Monday, giving consumers more of a break and causing a split among OPEC leaders about what action should be taken, if any, to halt the slide.” which is an obvious reference to OPEC’s ability to manipulate oil price without the benefit of market forces.
And I know you know this already. All questions above are rhetorical.

Reply to  Alex
October 13, 2014 5:35 pm

What makes you think that energy companies’ profits are inflated? What the consumer pays for energy goes more to taxes than to company profits.
Please support your on its face ludicrous claim that energy companies make trillions of dollars in profits. Even factoring in drillers, natural gas companies, what have you, there’s no way to get close to that figure. Are you including utilities? But by all means show your work & convince me. I make my living investing, so have a pretty good notion of where the money goes.
Green companies have no profits. Real renewables, ie hydro, at least in the US are mostly government-owned.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 13, 2014 6:46 pm

Some of the answer is in subsidies (Tax Benefits). Now I’m not saying they should not take complete advantage of the rules as they are written. More power to them, and bad on us for letting it happen.
On the P & L, there may be a charge for “taxes” but there are offsets elsewhere, are there not? As the analyst you know better than I the detail of those (I assume). I’ve read where Exxon pays 17% in tax which is less (likely) than you and most Americans. Exxon’s P/E is better than Walmart, for example. Plus the dividend rate is higher.
I can’t answer the trillions question without a few days to compile. But are utilities not energy companies? The generate profits (pay dividends) so in my book they don’t get a pass. General Electric? Westinghouse? Dr. Brown initiated the terms and without his guidance as to how the $250B was derived and what his definition of “energy company” is that research can’t be started.
As I stated, I used “assumptions” as to what was meant but is $2T really that far of a reach when you used 10 companies and came up with 12.5% of that amount. There are how many solar, wind, water, world wide? I have no idea, but there are a bunch.
Green companies have no profits? Are all the mutual funds that invest in “green companies” shorting? I’ll defer to you on data backed conversation, but on this you’re just not accurate.
I didn’t initiate the term “inflated energy prices” but would have to believe that Dr. Brown would not have used that term if it didn’t exist. Specifics must come either from him or after guidance as to his meaning is presented from him.
I’m not even debating the statement: ” our response to the threat of “catastrophic” future global warming than have died from global warming itself. Many orders of magnitude more people. It’s difficult to attribute a single specific death to “global warming”, especially given the tenuous basis used as the WHO projections. It is bone simple to attribute them to the consequent increases in energy costs and subsequent inflation in a society with utterly inelastic energy requirements.
But I look forward to the article with the details. Even with the commentary about CO2 and it’s benefits to bio-productivity leading to our ability to feed more mouths, at some point we’ll run up against carrying capacity issues that will be either addressed by technology or mother nature. So even here, there are two sides to the coin. Not advocating not feeding people but in a circular argument that comes back to how to deal with “inflated energy prices” and the associated trade offs. This is once again the point I’m (apparently) poorly making. This are big issues that were not brought up by me, but from my view point do not end with just being anti CAGW, but continue on past that point with great implication.
I would like to revisit my commentary here: “So now I will ask you. Apparently there are issues with subsidies for “green energy” companies on your part and yet much of this conversation encompasses “subsidies” (IE Research Grants) for the scientific community on both sides of the climate conversation (and elsewhere). And many of those grants to the scientific community are used in research of energy of all kinds including “green”. What’s good for the goose should be good ……………you know.”
And this is overbroad:’ By contrast, “Green energy” relies on subsidies, robbing the global economy of needed investment while killing people, birds & bats”. If by saying this you’re indicating no other EXCEPT green companies harm other species or our environment. That is patently false.
Not sure exactly what I’ve done to irritate you but apparently I have. Prior to this you’ve provided data, and this time you’ve thrown in misinformation.

Reply to  Alex
October 14, 2014 10:16 am

Here are the top 250 energy companies. Add up their profits. You’ll see it’s nowhere near “trillions” of dollars.
Oil at $83 today doesn’t mean that the price was inflated at $115, let alone profits based upon that price. I have to wonder if you have ever studied economics?

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 14, 2014 10:59 am

I have shown you nothing but respect, but you’ve begun talking down to me as I’ve I’m “lesser” than you. I assure you that all though I may not be as educated on GW, I’m a reasonably intelligent person.
I do notice that you’ve taken the same methods as others with weak arguments by deferring and deflecting.
Supply and demand are not the only affects on oil prices and certainly not gasoline/diesel. I believe that it’s you who needs to study up on than area or I suggest you not “invest” in those areas. Have you never seen the “hint” of war spike those prices? That’s not actual demand, but opportunistic gouging. Ever heard of Enron? How much of their energy trading was real and how much was manipulated?
I’m happy to hurl insults (actually I’m not) if that’s your preference. I came to this site and met with reasonable discussion until I challenged you yesterday. Instead of responding, you’ve decided to insult. And are not addressing my questions. If you wish to return to acting like a grown up, I’m happy to continue with you. If you chose to “stomp your feet” and insult and not address issues I’ve posed to you reasonably then we’re done. Those questions still stand regarding science and grants. I will not repost them as so far it’s done me no good in attempting to communicate with you.
There are more than 250 “energy companies”. What about the two I offered just to toss out a couple? GE and Westinghouse? What did Dr. Brown use to generate the $250 B? I don’t profess to know and made assumptions as I’ve shared. But, of note, I don’t see where you’ve added up the profits of these 250 so on what are you basing your conclusion that it’s “nowhere near trillions”. That’s an honest question and not intended to provoke.
I’ll leave you with this to digest regarding the Platt’s list (From EconoMonitor: The Forbes top-25 list measures simply the combined values of a company’s production of oil and natural gas, and is therefore a more brunt measure of aggregate size. According to this metric, the largest company producing both oil and natural gas (akin to Platts’ Integrated Oil and Gas category) is Saudi Aramco, which does not show up on Platts’ list at all, and neither does Forbes’ number 3, 8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, and 25. The dynamics of oil and gas in most producing countries outside the West are developing in ways that increasingly favor agile companies who are willing to work on low, neutral, or negative-profit contracts or accept terms that give the company little to no control over the reserves (read: nationals who have far more leverage as arms of governments and constituencies who care, to a great extent, about production levels more than profits). It is no wonder that energy companies from the West and Asia dominate the Platts list while factoring little on the Forbes list. – See more at:
Speak with me respectfully or no need to bother responding unless your audience is elsewhere.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 14, 2014 11:33 am

I have shown you nothing but respect, but you’ve begun talking down to me as I’ve I’m “lesser” than you. I assure you that all though I may not be as educated on GW, I’m a reasonably intelligent person.
I do notice that you’ve taken the same methods as others with weak arguments by deferring and deflecting.
Supply and demand are not the only affects on oil prices and certainly not gasoline/diesel. I believe that it’s you who needs to study up on than area or I suggest you not “invest” in those areas. Have you never seen the “hint” of war spike those prices? That’s not actual demand, but opportunistic gouging. Ever heard of Enron? How much of their energy trading was real and how much was manipulated?
I’m happy to hurl insults (actually I’m not) if that’s your preference. I came to this site and met with reasonable discussion until I challenged you yesterday. Instead of responding, you’ve decided to insult. And are not addressing my questions. If you wish to return to acting like a grown up, I’m happy to continue with you. If you chose to “stomp your feet” and insult and not address issues I’ve posed to you reasonably then we’re done. Those questions still stand regarding science and grants. I will not repost them as so far it’s done me no good in attempting to communicate with you.
There are more than 250 “energy companies”. What about the two I offered just to toss out a couple? GE and Westinghouse? What did Dr. Brown use to generate the $250 B? I don’t profess to know and made assumptions as I’ve shared. But, of note, I don’t see where you’ve added up the profits of these 250 so on what are you basing your conclusion that it’s “nowhere near trillions”. That’s an honest question and not intended to provoke.
I’ll leave you with this to digest regarding the Platt’s list (From EconoMonitor: The Forbes top-25 list measures simply the combined values of a company’s production of oil and natural gas, and is therefore a more brunt measure of aggregate size. According to this metric, the largest company producing both oil and natural gas (akin to Platts’ Integrated Oil and Gas category) is Saudi Aramco, which does not show up on Platts’ list at all, and neither does Forbes’ number 3, 8, 10, 12, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24, and 25. The dynamics of oil and gas in most producing countries outside the West are developing in ways that increasingly favor agile companies who are willing to work on low, neutral, or negative-profit contracts or accept terms that give the company little to no control over the reserves (read: nationals who have far more leverage as arms of governments and constituencies who care, to a great extent, about production levels more than profits). It is no wonder that energy companies from the West and Asia dominate the Platts list while factoring little on the Forbes list. – See more at:
Speak with me respectfully or no need to bother responding unless your audience is elsewhere.

Reply to  Alex
October 14, 2014 11:04 am

What argument of mine do you imagine to be “weak”?
When you quit spouting nonsense, then you might earn respect. Start by trying to back up your ludicrous assertions with actual data.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 14, 2014 11:37 am

This: ’ By contrast, “Green energy” relies on subsidies, robbing the global economy of needed investment while killing people, birds & bats”. If by saying this you’re indicating no other EXCEPT green companies harm other species or our environment. That is patently false.
This: Green companies have no profits? Are all the mutual funds that invest in “green companies” shorting? I’ll defer to you on data backed conversation, but on this you’re just not accurate.
Our internet went out so apologies for the double post.
Now, if you’ll answer my question, I’m happy to continue.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 14, 2014 11:50 am

Once again you’re proving to be to weak to be worth spending time.
You throw out “ludicrous assertions” when I told you I’d made assumptions. You then throw out what you consider to be the top “250” energy companies and I countered with a different source that indicated 11 of the Forbes source wasn’t even listed in Platt’s. Then you try to tell me I’m ludicrous? Look in the mirror.
Until/unless we BOTH know what data was used by Dr. Brown, I see your ludicrous and raise you mine.
At least I”m honest!

Danny Thomas
Reply to  milodonharlani
October 14, 2014 7:30 pm

So I’ve been playing with this to address your ludicrous assertion that my assertion was ludicrous.
Using this definition:” The energy industry is the totality of all of the industries involved in the production and sale of energy, including fuel extraction, manufacturing, refining and distribution.” This is in lieu of the definition used by Dr. Brown as his is unknown at this point.
In rough numbers: There was appox. $470B in profits from the Platt list of 250 companies alone. I then added in the figures I could find for the ones that Forbes had that Platt didn’t. That adds about $58B. I couldn’t find numbers for Iraq or Nigeria and not sure I’d trust them if I did find them. Then I tossed in GE which was $25B, and Koch which I estimated at about 8% profit margin leading me to $10B. That’s $563B so far so we’re at 25% of my “trillions” off the cuff number w/o much effort.
I couldn’t find a figure for pipeline companies but there are hundreds of them. So you tell me their profit if you have a source.
Distribution, heck the retail side alone include: Pilot, Flying J, too many grocery stores and Walmart’s to mention. More than dozens of convenience type stores.
Then, there are just under 3300 public utility companies. I didn’t even know there were that many, but that’s the number I found. And that’s just in the U.S. alone.
Solar, wind, hydro, coal, nuclear, wood (small but there), natural gas, oil, bio-diesel, electricity, alcohol. Wow! Just Wow!
Yep, this is “napkin” math but it’s better than you’ve provided. I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my “trillions”. Even more than when we started.
Noticed you’ve become awfully quiet about answering any of my questions.
Have a wonderful day.

October 6, 2014 9:57 pm

This is one of the most important posts ever to appear. Not only on WUWT, but anywhere. Congratulations to Dr. Robert G. Brown, and to WUWT for recognising the comment’s importance. It should be circulated far and wide, printed into book form (for it contains far more useful insight than 100 climate textbooks) and sent to every politician on the planet.

Reply to  Ron House
October 6, 2014 10:52 pm

97% of politicians would not understand this outstanding article and would be lost by the end of the first paragraph.

Farmer Gez
Reply to  phillipbratby
October 7, 2014 2:21 am

Farmers as well, but at least I’m trying.

M Courtney
Reply to  phillipbratby
October 7, 2014 2:28 am

They would understand the role of funding in academia and the need to bid for contracts.
The modelling and chaos theory would probably be best left to an intern but we all have our fields of expertise.

Reply to  Ron House
October 7, 2014 4:17 am

Ron, that was and is my thought exactly. I can only wish that it be required reading for all climatologists, and in fact for all students of science formal or informal.

bit chilly
Reply to  Ron House
October 7, 2014 4:37 am

i agree . it is also heartening to know there are still people of the calibre of dr. brown teaching.

Boulder Skeptic
Reply to  Ron House
October 7, 2014 10:07 pm

Ron House,
I have to agree. This post really amplified and clarified some things for me–regarding how science really advances, how it is held back in many cases, and just how horribly skewed this debate has become relative to the value of GCMs–that I already thought I had figured out!
Dr Brown mentioned that it’s hard for scientists and average Joes to admit they are wrong.
The Steven Mosher post to which this guest post was a reply, caused me to weigh in with a couple of thoughts, one of which was “I agree in principle with some of what Steven Mosher wrote.”
After reading Dr Brown’s thoughts here, I was wrong. In retrospect, I don’t think Steven hit the mark. Bullseye for Dr Brown.

October 6, 2014 10:00 pm

Awesome takedown of the failed multi-billion dollar effort to model climate with linear parameterizations, which Lorenz proved in 1962 would likely never succeed in predicting weather/climate beyond 2-3 weeks in advance
You don’t even need a supercomputer model to recreate the “ensemble” climate projections, which as Murry Salby has shown, is just a simplistic 1:1 linear function of a single independent variable: CO2 of course.
Two recent papers call for abandonment of numerical climate modeling in favor of much more simplistic stochastic modeling for some of the same reasons outlined by Dr. Brown above

October 6, 2014 10:01 pm

A joy to read – logical, passionate, cutting through all our natural biases, making us think and evaluate. Science as it should be. And, in the end, objective (scientific) truth will prevail – although it may well take another few years (and cost us dearly).

Joel O'Bryan
October 6, 2014 10:11 pm

The Church of Climate Change is abandoning the temperature ship, as we saw with the Nature Commentary last week by Victor and Kennel.
That commentary in Nature must have been vetted by many of the Bishops within the Church hierarchy. They know the models, the IPCC, warmist rhetoric is a failed sinking ship.
The Church of CC will now try to rally their flagging supporters around a simple, but arbitrary CO2 number as target for economic destruction of mankind’s societies.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 7, 2014 1:56 am

You mention the Nature article on ditching the 2C warming goal. By coincidence I tracked down the alleged ‘father’ of the 2C warming via Climate Depot to Der Spiegel yesterday. He said the 2C limit is a political goal and not a scientific one.

spiegel – 04/01/2010
The Invention of the Two-Degree Target…..
‘Clearly a Political Goal’

Rarely has a scientific idea had such a strong impact on world politics. Most countries have now recognized the two-degree target. If the two-degree limit were exceeded, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced ahead of the failed Copenhagen summit, “life on our planet, as we know it today, would no longer be possible.”
But this is scientific nonsense. “Two degrees is not a magical limit — it’s clearly a political goal,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The world will not come to an end right away in the event of stronger warming, nor are we definitely saved if warming is not as significant. The reality, of course, is much more complicated.”
Schellnhuber ought to know. He is the father of the two-degree target.
“Yes, I plead guilty,” he says, smiling. The idea didn’t hurt his career. In fact, it made him Germany’s most influential climatologist. Schellnhuber, a theoretical physicist, became Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief scientific adviser — a position any researcher would envy.

October 6, 2014 10:23 pm

If today’s university students are like the student I was half a century ago they are taught to assume linearity of the response function from the conditions of events to the outcomes of these events. After joining the real world I found that, with rare exceptions, these response functions were nonlinear.

October 6, 2014 10:26 pm

Mosher virtually never responds, nor does Stokes. I was warned to stop banging, but Professor Brown has outdone me, far past my abilities. Such a flaming! Will either be heard from again???
•”Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it.”
Maybe this was the relevant Einstein quote…

Rob Potter
Reply to  Michael Moon
October 7, 2014 3:29 am

In my experience, Steve Mosher responds with an insult – consequently, I don’t read anything he posts any more. Way to help the debate, Steve….. Or maybe this us what he meant by science not proceeding by debate!

Reply to  Rob Potter
October 7, 2014 9:47 am

I think you do him a disservice. Actually, I think both Mosher and Nick Stokes are quite serious and honest in their participation. I disagree with them, sometimes, but then sometimes I agree with them. I’ve celebrated many an “I agree with Nick Stokes” day on WUWT, because he is often pretty insightful.
As I said in the top article — in real science the participating humans often have human passions and debate issues. Out of the conflict and its resolution — sometimes — consensus is born. This is as it should be. Everybody should watch the ad hominem, but as I said, human passion…

Reply to  Rob Potter
October 7, 2014 3:49 pm

I explained the reason for this but my comment is not allowed.

October 6, 2014 10:27 pm

I need a shortened version of this, one that fits inside a Twitter Tweet. Anything longer and I get a tl;dr response from the true believers.

Reply to  garymount
October 7, 2014 12:30 am

Here you go:

Reply to  garymount
October 7, 2014 1:59 am

Gary, in future go to and insert the URL you want to shorten. Then copy and past.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 6:17 am

Jimbo and dbstealey –
I don’t think garymount was literally asking for a compact URL. I’m pretty sure he wanted an abridged version of Dr. Brown’s essay.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 1:23 pm

Lee Harvey,
Do you think there’s a way to shorten RGB’s article to Twitter’s 140 character limit?

Don K
Reply to  garymount
October 7, 2014 7:13 am

Several tweets I think as several points are addressed.
1. Debates/discussions most certainly are a part of science. (I can’t think why anyone would think otherwise.)
2. Climate is chaotic. Successful analysis of chaotic systems requires trial, error, insight and a lot of luck. CS only has the first two handled.
There’s probably other stuff — maybe quite important stuff — that I missed.

EdA the New Yorker
Reply to  garymount
October 7, 2014 9:03 am

EdA the New.Yorker
Professor Brown has outdone his usual lucidity here, but may I suggest the alternative route of having your friends first spend a very pleasant hour with Prof. Christopher Essex at for a lighter treatment, then email them RGB’s article?

Reply to  EdA the New Yorker
October 7, 2014 9:48 am

This is a brilliant treatment as well. Essex is spot on the money regarding nonlinear systems and chaos. Shame nobody pays the slightest attention.

October 6, 2014 10:39 pm

Again, an excellent assessment of the many problems of climate modelling by Dr. Brown.
But where lies the solution?
Dr. Brown writes in the postscript –

1° C is what one expects from CO2 forcing at all, with no net feedbacks.

A figure of around 1C for doubling of CO2 is often claimed. By why is this assumed? At the very foundation of this assumption is a claim of a surface temperature in absence of radiative atmosphere of 255K for an average of 240w/m2. And this in turn is based on the assumption that the oceans are a near blackbody with emissivity and absorptivity near unity. This priori or foundation assumption does not withstand empirical verification, it’s not even close. Therefore nothing built on this foundation can ever be valid.
Dr. Brown points out many valid reasons why the climate models can’t possibly work.
I would say the foundation assumptions or priori being in error by ~90K for 71% of the planet’s surface would by the most fundamental reason the models all fail.
In solving problems, looking at their origin is always a good place to start.

Reply to  Konrad.
October 7, 2014 12:50 am

The 1 K is based on real absorption measurements for different air-GHG mixtures at different air pressures in laboratory conditions. The “model”, Hitran made for the US army, calculates the extra absorption over a year for the full globe area by the GHGs for a “standard” atmosphere, where a (1976) average % of clouds is included at different latitudes. The ~1 K extra at ground level is what is needed to increase the outgoing radiation back to the original level.
That all is before any positive or negative feedbacks…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 1:51 am

I believe you miss the point. This is not about static atmosphere games with Modtran and Hitran*, this is, as I clearly pointed out, about the theoretical equilibrium temperature of the surface of the planet in absence of atmosphere. The foundation claim of climate science is that this temperature would be 255K. That claim has been repeated too many times to ever be erased. Remember, the two shell model came first, multi layer radiative convective later.
That 255K figure was obtained by applying the short form of the SB equation to an surface effectively treated as isothermal and with symmetrical emissivity and absorptivity receiving an average of 240w/m2.
But the oceans are not a near blackbody, they are a greybody or “selective surface”. Effective not apparent IR emissivity is far lower than absorptivity. Further a material that is SW transparent and IR opaque will be heated far more by solar radiation than an SW/IR opaque material with identical specific heat capacity. Depth of SW absorption matter a lot.
What does it all mean? It means that the equilibrium temperature for the oceans if they could be retained without atmosphere is far higher than the 255K assumption. Far higher than the current 288K. It means that the net effect of our radiative atmosphere over the oceans is cooling of the oceans. And how does the atmosphere in turn cool? Radiative gases.
Could a non-radiative atmosphere cool our oceans if it had no way to cool itself? No.
I know you have spent a lot of time studying CO2 in ice cores. The ice core data will have many other uses. But the CO2 = AGW thing could never work, not with deep transparent oceans covering 71% of the planet’s surface. There is a 90K error for 71% of the planet’s surface in the most basic priori of the AGW hypothesis.
*No there is no joy to be had in the static atmosphere radiative balance calcs. Superimposing a constant rate of tropospheric convective circulation on top was always going to be found out. Yes these gases do warm at low altitude and cool at high altitude. But at low altitude this will just reduce time after dawn to the beginning of air mass breakaway from the SBL and increase radiative subsidence at altitude. Tropospheric convective circulation, the primary energy transport away form the surface, would just speed up for increasing radiative gas concentration.

Ian W
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 2:53 am

Ferdinand do you believe that such a system without any positive or negative feedbacks exists in the ‘real world’? As soon as there is the minutest butterfly-wing-flap change in heat content chaotic feedbacks will start. It is not a problem that can be ‘simplified’ to a linear response.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 4:27 am

If one factors in the log effect of CO2 the 1C per doubling can not be a constant, and thus imo is also quite useless as a metric.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 6:12 am

Konrad, I would really like to see a regular post in which you explain your take on the role of the atmosphere more fully. I’m quite sure Anthony would entertain it (heck, he even posted my stuff in the past).

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 7:59 am

You left off the primary way oceans release heat, via evaporation, which doesn’t heat the lower atmosphere. The radiative model doesn’t work for the ocean, which stores over 99% of the energy in the system.
And Ferdinand is correct for the ‘atmosphere’.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 8:34 am

October 7, 2014 at 7:59 am (replying above to Konrad)
You left off the primary way oceans release heat, via evaporation, which doesn’t heat the lower atmosphere. The radiative model doesn’t work for the ocean, which stores over 99% of the energy in the system.

Please: If you have the equations
– Show the references and calc’s for ocean loss heat loss by evaporation as a function of water temperature, air temperature, humidity and relative humidity, and wind speed. I’ve found only a few measured papers, most of which use only a evaporation pan in hot, still water with no waves and no humidity correction.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 11:07 am

Konrad, indeed the Hitran/Modtran calculations are for a static atmosphere and the ~1 K/2xCO2 is based on that. I agree with Willis that the dynamics of the atmosphere are a negative feedback for the increase of CO2 absorbance, the problem being how to quantify that.
About the discussion on the earth’s surface temperature in a GHG free atmosphere, I remain silent, as I haven’t looked at that in depth. With Michael Palmer, I would like to see a full article of yours on that topic with the comments of Willis and Genghis on it…
Ian W, I am pretty sure that there are a lot of feedbacks at work. According to the climate models (all based on the short warming period at the end of the past century), only positive ones, according to nature itself, probably more negative than positive ones…
From the current temperature – CO2 trends, the climate sensitivity is going to be around 1.5-2°C for 2xCO2, but that figure goes down the longer the “pause” gets. Thus it looks like that the 1°C/2xCO2 is not far off…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 10:20 pm

WUWT may not be the best forum initially. I have found some who have an agenda to ring fence debate to just “how much warming” get quite irrational when the experiments are shown. The heated debates Dr. Brown describes pale in comparison 😉
I am looking to do a write up at another site, but will need to get “Gallopingcamel’s” FEA surface program to replicate “selective surface experiment 1” to complete the picture. This model successfully replicated Diviner lunar results where standard single surface SB equations did not.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 10:24 pm

you indicate –
“You left off the primary way oceans release heat, via evaporation”
You are right, I do, and there is a good reason which will be explained in my response to Ferdinand below.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
October 7, 2014 11:12 pm

you say –
“About the discussion on the earth’s surface temperature in a GHG free atmosphere, I remain silent, as I haven’t looked at that in depth.”
I am suggesting it is very worthwhile looking at it in depth. Getting the better figure for this theoretical atmosphere free planet can answer what atmospheric modelling cannot. With regard to the complexities of modelling a radiative atmosphere, Sir George Simpson had some valid criticism of Callendar’s attempts –
“..but he would like to mention a few points which Mr. Callendar might wish to reconsider. In the first place he thought it was not sufficiently realised by non-meteorologists who came for the first time to help the Society in its study, that it was impossible to solve the problem of the temperature distribution in the atmosphere by working out the radiation. The atmosphere was not in a state of radiative equilibrium, and it also received heat by transfer from one part to another. In the second place, one had to remember that the temperature distribution in the atmosphere was determined almost entirely by the movement of the air up and down. This forced the atmosphere into a temperature distribution which was quite out of balance with the radiation. One could not, therefore, calculate the effect of changing any one factor in the atmosphere..”
Sir George Simpson wrote those wise words in 1939.
In a comment in another thread Dr. Brown writes –
Essentially Dr. Brown is indicating that with all our modern technology we can do little better in 2014.
What I am indicating is that we do not need to do better if we simply want to answer the forbidden question – “Is the net effect of our radiative atmosphere warming or cooling of the surface?”
The logic here is straight forward. We know the current surface temperatures. To find the net effect of all atmospheric processes on surface temperatures, all we need do is correctly model a surface without atmosphere (with oceans retained by imaginary 1 bar force field), receiving diurnally fluctuating solar radiation averaging 240w/m2.
Essentially all complexities of IR radiative exchange, conduction, convection and evaporation for the atmosphere are removed from the equation. Then the answer is simple.
If the modelled surface runs hotter that current temperatures, then the net effect of our radiative atmosphere is cooling. (An atmosphere that can’t radiatively cool would not provide the same surface cooling.)
I am claiming on the basis of empirical experiment that the assumed 255K is in error. Even assuming 255K for 29% land, I claim 312K for the theoretical airless planet is closer to the mark. Because this is so much higher than the current 288K, it effectively rules out AGW as a threat. This is why it is so important to look at a theoretical airless surface temperature in depth.
(admittedly this does not result in a working atmospheric model, but it fixes the foundations.)

Reply to  Konrad.
October 7, 2014 9:45 am

RA Cook,
The best paper I have found (thanks to Willis) is “Near-surface oceanic temperature gradients Authors: Peter Minnett and Andrea Kaiser-Weiss” a GHRSST paper. But it only refers to radiation and temperature in the water. I have the PDF but don’t know how to link to it.
A second reference is the Trenberth Cartoon “Global energy flows” which indicates that evapotranspiration is the oceans primary method of heat loss.
Third is any meteorological text that describes the adiabatic lapse rate. Which basically means that the rising parcel of air doesn’t warm the air around it.
But to really answer your question, I have been making observations for a couple of years now in the SubTropics and Tropics where the oceans skin surface temperature can be static for weeks mostly dependent on the wind speed or lack thereof. The GHRSST paper basically agrees with my observations (or the other way around).
To make a long story short my observations indicate that changes in atmospheric radiation (cloud radiation vs clear sky radiation) have no affect on the surface skin temperature. I think it is primarily because LW can’t penetrate past the surface skin layer and results in immediate evaporation instead of warming the surface.

Reply to  Genghis
October 7, 2014 9:50 am

RA Cook,
The role wind plays is to mix the warmer underlying water masses and to mechanically stimulate evaporation. Another factor that you didn’t list was air pressure which is lowered by evaporation, which stimulates more evaporation, think Hurricanes : )

October 6, 2014 10:40 pm

This is well said and illustrates some points I’ve had in my mind but never expressed myself, specifically the point about equilibriums and positive feedbacks – “perturbing the climate away from equilibrium either way causes negative feedbacks that push it back to equilibrium. We have no empirical foundation for assuming positive feedbacks in the vicinity of the local equilibrium” That is something I agree with wholeheartedly. A climate system, you would expect it to return to equilibrium in the face of perturbances, and there has never been any foundation for the assumption of positive feedbacks, they are simply the result of active imaginations.

michael hart
Reply to  scf
October 7, 2014 11:10 am

My thoughts too.

October 6, 2014 10:50 pm

Even though I did not understand specific points raised in this post, the nature of it was loud and clear. And I agree completely with what I did understand.
If a person, scientist or not, believes that debate doesn’t matter and only evidence matters, then they are being naive. Evidence is not all that matters. Paradigms matter, understanding limits matters, and knowing how to interpret evidence matters.
Some Christian apologists will say that they don’t interpret the Bible, they just read it. I don’t think I need to elaborate.

Michael Wassil
October 6, 2014 10:51 pm

This is one of the best arguments I’ve ever read! Thank you Dr. Brown. Does HotWhopper know about you yet? 😉

October 6, 2014 10:55 pm

My Jonova comment:
It seems the press is asking the question: “where has all the warming that CO2 causes gone?” Even if there’s no obvious rise in recent temperatures it is generally accepted that CO2 causes a whole lot of warming. And a major problems with saying that natural variation or cycles is now stronger than man made warming is that the warmist can then assert “well, when the cycle goes the other way, then we are really in for it.”
I think the answer for us is to redouble our efforts on showing that CO2 doesn’t do much at all, and in fact there is actually no evidence, no signal, showing that CO2.. does anything. That’s what the 800 year CO2 lag implies. Use the gist of what is presented in the excellent linked video below to help in knocking down CO2 from its unwarranted perch. The video persuasively shoots down Al Gore’s bs about CO2, in just 3 minutes, a must see and share:

October 6, 2014 10:55 pm

How refreshing, thanks RGB and WUWT. My take from this is that Mother Nature herself doesn’t even know what she will do next (over the 100 year time scales that the doom merchants use), so attempts at prediction are futile.

October 6, 2014 10:58 pm

So, it shouldn’t be long before the learned Mr Mosher comes along and says “…fair enough – you make an unassailable argument. I take it back and will rethink my ideas about the role of debates in science….”

Reply to  Malcolm
October 7, 2014 2:02 am

This is one of Browns best pieces, if not the best. I salute you.

Reply to  Malcolm
October 7, 2014 4:58 pm

Do you know what “fat chance” means?

October 6, 2014 11:03 pm

A stupendous piece of writing by Dr Robert Brown that has clarity, logic and should have a profound impact on all people with any intellectual integrity that read it.
Simple solution – no taxpayer funds to be given to any scientific research. None. As soon as research is funded by government it becomes political and as soon as it becomes political it stops being science. I think we would be much better off if many of the current crop of “scientists” were working at Walmart. The scientific profession gained its reputation over a very long period of time when there was a much smaller population of them (proportionally as well as in absolute terms) and repeatable results were the sole criteria for “success”. It is now losing it in a few years due to much greater number of people who feel that they are entitled to be supported by the government for what amounts to intellectual self-gratification in many cases.

M Courtney
Reply to  Truthseeker
October 7, 2014 2:38 am

So who does fund research?
Business – don’t they have a special interest?
Charitable Foundations – maybe but going back to the Churches running research may have problems.
Private Donors – plutocracy will patronise the poor.
Nothing is perfect but democracy is the least worst. We can vote out the funders of science if they are politicians.

Reply to  M Courtney
October 7, 2014 8:31 am

Business — yes they do have a special interest. That interest is in being able to develop a product and or service that someone would purchase.
Charitable Foundations — they would fund their particular “pet projects” , why shouldn’t they? It is their prerogative after all.
Private Donors – see “Charitable Foundations” OR “Business” depending upon the Donor Type.
We don’t get to vote on the “funders” of science. As it stands in the U.S.A. for “publicly funded” science, bureaucracy funds science. Bureaucrats aren’t elected (usually) and don’t have to suffer the electorate in most cases. In our democratic society, the elected officials have delegated the responsibility for a great many of their duties to bureaucrats. I cannot blame them, it is a great way to simultaneously reduce your workload and mitigate your exposure to “problems” that could arise from decisions being made (funding or otherwise). Particularly, those problems that wouldn’t bode well for that particular elected official at the poll box. Most researchers don’t right grant proposals to an elected official, they right their proposals to the bureaucracies that control the funds (D.O.E., D.O.D., D.O.A., NSF, etc….). The elected officials play the game by saying “We funded the EPA so that it could do its job….”, then when the EPA seizes your property and converts it to a protected wetland, or causes the price of a single KW / Hr. to rise substantially across many regions of the U.S. by enacting regulations on a power generating station (e.g. particulate emission reduction, fuel blend consumption, etc…) or even on the supporting industries (coal or gas extraction companies) for the power generators; the elected official can say “How dare they! We never expected them to do that! Shame on them!”. Yet very little is done other than to have a few hearings, or to request that the administration fire the bureaucracies “head”, etc…
At least with the “private” money, the tax payer isn’t on the hook for the cost of the research. With businesses, if you don’t want to fund the research for the product, then you don’t have to buy the product. If you don’t like what the charity or “foundation” is researching, then you don’t have to provide them any of your money.
I would prefer that research programs were funded privately.

Reply to  M Courtney
October 7, 2014 8:53 am

Agreed. What we need to do is to keep desired outcomes from being associated with grants, and also to ensure that grants are diversified (in terms of what is studied) instead of being concentrated based on ideology or preconceived notions.

Reply to  M Courtney
October 7, 2014 9:28 am

Well, we like to *think* we can vote out the reckless funders of such reckless projects; sadly, the reality is the incumbents are extremely hard (80+% retention) to get rid of.
However, I am unsure if there is *any* good or proper solution. Likely, as you say Mr. Courtney, it is a Hobson’s choice between the best of the worst, and we will simply have to make do with a necessary evil..

Reply to  M Courtney
October 7, 2014 12:07 pm

M Courtney
October 7, 2014 at 2:38 am
“Nothing is perfect but democracy is the least worst. We can vote out the funders of science if they are politicians.”
Yeah I’d like a democracy in the EU as well. Too bad we don’t have it.

Reply to  Truthseeker
October 7, 2014 6:35 am

I think you are proposing to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We should seek ways to change the system so as to make it more honest and to reduce the pressure on scientists to make wild claims regarding the relevance of their research to humanity’s pressing problems. We should not forget that, overall, science has been wildly successful. Publicly funded science gave us not only climate models but also penicillin and bone marrow transplants. At the same time, science is unpredictable – we simply can’t plan success in “curing cancer” or “unraveling the secrets of the brain” by dumping exorbitant amounts of money into any one such specific area.
Scientific training consists to a large degree of general skills such as forming hypotheses, designing meaningful experiments to test them, and solve the many practical problems that arise along the way. As long as academic scientists set an example to their trainees by conducting themselves expertly and with integrity, I would argue that they do provide fair value to society.

Reply to  Truthseeker
October 7, 2014 1:39 pm

Yeah, and as an incidental side effect you’d destroy the entire US system of higher education, top to bottom. The research money basically subsidizes both the research (which often does have some direct payback value to the taxpayer, a ton of indirect payback, and which does, without question probably need some rethinking) and the institution itself so that it can teach your kids for a lot less than it would be otherwise (and it’s already bad enough).
Bear in mind that most of science — even a lot of climate science — is done with integrity and so on. The climate scientists who publish forecasts/prophecies of doom and disaster truly do believe it, they really do think they are Saving the Worldtm one coal burning plant at a time. There only real sin is not allowing the idea that they could be wrong to take root in their mind. Without that, life even for an honest research scientist who really does appreciate data becomes one long bout of data dredging.
The exact same thing leads to the exact same thing, over and over again, in medical research, especially large scale, broad epidemiological studies. You’ve got a big database with (say) 100,000 people in it. You split it up into clusters (this is something I know a great deal about, BTW) — groups of people who all Ate Their Wheaties every morning and are over 70 and are female, etc, and look to see if the rates of “cancer” are higher in this sub-population. Perhaps you look, and find that Female Wheatie-Eaters Over 70 have a surplus rate of cancer of the big toe that is in the 99th percentile relative to the population as a whole. Oh My, you say, Wheaties cause cancer! Note that you can state this with tremendous confidence! 99th percentile!
Or can you? Not at all. After all, you weren’t looking specifically for cancer of the big toe, you were looking for any cancer. There are hundreds of them! Given hundreds to look for, not just one but several cancers are likely to be present in rates in both the top and the bottom 1%. Indeed, looking more closely, you discover that you could just as easily have stated that Wheaties prevent cancer!, of the thumb, because rates for this cancer are in the bottom 1%.
To correct for this one has to use an arcane correction that basically says that in a data dredge situation, all of the usually inferred percentiles and probabilities have to be so diluted as to become nearly meaningless, because it isn’t even surprising that one or two cancers would turn up somewhere in the top or bottom percent, it is nearly a sure thing, even if there is absolutely no actual physical causal relationship between Wheaties and any sort of cancer!
If there is one, so much the worse. You may or may not be able to resolve it in an epidemiological population study, ever!
That’s because of a second problem. Confounding variables. Even if you found a connection between Eating Wheaties and cancer of the big toe that survived the Bonferroni correction and still gave you a p-value of 0.001 or something, you cannot be certain that the cancer isn’t really caused by something else, some trait not revealed on the population study survey that is shared by Wheatie Eaters. For example, nobody eats their Wheaties dry, they pour on the milk. Milk comes from cows that have been force fed massive amounts of estrogen and antibiotics and that are pastured on a landfill covering an old toxic waste dump. The people who love Wheaties all live under high voltage transmission lines (remember that nonsense?) and talk on their cell phones a lot (that’s nonsense that is still going on). None of that, however is on the questionnaire. It could even be that having cancer of the big toe makes one more inclined to eat Wheaties! All you know is that there is a possibly statistically significant correlation between the two, not causality.
In medicine, this problem is so routine and expected that they have strict rules and procedures that almost always kill any claims with an exiguous foundation, or at least force anyone asserting such a claim to tone the rhetoric way the hell down. The gold standard there is the double blind, placebo controlled study with careful control for confounding variables and inverted causality (as best as one can with a probably now inadequate population — the one place where the broad population studies shine). Even so, which is better for you: butter or margarine? Canola oil or Olive oil? Oat bran or wheat bran? Aspirin or Acetaminophen? Sugar or fat in general? Atkins or the Mediterranean diet? Statins or diet and exercise?
In all cases it is really surprisingly difficult to say, because you can find historical periods where physicians and medical people would have been inclined to answer either one. Even now a lot would answer either way. And the answer in most cases would be conditional — aspirin in low doses is good for old people (so they say, with good data support) but it can kill young people. Tylenol is simply great — unless you overdose or your liver is boxed because you are an alcoholic or drug abuser or have had hepatitis. Saturated fats are the devil, butter bad margarine good (we all grew up to that one). Now it is precisely reversed! butter and ice cream in moderation are just fine, it is the trans fats in margarine that are the devil, and it is the sugar in the ice cream that is sketchy, not the fat per se.
In no case is it at all likely that the physicians who published the original stuff claiming the opposite were malicious or had stock in major margarine manufacturers. They simply had a theory, did a broad study, found a subpopulation where their theory was validated, and because they thought they understood it and had data that their conclusion was true.
In climate science there simply isn’t any such safeguard. There is its opposite. There is a feeding frenzy. Climate science is the universally relevant addendum that can only improve nearly any proposal. Whether you are studying the mating habits of the rhinoceros beetle or the lifestyle of the elusive giant squid in the deep ocean, it can never hurt to add the phrase “to attempt to resolve the impact of expected anthropogenic climate changes on X because X is a potential human resource” where X is whatever you want to study for real. It hits the human benefit and human guilt button at the same time! What’s not to like?
And what is the basis for that expectation? Climate models. Well, climate models and the ~1 C warming expected from the equivalent of shining a single flashlight onto the ground from a height of around 1 meter 24×7. Good luck staying warm with nothing but your flashlight if you are lost in the north woods, of course, but from the way it is presented you could think we could use flashlights to sear our meat to keep in juices before grilling it.
Why is there supposed to be a 1-6 meter SLR by 2100 (even though the greatest rate of SLR in the entire tide gauge record is around 1.25 inches per decade, and that rate of rise occurred back in the 1930s! before the advent of anthropogenic-attributed CO_2? Because the climate models say so!
That’s why there is so much furor, so much sound and fury, in the climate science community at the moment. They are trying, rather desperately, to lock in an international commitment to their storyline before it is too late because even they have to secretly suspect that as we hit the serious downside of the current solar cycle, temperatures will at best remain rather flat, and if the currently anaemic Nino truly does fizzle, or worse, goes back to a strong Nina and we have a really cold northern hemisphere winter at or near the peak of the double bump solar cycle, and if northern polar ice continues its healthy recovery while Antarctic ice continues to set records, temperatures might even gasp drop! And if they drop even a bit, for (say) the five plus years of solar minimum, they will never, ever convince anyone to fund them ever again.
In fact, if the temperature actually drops at all, ever, there will probably be congressional investigations. If TCS continues to drop that could happen even without an actual drop in temperature — Congress might well want to know exactly why we’ve burned a few hundred billion dollars on ameliorating CO_2 if TCS is going to end up being feedback neutral after all. And it’s not that the prediction, sorry, “projection” turned out wrong that is the problem — they would want to know why they weren’t told of the substantial uncertainty in the unproven projections and the horrendous abuse of the principles of statistics that went into the assertions of “confidence” in those projections!
I wouldn’t blame them. I’m kinda curious myself…

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 1:57 pm

Sorry. I just read that searing the meat to “keep in the juices” doesn’t work.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 3:46 pm

“Yeah, and as an incidental side effect you’d destroy the entire US system of higher education, top to bottom. ”
Correct. It is destroying itself, but at least my way it will not be costing the taxpayer billions of dollars doing it.
People will pay for what they value. Give them something of value and they will fund it and respect it. Give them something as an entitlement and they will evetually destroy it because it has no value to them.
You then go on with a well written essay on the perils of poor scientific method and why the current system is broken beyond redemption.
I could not have made my point any better than you have done.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 8, 2014 12:37 pm

Perfectly said. I was on a DOE (then ERDA) panel that reviewed the climate models back in about 1980. We concluded that the climate is fundamentally incalculable and the models were not reliable. Looks pretty good.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 9, 2014 12:35 pm

October 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm
“Yeah, and as an incidental side effect you’d destroy the entire US system of higher education, top to bottom. ”
Correct. It is destroying itself, but at least my way it will not be costing the taxpayer billions of dollars doing it….

In fact it will cost them immensely more. Worse, it will push US society much farther along a path toward a strongly defined, social class system based on wealth, simply because only the wealthy could pay to educate their children adequately. A successful democracy depends upon an a well-educated electorate. Remove that education and you have ISIS, Pol Pot, the KKK and a whole laundry list of folks and organizations who all think they know how the “real world” works from capitalists to cab drivers, communists to anarchists.
Even as its stands the US government has drifted quite a long way from the original model, which was deliberately designed to not be efficient. Originally the vice president was the opponent of the fellow who actually won the presidential election. The VP presides over the senate and it is worth remembering that the original system gave the losing party a say in how the country was run all the way to the second office in the executive branch. Nobody liked that system precisely because it forced compromise. These days US politics is implemented as a zero-sum game where some one must lose and someone else must win. Zero-sum thinking, assumptions that one class has privileges that others are denied, is precisely what leads to revolutions.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 12, 2014 7:20 pm

I was specifically referring to University based tertiary education. That may not have been clear. You are correct about a functioning democracy needs a well-educated populace, but that can be achieved by good primary and secondary education supplemented by trade and profession specific tertiary education.
With this clarification, your point is well made.

Danny Thomas
Reply to  Truthseeker
October 12, 2014 7:56 pm

This is way off topic so apologies for the interjection. Any idea what is the make up of this forum? This discussion is my first visit, and from this outsider’s point of view it appears that a good number of folks either are insiders of university systems or have extensive knowledge of how they function.
Understanding that Dr. Brown comes from that world and several seem to know him or work with him makes sense. Many speak of books they’ve authored (I assume publish or perish). Then there are those speaking seemingly with experience in the workings of universities. Also many of the names leave this impression. All of this led me to wondering, so thought I’d just ask.
Not sure if can be answered as there’s obviously no need to show a school ID card to be able to post (ya’ll are kind enough to let me in).
I see no way to start a new thread section so again this is asked with apologies for stepping in here.
[So, what exactly is your question? Do you think the people writing do not have extensive university, government, and industrial and personal scientific experience? .mod]

Reply to  Truthseeker
October 7, 2014 6:58 pm

Rather than consider the source of the funding, which will always be tainted in some way or another, how about a mechanism to reinforce the integrity of the research being conducted?
I would quite simply suggest that much of the problem can be addressed by funding both scientists that do research, as well as agencies that validate the scientific work that is being published. If govt is going to fund the research it should be required fund the validation equallyand unconditionally (with the validation teams being independent of the research teams, including within social networks).
You cannot de-politicise the funding, but you can depoliticise and add credibility to the output produced.

Reply to  pete
October 8, 2014 10:24 am

“You cannot de-politicise the funding, but you can depoliticise and add credibility to the output produced.”
If by “de-politicise” you mean to make the situation such that there is no difference of opinion (historically politics has been used as a means to overcome differences of opinions [think the process of negotiating a treaty]), I whole heartedly agree with your statement about funding.
However, you can remove the burden of the political process from a government agency by utilizing private funds (though…not entirely because of regulatory authority). In excising the government agency from this process, you have in effect transferred the risks of the research program (I’m primarily concerned with the financial risks) away from “John / Jane Q. Public”, and instead placed the risks squarely on those most concerned with the particular program. I think that approach is much better. I’m not paying for research programs unless I want to pay for that program. Additionally, most businesses cannot garnish your wages or seize your property (civil asset forfeiture) if you do NOT pay for a research program (IRS and Taxes…).

Reply to  pete
October 8, 2014 2:23 pm

ciphertext, I wholeheartedly agree in principle that private funding is far more desirable than public funding. In principle being the key phrase.
In practice, merely shifting the funding from public to private sources does not remove bias from research. Not all who provide funding are looking to fund a genuine search for scientific truth. As is plainly clear, much private funding is funnelled to research organisations that will produce a desired result instead. This is what i meant by ‘politicised’ science.
So to my mind the source of funding matters less than creating a robust process to ensure (as best as possible) a certain level of rigour in the research itself. Otherwise funding will always produce bias in some way, but you will still have the current situation where such bias can be difficult to detect or will be staunchly defended by an entrenched group.

Reply to  pete
October 9, 2014 11:18 am

Pete, you raise a good point. For the purposes of research “fidelity” (e.g. no biasing) then private nor public funding, in as far as I can conceptualize, wouldn’t cure that problem.
However, in as so much that the risks of using biased scientists would be “owned” by the providers of the funds (e.g. businesses, charities, etc…), I believe that there would be a strong disincentive to use such scientists or methods. Especially, when those methods / scientists failed to generate commercially viable results; or worse, produced deeply flawed products or services. Those businesses would cease to exist.
As it stands now, with publicly funded research, those market type “feedbacks” have very little effect on the research methods (or researchers) as is evident by the current state in which we find ourselves.
So I don’t think I’m disagreeing with you, rather I’m attempting to promote the private funding as a more palatable alternative to public funding, GIVEN, the political nature of research and its results.

October 6, 2014 11:22 pm

Tip of the hat to Dr. Brown for expending so much effort replying to an obvious buffoon.

October 6, 2014 11:22 pm

This is good. Esp the references to falsifying the null hypothesis. Wow did I have a great argument on that very point with Skeptical Science a few years ago.

Christopher Hanley
October 6, 2014 11:26 pm

‘The science isnt settled by argument. It’s settled by folks who vote with their time. They wont spend their time doubting, because there is a low risk of suceeding and way too much science to re work … ‘ Steven Mosher October 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm.
Mosher simply rehashes Kuhn’s version of scientific progress viz. the result of paradigm shifts, that mysterious process which more resembles bird flocking or the swarm behaviour of insects rather than the conscious behaviour of rational men and women.

Reply to  Christopher Hanley
October 7, 2014 1:26 pm

I doubt Mosher can even spell Kuhn’s name, much less be familiar with his work. 😉

October 6, 2014 11:27 pm

“count the logical and scientific fallacies at your leisure”
No thanks, I can’t count to infinity.

Brian H
October 6, 2014 11:35 pm

Edit: smilies are not usable as closing parentheses.
Climate experts make a living on linear extrapolation of preferred segments of non-linear functions. The segments are chosen to produce the most profitable extrapolations.

October 6, 2014 11:53 pm

It’s always a pleasure to read anything Dr. Robert G. Brown has to say.

Robert B
October 6, 2014 11:54 pm

“…are no more noble than the average Joe at admitting it when they are wrong, even after they come to realize in their heart of hearts that it is so.”
There has been a considerable effort to equate Climate Scientists with those who gave us modern technical marvels so that the population wouldn’t initially have doubts. It then became a hard sell to get them to realise that they were duped. We had a quite a few average Joes make there way to my town of 20 000 people in a main agricultural area, using their iPhone. They didn’t have any doubts even as the highway became a dirt track heading into the desert.

October 7, 2014 12:06 am

Others as noted are dangerously close to a reality that — if proven — means that you lose your funding (and then, Walmart looms).

After the leak of AR5 draft which showed the famous divergence graph of projections V observations I asked a simple question on WUWT – I paraphrase.

“Why don’t the IPCC select say the 5 models that came closest to observations, look under the hood and find out why they came up closest to reality?”

Someone replies to me mentioning something about the implication for climate sensitivity. It’s possible it was just by chance the 5 came closest, but it would be good to know what it is about those 5.

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it”.
Upton Sinclair

David A
Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 3:39 am

Jimbo, this, in my view, goes straight to the heart of common sense as well as the basic scientific method.
I have asked several times what is different about the five models that come closer to the observations? I suspect, as the IPCC ignored the five closest to observations models, and went to the modeled mean to estimate the cost of inaction, that the models closest to reality of observations either had a greatly reduced climate sensitivity, or they input disparate cooling factors such as volcanic eruptions or particulates, which were assumed and would be found to be way above what is known to exist in the real world. If the latter was the case, then logic would dictate that greatly reduced climate sensitivity was the likely answer.
RGB has had some excellent posts on the scientific absurdity of the IPCC using the modeled mean as a basis of their estimate of negative consequence caused by increased CO2 in the atmosphere. The IPCC “modeled” harm, does not really begin until plus 2 C from pre 1950s time frame. They are now attempting to abandon the plus 2 C (as observations show that this is unlikely anytime soon), as a requisite for the social action they demand.
It is very sad that they get away with not disclosing the “under the hood” facts about their computer models.

Reply to  David A
October 7, 2014 6:52 am

As a non-scientist I would be flabbergasted if the climate scientists never thought about looking at the projections that came closest to observations and ask questions. Had the IPCC adopted this since AR1 and refined its models accordingly the debate might have ended by now. 😉 WALMART!

Reply to  David A
October 7, 2014 7:07 am

You say

As a non-scientist I would be flabbergasted if the climate scientists never thought about looking at the projections that came closest to observations and ask questions. Had the IPCC adopted this since AR1 and refined its models accordingly the debate might have ended by now. 😉 WALMART!

Actually, each and every model’s performance should be assessed. Those which provide projections most distant from observations may be most informative about model behaviour(s): nobody can know prior to the assessments.
But nobody challenged any climate model and, instead, as Robert Brown says in his excellent article above, a meaningless average of model outputs was adopted. To quote myself in an IPCC side-meeting early this century,
“I don’t know what you call this, but it is not science”.

Reply to  David A
October 9, 2014 6:44 am

It is very sad that they get away with not disclosing the “under the hood” facts about their computer models.

It’s worse than that. They openly disclose them — in chapter 9 of AR5, in a single three or four paragraph stretch that nobody who matters will ever read, or understand if they do read. Then they write arrant nonsense in the Summary for Policy Makers, disclosing none of the indefensible statistical inconsistency of their processing of the individually failing models before using them as the basis for the personal opinion of a few, carefully selected writers, expressed as “confidence” about many things that they could not quantitatively defend if their lives depended on it using the axioms and practice of statistics on behalf of the whole body of participants, including those that don’t agree at all with the stated conclusions and who would utterly reject the assertions of confidence as having a statistical/empirical foundation.
As in high confidence my ass! “Confidence” in statistics is a term with a fairly specific meaning in terms of p-values! You show me the computations of one, single p-value, and explain its theoretical justification in terms of (say) the Central Limit Theorem. Be sure to list all of the Bayesian priors so we can subject them to a posterior analysis! Be sure to explain to the policy makers that forming the mean of the models is pure voodoo, disguising their weakness by presenting the conclusions as the result of a vote (of uncritically selected idiots!) In the SPM — not in chapter 9.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 1:45 pm

Yeah, Jimbo. Sheer common sense. And why don’t they just throw out the worst (say) thirty of the thirty six models when they are making their projections?
The answer is, of course, pretty obvious. But it is a sad, sad answer. It doesn’t even have to be malicious. These guys are all colleagues. Who wants to be the one who has to go to talk to Joe, the author of the 36th worst model (dead last, not even close!) and tell them that regretfully they’ve decided to drop it out of all of the projections and predictions in AR5, or AR6, or whatever? It’s a career ender for Joe.
I’m not sure even Wal Mart could employ the vast horde of future unemployed climate scientists that will be unleashed on the market if the climate starts to actively cool, or even remains flat for another decade before changing again up or down.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 3:54 pm

Which is why hitting the “reset” button is the only thing that has any chance of working …
You are probably right about Wal Mart. They have commercial realities to consider and climate “scientists” have been avoiding reality like it was a plague …

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 4:09 pm

However in the business world this is what happens all the time. No matter how much I like someone and respect someone the results are the only determining factor to success. There is also no shame in failing and ending up at Walmart and working your way to the top again. This is the same as facing your errors in science and see them as instructive to a better understanding and further discovery.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 5:18 pm

Only when there is a President Ted Cruz or Rand Paul does the earth stand a chance of ridding itself of these odious parasites sapping the life blood of the planet.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 8:26 pm

Mickey Manniacal, today’s Wally world greeter welcomes you to Wally world! Here are our coupons for the day. May you enjoy your shopping experience and remember to drive safely home…
A thousand times a day.
For twenty eight to thirty two hours per week.
I can enjoy that thought.
But I don’t like to shop at Wally World much more and that would certainly finish my ever shopping there again. Even if Trenbarf, Santa’r, and Jonesy sang a barbershop quartet with him.
I mean, what are his other skills? Especially after checking out what his students think of him (after discounting the fanatic fans smoked laudatories).
Certainly wouldn’t be math… Here is MM’s personal mall cubicle where he cheerfully helps people get their taxes filed on time and he guarantees accuracy or he pays all fines…
Now there might be a position fending off bears and hordes of mosquitos while buggering larch trees up in Siberia…

David A
Reply to  rgbatduke
October 7, 2014 9:31 pm

Regarding the IPCC misuse of the models, RGB said…” The answer is, of course, pretty obvious. But it is a sad, sad answer. It doesn’t even have to be malicious. These guys are all colleagues…”
Yes, one’s daily bread is a motivating factor, but the politicians rule the IPCC roost. And the desire for power over others is malicious, in my view. Indeed, power over others can be philosophically supported as the very definition of evil. These “rule the world” Blackbeard’s write the summary’s, and they need the extremely wrong models to move the modeled mean to a point where projected harms can at least have a smidgen of real potential.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 8, 2014 6:51 am

Creating a pool of unhappy people who know where the bodies are buried is not in the ‘winners’ interest.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 8, 2014 4:33 pm

This actually HAS TO HAPPEN if the feedback loop carrying the error signal is to have a positive (read correct) effect on future outcomes. I mean, everyone always says you learn the most when you screw up, right? So unfortunately, the time has come for some climate scientists to get an education.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 9, 2014 6:36 am

Here is what I suspect. Badly performing models are REQUIRED in order to keep the scare running. If climate sensitivity is low and future models lowered surface temperature projections then the scare would be over and the IPCC would have to close down. Climastrologists would see their funding shrivel and thousands would have to find an honest living IMHO. As long as the hypothesis is exaggerated and surface temperatures remain flat, or cool, then the day of reckoning cannot be put off forever.
Tar and feathers, loss of status, funding and self-importance is not a nice prospect. These people will go to their graves ‘den y ing’ they are wrong.

Reply to  rgbatduke
October 9, 2014 6:37 am

PS I am aware that AR5 projections have already been lowered. They may eventually match observations! 🙂

Matthew R Marler
October 7, 2014 12:07 am

…debates are rare because science is not a debate, or more specifically, science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences. You can win a debate and be wrong about the science. Debates prove one thing. Folks who engage in them don’t get it, folks who demand them don’t get it and folks who attend them don’t get it
Plain and simply, this is an aspect of the history of science about which Steven Mosher is totally ignorant. The Eddington Expedition touched off a long series of debates, as did the quantum mechanical revolution (the numerous Solvay conferences with the most illuminating debates between Einstein and Bohr.) Everything in science has been plentifully debated (except perhaps Newton’s alchemical experiments because he kept them a secret.) The debates about the diverse explanations of the causes of Legionnaires’ disease and AIDS are more contemporary examples, as is the ongoing (maybe resolved) debates about the worldwide decline of amphibians.

Reply to  Matthew R Marler
October 7, 2014 2:30 am

Oh dear. Mosher said:

“debates are rare because science is not a debate, or more specifically, science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences.”

Oh really!

Scientific debates: a noble tradition
….Joseph Lister v germ theory den*****ts….
As a result, a public debate was organised between Joseph Lister and the most prominent germ den*****ts at the time. Lister was instrumental in introducing antiseptic surgery in hospitals, but he wasn’t an experienced debater, so seemed outmatched by the combined voices of 15 den*****ts in front of an audience of dozens in a public operating theatre. However, the den*****ts, in a fit of hubris, willingly smeared themselves with drain-water and rancid meat to demonstrate their confidence that germs didn’t exist, and gradually succumbed to violent sickness throughout the debate. The one exception was a particularly vocal pastor (who objected to the term pasteurisation co-opting his title) who cut his finger on a lectern while gesticulating. He refused to let Lister treat it, and eventually died of hospital gangrene.

National Academy of Sciences
The “Great Debate” of 1920
The Royal Society
Constructive debate on the diverse issues of biodiversity
Einstein vs. Newton debate
The DNA Debate: The latest episode of Royal Society
Climate change [p2]

Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 6:34 am

Correction: I think the quote from the Guardian I gave is wrong. It was apparently made up as revealed in the last paragraph of the article. I just love the Goroniad. 🙂 This will teach me to check deeper. I hope the last 2 examples will suffice.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 6:38 am

Yes, this story sounds fanciful. As rashly as those gentlemen may have acted by inoculating themselves, it would have taken at least a couple of days for them to actually succumb.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 7, 2014 9:49 am

Ja, the Grauniad quote is phony, as is to be expected, obviously so. If “denialists” hadn’t given it away, the notion that drainwater, etc., could result in illness intradermally in minutes would. The lectern story could possibly be true; despite hundreds of years of use, lecterns are just simply covered with razor sharp decorations that could easily cut a pastor to ribbons while gesticulating at us with his finger, as they are wont to do. But since this putative pastor is unnamed, he and his finger are also doubtless products of the Grauniad writer’s fervid imagination.

Reply to  Jimbo
October 8, 2014 1:26 pm

There was a debate between Lister & microbial naysayers, but not surprisingly the cartoonish Guardian has it wrong.
The 1920 Great Debate on the size of the universe is however a good example. Here’s another, more recent (2004) such public debate, on competing K/T extinction hypotheses:
Public debate is not rare in science.

October 7, 2014 12:17 am

“that at this point, we have extremely excellent reason to believe that the climate problem is non-computable, quite probably non-computable with any reasonable allocation of computational resources the human species is likely to be able to engineer or afford, even with Moore’s Law, anytime in the next few decades, if Moore’s Law itself doesn’t fail in the meantime. ”
Pretty much. We don’t even know what are the inputs of climate and obviously that implies also we can’t even know how to weight those we know.

October 7, 2014 12:22 am

RJB – Wow, just wow. Thanks for taking the time to put this down in writing.

Claude Harvey
October 7, 2014 12:33 am

Best description of the problem I have seen to date and it lands precisely where I landed shortly after beginning to look into just what all the global warming hubbub was about some 15 years ago. How any honest scientist can look at a chart of the past 500 years of reconstructed global temperature (Al Gore’s famous version will do nicely) and not conclude that every word you have written here is true is simply beyond me.

Claude Harvey
Reply to  Claude Harvey
October 7, 2014 12:36 am

Oops! Make that “500,000 years” of reconstructed….

October 7, 2014 12:34 am

I’d like to offer a slight qualification to the post above, Re; scientists and their actions, and also if i may, an observation.
I believe that there is a whole class of science and scientists that are missed when one speaks about science- especially in this context. The presumption, and usual framing of the issue is such that one could be forgiven for thinking science only happens in universities. It does not. In fact, most of the science that happens on this planet does not occur in universities at all, but in industry.
I saw figures on this once (which I’ve singularly been unable to find, apologies) that suggested there are roughly ten industry scientists for every academic. Why is this significant? Well it’s all down to reproducibility….
There was a study performed by Scientific American and Nature (iirc) which looked into how reproducible, or to put it another way, how accurate academic research was. I was at a Cambridge University Debate (ironically) when this was brought up- the subject of the debate was ‘is research better performed in Academia or Industry?’.The academic side put up a valiant show of all the advances that happen in academia. The discoveries that would not have been possible with a share-holder and market-orientated focus and how valuable the output is.
The industry representative opened with the fact that in the previously-mentioned study, less than 1 third of all academic research papers tested were reproducible. Or to put it another way, 2 thirds were junk. I think the figure may be slightly higher for climate science….
For clarity, I am an industry scientist. It is, for us, an open secret that you don’t trust any academic research. It may be a good starting point, it may even have some good data in it, but more often than not it’s either slightly misleading, or often just plain wrong.
We know this because we’ve tried to replicate it, and failed. Wasting time and money in the process.
It has to be a huge worry when academic institutes churn out volumes after volumes of useless science, with no checks or balances. Peer review is broken, and the ever increasing drive to publish and publish on cutting edge research, leaves replication of someone else’s results a far lower priority. Somewhere below deleting your emails.
In industry, at least, in my industry (biotech), there are checks. There are controls. Balances, whole departments dedicated to finding the slightest issue in your work and subsequent paper work. There are then regulatory bodies which can audit you at pretty much the drop of a hat. ON top of this, there are serious repercussions for not submitting accurate work. Far more serious ones exist for those who deliberately mislead, and these include massive fines and prison time (and there are examples of when elements in industry have not met these standards, and the consequences have happened).
In academia, you have peer review, which we all know is easily subvert-able.
So all this is to say two things-
1) i’d be very interested to see how many industry scientists were included in the ‘scientists believe in global warming’ surveys.
2) is it not becoming ever more clear that academic research as it currently exists is broken and needs some sort of over-site to fix it? Especially in climate research.

Reply to  labMunkey
October 7, 2014 1:08 am

In your excellent post you say

For clarity, I am an industry scientist. It is, for us, an open secret that you don’t trust any academic research. It may be a good starting point, it may even have some good data in it, but more often than not it’s either slightly misleading, or often just plain wrong.
We know this because we’ve tried to replicate it, and failed. Wasting time and money in the process.

Yes! I have reproduced it for emphasis, and I could cite several (some funny) anecdotal examples from my decades of involvement in industrial research.
The underlying problem seems to be that academics are rewarded for publishing papers: quantity of publications is important but quality of work is ignored. In industry the quality of work decides whether a research study should continue or not, and quality is decided on the basis of progress towards an objective and/or benefits of ‘spin-offs’ from the work.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  richardscourtney
October 7, 2014 5:33 am

You are talking about financial profits. That is why true capitalism works to the benefit of us all.

Reply to  richardscourtney
October 7, 2014 6:25 am

Tom in Florida
No. I was talking about how science is assessed in industry as compared to how it is assessed in academia.
I was NOT talking about political philosophies which are not the subject of this thread.

Reply to  richardscourtney
October 7, 2014 1:49 pm

The underlying problem seems to be that academics are rewarded for publishing papers: quantity of publications is important but quality of work is ignored. I

Not entirely, but it is one of several reasons I gave up that rat race.
Say “ignored unless it is so spectacular that it smacks you in the face”, in which case it is rewarded, typically ten years too late to do you any real good.

Reply to  labMunkey
October 7, 2014 6:56 pm

Academia acts as a group competing for limited financial resources, the same as companies in the stock market do, however academic groups have an unfair advantage in that they are not answerable to the market in anywhere near the same way.
This is the thorny issue of allowing some level of research not purely determined by market forces to exist, but without actually being accountable to market forces to begin with. In fact they are only accountable to government, which inevitably means they will pander to government.
The problematic issue, is that once you tie ‘off market’ research funding into competition and the way markets generally operate, academia then starts to act just like any other group competing with other groups, which creates problems. They tend to exist only for themselves, and only those ideas which support the group are the ones that become acceptable. So research and ideas are only acceptable if it supports the group’s ideas, agendas, and what generally benefits the broader group. It regresses to tribalism.
Making academia more accountable is a necessity and in everyone’s best interest. Some have suggested reforms to the peer review process, which is part of this. Many other reforms are also required, which is a topic for another time.

Richard T
Reply to  labMunkey
October 7, 2014 7:25 pm

Industry science carries a heavy “burden” for those performing that science — accountability.

October 7, 2014 12:41 am

Drink post? Seems a bit over the top. Loquacious as a minimum. Mosher is succinctly irrelevant but not much more. It does not require tens of paragraphs to make that point.

Reply to  dp
October 7, 2014 1:02 am

I disagree. It is not an answer to Mosher (who cares about Mosher?). It is a cry from the depths of the real scientist’s soul, sinking in the vertiginous currents of the New Dark Age.

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 7, 2014 10:00 am

Good answer, AF. RGB’s comments and posts of any length are always worth reading. And yours, as well.

October 7, 2014 12:43 am

Dr. Richard Betts of the UK’s Met Office made some interesting comments in August. I was amazed at his first sentence though – he could have fooled me. [my bold]

Richard Betts – at 5:38 PM
climate modeller – Met Office – 22 August 2014
“Bish, as always I am slightly bemused over why you think GCMs are so central to climate policy.
Everyone* agrees that the greenhouse effect is real, and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
Everyone* agrees that CO2 rise is anthropogenic
Everyone** agrees that we can’t predict the long-term response of the climate to ongoing CO2 rise with great accuracy. It could be large, it could be small. We don’t know. The old-style energy balance models got us this far. We can’t be certain of large changes in future, but can’t rule them out either.
*OK so not quite everyone, but everyone who has thought about it to any reasonable extent
**Apart from a few who think that observations of a decade or three of small forcing can be extrapolated to indicate the response to long-term larger forcing with confidence”

Yet they projected temperatures and still got it wrong. Is Betts saying that politicians should disregard the Met Office / IPCC climate projections when formulating policy?

UK Government – 27 September 2013
Response from Secretary of State Edward Davey to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): The Latest Assessment of Climate Science
…..Without urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions this warming will continue, with potentially dangerous impacts upon our societies and economy. This strengthens the case for international leaders to work for an ambitious, legally binding global agreement in 2015 to cut carbon emissions……
UK Government – 31 March 2014
What are the implications of climate change for the UK?
….Increased economic losses and people affected by extreme heat events: impacts on health and well-being, labour productivity, crop production and air quality……
UK Government – March 2013
1. Policy context
What are the key policy outcomes for the policy programme/area?
Climate models indicate that many parts of the UK1 are likely to experience more heavy
rainfall (leading to flooding), rising sea level and faster coastal erosion, more heat-waves,
droughts and extreme weather events as this century progresses
. Information on the
science of climate change is available on the Government Office for Science pages on
climate change. The Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) set out the key risks to the
UK from these impacts.
Climate Change can be divided in two policy areas: Climate Change Mitigation and
Climate Change Adaptation.
Climate change mitigation deals with limiting the extent of future climate change by
reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing them from the atmosphere.
…..Defra’s role in Climate Change policy…..

October 7, 2014 12:45 am

Superb. If only our elected officials would read this.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Windsong
October 7, 2014 5:35 am

But the only ones who would buy in are the honest ones. Good luck in finding enough of those to make a difference.

October 7, 2014 12:54 am

It is comforting to know, Dr. Brown, that some of us, on this long-suffering planet, are still able not only to think clearly but to express their thoughts with the same clarity. Thank you for this comfort.
Alas, you are preaching reason — again and again the history repeats itself — to those who learn with their mother’s milk to regard any human activity (including science) as a mutual verbal, cultural, and financial manipulation designed to produce a resulting vector buttering their bread on both sides.
Call it a Brownian social motion, if you will. As long as science remains an “institution,” heavily influenced by governments, it will be a part of the political circus.
Climate science? Even more so, since the green religion serves as a substitute of waning traditional irrational beliefs, while a very large part of the population is genetically selected and predisposed to follow irrational emotional stimuli given from above by the preachers-manipulators.
Solution? What is the solution of human condition?

Reply to  Alexander Feht
October 7, 2014 10:02 am

My solution is to eat lots of chocolate.

Dr. Strangelove
October 7, 2014 12:55 am

That GCMs are useless for forecasting global temperatures is well-known long ago. Their errors or uncertainties are 20 times larger than their 100-year forecasts. They are no better than random guesses. Reminds me of von Neumann’s flying elephant model.

October 7, 2014 1:02 am

Wow! Dr. Brown, that is a superb and accurate description of the current state of climate science! Thanks a lot for that!

October 7, 2014 1:09 am

Thanks, RGB. Another excellent comment about the inconsistencies and implausibilities of model-based climate science.

Martin A
October 7, 2014 1:19 am

Are the computer models reliable?
Computer models are an essential tool
in understanding how the climate will
respond to changes in greenhouse gas
concentrations, and other external effects,
such as solar output and volcanoes.
Computer models are the only reliable
way to predict changes in climate. Their
reliability is tested by seeing if they are able
to reproduce the past climate which gives
scientists confidence that they can also
predict the future.
But computer models cannot predict the
future exactly. They depend, for example, on
assumptions made about the levels of future
greenhouse gas emissions.
(Warming Climate change – the facts, Met Office publication, 2009)

David A
Reply to  Martin A
October 7, 2014 3:50 am

What facts in this often wrong statement are you referring to?

Reply to  David A
October 7, 2014 4:54 am

I think “the facts” was the subtitle, but the quoter didn’t make that clear because he didn’t capitalize the words.

Mr Green Genes
October 7, 2014 1:22 am

Thank you Dr. Brown. That is a remarkable piece of work.
You mention the ‘Walmart impact’ as applied to scientists who do not toe the line. Sadly, this applies equally to politicians, who will therefore only countenance funding grants to research which goes along with the consensus. And so the cycle continues.

Reply to  Mr Green Genes
October 7, 2014 1:49 am

You mention consensus, and here is a lesson from the recent past on consensus and mavericks. Science is littered with them and sometimes they push science forward.

Guardian – 5 October 2011
Nobel Prize in Chemistry for dogged work on ‘impossible’ quasicrystals
Daniel Shechtman, who has won the chemistry Nobel for discovering quasicrystals, was initially lambasted for ‘bringing disgrace’ on his research group
…Daniel Shechtman, 70, a researcher at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, received the award for discovering seemingly impossible crystal structures in frozen gobbets of metal that resembled the beautiful patterns seen in Islamic mosaics.
Images of the metals showed their atoms were arranged in a way that broke well-establised rules of how crystals formed, a finding that fundamentally altered how chemists view solid matter…..

October 7, 2014 1:22 am

Interesting discussion from an experienced physicist.
I would add one angle to the discussion, as an earth and natural sciences scientist, that a physicist might not.
I think that much of the debate around climate revolves around unconscious and untested Malthusian assumptions-that is, the assumption, that biological organisms inevitably tend towards collapse through overuse and depletion of resources-that this is at the heart of pretty much all the climate debate.
It is the main reason that the climategate affair occurred, it is the main reason the IPCC sticks to its models. It is the main reason the gatekeepers believe it is ok to bend and break the rules. It is the main reason there is a fanatical push for ‘consensus’, what they are really pushing is fanatical attachment to a Malthusian fundamentalism.
And I think the Malthusians-of which I mean the Club of Rome, Mann et al., those who changed the IPCC 1995 report to reflect their assumptions, the Rio delegation in Rio in 1991, etc etc-all these are basing their approach on untested and latent hidden assumptions relating to Malthus. There are paradoxes associated with Malthus, and once one blindly accepts one narrow view of these paradoxes, one behaves in a manner consistent with this rejection of paradox, by bulldozing over doubts and alternate theories and data, because one has accepted this in first accepting ultra-Malthusian thinking to begin with. Ones behaviour follows from the blind attachment to the Malthusian model to begin with.
It also follows, that addressing the ‘issue’ would also necessarily involve addressing Malthusian assumptions. If these remain untested and unchallenged, you are simply addressing a belief system, not a science. The hidden assumptions surrounding Malthus and biological and market forces and adaptability need to be addressed before one gets anywhere in the debate.

Reply to  thingadonta
October 7, 2014 3:25 am

Malthus in a nutshell:
Population, when unchecked, tends to outgrow the means of subsistence.
This principle is recognized as axiomatic by those who have a foundation in the life sciences. Those who deprecate this principle are revealing their lack of such founding.
This principle falters when applied to humankind because of our unique ability to transform our environment to our advantage.
But all other species of life are subject to this universal and profound principle.

David A
Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 4:06 am

Humans are not the only species to adapt to environmental changes. Adaption is the key to sustaining any population. Humans are just at the apex of ability to adapt. I highly recommend these two posts on that ability. E.M. Smith is, among other talents, an economist, and in this post speaks about another economist named Thomas Malthus. Also, this post is a good follow up.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 7:18 am

David A, mpainter didn’t say “Humans are the only species to adapt”, he said “our unique ability to transform our environment to our advantage”. That’s the opposite of adapting to environmental changes, that’s adapting the environment to us. When it’s hot, we turn on the AC, when it’s cold, we throw another log on the fire. We largely live in climate-controlled domiciles, so that the outside weather is of little concern. Your response is based on a mis-reading, and therefore irrelevant to his point.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 7:38 am

MPainter, there are human limits also, despite ingenuity. Explained in my ebook Gaia’s Limits. There is a soft limit, food. The book defines soft. And there is a hard limit, liquid tranportation fuels.
The book defines hard, and epalins how, why, and when (to acceptable limitsmof precision in decades. You might find it an educational read, if a bit of a data slog.

Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 7:51 am

Reply to mpainter ==.> Malthus doesn’t apply to humans primarily because we are able to create and modify our own means of subsistence — advancing from hunter-gatherers, to agriculturalists, to enhancing crops and food animals, to GMO modification of plants to be salt-, drought, pest-tolerant, hydroponics and possibly growing animal tissue in factories.
And “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” — the future holds unfathomable advances yet to come.

Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 8:45 am

The Malthusian idea is overblown as a “founding” principle of life sciences. The only way it is correct is if the “unchecked” part of your definition means the population is assumed to reproduce at an exponential rate and there is nothing to prevent that growth. Nice on paper. However, in the real world it is trivial to find numerous examples of organisms that do not reproduce out of control, do not overrun their environment, etc. As a result, in practice the Malthusian principle amounts to little more than a (largely-useless and semi-tautological) assertion that “a population will grow exponentially unless there are factors that prevent it from growing exponentially.”
So the Malthusian idea in the life sciences is about as useful as the CO2 warms the planet “all other things being equal” line in climate science.

Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 10:10 am

But most terrestrial populations are naturally checked. Excess prey soon yields more predators, and balance is restored. .

Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 2:09 pm

Rud Istvan:
Indeed there are limits but how do you identify them? One needs to be able to foretell future developments and I have little faith that anyone has such infallible vision.

Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 2:20 pm

Climate reflections:
That is the point-population does not grow exponentially because growth is checked. It is the examination of those checks which is an important part of ecological studies. Malthus did this for humankind and so founded the science of demographics as well as making some contribution to economic thinking.

Reply to  mpainter
October 7, 2014 5:45 pm

“Population, when unchecked…”
This is the paradox. There are many ways that populations get ‘checked’ that don’t involve an inevitable Malthusian collapse, both in nature and with humans.