# 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.

rgbatduke

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.

Rgb

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.

rgb

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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## 532 thoughts on “Real Science Debates Are Not Rare”

1. John Robertson says:

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 says:

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.

Signed,

Hopeful

• Duster says:

“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 says:

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?

• Duster says:

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 says:

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.

• milodonharlani says:

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 says:

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.

• Duster says:

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 says:

Duster,

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.

• milodonharlani says:

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.

• 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 says:

A little self correction.

I went thru all 55 years of data from this: ftp://aftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/products/trends/co2/co2_gr_mlo.txt.

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 says:

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.

• milodonharlani says:

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 says:

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 https://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/05/08/venus-envy/ 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!

• milodonharlani says:

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 says:

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.

LIA
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 says:

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.

• milodonharlani says:

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.

2. cnxtim says:

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 says:

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.

• Duster says:

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.

• AlexS says:

CAGW is a Social Construct not a Scientific Construct.

• Alx says:

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.

• Duster says:

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

• Duster says:

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.

3. Cold in Wisconsin says:

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 says:

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 says:

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 says:

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).

• TYoke says:

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. ;-)

• ferdberple says:

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

• Alx says:

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 says:

…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 says:

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.

• Sleepalot says:

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.

• mpainter says:

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.

• hunter says:

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

• Pat says:

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.

• 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 says:

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……

• DirkH says:

“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.

• rgbatduke says:

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

rgb

• Mike Lewis says:

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 says:

Actually science searches for relationships between what are already accepted as facts. Mostly causal relationships.

“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.

• rgbatduke says:

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.”

http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/axioms.pdf

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.

rgb

• eyesonu says:

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.

• DirkH says:

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

• 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 says:

rgb

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.

• mpainter says:

“What is truth?”…

• Crispin in Waterloo says:

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.

+++++++++++

“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.

• DHF says:

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.

• rgbatduke says:

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:

http://www.amazon.com/Mathematics-Loss-Certainty-Oxford-Paperbacks/dp/0195030850

and

http://www.amazon.com/Mathematics-Plausible-Reasoning-Two-Volumes/dp/1614275572/

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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems

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, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldbach%27s_conjecture. 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.

rgb

• Duster says:

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 says:

rgb

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 says:

rgb

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 says:

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 says:

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.

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

• Bob Kutz says:

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 says: a quick note; none of the (better) replies above appeared before I posted mine. Sorry for repeating what everyone else had said better. • 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. • greymouser70 says: 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) • Duster says: 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. 4. 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. • 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. 5. David A says: 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 says: 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. • Duster says: 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. 6. Joel O'Bryan says: Wow. Well said. 7. Streetcred says: I eagerly anticipate Mosher’s response supporting the climate models ;) • Alex says: I’ve heard ‘It’s the best we can do with the tools that we have’. Cop out • Joel O'Bryan says: non-computable. Always was, always will be. • a dart board performs as well at a fraction of the cost. • rgbatduke says: 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.

rgb

• TYoke says:

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.

700 MILLION.

• David A says:

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 says:

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. • milodonharlani says: 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 says: 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 says:

Milo,

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. • milodonharlani says: Danny, 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 says: Milo, 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. • milodonharlani says: Danny, Here are the top 250 energy companies. Add up their profits. You’ll see it’s nowhere near “trillions” of dollars. http://top250.platts.com/Top250Rankings 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 says: 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: http://www.economonitor.com/policiesofscale/2013/11/04/who-are-the-worlds-top-energy-companies/#sthash.PMekV6Oq.dpuf.

Speak with me respectfully or no need to bother responding unless your audience is elsewhere.

• Danny Thomas says:

Milo,

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: http://www.economonitor.com/policiesofscale/2013/11/04/who-are-the-worlds-top-energy-companies/#sthash.PMekV6Oq.dpuf. Speak with me respectfully or no need to bother responding unless your audience is elsewhere. • milodonharlani says: Danny, 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 says: Milo, 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 says: Milo, 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 says: Milo, 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.

Have a wonderful day.

8. 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.

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

• Farmer Gez says:

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

• M Courtney says:

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.

• latecommer2014 says:

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 says:

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

• Boulder Skeptic says:

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.

Bruce

9. 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

http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2013/09/chaos-theory-explains-weather-climate.html

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

http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2014/09/new-paper-explains-why-new-approach-to.html

10. AndyE says:

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).

11. Joel O'Bryan says:

The Church of Climate Change is abandoning the temperature ship, as we saw with the Nature Commentary last week by Victor and Kennel.
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/10/01/wow-nature-article-suggests-ditch-the-2-c-warming-goal/

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.

• Jimbo says:

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.
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/climate-catastrophe-a-superstorm-for-global-warming-research-a-686697-druck.html
http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/03/getting-over-the-2-degree-limit-on-global-warming/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

12. 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.

13. 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 says:

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!

• rgbatduke says:

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…

rgb

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

14. 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.

• Jimbo says:

Gary, in future go to http://tinyurl.com and insert the URL you want to shorten. Then copy and past.

• LeeHarvey says:

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.

• Lee Harvey,

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

• Don K says:

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 says:

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 http://m.YouTube.com/watch?v=hvhipLNeda4 for a lighter treatment, then email them RGB’s article?

• rgbatduke says:

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

rgb

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.

• 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…

Ferdinand,
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 says:

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.

• latecommer2014 says:

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.

• 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).

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’.

• Genghis

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.

• 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…

Michael,
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.

Genghis,
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.

Ferdinand,
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 –
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/10/05/open-letter-to-miriam-obrien-of-hotwhopper-a-k-a-sou/#comment-1755176
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.)

• 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.

• 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 : )

16. scf says:

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 says:

My thoughts too.

17. 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.

18. Michael Wassil says:

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

19. 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK_WyvfcJyg&info=GGWarmingSwindle_CO2Lag

20. ColinD says:

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.

21. Malcolm says:

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….”

• Jimbo says:

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

• mpainter says:

Do you know what “fat chance” means?

22. Truthseeker says:

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 says:

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.

• 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.

• Hawkward says:

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.

• 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..

• DirkH says:

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.

• 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.

• rgbatduke says:

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.

Oops.

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…

rgb

• DHR says:

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

Darn!

• Truthseeker says:

“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.

• 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.

• Duster says:

Truthseeker
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.

• Truthseeker says:

Duster,

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.

• Danny Thomas says:

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]

• pete says:

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.

• “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…).

• pete says:

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.

• 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.

23. Typhoon says:

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

24. rogerthesurf says:

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.

Cheers

Roger

http://www.rogerfromnewzealand.wordpress.com

25. Christopher Hanley says:

‘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.

• willnitschke says:

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

26. MattS says:

“count the logical and scientific fallacies at your leisure”

No thanks, I can’t count to infinity.

27. Brian H says:

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.

28. suissebob says:

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

29. Robert B says:

“…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.

30. Jimbo says:

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 says:

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.

• Jimbo says:

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!

• richardscourtney says:

Jimbo

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”.

Richard

• rgbatduke says:

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.

rgb

• rgbatduke says:

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.

rgb

• Truthseeker says:

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 …

• 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.

• 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.

• 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 says:

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.

• JohnWr says:

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

• DayHay says:

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.

• Jimbo says:

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.

• Jimbo says:

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

31. Matthew R Marler says:

…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.

• Jimbo says:

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!

Guardian
….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.

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]

• Jimbo says:

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.

• 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.

• jorgekafkazar says:

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.

• milodonharlani says:

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:

http://www.geolsoc.org.uk/chicxulub

Public debate is not rare in science.

32. AlexS says:

“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.

33. jimmyjoe says:

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

34. Claude Harvey says:

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 says:

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

35. labMunkey says:

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.

• richardscourtney says:

labMunkey

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.

Richard

• Tom in Florida says:

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

• richardscourtney says:

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.

Richard

• rgbatduke says:

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.

rgb

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 says:

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

36. dp says:

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.

• 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.

• jorgekafkazar says:

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

37. Jimbo says:

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”
http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2014/8/22/its-the-atlantic-wot-dunnit.html

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 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…..
https://www.

38. Windsong says:

Superb. If only our elected officials would read this.

• Tom in Florida says:

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

39. 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?

• jorgekafkazar says:

My solution is to eat lots of chocolate.

40. Dr. Strangelove says:

rgb

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.

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

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

Regards

43. Martin A says:

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
greenhouse gas emissions.

(Warming Climate change – the facts, Met Office publication, 2009)

• David A says:

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

• rogerknights says:

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

44. Mr Green Genes says:

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.

• Jimbo says:

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…..
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/oct/05/nobel-prize-chemistry-work-quasicrystals

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.

• mpainter says:

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 says:

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. http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/08/there-is-no-shortage-of-stuff/ 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. http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/there-is-no-energy-shortage/

• Jeff Alberts says:

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.

• 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.

• Kip Hansen says:

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.

• mpainter:

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.

• jorgekafkazar says:

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

• mpainter says:

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.

• mpainter says:

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.

“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.

• David A says:

Jeff Alberts says…”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…”

Well Jeff, yes, that is a more accurate quote, and so valid. However my post is very cogent to the subject. After all, putting on a coat is adapting. Moving towards natural gas, and fracking is adapting. In a sense I am agreeing with the post, and you may find the linked articles strongly supportive of evidence that any attempt to attribute Malthus principle to humans is likely doomed to failure, as in all the failed predictions of doom.

My concern is the attempt to elevate what Malthus said to some great observation, as it has been so misused, and nature tends to have its own set of checks and balances, and rarely does one species eat itself to extinction. Animals do adapt in different ways. Snakes gather together underground in mass to hibernate and survive the winter, beavers build marvelous homes, and animals have been known to change how they live and what they eat, etc. as conditions and climate have changed.

• 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.

I would have included the greatest Malthusian of all, Paul Ehrlich. He’s still widely admired. Oreskes cites him as a visionary in her recent science fiction book. Mann has a cover blurb by him on his book and calls him a personal hero.

• timg56 says:

Which, in my opinion tells us all we need to knowabou Oreskes and Mann.

• Richard of NZ says:

I feel that all too often assumptions are codified as “fact”.

Consider the following:

Without making any assumptions answer the following multiple-choice question

2+2=
1. 4
2. 10
3. 11
4. All of the above
5. None of the above

I would hazard a guess that most people would answer 1 because the assumption that numbers use the base 10 has been codified as “fact” has become ingrained and most people don’t even realise that they are making an assumption. The correct answer is 4, as that allows for any base to be used (except base 2 as the number 2 does not exist in base 2).

Richard of NZ.

I like it, An untested assumption. Who said nature has to use base 10?

• “I would hazard a guess that most people would answer 1 because the assumption that numbers use the base 10 has been codified as “fact” has become ingrained and most people don’t even realise that they are making an assumption.”

Indeed, the assumption is warranted, however, and I wouldn’t consider it a true assumption. Rather, I would say that people are making a presumption. In nearly every situation, humans interact with numerical representations using Base 10 nomenclature. It is the rule, rather than the exception. So I do not believe you could reasonably expect that answer 4 is the correct answer, based upon the presumption that the number system in use relies upon Base 10.

• TonyG says:

The correct answer is 4, as that allows for any base to be used (except base 2 as the number 2 does not exist in base 2).

Not sure I understand. 2+2 = 10 in base 4, and 11 in base 3. You need base 5 or higher for 4 to be the correct answer without making any assumptions

46. Stephen Richards says:

Bravo Dr Brown. Applaudisez. As I have said before, I wish I had studied my physics with Dr B.
Clear, precise and physics.
Mosher, is of course, not a scientist. He appeared to become indoctrinated, rather easily, when he managed to wiggle his way into BEST with Zeke Howyerfather.

OK so UKMET off should be along any minute to tell us why their model(s) have been VV&T’d.

47. Steve (Paris) says:

Excellent. Simply excellent.

48. “The climate is a highly nonlinear chaotic system…..” The global climate is not so chaotic as the local weather. Look at the global temperature. the monthly means varies between 13 °C (Jan) and 17 °C (Jul). This is a seasonal effect due to the unequal distribution of land and oceans on the northern and the southern hemispheres. The variation of the annual means is mainly due to the ENSO phenomena, the variation of the 30 yr means is mainly caused by the AMO etc. So the “chaos” of the climate is a question of the resolution resolution in time and in temperature. For instance, you can calculate within an error of 5 K how the surface of the earth will cool down, if you turn off the sun. That’s no chaotic process. But nobody is interested in this.

• David A says:

Paul, I think that beyond local changes such as centuries of drought in Calif over the last one thousand years, the large swings between glacials and interglacials are a major consideration in global climate change.

• Spence_UK says:

Paul: you are quite wrong.

Firstly, ENSO and AMO remain utterly unpredictable, ENSO even on a 3 month timescale, despite climate scientists best efforts; showing ENSO is, to our best understanding, sensitive to initial conditions and chaotic in nature. ENSO and AMO, far from casting doubt, actually underline the importance of chaos to climate.

Noting that ENSO is correlated to global temperatures does not render climate magically predictable. It means you have identified a correlation within the patterns of climate, nothing more, nothing less, most certainly not a means to prediction.

The second important aspect mentioned by Robert in his comment is the problem of fractal dynamics. It is the fractal dynamics that prevents things “averaging out”. Sure, the average temperature at the moment swings between 13 and 17 deg C (plus minus a chunk since absolute temperature is hard to assess). But the interglacial swings – part of the fractal dynamics – were far greater than this, of the order of 8-12 deg C, and the Milankovitch cycles don’t come close to explaining a swing of that size. Fractal dynamics do, and they are confirmed by the even larger swings on the multi-megayear timescales.

• pete says:

The mean global temperature is as useful as the mean temperature of your kitchen. It is utterly irrelevant if the mean is a balmy 20 degrees if your freezer has malfunctioned filling one side with ice, while your oven has caught fire. If climate change was in fact real, you would conceivably see such wild regional effects with little change in constructed mean temperatures, as the energy distribution across the planet would be significantly altered.

The global mean is not a proxy for heat content in any way, shape or form. It is a constructed static that has no physical relevance and is entirely dependent on the statistical method employed to construct it. The fact that it is so easily adjustable makes it an alarmists favourite tool.

49. Rhetoric points are counted in a debate, the winner being the one who could get most points. In this sense, may be, Steve Mosher was right to mean that most debates are useless.
A debate can be won with totally wrong arguments.
But it is not the subject: the question is to get the better scientific arguments to help progressing, e.g. understanding better the taxonomy of a frog or the bending of a radiation, and deriving laws that are applicable for actual situations within a given context, e.g. engineering a response to the threat of tsunamis or sending a man to the moon.

When out of 54 models reviewed by IPCC (in AR5) all but one calculate a temperature anomaly that is above the present one (by up to 0.6 °C), we can only wonder if these guys are thinking that the real World is wrong because their theories must be right. Here we get outside the scientific or technical issue, and enter into prophecies.

When scientific issues are dealt with in a scientific manner, it may be more appropriate to speak about “dispute” rather than “debate”: at the end of the game (and it may take a long time) one theory will prevail, …until it will be superseded by a more refined one. As R. Brown rightly describes, this is what happens in scientific societies.

The IPCC is no scientific society; it is a panel of experts appointed to provide advice to governments. Well infiltrated by green advocacy groups, without any democratic foundation, and with unprecedented resources and power, these experts define a modern creed based on their estimate of the significance of those findings that they deem relevant to sustain their beliefs. In place since now 26 years their continuing livelihood depends on not questioning their prophecies; this makes them dependant, the opposite of what is expected from experts.
Such modern clergy has no interest in debates, because a creed doesn’t need any proof.

Meanwhile, in the Church of Radiative Climastrology…

• hunter says:

+10

50. Reg Nelson says:

A truly frightening thing to consider: What if the Kyoto Protocol was universally agreed and acted on in 1997?

The recent “Pause” would be renamed “The Great Warming Reduction”. It would be heralded as proof that their Carbon (Dioxide) claims were correct after all. There would be a further call to action, to reduce CO2 to pre-industrial levels.

Recent temperatures (post 1997) would be adjusted down, not up. Antarctic Sea Ice Extent growth would be front page news. Polar Bear populations would be growing.

And perhaps, just perhaps, Michael Mann would actually receive a real Nobel Peace Prize.

Scary thoughts.

• Jimbo says:

+1 This is why some of us argue we should ‘do nothing’.

What we are seeing now is the Cattle Killing Cult of the Xhosa. ‘We must act now, do more and more until we are no more’.

WUWT – 2009
“Historic parallels in our time: the killing of cattle -vs- carbon”
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/20/historic-parallels-in-our-time-the-killing-of-of-cattle-vs-carbon
=========
Abstract
The Xhosa Cattle-Killing Movement in History and Literature
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00637.x/abstract
/

• Reg,

The political power of that coincidence would have transformed American politics. They’d use the correlation to elevate “science” to a state religion. It was a massive bet by the left, and in this chaotic system they had a good chance of making it work – esp since they control the measurements. Luckily, God is laughing at them.

I’ve argued several times that the greens should just declare victory and move on. In their hubris, they can’t consider it.

• pete says:

This is, IMO, why there was such a rush to implement the alarmist agenda. If the planet continued to warm according to their metrics, we hadnt acted fast enough and needed to do more. If the warming paused according to their metrics, then it would be evidence that what we were doing was working but we need to do more to avoid the future catastrophic warming.

They were looking for a no-lose situation, and I am sure they are not stupid enough to think there wouldnt be another turn in the cycle.

• Jimbo says:

pete
This is, IMO, why there was such a rush to implement the alarmist agenda.

This is why after 18 years of no surface warming, an increase in Antarctic sea ice extent, global sea ice back up from lows of a few years back and a bump upwards in Arctic sea ice extent, they are in a panic and keep stating alarmist phrases like…….

‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’
Nicholas Stern – Guardian – 26 January 2013

What Lord Stern won’t tell you is below his investments and financial interests in carbon schemes which can be found at the Registry of Parliamentary Interests HERE.

2: Remunerated employment, office, profession etc.
Chairman, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment; Chairman, Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy)

Member, International Advisory Panel, Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (Australia)
…..
Member, International Advisory Board, Abengoa SA (Spain)…….

NOTE:
[Abengoa SA (Spain) is engaged in concentrated solar power, 2nd generation biofuels, biomass and wave energy.]
http://www.abengoa.com/web/en/innovacion/areas_de_innovacion/

51. rgbatduke,

Thank you for discussing the scientific process as including debate.

I think a logical extension of this thread’s discussion is whether there is sufficient demarcation now that the IPCC modeling prioritization is outside of the scientific process.

John

52. steveta_uk says:

Penny: [as Sheldon and Leonard fight] Is this usually how these physics things go?

Howard Wolowitz: More often than you’d think.

– Big Bang Theory

53. Joe Born says:

rgbatduke: “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.”

Indeed. That’s why I often feel that science is too important to be left to the scientists, why it falls to us lawyers to test their logic. As it happens, Dr. Brown gave us an example with what I’ve called his “Brown-Eschenbach Law of Lapse-Rate Conservation.”

To get beyond the verbal debate would have required a mathematical treatment, which I offered but Mr. Watts declined to post. Even without the mathematical treatment, though, the logical flaw was detectable but, I’m sad to say, not widely recognized

I agree with Dr. Brown in the abstract. It’s in the specific application that his logic occasionally goes off the rails.

54. Roy says:

I imagine that most people with an interest in the physical sciences will have heard of the debates between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein about quantum mechanics. Although Bohr is generally regarded as having won the debates Einstein’s arguments did force Bohr to think hard about the foundations of quantum mechanics and therefore the debates helped to advance the science. There are lessons in this.

55. Agnostic says:

This is one of the best posts I have seen here at WUWT for quite a while.

56. [snip . . OT, ad hom, no place here . . mod]

57. Congratulations – again – to Professor Brown on a truly first-class summary of the reasons why modeling does not begin to approximate the real climate, and is not going to be able to do so in our lifetimes – if at all. This is perhaps the most outstanding post I have read on any blog. Warmest congratulations and thanks to the Professor for taking the trouble to write with such elegant and rigorous passion. The climate object is deterministic – or the laws of physics are nothing – but, since it is mathematically chaotic and grossly multivariate, on multiple counts it is not determinable.

I once explained to the head of research and the Vice-Chancellor at the University of East Anglia why one could not predict the climate for more than a few days ahead with any reliability, because it was chaotic. The VC looked baffled (he always does), but the head of research became agitated. “But surely,” he said, “we can predict that the summer will usually be warmer than the winter.” I did my best to explain to the poor sap that in a chaotic object not all of the variables behave chaotically, and even those that do tend to do so only across a narrow interval. He said: “Have you published on this?” No, I said: Edward Lorenz had done that in 1963.

What we need in science are many more Professor Browns, who not only have a profound knowledge of their own subject allied to a gift of exposition but also a wide reading across all fields of learning, and many fewer like the dopes at East Anglia who attract all the money because they are good at toeing the Party Line and no good at anything else. Ouroborindra, ouroborindra, ouroborindra, ba-ba-hee!

58. eyesonu says:

Thank you Dr. Brown.

As always you are very concise and leave no stone unturned. You are truly an educator and an excellent one at that.

I also want to thank our host, Anthony, for bringing this to us. There are obvious reasons as to the success of WUWT.

As for any comment on Dr. Browns essay at this point I can only say WOW!

• eyesonu says:

Consider this post/thread a “sticky” for a while? This needs to be seen!

• richardscourtney says:

eyesonu

I agree. Seen, quoted and cited. A “sticky” is desirable.

Richard

• bit chilly says:

+1

• Jimbo says:

I have bookmarked this page. I suggest you all do the same and distribute widely.

59. mwh says:

It does make you wonder how someone who supports a system that attempts to predict a chaotic system that will produce random results doesnt understand the benefit of debate which also can produce chaotic and random results.

Using a model that is emulating a chaotic medium can only produce a chaotic result, adding ‘real parameters’ can make absolutely no difference – a chaotic random answer will prevail. Chaotic results can be all positive, all negative, all neutral or any combination – averaging them again makes no difference – the average of a chaotic system is still chaotic. To my mind it therefore has no value.

However constant reappraising the parameters may produce circumstances where parts of the system are less chaotic or even predictablle – the model however will still be chaotic and produce a random result. Weather is naturally chaotic purely because it cannot ever be completely predictable whilst parameters are unpredictable (all the natural world).

Climate change is inevitable whilst life ie chaos exists. So climate study should involve attempting to understand the past to make better sense of the future when nature produces an unexpected turn. The earth itself has been less chaotic in the past as it has always returned to an equilibrium where life can continue. So within reason we already know that temperature wont keep increasing nor will it absolutely cool (not in the short term next million years anyhow). More useful would be preparing for the extremes in both directions as preparing just for one outcome could exacerbate another.

Dismissing the past as irrelevant is probably the most stupid that this ‘debate’ becomes as the past (LIA MWP glaciation etc) is the most relevant information we have. At some time in the future we can be more than 97% certain that this long warming interglacial period will end, just as we know that the last ‘mini’ cooling period came to an end. The fact that we dont know why these drastic changes occur and then reverse makes the predictive models absurd in the extreme, especially when the ‘modellers’ seem to be the first to deny the past

60. This was a great post Dr. Brown. I read it twice and enjoyed the heck out of it. By the way, I guess I enjoyed it a lot since I agree with most of it.

One take-away for me was the part about the ‘crackpots’ (or those with “way out there theories”) being the men and women who advance science. Biologist Lynn Margulis comes to mind. This is one of the reasons I really enjoy the “transcendental rants” (as the blog roll here calls it) at a site we are not to mention.

Another take-away for me was the part about the one degree of warming per doubling assumed by the “consensus”. CO2 does have an effect in the atmosphere, but it both heats and cools depending on the situation (low atmosphere vs. upper atmosphere for example) and there are always feedbacks. Positive and negative feedbacks. Feedbacks we really don’t fully understand — and some we don’t understand at all. There may be feedbacks whose existence we don’t even suspect.

CO2 in the lower atmosphere may well lose the energy that CO2 absorbs from IR radiation by convection before there is any chance of radiating. (as “gallopingcamel” says) My, my, if that is so then the general consensus of alarmists (and lukewarmers) would need modification.

The only thing that I would have added is that the earth warming several degrees might well be a good thing. Warmth is good for humans.

All in all Dr. Brown, I think that heated debate on this issue needs to be the order of the day. Far too many on all sides claim “the physics is on my side” and “the debate is over” when they may not even be asking the right questions.

Thanks for this essay — this was needed here.

~Mark

61. Kasuha says:

Thank you – to Dr. Brown – for taking time to write this, and thank you – to Anthony and others – for making this an article. It is one of the best things I have ever read here on WUWT. If only more people could read this.

62. Matt says:

Bravo!. However, asserting “They actually average internally over climate runs, which at least is sort of justifiable…” is a testament to your kindness and generosity.

63. hunter says:

This is a really important post.
I think Steve Mosher is being manipulated, whether deliberately or not, by climate extremists.

• I tried to explain what is going on but my comment is not allowed.

• rgbatduke says:

And I for one am curious as to “what is going on” in your mind, and equally curious about why your statements of it are considered ad hominem. Personally I could care less — insult away, if that’s what you’ve got. I understand passion in human debate, and can allow for it.

Be warned — if you are going to impugn my character, my motives, allege that I’m being funded by Big Oil, I’ll probably simply laugh and move on — I still wear my Philmont boy scout belt buckle, have never received so much as a moving violation on the roads, am trusted by a pretty large number of people. My motives speak for themselves. I spend as much time on WUWT bashing people who allege that e.g. the GHE violates the second law of thermodynamics as I do asserting that the statistical processing of climate models is a travesty. I have no dog in this fight, no horse in this race. I also have no funding at all of any sort. I’m basically retired from doing funded research, and support myself teaching. Teaching physics, by the way, so if you want to attack my professional competence you’d better be prepared to do more than just utter words.

rgb

• Richard D says:

The poster trolls Steven Mosher and Willis, not you RGB.
His assertion is that the liberally educated Mosher and Willis lack the credentials to work as scientists or participate in these threads. Never mind both are peer reviewed authors.

• I can only post what is going on so many different ways but it keeps getting removed regardless.

Sorry but Mosher is notably always the last author on a handful of papers published in a vanity journal.

Regardless being legitimately peer-reviewed as Willis has does not make one a scientist.

• My comments can only be considered ad hominem if you are the type who believe’s asking if someone graduated medical school before taking their medical advice is “crazy”.

Mosher really believes he is superior to everyone here, yet lacks the background to make this claim.

64. hunter says:

Perhaps the author would consider editing this so it could be printed in a more general media forum?

• Kip Hansen says:

Reply to hunter ==> Unfortunately Dr. Brown is tremendously busy with a heavy teaching load at Duke. When I suggested that he edit his comment into a blog essay, he declined citing lack of time. We compromised by my acting as “editor subject to author’s approval” and RGB added the postscript to the edited comment.

It is certainly possible that Dr. Brown could turn this and the slashdot.org comment (linked in the postscript) into a major MSM article or OpEd piece — I hope he finds time to do so.

• Richard D says:

Yes, lets hope for an even wider plat form for RGB’s essay.

65. Steve Keohane says:

Thank you Dr. Brown. I always enjoy your explanations. When I started reading climate papers several years ago, I was dismayed to find paper after paper with the same group of authors, just rotating the lead author for a particular paper, but only referencing from papers written by their small group. I had been reading about climate reconstructions from paleontology and paleo-anthropological digs for 45 years, and it seemed all the new perspective was fabricated of whole cloth, with a blind eye to all that went before. Thus my experience concurs with this statement:

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

66. Awesome! I read almost all of Dr. Brown’s (Robert not Emmett) comments, and have felt more than once they should have been elevated. I am glad this one was as I missed the original comment when posted.

I understand the demands on his time are not conducive to writing columns for us “lay people”, so I appreciate the work of our host and Kip Hansen in bringing Dr. Brown’s work to the forefront and polishing it up a bit.

His article could generate an article itself in both what is learned, and the pitfalls that now beset the world of both academia and science in this country. But before that happens, I must read the comments as I skipped to the bottom to congratulate all involved on a fantastic article!

Exceptionally well done!

67. David, UK says:

“Studying the frogs just because they are damn interesting, knowledge for its own sake? Forget it. Nobody’s buying.”

And – where public funding is concerned – rightly so. Who wants to be taxed so that scientists can have fun seeking out knowledge for its own sake? If something is really worth doing, it will be done without tax-payer support.

• M Courtney says:

If something is really worth doing, it will be done without tax-payer support.

And how do you know what is really worth doing before it is done?

Science needs infrastructure. Even X-Ray diffraction can’t be done down the local chemists.

Business will focus on what they are specialised in. And they will perfect that very efficiently (look at how Kodak improved their photography technology).

But to find those mavericks that will change the world? That’s what I pay my taxes for.

• DirkH says:

If you think that that’s what you pay your taxes for then you haven’t paid attention.

• rgbatduke says:

This is dead on the money. No human enterprise has paid for itself more thoroughly than acquiring knowledge for its own sake. Bear in mind that you aren’t just paying for “the results”, you are paying for the entire process that produces the scientists that eventually work in corporations and labs. Most of the things you own and use every day that make your life vastly more comfortable came, in the end, from grant funded research. For one single example, I personally know and worked with the person who funded a lot of the earliest work on the physics that eventually led to flat-panel displays. It was funded by the Army Research Office, because they had an obvious interest, but a lot of the early work was pure science, trying to understand the properties of materials without much of a hint as to precisely how those materials might eventually result in flatpanel displays. Companies had little reason to invest in this as it wasn’t a short run payoff — they made just as much money selling glass CRT monitors, after all. All the companies care about is being competitive and margins, nothing more.

Our real problem, the one I alluded to above, isn’t the “three years”, it is that it is only three years and that you have to claim that your work is going to yield thus and such of a concrete benefit. Yet the most amazing results have come from work that was done with no idea what the benefit, if any, might turn out to be, and a lot of it — “high temperature superconductors” for example — took decades of work. Only a very few companies could afford (and at one time, did afford) that kind of research, a few people with enough of a budget to work, and no deep pressure to produce something right away that would make money. IBM. Bell Labs (and then some, wow!). Those are companies that are almost “governments” in their own right, they are so large. Smaller companies simply can’t afford it.

I don’t claim to know the answer, here. Perhaps giving people a “lifetime grant” — the thing tenure was at one time supposed to be — once they earn it in some way would be good, except that “in some way” is subject to fad and politics and what ensures that they keep trying after they win it? Also, how do you salt the mixture with enough crackpots and iconoclasts?

rgb

• Anybody who wants to fund fundamental research into the elementary particles? If there was no public funding, there wouldn’t be a collider in the Alps, or research on nuclear fusion or other extremely expensive topics…
Nobody knows if the study of elementary particles ever will bring some benefits or that nuclear fusion ever will succeed. Thus for these funding by governments is essential.

And without the curiosity of people to find out what is behind all what happens in the world, we still would be walking in the African savannah…

Ferdinand.

Interesting that you think that curiosity about ‘what is behind all what happens’ is what drove us out of the savannah.

You might be right, but it might be other reasons. Eg: advanced language, advanced mathematical ability, advanced symbolic representation, or even schizophrenic dissociation giving creative advantage (4% of Nobel prize winners are schizophrenic/or partly). Or all of the above.

• milodonharlani says:

IMO our ancestors left the savannah following game & in search of less populated foraging territory. The emigrants’ cognitive abilities were probably the same as those of the people they left behind. Emigration out of Africa first occurred over a million years ago among H. erectus-grade people, & at various subsequent times.

• M Courtney says:

Furthermore on this subject:
From this excellent article in the Torygraph:

You never know where study for its own sake may lead you. Back in the Twenties, Prof Hamilton remembered, a couple of Oxford dons spent hours poring over Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology. This would be condemned by politicians today as useless knowledge. One of them was C S Lewis, the other J R R Tolkien. A lot of people have made a lot of money, and industries have flourished, as a result of the books they wrote, books inspired by their enthusiasm for the useless subjects that fascinated them.

And yes, the Tories in the comments completely miss the point.

68. oMan says:

What a fine contribution to the discussion! My warmest thanks to Robert Brown for writing it, and to WUWT for posting it.

69. Chris D. says:

A really great article! The criticisms of climate science peer review were so spot on. Bookmarking this one. And thank you for the bio.

70. David, UK says:

“We (as scientists) are all too often literally blinded by our knowledge.”

Come on, I doubt a single person has ever been “literally” blinded by his knowledge. Okay, maybe there has been the odd psychosomatic example could be found, of someone so hysterically affected by some shocking news as to momentarily lose their sight, but I doubt it.

• Kip Hansen says:

Reply to David ==> Not quite that literally — intellectually blinded to information and facts that ought to, but failed to, bring about a change in understanding — scientists who hold so strongly to their personally accepted/preferred hypothesis or explanation that they can not “see” the facts that don’t fit their paradigm.

• rgbatduke says:

ROTFL :-)

71. Thank you Professor Brown, I appreciate your insights. Thanks also to Anthony for elevating this essay and for all WUWT does here.

72. Steve from Rockwood says:

73. Jimmy Haigh. says:

RGB hits it out of the park. Again.

74. Thank you Dr Brown, I always enjoy reading your comments/essays, I really don’t think there’s anyone who quite compares in ability to combine clarity, technical detail and indignation at the massive waste and abuse of science that we confront.

75. Jean Parisot says:

“But scientists have to eat, and for better or worse we have created a world where they are in thrall to their funding.”

So a second look at the economic model of the aesthetic scientist monk with a vow of poverty, supported by charity?

76. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

Wow. I am so jealous! None of the dumb, cryptic or or doctrinaire comments I’ve posted at WUWT has ever produced (provoked?) such a detailed and useful response from RGB or any other WUWT luminary. I must strive to do better.

77. rogerknights says:

I hope RGB gets involved in the APS’s reconsideration of its position statement.

78. Roger Caiazza says:

Great post! I would add one point regarding the weather forecaster trick referenced by this quote: “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.”

Weather forecasters only average models that have been shown to produce verifiably correct results under some subset of conditions. That ability to compare model forecasts against observed weather is something that the climate models will never be able to replicate. The fact that the climate science community continues to include models in their averages that produce very unlikely results boggles my mind.

• rgbatduke says:

Granted. Hurricane models come to mind. And even there, wise forecasters use a lot of models, with a lot of mixed-in experience and human judgment.

79. Leo Smith says:

Quite the best post ever. And says what has been worrying me, in a far far better way than I ever could.

“the mean is no longer meaningful”

will be written over the grave of AGW

I thought I recognised the name too. Yes. Mr Brown, this is not the first time you have dashed a bucket of ice cold logic over an overheated debate about a planet that isn’t. (overheated)

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/20/dr-paul-bain-responds-to-critics-of-use-of-denier-term/

Perhaps we should all leave our estates to Universities for ‘research by exceptional students into applications of absolutely no apparent relevance whatsoever’

But I must make a stand for my own discipline. Engineering. WE have to make do with linear approximations to non-linear problems all the time. We are perhaps, the most familiar with the difference between ‘what our calculations tell us’ and what actually happens in reality.

Nevill Shute wrote a novel in which and ex WWI pilot describes the dreaded terrifying Spin. That chaotic turbulent attractor wherein all the normal rules of flight were broken, and which was instant death to WWI pilots before someone demonstrated that diving into it got you out. All agreed that he wasn’t spinning when he finally hit the ground and broke his neck..

Us engineers have had to tiptoe around the edges of our linear equations in dread of stepping off the limits of their applicability.

But fools and climate scientists rush in where engineers fear to tread.

As an engineer, the thesis that ‘there must be some pretty massive overall negative feedback beyond T^4 in climate, or we wouldn’t have evolved’ seems so trivially obvious as to not be worth mentioning, and yet Mann/Jones et al chose to completely disregard that and put in positive feedback to make the ‘rather irrelevant’ contribution of CO2 literally earth shattering.

Likewise the observation that ‘systems with pretty massive negative feedback and long and variable delay paths will exhibit chaotic behaviour that defies prediction and is ultimately aperiodic’ is again obvious to any electronic engineer who has built an amplifier and expected it to be stable rather than burst into random oscillations at a broadband spectrum of frequencies when too much feedback was applied to it.

It is entirely analogous to the n body problem in physics. Two objects, elliptical orbits. Three objects chaos. N objects instability and chaos UNLESS one of the objects is much much more massive than the others so its effect dominates. In electronics, you must have one dominant lag in a system with overall feedback, and if you don’t, you will get instability, even if its contained through non linearity of the right sort. We can predict where instability is, but not what exact form it will take, due to ‘butterfly effects’..

All of this seems to be completely unknown to even sceptical climate scientists, who are still looking for ‘cyclical’ effects. And who still think the mean is meaningful, and that deviations from it must be caused by inputs into it. Rather than them being an inherent property of a more or less closed non linear dynamic system

Climate change happens. What almost no one seems to appreciate is that nothing may be causing it. Beyond the inherent feedbacks in the climate system itself.

So hat tip to Robert Brown, for pointing this absolutely fundamental fact out. Let’s get some basic understanding of non linear dynamic system behaviour into the heads of sceptical scientists at least, before tackling te devotees of AGW.

• A great comment in response to a great post.

+10

• DirkH says:

“All of this seems to be completely unknown to even sceptical climate scientists, who are still looking for ‘cyclical’ effects.”

When we look for cycles we have the underlying assumption that Earth’s climate is influenced by an outside system with some kind of periodicity. In other words, NOT a freely oscillating chaotic system, but a dependent subsystem.

• The climatic record clearly show cycles, so looking for them isn’t the issue. Trying to divine their causes is the issue, IMO.

• rgbatduke says:

Perhaps we should all leave our estates to Universities for ‘research by exceptional students into applications of absolutely no apparent relevance whatsoever’

You laugh, but I’ve thought about precisely this. However, the problem is less with the students and more with the faculty side of things. What is needed is something like a “pre-MacArthur” grant — instead of rewarding genius after it has demonstrated it, which requires spending at least some time “in the system” with all of the compromises that entails, identify promising mavericks early on and fund them in ten year no-strings blocks to demonstrate their possible genius. But even this is probably not quite right — what to do about people who win a grant and then spend it mastering World of Warcraft instead of working? What to do about the department that has to decide between giving you office and/or lab space with no real expectation of getting anything but minimal indirect cost money out of it and with an absolute crap shoot as far as prospects for future fame or concerned, and a diligent young postdoc who was Joe Blow’s student, is utterly part of the establishment with a small track record in some “safe” subject, and who is therefore likely to be a safe bet for funding and can be quietly rejected in 3+ years if they prove to have a personality disorder, a penchant for undergraduates they are teaching, or waste all of their time mastering Sudoku instead of working.

Honestly, I don’t have a good idea of what to do to fix the system. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to work well, only well enough. Even as inefficient as it is, even with the problems and corruption that spring up and are constantly revealed in any kind of science where truly big money comes on the line (climate science, medicine being two of the most noteworthy, but I’m sure there are many other examples at both large and small scale as well) it is still the best investment our civilization ever makes. Indeed, it is one of the very few investments our civilization makes as a collective entity.

I cannot look around the room where I am sitting, or hit a key as I type, without looking at and utilizing countless examples of the value that our investment in education, research and development have yielded. If our civilization proves its worthiness to survive the truly long term, and is not just a transient evolutionary flash in the pan that wipes itself out (or nearly so) within the narrow confines of the single interglacial in which it has sprung up, it will be largely because of the tireless work of the many, many people who are trying hard to figure out this “reality” thing so we can use it, husband it, conserve it, and put it in harness to our best benefit for as long as fortune and resources permit us to survive as a continuous line of evolutionary descent. The return on investment isn’t for a few years, it isn’t even for a lifetime. It is across the entire future of our species, and the contingent future of all of the species on Earth that we are now the conservators for in knowledge as opposed to merely being knee-jerk co-participants with. Fruit of the tree of knowledge and all that… who among us would not eat of that metaphorical fruit again if that were the price to be paid for being something more than just a beast…

Aw, now I’m getting all mushy and poetical. Time to move on.

rgb

80. Excellent post Dr. Brown and thank you.
I like the idea of a sticky post, also.

81. David L. Hagen says:

Another eloquent AGW expose by Physicist Brown!
Re Einstein: After One Hundred Authors against Einstein (1931): Albert Einstein replied

that to defeat relativity one did not need the word of 100 scientists, just one fact.

Similarly:

Note also Einstein’s Razor:

“Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

i.e., do NOT exclude chaos!
Richard Feynmann succinctly summarized:

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.

The scientific fallacies in alarmist “climate science” are then compounded by Noble Cause Corruption, and descending to rhetorical logical fallacies.

(Libertarian A. Birch provides a similarly cogent argument in 100 Authors Against Einstein – Scientific ‘Consensus’ and Scepticism)

82. NZ Willy says:

Definitive and authoritative statement of how science works and how today’s “climate science” is not practiced as a science. Accolades to Dr.Brown. This post deserves permanent archiving in a prominent place.

83. This is one of several excellent lengthy comments from Robert Brown that have been elevated to full WUWT posts. You can find the others by putting rgbatduke into the search box.
They include (links omitted to avoid going into moderation)

Is the climate computable?
The “ensemble” of models is completely meaningless, statistically
On certainty: Truth is the Daughter of Time

• Harry Passfield says:

Paul: I have actually downloaded all four (your three plus this one) of RGB’s posts and created them in a PDF (with TOC) which I have sent to my Kindle. That way I can (re-)read them at my leisure and use them for reference.

Of course, in doing so, I beg (belated) permission of RGB/AW to do so – and will, of course, remove the PDF from my Kindle if told otherwise.

• rgbatduke says:

No problem, feel free. I think I give up presumptive ownership when I post on Anthony’s blog, but I could care less regardless as long as you don’t block copy my words into a document, attach your name to it, and sell it as if you wrote it without attribution. All fair use is fair, intellectual theft of the text is not. And if I ever do write it up in a book and sell it, you can always buy a copy and hence reward me the best of ways — with money…;-)

rgb

84. bobbyv says:

Climate modelling may be related to the quantum mechanical observation problem – observing something disturbs it. Or better yet, the observer is part of the system.
Likewise, building a computer powerful enough to model the climate may produce so much heat as to alter the climate. Then then problem becomes akin to Turing’s halting problem.

85. ossqss says:

I smell a book here.

“The Inverted Pyramid of Climate Science”

Regards, Ed

86. Gary says:

This piece really is two essays glued together. The first part questions whether the practice of science is a debate and the second part is a much longer take down of modeling as used by climate scientists.

Regarding the first part, Mosher is correct that “science” is not debate; it’s accumulation of knowledge about the physical universe. He’s incorrect, however, concerning the practice of science which is nothing but debate in all forms and contexts — a constant dialectical scenario of challenges and defenses with knowledge as a byproduct of the activity. Of course it gets messy and goes astray at times. But just because the so-called public “debates” are mostly theatrical doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of the practice of science (albeit, a side-show part). They serve to focus the attention on issues of uncertainty and contention, which is where science (knowledge) needs to advance.

87. Jeff Alberts says:

And that is what Brown can do for you.

• Kip Hansen says:

+10

• It makes me conflicted. On the one hand I want to hate Duke. On the other, he is the best argument for sending my kids there for a good education!

• rgbatduke says:

We do love to be hated, especially by folks who wear light blue and live about 8 miles from my house. As a double Duke alum, we do love to be hatin’ right back just as much.

But we do try to be careful to balance “hatred” with a deep and profound respect, both for the quality of the very sports programs we hate (when they belong to the other side in this lifelong “debate”:-) and especially for the integrity of the Universities in question and their academic programs.

My only regret is cost. I wish somebody with a few billion surplus dollars would simply donate (say) two of them to Duke for the specific and sole purpose of funding 100% of the tuition of all undergraduate students, in perpetuity. All students who attend get a completely free ride, regardless of the economic circumstances of their parents either way — the wealthy and the poor, American or from the rest of the world. I think it would change the way the University works profoundly, and perhaps serve as a model for the future of higher education everywhere.

There have to be some billionaires out there who would never miss the bucks. I mean, how many billions do you need in order to live pretty comfortably, right?

Sigh.

rgb

88. Joseph Murphy says:

Thank you Dr. Brown for taking the time to write that.

89. Outstanding post. Two criticisms:

1. The post really covers a lot more terrain than the title lets on. Initially, it makes the point that debates are a vital part of science. After that, it dives into the role of mathematics in science, the politics and sociology of science, chaos theory, and the absurd abuse of computer modelling in climate science. On each of these subjects, Dr. Brown has something insightful and important to say that on its own would merit a separate post.

2. The role of mathematics in science. I see where Dr. Brown is coming from as a physicist, but I do think that he overstates its scope and importance. Scientific principles that cannot, or not yet, be stated within the framework of a first-principles quantitative theory are no less interesting and important than the ones that can. Some examples:

– DNA is the genetic material.

– Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses and diverse eukaryotic pathogens that we can identify and combat with vaccines, hygiene, and chemotherapy.

– Plants require a source of organic nitrogen, which we can supply either through crop rotation or chemical fertilizers for the sake of crop maximization.

– The GABA(A) receptor is a key inhibitory receptor in the brain, and we can activate it with drugs in order to suppress anxiety and epileptic activity or to achieve narcosis.

Indeed, some of the best scientists that I have encountered within my own broad area of research (biochemistry and microbiology) have no discernible mathematical talent at all. I even suspect that they benefit from their lack of mathematical talent, since it lets them avoid going down the path of premature generalization and model building and keeps their attention firmly focused at the qualitative level of analysis that is appropriate for our current understanding. Of note, there are computer nerds in the area of cell biology as well, but so far they have not accomplished anything of consequence. How could they, if the number of molecules, mechanisms and connections that participate in information processing within the cell continues to grow at a rapid clip – the inadequacy of their models resembles that of the climate models.

Let us not forget that our minds are a product of evolution. With most of us, the ability to form an understanding of the world in qualitative terms far exceeds that of coming up with Newton’s physics, or even Ohm’s law. This means that qualitative understanding is what evolution deemed most beneficial and relevant to survival. Indeed, our quantitative skills probably have more to do with economical estimates – how many apples in this tree, how many monkeys already here? Should monkey climb this tree or go find another one? – than with forming quantitative theories about the world. An actual use for the amazing mathematical genius of a few of us has only emerged very recently in the history of man.

• richardscourtney says:

Michael Palmer

That is a superb addition to the above article from Robert Brown. I enjoyed it

Thankyou.

Richard

• Michael Palmer. A superb comment. Mathematics is a tool kit. Suitable tools for some problems. Not all.

• jorgekafkazar says:

“Let us not forget that our minds are a product of evolution.”

If they’re products of evolution, there should be a factory recall notice any day now.

jorgekafkazar

As Darwin alluded, the devil’s chaplain could write a book on how cruel and bumbling nature has messed with our evolved brains.

I often look at it like this, physically nature has been tinkering with our bodies for hundreds of millions of years, and they still have issues. But mentally, advanced intelligence is rather new, and it shows. (Have a look at the Middle East-tribal mental faculties hastily cobbled together by nature randomly producing a suite of sinister side effects etc etc.).Nature simply hasn’t had long enough to tinker with advanced intelligence so we have all sorts of issues with it.

• TYoke says:

Good post, and probably most physicists would at least partly agree.

Here is Richard Feynman:
“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms—little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied…”

• rgbatduke says:

I have to say that this is empirically incorrect. The atomic hypothesis was around for 2000+ years and was nearly pointless during most of that because people lacked the tools to see for themselves how the Universe works. Here’s mine:

Glass, made by melting sand and lime, can be formed into bulbous shapes and assembled into valuable tools that permit one to see things that are too small too small to see with the naked eye and that are too far away to make out with the naked eye.

The invention of the microscope and telescope made the scientific revolution an inevitability. No communication of mere scientific fact is sufficient to catalyze the process that (re)generates science, but the conveyance of the essence of the technology behind these two tools in a single sentence is. After that, it’s just a matter of getting sand, adding some crushed up seashells, cranking up a furnace, and fiddling.

After only a tiny bit of fiddling, people can see for themselves that bacteria cause disease and that the Earth goes around the Sun etc, and the rest is — or rather, was and would very likely be again — history.

rgb

• TYoke on October 7, 2014 at 6:49 pm quoted Feynman,

Richard Feynman said, “If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? . . . ”

– – – – – – – –

TYoke,

I would suggest the simple sentence containing the most information to pass onto the next generation of [intelligent] creatures would be;

Your associated planet travels a path once in every year completely around your sun.

John

That would stimulate looking outward and away from mythology / superstition / supernaturalism.

John

90. JustAnotherPoster says:

“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” <—-

One only has to look at the impact of the debate in the house of commons in the UK with regards to military action in Syria if which there was a full open and honest debate about proceeding into armed conflict to realise this is utter nonsense.

One could have a look at the arguments in economics about numerous economic theories and which one is best as well…..

91. Professor Bob Ryan says:

An exceptional essay – absolutely first class, and the type of essay I would have tried to write if I had the time and motivation (I emphasis the word ‘tried’). Some brilliant responses too from LabMonkey and Richard Courtney. I look out for Steven Mosher’s comments because I respect his point of view if not always his manners. However, I doubt he would find common ground with Robert Brown.

As I have read Steven Mosher over the year’s now I am struck with the thread of Platonic rationalism in his thinking. He is, I suspect, convinced that the reality of climate change can be accessed through the exercise of pure reason. I also suspect that he believes that there are contingently necessary truths about the climate and how it responds. If the data doesn’t agree then the data is wrong. It needs to be corrected until it does agree. Models, for rationalists are a way of capturing the implications of a fundamental underlying reality which the expression of immutable laws and mathematical relationships. They are an extension of our powers of reason and only through them can reality be uncovered. For them models are the reality and the world we observe is just an imperfect reflection of the laws which motivate them.

Robert Brown, conversely is an empiricist and a realist – he believes passionately in a correspondence theory of truth, we come to learn things, to theorise and to know through our perception of an external and objective reality. For him chaos theory is a rich mathematical description of what he observes, for the rationalist it is an abrogation of reason – the ultimate cop-out. For the empiricist models might be fun but the only reality they possess is their own. They only have have value if they work.

It has been a privilege reading Robert Brown’s essay – in it he captures the essence of the scientific spirit where we learn by discovery, we learn where to look but ultimately it is nature who tells us the truth – not the other way round. He also comes across as lacking that cardinal intellectual sin – arrogance. He is prepared to debate and does not assume that because someone doesn’t agree with him that they have been too lazy to read the literature or, even worse, are too stupid to understand. True empiricists are always ready to learn, rationalists are too ready to instruct.

• Stephen Richards says:

+50

• Harold says:

“He is, I suspect, convinced that the reality of climate change can be accessed through the exercise of pure reason.”

He and the entire “it’s basic physics” bunch. It’s not exactly a novel argument.

• Mark Bofill says:

~sigh~
Maybe I should change my handle from my name to something else, like ‘MoshersFanBoy’?
MoshersFanBoy. I wouldn’t like that. I expect Steven wouldn’t care for it either. Whatever. The fact remains:

He is, I suspect, convinced that the reality of climate change can be accessed through the exercise of pure reason. I also suspect that he believes that there are contingently necessary truths about the climate and how it responds. If the data doesn’t agree then the data is wrong. It needs to be corrected until it does agree.

This is an outrageous thing to say about Steven, who AFAIK has actually gotten his hands dirty and done the work digging into the data, and who has according to every direct account I’ve been able to dig up has always behaved with integrity.

Steven appears to be many negative things. He is irritating, contrary, terse, obscure, obnoxious … and he seems to delight in being these things. He may be wrong about many things, I hope he is. So on. But this? I don’t see it.

K, I’ve made my obligatory remark so I can wash my hands and move on with a clear conscience, carry on.

• Professor Bob Ryan says:

Mark: I would not presume to question Steven Mosher’s integrity. What I am pointing out is that we have alternative views of the world and different beliefs about how we gain knowledge. That doesn’t mean that he is not interested in data, nor that he has not been prepared to get his hands dirty as you put it. What it means is that he and Robert Brown see the world in different ways and that any debate between them is likely to result in them talking past one another. Just as you and I appear to have done.

• How do you know how much he looked at the data and actually understands it? Because he said so? LMAO!

• Tim in Florida says:

Mark
You chastised me for making the same exact points as dr brown. Although much abbreviated. The issue is Steve is one of the committed and now can not back out. He needs to learn: Welcome to WalMart how may I help you.

• Mark Bofill says:

I would not presume to question Steven Mosher’s integrity. What I am pointing out is that we have alternative views of the world and different beliefs about how we gain knowledge.

I understood what you said Bob. It’s just that if somebody claimed about me that I believed that If the data doesn’t agree then the data is wrong. It needs to be corrected until it does agree. , I’d expected them to be able to substantiate that claim. Otherwise I’d conclude it was a slur. Can you substantiate your claim about Steven, or are you just speculating without any substantial evidence?

Because you can act as if it’s just an alternative view of the world and a different approach to gaining knowledge, but saying that somebody thinks that facts need to be adjusted to fit their theories is, in my view, nothing more than a rather straightforward and unsubtle way of saying their epistemological methodology is crap and trying to discredit them.

• Mark Bofill says:

Tim,

You chastised me for making the same exact points as dr brown. Although much abbreviated. The issue is Steve is one of the committed and now can not back out. He needs to learn: Welcome to WalMart how may I help you.

I hope this does not astonish or appall you, but while I respect Dr. Brown greatly and agree with much of what he has to say, I was not overwhelmed by this particular essay.
I’m sure I don’t understand what you mean when you say Steven needs to learn to work at Walmart, and somehow I’m equally sure I don’t want you to explain.

Poptech,
Meh. I’m not arguing about Mosher with you. Never understood your problem with him, don’t really care, it’s your problem, whatever the heck its all about.

• Professor Bob Ryan says:

Mark: let’s be clear here: empiricism and rationalism are two quite opposite views about how we gain ‘justified, true belief’ (Plato’s definition of knowledge) about the world. The first asserts that we can only access knowledge through perception and experience. There are no necessary truths about the world that we come to know a-priori i.e, before we look. Rationalists on the other hand believe that the route to certain knowledge of the world is through the exercise of pure reason and this tradition goes back to Socrates and Plato. Some of our finest mathematicians and scholars are self avowed Platonists – look up Roger Penrose, for example. The key point is that for the Rationalist data, observation if you like, are simply shadows on the wall of the cave. Data is simply an imperfect reflection of the ‘true world’ determined by ‘theory’ constructed from axiomatic premises and deduced using mathematics.

Empiricists don’t see the world that way – they see the reverse. Data is what we observe, that is the real world and a theory is true if it corresponds with that data. Robert Brown’s opening remarks include a commitment to the ‘correspondence theory of truth’. For him theory is the servant of data, for the Rationalist, data is the servant of theory. My reading of what Steven Mosher has written over the years leads me to the view that he takes a Platonic view of the world. If I am correct in that then, in my view, no matter how brilliant Roger Brown’s essay might be, there will be no meeting of minds.

So, I am not accusing Steven Mosher of acting like some dodgy bookkeeper, fiddling the accounts. What I suspect is true is that if the data on climate change does not agree with the necessary logic of climate science then his presumption is that there is either some measurement issue or the data is being misinterpreted. Robert Brown sees that world the other way – the fact that global temperatures are outside the range of all but one climate model suggests that those models – theories of climate change – captured mathematically and represented in computer code are fundamentally misspecified.

• Mark Bofill says:

I am not accusing Steven Mosher of acting like some dodgy bookkeeper, fiddling the accounts.

If so, I see that I did misunderstand your implication.

Good enough for me.

• Mark, I have a problem with people wasting their time with someone who is not remotely an expert in this field.

• Lets put it in a way everyone can understand:

A guy shows up here with a background in marketing, he then proceeds to tell everyone what is and is not valid science in a discussion on climate change. People waste an endless amount of time discussing this with him. Is that not a waste of time?

• Dr. Strangelove says:

Prof.
Empiricists see with their eyes wide open. Rationalists see with their eyes closed. Mathematicians are typically rationalists. Science is a mix of empiricism and rationalism. They are the experimenters and theorists. Theoretical physicists like Einstein, Dirac and Witten are rationalists. They believed reality can be grasped by pure thought. It may be true sometimes but the scientific method is a superior way of grasping objective reality.

• Professor Bob Ryan says:

Dr Strangelove, ‘Empiricists see with their eyes wide open. Rationalists see with their eyes closed’ – that’s a very nice way of putting it – I must remember that one. Thank you. Bob

• Dr. Strangelove says:

Bob
It isn’t original. It was Milankovic who said that. The rationalist who invented the Milankovic cycles. In response to empiricist-critics whose observations did not fit his theory. He believed he would be eventually proven right. Einstein had the same attitude. When asked what if observations disprove his theory. He replied I would be sorry for the dear Lord but the theory is correct.

• Professor Bob Ryan says:

Dr Strangelove – you might not pick this up but thanks for the reference to the source of the quote – much appreciated. Bob

92. As usual, Mosher could not be more wrong about the history and philosophy of science. He is part of the push thoroughly to corrupt the scientific method in order to advance an anti-scientific agenda.

In fact, debates big and small are now and always have been part of the scientific method, as Dr. Brown shows. Here are a few famous past public debates:

1) Evolution: Huxley v. Wilberforce, 1860.
2) Germ Theory of Disease: Lister v. opponents, 1879.
3) Quantum Mechanics (cited above): Einstein v. Bohr, 1920s.
4) Catastrophic Floods: Bretz v. opponents, 1927.

5) The plate tectonics debates that ranged behind the scenes in geology and geophysics between 1924 and the mid-1960’s,
6) The moon’s crater’s: Whether volcanic or meteor impact. Also not answered until the mid-60’s, confirmed only with the landings on the moon in 1969 – 1970’s

• I was thinking of formal debates in public. Certainly there was lots of debate over “continental drift” before its cause, ie seafloor spreading, was discovered and the theory of plate tectonics formulated. The formation of craters awaited good evidence. But you’re right that controversy, not consensus, is the life blood of science. Consensus is frequently wrong, except when formerly controversial positions become the new consensus, as in for example whether the earth goes around the sun or the sun around the earth, and subsequently whether earth’s orbit is circular or elliptical.

• [snip . . ad hom . . attack the points not the man, read the site rules . . mod]

93. Harold says:

[Applause]

Waiting for the drive-by from the Swedish Chef.

• jorgekafkazar says:

That’s just another point on the same insanity-stupidity continuum.

94. Stephen Richards says:

There have been two recent posts on the blogosphere worthy of the highest praise and the widest publication. This is one ( and not the first from Dr Brown) the other is this one http://www.drroyspencer.com/2014/10/tell-me-why-by-pointman/ from POINTMAN.

Both are worthy of several re-reads.

95. Steven Mosher says:

“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.”

Wrong. But that’s not the kind of debate you or others are asking for. You in fact are invited to these kinds of debates all the time.

The kinds of debates I am refereing to are these

“1) Evolution: Huxley v. Wilberforce, 1860.
2) Germ Theory of Disease: Lister v. opponents, 1879.
3) Quantum Mechanics (cited above): Einstein v. Bohr, 1920s.
4) Catastrophic Floods: Bretz v. opponents, 1927.”

See?

rare.

• Those are just famous ones. They happen all the time in real science, as opposed to bogus rent-seeking like CACA.

• They show that public debate is an ordinary feature of science. Real scientists aren’t afraid to argue their positions in public, unlike the charlatans purveying CACA.

• Spence_UK says:

Firstly, that you list 4 famous debates (although one of these was not a scientific debate) does not mean others do not exist. For every famous debate, there may be 100x more major debates. Of course they are not as well known, but they certainly exist. For every major debate, there may be 100x medium debates, probably unknown outside their own fields. For every medium debate, there may be 100x minor debates, probably unknown outside a room full of people within a field. Millions of debates, going on all the time.

However your examples show that you are not aware of your science history. Huxley vs. Wilberforce was not a scientific debate; it was theatre, a debate between a scientist and a theologian. These debates go on today but have little to do with science.

Debates with regard to the evolution or fixity of species happened in scientific circles at least 50 years BEFORE Darwin published his work, on the origin of species. When Darwin published, the idea of evolution of species was well established and not controversial; what was missing was the mechanism and compelling supporting evidence for that mechanism. The debates that went on in scientific circles around 1860 was whether Lamarckian mechanisms or Darwinian mechanisms were right. Mendel’s experiments should have resolved this within the decade, but the importance of his work was not recognised until some 40 years later.

So you miss the real interesting scientific debates of the era (Lamarckian vs. Darwinian evolution, Mendelian inheritance) and instead play on the theatre which has little to do with science.

• Evolution, what was then known as “transmutation of species”, was increasingly accepted by the 1840s, but still lacked a good explanation. Lamarckian inheritance of acquired traits had long already been rejected.

Huxley v. Wilberforce was indeed an important scientific debate, with many notable scientists, some of whom were like Soapy Sam also clergymen, in the audience. The debate was on scientific issues, not theology. Wilberforce was schooled in natural science. Darwin’s own degree was gained with heavy reliance on “natural theology”, then predominant in Anglican thought.

Some of Darwin’s own mentors like Sedgwick and Fitzroy sided with Wilberforce.

• Spence_UK says:

Lamarckian evolution had not been rejected, indeed Darwin himself was schooled by Jameson who was an advocate of Lamarckian thinking and Darwin only rejected Lamarckian evolution himself based on the evidence he had gathered on his trip on the Beagle. Furthermore, far from being rejected, Lamarckian principles of inheritance had a resurgence in the early 20th century, e.g. with Lysenkoism.

The debate between Huxley and Wilberforce was not about competing ideas in science, but about the interaction between the science and the church. The fact that Huxley (and indeed most scientists of the day) had an interest in theology is irrelevant – they were scientists by training and studying from a scientific perspective. Wilberforce, on the other hand, had no scientific training and was a career clergyman.

The relevance of Huxley vs. Wilberforce was not about scientific theories, but about the intrusion of the church into scientific matters where scientific thinking conflicted with church doctrine. Darwin’s ideas had difficulty getting traction as the church made efforts to make his ideas socially unacceptable. This does have some parallels with climate change – since environmental activists (both inside and outside of scientific circles) have gone to great lengths to make scepticism of the mainstream thinking politically unacceptable. In that context, Huxley vs. Wilberforce is a poor example of a scientific debate, but is perhaps a good example of the problems facing climate science today, with environmental activists holding the position of the church, using peer pressure to make certain viewpoints socially unacceptable.

• Tim in Florida says:

What is the definition of is

Pathetic response. Really pathetic.

• Doubting Rich says:

Why do you get to define what debates other people want? Why do you not acknowledge the fundamental difference between most science and current climate science, the vast and damaging effects of the policies based upon it, which demands a public debate?

As far as I see, sceptics (I include myself) would like any type of debate. They would prefer it to be on the record and reported, but even a debate under Chatham House rules would be better than no debate and an absurd proclamation that the debate (which never happened) is over.

A simple series of discussions, exploring the issues of known science and mathematics, known unknowns and unknown unknowns (and indeed potentially unknowable unknowns) would be very helpful to the broader public debate (which is going on, whether you like it or not, because this has policy implications which scientists, however arrogant they have become, are NOT qualified to decide unilaterally for us). It would also help the science.

That is why such debates happen as Dr Brown describes, why they are common. Even as an undergraduate I got into a debate, in a bar in Greece after what should have been a straightforward presentation of the day’s field study (I was studying Earth Sciences, so the pub is the normal venue for anything but formal teaching) about something that no-one knew for sure at the time.

Funnily enough my hypothesis “won” the debate, against a senior fellow of the department’s hypothesis (which I had misunderstood when he described it, hence the debate when I presented my version to the other students) because I was using some very recent geochemistry results that I had just learnt in a lecture and he was not a geochemist, so had never heard them. This is an example of what I think is the most important reason for debates that go beyond small circles of specialists: academics get very specialised and very isolated in their specialisations. For an example on topic many of the most robust criticisms of the climate scientists attack their statistical manipulation, which appears to be appalling. Debate with people who know more about these things is important – hence my despair at those who imply that only climate scientists can judge climate science.

There are questions we sceptics ask over and over and over again, important questions that have never been answered. These questions would come up in debate, and we could find out whether there is an answer or whether, as I suspect, the climate scientists are just ignoring these issues to support their beliefs (and incidentally their grants, there prestige, their influence and in many cases their fame) and assuming the answers are not important or coincide with their claims.

That is not good enough even for science. It is far from good enough for policy decisions THAT ARE KILLING PEOPLE.

Alarmists have to face up to the FACT that policies they demand do serious harm to people, to poor people in developed countries and most of all to the poorest in the world who remain in grinding poverty and die early for lack of clean, cheap energy represented by electricity generated from coal. That the latter are black people in Africa and brown people in Asia makes it easy to ignore them, and I don’t think these fools even understand the lives of poor people in Britain, Europe or North America. They can afford more expensive energy, so why not raise the price?

This is of course why CAGW needs a public debate. The hypothesis is being used to support policies that have very serious implications. That hypothesis needs itself to be debated, in public with ALL questions answered and not relying the disgraceful logical fallacies currently being presented to the public at large. Then, and only then, the resulting policies need to be debated – a debate in which climate scientists have no more standing than any other person.

96. Steven Mosher says:

‘ 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.”

Meetings.
Now, did you argue at the meeting? Yup
Was it a public debate? Nope

1. who was the moderator
2. who was the time keeper.
3. How was the audience selected?
4. was it open to the general public?
5. Was it taped.?
. Did the poll the audience before and after to see who won?

So, are there meetings in science where scientists argue with each other at conferences on a “panel”
yes. When we attend these do they ask us before and after what are views are? nope. Does the audience
vote and say “Oh brown won” Nope.

Here is what you guys typically mean by debate? Watch Gavin run from the debate.
Hmm, what I see below is typically what you want. Not meetings at conference.

If you play liberal like word games and call panels at conferences debates, then fine. But that’s not what I am talking about .

• In the case of evolution, not only public debates but courtroom trials have been common since 1860.

• Wellcome Trust found that “more than half of (1600 surveyed UK) scientists had participated in some form of communication of research to non-specialist audiences in the previous year”. Obviously not always in a debate or other adversarial format, but still indicative of the ordinariness of public presentation of views whether conflicting or not.

The Role of Scientists in Public Debate

• And speaking of trials, why is Mann hiding from those whom he has sued?

• jorgekafkazar says:

“Was it a public debate? Nope…was it open to the general public?”–Steven Mosher, above

Steven, nowhere in your original comment did you use the words “public debate.” Nor did you use “public” by itself. You’ll get a hernia running around moving the goal posts like that.

• Pethefin says:

Utterly pathetic Steve, this blog post was not about you or your definition of a “debate”, Care to comment the actual content of this post or was it simply too much for you to handle?

• timg56 says:

Mosher,

So you are going to argue on what constitutes a debate?

Since the starting point for much of this were the statements “The science is settled.” and “The debate is over.”, RGB’s use of the term seems entirely in context and applicable.

• David A says:

Things are getting very Monte Pythonish around here as we debate what a debate is.

• How about a public debate between Steve Mosher and Doctor Brown hosted by Wuwt. I personally would pay to see that.

I have learned more from Dr. Brown just reading his post then I have from any article posted. Steve Mosher is harsh and I think quite often on the wrong side of the facts but he is also a fine researcher and quite willing to work for an answer and quite capable carrying and argument.

• jorgekafkazar says:

I agree. Mosher can be a PITA, but there are more than a few times when he puts his metaphorical finger right on the relevant issue in a debate…oops, I mean, in a thread. And anyone who abhors wiggle-matching can’t be all bad.

• Jimbo says:

I agree, a debate between Mosher and Brown.

• average joe says:

That video of Schmidt refusing to debate, or even discuss, his data and source of his conclusions with someone of opposing views is a strong tell, that Schmidt knows his position is weak, but will not admit it. I call that cowardice, pure and simple. I would like to see congress pass legislation, that accepting any reasonable request to debate one’s research is a requirement for receiving public funds for such research. I agree that a researcher who’s findings are sound may occasionally lose a battle, but will always win the war in public debate if they will remain open, honest, and consistent in their message. I strongly believe Schmidt, and anyone else who refuses to openly discuss and debate their publicly funded research, should not receive any further taxpayer funding! In receiving public money they must hold a higher than average standard for avoiding even the appearance of bias in their work. Why in the hell are we funding these people? I am really angry about this.

97. “Real Science Debates Are Not Rare”
Well, they are rare when it comes to the elites of climate scientists.
Show me when these people participated in a true debate about climate science:
Michael Mann, Phil Jones, James Hanson, Gavin A. Schmidt, Peter Gleick, William Connolley, Keith Briffa, Kevin E. Trenberth.
Also some of their followers, who are not scientists, but hold the keys to power have not debated as far as I know: (Barack Obama, Al Gore, Regina “Gina” McCarthy, Ban Ki-moon, etc.)

98. rgbatduke says:
October 3, 2014 at 8:41 am

. . . They [for example a group of researchers exposed in the ClimateGate emails] 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 [they use]:

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 [they are] 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 [they] can cite hundreds of peer reviewed publications that conclude that it is a fact, so it must be so.

c) Therefore, I [they] recommend rejecting this paper.

– – – – – – – – – – –

That does represent a reasonable description of the argument / logic used to either block or reject publication of research which is fundamentally critical of research that finds significant fossil fuel created global warming.

However, the description of that argument / logic lacks their use of a falsely held premise which is hidden or at least unstated. That hidden / unstated falsely held premise is that some special groups of scientists somehow have possession of some pre-scientific, omnipotent, ‘a priori’ and unquestionable truth about the Sun, the Solar System, the Earth Moon System and the Earth Ocean Atmosphere System. Their false premise is that those people, who say they are scientists, believe they already know a higher level climate truth prior to the scientific endeavor.

John

John.

“….believe they already know a higher level climate truth…”.

Yes, and I am firmly convinced it relates to Malthusian concepts.

They have blindly accepted paradoxes and weaknesses within Malthus’s ideas without realising it.

• thingadonta on October 7, 2014 at 6:33 pm

– – – – – – – – –

I agree.

Also the scientific community members I refer to have a preconceived and pre-science concept of the role of man in nature that warps their perspective; which is related somewhat to Malthusian ideas.

John

99. stephen says:

100. pouncer says:

I’ve argued that the climate debate should be seen in terms of Hubert Lamb vs Michael Mann. Mann “shafted” the wavy historical pattern, and there were not enough paleo-climatologists around at the time to debate the old-school Lamb position on variability. We’ve been circling round and round on the same issue ever since.

IF Lamb’s pattern is correct climate is both more naturally variable than mainstream contemporary Mannian’s believe, and more sensitive or responsive to changes in “forcing” than many skeptics would care to admit. If Mann’s incorrectly derived pattern turned out to be correct (once correctly associated with so-far-hypothetical “good” proxies and “valid” statistical methods) then it’s difficult to see why historical stabilization forces aren’t going to kick in against CO2, as they have all other forcings in the past 1000 years or so.

Over the longer term the problem is that the paleo record indicates the most stable pattern of Earthly climate is an ice ball. If RGB is correct (and I’m inclined to suppose he is) then the direction of a linear forcing to our chaotic system provides absolutely no clue about which way the system will respond. We may reach a tipping point where radiative warming kicks off catastrophic cooling. Models can’t say. The precautionary principle then requires us to invest against the risk of either dramatic cooling or dramatic warmth, from ANY forcing, whether anthropogenic, astronomical, geological, or any combination. And such investments must bear in mind that cooling is vastly more dangerous and harder to revoke than warming.

• average joe says:

pouncer, I agree with your comment, however I would like to point out that the precautionary principle is a value judgement. How much am I willing to pay (cost) for how much higher probability that catastrophic climate change won’t occur.

It is also a question of timetable. When may it potentially occur. Some people may see little value in less probability of catastrophic climate change occuring long after they will be dead. People cannot automatically assume that everyone shares similar values on this topic. It is a value question, and comes down to a moral choice. Legislating such choices does not usually end well.

• David A says:

Pouncer says…”We may reach a tipping point where radiative warming kicks off catastrophic cooling. Models can’t say.”

True, models can’t say. Yet we do have some history of high CO2, indeed, much higher then today, and it did not kick off a snowball earth then. So observations indicate that an increase in atmospheric CO2 will not kick off the next glaciation. Some have argued that it could prevent it.

• rgbatduke says:

Over the longer term the problem is that the paleo record indicates the most stable pattern of Earthly climate is an ice ball. If RGB is correct (and I’m inclined to suppose he is) then the direction of a linear forcing to our chaotic system provides absolutely no clue about which way the system will respond. We may reach a tipping point where radiative warming kicks off catastrophic cooling. Models can’t say. The precautionary principle then requires us to invest against the risk of either dramatic cooling or dramatic warmth, from ANY forcing, whether anthropogenic, astronomical, geological, or any combination. And such investments must bear in mind that cooling is vastly more dangerous and harder to revoke than warming.

Precisely correct. For the last 600,000 to 1,000,000 years, the Earth has spent roughly 90% of its geo time as an iceball, 90,000 years in, 10,000 years out. During the out bit the interglacial temperatures have equalled or exceed the present — in the last (the Eemian IIRC) there was a peak substantially — 1 to 2 C — warmer. Those Atlanteans and their burning of fossil fuels, I guess.

But that’s the thing you have to watch a chaotic, or for that matter a merely bistable system do — switch attractors — to believe it, to see the ultimate downfall of linear thinking. The thing is, the motion is best described as an orbit, and orbits do not behave intuitively. For example, how do you catch up to somebody who is ahead of you in an orbit? If you simply speed up in their general direction, you move out, to a higher orbit, not forward in the orbit you are in. In a multiattractor model, increasing the orbit simply makes it more likely that you will jump attractors. But — and this is a point I’ve made repeatedly in discussions with people regarding the models currently being used — the current models don’t really have multiple attractors.

Here’s a simple challenge for the modellers. Run the models through with known orbital variations and demonstrate that they correctly track the actual climate observed/inferred from the paleo proxy record, that is, the precise track of the Pliestocene, with its gradually deepening and variable period of glaciation. This should be easy — and should be the first thing done with the models to ensure that they have the principle feedbacks, the ones responsible for critical instabilities, properly represented in their models. I say “easy” because hey, it isn’t even full blown chaos, its just quasi-periodicity, a bit of fractal stuff going on. Once the models can fairly precisely reproduce the last 4 million years of obviously structured climate variation, one might believe that they have the essential physics correct “enough” to predict the dynamics of the attractors themselves as underlying driving undergoes some very simple time evolution. They might then be trusted to predict (for example) how close we are to the next glacial transition, instead of this being yet another example of reading sheep entrails in climate science instead of developing a soundly predictive theory before making assertions in public.

Of course they have tried to do this, but they don’t have anything like an a priori model that can. What they have managed is to tweak the parameters and so on to where they can model some limited part of this, but things like why the glaciation is increasing are as mysterious as why the Ordovician-Silurian glaciation happened with CO_2 over 10x today’s levels. The truly paleo climate record — over the last 600 million years — is bizarre as all hell. Warmer, cooler, hothouse, icehouse — and most of that time the CO_2 levels were ballpark 1000 ppm or higher. It is only in the Pliestocene that the levels have fallen as low as they where pre-industrially, or as critically low as they were in the last (Wisconsin) glaciation, when they went down to where mass extinction of many plant species was a real possibility.

In my opinion, for whatever that is worth, I suspect that the additions of CO_2 to this point have been almost entirely beneficial, restoring a balance that has gradually been lost. But I can’t solve Navier-Stokes equations in my head either. The wisest course is clearly not to add CO_2 to the atmosphere in huge quantities because we don’t really know what it will do, any more than we know how the climate would (have) evolve(d) if we hadn’t added any at all. I do not trust in a divine providence — the Earth could be critically unstable already for the glacial transition after 12,000 warm interglacial years.

What I do not see in the climate record is any obvious signs that — given the current configuration of continents and thermohaline circulation — the Earth is overtly tri-stable, with a substantially warmer stable phase lurking. That doesn’t mean one could not emerge. That’s what attractors do in turbulent systems — emerge as the driving changes.

rgb

• David A says:

RGB says… “The wisest course is clearly not to add CO_2 to the atmosphere in huge quantities because we don’t really know what it will do, any more than we know how the climate would (have) evolve(d) if we hadn’t added any at all. I do not trust in a divine providence — the Earth could be critically unstable already for the glacial transition after 12,000 warm interglacial years.”
===================================================
I am not so certain we need to worry at all about CO2 up to at least 1000 ppm. As you said…”The truly paleo climate record — over the last 600 million years — is bizarre as all hell. Warmer, cooler, hothouse, icehouse — and most of that time the CO_2 levels were ballpark 1000 ppm or higher”

My point in disagreeing is we do KNOW about the benefits of CO2, and those benefits actually do continue in a fairly linear path up to well over 1000 PPM. So we have benefits known, and a paleo climate record of much higher past CO2 for thousands, nay millions of years, and no evidence that CO2 caused us to enter into a full blown glaciation.

101. Dave in Canmore says:

I can only add my voice to the chorus of thanks for this brilliant essay. It is not intended to be an insult but if only those in the MSM and elsewhere could understand this essay.

102. Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things (Henri Poincaré)

103. kakatoa says:

It sounds like Dr. Brown would approve of Milton Friedman’s thoughts on theories and their usefulness:

“The relevant question to ask about the ‘assumptions’ of a theory is not whether they are descriptively ‘realistic,’ for they never are, but whether they are sufficiently good approximations for the purpose in hand. And this question can be answered only by seeing whether the theory works, which means whether it yields sufficiently accurate predictions.”
-Milton Friedman, 1953

• rgbatduke says:

Absolutely. Although this is hardly original to Friedman. I had the privilege of seeing Friedman give a talk oh, thirty or forty years ago at Duke. Brilliant man.

rgb

104. whiten says:

I have read not many comments here, but the idea I get is that you guys, considering your selfs sceptics and better at the debate than the clever scientific AGWers [and people like Mosher] end up underestimating their scientific knowledge and the much stronger backgroung they play from.

Put simply, you fail to see that after comments like the rgb one and a post like this one, you end up blindly patting each others back while you just lost an argument.

The rgb comment [the last part of it] and this post just happen to prove exactly the point made on the
Steven Moosher comment, and I am sure that most of you fail to see that.

To me, Dr Brown just failed to the point made by Mosher in his comment……how can I put this…. took the bait…that will be the accurate description.

This post just shows Mosher to be right even while actually he is not.

You were lured and provoked by Mosher’s comment to react in a way as excatly happened and as it was expected, I think,……… and just proved his point made in that comment to be valid.

I know I may just be wrong about this, but I also know that if this true [by some chance] it will take a while for it to sink in.

cheers

• Mark Bofill says:

Now, don’t take this the wrong way Whiten. :) Seriously, nothing personal.
Do I understand you properly? You seem to be saying:

1) All of the commenters here are too stupid to grasp that they’ve lost the argument,
2) Dr. Robert Brown is too stupid to understand what Steven Mosher was saying, and
3) Steven Mosher was actually wrong anyway.
4) But you alone see through all this to the truth?

Wow. That’s neat. Show me your power.

• whiten says:

Maybe I am stupid but let me tell you what I read on the Steven Mosher comment…..Basically essentially only the bait..”Chaos”. “Is not good to have such debates because the science becomes chaos”…..and guesss what surprisingly… all science became chaos for you guys and still is in this post and thread, as I keep reading it.

Chaos is no good point, actually is no point at all to approach a scientific debate..sorry I can’t see it any other way…..but don’t wait any wave of trolling here, aint really going a materialize, but things like this and some thing like Trojan horsing will be better to look out for.

Hello Mark nice talking to you..:)
trust me am no taking anything the wrong way…your politness is noticed..thanks.:)

Mark I did not say all commenters, my initial post stated clearly that I have read only few comments, you are saying anfd implying that!
As for Dr. Brown I just implyed that he may just have taken the bait on this one, my opinion…that does not necesarely make the good Dr Brown stupid, is you are saying that!
As for Steven he was wrong plainly, no rocket science required to see that, as I stated earlier.
In this one I think I am not alone, at least there is Steven too..:)

cheers

• whiten says:

This post just shows Mosher to be right even while actually he is not.

That makes no sense.

• whiten says:

From my point of view Mosher “trick” if I may call it that, is to argue a point by “taking” you to the past and make you lose your supposed stronghold in the present, so you be arguing outside of your best grounds…it will always take you on grounds you can’t win… where you lose your best support, the reality.
A little of a conservative emphasis added as a flavor to the comment and the point made, on top of a clever-soft approach seems to be very luring.

There already is a very important debate, and a scientific one at that, concerning climate and climate science, including even you in a way…..and Mosher somehow manages to get you in a debate like “should we or should we not have one as such”… and somehow you guys end up of approching such an argument with the worst scientific angle possible…the chaos……With one single blow you throw all the data and the rationale of debating and arguing against AGW out of the window.

Actually his point is invalid and you make it appear valid by failing to point out that he and you already in such a debate for a long time now, either if he likes it or not, it is a fact, not a model simulation he can pick at as he pleases….. we already past beyond the point of “should we or should we not have a debate” .
For example the rgb comment is a supperb reply, only till he starts to try and show a better and superior science than that of Mosher, while he really needed not to.

cheers

• Jimbo says:

Whiten, are you in fact Mosher? If not then how can you speak for him or know his plan?

• richardscourtney says:

whiten

You assert
.

You were lured and provoked by Mosher’s comment to react in a way as excatly happened and as it was expected, I think,……… and just proved his point made in that comment to be valid

OK, Oh Wise One, please explain the “point” you assert Mosher preovided which Robert Brown has made “valid”.

I suspect that you have not stated that “point” because it does not exist, and you have not said how it has been shown to be valid because you are ‘blowing smoke’.

I await the enlightenment you will provide to refute my suspicions.

Richard

• whiten says:

Let me put it as simply as I can:
“Once you say “Chaos” is your base of your argument in a scientific issue, then there automatically you are no part of a scientific debate…there you have it, no matter how wrong the part you want or like to debate is or could be with its science.”

Maybe as I said, I am wrong, but also maybe you all sceptics should be more careful… and not ending up on a worst possition of a paradox than the warmistas, especially while you think you have a better approach to the climate science…probably Bob Tisdale is wasting his time by trying to show you that even in a small shot window climate and short term variability seems to have some meaning of a pattern and predictable behavior.

What I am saying is “please be careful not jumping a worse shark than the warmistas”..
Steven Mosher seems a very capable guy to give you a necesary push in that regard

cheers

• richardscourtney says:

Whiten

Thankyou for (sadly) confirming my suspicions were correct.

Richard

• DirkH says:

whiten
October 7, 2014 at 11:45 am
“Let me put it as simply as I can:
“Once you say “Chaos” is your base of your argument in a scientific issue, then there automatically you are no part of a scientific debate””

So you are saying this guy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Norton_Lorenz
was a crackpot.

Because he built the first weather models and he discovered chaos.

• hunter says:

Typically when something is swirling around in circles as much as whiten’s post a toilet is being flushed.

• Kip Hansen says:

There is no need to attack Whiten. It is clear he has serious misunderstandings of the basic science issues, like what “Chaos Theory” is all about and why and how it applies to Climate Science, and even maybe the basic English being used here. Let’s let it go.

• timg56 says:

I came to the conclusion that English may not be his first language. He has explained himself more than once and I still feel like I’m missing something. Sort of like conversations with my wife. English isn’t her first language (she has this habit of leaving the subject out of sentences) and I constantly have to remind myself to keep patient and keep asking questions until I can deduce what she’s saying.

My other option is to learn Korean, but that isn’t progressing very fast. I did triple the extent of my vocabulary this last trip visiting my in-laws from the last time. 6 phrases. At that rate I’ll be as conversant in Korean as my wife is in English in about 30 – 40 years.

• Jimbo says:

Indeed timg56 , I too suspected English is not his first language. I would not have commented until I saw your comment.

Whiten, when commenting and challenging people here, keep focused and avoid generalizations. You too have fallen into a trap and it won’t be easy to get out.

105. Gary Pearse says:

RGB a wonderful tour of Walmart science, depressing in that it seems there is no longer time nor money for research of interesting problems just for their own sake. One would have to sell the mega foundations (Rockefeller, etc.) on funding this sort of lost scientific endeavor. Even though such foundations would be doing something far more important for human kind than the political projects that seem to excite them these days.

I’m depressed that the rat race of politicized science has caused someone of your obvious intellect and talents to withdraw from what was once a breath-taking research science. Climate science is a metric for all that is wrong with today’s science. Falsification doesn’t even slow down a theory.

On chaos and climate: ” instead of selecting a new attractor from the near-infinity of possibilities (one that might well be more efficient at dissipating energy)…”
As an engineer, I am forced to view things in a pragmatic way. I can be disciplined and even barred from practice if I screw up too big and I have to carry insurance! I think not of the apparently insoluble detailed nature of the behavior of a system. I will take your word for it that the climate system is chaotic. However, the outer envelope of the system seems far from chaotic.

The climate varies only 3 or 4C above and below some datum- probably the average solar insolation. The datum may have some undulations. But, unless life forms are so determined to exist and have reappeared many times after totally disappearing, we have had continuous life on the planet for at least a billion years. I’m not talking bacteria that seem to have some huge range. I have a nautiloid fossil half a metre long from the Ordovician ~400Myears ago and there are still nautiluses in the sea today. I’m sure the sea wasn’t boiling (maybe locally from an extraterrestrial impact) or freezing to any extent over that period. If there is an incontrovertible feature of climate, it is that something turns it around before it goes too far in one direction or the other. All this chaos seems to “average” out temperatures somehow to these 1% amplitude ripples either side of 287degrees K. Heck we can’t even heat an office building with this kind of temperature stability.

It is simply ridiculous to think we, ourselves, could push the temperature farther from this enduring, dare I say rigid datum by burning coal and oil. First, all this CO2 in fossil fuels and limestones USED TO BE in the atmosphere during the period I’ve been talking about, yet it didn’t create a dangerous tipping point. Second, the planet has endured many large asteroid impacts with searing heat and dust aloft for decades that likely resulted in broad frosting of the earth. What happened then after this unimaginable disruption? The system restored itself to ~287K! This earth is one tough cookie with its own powerful mechanisms. Tipping points are beneath being a joke.

106. Sun Spot says:

Science is a methodology only, this methodology only gives us data (good or bad, negative or positive data), NOT truth or facts.

cAGW is a narrative of fear, not science. This cAGW narrative of fear is much better constructed than another narrative of fear we are all familiar with, that is WMD’s. An example of how effective narratives of fear can be is the number of people who still maintain WMD’s existed (cAGW will die a long protracted death).

107. Dr. Rick in Afton says:

Dr. Brown should convert this post to an article and submit it to a refereed journal. If accepted for publication it would help focus the climate debate, if not, it would be quite interesting to know why. He may be too busy to do so, in which case he should find a co-author to assist him.

• hunter says:

+10. I agree whole heartedly that Dr. Brown’s post should be edited for a wider readership.

• average joe says:

100% agreed!!!

108. Einstein! His 1905 paper, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” is shown here:

http://www.fourmilab.ch/etexts/einstein/specrel/www/

Please note the “Footnotes” and “Editor’s Notes” are NOT from the original. The original paper stopped, where the text stopped.

Now, here’s the point – The “peer review” was the Editor of the Journal, who was involved in physics in some way, and thought the paper had POTENTIAL MERIT. (Even though the conclusions coming from it were widely divergent from “classical mechanics”.

Secondly, ANY PAPER submitted to ANY JOURNAL these days, without some sort of “references”, would generally be REJECTED out of hand. Almost like a “child’s effort” in High School, or Gymnasium, which although admirable…would be considered, “inadequate”.

This should be kept in mind (Mr. Mosher) with regard to the progress and development of science.

I.e., now a-days how many Einsteins would be DISMISSED because they have brought up something in an “un-acceptable way”. Oh well, thank ENGINEERS (I don’t want to insult God!) for the Internet. And Engineers in GENERAL for doing things that WORK..and are inherently “reproducible” or verifiable. (The AIRPLANE FLYS!!!”

109. Paul Linsay says:

The saddest part of all this is that Kevin Trenberth’s PhD advisor was the late and truly great Ed Lorenz. Trenberth seems to have talked himself into believing the nonsense that averaging will make the chaos go away, that climate has only one simple attractor not many mutually exclusive ones with very different properties, and that only “physics” is involved.

When I say more than physics is involved consider ENSO. When I first looked at the “temperature” record, it was pretty obvious from my long experience with chaotic dynamics that it was a step function, not the simpleminded straight line that is so beloved of climate science. It’s a feature that is common in the time series of nonlinear systems but unatural in the standard linear systems of physics. Even Trenbeth and crew now agree that that’s the case. The origin of the step function is now accepted to be ENSO which is well described as a charge-discharge relaxation oscillator, a nonlinear beast if there ever was one. The charging cycle is warm water piling up along the east coast of Asia in the Tropics and then discharging west to South America when the trade winds die. If the tropical ocean circled the Equator with no land masses intervening, there would be no ENSO because there would be no place for the warm water to pile up. ENSO is entirely an accident of geography and Plate Tectonics.

ENSO is a very large effect that shows up in the temperature record, the most famous is the one in 1998, with multiple smaller ones before and after and quite obvious in the time series. There are no doubt many other subtler other “non-physics” effect that significantly affect climate that are yet to be understood. Until the climate scientists are willing to go out and look for such things, but instead insist that only CO2 matters, there will be no science of climate.

110. Stephen Richards says:

Sun Spot
October 7, 2014 at 10:40 am
Science is a methodology

Minor criticism. Science is a method ! Methodology is a study -ology from the greek, I think.

111. Stephen Richards says:

No maybe, you are wrong on several points.
1) “I know I may just be wrong about this” Mosher not a scientist. Most commentators here are scientists and engineers.
2) “Put simply, you fail to see that after comments like the rgb one and a post like this one, you end up blindly patting each others back while you just lost an argument”. Please point to the back slapping and where and what argument was lost.
3) “…. took the bait “. What bait ?

4) “This post just shows Mosher to be right even while actually he is not.” Where was he right and wrong.

• whiten says:

Hi Stpehen.
I just tryed to explain something about the points you raise about my comment…. read above, if that’s not clear enough please ask….if that is ok with you.

cheers

112. David Harrington says:

Fantastic post Dr Brown, cannot believe it started as a comment. Really opened my eye. About the nonsense that is masquerading as science

113. dccowboy says:

I think Eisenhower got it partly right in his farewell address,

“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract (grant) becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”

Pres D Eisenhower, Jan 17, 1961

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars has come to pass, the scientific-technological elite holding public policy has not. In fact it appears to me to be the opposite. Public policy (and the grant money that it entails) is holding the Scientific-Technological elite ‘captive’. If they don’t provide results that reinforce the need for the public policy, they are bereft of funds to continue their work.

• rgbatduke says:

Eisenhower was arguably the last completely honest president, IMO. He was spot on here, as well as his warnings about the military-industrial complex (IIRC in the same speech). But it is too late now. It would be easier to wean a junkie from shooting speedballs than it would be to wean the military-industrial-educational complex of the flow of economic speedballs directly into its collapsing veins…

But re: the military. National defence is necessary. What the money buys may not be done efficiently, but there is great value in having a strong military.

The same cannot be said for federally financed ‘climate studies’. What real value have they produced? I don’t see much. $Billions per year, and all we get are extremely inaccurate [IOW: wrong] predictions. The comparison is inapt. • milodonharlani says: The military industrial complex has produced many useful technologies & products valuable to the civilian sector, to include stereophonic sound, rocketry, Kevlar, atomic power, electronic computers, the Internet, discovery of plate tectonics & knowledge of the oceans, to name but a few. The same cannot be said of the climate industrial academic complex. • David Ball says: Major General Smedley Butler 114. It was obvious ab initio that climate modeling was useless for forecasting purposes. Here is a quote from the latest post from my blog discussing this matter. “1.2 The impossibility of computing reliable outcomes for GCMs The modelling approach is also inherently of no value for predicting future temperature with any calculable certainty because of the difficulty of specifying the initial conditions of a sufficiently fine grained spatio-temporal grid of a large number of variables with sufficient precision prior to multiple iterations. For a complete discussion of this see Essex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvhipLNeda4 Models are often tuned by running them backwards against several decades of observation, this is much too short a period to correlate outputs with observation when the controlling natural quasi-periodicities of most interest are in the centennial and especially in the key millennial range. Tuning to these longer periodicities is beyond any computing capacity when using reductionist models with a large number of variables unless these long wave natural periodicities are somehow built into the model structure ab initio. 1.3 The Structural inadequacies of the IPPC models 1.3.1 In addition to the general problems of modeling complex systems as in 1.1 and 1.2 above, the particular IPCC models have glaringly obvious structural deficiencies as seen in Fig1 (fig 2-20 from AR4 WG1- this is not very different from Fig 8-17 in the AR5 WG1 report) The only natural forcing in both of the IPCC Figures is TSI, and everything else is classed as anthropogenic. The deficiency of this model structure is immediately obvious. Under natural forcings should come such things as, for example, Milankovitch Orbital Cycles, lunar related tidal effects on ocean currents, earth’s geomagnetic field strength and most importantly on millennial and centennial time scales all the Solar Activity data time series – e.g., Solar Magnetic Field strength, TSI, SSNs, GCRs, (effect on aerosols, clouds and albedo) CHs, MCEs, EUV variations, and associated ozone variations.” More and more people are realizing that the GCM’s are inherently meaningless. It is well past time that the climate discussion moved past the consideration of the these useless models to evaluating forecasts using a completely different approach based on the natural quasi-periodicities so obviously seen in the temperature and driver record. Earth’s climate is the result of resonances and beats between various quasi-cyclic processes of varying wavelengths combined with endogenous secular earth processes such as, for example, plate tectonics. It is not possible to forecast the future unless we have a good understanding of the relation of the climate of the present time to the current phases of these different interacting natural quasi-periodicities which fall into two main categories. a) The orbital long wave Milankovitch eccentricity,obliquity and precessional cycles which are modulated by b) Solar “activity” cycles with possibly multi-millennial, millennial, centennial and decadal time scales. The convolution of the a and b drivers is mediated through the great oceanic current and atmospheric pressure systems to produce the earth’s climate and weather. After establishing where we are relative to the long wave periodicities to help forecast decadal and annual changes, we can then look at where earth is in time relative to the periodicities of the PDO, AMO and NAO and ENSO indices and based on past patterns make reasonable forecasts for future decadal periods. For forecasts of the timing and amount of the probable coming cooling based on the natural 1000 year and 60 year periodicities in the temperature record and using the 10Be and neutron count data as the best proxy for solar “activity”go to http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com . The Past is the Key to the Present and Future. The core competency in the Geological Sciences is the ability to recognize and correlate the changing patterns of events in time and space. This requires a mindset and set of skills very different from the reductionist approach to nature, but one which is appropriate and necessary for investigating past climates and forecasting future climate trends. Scientists and modelers with backgrounds in physics and maths usually have little experience in correlating multiple, often fragmentary, data sets of multiple variables to build an understanding and narrative of general trends and patterns from the actual individual local and regional time series of particular variables. As to the future, the object of forecasting is to provide practical guidance for policy makers. The rate, amplitude and timing of climate change varies substantially from region to region so that, after accounting for the long term quasi-millennial periodicity, I would then estimate the modulation of this trend by providing multi-decadal climate forecasts for specific regions. This would be accomplished with particular reference to the phase relationships of the major oceanic and atmospheric systems PDO AMO, NAO, ENSO etc, a la Aleo and Easterbrook. http://myweb.wwu.edu/dbunny/pdfs/aleo-easterbrook_ch5Relationship-multidecadal-global-temps-to-oceanic-oscillations.pdf The earth has been subdivided into tectonic plates. It would be useful to have, as a guide to adaptation to climate change, multi-decadal regional forecasts for the following suggested climate plates, which are in reality closely linked to global geography. 1 North America and Western Europe. 2 Russia 3 China 4 India and SE Asia 5 Australasia and Indonesia 6 South America 7 N Africa 8 Sub Saharan Africa 9 The Arctic 10 The Antarctic 11 The intra tropical Pacific Ocean. Detailed analysis of the energy exchanges and processes at the ocean /atmosphere interface in this area is especially vital because its energy budget provides the key to the earth’s thermostat. • gregole says: “The modelling approach is also inherently of no value for predicting future temperature with any calculable certainty because of the difficulty of specifying the initial conditions of a sufficiently fine grained spatio-temporal grid of a large number of variables with sufficient precision prior to multiple iterations. Models Can Never be Properly Initialized Concisely states a major tenet of my personal suspicions of why climate models can never work. We simply do not have, and in fact it is impossible to ever have, enough real-time information to realistically initialize an atmospheric model, a model whose sole purpose is to effectively predict future climate conditions, or states from that set of initial conditions. Here is an illustrative thought experiment: Iff the major shortcoming of GCMs were lack of sensors or something else to provide initial state parameters, what is the adequate number of sensors? Think about it. No answer is required. But my number… would block out the sun! And even though the paradox of never knowing an initial state is a deal-breaker for atmospheric modeling, there’s more. Models Oversimplify a Dynamical System Our atmospheric system is three-dimensional, dynamic, extremely turbulent, and complex; complex in the sense of being comprised of a large number of components with different types of behavior, and extensive interconnectedness. (complexity definition paraphrased from Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind Of Science.) For an example and a further definition of my use of the term, complexity, consider local air temperature and humidity. Log some temperature / humidity data, or consult an introductory text on Meteorology, and you will see the generally inverse relationship between humidity and temperature over a 24 hour period. Then it rains. Day later a dry wind blows in… components…different types of behavior…extensive interconnectedness… And in our atmosphere it is not two components, but many components and as commented here, perhaps (perhaps almost certainly) components we have yet to discover; and these components are interconnected in ways we scarcely understand to date. Considering the atmosphere we are modeling to be comprised of a Troposphere and a higher Stratosphere, separated by a Tropopause, all interacting with oceans, land masses and driven by the sun’s heating, varying in behavior from Poles to Tropics – the Tropopause height varies between 7 km in winter and 10 km in summer at the Poles; but 17 to 18 km at the Equator. GCM’s, to my understanding, do not account for the discontinuity in the Tropopause and the Stratospheric-Tropopause Mixing. They do not even include the Quasi-biennial Oscillation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_-QlDmicIw. (Paraphrasing Dr. Tim Ball, “The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science, pg 97 – 102“). Models Oversimplify Atmospheric Heat Transfer Heat transfer within the atmospheric system is not straightforward, as state-changes are in constant flux, (liquid, gas, solid – in the hydrological cycle), heat-content per unit volume of atmosphere is in flux, again due to humidity changes; and these fluxes occur constantly, on a minute time scale, can persist(!)(think storm system…), are seasonal, are moving about a sphere in relation to the sun, have a time-of-day component and exist in a partially non-homogenous atmospheric system with the boundaries simply omitted from the models. Greenhouse gasses are in flux. There’s no balance, no steady-state condition. Heat transfer every second in our atmosphere is for practical purposes, incomprehensibly enormous, poorly understood, and impossible to model with current technology. Arguably, it is simply impossible to model with any practical resolution for intent to use as a predictor of a future state. 115. Wijnand says: Wow! Great Post! 116. Gunga Din says: There are observable “facts” which have been noticed. Sometimes someone has figured out how to measure those things. That gives us “data”. Someone then forms a hypothesis or reaches a conclusion. The problem in science is when the conclusion or hypothesis is mistaken as an observed “fact”. The debate should be about weeding out such mistakes and/or taking a second look at the reliability of the “data”. (Anthony’s work with surface station temperatures comes to mind.) 117. [snip . . ad hom . . attack the points not the man, read the site rules . . mod] 118. Dr Brown Thank for this and all of the other great comments you have made, you never fail to provoke thought. 119. timg56 says: I’ve been a fan of Prof. Brown for some time. So much so that I’d consider taking a course of his (which considering how physics were my most difficult courses in grad school and he teaches at Duke is high praise – I’m a Maryland grad.) I enjoyed the entire post, but took special satisfaction from his description of what peer review means. One of the most repeated comments I’ve seen in the debate centers around how AGW has to be right because it is peer reviewed. Talk about a red flag. There was nothing from the peer review process I remembered which determined if someone’s paper or research was “right”. Just that it met certain basic criteria. RGB confirms I’ve understand it correctly all along. 120. timg56 says: So where are folks like David Appell when they are needed most? Never mind. I’m sure he’s smart enough to know that talent good enough to play in the Little League WS doesn’t mean you want to pitch against the Baltimore Orioles this Friday. 121. Steven Mosher says: Let’s get a little clarity What I wrote “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.” If science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences, then how does it proceed and advance?. It proceeds and advances by successful prediction. Not by verbal theater in front of an audience, but rather by actually doing science. When two or side or two or more people occupy a stage or elevated platform at a conference, or on TV, or at your college, or Knights of columbus and engage in verbal behavior, they are not doing science. They may talk, they may show slides, they may argue, they can make point and counter point. They are not doing science. They are not collecting data. They are testing predictions. They may talk about science. They may show results. They may engage in rhetoric. But they are not doing science. They are doing theatre where science is the subject. Nothing they do on that stage would be confused with science and nothing they say can change science. The only thing that changes science, is more science. To be sure we can find some examples of various forms of debate between scientists. Yes, scientists argue at conferences, on rare occasions these are elevated in the public eye ( think of the debate on elolution). Yes, scientists debate, informally, quasi formally, sometimes formally. They also fart. It is fundamental confusion to identify everything a scientist may do with science itself and with the advance of science. Turning to the arguments one has in science. Some arguments are settled. What does this mean? This means that the vast majority of scientists would not waste their time debating it or arguing about it. Let’s take some examples. 1. CO2 in increasing from 1850 to today. This is taken as a fact. Yet, you will find skeptics who want to debate this. Of course, what scientist would waste his time on TV or at your book club debating this? One who had no good sense of the value of his time. The refusal to debate this is taken as some kind of lapse in science. It’s not. It’s not because science is not a debate. 2. Human emissions are the cause. Here too you will find skeptics demanding a debate on this. You won’t get one. And you should not get one because no scientist shouldwaste his time debating this with you. Again, This issue was decided by science and if you want to over turn it, then you need to do science and no do debate. 3. C02 warms the planet. Skeptics also want to debate this. They dont want to science to show that this is not the case, they want to do theater. The debates that skeptics want, debates on TV, debates at the local college, the debates they want on C02 and emissions and radiative physics are exactly the debates that no scientist should engage in. These issues cannot be overturned by verbal theatre and the chances of them being changed by new science is so low that they are considered “settled”. That is, not interesting. The sky is blue. That leaves the arguments that still exist How much warming can come from C02. Here there is a real issue in the science. Here you can find people arguing at conferences, and arguing in papers. When they do this arguing, they are not doing science. They are arguing ABOUT SCIENCE. Winning or losing these arguments means zero. Of course you might learn something from debate. But you learning something is not science. You learning something is LEARNING. Here we note something very ironical. Skeptics demand debate. And where they are offered an argument ” how much warming?” they typically almost universally run away from that debate or argument. They dont appear at conferences to discuss this. They dont write papers showing their analysis. When offered a venues and protocals for engaging in debate about this science, they run away. How do they run away? A variety of retreats actually. They argue that it cant be known. Note they don’t do science to show the LIMITS of knowledge, they argue it cant be known. They merely criticize. Some scientist puts forward his assessment; they merely criticize. They do half science. Typically this takes the form of mistaking science for a court of law. It’s not enough to criticize. If you want in the “debate” you owe a better answer. In short, the debates skeptics want are debates over issues that no one should debate. They are issues that were settled by science and won’t be undone by mere verbal theatre. And the debates that do exist, “how much warming” skeptics avoid. oh ya nic lewis shows you how to do it. • As usual, 180s degrees out from reality. Skeptics are always ready, willing and able to debate CACA. It’s your anti-scientific co-conspirators who run from reality and debate. Not a single prediction by CACA spewers has ever been shown valid, and all their predictions have been shown false. The problem is so huge for them that they try to weasel out of reality by claiming that their predictions were only projections. Do you ever listen to yourself? CACA was born falsified and has never managed to grow a leg upon which to stand. • DirkH says: The predictions of climate scientists lag the climate. They started to predict a CO2-caused ice age the moment the cooling in the 1970ies peaked. They started to predict a CO2-caused meltdown the moment the warming peaked. (1988 Hansen, 1998 MBH hockeystick) They use computers to try to show that their simple linear extrapolations that form their preconceived notion are based in fact. But they are always behind the curve, and everything that happens subsequently in the real world contradicts them. Their science has negative predictive skill. • Jimbo says: If science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences, then how does it proceed and advance?. It proceeds and advances by successful prediction. Not by verbal theater in front of an audience, but rather by actually doing science. So the IPCC’s ‘projections’ / ‘predictions'(?) have failed to advance science? • milodonharlani says: It’s not the verbal theatrics but open airing of differences that is important. The inconvenient truth is that CACA advocates are afraid to debate because they know they will lose on the merits of their non-existent case, not because they fear superior debating skills of their pro-science opponents. Their efforts to suppress dissent from their religious orthodoxy show this plainly. • Jimbo says: It [science] proceeds and advances by successful prediction…. TEMPERATURE PROJECTIONS METHANE PROJECTIONS • Jimbo says: Mosher, I have read your points 1,2,3 and they don’t apply to me. Please use your language carefully and avoid lumping every sceptic into one basket. Not everyone is a Dragonslayer. 1)…Yet, you will find skeptics 2)…Here too you will find skeptics 3)..Skeptics also want to debate this. You could have added…… 4) Sceptics also want to debate climate sensitivity. I am sure you agree that this is worthy of debate. • David A says: Yes, I see Steve Mosher’s lumping all skeptics into one community as both typical and problematic. After all, CAGW is only one view, everything else is skeptical of that one viewpoint, and it is very likely that everything else, does not agree with every other perspective. Also I think Mosher forgets that CAGW is undeniably also a political movement demanding social change. The debate I think most skeptics would like to see is primetime debates (focused on “Are the consequences of the human additions of CO2 to the atmosphere catastrophic, or beneficial?”) Such a primetime debate between the “hockey team”, and skeptical scientist like Craig Idso (heading the benefits of CO2 portion of the debate)) and specialist in atmospheric physics, sea level rise, etc, would be great fun to watch, and highly educational for the general public. • David A says: Also Steve Mosher asserted this …”Skeptics demand debate. And where they are offered an argument ” how much warming?” they typically almost universally run away from that debate or argument. They dont appear at conferences to discuss this. They dont write papers showing their analysis. When offered a venues and protocals for engaging in debate about this science, they run…” Prove your assertions Mr. Mosher. WUWT has multiple posts on Climate Sensitivity and there are dozens of peer reviewed skeptical papers on just this subject which show a lower sensitivity then asserted by the IPCC. Indeed, this is a debate that the proponents of CAGW run away from; just as they run away from a discussion on the benefits of CO2, just as they run away from a discussion on the failure of the predicted disasters to occur. • David A says: Indeed, RGB’s point about all the models being wrong (a point made almost universally by all skeptics) deals exactly with how much warming does additional CO2 cause. I am not certain Mr. Mosher could have chosen a more wrong example. • Mr. Mosher with no scientific background declares himself arbiter of what should be debated in science, how cute. I am still trying to figure out why everyone is wasting their time with him? • Steven; “How much warming can come from C02.” You are correct, that is the question and the hypothesis. How can anyone debate an unanswered question? There is no reason or basis for a debate, all that is needed is an accurate prediction and measurement. Debates on the ‘science’ at this point are meaningless. I too am a student of history and I think the last time that a debate resolved anything was in Aristotle’s time. Aristotle used pure reasoning, he didn’t need to actually test anything to know if it was true or not. Luckily Galileo decided to roll some weights down an inclined plane and see if the results matched the consensus. Todays climate models seem to be formalized Aristotelian reasoning, nothing more. A model (according to Hawking) should be; Elegant Contain few arbitrary or adjustable elements Agree with and explain all existing observations Make detailed prediction about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out. AGW, CO2, Climate Models, don’t have anything in common with a proper model. Yes I agree, there is nothing to debate with climate scientists, it is an honor they aren’t worthy of. • eyesonu says: Mosher, this is the first time I’ve seen a comment from you that was coherent in any form. In general there is little that I agree with, with the exception of a couple of points. One being that generally the sky is blue. The other being that I would assume that scientists fart. I agree with you there. I’ll stick with rgb’s analysis. • Steve science and know fact, fortunately, are not defined by you. • pete says: Couple of points Steve: You’ve used an ‘if….then’ argument which presupposes that you are correct about science not being advanced by debates to then frame the first part of your post. Nice little pea and thimble trick. On point 2, we are constantly finding new sources for Co2 emissions and sinks. There is a theory based on CO2 isotopes that is being used to assume human emissions, but we have no accurate measurement of the nartural versus human components of emissions (much as we have no accurate measurements of the human versus natural components of termperature variation). Without such measurements, a debate should be well and truly alive. Accurate data, not models, are required to settle such questions. Point 3 is an assumption you have made. Virtually nobody is debating that CO2 warms the planet. What is debated is the degree. Once again, a pea and thimble trick in your wording. There are plenty of papers being written by sceptics around the question of “how much wamring”. Once again, you are making an assertion with no basis. You claim that sceptics are simply “running away” from such debates. I have absolutely no idea how you can form that view. Basically, your post is full of assumptions, suppositions and very little credible content. As a reply to rgb, it’s not even on the same planet. • Pete, this is typical for a lot of skeptics: there is a lot more known of the origin of the increase in the atmosphere than many here think. So Steven Mosher is completely right on this point… There are a lot of new natural sources (and sinks) found each year, but the net result of all ins and outs each year is exactly (within reasonable limits) known: more sink than source over at least the past 55 years. The variability of the natural cycle also is exactly known: +/- 1 ppmv around the trend in sink rate, all caused by temperature variation. Human emissions currently are over 4 ppmv/year, twice the net natural variability. The same points for the isotopic changes: there are two main sources of low-13C carbon in the world: recent organics and fossil organics. It is indeed impossible to make the distinction, except that both use oxygen when burned/decaying/eaten. The oxygen balance (oxygen decline minus fossil fuel use of oxygen) shows that the biosphere as a whole (plants, bacteria, molds, insects, animals,..) is a net emitter of oxygen, thus a net absorber of CO2 (~1 GtC/year and increasing) and preferably of 12CO2, thus leaving relative more 13CO2 in the atmosphere. Thus not the cause of the δ13C decline in the atmosphere. The sole cause are the human emissions, as all other known sources (oceans, volcanoes, rock weathering,…) are higher in δ13C than the atmosphere. You see, one can doubt everything that comes from the CAGW camp, but sometimes points as these are really settled and accepted by most, even skeptic, scientists… • pete says: Ferdinand, perhaps the standards I look for to state that something is ‘known’ with such certainly are simply different.It is usual for me to err on the side of ‘unknown’ when accurate measurement does not give us clear and unimpeachable evidence. It is clear that you have 100% certainty in your mind around the carbon cycle, but I cannot fathom how you can have such certainty. The error in measurement far outweighs the certainty of evidence in my mind. When you make statements such as the natural cycle being known to within +/- 1ppmv, that is far more precise than is possible given the length and scope of data and inherent uncertainty in measurement and modeling. We do not meansure all natural emissions. We do not measure all human emissions. We have a theory and make assumptions based on the theory, but without the precise measurement and timeframe to go from hypothesis to accepted fact. I find that this is often the case when claims are made in climate science in particular. It is fairly typical to see such false precision in climate science. I expect that over time we will find that what we ‘know’ about natural cycles, sinks and emissions will change significantly. This is normal for science. I guess it is also normal for people to claim that things are known with certainty when they are not. • Pete, there are a lot of unknowns in any of the myriad natural CO2 releases and uptakes, no disagreement on that. But that is not important for the cause of the increase in the atmosphere. We measure the global CO2 increase in the atmosphere with an accuracy of +/- 0.2 ppmv (0.4 GtC). We use inventories of fossil fuel use from production and sales with an accuracy of -0.25/+0.5 ppmv/year (-0.5/+1 GtC/year), maybe somewhat underestimated by under the counter sales, but quite accurate on a scale of 4.5 ppmv (9 GtC) per year. So we know with reasonable accuracy the difference between our emissions and the increase in the atmosphere, which represents the net result of all natural fluxes in and out of the atmosphere by nature: currently a net uptake of ~2.5 ppmv (5 GtC) per year. Even without any knowledge of any individual CO2 flux, the net result is known with reasonable accuracy: including a natural variability of +/- 1 ppmv for any individual year (1992 Pinatubo, 1998 El Niño). Even if some individual natural CO2 source doubled or halved in any given year, or a net sink turned into a net source, that is only of academically interest, as the net result at the end of the year is what makes the difference for the CO2 level in the atmosphere, not what any individual flux does. That a lot of skeptics jump on every new release of unknown/underestimated natural CO2 release is jumping on the wrong arguments, as that may change our ideas on the carbon cycle, but that doesn’t change the observed net uptake by the natural cycle at the end of the year… • TYoke says: Steven, Your understanding of science places disproportionate stress on “successful prediction”, crucial though that step is. A more complete summary of the scientific process might be: 1) Find an interesting question 2) Formulate a hypothesis which could be the answer to that question 3) Figure out how consistent observed reality is with your hypothesis. The best consistency checks are those which match an otherwise unlikely prediction to an unambiguous observed result. 4) Adjust the hypothesis and repeat. It is true that point 3) is a crucial step in this process, but it is very clearly not the ONLY step in the process. How do people formulate interesting and useful questions? What stimulates the formulation of a good hypothesis? Discussions of the issues with their peers? Reading an interesting book? Listening to a good debate? Clearly these steps are also crucial. • I agree that all public debate is to some degree theatre and rhetoric, including comments here. I do not agree that any science is ever settled. You consider it settled (as does Ferdinand) that all planetary CO2 increase is human, yet in geology we are looking at Carbon isotope excursions that dwarf human efforts. So what caused those? Whenever you allow no doubt, you become the theatre and the rhetorician. • Gymnosperm, in geological time frames there were a lot of things that dwarf the current human contribution. Nevertheless, over the past 800,000 years, there is no such a CO2 increase or δ13C decline as in the past 160 years. Even the worst resolution ice core would show that kind of excursion. The δ13C level changed a few tenths per mil between glacials and interglacials. The δ13C level varied not more than a few tenths per mil over the whole Holocene. Since the release of increasing quantities of low 13C fossil fuels, the δ13C level dropped 1.6 per mil in only 160 years, in full ratio with the emissions, as well as in the atmosphere as in the ocean surface layer. Any indication that such a huge drop occurred in the far past and over what time frame? I will be the first to admit that I am wrong if someone comes with good arguments which show that the recent CO2 increase is not caused by humans. Thus far, all what I have read as alternatives violates one to a lot of observations… There are lots of arguments that skeptics can use, like the “pause” or the climate sensitivity for 2xCO2. But that the recent increase of CO2 is not from humans, while we emit about twice the measured increase in the atmosphere is simply a bad argument that you can’t use in any discussion with (moderate) warmers, it simply undermines your credibility for the good arguments. • Doubting Rich says: “Nevertheless, over the past 800,000 years, there is no such a CO2 increase or δ13C decline as in the past 160 years. Even the worst resolution ice core would show that kind of excursion. Unfortunately your first assertion relies on the second, which I don’t think is true. As I have read the resolution of the long-time-frame ice cores is poor, because it takes many decades, even many centuries (the time frame seems to be in dispute) for any air pocket to be sealed from the atmosphere. Of necessity those cores are the ones found in places of low annual snow accumulation (as little as one inch per annum), otherwise 800 ka accumulation would have an incredible length. So resolution is too poor in the 800 ka cores to record changes in CO2 as short as that in the instrument records if the level falls again at a similar rate. Interestingly enough the palaeobotanical records, namely stomata counts, imply that CO2 has varied far more than ice cores imply, and some of the few 19th-century measurements found CO2 levels similar to the modern atmosphere. Likewise changes in δ13C (which are of course consistent with certain natural as well as artificial processes) would not necessarily show in ice cores. These might be detectable in rapidly accumulating marine sediments, but I don’t know of any studies and I suspect that the slow turnover of marine CO2 (which is far greater in total than atmospheric) would again give serious resolution problems. Note I am not saying any of this is reliable; I am saying that the ice-core evidence for constant CO2 before the industrial revolution is not. Given that the rise since the 1960s in atmospheric CO2 is close to linear and the rise in human emissions is far from linear, and given that if we assume a 3% increase in annual emissions (total human influence) has such a huge effect I would expect a rising response, not a reducing response to increasing emissions, the hypothesis that the rise is solely caused by human activity is very weak. If we then consider that the vast majority of CO2 is dissolved, and that a liquid is less able to dissolve gases as it warms (say as the Little Ice Age ends) we really do need to confirm whether or not CO2 is rising due to human activities, not assume that it is. • Doubting Rich , You underestimate ice cores… The resolution indeed depends of the snow accumulation rate which makes that the longest records are from the lowest accumulation ranges but which have the worst resolution. Fortunately, we have a lot of overlaps between different ice cores with different resolution: Law Dome: 10 years resolution for the past 150 years to ~20 years for the past 1,000 years Taylor Dome: ~20 years resolution for the past 70,000 years Dome C: ~560 years resolution for the past 800 kyears, And a lot of other ice core in-betweens. The accuracy and repeatability of CO2 measurements in ice cores is 1.2 ppmv (1 sigma) for the same segment in the same ice core. For different ice cores the difference is up to +/- 5 ppmv for the same average gas age. Thus for any individual ice core, a sustained increase of 2 ppmv or a one year peak of 2 ppmv x the resolution period would be detected. The current increase is 100+ ppmv compared to the base of 160 years ago. Such an increase would be detected in all ice cores, even Dome C, if that is a one-sided increase. If that is a part of a natural cycle of length >560 years, it will be detected in all ice cores too. The current increase still is going up, may be slowing a bit, but that means that the cycle length is at least 640 years, if it is a natural cycle at all. Thus detectable in all ice cores over the past 800 kyears. You also underestimate the current δ13C changes: the current drop is so huge, that it can be compared to burning down halve of all land vegetation. Indeed the ocean’s carbon cycle removes 2/3rd of the change from burning fossil fuels, but again the current change would be highly visible in all ice cores if that happened at any point in the past 800 kyears (and it is not seen in any other proxy either). Moreover, most C in nature has a higher δ13C level than the atmosphere, which excludes a lot of sources, including the oceans. Only land vegetation and oil seeping or methane production may be the cause, but the latter increased together with human production… Over the past 110 years, the rise of emissions, increase in the atmosphere and net sink rate where slightly quadratic, including the period since 1960, which makes that the ratio between emissions and increase is quite fixed (50-55% of emissions), but that depends of the natural variability in sink rate, which for any individual year can vary between 10% and 90% of the emissions (mostly temperature dependent). Some longer periods don’t show an increase in rate of change, others show huge jumps, in general the rate of change is between 40% and 60% over decades. That is what natural variability does… • Konrad. says: Steve, you are just trying an alternate variant of the “the science is settled, the debate is over” propaganda technique. Claiming that there is “no point” in debating your points 2 & 3 is just ludicrous. The reality is you and yours desperately want to shut down any debate on those points. That you fall back on variants of “call to authority” and “ad hom” arguments truly displays how much you fear those point being debated. You can try all you like to “ring fence” the argument to just “how much warming?”, but all you are doing is waving a big red flag over the critical flaws in the AGW hypothesis. “In short, the debates skeptics want are debates over issues that no one should debate.” Says who? The first “sleeper” at WUWT to fall? “They are issues that were settled by science and won’t be undone by mere verbal theatre.” Those issues are not “settled science”, and they will be undone, as will all of this sorry hoax and its fellow travellers, by something far simpler than “verbal theatre”. That would be simple repeatable empirical experiment. The atmosphere is complex but the surface is not. That 255K assumption for surface without atmosphere is in grave error, provably so. You want the debate to be “how much warming?” but it’s not going to work. The answer is immeasurably slight cooling, so there will be no “warming but less than we thought” soft landing for the hoax. Try all you like, it can never work. • Mosher, I agree with Konrad. Your points two and three are bald assertions for which you can offer no support. And please be aware that stating another assumption as support is not proper science. Furthermore I am *appalled* that you could make such a bald assertion without embarrassment and oblivious to the true nature of this statement. Konrad is right when he says that you are simply saying that “the science is settled”. I urge you to rethink your position. • M Courtney says: Debating observations is pointless. They just need to be checked. Debating hypotheses is worthwhile. It refines the assumptions and clarifies the uncertainties in their use. The reason science progresses by debate is that only debate produces hypotheses that are sound enough to be testable. The reason AGW proponents refuse to debate is either: A) They don’t see their hypothesis as a hypothesis – just a fact by faith. B) They don’t see their hypothesis as sound enough to be testable (and are embarrassed). C) They know that the key question is “how much warming” and “How fast” which is climate sensitivity – and sceptics are always going on about that (not just Nic Lewis – also any mention of the Pause). • Alx says: The three points below from your comment is why we need debate. You are expressing conclusions with built in implications, basically propaganda and then state these must be the baseline for all future discussion. The debate is often ABOUT SCIENCE because it is shoddy when it comes to climate science not to mention the copius propaganda fueling and surrounding it blockquote>”1. CO2 in increasing from 1850 to today. This is taken as a fact. Yet, you will find skeptics who want to debate this. Of course, what scientist would waste his time on TV or at your book club debating this?” This statement is simply false, it is propaganda. No sane person disputes CO2 has increased since 1850, the dispute is how much is attributable to humanity and its growing population, the industrial age, and how much is due to natural variability which again any sane person acknowledges has fluctuated dramatically over the history of the earth before 1850. Interestingly you do not mention the CO2 increases/decreases before 1850, which based on reliable sources, the earth did exist before 1850. blockquote>”2. Human emissions are the cause. Here too you will find skeptics demanding a debate on this. You won’t get one. And you should not get one because no scientist should waste his time debating this with you. This issue was decided by science and if you want to over turn it, then you need to do science and no do debate.” Cause of what? A fuzzy conclusion does not make science. Either admit to embracing ignorance or admit we are babes in the woods in understanding how the earth manages CO2 and other gases in the atmosphere in any kind of predictive way over centuries. blockquote>”3. C02 warms the planet. Skeptics also want to debate this. They dont want to science to show that this is not the case, they want to do theatre.” This comment unequivocally indicates you have embraced drama and theatre and have left science somewhere in the past. For some drama and theatre may pay better, I don’t know. Yes we can isolate CO2 as one factor in how the temperature of the Earth is managed. The reality is we do not know in any comprehensive way how the Earth manages it’s temperature. To conflate knowing one factor in a process to understanding the whole process is naive. Never mind that the process in question is a chaotic process. To go even further we still haven’t adequately determined a way of measuring temperature (how many adjustments can be made to historical records before they become meaningless?), or what the supposed ideal temperature is supposed to be. Even if we did manage to decide on the ideal temperature, who has the hubris to claim that mother nature would go along with our ideal. I am sure we would all like mother nature to stop with the whole tornado and hurricane thing, but generally she is not amicable to our wishes and follows her own course. • Joseph Murphy says: What a poor response Steve. Your post is as ridiculous as the boggey men you are trying to create. • Sure was. Why is the annual increase in CO2 around half of human emissions? Nobody knows, but it certainly suggests that the increase is not related to human emissions. How does 400 ppm radiating at the tropopause heat the surface when the radiation cannot possibly reach the surface? Debate that, Mosher… • Michael, how can an increase of halve the human emissions not be caused by human emissions? I don’t think that any housewife with a strict household budget would agree with you: if you add 10 dollar in your wallet every morning and end the day, every day, with 5 dollar more, then the increase is not from the extra 10 dollar? And you haven’t spend 5 dollar more than you earned in the rest of the day, whatever the further transactions in and out you did? • Engelbeen, You conveniently forget that natural sources and sinks dwarf human emissions, and could not possibly be in any sort of balance. Your$10 is a puny remainder to Mother Nature’s \$250. What exactly are carbonates in the oceans doing, net source or net sink, and why? Nobody knows. “How could it not?” What is the Latin for that, argumentum ad ignorantium, argument from ignorance. There are many many ways it could not.

• Michael, whatever the rest of the natural carbon cycle, if humans add 10 GtC/year, one-sided and nature adds X GtC/year, but removes X + 5 GtC/year, it simply is impossible (*) that nature is the cause of the increase, no matter if X is 10 or 100 or 1000 times the human emissions…

(*) The only way that the natural cycle could be the cause of the increase is if the response of the sinks to any increase in the atmosphere is very fast and that the natural cycle increased in lockstep with human emissions over the same time frame: a 4-fold since 1960. For which is not the slightest indication, to the contrary, the residence time estimates increased in the past decades, which is consistent with a rather stable carbon cycle in an increased CO2 mass of the atmosphere.

• “adds X GtC/year, but removes X + 5 GtC/year”

Engelbeen,

To quote from one of my favorite movies, “Are you obtuse?” How could Mother Nature couple what she adds with what she subtracts? These are the sums of many many different unrelated processes. Vegetation and plankton grow, and die. Are trees and forested areas increasing or decreasing? How are the foraminifera doing? The oceans spew, but then suck up. How could you possible suggest all these things sum to the same number every year? No way, no how…

• Michael, indeed there are a lot of CO2 movements in and out the atmosphere, but there are 2 main mass movements: between atmosphere and the biosphere and between the atmosphere and the deep oceans.

How could Mother Nature couple what she adds with what she subtracts?

The carbon cycle reacts like a simple first order process to disturbances of the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The “setpoint” is determined by temperature which influences the (mainly ocean-atmosphere) equilibrium at a rate of ~8 ppmv/K over the past 800,000 years.

If for some reason more CO2 enters the atmosphere (volcanoes, humans, huge forest fires,…) the partial pressure in the atmosphere increases above the equilibrium pressure for the temperature level, which makes that more CO2 is pressed in the oceans at the (deep) ocean sink places and less CO2 is released at the (deep) ocean upwelling places. That also increases the uptake by plants, but doesn’t influence the decay of plants.

Peter Dietze calculated the e-fold decay rate of the increase already 14 years ago on the pages of the late John Daly:
http://www.john-daly.com/carbon.htm

Thus wile there was a an 800,000 years dynamic equilibrium between temperature and CO2 levels, that is gone in the past 160 years. The 100 ppmv increase in the atmosphere causes a 2.5 ppmv/year (5 GtC/year) net sink rate which is the net result of reduced natural releases from the oceans and increased uptake by oceans and plants.

The 2.5 ppmv/year sink rate is not fixed, but over the past 55 years of accurate measurements increased a 4-fold while the year by year natural variability in net sink rate of +/- 1 ppmv didn’t change much. See the graph in a previous comment. Anyway, nature was a net, increasing sink over the past 55 years, not a source of CO2, whatever the height of the natural cycle or any of its individual fluxes.

• TRM says:

> 1. CO2 in increasing from 1850 to today.
Yes it has. My question back would be “Has this been good for life on Earth?”.
In the Permian there was about a 30 million year period of very low CO2 and our current low CO2 period goes back about 20 million years. In between there was a 250 million year period where CO2 was 1000 to 2000 PPM.

> 2. Human emissions are the cause.
Wrong. Just plain WRONG. That statement shows your total and willful disregard for science. Warming oceans, mankind’s use of fossil fuels, volcanoes and UHI all combine. The amount attributed to each varies but to to bluntly state “Human emissions are the cause” is just WRONG.

> 3. C02 warms the planet.
To what extent is the question though isn’t it. Water vapor also warms the planet. Want to get a real debate amongst scientists going? Just ask how much of the greenhouse effect is due to water vapor. I’ve been asking that question for a decade and the numbers range from 65% to 95%.

In closing I’d like to thank you Mr Mosher for being the instigator that started Dr Brown on his response. Every time you do these things you create a lot more skeptics so keep up the good work.

• Harold says:

Steven Mosher October 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Let’s get a little clarity

—–

Says the Swedish Chef.

• rgbatduke says:

Dear Steven,

As I work through below, here’s a skeptic’s model of global warming. The direct warming we can expect in a no-feedback model of forcing only from the increase in CO_2 concentration itself is:

$\Delta T = 1.9 \ln(P/P_0)$

in degrees C. This corresponds to a TCS of 1.3 C over a doubling of atmospheric CO_2, and is directly supported by physical analysis of the atmospheric radiative effect. If you feel uncomfortable with a no-feedback model, feel free to include an additional term, and/or a noise term, but beware of multiplication of parameters. My model is a no parameter model using actual estimations of CO_2 driven forcing, although I admit that the number 1.9 is optimized (from the middle of the accepted range).

This model predicts the temperature anomaly from 1944 to 2014 to within about 20%, that is, within around 0.1 C. Well, actually it predicts the total anomaly to within 0% — it is basically exactly dead on — but the curve itself deviates by as much as 20-25% on the way up. This sort of deviation is obviously not significant, of course — this is a no-parameter physical model based on pure physics and the principle of ignorance. Since we cannot reasonably compute, estimate, or measure the feedbacks, since the climate system is manifestly reasonably stable, the best a priori assumption for them is to ignore them until the data forces us to consider them!

We obviously aren’t there yet.

Note well, this is an honest climate model for the temperature anomaly — especially for the anomaly, as the exact same reasoning that makes statisticians focus on the anomaly instead of an absolute temperature they can’t measure or estimate to within a whole degree C — because one can look at the expected change without knowing the details affecting the interior as long as those details are essentially unbiased ignorance.

Where, exactly, is there room in this for substantial positive feedback? Where is there room for any feedback at all?

If you want to assert natural variability, well, I agree. We agree then that all climate models badly underestimate it, because my model then represents the lower theoretical bound of positive feedback CO_2 only warming and it is spot on with the data. The only way you get to invoke strong positive feedback is by invoking equally strong, and cancelling, natural variation to leave us with this lower bound CO_2 only warming. Obviously this is formally less likely as it requires a fortuitous cancellation and Bayes hates that, but feel free to play through.

This is the null hypothesis model for CO_2-driven AGW. If we double CO_2 to 600 ppm, we can expect 1.3 – 0.5 = 0.8 C of further AGW, plus or minus whatever non-resolvable “noise” contributed by natural variations of about the same century-long scale and any feedbacks the model is unable to resolve because of commensurate noise.

rgb

• “” how much warming?” they typically almost universally run away from that debate or argument.”

You have that exactly backwards. It is the advocates of “climate emergency” that don’t want to debate the question of how much warming is actually attributable to CO2, and how much we can expect in the future. That’s the question that the warmist claim is “settled science”, that the skeptics are skeptical about.

The other issues you raise are red herring. Yes, you will find a few fringe skeptics out there who question whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or it is increasing, or whether humans are responsible for it. But that’s not the issue skeptics are trying to question and undermine through debate. The big and central issue has alwasy been “how much?”. But it’s impossible to debate that, because people like you keep claiming that’s not what skeptics want to debate, that instead they want to debate silly issues like “has it warmed at all?” or other straw men. That’s the real problem. These climate advocates who claim the science is settled don’t want to debate the real core of the issue, which is the climate sensitivity, which even Mosher admits isn’t settled. And to avoid that core issue, they introduce all kinds of false claims about what skeptics really want to debate, to shut the debate down and declare skeptics to be irrational creatures who only want to debate fringe assertions. It’s a neat trick, but it doesn’t work. Even Mosher must know he’s lying here. He reads this blog, he knows what most of the people here contest and challenge, and instead of responding to that, he brings out the fringiest claims and says it’s not worth debating them. And then has the nerve to say that the one area that really is open to debate, is something skeptics don’t want to debate.

So let’s meet that challenge. Let’s have the debate Mosher says we don’t want. Let’s have that debate on “how much?”. Call his bluff. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who are qualified to do that in the skeptical community. Let’s get them together, and challenge the other camp to a debate on “how much?”. Mosher can talk to prominent scientists on the other side of the debate and enlist them to have that debate. It would be interesting to see if he can get anyone to sign on. If he can’t, that will be really telling as to who doesn’t want to debate the core issues of climate change in our time. If he can, that would be an awesome event.

So, Steve, will you accept that challenge? Anthony, how about you?

122. F. Ross says:

A Tour de Force!

123. Richard D says:

An excellent post. Many thanks. I also commend the sticky reccomendations above.

124. k scott denison says:

Mosher, I will give you the same advice you’ve been giving Nick over at CA: you hurt your credibility when you refuse to admit you are wrong.

125. mebbe says:

If science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences, then how does it proceed and advance?. It proceeds and advances by successful prediction. Not by verbal theater in front of an audience, but rather by actually doing science.

——————————
At the time that a prediction is made it is not known whether or not it will be successful.
Most predictions are unsuccessful.
Since science only proceeds by successful prediction, many people discover that they were not doing science after all for all the time that they invested into their unsuccessful predictions.
Bummer!

126. vigilantfish says:

What a superb analysis of how science has become corrupted by our flawed funding models and the cash-cow of ‘global warming’ aka ‘climate change’. Thank-you, Dr. Brown, for the clarity and expertise with which you intertwine your descriptions of chaos theory with allusions to its contributors and history.

127. average joe says:

Dear Dr. Brown, were I in your presence I would give you a standing ovation! All of your points are dead on, and very well written. I would like to share your message with the world. Here is an article about an unusual grant process that I find interesting.

http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/news/news-picks/house-science-committee-continues-unusual-review-of-nsf-grants-a-news-pick-post

Mosher has discredited himself with the post above. It is through openly embracing discussions and debates with qualified scientists of differing points of view, and honestly questioning your own theories when data does not agree, that true knowledge is advanced. This doesn’t include the political spin jobs that you get from politicians and PR people, I agree that those types of debates are worthless. Here is an example. In January Dr. Steve Koonin hosted several highly qualified climate scientists, from both sides of the debate, to discuss their views. The event is available for viewing here.

It is a very worthwhile read, if you are interested in the real data and thought processes behind the attribution of humans to warming. Very telling, from both sides. This is a discussion, and many more just like them, that needs to happen until agreement between sides is reached, if not by the participants then at least by a significant majority of public observers. This is the essence of scientific discovery! I’ll tell you why. Personal bias is one of the worst corrupters of science. Open discussion and debate is the best, and perhaps the only, way to detect and drive out personal bias from skewing conclusions. This is a VERY big deal.

I am not compensated a dime for my opinion. My motivation is purely a devout belief and respect in the honest application of the scientific method, which seems is being trampled on.

One other comment. Another part of my motivation for action, is that I will defend America’s liberties and freedoms of choice to the end. Mandating changes in energy sources as proposed requires clearing a high bar for hard evidence. Short of such evidence any changes with a cost must be voluntary. I agree that there may be some chance for cagw to occur due to burning fossil fuels, we don’t know. I have heard the analogy with insurance, that people purchase fire insurance for their home even when the risk of fire is very low. But here is the thing. It is VOLUNTARY! Each homeowner (no mortgage) is free to weigh the odds, examine the cost of the insurance and decide whether it is worth the cost. So it is with climate. If CO2 really is warming the world, then when it warms enough that the common man can clearly see and feel that heat, then there will automatically be a consensus, people will voluntarily make changes. The evidence to date is not nearly sufficient, no matter how loudly some scream that it is. Just because there is a possibility a “trip point” could be crossed isn’t good enough to take away people’s freedom of choice, slight chance for the end of human civilization not withstanding. This is a value choice, and everyone has differing values. Wars are fought over differing values, perhaps this will be no exception.

• M Courtney says:

Mosher has discredited himself with the post above.

I respectfully disagree. Mosher is wrong on this occasion (in my opinion) but he has a record of integrity that means he is not entirely discredited.

• Jeff Alberts says:

He’s just too full of himself.

• Richard D says:

It’s a great debate. No one has discredited himself here. Mosher adds much to WUWT All’s to the reader’s benefit.

128. GeneDoc says:

As a life scientist who has an appreciation of the long sweep of the near billion year history of life on Earth, I especially appreciate your comments on those studying corals and frogs. These are animal species that have survived tremendous climatic variation over hundreds of millions of years. That prestigious journals and funding agencies expend their limited resources on studies of local impacts of very minor weather variation continues to astonish me.

• milodonharlani says:

Life arose on earth about 3.8 billion years ago. Even mulitcellular life is older than a billion years, possibly developing around 2.1 Ba.

129. “the near billion year history of life on Earth”

Writing this off as a brain fart. 3.2b and counting…

• You are confusing the estimated age of the planet with the estimated age of life on said planet.

• GeneDoc says:

Thanks. You’re right of course. Should have said “complex life”… but even that doesn’t give credit to earlier forms. I recently had the privilege of observing stromatolites at the bottom of the Grand Canyon..

130. RGB is a physicist and he describes well how physicists are trained and the difficulties that ensue.
Scientists with training in physics and maths have little experience in disentangling the interactions between multiple variables to build an understanding of what is going on. In climate science as in geology averaging data sets for example simply destroys information .While I would agree entirely about the catastrophic schoolboy errors of scientific judgment made by the modelers ( what they do is exactly like taking a temperature trend from say Feb – June and projecting it ahead in a straight line for 10 years or so) I disagree strongly with his characterization of the climate system as chaotic. He says:
“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 ”
However to call the climate chaotic i.e’ to imply that useful forecasts cannot be made is neither useful nor true.
The climate system can be understood by using the sort of approach used in the Geological Sciences to correlate events and recognize evolving patterns in time and space.
It is not possible to forecast the future unless we have a good understanding of the relation of the climate of the present time to the current phases of the different interacting natural quasi-periodicities which fall into two main categories.
a) The orbital long wave Milankovitch eccentricity,obliquity and precessional cycles which are modulated by
b) Solar “activity” cycles with possibly multi-millennial, millennial, centennial and decadal time scales.
The Milankovitch cycles are stable over hundreds of millions of years and the solar periodicities too are stable enough for forecasting for useful periods of time..
The convolution of the a and b drivers is mediated through the great oceanic current and atmospheric pressure systems to produce the earth’s climate and weather.
After establishing where we are relative to the long wave periodicities to help forecast decadal and annual changes, we can then look at where earth is in time relative to the periodicities of the PDO, AMO and NAO and ENSO indices and based on past patterns make reasonable forecasts for future decadal periods.
That is not to say that they can be computed using some mathematical formular. Climate science like Geology is fundamentally an historical science – what you do is build a narrative using all available data get a feel for the processes invoved and the patterns in time and space of the variables of interest then project the patterns forward in time with due regard also given to any secular changes taking place apart from the factors included in a) and b).
Using this approach a perfectly reasonable narrative of climate change for the last say 3 million years can be elucidated and forecasts for the next few thousand years can be made with reasonable expectation of success. See
http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com
All together too much time and effort is currently being expended in the literature and the blogosphere on trying to fine tune estimates of climate sensitivity or balancing the radiative budget or locating the supposed missing heat – essentially basing the investigations on the same assumptions used in the useless GCMs.
The question of most interest now is really – where are we with regard to the current peak in the 1000 year cycle.? I’ve made my suggestion. I hope others will take an interest and produce other points of view.

131. RoHa says:

“but would you believe that the debate grew so heated that we were almost (most cordially :-) shouting at each other”

I know that disagreements over the metaphysical implications of counterfactual conditionals can lead to unseemly brawls in philosopher’s bars, so, yes, I can easily believe physicists could get a bit worked up over that issue. Not that I understood the issue.

• RoHa says:

Issawi’s law of social motion: “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue.”

132. Alx says:

“We know that human caused climate change is a fact.”

This is a statement which is fine in and of itself, it is an accepted fact that climate changes. Unfortunately a dozen sharks are jumped in order to conflate that fact to AGW being a fact. AGW is neither a fact, nor a theory, I am not sure if it is even a hypothesis, since it is so broad and simplistic as to be neither provable or unprovable.

Amazing article, identifying the psychology and funding driving climate science and the inherent nonsensical scientific foundations of AGW. Below I’ll just highlight a few of the many concise observations made.

“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.”

“…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.”

“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.”

“Incidentally, at this point the assertion that the results of the climate models are determined by physics becomes laughable.”

“The average of failed models is not a successful model.”

133. quondam says:

I appreciate rgb’s critique of consensus science but have been puzzled why critics have deigned to not come up with better science. The chronic excuses are that processes are irreversible, nonlinear, chaotic … and beyond our abilities. But we do nibble about the edges of such processes with black boxes. Students are still expected to solve for the dissipation of an electric current between two boundary potentials with no knowledge of what’s inside be it chaotic, nonlinear, … Or the rate at which entropy increases given an energy flux through a black box positioned between two thermal reservoirs. Trivial problems, yes. Why so? Because they can be reduced to surface integrals by virtue of conservative or non-divergent fluxes. Thermodynamic states are defined by path independence or exact differentials for state properties. Does this imply a lack of information needed to find their past or future paths? Is this missing information encapsulated in increased entropy? Is climate sensitivity a surface parameter?

“Twenty-first-century theoretical physics is coming out of the chaos revolution. It will
be about complexity and its principal tool will be the computer. Its final expression remains
to be found. Thermodynamics, as a vital part of theoretical physics, will partake in the
transformation.” – M. Baranger (Chaos, Complexity, and Entropy)

• richardscourtney says:

quondam

I have no intention of starting an off-topic discussion but I provide an answer to your question so it is not ignored.

You write

I appreciate rgb’s critique of consensus science but have been puzzled why critics have deigned to not come up with better science. The chronic excuses are that processes are irreversible, nonlinear, chaotic … and beyond our abilities.

Sorry, but that is a misunderstanding.

The real reason for lack of “better science” is lack of an acceptable theory of climate.

The idea that radiative forcing defines climate was adopted but e.g. the ‘pause’ provides doubt to it. So, amendments to that radiative forcing conjecture are being applied as methods to avoid abandoning it. The conjecture is now at the stage phlogiston theory had before it was displaced by the oxygenation theory of combustion.

However, there is no clear theory to replace the radiative forcing conjecture. Cyclic behaviour is one idea and solar influence is another, but there is no real evidence for any simple explanation of climate variation (which is not to deny Milankovitch Cycles).

I have argued for decades that global climate is a chaotic system with two main strange attractors which determine glacial and interglacial states (this idea is supported by the climate ‘flickers’ during transitions between these states), and others have also reached similar conclusions. However, there is insufficient knowledge to start constructing even a toy model of such a chaotic system so this idea is as unacceptable as all other conjectures concerning global climate behaviour(s).

It requires much effort to explain that there is lack of an acceptable theory of climate. The “chronic excuses” you mention are ways to say “We don’t know because we lack of an acceptable theory of climate” in a manner acceptable to the public.

I sincerely hope this response is sufficient.

Richard

• Quondam , Richardscourtney You are really asking how to do climate science — see my post at 7/10:18 pm above for the answer .Y’all need a change of mindset – to get some idea of what I am talking about check in a library Vol 1 of The Geologic Time Scale Gradstein et al 2012 and see how the geological time scale is cobbled together from different types of data from different fields. Also when looking at time series thinking of geological correlation concepts such as type sections (type time series) and golden spikes is very helpful.
Thus e.g when thinking about the past thousand years the Hockey Stick type time series should be replaced with
Fig 9 at http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com
which at this time is the most useful reconstruction for identifying N H temperature trends in the latest important millennial cycle – .From Christiansen and Ljungqvist 2012 (Fig 5)
http://www.clim-past.net/8/765/2012/cp-8-765-2012.pdf

• DirkH says:

quondam
October 8, 2014 at 4:12 am
“Thermodynamic states are defined by path independence or exact differentials for state properties. Does this imply a lack of information needed to find their past or future paths? Is this missing information encapsulated in increased entropy? Is climate sensitivity a surface parameter?”

Climate models rely on statistical description. They fail. For a statistical description many instances of the described processes have to happen in one grid box.
This condition is violated all the time. Convective fronts, hurricanes etc. can span a small continent. A statistical description is impossible on the scale of the simulation.

There is no statistical description of thunderstorms. And there is no physical simulation of thunderstorms on a microscale. That would require gridboxes on the meter scale I guess. And to build such a simulation we would first have to find out what happens in a thunderstorm. Hey you can ignore lightnings and Elfs and sprites and you’re simulating a kind of PG 13 rated version of a thunderstorm but not a real thunderstorm.

Oh, your meter-sized gridboxes would also have to have time steps of microseconds.

• rgbatduke says:

I appreciate rgb’s critique of consensus science but have been puzzled why critics have deigned to not come up with better science. The chronic excuses are that processes are irreversible, nonlinear, chaotic … and beyond our abilities.

Oh my! So from this point of view, physicists are offering excuses for being unable to integrate chaotic systems indefinitely into the future at infinite precision? Look, you really, really need to buy a copy of Gleick’s book:

http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Making-Science-James-Gleick/dp/0143113453#

and read it. It’s perfectly accessible to a lay person. Maybe then you will know why your reply here is really amazingly funny. Sort of like saying “I have been puzzled why it is taking physicists so long to master FTL travel so we can all build starships and spread out across the Universe. The chronic excuses are that FTL travel violates a half dozen physical and mathematical principles .. and is beyond our abilities.” Or “I don’t know why those computer scientists haven’t managed to come up with P solutions to NP-complete problems. Their chronic excuse is that P is probably not equal to NP so that doing so is … beyond our abilities.”

Seriously, it isn’t that skeptics are lazy, as you seem to imply. It is that the solution that is being sold as trustworthy by the crowd of True Climate Model Believers almost certainly cannot be solved at all in the way they are trying to solve it. Other replies down below indicate why — it’s the bit in the top article about “30 orders of magnitude”. This breaks down as follows:

1 mm — approximate Kolmogorov scale for viscosity in air, the scale of the smallest eddies that are relevant in relaxation processes in turbulent air, the scale of the fluctuations that nucleate the self-organization of larger scale structures.

$10^{-3}/340 \approx 3 \times 10^{-6}$ seconds — the time required for sound to travel 1 mm.

The spatiotemporal scale at which we might reasonably be able to solve an actual physics computation of the relevant microscopic dynamics:

Cover the Earth’s atmosphere in cubes roughly 1mm across (smaller than the K-scale is OK, larger not so much). Integrate in timesteps of roughly 1 microsecond. Don’t forget to do the same thing to the ocean. Somewhere along the way, work out how to do the radiative dynamics when the mean free path of LWIR photons is order of 1 meter, hence directly statistically integrable on this grid with minimal approximation.

The spatiotemporal scale being used:

100km x 100 km x 1 km. That is, each grid cell in the higher grid resolution models contains 10^8 x 10 ^8 x 10^6 = 10^22 cubic millimeters.

5 minutes = 300 seconds: The approximate time for sound to propagate 100 km (they simply ignore the vertical direction and hence the model is non-physical vertically and will not correctly describe vertical transport or relaxation processes).

Note that 300/3 x 10^{-6} = 10^8, and 10^8*10^22 = 10^30.

I wasn’t kidding. The computations are being carried out at a scale 10^30 times away from the scale where we might actually expect the solution to work. Although with nonlinear dynamics, it might need to be finer than this.

Note further. In timesteps of 10^{-6} seconds, to advance the solution 30 years requires roughly 10^15 timesteps. If it took only a 1 microsecond or actual compute time to advance the solution on the entire grid by 1 timestep, it would still take 1 billion seconds to complete, which is (wait for it) 30 years! That is, to beat the Earth to the solution we’d have to complete a computational timestep in less time than the time the timestep represents in physical units and the integrated dynamics. And if you think a timestep would take a computational microsecond, I have some real estate you might like to look at in New York, a big bridge, y’know…

As for why you need this granularity, it is because there are structures that end up being important to the energy flow in the system that are simply erased by too coarse a computational scale. At best one has to make a blind guess for their integrated effect and hope that the resulting mean field theory works.

But a nonlinear chaotic mean field theory that works is very, very close to being a pure mathematical/physical oxymoron. The discovery of chaos was the discover that mean field theory breaks down in systems with sufficient complexity. It is the moral equivalent of the discovery of Godel’s theorem in mathematics and logic — it means that people (like Hilbert) who fail to axiomatize all of mathematics don’t fail because they are lazy, they fail because it cannot be done. It doesn’t matter how hard you try. You might as well try to solve NP-complete problems in P time, or invent a physical system that violates the second law of thermodynamics. At the very least, the onus of proof is entirely on anyone claiming to have discovered a way to integrate a mean-field climate model that works to prove it, both with some actual plausible mathematical arguments (which can begin by explaining why you succeeded in this insanely difficult problem when nobody else has succeeded with mere toy problems that are far simpler) and by — you bet — demonstrating predictive skill.

But let me rise to the challenge. Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for:

The Skeptics’ Global Warming Model!

Start with any of the many, many papers that estimate the direct radiative warming one expects from CO_2 only. There’s a nice paper in the American Journal of Physics — a teaching journal — in 2012 by Wilson that presents a nice summary of the literature and the results of simple Modtran computations. I can do no better than to quote the authors near the end of the paper:

…gives a no-feedback climate sensitivity of about 0.9 K.

We’ll use a value of 1 C as the no-feedback warming to be expected from doubling CO_2 from 300 ppm to 600 ppm. Let us now build the simplest possible model! It is known

that the atmospheric warming this represents is logarithmic in the CO_2 content. That is, we expect to get a temperature anomaly of $\Delta T = A \ln(P/P_0)$ for any given partial pressure of CO_2 relative to the reference partial pressure at the start. We can set the constant by using the no-feedback expected doubling:

$1 C = A \ln(2)$

which is really convenient because then I can write:

$\Delta T = (1.0/\ln(2))*\ln(P/P_0) \approx 1.44 \ln(P/P_0)$

in centigrade. This is my climate model. All of it. My basic assumption is that CO_2 is a greenhouse gas. It is expected to cause a direct radiative warming of the earth as its concentration increases. The Earth climate system is stable, so I’m going to make a linear response hypothesis — on average, in the vicinity of equilibrium, the response to any small perturbation is to try to restore equilibrium. The additional forcing is over an order of magnitude smaller than the annual variation in forcing due to the Earth’s eccentric orbit, well over two orders of magnitude smaller than the TOA insolation, and far smaller than the daily or even hourly variations with e.g. cloud, snow and ice cover, or variations due to water vapor (the important GHG).

I cannot solve the Navier-Stokes equations for the planetary climate system in any believable way. Nobody can. The simplest assumption is therefore that the feedbacks from the entire collective system are neutral, neither strongly positive nor strongly negative. Any other result would cause the system to nonlinearly and cumulatively respond to the near infinity of natural forcings in a biased way, which would result in a biased random walk (or heck, a plain old random walk) and the system would be unstable to its own noise, like a loudspeaker turned up too high. We could hardly miss such a thing, were it to occur — it would look like a plunge into glaciation or “overnight” emergence from glaciation.

So let’s compare my climate model to the data. HADCRUT4 on WFT clearly shows 0.5C warming from the general decade 1940-1950 (to avoid cherrypicking an end point, and at appropriate precision) up to the general decade 2004-2014. Mauna Loa on WFT one has to extrapolate back a bit to reach the start decade, but in numbers of similar precision the ratio $P/P_0 \approx 1.3$ is reasonable. Thus:

$\Delta T_{exp} = 0.5 C$

$\Delta T_{model} = 1.44\ln(1.3) = 0.4 C$

My model is accurate over a span of roughly seventy years to within 0.1 C, less than the acknowledged error in HADCRUT4 even without worrying about its neglect of things like UHI that might very reasonably make HADCRUT4 and upper bound (and probably biased) estimate of the temperature anomaly.

With this absolutely bone simple model I outshoot all of the models computed in CMIP5 over the exact same span. It won’t work very well on a longer hindcast, of course — because all one learns from looking at data before 1945 is that there was almost as much warming in the span from 1910 to 1945 as there was from 1945 to the present, even without a commensurate increase in $P/P_0$. My model does not account for this sort of deterministic/natural “noise” in the climate, so of course it won’t do very well in tracking it.

But neither do any of the CMIP5 models!. In fact, they do no better than my model does — in figure 9.8a of AR5 you can see the multimodel mean skating straight over this early 20th century warming (and you can see how its constituent models don’t even come close to the measured temperature, being consistently high and having all sorts of obviously wrong internal dynamics and timescales and fluctuation scales.

Now, unlike the IPCC modelers, I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge that my model could be improved (and thereby brought into better agreement with the data). For example, the estimate of 1.0C per doubling of CO_2 is pretty crude, and could just as easily have been 1.2 C or 1.5 C. A simple improvement is to solve for my single parameter, $A$, to get the best fit across the entire span. Without really doing a nonlinear regression, we can match the temperature change pretty precisely with:

$\Delta T = 1.9 \ln(P/P_0)$

which corresponds to a TCS of 1.3 C from all sources of feedback and forcing!.

My model is now dead on — how could it not be — but it is also dead on the midpoint of the most often quoted range for CO_2-only forcing, 1 to 1.5 C. Indeed, it’s scary good.

I would never assert that the prediction is is that good, because I’m not an idiot. I happen to think that natural variation alone can easily produce temperature deltas of 0.4-0.5 C on precisely the same timescale without any help from CO_2 at all. One such warming episode is clearly visible in the thermometric climate record from the first half of the 20th century. There is also a compelling correspondence between the late 20th century rise and e.g. ENSO events and PDO phase, further supporting an assertion that natural variation is probably so large that my linear response model could easily be off by 100% either way with the difference being natural. That is, the total warming from CO_2 including feedbacks but not including natural variation and noise could be as little as 0 C — flat out neutral, insensitive altogether — to 2 to 2.5 C — the warming “should” have been twice as great including all feedbacks but natural variation cancelled it. To put it another way, almost all of the late 20th century warming could have nothing to do with CO_2, or the warming we observe there could have been even greater if it weren’t for partial cancellation due to natural cooling.

But there is little evidence for either one of these — certainly no evidence so compelling that I should feel it necessary to make a choice between them. Until there is, the only rational thing to do is keep it simple, and assume that my simplest possible physics based model is correct until it is falsified by the passage of time. In the meantime, it stands as strong evidence against large positive feedbacks.

Suppose there were, as has so very often been asserted, a strong, positive, water vapor feedback.

Then where the hell is it?

The data is precisely fit by CO_2 alone with no feedback, not over the paltry 15 to 20 years (that aren’t even “climate” according to climate scientists) in which the late 20th century actually warmed, but across the entire range of 70-odd years which is surely enough to represent a meaningful increasing CO_2 climate trend. Indeed, if one smooths the temperature curve in a 20 or 30 year running average, the agreement with my model curve if anything improves — the irrelevant noise goes away.

There isn’t any room for positive feedback. If it occurred, surely we would have observed more than 0.5 C of warming, because that’s exactly what is predicted in a no feedback model.

rgb

• RGB Since you have convincingly shown again the complete uselessness of the GCM approach to forecasting and the small influence of anthropogenic CO2 on climate would you not agree that it is time to move to a completely different method of climate forecasting. as referred to in my comments above at
7/ 10:18pm and 8/ 6:28 AM and in the series of posts at http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com
which provide forecasts of the timing and amount of a possible coming cooling?

• David A says:

Dr. Brown, thank you for another well thought out addition to this post. I have one area that I think may need greater clarity. You stated…”I cannot solve the Navier-Stokes equations for the planetary climate system in any believable way. Nobody can. The simplest assumption is therefore that the feedbacks from the entire collective system are neutral, neither strongly positive nor strongly negative. Any other result would cause the system to nonlinearly and cumulatively respond to the near infinity of natural forcing in a biased way, which would result in a biased random walk (or heck, a plain old random walk) and the system would be unstable to its own noise, like a loudspeaker turned up too high. We could hardly miss such a thing, were it to occur — it would look like a plunge into glaciation or “overnight” emergence from glaciation.,,,”

If the initial affect of additional CO2 is warming, but, with regard to CO2 the earth’s climate system has been shown, both in near time, and in the paleo record, to be NOT sensitive to CO2, (the record indicates we have gone through very long warmer and cooler periods with much higher CO2) then would not the center of your “neutral” bounds be a negative response equal to the forcing?

• Dr. Brown,

In addition to your model, many climate modelers show how good their model is in hind casting the past century temperature trend. Of course that is a necessary, but by far insufficient condition to make that a model has any predictive skills. The main point is that near all multi-million dollar climate models working on multi-million dollar computers are beaten by a simple spreadsheet on a desktop or laptop, where the main influences: GHGs, human and volcanic aerosols and solar are used as the driving inputs based on a similar influence of the individual forcing. See:
http://www.economics.rpi.edu/workingpapers/rpi0411.pdf

• rgbatduke says:

Dear David A,

I suspect you won’t return to look for this answer, but I’ll give it anyway. I suppose that my reply would have to be a qualified — pretty highly qualified, weak, even wussie, “Yes”. Or in parlance, “sorta”, “maybe”, “it’s plausible”.

The reason I can give no better answer is that two principles are in conflict. One is the logical fallacy ceteris paribus — trying to connect past behavior (especially across geological time) to the present on the basis of proxy data being leveraged to the very limits of its probable information content is fraught with many perils — we think, for example, that the state of the sun itself was cooler, that CO_2 was higher, that the land mass was different, that the moon was closer, that the tides were higher, that the axial tilt and eccentricity were different, that the mean distance of the Earth from the sun was different. We cannot solve a believable climate model given moderately accurate measurements and knowledge of all of these things in the present, and trying to use what we know or believe about the present in climate models to hindcast the past has so far met with notable failure (as has both recently and repeatedly been reported on WUWT pages).

This makes it difficult to assess the implications of things like the Ordovician-Silurian glaciation (with CO_2 likely over 10x higher than it is today). There are lots of ways one might try to explain this, but in the end they are all storytelling, not science, because the data to support one explanation over the other is truly lost. The sun was cooler. The continents were in a different shape. CO_2 was much higher. The orbital parameters were (no doubt) completely different and we don’t know what they were and cannot possibly infer them from present data. We can do only a little bit better with the many other ice ages spread out over the paleo record, plenty of them occurring with CO_2 over 1000 ppm, as most of the last 600 million years the Earth has had CO_2 levels over 1000 ppm. The current super-low levels seem to be a relatively recent development. Even the recent paleo record — the Pleistocene — exhibits a stunning global bistability with equally stunning internal instability in both the glacial and interglacial phases.

However, the fundamental principle of statistical modeling, if there is such a thing is ceteris paribus! To be more precise, it is maximum entropy, selecting as a probable future the one that matches our ignorance most closely. We don’t know how to balance out the feedbacks in a nonlinear chaotic system as they probably aren’t computable by means of any sort of linearization including the sort that is casually done in every climate model ever written. Every such linearization is an assumption that short spatiotemporal scales can be treated in the mean field approximation in a chaotic system of nonlinear PDEs. That assumption is proven wrong in pretty much every numerical study of nonlinear PDEs that exhibit chaos ever conducted, but it leaves us in a state of near total ignorance about what we should expect for the sign and magnitude of the feedbacks.

In computational mathematics, all that this teaches us is that we cannot numerically solve nonlinear coupled ODEs as predictive instruments out past a certain number of timesteps before the solutions spread out to fill a large phase space of possibilities and are no longer predictively useful. It also teaches us that monkeying with the granularity of the solution or making mean field approximations leads us to a (and this is something the climate guys just don’t seem to get) different phase space altogether — quite possibly one with no chaos at all. In chaotic systems, the human adage “don’t sweat the small stuff” is precisely contradicted. You have to sweat the small stuff. It’s that damn butterfly, beating its wings and then everything changes.

When scientists deal with a chaotic system such as the climate in nature, then, what to do? In my opinion the best thing to do is construct a linearized statistical model that maximizes our ignorance (in context, admits that we do not know and cannot reasonably compute the feedbacks either in detail or with heuristic arguments that are anything more than “plausible”, not “probably true”) and then beware the Black Swan!

Since I’m having great fun posting fabulous books every engaged in this debate should read, let me throw this one in:

http://www.amazon.com/Black-Swan-Impact-Highly-Improbable-ebook/dp/B00139XTG4

The author really needs to redo his cover art. The Black Swan on the cover should be depicted a la Escher as a fractal image of chaos in the form of a black swan, with a surface boundary with complexity, all the way down (instead of turtles!). Chaos theory is precisely the fundamental theoretical justification for not taking our linearized predictions even if we knew all of the linear responses of the system to forcings in every independent dimension quite precisely at all seriously. In ordinary linearized physics, knowing all of the partial derivatives gives you the gradient, and the gradient tells you what the system will do. Except of course when it doesn’t — for example at critical points. But chaotic systems can be viewed as one vast multicritical point, a multicritical volume of phase space. Knowing the gradient might — note well, might — give you some reason to believe that you can extrapolate/integrate a very short time into the future. Empirically, two to three weeks before one tiny, ignored feature on a single feather of the black swan grows to completely replace it with a swan of a startlingly different shape, only to be replaced in turn a few weeks later by a tiny feature on its beak, and so on. It’s like predicting a kaleidoscope, or the top card drawn from a deck of well-shuffled cards, only worse — the kaleidoscope can turn itself into a different toy altogether, the usual white swan can change color altogether, the nice warm interglacial can suddenly decide to race into glaciation, with no “explanation” needed beyond the chaotic nature of the dynamics themselves.

Again, this eludes climate scientists. They think that the Younger Dryas requires explanation. Well it might have one — ex post facto. It might even have several. But even armed with the explanatory events (if there are any!) beforehand, it was probably not certain, and even if there were no explanatory events at all — no giant asteroid impacts, no sudden drainings of lakes, or at least no more than usual with nothing particularly “special” about them — it might have still just happened. That’s the spooky thing about chaos. Try explaining the trajectory of (say) a double pendulum in the chaotic phase as it dances around like a mad thing in terms of its normal modes. (I have had students build these things a couple of times as extra credit projects in intro mechanics and have one sitting in my office — great fun to play with:

http://video.mit.edu/watch/double-pendulum-6392/

Only the last bit, at the very end, is the linearized principle mode oscillation where the two rods move in phase like a simple oscillator. Right before this mode established itself via damping, the oscillation could probably have been decomposed into a linear combination of this and the other mode where they oscillate in opposite directions.)

This is no more than a metaphor for the climate, of course. The climate is breathtakingly more complex and is a driven oscillator. Here is a video from 1982 demonstrating the time evolution of a van der Pol oscillator — an absolutely trivial nonlinear driven oscillator in only two dimensions. The thing to note is that tiny changes in the driving parameters don’t make small changes in an otherwise systematic “orbit” — they cause the system to completely rearrange itself in any regime where there are multiple attractors. If you looked at only (say) the y-projection of this motion, it would not look trivially like an oscillator.

All of this should make us mistrust any sort of “no Black Swan” conclusion based on the kind of linearization argument I give above and that you correctly point out could be used to argue more strongly for negative feedback. I offer the linearized no-feedback model not because I think it has strong predictive value into either the past or the future but because it is the best we can do, given our ignorance and inability to do better. It is quite literally a null hypothesis, and should be trusted for just as long as it works, while acknowledging that the climate system is fundamentally unpredictable and could go all postal on us in any direction even without any anthropogenic help.

The one thing the catastrophists have dead right is this. For better or worse, the CO_2 we have added and will continue to add is most likely — in the statistically and physical defensible sense that this is predicted by a mix of physics and ignorance — going to produce a degree or so of warming by the time atmospheric CO_2 reaches 600 ppm. This is not a confident prediction — the oceans could eat the heat. Water vapor could double this. Clouds could entirely cancel it. Volcanoes could erupt and alter aerosols in ways that completely change things. The sun could go quiet for a half century or more and have some occult (but nonlinearly amplified!) effect on the climate. Thermohaline circulation could suddenly discover a new mode and the Gulf Stream could suddenly divert 500 miles south and leave the entire northeast coast of the US and all of Europe in the deep freeze and trigger an ice age (seriously, that’s all that would be needed — 100 years, a blink of an eye in geological time, of diverted gulf stream and we’d enter the next glacial episode, IMO).

We can predict none of this. We cannot really measure any of it to any meaningful precision, and climate scientists are apparently just realizing that their assumptions about the ocean in all of the climate models are dead wrong. Oops.

That means that we do not know the effects of the extra degree of warming. We do not even know how to estimate the stability of the climate system. We do not know the partial derivative field for a large-scale convective eddy in the ocean in response to an irregularly distributed change in its surface thermal field and driving. We cannot calculate it. We do not know. We do not know. We do not know.

But it is quite possible that the result will be bad. Or good! Or a wash, neither bad nor good.

What catastrophe theorists should be doing is trying to guesstimate not the direct response which is already accurate enough in my toy model until nature says otherwise, but the probability of a catastrophic response in the nonlinear system. At a guess, we’re 30 to 50 years away from even a semi-phenomenological theory that could handle this, and that could be optimistic, as we aren’t even really trying and haven’t started looking, dicking around with simulations at a silly spatiotemporal length scale and mean field approximations galore that we shouldn’t expect to come close to the behavior of the actual system in any quantitative sense that matters.

Hence my own opinion. Up to now, I suspect that the additional CO_2 has been on average a good thing. Still, if I had my druthers, we would not rocket it up to 600 ppm simply because it will almost certainly cause a rearrangement — possibly a dramatic rearrangement — of the underlying attractors as we do. We cannot count on past observations of climate to be particularly good predictors of future climate, and cannot rule out new hot attractors forming, and we know that there is a cold phase attractor lurking because the Earth is currently bistable on geological time and in a rather protracted excursion into the warm phase. I’m hoping that all we have done (and will do with the rest of the additional degree) is stabilize the system against a return to glaciation. Wouldn’t that be lucky! But even without the CO_2, the climate varies by enough to cause massive drought and heat wave and cold wave and flood and hurricane and disasters a plenty.

For better or worse, we’ve jumped on the back of this particular shark. There is no safe way to get off, and trying to the extent that we are trying is killing millions of people a year because we’ve panicked and are doing it stupidly, trying to fling ourselves from its back and not worrying about whether or not we’ll land in a bed of broken glass. In our panic, we don’t even know that it is a shark — it could be a friendly dolphin, carrying us away to Atlantis and a world with a truly human-optimal climate — so far, the ride has if anything been mostly beneficial and we haven’t so much as caught a glimpse of teeth.

All things being equal, it is probably a good idea not to jab the putative shark with spurs, even if it might turn out to be a sadomasochistic dolphin instead, while at the same time not launching ourselves from the back altogether and damning several billion people to a continuation of a life of abject poverty. Including us, when the effort inevitably triggers a massive depression, because we do not have the technology yet to safely dismount.

rgb

• TRM says:

“Skeptics’ Global Warming Model!” – I love a climate model that can be run on a TI-85 calculator and still be as accurate as the computer farms the IPCC modellers use. Priceless.

So how much funding do you need to develop this model further? I’m thinking some field research type grants in the islands of Hawaii are in order for you sir.

PS. The book Chaos is a must read. I read it about 15 years ago. Just an all around excellent description of a concept and field way beyond my level but brought to me in a way I could understand.

• rgbatduke says:

Sure. But climate science is precisely about the state of what is inside the box, not about the fact that the surface integrals have to balance. And when what is inside of the box is a truly stupendously large thermal reservoir and what comes out of the box is governed by dynamic chaotic processes inside of the box that can obviously be at least fully bistable, making inferences about what is inside of the box and its probable response to other stuff happening inside the box on the basis of surface integrals is just silly.

Bear in mind that I absolutely love surface integrals and vector calculus and am teaching electrodynamics at this very moment, which is rife with precisely what you assert. But in electrodynamics we also have (usually) linear response assumptions that let us connect things like polarizability to field inside the box from a knowledge of the surface states, and we have other things like uniqueness theorems that work for the linear PDEs that describe the contents.

Open systems, especially open self-organizing nonlinear multicritical systems, are not quite so amenable to this sort of analysis. Oh, one can do it and arrive at some insight — detailed balance is still a condition on open systems in some sort of local equilibrium and not at or particularly near a critical instability — but to figure out the inside of the box one has to be able to go inside the box and look, and what one discovers can easily be non-computable, however much one can explain what one observes ex post facto.

A trivial example. I can easily understand how turbulent rolls form in a container heated in a certain way and cooled in another. I can absolutely understand that heat flows in on one side and flows out on the other when it is in a kind of “steady state”. However, in certain regimes what I might observe is a modulation of that heat flow indicative of a critical instability that completely changes the pattern of turbulence and temperature inside of the container. My surface measurements become nearly irrelevant to determining the state of the box, because the internal state is no longer uniquely determined by the surface observation.

rgb

134. David A says:

What should the debate be about.

The debate I think most skeptics would like to see is primetime debates (focused on “Are the consequences of the human additions of CO2 to the atmosphere catastrophic, or beneficial?”) Such a primetime debate between the “hockey team”, and skeptical scientist like Craig Idso (heading the benefits of CO2 portion of the debate)) and specialist in atmospheric physics, sea level rise, etc, would be great fun to watch, and highly educational for the general public.

Such a focused debate also would likely advance science tremendously, as the resources being diverted to CAGW force a corruption onto current science, and the public policy as a result of this corrupted science has raised the cost of energy globally causing immense economic harm.

A wealthy society is far more capable of doing the real research which business is not inclined to support. So for the above reasons as well, honest focused public debate on the theory of CAGW could greatly advance science, and society.

• David A on October 8, 2014 at 7:28 am

. . . .

Such a focused debate also would likely advance science tremendously, as the resources being diverted to CAGW force a corruption onto current science, and the public policy as a result of this corrupted science has raised the cost of energy globally causing immense economic harm.

A wealthy society is far more capable of doing the real research which business is not inclined to support. So for the above reasons as well, honest focused public debate on the theory of CAGW could greatly advance science, and society.

– – – – – – – – – –

David A,

The thrust of the thread is going to where you are. : )

If climate focused science was an open and totally publically assessable argument of antagonist and protagonists of various theories and also of various research approach strategies, the level of funding by public taxation would be much more severely criticized and effectively scrutinized for reasonable management. The extent to which that kind of situation was discouraged by government focused on the ‘settled science’ proponents who said, conveniently, that there should be no argument / debate is the extent to which the public was overtaxed to support the past 20+ years of research.

The concentration, like now and for the last +20 yrs, of research in a political body is arguably the most inefficient scenario. Consider that a very wealthy society means individuals are wealthier and very highly educated. The argument that such people are un-enlightened so the government must force involuntary tax on them and centralized efforts to do enlighten research is an illogical argument.

John

• M Courtney says:

Simplistic thought:
There’s a difference between scientific debate and political debate. We expect everyone to engage (or be able to engage) with political debate.
But scientific debate does require some technical knowledge that acts as a gatekeeper to the debate.

My simple thought is that policy (political debate) is being shepherded away from people’s democratic right to choose by use of “science”. We mere mortals are barred from the debate.

Is that error due to poor science education?
Is that error due to poor political education?
Or both?

• M Courtney on October 8, 2014 at 8:33 am

Simplistic thought:
There’s a difference between scientific debate and political debate. We expect everyone to engage (or be able to engage) with political debate.
But scientific debate does require some technical knowledge that acts as a gatekeeper to the debate.

My simple thought is that policy (political debate) is being shepherded away from people’s democratic right to choose by use of “science”. We mere mortals are barred from the debate.

Is that error due to poor science education?
Is that error due to poor political education?
Or both?

– – – – – – – –

M Courtney,

Interesting aspect.

Before I consider a comment in response, do you intend your comment to be an extended discussion of my comment? Or do you intend it to be a comment in the general topic addressed, but not specifically addressing my comment? If the former, please advise the context that makes it an extended discussion of my comment. If the later, no problem, I am interested. I would sincerely appreciate your clarification.

John

• eyesonu says:

I am curious. What are the standards of the “gatekeepers?”

Can i join?

I hope I know where you may be coming from. In a democratically elected government maybe there should really be some form of questionnaire as to the eligibility of the voters? If this is the case I could consider joining you.

• David A says:

Thank you John. When I was a kid I remember hearing some adults lamenting about the Government saying, “If they could tax the very air you breath, they would.” The desire for power over others is, alas, never absent in any society. Human nature manifests in every form of government. and in every human group of any kind.

The error Mr. Courtney’s spoke of …”policy (political debate) is being shepherded away from people’s democratic right to choose by use of “science”. is accurate but, in my view understated. I would say “peoples liberty to free choice is being “shepherded away” by post normal science, or politicized science.” Libertarians believe in free choice, so long as that choice does not do physical harm or immoral harm (like theft) to another. By the claims of CAGW, power mad politicians seek to gain the moral imperative to establish central authority. Those claims, if they were clearly true, would even gain credibility with libertarians.

I believe that people are sufficiently educated to understand a series of debates structured as I suggest.
I am a pure scientific laymen. I have virtually no math skills beyond basic algebra. (I suffered from the “new math” taught in the early 1970s, and my interests were more philosophical)

Yet the arguments against CAGW are so common sense and basic to the simplest understanding of the scientific process, that the average person can readily grasp the basic concepts…–
The models are all wrong in one direction of predicting to much warming. The failed models all make CO2 the strongest driver of atmospheric T. Simply reducing the C.S. to a doubling of CO2 to a non dangerous and likely beneficial level, as the OBSERVATIONS show, would make ALL the models far more accurate. Their systemic error in ONE direction is informative and indicative of a FUNDEMENTAL error in CAGW assumptions. The catastrophic consequences predicted; acceleration in SL rise, more frequent and more powerful hurricanes, droughts, flood, fires, etc; all forecast relentlessly in the media, and in “scientific” publications, are failing to materialize. The KNOWN benefits of additional CO2 are manifesting around the world, producing 12 to 15 percent more food with no additional land or water required, then would happen in a 280 ppm CO2 world.

Proponents of CAGW run from this debate that moves to the heart of public policy with regard to the failed predictions of CAGW.

• Joseph Murphy says:

M Courtney says: October 8, 2014 at 8:33 am

Simplistic thought:
There’s a difference between scientific debate and political debate. We expect everyone to engage (or be able to engage) with political debate.
But scientific debate does require some technical knowledge that acts as a gatekeeper to the debate.

My simple thought is that policy (political debate) is being shepherded away from people’s democratic right to choose by use of “science”. We mere mortals are barred from the debate.

Is that error due to poor science education?
Is that error due to poor political education?
Or both?

A reasonable sounding answer can be written for all four possibilities (fourth implicit, niether). Those who wish to subjugate will use any tool and the average person will willingly seek out their chains regardless. There is no war to win but rather a battle to constantly fight. Education is always a mighty weapon.

• David A on October 8, 2014 at 10:58 pm

“. . . .

I believe that people are sufficiently educated to understand a series of debates structured as I suggest.
I am a pure scientific laymen. I have virtually no math skills beyond basic algebra. . . . .

Yet the arguments against CAGW are so common sense and basic to the simplest understanding of the scientific process, that the average person can readily grasp the basic concepts…–

. . .”

– – – – – – – – –

David A,

I agree in the sense that science is merely applied reasoning which is a capacity that all humans can exercise or not by their own choice and independently of any level of education. Applied reasoning is not restricted to science. Applied reasoning is not sourced from science. Even a small exposure through public debate of climate focused science would naturally create some more focus on it. So, back to my point that a significant problem with climate focused science has been a restriction on debate by scientists and governments. Naturally, when the basic applied reasoning observes some illogical and unreasonable research that becomes known through debate, then scrutiny on its funding and management would occur as happens in open society. Self-correction of climate focused science is restricted without open public debate.

I do not know what M. Courtney was implying or suggesting. I had asked him to clarify but have not seen him do so yet. I am going to wait for a while to see if he responds to my request for clarification before I venture to comment to him.

John

• M Courtney says:

Sorry John, missed the response.
My comment was just an idea arising from the two aspects of public debate that you and DavidA were talking about.

We really do expect everyone to understand the policy implications of AGW. But we don’t expect everyone to understand and evaluate ‘the Bayesian priors that judge whether the climate models are accurately predicting Arctic ice loss’ for example.

It struck me that noting the difference in the public debates should be obvious to all. Yet it really isn’t addressed at all in the media and wasn’t explicitly addressed in your comment.

If climate focused science was an open and totally publically assessable argument of antagonist and protagonists of various theories and also of various research approach strategies, the level of funding by public taxation would be much more severely criticized and effectively scrutinized for reasonable management.

• M Courtney says:

I missed you because of these threaded comments… but the debate wouldn’t be had anyway without them.

Still, just searching on “Courtney” doesn’t help me a lot.
It appears 26 times at the moment on this thread… about to be 27.

• M Courtney on October 8, 2014 at 8:33 am

Simplistic thought:
There’s a difference between scientific debate and political debate. We expect everyone to engage (or be able to engage) with political debate.
But scientific debate does require some technical knowledge that acts as a gatekeeper to the debate.

My simple thought is that policy (political debate) is being shepherded away from people’s democratic right to choose by use of “science”. We mere mortals are barred from the debate.

Is that error due to poor science education?
Is that error due to poor political education?
Or both?

– – – – – – – – –

M Courtney,

The current sub-thread debate here is on whether there should be a debate on climate focused science and that sub-thread debate is not per se a scientific debate. It is a debate about a part of our culture that may possibly be restricting scientific self-correction of climate focused research funded by public owned institutions. The sub-thread debate does border on a political debate necessarily. It is not a dichotomous situation of scientific debate versus political debate since there is the involvement of public (politically controlled) funds.

I do not think the subject problematic climate focused science research stems from lack of education or miseducation or absence of applied reasoning. Likewise, I do not think the lack of public debate exposing the problem stems from those things either.

I think the basic climate focused science problem, which appears not to be self-correcting, is a basic structural problem in modern science that has developed in the last ~50 years. The structural problem is the centralized and politically sourced control in the human endeavor called climate focused science. In my view, the only way to mitigate the problems of current structure is creation of multiple alternate structures such as private formed consortiums which compete with the problematic public central control of science that currently exists. Those alternate structures cannot be blocked from debating climate focused science even when the politically controlled structure of modern science opposes any debate.

There should be a free marketplace of climate focused science in fierce competition with our current politically controlled source and structure of modern science.

John

PS – I just this minute saw your comments M Courtney on October 9, 2014 at 8:56 am and M Courtney on October 9, 2014 at 8:59 am. Will respond to them separately.

135. Great post, great discussion. This is why I read WUWT.

136. frbnearduke says:

Congratulations to rgbatduke for another wonderful contribution.
The image of climate scientists adjusting springs and dampers trying to balance a GCM on a point has got to be the source for another cartoon by Josh.

137. LogosWrench says:

Very nice article. I recall a physicist suggesting that the speed of light in the early universe may have been different. He required help with the math and the only help he got was covertly. The guy did not want anyone to know he was even helping the physicist lesy his career be over. You don’t screw with the sacrosanct even in science.

138. WestHighlander says:

I hope that we as the “west” take Dr. Brown’s admonitions about the destructive effects of the anti-science process characteristic of CAGW to heart — otherwise we stand on the threshold of another dark age of “Biblical Proportions”

Pakistani physicist, Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, who now cannot teach in his native Pakistan, discussed the collapse of Arab or Muslim Science in his “Physics Today,” essay — “Science and the Islamic world—The quest for rapprochement.” Prof. Hoodbhoy, traces the decline in Arab, or Muslim Science, from its golden age to the writing of the twelfth century Muslim scholar, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (died 1111) who argued in his book, “The Incoherence of the Philosophers,”— both the Greek and their Muslim followers (such as al-Farabi and Avicenna) — that Aristotelian Reason itself was the enemy of Islam, because it teaches us to discover, question, and innovate.

What Abu Hamid al-Ghazali proclaimed, just as with militant proponents of CAGW — all science was “settled science.” With that revelation, for all intents and purposes Arab Science settled in the 12th century.

In contrast, the world as a whole has benefited from the “western view” — that has prevailed until now — that “no science is settled science – all of our theories and models must be continuously tested against the ultimate measure – I.e. nature itself.

139. DayHay says:

What I like about physicists and their debates is that they seem to call “crap” pretty easily and often on new ideas. They seem to be like slightly polite great white sharks, so when you pony up your crap, you better be able to defend it in the deep end of the pool. Contrast this with climate scientists, where great care is taken NOT to have to defend your ideas, with others joining in from politics saying that you don’t need to defend your ideas either. So why do these people get a pass? Because research is purchased, and you get what your are paying for, or you don’t pay. So pure research seems to be at odds with capitalism, or at least at odds with the profit this quarter.

• David A says:

DatHay says, ” Because research is purchased, and you get what your are paying for, or you don’t pay. So pure research seems to be at odds with capitalism, or at least at odds with the profit this quarter”

Sir, I humbly suggest that central governments are not capitalism. It is central governments, and their eternal quest for more authority, that is supporting the corrupted “science” of CAGW. Of course capitalist, like ANY human group, are corruptible as well. For instance Google just attacked all CAGW skeptics, yet those particular “capitalists” are heavily invested in alternative energy.

If you read several comments made by some of the engineers here they talk of how engineers employed in the private sector have to make things work, a pressure Government funded science does not, in general, have. (One of some notable exceptions being the US atomic Bomb project) However, as some posters here stated, the science of pure research needs funding that does not expect a pay day, be it government funding, or private sans the monetary objective.

140. eyesonu says:

“she’s buying a stairway to heaven”

141. Thank you Dr Brown, another fine comment.
James Gleick’s book is very accessible to a a layman, I have reread it several times.
The temptation to see the world in linear terms, is very high I suspect. As our maps only work on the linear problems.To have to concede that one does not know and cannot model the weather, turbulent flow and huge chunks of reality, takes a certain self confidence that seems to be largely absent in academia today.
As well as being career ending in the bureaus of butt covering that now “manage” our governance.
As far as replying to Steven, umm Mr Mosher needs to define his terms, there appears to be same words different language slippage.
That 5:08 response, while more coherent than the usual snipage, is sad.

142. johanna says:

Another (belated) thanks to rgb@duke, an American national treasure.

While the maths and physics that he discusses are way beyond me, the principles are not.

Urban “planning” is a good example, that the less scientifically gifted among us can understand. Urban planners claim to predict traffic flows, lifestyle preferences, employment hubs (and who will be employed), etc decades into the future. Unless their “predictions” are buttressed by government fiat, bribes and penalties, they are usually wrong.

In 1950, who could have predicted Silicon Valley? Or the demise of Detroit?

Students of history know that the future is unpredictable, and that there will never be a computer model, no matter how many zillion gigaflops of power that it has, which will change that.

143. A good essay, clearly triggered by a specious remark about debates. That by itself is pleasing – to see something superficial lead to something so substantial. I hope the folks at the APS who are reviewing their position of global warming etc will take note.

144. Wow! I just revisited this thread and see that rgb has added muchos comments throughout, even answering questions from some of the lay people. Just that fact is highly commendable.

I think that some of the so called “Climate Scientists” could take a lesson from rgb.

Thank you Dr. Brown,
jpp

145. RGB If you are still around I would appreciate a reply to my earlier comment which I repeat here. Thanks
“RGB Since you have convincingly shown again the complete uselessness of the GCM approach to forecasting and the small influence of anthropogenic CO2 on climate would you not agree that it is time to move to a completely different method of climate forecasting. as referred to in my comments above at
7/ 10:18pm and 8/ 6:28 AM and in the series of posts at http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com
which provide forecasts of the timing and amount of a possible coming cooling?”

• Kip Hansen says:

Reply to Dr. Page ==> from personal communication with Dr. Brown, I know that he has a very busy teaching schedule at Duke, putting in 14 hours some days. Hopefully, he will find time to reply to your specific questions. Note that his CV and personal email are available on the Duke website under Faculty.

• See - owe to Rich says:

Norman,

Your persistence in asking this question did at least prod me, on a Sunday morning, to look at your website. There is some very interesting material there, but I don’t think you could expect a busy RGB to look through it all in response to your somewhat vague question.

As an RJB, I’ll comment briefly. You have evidence of millennial and 60-year cycles, which you believe peaked around 2004, so we should see cooling (assuming increasing CO2 effects are not strong enough to offset this). Personally I am into solar cycle lengths, so I do agree with you, at least for the next 20 years.

I hesitate (but only briefly) to put words into RGB’s mouth, but I think he might say “this thread is about debate and the failure of mainstream climate predictions, and whilst alternative predictions are of some interest, I would not want to comment on them unless there was some very solid science behind them”.

Best regards,
Rich.

146. rgbatduke on October 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

” . . . 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. . . .”

– – – – – – – –

rgbatduke,

Yes, Popper was actually trying to prop up the philosophy called ‘logicial positivism’ which is associated with a philosophical trend called ‘analysis’.

In that regard Popper’s idea of falsification as basis of science did not support an objective scientific foundation well.

John

147. rgbatduke on October 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

“. . .

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 . . . ”

– – – – – – – –

Hume denied necessary connections existed in reality. Hume concluded that all conclusions were baseless in reality. How did he know this? He claimed to have knowledge that we cannot have knowledge in those areas. He could not prove it.

Actually, there was nothing to overcome wrt Hume’s ideas. Mankind just needed to continue to apply his natural capacity for reason to reality.

John

• Dr. Strangelove says:

To quote rgb:
“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.”

This is a failure of imagination by mathematicians, not lack of observation. Menelaus of Alexandria invented spherical trigonometry around 100 AD. It’s amazing that mathematicians up to the 19th century were still trying to disprove Euclid’s fifth postulate. It’s obviously false in spherical trigonometry and that was known since the ancient times.

148. “If science does not proceed or advance by verbal debates in front of audiences, then how does it proceed and advance?. It proceeds and advances by successful prediction. Not by verbal theater in front of an audience, but rather by actually doing science.”

Then let’s have a debate as to whether or not climate science is making successful predictions?

That should be a real doozey.

If it isn’t, then it isn’t advancing science at all.