Posted by: Barry Bickmore | August 16, 2013

Dear Rich Trzupek, Here’s Why the Heartland Institute Creeps Us Out

Last week, I wrote a response to one Rich Trzupek, a guest blogger for the discredited Heartland Institute, who was outraged that climate scientist Michael Mann had said this:

Proof is for mathematical theorems and alcoholic beverages. It’s not for science….  Science works in evidence through best explanations, most credible theories, and so in a sense we’re at a disadvantage because we have to play by the rules, the other side doesn’t… They’re not offering up credible alternatives or explanations. In most cases they’re trying to pick holes. Not real holes, just things that the public will think are holes, in the science. We are at a disadvantage.

Trzupek was so incensed because it was obvious to him that,

Mann’s attempt to separate proof from science stems from increasing public awareness that the warming predicted by the high-sensitivity models that Mann and others have championed just hasn’t occurred over the last fifteen years. No matter. You don’t need “proof” when you have “credible theories.”

That comes as something of a shock to me. When I was going to school to earn my degree in chemistry, we were taught that science was indeed all about absolute truths and proofs at the end of the day. “Credible theories” is how you got to those truths, not an alternative to them.

My response (which was similar to those of Tamino and Phil Plait) was to point out that Professor Mann was correct, and Trzupek appeared to be hopelessly confused.  “Credible theories” (which are just plausible explanations for some set of data) are the best science has to offer, and even if those theories happen to coincide with “absolute truths,” human beings would have no way of absolutely “proving” that.  This is all standard philosophy of science fare, which Trzupek could have found discussed in any introductory textbook on the subject.  It’s also an important distinction in a practical sense, because the refusal to accept any of our explanations as the final truth is one thing that makes modern science a much more powerful system of thought than the various natural philosophies that preceded it.  Moreover, it’s important to understand that, since scientific theories are all tentative to one degree or another, they are all susceptible to nitpicking.  All of them have a few grey areas where the predictions don’t exactly match the data, and many times we don’t know whether the problem is with the theory, the data, or both.  And even if we know the theory isn’t quite right, it still may be very good for predicting some things, so we hang onto it until someone comes up with a “better” theory–one that explains more data, or at least explains the same data in a more simple and elegant manner.

All of this is quite inconvenient for the intellectually lazy, because it requires continual sifting and re-sifting of evidence.  There usually aren’t any “silver bullets”–single tests that can make or break a theory–and so there is always at least a little subjectivity involved in theory choice.  This makes it very difficult or impossible to achieve 100% consensus among scientists about anything.  

It’s interesting to read the discussion in the comments section of Trzupek’s post, as well as the repost on Watt’s Up With That?  Some of the commenters were hard-core climate change contrarians–real Mann-haters–but even some of them had to point out that, in this case, Mann was right.

Now Trzupek has written a follow-up post to reassure his readers that he’s not as uninformed as his initial post makes him appear.

Ah, me. It seems that I wrote a post herebouts that was intended to hold AGW-panickers like Michael Mann to something of a standard, that standard being that they should have an obligation to show that their theories are pretty darn reliable and consistent with real world evidence.

In my day job, dealing with air quality science and regulations, that’s the kind of standard I am held to by the EPA, and it seems reasonable to expect that people who expect us to change our entire way of life in deference to a theory should be held to the same kind of standard. In attempting to make that point, I used the word that Mann had used – “proof” – and that it is of course that is the word that Mann’s supporters seized upon to demonstrate what an utter pratt I am….

Anyway, the point of my particular screed was not to reaffirm the difference between Chesterson’s (rather obvious) point that two plus two equals four because there can be no other result, and the scientific need for proof in our discipline’s eternal search for truth. It was to re-emphasize the fact that offering evidence that your particular hypothesis approaches reality is even more important in the scientific sphere. Such evidence is not to be despised, but rather to be embraced.

Did you get that?  When Trzupek accused Professor Mann of “redefin[ing] science” by saying that science doesn’t deal in “proof,” but instead only has recourse to “credible theories”… when Trzupek  said that science is “indeed all about absolute truths and proofs,” and that credible theories are but steppingstones to those absolute truths… he was really just saying that scientific theories should be supported by evidence.  Well, so much for “absolute truths and proofs.”  But then, how was Mike Mann “redefining” anything?  How can a theory be “credible” if it isn’t backed by evidence, and how can it be a “best explanation” if it doesn’t explain real data?

Could it be that, just as his critics charged, Trzupek’s criticism of Mike Mann was completely unfounded… just another in a string of bizarre attempts by unhinged wackos to target a scientist whose work, although not without faults, has repeatedly withstood the most intense scrutiny?

Trzupek doesn’t want to be seen that way, and it was especially distressing to him that his article was criticized on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.  You see, Trzupek is a fan of Phil’s, and much of his follow-up post is a friendly invitation for Phil to reconsider his views about climate change “skeptics” [sic].

If you’re buying into Mann’s argument that everyone on the “other side” is a tool of the energy lobby, there’s no point in having a conversation — for that’s not really an argument, but is rather an excuse to not have an argument. I’ve interacted with a lot of people on the skeptical side of the aisle and they are – without exception – good, decent, sincere and well-meaning folks. That goes in particular for the folks at Heartland. People like Joe and Diane Bast, James Taylor, Jay Lehr, and Jim Lakely are the sorts of people you’d like to have as your neighbors. That’s the reason I choose to help them out whenever I can and why I have never – and would never – accept a dime from them.

Well, I can’t speak for Phil Plait, but since Rich Trzupek’s plea seems sincere, I figure I’ll try to explain to him why he has such a hard time getting those on the other side of the fence to take him seriously.

Dear Rich,

I noted that in your latest Heartland blog post you seem bothered that Phil Plait, a scientist whose work you greatly admire, was so dismissive of your article about how Michael Mann was trying to “redefine” science.  You seem very sincere in your efforts to convince Phil and others that you and your friends associated with, or employed by, the Heartland Institute are nice, sincere people with genuine questions about the validity of mainstream climate science.  And while you joke about what a thick skin you have because you “routinely get called everything from a liar to a baby-killer,” I can tell that it bothers you that you are criticized so vigorously “when [you] go after the Sierra Club or NRDC or other environmental organizations for blowing the tiniest risk out of all reasonable proportions.”

I think I understand your point of view, to some extent.  I’m a geochemistry professor, but I’m also a lifelong pro-business Republican who has never picketed or marched to support or protest any cause of any kind, environmental or otherwise.  I’m just not the type.  I’ve witnessed excesses by some environmentalists, too, and while I agree that these people are usually well intentioned, I just don’t think they have always thought through the consequences of the policies they advocate.

I’m also a former climate change “skeptic”–meaning that I didn’t buy that humans were going to cause much damage by burning fossil fuels.  Now that I have taken a harder look at the issue, I have changed my mind.  Yes, there are extremists on this side of the fence–there always are–but the people running the show over here are, in my opinion, reasonable people and conscientious scientists who have no interest in trashing the world economy or taking extreme measures to reduce the human population.  The parts I am able to check of the science they use to back up their claims seem generally good and reasonable, and most of these people seem willing to bend when it comes to the kinds of solutions they will support.

“Good and reasonable” science isn’t necessarily right, however, so I probably would still be more of a fence sitter if I hadn’t also been checking into the claims of some of the most prominent contrarian voices.  I really wanted to believe them, but what I have found so far is that the most prominent contrarians–the ones hailed as climate Galileos and the like–are either complete crackpots or are so blinded by ideology that they don’t recognize that their science on the subject is just awful.  Oh, it’s not that I never see anything coming from that side of the fence that’s worth hearing, but those points are really few and far between.  For the most part, what I’ve seen over there has seemed kind of creepy.

If you really want people like Phil Plait–scientists who are on the other side of the fence on the climate change issue and have done some checking for themselves–to take you seriously, I have to say that you have an uphill climb ahead of you.  Allow me to point out a few aspects of your last two Heartland posts, for instance, where I think you were shooting yourself in the foot.

1.  Your first argument was flatly wrong, and your second made no sense.  Reasonable people try to be more self-critical than that.

All your talk about how Michael Mann was “redefine[ing] science” because he said that science deals in credible theories and best explanations, not “proof,” was just wrong.  Pick up any introductory philosophy of science textbook, and you’ll be treated to historical case studies and logical analyses to demonstrate that Mann had his description of the nature of science exactly right.  You’ll also find that your statement that science is “indeed all about absolute truths and proofs,” and that credible theories are “how you [get] to those truths,” is wrong.  Scientific theories don’t graduate into “absolute truths.”  They remain theories, no matter how well supported they are.

But then in your follow-up post you seemed to switch gears, claiming that all you meant was that science requires “offering evidence that your particular hypothesis approaches reality.”  And what, exactly, did Professor Mann ever say that would make you think he believes otherwise?  Considering how pointed your language was about “absolute truth” and “redefining science,” it seems clear that you are backing off your original claim, but refusing to apologize to Professor Mann for an obviously misguided criticism.

2. Your initial criticism and subsequent failure to apologize make it seem like you are part of the rabid lynch mob who have been trying to ruin Mike Mann’s reputation over the past several years.  These people creep us out.

The fact that you failed to apologize to Mike Mann for your obvious blunder, but instead decided to bluster about how thick-skinned you are, daring your audience to compare you to Jerry Sandusky, makes me wonder whether you are one of those obsessed weirdos who are constantly trying to ruin Prof. Mann.

Climate change contrarians generally seem to have problems with Mike Mann’s “hockey stick” reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures over the past few hundred to couple thousand years.  I understand that it’s a visually stunning illustration of the fact that the Earth’s surface temperature has lately been doing something different than it was in the relatively recent past, but it’s not as if it’s the lynchpin of all modern climate science.  I would think it was, considering the rabidness of the response from the contrarians.

The anti-hockey-stick mob includes two camps.  Those in the first camp are the sort who can read some innocuous reference to “Mike’s Nature trick” in an e-mail and become irreversibly convinced that there is some giant conspiracy going on.  The others are the ones who, even though they don’t have a clue what a “principal component” is, are convinced that nitpicking, poorly done statistical analyses (such as those by McIntyre and McKitrick) prove that Mann purposefully did something funny with his data… even though over a dozen subsequent paleo-proxy reconstructions, using different proxy mixes and different statistical techniques, by different groups, have given very close to the same answer Mann et al. got.

How many panels need to clear Mann of wrongdoing, and how many studies need to show that, whatever the flaws in his analysis, his answer was pretty close, before these people stop trying to get various rabidly anti-government attorneys general and congressmen to launch investigations to harass Mann?  To those of us over on the other side of the fence, this behavior is really creepy–something you’d see in a horror movie about some murderous cult.

3. You demonstrate almost a complete lack of understanding about how scientists use models, and what surface temperatures have to do with climate physics.

After we strip away the ridiculous charge that Professor Mann was “redefin[ing] science,” what we’re left with is your contention that the standard climate models are obviously wrong because the warming trend over the last 15 years isn’t statistically significant.

For me (as someone with some experience doing numerical modeling of Earth processes,) it’s a bit odd to see people huddled around the global temperature reports every month to see for how many years they can claim the warming trend isn’t statistically significant.  While the models don’t predict that such a long period with statistically insignificant warming will happen very often, they do predict that they will happen, once in a while.  But suppose the flatter (not totally flat) trend goes on for a few more years?  What will that prove?  It seems to me that it will prove that the models aren’t that great at predicting ENSO fluctuations (which we already knew), because the most obvious physical reason for the recent trend is that lately the ENSO cycle has leaned more toward the La Niña end.  In other words, more heat than average has been shoved down into the deeper ocean due to fluctuations in ocean currents.  Measurements of ocean heat content at different depths bear this out, and show that the Earth as a whole (not just the narrow band right at the surface) has been heating up just like it has been for decades.  When the cycle flips and we start getting more El Niños, the surface temperature will go up faster.

Students in pretty much every numerical modeling course are introduced to this quotation by the statistician, George Box.  “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.”  Even if the physics represented by the models were absolutely perfect, plugging those into a 3D grid where the boxes are kilometers across would lead inevitably to errors, especially in the short term.  This is especially true for a chaotic system like the weather.  So the idea that we should conclude they are useless just because they don’t USUALLY predict warming slowdowns quite so long seems patently absurd to me.

If you want scientists to take you seriously, make some kind of effort to learn how they use models, and what deviations from model projections might mean.  Take the time to learn the difference between short-term chaos and long-term predictability.  And take the time to learn a little climate physics–which will teach you that the short-term surface temperature isn’t necessarily a good indication of how much total heat the Earth is absorbing.

4. You are writing for the Heartland Institute.  Like it or not, their reputation adheres to you, especially when you specifically put forward certain Heartland operatives and associated scientists as wonderful folks just out to find the truth.  We have experience with these people.

Take your Heartland pal James Taylor, for instance.  I don’t know the guy personally, but it’s obvious from his writing that he’s a libertarian ideologue who is WAY too easily convinced that any study tending to confirm his bias against the utility of government regulation is the last nail in the coffin of mainstream science.  For instance, he proclaimed, regarding a recent study by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, that “New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole in Global Warming Alarmism.”  Well, the thing is that Taylor is a lawyer, and wouldn’t have a clue about the significance of any satellite data if it smacked him upside the head.  It turned out that the situation wasn’t quite as dire as Spencer and Braswell claimed.  They were making a statistical argument without calculating any uncertainties, for one thing, and they just happened to leave out most of the data they said they had analyzed, some of which completely undercut their main argument.  In the end, all that could be said of their analysis was that it showed that the timing of certain short-term fluctuations in weather is better predicted by some GCMs than others.  Which was already well known.

Now take another of your Heartland pals, Jay Lehr, Ph.D.  Jay isn’t a mere lawyer like James Taylor–he’s a groundwater hydrologist with a Ph.D.  [UPDATE:  Yeah, Jay Lehr is a really great guy.  He was successfully prosecuted for defrauding the EPA.]  A few years ago, he gave a glowing review to Roy Spencer’s book, The Great Global Warming Blunder.  For Lehr, Roy Spencer is “one of the nation’s leading climate scientists”.

Spencer documents that the science clearly shows man does not in fact control the climate in any significant way and the natural forces that continually alter the earth’s climate are relatively easy to discern and understand….

I can assure you that anyone with honesty and an IQ exceeding plant life will, after reading Spencer’s book, at last understand the workings and proper role of mathematical climate models.

Being a “skeptic” who rejects the majority view of climate specialists because he’s a tough-minded iconoclast–a true scientist–he came to these conclusions after he checked into Spencer’s models for himself, right?

Wrong.  I know this because I did an extensive review of Spencer’s book myself.  One of Spencer’s main claims was that a natural mode of climate oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), has lately been the main driver of global climate change, and that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases is low.  He supported this conclusion by creating a simple climate model that, when forced by the PDO index, still explained most of the 20th century warming.  I reproduced Spencer’s model, showing that there were so many free parameters that an infinite number of solutions existed.  The statistical technique he used to obtain “best-fit” parameters could have given him any climate sensitivity he wanted.  In addition, to get his model to resemble the data at all, he had to start his model wildly out of equilibrium in the year 1900.  Physicist Arthur Smith followed up my review by doing a mathematical proof, showing that Spencer’s model HAS TO have an infinite number of solutions.  He also showed that if the model had been started 1000 years ago, Spencer would have had to have the starting temperature be a few trillion degrees out of equilibrium to properly reproduce the 20th century trend.  In other words, Spencer’s modeling effort was pure junk.  It didn’t even deserve the epithet “junk science.”

You might object that you’d believe Roy Spencer and Jim Lehr over me any day, but not so fast.  If you got a degree in chemistry, you should have the tools to learn how to evaluate Spencer’s model.  I can teach you how to code it in MATLAB (and maybe even Excel), explain all the relevant statistics, and so on.  We could make a “Roy Spencer’s PDO Model Study Group,” and include others you trust.  Roy Spencer refuses to answer my criticisms, so maybe a smart guy like you could do him a favor and put them to rest.

Finally, Heartland always invites Christopher Monckton to speak at their climate conference.  Oh, please.

In any case, this is what other scientists see when they look at Heartland–a few ideologues of varying intelligence who aren’t nearly as “skeptical” as they want people to believe.

5. No really, we’re talking about the Heartland Institute, which has shilled for the tobacco industry, for Pete’s sake.

For me, it’s not the climate change disinformation campaign that’s the worst thing about Heartland–it’s the tobacco.  Back in the 1990’s, Heartland was paid by Philip Morris to distribute materials questioning the health risks of second-hand smoke.  [UPDATE:  Heartland is actually still partly funded by tobacco companies like Philip Morris and Reynolds.  H/T John Mashey.]  Here we have a case where, after decades of obfuscation, the tobacco industry now generally admits that smoking is harmful to health, but now they are trying to maintain that second-hand smoke isn’t harmful.  Smokers can’t sue the tobacco companies because cigarette packages have health warnings stamped on them, and the tobacco companies want to protect themselves from people who are involuntarily exposed to tobacco smoke by maintaining that second-hand smoke isn’t harmful.  A committee of the UK House of Commons, after conducting an inquiry in 2000 about the tobacco industry’s behavior in such matters, concluded,

In analysing the past and present record of the tobacco industry’s response to the health risks of smoking we have observed a pattern. It seems to us that the companies have sought to undermine the scientific consensus until such time as that position appears ridiculous. So the companies now generally accept that smoking is dangerous (but put forward distracting arguments to suggest that epidemiology is not an exact science, so that the figures for those killed by tobacco may be exaggerated); are equivocal about nicotine’s addictiveness; and are still attempting to undermine the argument that passive smoking is dangerous. The current exceptions to this – based on the evidence they gave us – are firstly Philip Morris who claim no longer to comment on these issues except to protect themselves in law and secondly Imperial who claim not to know whether smoking is dangerous or nicotine addictive.

The Philip Morris company (Heartland’s former sugar-daddy) is wise to keep their pie-holes shut about what they know about the health effects of second-hand smoke.  A 2005 article in The Lancet summarizes their quandary as follows.

The tobacco industry maintained, for many years, that it was unaware of research about the toxic effects of smoking. By the 1970s, however, the industry decided that it needed this information but they were unwilling to seek it in a way that was open to public scrutiny. By means of material from internal industry documents it can be revealed that one company, Philip Morris, acquired a research facility, INBIFO, in Germany and created a complex mechanism seeking to ensure that the work done in the facility could not be linked to Philip Morris. In particular it involved the appointment of a Swedish professor as a ‘co-ordinator’, who would synthesise reports for onward transmission to the USA. Various arrangements were made to conceal this process, not only from the wider public, but also from many within Philip Morris, although it was known to some senior executives. INBIFO appears to have published only a small amount of its research and what was published appears to differ considerably from what was not. In particular, the unpublished reports provided evidence of the greater toxicity of sidestream than mainstream smoke, a finding of particular relevance given the industry’s continuing denial of the harmful effects of passive smoking. By contrast, much of its published work comprises papers that convey a message that could be considered useful to the industry, in particular casting doubt on methods used to assess the effects of passive smoking.

Fast-forward to 2003, and we find one of your Heartland pals, James Taylor, promoting a study that “concluded that secondhand smoke has little if any negative impact on mortality.”  Was this study credible?  Taylor quoted two people, Jacob Sullum, a journalist writing for the Washington Times, and Kimberly Bowman of the American Council on Science and Health, saying that this new study was actually consistent with most previous studies.

Really?  Because that’s not the vibe I get from the medical research community.  The World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer said the following in a 2004 meta-analysis of all significant published research on second-hand smoke health effects.

These meta-analyses show that there is a statistically significant and consistent association between lung cancer risk in spouses of smokers and exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke from the spouse who smokes. The excess risk is of the order of 20% for women and 30% for men and remains after controlling for some potential sources of bias and confounding.

Boy, that seems strange… until one realizes that Jacob Sullum is a journalist who regularly writes for various libertarian-leaning publications about how smokers and drug users are picked on, and the American Council on Science and Health is another industry-funded think-tank that regularly argues against environmental regulations, although at least it usually acknowledges adverse health effects from tobacco (now that nobody would take them seriously if they didn’t).  And it turns out that the study in question was funded by the tobacco industry.

That’s why most scientists don’t merely see the Heartland Institute as a collection of deluded ideologues.  Think-tanks-for-hire that would even cater to Big Tobacco truly creep us out.  We see them as the sort of ghouls who, whether for profit or in service of their extreme libertarian ideologies, can all too easily convince themselves to promote activities that demonstrably hurt, or even kill, many innocent people.  They accomplish this by acting as if the scientific community is in their corner, when really they are leaving out most of the evidence and citing mostly industry-funded studies and think-tanks, as well as a few genuine crackpots.

Once in a while, the “concerned citizen” facade falls, and we get to see how these ghouls really think.  This happened to the Chairman of the RJR Nabisco corporation at the 1996 annual shareholders meeting.  (Here’s the transcript.  See pp. 61-63.)  One Ms. Donley asked the Chairman, Charles M. Harper, whether he had children or grandchildren, and whether he wanted anyone smoking around those children.  The Chairman initially replied that he would try to discourage the children from smoking, but he didn’t want to restrict their right to be smokers.  Ms. Donley wasn’t having it.

MS. DONLEY:  That’s not my question, sir.  Excuse me for interrupting you.  I’m not asking you whether you want them to smoke, I’m asking whether you want people to smoke around them.

THE CHAIRMAN:  I will not restrict anybody’s right to smoke.  If the children don’t like to be in a smoky room, and I wouldn’t like to be, they’ll leave.  I don’t know if you’ve got any grandchildren;  I do.  And if there is smoke around that’s uncomfortable, they’ll leave.

MS. DONLEY:  An infant cannot leave a room.

THE CHAIRMAN:  Well–okay.  At some point they begin to crawl, okay?  And then they begin to walk, and so on.  Anyway, I guess that’s enough said.

Apparently, the crowd of shareholders was applauding the Chairman, which shocked the next person to speak, one Father Michael Crosby.

MR. CROSBY:  Mr. Harper, I was going to say something else, but when people clap at what you just said, that–that children will crawl out of a room and will have to wait until they crawl–

THE CHAIRMAN:  That’s a bit of a misstatement, Father.

MR. CROSBY:  I mean, that is insensitive.  And I think that’s terribly insensitive that the shareholders would clap at a statement like that.  I don’t want to do a guilt thing, but it really is a disappointing thing.  You  might disagree, but children should not have to take in other peoples’ smoke.  We don’t need it and we can walk out; a child can’t.

And these are the kind of people that Heartland has shilled for–the sort who care more about share prices than dead babies.  If the babies don’t like it, they can learn to crawl and take a hike.

You have a tough row to hoe if you want scientists to take you seriously, my friend.  I know you say that having people call you a baby-killer has toughened you up, but if it really does bother you, your first move should be to dump Heartland like a hot brick.


Responses

  1. All cults freak me out.

  2. Brilliant!

    This situation has got completely out of hand, and all because a small but powerful lobby hate the solution so much, that they’d rather deny the problem exists and try to control reality than acknowledge responsibility and act accordingly.

    Unfortunately, in the pursuit of trying to cover up the ‘uncoverupable’ reality, and as an admission of failure is an impossibility, those that dug themselves into the denial hole have dug so deep that they are forced to keep digging until the sides collapse. Perhaps then can we make progress as someone sweeps the remains into the bin.

    Some of the most egregious things in this whole charade of trying to discredit climate scientists and science in the futile attempt to find a means of justifying inaction, are:
    Damage to government by corrupting politics,
    Damage to society by confusing and misinforming the public,
    Politicization, leading to a greatly divided society along partisan lines,
    Coercion of mass media
    Corruption of education and the perception of scientific integrity.
    Unaffordable delays in tackling the problem.
    Continued degradation of the planet.

    Climate change and its mitigation is a global existential problem, and requires massive multi-partisan effort to try to get the genie back in the bottle, and we are well overdue. This is the greatest task that Humanity faces for this century and beyond.

    Those continuing to actively obstruct progress for short-term profit in implementing solutions are betraying younger and future generations the chance to enjoy a quality of life that we had, and this is a crime against humanity, if not life itself.

    I suppose we could always take Chairman Charles M. Harper’s advice to leave the planet if we don’t want to be exposed to the effects of climate change, but there’s an obvious problem with that.

  3. That was a brutal take down, richly deserved, of course, but you almost had me rooting for your victim as you flayed his thick skin away.

    Almost.

  4. Mann is/was putting forth a rather obvious strawman argument. It’s a dishonest tactic from a desperate man.

    • I’m not sure I understand how you’re using the term “straw man”. He was criticizing the quality of others’ arguments, not attributing any particular argument to them. It’s difficult to engage in straw man argumentation without creating a straw man.

      And why would he be desperate? Because some rubes who couldn’t do a principal components analysis to save their lives think he did something sneaky… to generate almost the exact same answer he would have gotten using other proxies and statistical methods? Please.

  5. Nice work, Barry. I think you nailed the problem with all supposed ‘scepticism’ regarding the consensus view that anthropogenic climate disruption is happening, significant, bad, and worth trying to fix:

    “And even if we know the theory isn’t quite right… we hang onto it until someone comes up with a “better” theory–one that explains more data, or at least explains the same data in a more simple and elegant manner”

    As Michael Mann has himself said (and I paraphrase): Without anthropogenic CO2 as the main driver of ongoing change (due to the radiative energy imbalance it is causing) it is impossible to explain the totality of post-industrial warming. Ipso facto, rejecting CO2 as the primary driver of change therefore explains less of the data not more of it.

  6. Trzupek writes: “I’ve interacted with a lot of people on the skeptical side of the aisle and they are – without exception – good, decent, sincere and well-meaning folks. That goes in particular for the folks at Heartland. People like Joe and Diane Bast, James Taylor, Jay Lehr, and Jim Lakely are the sorts of people you’d like to have as your neighbors.” Why, when I read this, am I reminded of some of those old-timey postcard from the South, where in the foreground you see a group of perfectly normal, perfectly nice looking people — friends and neighbors, no doubt — all smiling happily into the camera, while in the background you see a black man’s corpse hanging from a tree. The “nice people” of the Heartland Institute would gladly lynch Michael Mann, James Hansen — any reputable climate scientist, for that matter — if they thought doing so would protect fossil fuel company profits. Yessiryee, jes good country people!

    • One wonders which “good, decent, sincere and well-meaning folks” come up with a campaign that links the scientific consensus on global warming to mass murderers…

      It makes me doubt the ability to Trzupek to identify “good, decent, sincere and well-meaning folks”.

  7. > I can teach you how to code it in MATLAB (and maybe even Excel)

    Barry, that’s cruel… Microsoft is a nice “person” really, the kind you would like to have as a neighbour ;-)

  8. “Even if the physics represented by the models were absolutely perfect, plugging those into a 3D grid where the boxes are kilometers across would lead inevitably to errors, especially in the short term. …the difference between short-term chaos and long-term predictability”

    Some insight into what might seem like a contradiction above.

    Briefly.. In the short run, we might see the status quo (eg, small rises and falls.. like weather) with little ability to predict at any point in time if the temp will be higher or lower than the starting temp value. Meanwhile, in the long run, we are almost certain to see something clearly above the starting temp value (even though that precise value will still be unpredictable and mostly chaotic).

    Long version:

    Both the short and the long term are unpredictable in their range of oscillations if bounded; however, the long term oscillations weave around a fairly predictable rising moving average. So the short term presents, relative to the starting temp, no clear idea of a rise or a drop at a given point in time. In contrast, the long term shows that almost all cases consist of a rise from current temps since even the low range of possible temp values would be higher than the starting temperature thanks to the rising “average”.

    For example, the best science might predict and measure an oscillation spread of 1 C, while the long term prediction might be of on average 3 C gain. This would mean:

    — Short term: We might see a rise of +0.5 C down to a drop of -0.5 C. The average is near 0 (since we just started) and we have as much of a chance of going up as going down.
    — Long term: We might see a rise of +3.5 C down to a rise of +2.5 C. The average is 3C.

    As with short term, the unpredictability range of the long term is also 1C, but it’s much more predictable to expect a rise than a fall, when we compare to the starting temp. In fact, we expect a rise of at least 2 C in the long term (not too far from 100% certainty) more than we would expect to see any drop (or any rise, each at near 50%) in the short term case.

    Thus, there is a lot of predictability in the long term vs. in the short run, not in narrowing the bounds of error (they actually rise in the real modeling and is not depicted above), but in increasing greatly the odds of seeing a significant rise rather than a drop or even merely a small gain, when comparing to the starting temp.

    • All Finite Differential Equation solutions and every numerical solution to an integral are approximations based on taking a finite difference in what is modelled as a continuum of infinitesimals.

      But modelling the atmosphere as a continuous fluid is itself an approximation.

      Therefore the claims about the spacial resolution of models is weaselese of the highest order. EVERY physical law, EVERY statement EVER made by humans are, by that standard wrong.

      And when you define a word that widely, it ceases to have any meaning at all.

      Indeed a Single Column Model is enough to get the approximate outcome that we have seen.

      Hell, the observational network produces closely enough the same result if you pick stations 1500km apart. The weather is that homogenous laterally.

      THAT is how wrong the “Oh, your grid points are kilometers across!” is.

      • Hi Wow,

        I originally brought this topic up while discussing how surface temperature can vary chaotically in the short term because of changes in ocean circulation that are hard to predict. Making the grid smaller and knowing initial conditions more precisely would, indeed, make our El Niño forecasts more reliable. A single column model isn’t going to capture that kind of thing.

        Do you disagree with this?

        • It wouldn’t change the CO2e sensitivity much, though.

          As far as policy decisions go, we can’t go on “Lets hope we get El Ninos” (I forget which one does the cooling, it’s all greek to me…). They cycle for a reason.

          SCMs give the right ballpark CO2e sensitivity and the right imbalanced warming trend.

          When it comes to “Do we stop burning fossil fuels”, they were right enough to come to a policy decision.

          • I agree. Climate sensitivity is an “equilibrium” problem, which is a lot simpler to solve, and you don’t need to know the exact pathway for getting from one equilibrium state to another. Transient response (i.e., short-term changes in the system out of equilibrium) is a “kinetics” problem, and you DO need to know the exact pathways to predict that well. And while the speed of the change matters, whether we go up several degrees in 100 years or 150 years probably won’t make that much difference. In geological terms, either one is the blink of an eye.

            • Well, the kinetic solution is not as hard either, to give the transient response time. Harder, but still pretty decided.

              What doesn’t make a case, though, is transient response helps use ignore the climate change and sensitivity of the SCM.

              If the transient times are short, then the SCM is very close to an accurate measure of what we will see in climate change. So short transient times mean the SCM is accurate.

              Long transient times mean that the SCM is going to be wrong on the human timescale. HOWEVER, if the transient timescale is long, then given we have seen 0.8C warming in this short period (less than 60 years), then this proves that we’re going to see much much MUCH more warming.

              In the latter case, not only do we HAVE to stop IMMEDIATELY our additions to the problems, since each addition will be highly multiplied in the long term, we have to spend massive amounts of energy and effort removing and sequestering (and such sequestering will HAVE to be in addition to a zero emission scheme).

              The SCM being accurate is the better result for those who wish to avoid doing anything about the climate.

              And that means short response times.

            • Wow, I agree, but we can’t (for now) do much about the fact climate transients exist that might last for a while (I am working on a magic wand ;) ). Take that argument and dumb it down a little if necessary but use it. It might help convince a few skeptics to do risk management a little more carefully.

      • >> EVERY physical law, EVERY statement EVER made by humans are, by that standard wrong.

        Yes, and this isn’t a worthless statement because it implies a different understanding of your tools.

        If you see them as models, you are naturally alert that you might be hitting a limitation in any given scenario. It also allows you to separate logical steps from modeling steps when considering their accuracy, and this is important when reviewing why you aren’t getting some expected or sensible answer.

        If you believe they are laws, you will not understand how a given model could possibly be unfit to address a particular problem and can get hung up asking the wrong question when the solution does not make sense. You might question data or math for far too long when you should perhaps be identifying assumptions of the model before wasting all of that time.

        You have greater insight to a problem if you call a cow a cow. Physical laws are approximations and assuming otherwise will impede your problem solving and troubleshooting.

        I am making a big deal of this because of my experiences in engineering. The more your problem domain deals in approximations, the more important this can be, I suspect.

        One example of a mental trap is that you can start to think the physical formulas imply something about the materials. That can lead you astray into wasting time whenever it is not true.

        People are imperfect and use lots of models without knowing their ins and outs and the ins and outs of high level math. When you get into a problem, you will have to waste time trying to better understand something. This is where not calling a model a model can cause you to waste a lot of time and get very frustrated.

        • And I know that you mean “wrong” as in “the earth is a sphere” wrong, not “The earth is flat” wrong (h/t to Arthur C Clark there).

          However, the import is that this dude and the deniers are using “the models are wrong” in the sense of “the earth is flat” wrong.

          YOU know it, I know it. But the deniers aren’t playing to the crowd any more, they’re playing to themselves, desperate to shore up the idea against any threat to have it changed.

          Lets stop knocking politely on the door. Lets knock the effing walls down. We can help them rebuild it later.

          • Everyone has patience limits. When I take time trying to explain something, I am usually learning in that conversation and I think I have a shot at winning over an honest skeptic. If I am wrong (ie, when I lose patience), I move on. Simple as that. Everyone has their style and reaches a different audience. Sometimes it really isn’t worth it for me, but sometimes it is. I can leave (with some trouble perhaps but) without ceding a point I still believe in. And I don’t have to defend the science perfectly. I ask if they have read a paper they want to discuss or I try to read their own ideas and critique accordingly. Most people denying the science don’t have a plausible alternative. It’s easier to shoot those down than it is for them to shoot down the actual science. I’m willing to end the game up by a few points. If they are honest, they know they are further away from closing the deal. If they are deniers, they very likely lost some points in the eyes of spectators if they really weren’t playing straight and making sense. If you can’t yield on a wrong point, you will be the one losing points in front of innocent bystanders, so that is why I try to be honest about model approximations. It really helps when used properly. It doesn’t help to keep calling a cow a goat when the masks have come off. [Admittedly, that mask usually doesn't come off unless the other person has something of a sophisticated understanding.] Remember, if the other person is honest and is taking the time to try and follow an argument, they will appreciate honesty back. They may be smart enough to identify the cow in your logic and mock you for calling it a goat. As for many people just wanting to win in their denialism, it can be worth it to win 1 in 4 and tie or end up slightly ahead in the other 3. Anyway, my personality manages things this way. I tend to see a skeptical “me” on the other side of the argument, so I obviously can have a little patience to help my other self. I usually bite on a theory I am biased against only if I can understand it. I won’t be convinced more from someone being loud. You can’t wow me with a club, Wow. Maybe some people react well that way, but I don’t. I’m playing to my experiences and “expertise”. Whatever gave you a different idea about me, perhaps you will quote me.

      • >> But modelling the atmosphere as a continuous fluid is itself an approximation.

        Now, imagine how difficult it can get for you if you assume that approximation is a part of nature itself when solving a certain type of problem you are used to solving that way but which in this case will not be able to be solved until you test for the assumptions and attempt a quantum mechanics approach?

        If the problem is complex, you can waste much time to look everywhere at all sorts of data and question the integrity of everything except perhaps to make a few estimates or zone in on some data to test whether you should be using continuous fluid equations.

        We can follow logic in our minds from many different axiomatic starting points. If you set as axioms things that are not, you will come to doubt lots of the wrong things. Eg, if only a, b, or c can enter a room at one time and you wrongly believe to be true that a has entered, you will never consider the implications that b and c might be in the room or a not in it. For a complex problem, this sort of trip up can lead to a lot of unnecessary hair pulling.

        As always, it’s when you are exploring the gray areas where problems arise and you get stumped. While research scientists accustomed to modeling in different ways might be used to exploring gray areas, others (including many working on engineering problems) can easily do most of their work in safe environment solving many specific problems with canned solutions, and so never be able to solve some of the interesting “gray area” opportunities they get.

        And, really, if you don’t see this point, you may even bail out of a potential interesting career in science or other similar discipline. Lay people are more likely to miss this point, and part of this website’s goal is to address this task of bringing the science to lay people in a convincing fashion. You’ll need to be honest/precise about your tools to make them believable and lose “their” mysticism/misbehavior. In fact, I’m sure many a great paradox are based on the failure of most people to identify fundamental implicit assumptions.

        • You need to remember that these are grey areas.

          I.e. the basic shape is the black, the bits it is not is the white and that the grey area is the bit in between. The grey bit doesn’t define the situation better. It defines the uncertainty better.

          And we go with uncertainty every day.

          But when it comes to someone else paying the price or us paying it, there’s a hell of a lot of effort put into concentrating on the grey areas to avoid looking at the black and white parts.

  9. No matter your stance, unless you’re on one or other of the extreme ends AND ADMIT SO, then you can ALWAYS claim “there are extremes of either side”.

    Claims of this are either pointless or disingenuous, similar to the False Equivalency fallacy.

    Unless the activities of these extremes are being assessed and proven, the nod toward them is of no value whatsoever.

    • Wow, the point of the “nod” was that Trzupek was complaining about how extreme some environmentalists can get, and since there are always extremists regarding every issue, I signaled that I don’t see any point to defending them. I once saw a Nat. Geo. spread, for instance, on some wacko who wants us all to be riding sailboats around the world, and doing all kinds of things that would entail drastically reducing the population. Since I don’t favor killing off billions of people, and I think the vast majority agrees with me, I think of this guy as an “extremist,” and feel no compulsion to defend his views. I have better things to do.

      • Sometimes, though, the nod is no different from the enhanced interrogation technique where the intent isn’t really to get you to agree, it’s to get you talking.

        You then salami off the differences until you get the answer you want.

        And therefore there is a risk to giving a nod to someone who is not an honest broker. Worse, you accord the dishonest broker the camouflage of respectability (he can retreat or leave as implied that he himself is honest, incorrectly).

        So in a cost/benefit analysis, we have a cost. What is the benefit?

        You won’t be accorded any respect for giving the nod, you’re just going to be asked to give yet more nods.

        Your concession will not be acknowledged with a concession on their behalf. Their intent is NOT to find a consensus position, it’s to disprove yours in absence of being able to prove theirs.

        Your concession will not be remembered as indication that you have a valid opinion if that opinion does not shift to one they want you to hold.

        So there really isn’t any benefit to giving the nod. They sure as hell won’t give a nod back. The best you’ll get is a head-down rushing past as they whip the goalposts to a new location and a bluff “What? I was here all along!” faux innocence.

        Your nod needs context. The context is

        a) Where you stand on that spectrum
        b) Where you believe they stand on that spectrum

        Without that, you’re just complaining about strawmen at best.

        I like to tell people to consider a triangle of opinions.

        For every single one sitting on the extreme apex on the triangle, there are “two extremes” with other people standing on them.

        Without context, how is the assertion “There are idiots on the extremes of both sides” not plausibly described as being your extreme view on that triangle?

        False equivalence is also inevitable without context. If one side has a priest claiming a fatwah and the other side has New Atheists saying that religion is dangerous, there’s no really equivalence in the two extremes. But they are about the same “distance” in the theist/atheist spectrum, aren’t they?

        I understand that your intent is to give ground to reach the middle ground you are both at least equally unhappy about.

        The time for that passed 20-30 years ago. It’s far too late for someone to claim they’re unclear of the picture. Every line has been clear as day.

  10. Barry, I see you’re keeping the faith. Well, at least you’re consistent. Good luck–you’re going to need it. I don’t ever expect you to change your mind on the subject, despite the model mean to be below 2% confidence interval. That’s the realm of Santa Claus and tooth fairies and phrenology (go look it up). Some advice: the longer you hold on, the worse its going to be for your reputation. I’m curious, would you even be having this conversation if the world had warmed exactly as the models had predicted? Naw. Try being a doctor, where we are faced often with the very real cold hard truth of faulty predictions on a much shorter timescale. Cocky doctors don’t last long. But evidently cocky climate scientists do (well, at least for another ten years).

    • Hi Scott,

      So, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying that if models predict something should happen only 2% of the time, that means it should NEVER happen? As we found in our previous conversations, statistics isn’t your forte, my friend.

      • Barry, the only thing worse than being wrong is being irrelevant, which is what AGW is becoming. Question: at what point are you willing to say those three precious but oh so hard words: “I was wrong”? How many more years? Not that it matters, of course. The scoffers are compounding daily. AGW will become another blip in history that we’ll all look back and say, “what we’re they thinking?” You and WOW are doing your part holding up the scheme and there’s definitely something to be said about standing up for what you believe in. Keep at it Barry. It’s only going to get a lot tougher.

        • Hi Scott,

          Wow and I both brought up essentially the same point about what a 95% confidence interval means in this case. Specifically, in the simulations situations like the present trend only happen about 2% of the time. That means they sometimes happen, so why would that be some kind of deal-breaker? I don’t think you have an answer for this.

          Anyway, with respect to your other question, I think someone would have to show me that the estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity based on paleo-proxy data are way off. I suppose that could happen–I just don’t consider it likely, given how many different ways we get about the same answer. If the equilibrium sensitivity estimates are about right, and the GCMs overestimate warming trends, then one or both of two things is probably happening.

          1. The models don’t get ocean circulation exactly right. We already know this is true, to some extent. If this is the main culprit, we can expect to reach the same point a bit more slowly than predicted.

          2. The models don’t have the effects of short-term forcings like aerosols exactly right. We already know this is a big uncertainty in the models, so this wouldn’t be a surprise, either. Once again, if this is the case, we would simply reach the same point a bit more slowly as we taper off fossil fuel use.

          • Ok, Barry, last comment. If I asked you ten years ago how much change you would get from doubling co2 what would you have said? What would Gavin or Phil or Mike said or the rest of the experts? 3c? 4c? Definitely not what we are currently getting. My point is, why should any of us trust you for laughing guys like Lindzen and spencer off the stage when after ten years they’re closer to observations than any of the orthodoxy. Can we all not just agree that maybe sensitivity is not as great as everyone once thought?. Humility goes a long way. Some gain it naturally, others have to confront it like the ground after falling off the cliff. Sometimes you can get to the right answer using the wrong process, but you can never get the wrong answer using the right process.

            • Are you saying Spencer is using the right process? Have you read Barry’s analysis of any of Spencer’s works? Can you explain to us how Spencer could possibly have been using the right process?

              In the time range of a decade to two, the temperature can do just about anything. Look at that BEST link from earlier (“summary-of-findings”). Short term natural variability dominates the small CO2 contribution.

              Again. Short term natural variability dominates the small CO2 contribution. [I feel like I am parroting Barry's last comment.]

              If you want to argue that the model averages are wrong and need improvements, you have at least these two basic options, (a) argue against the physics and approximations used or (b) show that the actual temperature deviates from the 95% confidence range for way too long to likely be correct. The models they use are known to be wrong in the time span of only a decade or two.

              You may want to read the top most (earliest) comment I wrote and the link to the animation of a person walking a dog.

              If you reply, consider replying to my earlier comment with that animation.

              You may also want to clarify why it is that seeing the temperature go down after some years or stay near flat leads you to believe the scientists are wrong. See the dog animation above and you will see many cases of the path going down. That is normal because the earth is complex and the ocean depths cannot be warmed quickly by sunlight (which doesn’t reach it) so must be warmed across many years slowly by mixing warm waters with cool waters. This mixing will necessarily draw heat from the top warm layers. This is why the CO2 expected air warming lags. And because of how complex nature is, the lag is not even and smooth but results in periods of greater lag and periods of less lag. This is why you see the temp oscillate up and down across years even as the underlying average keeps going up.

        • You aren’t making sense. Barry and Wow are supporting the science that is widely acknowledged by academic institutions of higher learning and major scientific bodies.

          What support are you using to go against science?

          You are aware that the temp has done before generally what it is doing now and that if it didn’t something would be horribly wrong, right? Did you expect natural variability oscillations to disappear or be totally dwarfed by the CO2 effect? Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet.

          http://berkeleyearth.org/summary-of-findings

          If you didn’t catch Wow’s reference to the escalator, look it up (skepticalscience has some graphics).

          The current theories will be adjusted, but if you ask a skeptic about their theories and they actually can reply with something, there is a very good chance that theory is way off the mark. Science is looking for the best theory we can manage, not a bad one or a horrible one.

          • I’m using my two eyes and a graph with predicted temp change from several models overlaid with another graph of actual temps and how awefully divergent they are.a third grader could figure out that something is wrong. If nap/pdo and La Niña are now so important (as opposed to just very recently when “man made changes will overwhelm natural fluctuations” and “nao/pdo isn’t nearly as important as AGW”), then why didn’t anyone (not one model predicted current data) pick up on that? If your models can’t even predict what will happen in the first 18 years, why on earth are we supposed to believe or trust that it will be accurate long term? Which hand is the pebble in? Right! (Not there) I mean left! Ha! Laughed off the stage!

            • Which graph? I hope it isn’t Roy Spencer’s and John Christy’s dishonest one.

              Also, since when did any of the scientists say that manmade changes will overwhelm natural fluctuations ON THE SCALE OF A FEW YEARS? I’ve always heard just the opposite.

            • >> If nap/pdo and La Niña are now so important (as opposed to just very recently when “man made changes will overwhelm natural fluctuations” and “nao/pdo isn’t nearly as important as AGW”)

              If we were burning 10X the CO2 as we currently are, that might overwhelm the lows of natural variability across 10-20 years so that perhaps we’d see no lower temp after 5 years or so. But today we can see lower temperatures after past 10 years sometimes but we expect not to see lower temps after say 30 years. One hundred years back, the CO2 level was much slower in rising and we could see lower temps even 50 years into the future. Does this make sense? See the BEST temp graph for examples in the 1800s where 50 years out we could find a lower temp, but since 1970, we have not had a year that could see a lower temp even 30 years out. That duration keeps getting smaller the faster CO2 rises.

              Let’s look at some numbers with an analogy to gaining and losing weight across days (as if the days were climate years).

              I start by exercising to lose 20 pounds but then the next day I relax and indulge on 20.1 pounds of food, water, etc. I repeat this cycle of losing 20 and then gaining 20.1, over and over.

              Day 0: start at 100 lbs
              Day 1: 80
              Day 2: 100.1
              Day 3: 80.1
              Day 4: 100.2
              Day 5: 80.2
              Day 6: 100.3
              Day 7: 80.3
              Day 8: 100.4

              Do you see how my weight goes up over time very slowly even though on a daily basis I fluctuate up and down wildly?

              OK, that is like the CO2 story of the 1800s. One year it might be very hot and the next year cold and the next year again hot, etc. After a log time (decades), we might notice a small average gain. That gain can hardly be seen throughout the 1800s, but it is there. You can just barely see it in the temperature graphs and in the CO2 graphs (I provided these 2 links earlier). Similarly, you can hardly see the average gain in the pattern above even after 100 days.

              At Day 100, I change. I lose 20 but gain 22.
              Day 100: 85
              Day 101: 107
              Day 102: 87
              Day 103: 109
              Day 104: 89
              Day 105: 111
              Day 106: 91
              Day 107: 113
              Day 108: 93
              Day 109: 115
              Day 110: 95
              Day 111: 117
              Day 112: 97
              Day 113: 119
              Day 114: 99
              Day 115: 121
              Day 116: 101
              Day 117: 123
              Day 118: 103
              Day 119: 125
              Day 120: 105
              Day 121: 127
              Day 122: 107

              We still see the same sort of thing, but now there is an upward movement that is faster and easier to see. This can be like the 1900s temperature. We still go up and down year to year but can be seen to gravitate up over time. Notice how Day 101 has 107 lbs as the weight while Day 108 has 93. See, we still see a drop in weight even 8 years out. However, on Day 122, we have 107 lbs also and never again will the weight ever go below 107. So we will in this case never see a drop in weight past about 22 days.

              Then I change on Day 200. I lose 20 but gain 30.
              Day 200: 185
              Day 201: 215
              Day 202: 195
              Day 203: 225
              Day 204: 205
              Day 205: 235
              Day 206: 215
              Day 207: 245
              Day 208: 225
              Day 209: 255
              Day 210: 235
              Day 211: 265

              How, the rate is very fast. This might be how it gets in the future with CO2. Notice on Day 201 I weigh 215 lbs, yet on day 204 I weigh 205 lbs. I was at a lower weight, even at this fast rate, even after 3 Days. However, beyond Day 204, we will never again see a lower weight than I had on Day 200. So at 4 days or more, we no longer dip as low as we had crested at the beginning.

              In other words, we bob and weave so that even as the average goes up and eventually overtakes the weaving and bobbing entirely, for a short time frame, the weaving/bobbing will overlap.

              So to see 2012 cooler than 1998 is OK, but we are nearing the point where we will “forever” be higher than 1998. For now though, we will see some years cooler than that very hot 1998.

              Oh, and note that every year after 1997 was hotter than 1997. That is because 1997 was a low temp year. Every year since 1997, we have been hotter than 1997. The idea that temp has not warmed is by cherry-picking 1998.

              Disclaimer, the climate doesn’t follow a nice even pattern like my weight gain/loss. Also, I would not ever never try that diet exercise regime we just examined, and neither should you.

            • >> then why didn’t anyone (not one model predicted current data) pick up on that? If your models can’t even predict what will happen in the first 18 years, why on earth are we supposed to believe or trust that it will be accurate long term?

              I think if you read and understood my first comment (animation with dog), you would not ask this question.

              If we look at the weight gain analogy I just posted, it’s as if the models are horrible at figuring out the bouncing sequence, but they are great at picking up on the average rise over time.

              Analogy 1:
              In engineering we see this all the time with low-pass filters. They catch the slowly rising “bias” in a signal really well but were not designed to figure out the fast up/down movements at the higher pitches. [See * below]

              Analogy 2:
              And most humans can tell if they hear notes being played that bounce around but generally move up towards a higher pitch (or down to a lower pitch) that the notes are moving up (or down). But most of us stink at being able to perfectly nail the actual frequency/note or to say if the note we heard 10 notes back was higher or lower.

              Analogy 3:
              As another example. Suppose you see someone who just started going up from your level on a slow rising glass elevator. You notice that as they rise slowly in the elevator they are moving their hands wildly in the air (animated speaker). Pretend you are the Hand Motion Climate Model and you have to predict the height of that person’s left hand at any given future second in time.

              A) You will almost surely be wrong for any given prediction.
              B) The person’s hand will drop and become closer to the planet’s surface on many occasions, sometimes being closer even 20 seconds out.
              B) You will easily realize that your predictions have to keep slowly going up.

              Even if a prediction for any given second is wrong, you will easily properly identify the general pattern of upward drift.

              Now, if the elevator were moving almost imperceptibly slow, that would be like the temperature during the 1800s. In the 1900s, the elevator is moving slow but faster for sure. It is scheduled to move even faster in the 2000s

              [*Of course, the climate is more complex than that engineering problem, but eventually scientists might do a decent job at also picking up the fast up/down just as does a common high-pass filter.]

        • Take a look at this graph. http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/

          Look at the 1700-present period in contrast with the BEST temp graphs from the earlier link. Notice how the temp seems to oscillate a lot and returns mostly to the same level throughout the 1750-1800. In the 1800s there is a small upward shift. This matches the CO2 rise during that time. That shift further increases in the first 50 years of the 1900s. Again, showing consistency between the temp and CO2 rise. It is very significant in the last half of the 1900s. If you look at the current CO2 values, they continue to rise faster than linear, so, using that simple but extensive correlation and little other analysis, we can expect that the first 50 years of this century will have a net gain in temp that is greater than the change observed in the second half of the last century.

          Now, out of curiosity, do you have a theory that can match that record of historical temperatures?

          You have to have some super cock-belief to go against the world’s scientific bodies without at a minimum a formula or something that can match the historical record you see there similarly to what the climate scientist have achieved with their models. Certainly, Spencer hasn’t shown such a “formula”. The one he presented that Barry covered here was shown to be enormously out of reality when you walk it backwards in time.

          So do you have a competing theory for scientists to make use of that can make sense of the BEST temperature set? The scientists are waiting for that better theory, and you might be able to save them!

          Can you as a layperson write off the CO2 correlation?

        • doctorhastings, in case you aren’t sure and iirc, the equilibrium climate sensitivity is the value defined to reflect the climate’s long-term temperature response to CO2 levels.

          Now, when you change CO2 levels, the temp won’t change right away to the predicted value. One reason is because the oceans take a long time to warm because sunlight only enters the very top layers so ocean mixing must happen with the cooler waters below. This (and the changes in sunlight throughout the year) leads to yearly oscillatory weather patterns. Warming the ocean depths to near their final value takes many years.

          Barry is saying that our modeling of the ocean mixing is a cruder model than the air+sun models, so we may be wrong in predicting *how fast* the air will warm to its final value as predicted (mostly) by CO2 changes but we are more confident that it *will reach* that final value. The oceans essentially serve as an “ice cube” underneath the area the sun is warming. The sun will take longer to warm the air. We don’t understand that process, that transient response, nearly as well as we have confidence in the final “steady state” temperature level.

          Barry also stated that our understanding of the CO2-temperature response, which is more accurate (in the scientists opinion, and note the graphs I linked) than the ocean models, is considered more accurate in part because of many different types of studies of the earth’s history as found in various layers. It’s not just one path of analysis but several that roughly conclude the same response range to CO2 (ie, the same error range for the equilibrium climate sensitivity value).

          OK, if the oceans are slowing things down, that doesn’t mean air temps won’t rise a whole lot but that it will take longer. However, if the oceans take a long time to warm, they take a long time to cool as well. So the lag time will increase, but we can’t avoid most of the eventual rise only postpone it. If we repent later on only when we have seen the temperatures rise a lot, it will be too late to avoid the further rises in the pipeline.

          Wow’s point earlier was closely related. The more wrong we are about how much the oceans slow the temp rise, the worse it likely will eventually be, and the actual climate sensitivity will more likely actually lie closer to the upper end of the error range.

          If you know the above already or can’t make sense of what I just said and understand Barry and Wow better, at least I tried. :)

          • Then why didn’t one blasted model not pick that up and predict it! Additionally, it’s only the deep oceans >700m picking it up? Youre killing me guys!

            • Before you were saying that the models predicted such a thing might happen 2% of the time. Now you’re saying that NOT ONE predicted it? I don’t think you have a clear idea what you’re talking about.

            • >> Then why didn’t one blasted model not pick that up and predict it!

              This was answered a moment ago in the reply listing 3 analogies.

              “the models are horrible at figuring out the bouncing sequence, but they are great at picking up on the average rise over time.”

              The models will tend to be more accurate (in relative percentage terms) with 100 years than with 10. They will tend to be more accurate with 10 than with 1.

              And they will be more accurate, regardless of time span, the faster CO2 rises and will be less accurate the slower CO2 rises.

              This is just like you and I trying to predict many years out the hand height of a person rising on an elevator. The faster the elevator rises and the longer time goes on, the more accurate we will be (offset error divided by total height).

              >> Additionally, it’s only the deep oceans >700m picking it up?

              The sun first warms the top. While the top is rising in temp, the lower water remains cold.

              Eventually, some of this cold water and warm water mix.

              The result is that the top layer of water cools for a little while in order that the lower layers warm.

              The air is much thinner than the ocean water, so the air’s temp also drops when the ocean surface drops enough.

              Despite this, the CO2 continues to allow a greater amount of total sunlight to strike the earth. This adds a slowly rising contribution to the air temperature all the while the air temperature continues to bounce around on cue with the mixing oceans.

        • Doctorhastings/. Let me guess, you’re a young earth Creationist as well, think that it’s about time these Darwinist dead-enders give it up, simply accept the fact that the earth is only six thousand years old and that Jesus frolicked with the dinosaurs. “Evolution? What a bunch of maroons! If you believe that stuff I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you . . . “

    • Going down the up escalator AGAIN, doctor? You REALLY need to see a psychiatrist for this problem you have.

      PS your claim of “2% below the confidence interval” is incoherent and means nothing. However, if you mean “outside the 95% confidence interval” two things someone intelligent would have understood.

      1) Its wrong in actual fact
      2) In a dataset of 120 years, any 10-15 year period can be expected to have a trend outside the stated 95% confidence limits for the entire trend 5% of the time whilst still actually being on-track.

  11. Paraphrase…

    >> Proof is … not for science…. Science works in … theories.

    Which makes it a completely unsuitable basis for dictating rules to vital industries such as energy.

    > Trzupek was so incensed because it was obvious to him that,

    >> Mann’s attempt to separate proof from science…

    I can understand being incensed. Science, as a community, has built up this expectation that they can make these bold declarations with authority. So we want proof… Which they don’t provide… You are right that it is an incorrect attitude because, as a society, we need to recognize the role of science.

    A trial and error discovery process with low rates of confidence and very little in the way of quality control compared to say, building bridges, airplanes, or space flight vehicles.

    Proof it does not provide.

    • Well, that’s not exactly a “paraphrase”. But, warts and all, science still has a good track record compared to other human endeavors, in my opinion. So if we can all agree that science doesn’t provide absolute proof, and it never will be able to, people like you are perfectly free to dismiss science because you think you have some infallible guide that you can infallibly interpret. And then the rest of us (i.e., the vast majority of people) can ignore you and try to make decisions based on the best information we have.

    • >> Which makes it a completely unsuitable basis for dictating rules to vital industries such as energy.

      Were you insinuating that it’s possible for energy designers/engineers to *prove* ahead of time (a) the day any “energy” machine stops working and exactly which of the machines were not going to be manufactured correctly at a plant?

      I think you are confused about the message of this article. Did you read it? Proof in the sense covered here refers to abstractions only (to models). It can’t be applied to physical results because of the potentially infinite number of unknows (many of which we don’t even know about) that take place in nature.


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