Negative and Positive Results in Climate Research

Guest opinion: Dr. Tim Ball

“Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.”

Marston Bates

A friend was doing research on a climate topic peripheral to his normal research. He had difficulty finding information, especially data, so asked for some links. He thought it was his inexperience or unfamiliarity with the subject that created his difficulties. He confronted the nemesis of too much modern research, namely the need for positive results. It is parallel to the question frequently asked after I make a public presentation. How come we haven’t heard any of this before? The answer is, “Ask yourself that question.” The information exists, so either you did not know where to look, or someone did not want you to know? Or, the data doesn’t exist or is inadequate for the claims made, and there is no basis for the proposed policies.

Western society and science are imbued, to its detriment, with the need for positive results. It likely began with the policy of students not failing in school. I became fully aware of this problem in research when talking with a colleague doing a doctorate in mathematics at Oxford. He obtained his early degrees, started his doctorate but took a university job before its completion. He continued work on it because, as I understand, it involved creating a new theorem. He worked for two years on two possible solutions and then, during the summer, returned to Oxford for discussion with his supervisor. Remember, this in pre-internet and email days.

His supervisor told him the names of others who he knew attempted the same solutions, but with no success. Possibly closer communication could have resolved this problem, but what if the supervisor was not personally familiar with the people involved. My colleague asked why this wasn’t recorded somewhere; surely some good can emerge from negative results? How much unnecessary research is done because negative results are not recorded?clip_image002

The issue of negative results is integral to the scientific method. You seek one result, but skeptical research yields a different answer – the null hypothesis. But how often is that ignored in today’s research? Proper skeptical testing of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis has produced the null hypothesis. Not only is it ignored, but those who dare to pursue it are branded skeptics and deniers. Witness the latest such attack in the Madhouse Effect. The image at right shows the back cover with its interesting and edifying list of promoters and their comments. Jane Lubchenko is the only person on the list at least peripherally qualified in climate science, but that is compromised by the political appointment by the Obama White House as Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.


A classic and traditional requirement of research and publications was a review of the literature. Today, most papers, for a multitude of invalid reasons, do not require this essential context. This means most research is done without the onus of explaining how it is a continuum of understanding and builds on previous knowledge. Sir Isaac Newton understood this when he said he saw so far because he was standing on the shoulders of others.

Another example of the obsession with positive results was the constant questions I had from students about essay (research papers) topics. At the start of a course, the students don’t know enough to identify the concerns or issues on the subject. I provided a list of possible topics, although a student could pursue their own. As part of my pedagogic trickery I deliberately included topics of concern knowing there was very little information. Two common feedbacks occurred. They asked to modify the topic, or they said they could not find anything in the library or, latterly, on the internet. Ironically, a major problem was the same in both cases. They were not asking the right questions. We are now familiar with the restrictions keyword research puts on the answers you get; just ask Naomi Oreskes.

The discussion with individual students and later broached with the entire class involved the following.

  • Was the failure to find material because you were asking the wrong questions?
  • Was it because there was little or no material on the subject?
  • Was there no material because it was being avoided?
  • Was there no material because there was no issue or concern?

Answers to all these questions are the potential topic for papers. They also speak to the failure to instruct students in the mechanics and methods of research. Two people working to improve this at the university level at least are Kesten Green and J.S Armstrong. Armstrong has the benefit for climate research of science degrees and application in business, models, and forecasting.

“When we inspected the 17 [forecasting] articles, we found that none of them referred to the scientific literature on forecasting methods. It is difficult to understand how scientific forecasting could be conducted without reference to the research literature on how to make forecasts. One would expect to see empirical justification for the forecasting methods that were used. We concluded that climate forecasts are informed by the modelers’ experience and by their models—but that they are unaided by the application of forecasting principles.”

To some extent the failure to publish negative results was understandable before the advent of the computer or the internet, now there is no excuse. Of course, excuses will develop because publishing negative results does not fit the culture, but more important funding agencies only pay for positive results. It is directed funding.

The influence of funding in climate science is well documented. It is equally unbalanced to the negative because government and environmentalists funding is considered positive and other funding is negative. There is great pressure to produce positive results for funding. Imagine getting funding for a project you propose. The funder provides the money assuming you are going to provide what you promise. Upton Sinclair said

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

That is likely twice as true for research funding. It is also twice as true for a bureaucratic job when your political boss bases public policy and political persona on what you told them.

Possibly the biggest obsession with positive results regarding the damage created is the failure of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to consider the null hypothesis when the evidence showed the hypothesis was wrong. The word null is misleading, often interpreted to mean negative. It means that your hypothesis was not proved and therefore an alternative hypothesis must be considered. Because of the political use of the AGW hypothesis, the testing had to produce a positive result. This meant a null hypothesis became negative and could never be entertained. The IPCC still pursues that objective. It is the basis of such claims as the consensus and “the science is settled.”

A classic example of proper research occurred in the production of Elaine Dewar’s book Cloak of Green. It is one of the most revealing books about the machinations of Canadian environmentalists and politicians. Dewar started with the hypothesis that all these people are noble with good causes and a desire to save the planet. The thorough research included extensive interviews with all of them. This included Maurice Strong, the architect of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Agenda 21, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the IPCC. After the research was complete Dewar realized the hypothesis was not proved. In fact, the opposite or null hypothesis was true. These people had political, personal, and profit agendas greater than those they attacked. That is how all research, scientific or otherwise, must be done. Rarely is it the case in officially funded climate science.

All of the trends and events discussed are part of the demise of science, especially climate science. Those of us who tried to protest were marginalized by attacks such as those in the Madhouse Effect supported by people who are blinded by a misrepresented noble cause. Only when a person, such as my friend from outside of climate science, begins to investigate are the full corruption and damage of the obsession with positive results exposed.

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October 30, 2016 10:49 am

Speaking of the Scientific Method, I noticed that the National Geographic TV channel (on our cable outlet) is hosting a major pro-warming view tv movie event tonite, pushing it real hard. Gee, and just a week before a major election, what an amazing coincidence.

Reply to  wws
October 30, 2016 10:54 am

Yep! ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ and other such totally biased BS. It’s hard to get away from sometimes.

Reply to  RAH
October 30, 2016 11:21 pm

Just finished watching Capriccio’s (2 years of free travel) movie “Before the Flood”.
I am a skeptic but this made me even more skeptical. Even if I was a warmist? I would have cringed. It was pathetic.
Leo the amount of fossil fuel that you, your crews of helicopters, cameramen, icebreakers etc, etc, used to create the movie must have been astounding.
When he opened his speech to the UN with the words:
“I am just an actor”, I fell over backwards laughing my a$$ off . Yes leo, you are “just” an actor and this was the greatest “acting” you ever did . Fooling these con artists at the UN and getting them to pay for every ounce of fossil fuel you used, including a pay check, was stellar.
It’s no wonder these people ( Greens) are desperate.
The cost of the film alone would have given thousands of people a chance to have around the clock electricity and they will never admit that one.

Reply to  wws
October 30, 2016 1:44 pm

NatGeo TV lost all credibility for me when they have a show about what would happen to the earth when it stopped spinning. I think it was in 2012.

Darryl S
Reply to  wws
October 30, 2016 7:51 pm

Yep, NatGeo is all out promoting Leo’s alarmist piece on sea levels rising to a catastrophic point. I wonder if anyone asked him about the missing money from his foundation?

Reply to  wws
October 31, 2016 8:41 am

I believe the magazine has secretly changed its name to National Enquirer Geographic

Reply to  rocketscientist
November 2, 2016 5:24 pm

At least National Enquirer tries to be right…

ferd berple
Reply to  wws
October 31, 2016 9:57 am

The NULL hypothesis has a parallel: The Rule of Three and the role it plays in Human understanding.
A great many areas of human activity are based on the rule of three. Logic has 3 states. TRUE, FALSE or NULL. All too often people confuse NULL with Zero, and think this means that NULL is FALSE. It isn’t. NULL means UNDEFINED or UNKNOWN.
Human logic breaks down when we omit the NULL, and see problems only as TRUE/FALSE. For example:
1. “If you are not for us you are against us” – this results in needless conflict and persecution of the innocents. It treats neutral parties as hostiles, making them unwilling participants in conflict.
2. “uninitialized variables and pointers” – in computer code, uninitialized variables and pointers are all too often set to zero rather than NULL. (binary has no NULL state) As a result invalid results are often seen to false rather than invalid or undefined. For example, 0/0=0.
It could be argued that the great failure of science in the 21st century has been to ignore the limitations of binary computers, and thereby assume that logic has only TRUE and FALSE conditions. It may well be that the failure of climate modelling is a failure of logic, a failure to properly grasp the meaning of NULL.

October 30, 2016 10:56 am

They’ll give you a masters degree for a negative result. You need a positive result (real or pretend) for a PhD. This is an excerpt from the first sentence of the Conclusion of my masters thesis:
“…for most applications [this method] does not work very well.”

Reply to  daveburton
October 30, 2016 11:52 am

So true had a grad school colleague have a thesis on 8 ways not to make alumina containing glass. Fine for MS not for PHD.

Reply to  fred4d
October 30, 2016 4:21 pm

I seems to me a MS candidate chronicling what not do shows they know where not to look. At the same a PHD candidate would be looking for how to how to do it.

Michael 2
Reply to  Flyoverbob
October 30, 2016 5:25 pm

Research into a thing that is not known ought not to proceed from a presumption of either success for failure (IMO). In my younger days hiking in the mountains; it was the dead end trails often twice worn because people had to return on the same trail once they found the dead end. As the trail became increasingly worn, the strength of its presumption that it went somewhere interesting increased. I added to the problem by following it, finding its dead end, and returning the same way. Still, the dead end did have a pretty good view.

Reply to  fred4d
October 30, 2016 8:09 pm

Michael 2 October 30, 2016 at 5:25 pm
… it was the dead end trails often twice worn because people had to return on the same trail once they found the dead end. As the trail became increasingly worn, the strength of its presumption that it went somewhere interesting increased.

The best way to achieve a real breakthrough is a search for novelty; ie. trying things that haven’t been tried before. This is the lesson of Why Greatness Cannot be Planned by Stanley and Lehman. As you and Tim point out, the problem is to know what has been tried before.
What doesn’t work, for finding breakthroughs, is an incremental approach where every iteration seems to approach the final goal more closely. That almost always leads to a dead end. Sadly, that is the very approach that is most likely to get funding.

Reply to  fred4d
October 31, 2016 12:21 am

Commiebob: I think you missed exactly the point that Dr Ball is trying to make. As Newton said ” I stand on the shoulders of great men” ,That ( to me anyway), means Newton didn’t go off into “novelties.” He build on what others had already laid the groundwork for.
The other thing you said;
“What doesn’t work, for finding breakthroughs, is an incremental approach where every iteration seems to approach the final goal more closely. That almost always leads to a dead end.”
And if the incremental approach leads you there you have eliminated one more path to get to the right answer, and that is the only way you get there.
It’s called “science”.

Reply to  fred4d
October 31, 2016 8:04 am

asybot October 31, 2016 at 12:21 am
… And if the incremental approach leads you there you have eliminated one more path to get to the right answer, and that is the only way you get there.

Here’s an example of the incremental approach: Suppose that I wanted to build a smartphone in 1925. Vacuum tubes were available, but I would have needed a billion of them; literally. I would spend my career developing smaller tubes that consumed less filament current. I would get incremental improvements and, by the end of my career, I would have developed micro-miniature tubes that consume only 1/1000 watt. Sadly, my smartphone would still consume a million watts.
The required breakthroughs for a smartphone include the invention of the transistor in the late 1940s and the integrated circuit ten years later. The people who developed the smartphone stood on the shoulders of the inventors who gave us transistors and integrated circuits.
Working in 1925, I would not have imagined transistors let alone integrated circuits.
The incremental approach means that you stay in the same blind alley.
You can’t plan for breakthroughs but search for novelty makes it more likely that you will find some kind of breakthrough.

October 30, 2016 11:00 am

But the science is settled! Anyone is doubleplus ungood for even asking such questions!/sarc

October 30, 2016 11:19 am

The Michelson-Morley experiment became what might be regarded as the most famous failed experiment to date and is generally considered to be the first strong evidence against the existence of the luminiferous ether. Michelson was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1907, becoming the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Physics.
[ my bold ]

Reply to  rovingbroker
October 30, 2016 12:04 pm

Today Michelson would have had his emails subpoenaed while Jonh Kerry said the ether is settled.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  rovingbroker
October 30, 2016 7:36 pm

Their experiment was even more wonderful in that the results supported the idea of relativity as did Maxwell’s electromagnetic equations based on Faraday’s experimental findings. Maxwell’s equations calculate the speed of electromagnetic waves to be nearly 300,000,000m/s, the speed of light!! And there is nothing in them that constrains the source of light or the observer to be stationary!

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Dushanbe
Reply to  rovingbroker
October 30, 2016 10:20 pm

Meanwhile back at the lab the ether is given exotic names to avoid attention, and to be able to get the universe to work on paper for ‘a void is an impossibility’.
The experiment proved it doesn’t have the properties of an elemental gas. In that sense it was a famous success.

Eugene WR Gallun
October 30, 2016 11:44 am

Dr. Ball —
Another great article. I guess there is an advantage to being on the slightly old side, you have years of experience behind you. Your lifetime of knowledge gives you an overall perspective that allows you to speak directly to the problems confronting the current state of “science”. You say things so clearly that to the reader they seem self-evident. Thank you.
Eugene WR Gallun

Reply to  Eugene WR Gallun
October 30, 2016 12:12 pm

Careful with the old, but I do think experience is seriously ignored and underrated. Even in the native communities they are reminding the young to listen to the elders.
Notice also how the academic process is turned upside down in climate research. Traditionally the new young bloods came in and challenged the prevailing wisdoms. Now it is they who come in fully indoctrinated and the old guard are challenging.

Reply to  Tim Ball
October 30, 2016 2:56 pm

Thank you Dr. Ball with the report but especially with that last comment.

Steve Case
Reply to  Tim Ball
October 30, 2016 5:15 pm

Yes, that last comment, about how the young bloods are indoctrinated and the old guard are challenging them, not the other way around is a great observation.

John Harmsworth
October 30, 2016 11:48 am

If scientists generally, fail to take notice of the ongoing corruption of their colleague’s collective body of work in climate, then similar corruption is inevitable in other important areas. Leftist, environmentalist, politically correct, censorship and control will return science to the times when it was constrained by the Church and ignorance was preferred. All of science needs to wake up to what is happening.

Javert Chip
Reply to  John Harmsworth
October 30, 2016 12:42 pm

Strongly agree. This is a direct consequence of selling your soul.
Every now and then there is a plaintive cry regarding loss of respect for “science experts”…you can’t pretend to be an accurate fortune teller when you really spend your time crying wolf.
It’s taken hundreds of years to crawl out of the scientific dark ages; the efforts of politicians and selected practitioners of certain areas of science (especially climate science) are moving back to the bad old days. The academic community’s lack of spine in calling out & disciplining offenders isn’t helping either.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Javert Chip
October 30, 2016 12:57 pm

Yes Javert

It’s taken hundreds of years to crawl out of the scientific dark ages

And only a couple of decades to dive back in.
How very sad.

Reply to  Javert Chip
October 30, 2016 3:00 pm

Javert you said this: “Strongly agree. This is a direct consequence of selling your soul.”. I couldn’t agree more, I hope that is what happened with Comey and that he won’t be the first one to find his conscience.

Michael 2
Reply to  John Harmsworth
October 30, 2016 5:36 pm

It seems de rigueur to bash “The Church” but where would you have stood on any topic 400 years ago? It is easy to see the Earth is flat if you live in Ohio or within 100 miles of Fargo. You can plainly see that the “sun rises” in the east and “sets” in the west. So along comes a nutty guy that doesn’t grow his own food and says the sun isn’t really rising; you are spinning toward it. Well you don’t feel the spin. So what’s it going to be?
Germ theory required a microscope. Until there was microscope not much point in arguing for the existence of germ theory.
Electric theory requires an instrument to detect and measure it. Current can be detected by magnetism, electric force by a leaf electrometer.
Pretty much all of science depends on instrumentation and then public faith that the instruments are measuring what is said they are measuring. Plenty of quack instruments exist; very impressive, finely made and totally bogus. [http]:// If you challenge one of their believers you’ll quickly have to decide whether friendship or family is more important than convincing someone their expensive machine is bogus.

October 30, 2016 12:59 pm

John Harmsworth,
All of science needs to wake up to what is happening.
But does ‘science’ or even many scientists wish to wake-up?
After all they are getting better money, and for some – fame.
Science is now out of the backwater of society and a feature of the daily news.
How long it takes for the public to realize that a consensus within science is just a corruption of knowledge, and the job, has yet to be found out. But found out it will be, and the longer it takes the harsher will be the public demand for not only justice but also for reparations.
How many $billions or $trillions have been wasted on this UN inspired mission?
How much real beneficial medical research and treatment could that buy?
How many of the world’s poor could have been assisted to a productive life, instead of assisting the UN’s elite on their continuing world tour of exotic luxury locations?
I’m sorry to say that like the UN, this madhouse in science will continue while politics and the big money backs it.

Reply to  tom0mason
October 30, 2016 2:24 pm

Well you only have to look at ‘Retraction Watch’ to see the absurdity of some so called Science,more like ‘Seance’ in some cases.
Have a look here,

Reply to  D.I.
October 30, 2016 3:22 pm

D.I. , double thanks and stars for that link, that is a really great site, thanks again.

Gary Kerkin
Reply to  tom0mason
October 30, 2016 9:38 pm

Case in point was when the Italian Government was going to prosecute geologists who failed to give adequate warning about a disastrous earthquake in Calabria several years ago. Fortunately sanity prevailed!

Reply to  Gary Kerkin
October 31, 2016 1:00 am

Hopefully sanity in this case will return faster than the speed the sanity returned to the Italian Government.

Reply to  Gary Kerkin
October 31, 2016 6:52 am

My understanding is that they were being prosecuted because they gave assurances that no earthquake would take place.

Gary Kerkin
October 30, 2016 1:43 pm

Thanks Tim. I despair of the loss of untied funding for research in teaching institutions and the inability to carry out “blue sky” research. 40 years ago at the University of Melbourne I supervised a couple of Masters students who developed digital equivalents to the analogue 3-term process controllers used in the chemical process industries. We didn’t have large budgets but they were not constrained by “successful” results—enough for us to purchase the microprocessors and other electronics to test the ideas. We always thought that blue sky research would on average yield about one success in twenty. The other nineteen were blind alleys but finding out they were was always considered worthwhile. The one success was often momentous. What a pity those days have gone leading to the situation you describe.

October 30, 2016 1:48 pm

I think that this phenomon emerged mainly from the “social sciences”, where any result could be explained away, and many,many PhDs were generated in order to generate results to support a social, political narrative. You now see all sorts of movement to apply the same criteria to STEM subjects, because STEM material is now deemed to be socially and culturally anathema to under-represented groups. It is argued that STEM methods are not relevant to those groups, and should therefore be re-structured to accomodate their “methods of logic”.

Reply to  rxc
October 30, 2016 5:55 pm


Reply to  rxc
October 30, 2016 7:41 pm

Far too much of social science research is simply political propaganda dressed as academic work.

Reply to  rxc
October 31, 2016 5:18 am

On this point, I blame Margaret Mead and her work of fiction “Coming of age in Samoa”. She used this work to shamelessly promote the nurture side of the nature vs nurture debate. This debate came about because so many people were horrified by the enormous amount of death and destruction cause in the “Great War” and needed (in her case) to prove that people didn’t have to behave badly towards each other.
It was many decades later that the outright fraud of her work was revealed. For instance, she claimed sexual assaults were unheard of in Samoa, but in fact it was prevalent. Much more so than in America or Europe at the time.

October 30, 2016 1:54 pm

It’s the same (or maybe even worse) in the medical research area. Positive results get published. Negative? Not so much.

Reply to  RGB from Oz
November 5, 2016 1:02 pm

The embedded video didn’t work for me but I also found it here:

Good talk, on topic and I think it applies to many supposedly evidence based sciences, I know for experience it applies in engineering.
In the early 90’s I was involved in researching methods to predict the reliability of software for a computer manufacturer. Since the cost of software support was very large, quite a bit of literature had been published on the subject. After reviewing most of it from a practitioner’s perspective I came to the conclusion that, while there were a number of hypothesis presented as to the cause of high maintenance costs and poor reliability, there were virtually no examples of those hypothesis being tested in any way, instead there were what I came to think of as “position papers” describing how various companies had implemented various and sundry policy based engineering processes around some of the hypothesis.
I chose one of the more widely supported measures and designed an experiment around it to determine its ability to predict maintenance cost and field reliability. My results demonstrated the metric had no ability at all to predict.
I was able to get the paper published though and it was very well accepted. Since publication it’s been used as a reference by over 100 researchers in the field. So there is hope for publishing negative results at least in that area. Nonetheless, it was difficult and also a little awkward to present alongside 20 other papers that were promoting the use of the same measure. Publishing negative results isn’t an easy task and I don’t see it ever being one. People performing research tend to be very attached to their beliefs and they have ego involvement in what they’re presenting. There’s tremendous social pressure to support the “consensus” and I’d say that’s the real problem; it’s not a scientific issue, it’s a social one.

Christopher Hanley
October 30, 2016 1:55 pm

Summarising his explanation of ‘the science’ Mann says more CO2 causes the atmosphere to warm, the CO2 has risen from 280ppm to 400ppm and the GAT has risen 1C in response — it’s really that simple.
And don’t argue, ‘the science’ is the province of a priesthood whose discussions are confined to the peer reviewed literature, admission to which they alone control.

October 30, 2016 2:16 pm

While working in technology i had the great opportunity to host some interns over the years. In one case I gave my intern a research problem and said let’s prove this. He worked super hard and in 6 weeks came back to me and said, “here are the results, what you are asking for is impossible. It will not work.” I smiled and said great job. His head went down and he said, i’ve failed it doesn’t work and all my work was wasted. I won’t be able to write a paper. I quickly informed him that this was a great result. It was going to stop me, and others, from wasting more time trying to find a way to accomplish the task. His work did prove our direction was totally wrong. When I completed his intern review, he was completely surprised by the positive nature of the review. I told him he did a great job in proving something, worked well with nebulous directions, and had the makings of a great paper (which we did write but surprisingly couldn’t get a conference to accept it). We need to document more of these dead ends and not just the ones that work.

Th3o Moore
October 30, 2016 2:46 pm

Hard science = answers that can be proven or falsified. Soft science = if you are a charming rouge with the gift of gab you have it made. Truth is less important than the narrative. Wish it were not so. Will we do any better than the Romans did?

Michael 2
October 30, 2016 3:05 pm

I ran into this while trying to learn about the real, scientifically validated properties of carbon dioxide.
Was the failure to find material because you were asking the wrong questions?
Certainly. Google searches tended to produce a flood of pro-CAGW material rather than citations to meaningful resources. Eventually I discovered how to inhibit Google search results mentioning climate change or global warming, and suddenly several good resources on materials science became visible. The properties of CO2 relevant to infrared have been known for a long time and form the basis of a CO2 laser. [http]://
An important revelation through all this is that CO2 at STP will experience collisions before emission and will seldom get a chance to emit a photon. So these homemade CO2 lasers operate a partial vacuum.
Was it because there was little or no material on the subject?
Sufficient material but little compared to the avalanche of noise. Not much “control” research to prove that assertions are sufficient and exclusive to the results being claimed.

Reply to  Michael 2
October 30, 2016 4:02 pm

Michael2, Seeing that I am not a computer type of guy , how did you “inhibit” Google search results? Thanks.

Reply to  asybot
October 30, 2016 5:12 pm

“… how did you “inhibit” Google search results? ”
Try putting a hyphen (AKA minus sign) in front of search terms you don’t want to find.

Reply to  asybot
October 30, 2016 5:16 pm

Use the minus symbol followed by the word, phrase (in quotes) or site you want excluded from results.
carbon dioxide -climate
carbon dioxide -“climate change”
carbon dioxide
NB: unlike the plus symbol in a google Boolean search, the minus symbol seems to require a space preceding it.

Reply to  Michael 2
October 30, 2016 6:59 pm

100% correct. This means that the back radiation needed for radiative heating just doesn’t occur in the lower atmosphere. Once the denisity of the air has decreased enough at high altitude, the CO2 can radiate instead of collisionally de-excite, but since it’s at the top of the atmosphere it acts as a coolant instead.

Reply to  paullinsay
October 30, 2016 10:01 pm

The presence of water vapor makes things a bit more complicated.
The average amount of time that passes between when a molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs the energy and momentum of a photon until it emits one (the relaxation time) is about 6 µsec (values from 6 to 10 µsec are reported) Heat is conducted in the atmosphere by elastic collisions between molecules. The average time between collisions of molecules in the atmosphere at sea level conditions is less than 0.0002 µsec
Thus, for a CO2 molecule at sea level conditions, it is at least 30,000 times more likely that a collision will occur (thermal conduction) than a photon will be emitted. The process of a molecule absorbing the energy in a photon and conducting the energy to other molecules is thermalization. There are thousands more absorption ‘opportunities’ for water vapor compared to CO2. Thermalized energy warms the air causing convection. It carries no identity of the molecule that absorbed it.
Reverse thermalization, where the warmed jostling molecules excite some molecules to emit a photon is almost entirely to water vapor molecules at sea level conditions. The reason is relaxation time of some water vapor rotational emission lines is 0.5 µsec compared to 6 µsec for CO2. Radiation from any molecule is omnidirectional.
Thermalization explains why CO2 has no significant effect on climate.

Reply to  Michael 2
November 5, 2016 1:21 pm

Michael, you don’t mention Google Scholar explicitly so I will for other readers. A good way to limit your searches to academic publications is to use the “scholar” version of the search engine. It also supports negated search terms but in addition it won’t return citations from the Guardian or Washington Post 🙂
I know Firefox supports it and I’m pretty certain Chrome does.

October 30, 2016 3:06 pm

The need for positive results in likely driven by the scientific magazines wanting to publish new things. “I tried X and in didn’t work” is not only not news but it gets old rather quickly. Positive results are more likely to get published.when space is at a premium.

Reply to  DAV
November 5, 2016 1:26 pm

DAV, there’s is something to what you say, essentially that sensationalism sells advertising and negative results aren’t sensational, hence the bias, but in this case I don’t think that’s accurate. The media have an obvious bias that can’t be described by a desire for sensationalism.
It is every bit as sensational to publish a headline that reads “Researchers find carbon dioxide plays no significant role in climate change” as it is to publish one that says “Carbon Dioxide kills Sea Otters!” Both are sensational.
No, it’s a real bias I’m afraid.

H. D. Hoese
October 30, 2016 4:19 pm

Have posted this before somewhere, but best I recall it is worth checking. I gave my copy to an interested student. I recall it dealt mostly with terrestrial ecology, but its point was that you take an ad hoc premise and devote everything to it rather than a broader null hypothesis emphasis. Ecology is a lot like climate in its complexity and dependent upon it, which even more increases the complexity giving the ability to play with a single idea for a long time.
He called it “ad hockery, ” which is in the dictionary maybe a little different than I remember. Not sure modern premises are all that ad hoc, but his book may not be popular for reasons raised in this post. The reference was given to me by a very sharp, but politically incorrect, biologist colleague who was unfairly stuck, retiring as an Associate Professor.
Peters, R. H. 1991. A Critique for Ecology. Cambridge Univ. Press. 366pp.
He also has this, tautology is a serious problem.
Peters, R. H. 1976, Tautology in evolution and ecology. Amer. Nat. 110(971):1-12.

michael hart
October 30, 2016 5:10 pm

It is often asserted that science is self-correcting. True or not, what is less often emphasized is how long it takes for corrections to be made. Many new claims in, say, Chemistry, could be experimentally repeated or found wanting in a matter of days or less. In climate research this might take centuries or longer.
At the risk of seeming to overstate the obvious, I believe this has an effect on the mind-set of the researchers and has the potential to affect the quality of both the intellectual effort and the product.

Vlad the Impaler
October 30, 2016 5:21 pm

A poster at JoNova included a link to a YouTube video called ‘Cultural Marxism’. I can do no better in trying to explain the avalanche of worthless research, including, but not restricted to, climatology. At seven minutes long, it is close to the perfect answer for ‘what has happened to science?’

Reply to  Vlad the Impaler
October 30, 2016 6:05 pm

Critical Theory is not critical thinking, although its practitioners would like you to think it is.
Horkheimer and his followers rejected the notion of objectivity in knowledge by pointing, among other things, to the fact that the object of knowledge is itself embedded into an historical and social process…

Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  Vlad the Impaler
October 31, 2016 9:04 am

Yes, that video explained a lot. But I still have trouble understanding some of the links between the Cultural Marxists, the oppressed groups they created to replace the largely vanished economic proletariat (where said creation of hypothetically oppressed minority groups was the end goal of “political correctness”), and what their desired end-game is. Revolution by those “oppressed” minorities? Against the same masters as before? That’s all I can guess… but for whose benefit? And what does the post-revolution future look like in their minds, politically and economically? Communism again? We’ve tried that…

October 30, 2016 8:07 pm

When you already know the answer, anything less than a positive result is a failure. We are in a new dark age. Renaissances occur when there are surpluses, when there is time to indulge in the dalliance of science. Humans hunker down to the safety of common belief when times toughen.
Achieve a consensus, go to the mount, pray, maybe that will work.
Probably not, but that is our heritage.

October 30, 2016 8:10 pm

Not that it matters, but years ago I helped one company sell a bundle of technology it was no longer interested in pursuing to another company that was. The buyer was explicit in requiring that all the data regarding failed experiments in the program were part of the package.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Leveut
October 30, 2016 10:02 pm

A Dilbert cartoon that is.

October 30, 2016 9:30 pm

I think this word explains CAGW very well…. bafflegab.

Joel O’Bryan
October 30, 2016 10:01 pm

The Journal of Negative Results is awaiting your manuscript submission.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
October 31, 2016 12:23 pm
As of February 2014, all referees must agree to sign their reviews, and links to all signed reviews are provided in the published articles.
Looks like an idea whose time has come. May their tribe increase.

October 30, 2016 10:38 pm

“The information exists, so either you did not know where to look, or someone did not want you to know?”
Take a look at the ‘Reference Pages’ on this website some time. In particular, the ‘Global Temperature Page’.
The top chart, from UAH, hasn’t been updated since June 2016, after which the running 13-month centred average rose noticeably above its level in 1998.
The NOAA ‘Jan – Dec global mean temperature over land and ocean’ chart ends in Dec 2014, just before the record-shattering warmest Jan-Dec in 2015. The latest such NOAA chart looks like this:comment image
Re global sea surface temperature charts: the NCDC chart stops in June 2015 and HadSST3 chart stops in December 2013. In both cases the recent prolonged series of record shattering warm months are omitted.
I understand there are some internet security issues re the web-page provider and that by clicking on some of the charts they update to the latest version; but none of the above mentioned charts do this on my browser.
So as Tim Ball says above, finding up to date climate information requires you to know where to look, because apparently not everyone wants you to see it.

October 31, 2016 1:34 am

Years ago our youngest daughter had a bad experience with negative results. After obtaining her M.Sc. in geology, she was asked to do a Ph.D. work on the detection of personal land mines, where still millions were spread in a lot of conflict zones, causing dead and injury long after the conflict was ended.
So, she did a lot of research work with a lot of bad results and ultimately good results: a combination of ground radar (to detect objects) and magnetic resonance (to detect explosive material) in the mostly plastic mines.
When she delivered her thesis, the supervising professor at King’s College (London) didn’t like the negative results and these should be deleted. The supervising professor in Leuven (Belgium) said that she should maintain the negative results, as that is as important for future research as the positive ones. They never agreed and our daugther did give up and now is a professional helicopter pilot…

October 31, 2016 1:42 am

I refer to a comment in the post “The null is
misleading often interpreted to mean negative
It means your hypothesis was not proved and
you must consider an alternative hypothesis”
I thought that scientific method meant
you could disprove a hypothesis by reference to the observed conditions but you
could not prove a hypothesis?
Rather you could only show that observations supported a hypothesis and that hypothesis
remained the ruling paradigm because it explained the data the best and gave the best predictions until a new
hypothesis was supported which was even better supported or even better explained the data
If I am correct in my interpretation it would seem to mean that the hypothesis re the vlimate to be tested by observation is that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are the initiating cause of increased atmospheric temperatures enhanced by increased water vapour from increased evaporation from the warmer oceans.
Presumably the null hypothesis is that the increased atmospheric temperatures are caused by natural variability ( of course either hypotheses becomes irrelevant if is shown that that there has been no statistically significant increase in temperature)
As a non scientist I would appreciate knowing if I have understood this correctly

Chris Wright
October 31, 2016 2:43 am

In his excellent book Nemesis, Richard Muller had a lot to say about the importance of negative results.

October 31, 2016 3:01 am
Reply to  Goutboy
October 31, 2016 4:23 am

Thanks complex but helpful

Reply to  Goutboy
October 31, 2016 12:47 pm

“Guilty until proven innocent” would be another implementation of the concept of reversing the null hypothesis. But they’ve already gone beyond that in the political sphere, by dropping the “until proven” part. In other words, skeptics are automatically still guilty even if they are found to be right.

October 31, 2016 3:11 am

The political left uses any means necessary
to destroy all opposition to the tenets of their
ever more secular religion. They are “true believers”;
made so by their rabid desire to rule over the unenlightened masses, while receiving the accolades
of their fellow zealots and a fat government paycheck if they succeed.

October 31, 2016 4:24 am

There may be a lot of negative results out there but we can’t see them because journals don’t accept negative results. Perhaps WUWT could start an Open Access Online Journal of Negative Results. (JNR)
and accept all failures to reject the null hypothesis
Perhaps JNR could be fashioned after the now famous Journal of Irreproducible Results (link below)

Uncle Gus
October 31, 2016 8:25 am

Back in the 70s there were repeated calls, from academics who should have known better, for a new kind of touchy-feely, humanised science that wasn’t so cold and detached; that would think twice before arriving at the kind of conclusions that led to the development of the A-Bomb, for example.
I’m afraid they got their wish.

Reply to  Uncle Gus
October 31, 2016 3:33 pm

Indeed, it offered an opening for egos to push in and dominate discussions ignoring substance. Worse, you were no longer permitted to dispute how another “understood” what you wrote or said. Their misunderstanding was sovereign. You could not simply say, “you’re wrong.” It is no longer permitted to “meet them out behind the bleachers” or invite them to pistols for two and coffee for one.

Russ Wood
October 31, 2016 9:23 am

As far as negative results go: as a software engineer in the field of Air Traffic Control, I was sometimes responsible for taking new concepts “into the field” for exposure to what was really going on, rather than what the specifications said. The “lessons learned” report after a few days of exposure was MORE valuable than just “yep – that patch worked!”. Oh, and in case anyone wondered if they’d been at risk – no! The new system was run in parallel with the old.

October 31, 2016 3:28 pm

One of the basics of laboratory science (any science really) is the “control.” In the lab that is a means of determining IF the hypothesis being studied is viable. If you assume that living organisms produce a catalyst to breakdown hydrogen peroxide, and that heat will denature the catalyst, then side by side you test a heated test and an unheated “control.” If the heat produces an effect then you proceed to work at identifying the active agent.
Field data are the sole arbiters of the adequacy of a model that can’t be addressed in the laboratory. If the suspicion is that the instruments being used to collect the data are “biased,” then the existence and degree of the bias needs to be identified first, documented first, and then an “adjusted” data set generated, with the raw data reserved unmodified, in case that assumptions leading to the adjustment are shown to be mistaken or biased themselves. Any complex or quasi-chaotic phenomena require this and it is conspicuously absent or profoundly obscure in climate “science.”

Gary Kerkin
Reply to  Duster
November 1, 2016 1:02 am

Which correctly states the point about many of the conclusions of some scientists (and others) supporting the AGW hypothesis—that their prognostications tend to be based on the outcomes of simulations which are not validated against measurements. The implicit difficulty is, of course, that they/we have to await the effluxion of time to prove their point, or otherwise. At least we have the results of predictions over the last 20 years to see how successful they have been. Unfortunately I doubt I will still be around in 20 years to see how much further out they will be!
It is always worth remembering that Einstein wrote that 100 experiments would not prove his theory (hypothesis). It would take only one to disprove it.

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