Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Paradigm Wars 1: A Clash of Symbols

"If informed people on a subject with different perspectives that view evidence in different ways actually talked to each other, scientific progress would be increased and conflict would be reduced" (Judith Curry)

"Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirmed instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refuse to see it" (Karl Popper)

This is the first of four planned blog entries on climate change issues. In this entry, I focus on the aspects of the climate change debate that can be viewed from a philosophy of science perspective. The philosophy of science has become less prominent from its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, when Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn, and Imre Lakatos were debating with each other. But I think some of the ideas that were raised then can help us explain some of the often vociferous debate about climate change.

Climate Change and the Philosophy of Science

"Do you believe in global warming?" The question itself is perplexing, because it suggests that what is at stake is as much a matter of belief as of fact. A war is raging between two camps, both of whom claim the scientific high ground, and both of whom pick apart the flaws in their opponent's cases without acknowledging the uncertainties of their own. In short, matters are becoming polarised, with some on both sides indulging in appalling name-calling, and presenting their own respective doomsday scenarios.

Back in the 1960s, Thomas Kuhn wrote "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", in which he described how normative science worked within a conceptual framework, and that how scientists viewed the world could not be outside a framework, even though the framework intersected the real world.

The philosopher Imre Lakatos took this idea up, and came up with the idea of a "scientific research programme". This, he argued, had a "hard core" that could cope with "exceptions" or "outliers" because they were on the margins of the framework, and could be variously explained away; they were significant, but not crucially significant in overturning the entire paradigm. This was a considerably more sophisticated and historical way of approaching the subject, as it resolved the problem at the heart of Karl Popper's "Logic of Scientific Discovery".

According to Popper, a scientific theory is only the best at the time, and is potentially falsifiable. This is the demarcation between science and non-science. A trivial example would be the proposition "all swans are white", which could not be "proven" by the observations of thousands of white swans, but could be disproven by the observation of just a single black swan.

A more sophisticated, but still simple, example would be to take the proposition that water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. Experiments taking place up mountains would indicate a lower temperature as the altitude rises. This would, in the Popper schema, both refute the original hypothesis, and challenge scientists to come up with a more sophisticated unified theory, which both explained the original result, and the evidence which falsified it.

Popper was aware, however, that the process of refutation could not be as simple as just finding examples that contradicted the theory; this he termed "naïve falsification". There could be other reasons, such as experimental error, or the theory itself could give rise to predictions. Hence the anomaly in the orbit of Uranus, according to Newtonian dynamics, could be explained as a gravitational perturbation by an unknown planet. This led to the discovery of Neptune.

Problems with the orbit of Mercury, however, led to the French astronomer Urbain Le Verrie suggesting another smaller planet which he named Vulcan, and which lay between Mercury and the Sun, was the cause, but that the difficulties of observation can caused it to remain unseen. In fact, it was Einstein's Theory of General Relatively that explained the discrepancy without the need for another planet, yet the failure to observe any such planet did not cause astronomers to treat it as an exception, refuting Newtonian dynamics, but simply as a marginal problem, which they hoped would be resolved in time within that framework. This is an example of what Lakatos described so well in his more nuanced approach to science:

Is, then, Popper's falsifiability criterion the solution to the problem of demarcating science from pseudoscience? No. For Popper's criterion ignores the remarkable tenacity of scientific theories. Scientists have thick skins. They do not abandon a theory [merely] because facts contradict it. They normally either invent some rescue hypothesis to explain what they then call a mere anomaly and if they cannot explain the anomaly, they ignore it, and direct their attention to other problems. Note that scientists talk about anomalies, [recalcitrant instances,] and not refutations. History of science, of course, is full of accounts of how crucial experiments allegedly killed theories. But all such accounts are fabricated long after the theory has been abandoned. (1)

Now to bring the matter up to date - what I think we are seeing in the conflict over global warming is a clash of two paradigms. Both have explanations for data that doesn't fit, plausible explanations, but not explanations that seem to allow any measure of doubt or uncertainty. Part if this is understandable from the psychology of the clash. The two sides have become very polarised and extreme in their presentations. Any uncertainty in one camp will be sure to be pounced up and used as a stick by the other camp.

Some scientists are aware of this problem. Judith Curry, for example, as Scientific American reported, is alarmed as what she sees as a retreat from engagement between the two sides.

Although many of the sceptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points-and by lumping the good with the bad, climate researchers not only miss out on a chance to improve their science, they come across to the public as haughty. "Yes, there's a lot of crankology out there," Curry says. "But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the sceptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink."

Curry's saga began with a Science paper she co-authored in 2005, which linked an increase in powerful tropical cyclones to global warming. It earned her scathing attacks on skeptical climate blogs. They claimed there were serious problems with the hurricane statistics the paper relied on, particularly from before the 1970s, and that she and her co-authors had failed to take natural variability sufficiently into account. "We were generally aware of these problems when we wrote the paper," Curry says, "but the critics argued that these issues were much more significant than we had acknowledged." She did not necessarily agree with the criticisms, but rather than dismissing them, as many scientists might have done, she began to engage with the critics. It was here that Curry began to develop respect for climate outsiders-or at least, some of them. (2)

What we can see here with Curry's paper is a near perfect example of what Lakatos describes in a scientific research programme, that "all programmes grow in a permanent ocean of anomalies". It is this which makes the current situation so problematic, because there is a level of uncertainty in climate change and global warming predictions, and it is debatable whether exceptions can be discounted in favour of the broader picture, or whether they are significantly large to call into question the picture of climate change. Curry herself has acknowledged that the levels of uncertainly are not always made as clear as they should be.

The critics of global warming are drawing on a different scientific research programme, and their own position has anomalies all of its own, eagerly seized upon by their opponents. But within each paradigm, there is a hard core of belief that the underlying premise - global warming as a human effect or global warming as a natural event - is the best fit for their own data sets.

It is, however, quite unusual to have such a remarkable clash. In the normal course of events, one scientific paradigm falls away because it is not as powerful in its explanatory powers to explain and predict phenomena as its successor, but here we have two systems clashing with each other, like mighty empires doing battle, rather than an empire in decline being taken over by another. Part of the reason might be the failure of both programmes to actually provide specific consequences with sufficient predictive accuracy.

Lakatos maintained that competing research programs should be appraised by reference to their relative rates of progress. If one program is stagnant, having failed to generate new confirmed consequences over a period of time during which a second program has been fertile, then the second program is superior to the first. In cases where two programs both have been progressive, as certified by applications of the incorporation criterion, appraisal requires an assessment of the relative importance of these achievements. (3)

The most notable failure of climate change scientists is to come up with any exact and falsifiable predictions, except after events. Kevin E. Trenberth has stated that: "I have given many public talks on climate change, and I have always tried to emphasize the observational facts and their interpretation, rather than the less certain projections into the future." But without any more certain projections into the future, with predictive force, while the scientific research programme is not stagnant, it is not doing as well as it could.

Either statements are made of the kind that Trenberth himself is critical of as "murky" - "while this event is consistent with what we expect from climate change, no single event can be attributed to human induced global warming", or the association of extreme weather events with global warming is made after the event. Is it any wonder that the public at large are bemused? Is it any wonder that the scientific critics attack this kind of approach? Karl Popper himself, in "Conjectures and Refutations" noted that "It is a typical soothsayer's trick to predict things so vaguely that the predictions can hardly fail: that they become irrefutable."

Contrast climate change theory with the predictive ability of Newtonian physics, Einstein's Special and General Theories of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and the problem becomes apparent. Events are described as "consistent with climate change" or "consistent with the existing models".

Please note that is not to say the climate change science is not happening or that global warming is not occurring, or even that it is not caused, in part, by human beings. I am not saying that.

Rather I am saying that climate models present a much weaker theory in terms of its predictive power than other theories - as can be seen (for example) from the site Green House Gas Online (4), and this is part of the problem - when global warming theory clashes with an opposing paradigm, it is much harder to make its case than theories which have what might be termed a stronger ability to do so.


(1) http://www2.lse.ac.uk/philosophy/about/lakatos/scienceAndPseudoscienceTranscript.aspx

(2) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-heretic

(3) Theories of Scientific Progress: An Introduction. Contributors: John Losee - author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 2003. Page Number: 44.

(4) http://www.ghgonline.org/predictions.htm

(5) http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/08/11/the-chasm/


Nick Palmer said...

Very good critique of Monckton on BBC4 last night, as part of a general look at the self described sceptics. Available via iPlayer until 6 Feb 11 for those in the UK.

Right in the last few minutes something remarkable occurred - rather as Nurse completely flummoxed Delingpole with his "who would you trust to heal you if you had a major disease" analogy, the programme caught, on camera, the process of denial happening in Monckton's mind as he read some more evidence that showed that (should have shown him) he was wrong.

st-ouennais said...

Those last two parpagraphs are critical. Of course predictions of future effects depend on models. However there is much non-model evidence for climate change in natural phenomena and phenology.

Criticisms that models are inadequate are often construed to mean that the science is inadequate. That does not necessarily follow.

Looking forward to the next parts

Nick Palmer said...

The programme.
Meet the Sceptics

Monckton is one of the global top ten "sceptics". Watch how his case falls apart when examined.

The main problem, Tony, is that too many people assume that the two "sides" have equal credibility.

I'll expand later on but the "sceptic" argument almost entirely depends for its plausibility upon people only being shown a fraction of the information. In exactly (I really mean this) the same way that a magician misdirects attention, or controls the information the audience see, the sceptics are literally using the equivalent of legerdemain to fool.

Very clever people are just as vulnerable to this as the uneducated, possibly more so.

People can see David Blaine apparently levitating in the street. He genuinely is not using wires, devices or camera tricks, yet he "levitates". Anyone present who was not precisely in line with the point of view of the TV would see straight away how the trick is done. If something looks like an obvious explanation, try drawing back and looking from a different angle.

The vast majority of climate science "scepticism" works like that. They select small parts of evidence that, in isolation, can be presented in such a way that they steer the viewer. They can seem extremely plausible. If the viewer of the climate "debate" could metaphorically draw back from the points of view that the tricksters use and see the information which is hidden, things would be an awful lot clearer.

You quote from Curry a lot. I am afraid she is a bit player who is somewhat confused and is being exploited by "the Merchants of Doubt". Her own scientific output was statistical (non-empirical) and was an attribution of hurricanes to the known warming trend and it rightly got ripped apart, not only by the denialists, but also by her peers and the wider climate science movement.

She got humiliated and her blog looks, to me and others, like some sort of attempted revenge.

TonyTheProf said...

Mark, my fault, I should have explained that as "model", I am not just taking computer models, but the entire conceptual framework for global warming. As an analogy, evolution is a "model", but aspects of evolution - statistical data, experiments with flies - can be "modelled". I may have also blurred the boundaries with the word, for which again, I apologise.

Nick Palmer said...

More in the next comments but the essence of the current "PR" problem of climate science is this.

There are several "layers" of theory with varying levels of certainty which cannot be adequately expressed in "sound bite" media so that the public can get all angles at once. Science is hard. That's why the scientists are often the geekiest nerdiest smartest kids in the class.

There is:

1) The basic physics. Purest empirical, measured and tested, science. CO2 is a greenhouse gas, we've increased it, the increase is currently warming the planet and will continue to. Literally nobody credible denies this - including darlings-of-the-deniers Lindzen, Spencer and Christy, who are just about the only credibly qualified climate scientists that the "sceptics" can quote. All but a tiny fraction of denialist "arguments" pull off their plausible sounding magic tricks by not acknowledging the basic physics. Their "arguments" are about ever wilder behaviour of angels on the head of a pin when science already ruled out angels.

2) How Earth reacted to past known forcing events, which have been used to estimate how Earth will react to this one. Climate sensitivity figures are not empirical science, nor can they be. We only have one test tube and one experiment. Trouble is, we're in the test tube. Only the use of a time machine to run different experiments could "empiricise" this.

An awful lot of sceptic irrationality is rooted in this area. There are large areas of knowledge with low error bars. Smaller areas that are more uncertain. Little room for "unknown unknowns" and any that might turn up could just as easily make things worse rather than give us a get out of jail free card.

3)Inferences of risk from the known and certain physics and the deduced climate sensitivity. Massive amounts of B.S. and rhetorical demagoguery and political ideology based misinformation distort the sceptics' viewpoint here.

4) Predictions of how climate will change, and how fast, in different areas. The notorious models. Predictions of agricultural yields, species extinctions etc. Not very certain. Lots of room in the error bars.

5) IPCC - where the science meets the politics to decide what we ought to do. Arguments descend into a bear pit. Humanity at its most stupid.

If you watch the programme on Iplayer you will see a short bit on Greg Craven, the guy I collaborated with while he was writing his book "What's the Worst That Could Happen" (that is featured in the side bar of my blog). Greg presents an extremely powerful argument that "cuts through the whole shouting match". His book allows people to decide what the wisest things to do about the potential threats, real or imagined, are without needing to "believe" either side or having specialist knowledge.

Nick Palmer said...

Worth having a look at Lindzen's latest opinion piece. He has effectively been saying exactly the same things since the 80s. No real change. Not even a little. To me, it seems like he adopted a stance which he clung to and continues to cling to as the evidence piled up that he was wrong. His ego won't let him retract. He is no longer operating by the scientific method.

click for opinion piece

Nick Palmer said...

Whoops - it appears as if I did not post the first half..

Meet the Sceptics

Monckton is one of the top five "sceptics". Watch how his case falls apart when examined.

The main problem, Tony, is that too many people assume that the two "sides" have equal credibility.

I'll expand later on but the sceptic side almost entirely depends upon people only being shown a fraction of the information. In exactly (I really mean this) the same way that a magician misdirects attention, or controls the information the audience see, the sceptics are literally using the equivalent of legerdemain to fool. Very clever people are just as vulnerable to this as the uneducated, possibly more so.

People can see David Blaine apparently levitating in the street. He genuinely is not using wires, devices or camera tricks, yet he "levitates". Anyone present who was not precisely in line with the point of view of the TV would see straight away how the trick is done. If something looks like an obvious explanation, try drawing back and looking from a different angle.

The vast majority of climate science "scepticism" works like that. They select small parts of evidence that, in isolation, can be presented in such a way that they steer the viewer. They can seem extremely plausible. If the viewer of the climate "debate" could metaphorically draw back from the points of view that the tricksters use and see the information which is hidden, things would be an awful lot clearer.

You quote from Curry a lot. I am afraid she is a bit player who is somewhat confused and is being exploited by "the Merchants of Doubt". Her own scientific output was statistical (non-empirical) attribution of hurricanes to the known warming trend and it rightly got ripped apart, not only by the denialists, but also by her peers and the wider climate science movement. She got humiliated and her blog looks, to me and others, like some sort of attempted revenge.

TonyTheProf said...

The David Blaine argument works both ways, which is why it is such a bad one. As far as I can see, there is a good deal of David Blaine type accusations of jiggery-pokery from both sides. They don't actually prove anything; they are a rhetorical device. I'll be dealing more with the rhetoric in my next blog, hopefully next week.

Regarding Nurse, and his "who would you trust to heal you..." argument, more of it has to do with the belief that doctors know what they are doing, than any factual basis. Educated people in the Middle Ages went to the physician rather than the wise women because they believed he knew what he was doing. Now I'm not saying that our doctors don't know more, but what we don't know, and what the people of the Middle Ages didn't know, was where the medical knowledge was deficient, and was down to basic trial and error.

The use of chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells hopefully before killing the patient is not that far removed from Victorian treatments of illness by poisons such as arsenic in much the same way, to try and target the disease before the patient dies.

This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics Inorganic Substances", by Charles D. F. Phillips from the 1880s.

Cutaneous Diseases. Arsenic (Arsenicum) Treatment

Arsenic is largely used by the profession, almost as a routine remedy, in cutaneous disease, but its value has been variously estimated by specialists of experience. We may exclude at once from its influence the ordinary acute exanthemata, also naevus, parasitic and syphilitic eruptions, and the rarer maladies of scleroderma, keloid, xanthelasma, and true leprosy. We may exclude also all forms of skin disease while in the acute stage, or while accompanied by marked inflammatory reaction, and then, speaking generally, we may say that as we have noted arsenic to be valuable in rheumatic, malarial, and neurotic affections, so is it also valuable in most cutaneous manifestations of these conditions. With regard to the last-mentioned, my own experience agrees rather with that of Hunt and of Anstie, as against Bazin and others, that in neurotic subjects with highly strung excitable natures, arsenic is less readily borne, and more usually causes diarrhoea.

The forms of skin disease in which the remedy is of generally accepted value, are such as psoriasis, eczema in the dry or scaling stage, pemphigus, lichen, alopecia, and chronic urticaria; and those in which its powers are more controverted are acne, lupus, ichthyosis, herpes zoster,1 sycosis, prurigo, epithelioma, cancer, and elephantiasis graecorum.

TonyTheProf said...

I think that anyone who is serious about climate change should read "The God's Themselves" by Isaac Asimov. It's not about climate change, but once you've read it, you will understand why it is important in this context.

Nick Palmer said...

I read "The Gods Themselves" 35 years ago...

Just curious Tony. Do you accept that there are definite rules of the universe that can be discovered by people and that, once you know and understand sufficient of these, people can extrapolate from them with greater success than those who don't have that understanding and/or have such a politically skewed view that they are no longer see that reality should trump ideology?

It disturbs me to see that you still seem to be treating the two sides as worthy of equal respect. You take the fact that both "sides" indulge in

"a good deal of David Blaine type accusations of jiggery-pokery from both sides".

I am afraid that what they are doing is rather like when you had to accuse a fellow school mate at primary school of lying and them saying that NO, you were the one who was lying as their defense/attack rhetoric.

If someone as intelligent as you cannot easily see that the denialists side is riven with liars, manipulators, misrepresenters, madmen, wormtongues, propagandists and the gullible etc who routinely traduce those trying to find and communicate the truth by accusing them of what they themselves are guilty of, then humanity is in trouble.

Surely you should be able to discriminate between truth and knowledge versus lies and stupidity?

TonyTheProf said...

"Do you accept that there are definite rules of the universe that can be discovered by people"

No. Order and rules are something we bring to the universe by our selecting and organising our view of it. It is part of the way we evolved, because being able to do this improves the chances of survival. Like Hume, I would say that we cannot rationally justify the claim that nature will continue to be uniform (the well known problem of induction).

I think the universe is, on the whole, so structured that we can design simplified models of the universe (e.g. point mass etc) or localised parts of the universe, which enable us to predict how facets of the universe works with some considerable success in some fields of knowledge which are useful to us, but much less so in others.

These models can be improved, and the key feature of a successful model is that it (a) matches existing data - saving the appearances (b) makes novel predictions which can be tested.

However, and this is a big BUT. Models are simplifications and may have anomalies - I give one examples of those with the Newtonian model - which may not be resolvable - because the model is deficient. But because it is deficient in some area doesn't mean it is not usable in others.

The problem comes with models which are good at saving the appearance (and can be adjusted to explain anything occurring) but fail to make any solid predictions. If the model is probabilistic, as climate change models are, it becomes very difficult to know exactly how accurate the model is.

Anonymous said...

"liars,misrepresenters,madmen,wormtongues,propagandists and the gullible

is that all you've got nick?

shame on you tony for not snipping such bile

Anonymous said...

AGW is a governments funded scam gravy train whose goal is to create derivatives style markets
(cap & trade - suits you big business sir) and clobber joe public with more taxes

thinking that governments are spending 10s of billions of dollars to 'save the planet'
is akin to thinking bush & blair went to war in iraq to save iraqis

Anonymous said...

A challenge from Dr. Roy Spencer

A challenge to the climate research community

"I've been picking up a lot of chatter in the last few days about the 'settled science' of global warming. What most people don't realise is that the vast majority of published research on the topic simply assumes that warming is man made. It in no way "proves" it."

"If the science really is that settled,then this challenge should be easy":-

show me one peer-reviewed paper that has ruled out natural,internal climate cycles as the cause of most of the recent warming in the thermometer record.

read the whole thing and comments at www.drroyspencer.com

TonyTheProf said...

Please note that I will be making use of some of the more extreme rhetoric and conspiracy theories / scam ideas posted here (and elsehere) in my next blog entry which will be dealing with the narrative presentations in the public domain.

Anonymous said...

"it is scientifically inconceivable that after changing forests into cities, turning millions of acres into irrigated farmland, putting massive quantities of soot and dust into the air, and putting extra greenhouse gases into the air, that the natural course of climate has not changed in some way." (John Christy)

Nick Palmer said...

anon wrote:

"AGW is a governments funded scam gravy train whose goal is to create derivatives style markets"

Amazing that those pesky governments started implementing their plans way back in 1820 when they first started buying off scientists! Over the 180 years since then they simply have not let up - relentless or what! see this very long and comprehensive history of the development of global warming science. And you know what? Thank God we have people like anon to finally show us the truth with their masterly insights...

Nick Palmer said...

Re: Roy Spencer

Anon - I wouldn't hitch your wagon to Spencer if I were you!

He, Lindzen and Christy are just about the best of the true contrarian scientists that the "sceptic" movement have.

True sceptics should read, learn and inwardly digest that none of these three deny that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that has been increasing because of us, that the planet has warmed and will continue to warm because of it. I have often posted links to Richard Lindzen confirming this in his own words. I still hope that blinkered sceptics/deniers will retain and understand that information and thereby throw out most of what they believe.

The only difference those scientists have with the mainstream is that they think the climate sensitivity is lower than the accepted figure and thus the warming will be less than expected. Their work relates to interpreting satellite measurements and a theoretical negative feedback from clouds that, in their view, suggests that the climate sensitivity is less than 3 degrees C per doubling of CO2. As in the magic tricks I mentioned before, their stance looks plausible if one only sees their narrow work from their angle.

Pull back from the close up magic and look at the evidence from other fields of science (in which they are not specialists) such as paleo-climatology, which suggest that the climate has always been more sensitive to forcings than L, S and C's work suggests. Dramatic climate shifts of the prehistoric past are hard to explain without a climate sensitivity figure much bigger than L, S and C's.

It's harder to catch Roy Spencer actually saying clearly what Lindzen does openly but how about this in his own words from his blog of October 2010

After a blizzard of blurry words this is the conclusion of his critique of a recent NASA GISS paper:

see part 2

Nick Palmer said...

Part 2

...After a blizzard of blurry words this is the conclusion of his critique of a recent NASA GISS paper:

"Taken together, the series of computations and claims made by Lacis et al. might lead the casual reader to think, “Wow, carbon dioxide really does have a strong effect on the Earth’s climate system!” And, in my view, it does. But the paper really tells us nothing new about (1) how much warming we can expect from adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, or (2) how much of recent warming was caused by CO2."

L and S even fight amongst themselves, whilst still maintaining a relatively united public front. Here's Spencer, on his blog, criticising Lindzen's latest paper (with Choi 2009, revised in 2010) finding, in the conclusion that:

"It is not clear to me just what the Lindzen and Choi results mean in the context of long-term feedbacks (and thus climate sensitivity). I’ve been sitting on the above analysis for weeks since (1) I am not completely comfortable with their averaging of the satellite data, (2) I get such different results for feedback parameters than they got; and (3) it is not clear whether their analysis of AMIP model output really does relate to feedbacks in those models, especially since my analysis (as yet unpublished) of the more realistic CMIP models gives very different results.

Of course, since the above analysis is not peer-reviewed and published, it might be worth no more than what you paid for it. But I predict that Lindzen and Choi will eventually be challenged by other researchers who will do their own analysis of the ERBE data, possibly like that I have outlined above, and then publish conclusions that are quite divergent from the authors’ conclusions.

In any event, I don’t think the question of exactly what feedbacks are exhibited by the ERBE satellite is anywhere close to being settled."

Lindzen has subsequently admitted (as published on Wattsupwithat that "Lindzen and Choi" was wrong (search for "Unfortuanately, Lindzen and Choi (2009) contained a number of errors; however, as shown in a paper currently under review, these errors were not relevant to the main conclusion."). Of course, Lindzen is never wrong (irony) so he can't have been happy that his comrade Spencer diplomatically trashed his work.

see part 3

Nick Palmer said...

Roy Spencer is that relative rarity - a scientist who is also a creationist.

Here's a link to his testimony. The excerpts that follow show that he really is probably more of a contrarian than many realise:

"The time came when I began to realise, to my initial surprise, that there was a group of scientists who believed that the universe and all life within it had been created by some greater intelligent Being, not by mere chance. They were seemingly able to do so using scientific arguments, not just religious dogma. I began to study their case and after some months of analysis I finally became convinced that the theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, for the creation model was actually better able to explain the physical and biological complexity in the world."

and (about the Bible):

It truthfully portrays actual historical events and has been faithfully copied by scribes over the centuries so that what we have today in the Bible is, to a very high degree (within a percentage point or two), known beyond a shadow of a doubt to be the same as was originally written down by the authors.

Incidentally, readers will notice that I repeatedly refer to self-described sceptics as deniers or denialists. That is because it is very hard to see most of those who one sees commenting online as genuine sceptics. There is a massive assymetry in the huge amount of "scepticism" they bring to bear on anything which supports the majority climate science position compared with the minuscule amount that they apply to their own many and varied (and sometimes mutually incompatible!) smoking gun anti-AGW arguments. That is not true scepticism, that is blinkered prejudice.

Look at this for a recent analysis - it features boy wonder Lindzen yet again...

TonyTheProf said...

Roy Spencer is a believer in Intelligent Design rather than old fashioned "Creationism" (of the 7 days variety).


That, of course, does not necessarily invalidate his position on climate change. A doctor may believe in Ancient Astronauts, but it need not impact on his medical skills.

Nick Palmer said...

Here's a compilation of strangeness
from the newest darling of the deniers, Judith Curry.

website listing some choice curry quotes

Anonymous said...

nick assumes "blinkered prejudice" to sceptics (absent evidence or personal knowledge)as justifying his use of the words deniers/denialists


I'll assume holocaust connotations
as the real reason he uses them

quid pro quo

It would be a fine thing if,on this site at least we could act rationally, can we drop the alarmist/denier rhetoric and consentrate on the facts and evidence, not propaganda

pro/anti or some such?

I'm sorry for using the personal above, but i think it illustrates the self defeating nature of using evocative names

we can disagree fiercely and argue each others logic wholeheartedly without denigrating each others humanity

Nick Palmer said...

RE: The usefulness of applying philosophy to the real world to sort things out.

scene: two individuals burst into where Deep Thought is speaking.

(V)--We demand that you cannot keep us out.
(Priest)--Who are you?
(M)--I am Majikthise [pronounced Magic Thighs].
(V)--And I demand that I am Vroomfondel.
(M)--You don't need to demand that.
(V)--All right. I am Vroomfondel and that is not a demand, that is a solid fact. What we demand is solid facts.
(M)--No, we don't. That is precisely what we don't demand.
(V)--We don't demand solid facts. What we demand is a total absence of solid facts. I demand that I may, or may not, be Vroomfondel.
(Priest)--Who are you?
(M)--We are philosophers.
(V)--Though we may not be.
(M)--Yes, we are!

"You just let the machines get on with the adding up," warned Majikthise, "and we'll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much. You want to check your legal position you do mate. Under law the Quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine goes and actually finds it and we're straight out of a job aren't we? I mean what's the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?"

"That's right!" shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!"

Suddenly a stentorian voice boomed across the room.

"Might I make an observation at this point?" inquired Deep Thought.

"We'll go on strike!" yelled Vroomfondel.

"That's right!" agreed Majikthise. "You'll have a national Philosopher's strike on your hands!".

"Who would that hurt?

TonyTheProf said...

"Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!" (Thomas Gradgrind)

Of course, there are no "bare facts"; that is itself a fiction.

Theory-ladenness of observation is a central topic in the philosophy of science (and epistemology more generally). Roughly speaking, it is the idea that sensory experience, observation reports and empirical data are inadvertently imbued with theoretical prejudices. It presents a problem to the objectivity of knowledge by
motivating the view that observations are not neutral adjudicators in the testing of

"The belief that science proceeds from observation to theory is still so widely and firmly held that my denial of it is often met with incredulity. I have even been suspected of being insincere – of denying what nobody in his senses can doubt.

As Popper wrote:

“The belief that we can start with pure observation alone, without anything in the nature of a theory, is absurd; as may be illustrated by the story of the man who dedicated his life to natural science, wrote down everything he could observe, and bequeathed his priceless collection of observations to the Royal Society to be used as inductive evidence. This story should show us that though beetles may profitably be collected, observations may not."

Nick Palmer said...

Over at Pete Sinclair's Climate Crock site, which skewers many of the more obviously ridiculous denialist claims, he got what he is describing as the funniest denier posting he has ever received. He believes this is not a joke as the commenter is being true to the character of their previous posts.

Warning: put your head in a vise to prevent unexpected explosions

"Find me a Full professor of Atmospheric science or climatology that thinks global warming is a real Conservative (sic) who also…
1) Always votes republican
2) Carries a gun.
3) Believes in God.
4) Has big muscles.
5) Eats meat
You can’t.
All you can find is dwarfed democrats that are womanly.
That is because global warming is political and religious and not at all science.
There is an attempt to cloak it in science. But it does not fit."

Although it might not be obvious, the fundamental nature of Roy Spencer's "challenge" is not to dissimilar from the above demands being little more than a couple of strawmen arguments linked with misdirection to manufacture what appears to be a plausible request (but isn't).

Nick Palmer said...

The problem with that style of philosophical thinking is that it is rather like an impressionist painting - the closer you get and the more minutely you examine it, the less you see of the painting and the harder it is to see the meaning which is undoubtedly there.

It's a rarefied academic version of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

TonyTheProf said...

Yes it it does clarify why the models may be deficient. I'm not saying that climate change isn't occuring, but I've seen Meet the Sceptics, and the final section, which attributed virtually all the weather extremes of the last year to global warming, was a perfect example of the problems of seeing "facts" through the prism of a theoretical model, so much so that it seems anything can be tossed in as an example "proving the case".

It is no wonder there is so much scepticism about when this kind of sloppiness is presented as "proof".

If the weather extremes had been predicted beforehand, then it would be much better; taking events as "proofs" after events have taken place is not science. It's more like astrology; it's deceptive. But by the power of TV providing striking visuals while talking about effects of global warming suggests a causality for all the events shown.

I don't accept as an excuse that it was intended as a popular programme for public consumption either - Sagan or Bronoswki never needed to be sloppy like that.

Anonymous said...

"AGW is a governments funded scam gravy train whose goal is to create derivatives style markets
(cap & trade - suits you big business sir) and clobber joe public with more taxes

thinking that governments are spending 10s of billions of dollars to 'save the planet'
is akin to thinking bush & blair went to war in iraq to save iraqis"

The argument is back to front. It is true that governments are likely to raise taxes to try to deal with the problem. That is because governments rarely have any other idea of what to do than use money/tax to tackle problems.

Nick Palmer said...

I suppose you are aware that some of the apparently credible "sciency" objections coming from those who always feature in the news, and in the delusionosphere, look as if they are heavily biased by the prejudices and political persuasions of the utterers.

Here's an illustrative example. Look at link 1) below to absorb the "scienciness" of the text. Then look at 2) - a list - carefully to get an inkling of what lies beneath the apparently reasonable sceptics. This is how the second link starts:

The theory of relativity is a mathematical system that allows no exceptions. It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.[1]

If you scout around the intertubes a bit more you will find "US conservative" references to Mr Einstein being a Jew and how that is of fundamental importance to know when assessing the validity of the science he came up with. I prefer not to leave a link to those sites in case anyone clicks on them but here's a defence against them...einstein-jewish-liberal-conspiracy-andrew-schlafly

1) Conservapedia - Theory of Relativity

2) Conservapedia - Counterexamples to Relativity

Now see their entry on climate change

3) Conservapedia - Climate change

On a different tack, people need to be extremely careful when they assess the writings and words of such as Richard Lindzen. I'm not conflating him with the views linked to above but his ilk are linked with far right US think tanks and institutes. It always helps to remember that there are people around who use language in a certain way.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”

BTW, it's no longer the fossil fuel industries who sponsor denialist sophistry. It basically comes down to the Koch Brothers and similar.

Whether people like this know their thinking is dangerously distorted or not is debatable

TonyTheProf said...

I am aware of the antisemitic nature of some of the criticisms of global warming. My next post, on narratives of apocalypse, will mention this, and how old theological narratives are resurfacing with a secular veneer.

Nick Palmer said...

You might like this light hearted piece from the "Friends of Gin and Tonic" which, of course, has serious underpinnings.

good for a laugh

Nick Palmer said...

Here is the original source of the graphic, which is also very funny!

Denial Depot - Why Leprechauns Can't Explain The Recent Warming

TonyTheProf said...

This is my all time favourite sketch on climate change!


Nick Palmer said...

Excellent clip.

This ad is not directly about climate change but ruffled a few feathers on the libertarian/US conservative talk shows
ad for Audi clean diesel

I just love the "you picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy!" - not to mention the "sniffer dog" ant-eater.

Anonymous said...

what gives Tony?
you let pro-AGW comments reference pro AGW sites,use scurrilious descriptions of sceptics and sceptical scientists and make farcicle connections to antisemitism and other unrelated,unevidenced propaganda.

a couple of points:-
you blocked my reference to climate audit.org on the subject of scientists refusing to release raw data,please tell me how a reviewer can replicate a papers results without the raw data and codes? is this now the standard for peer-review in climate science?

every inquiry held into AGW has advised that the raw data and codes needed for replication should be made available, do you agree with this? does it bother you that this advise is being ignored by some scientists?

maybe you should spend some time reading Mr. McIntyre's site, you will quickly see he is professional,allows no insults either pro or anti,is a talented mathematician/statistician and maintains his gentlemanly demeanour in the face of vicious attacks from pro AGWers
my comment re:proof of big oil funding CRU,
if commenters want to make disingenuous claims
do you think it's fair that i challenge them?

i'm calling you out for bias here Tony
please respond


TonyTheProf said...

Some postings, especially those with links, get dumped into my spam blog comments area. In the course of a week, there are often 50 spam entries, and I often delete those because I don't have the time to look through masses of text with links usually hidden away.

I don't know why I get so much spam, especially as the comment moderation means people have to use key words, so it can't be automated. But for some reason, the spammers like me!

Apologies then, if you've posted a comment with links and its been lost in the spam area.

Nick Palmer said...

Anonymous wrote:

"you blocked my reference to climate audit.org on the subject of scientists refusing to release raw data,please tell me how a reviewer can replicate a papers results without the raw data and codes? is this now the standard for peer-review in climate science?"

Here is a link
click for comment to my comment on a previous post of Tony's. It points out that the entire thrust of McIntyre's deliberate attack against CRU really does not closely resemble a genuine brave attempt to get hidden information from rascally secretive scientists simply because the vast majority of the information requested was freely available from the original sources - hundreds of meteorological organisations world wide. If McKintyre genuinely wanted the data why did he not get it directly from them?

He attempted to get a lot of his followers, including Senator Sarah Ferguson, to swamp the CRU unit with hundreds of FOI requests which would have taken months of work to address. The denialist/pathological sceptical movement is very deceptive, anon. Try not to be so gullible.

BTW,I don't think Tony blocked your comment deliberately - he doesn't do that sort of thing unless commenters go over the top. I personally think he is too strict at censoring what he sees as excessive rudeness, but it is his blog. If it helps, I think he censored a comment of mine recently because I used some *s to represent a common swear word.

Nick Palmer said...

To the commenter who posted Dr Roy Spencer's recent "challenge" from his blog.

"Show me one peer-reviewed paper that has ruled out natural, internal climate cycles as the cause of most of the recent warming in the thermometer record."

Sounds really challenging until you realise that:

"Show me one peer-reviewed paper that has ruled out leprechauns as the cause of most of the recent warming in the thermometer record"

is functionally the same challenge
- as is

"Show me one peer-reviewed paper that has ruled out god as the cause of life, the universe and everything"

Here's a link which about wraps it up for Spencer.

The trouble is the pathological "sceptics" and the delusionosphere will keep on endlessly quoting Spencer's misleading "challenge" for years to come.

Anonymous said...

hi Tony
thanks for the explanation but, as i don't do hyperlinks that dosn't account for how my comments went awry,however i concede that glitches
do happen so i withdraw my suggestion of bias.

to recap:-

More data refusals-nothing changes
read this story at climate audit.org
I do not accept that reviewers should 'go look for' the raw data at source,for a few reasons;
1) it is the responsibilty of any scientist putting forward a paper to ensure the information allowing replication is included in the paper
2)third parties are not always willing to release raw data to reviewers
3)some of the data required is not publicly archived

there are suggestions that scientists using third party data acquire agreements to guarentee such data is included in their papers,should third parties refuse then their figures would not be used in the paper, i think this is fair, note; the problem of lacking data is not found in the work of scientists sceptical of AGW,
peer-review without the means to replicate findings is no review!

claims that hundreds of FOI requests were received by CRU do not stand up to scrutiny, in the horizon film Dr. Phil Jones stated the number was 60, where does the 'hundreds' come from?

lets put this one down to poetic licence this time


Anonymous said...

proof that big oil were contributing funds to CRU was posted on Nicks blog entry of 10 feb 2010
until that time Nick was adamant that big oil/energy funded sceptics, it is to his credit that since that time he no longer makes this assertion

now the claim is right wing think tanks and people like the Koch bros. fund the sceptics

unsubstantiated allegations and accusations are at best worthless and at worst propaganda

could we see the evidence of this funding please Nick?


Anonymous said...

Hundreds of FOI requests

yet more deception from the alarmist acolytes

Dr. Phil Jones interviewed on the Horizon programme clearly states 60

where did the hundreds come from?

alarmist websites just love gullible types to lazy to check the quotes,facts,evidence and who would rather not do their own research


Nick Palmer said...

Anonymous said...

Hundreds of FOI requests

yet more deception from the alarmist acolytes

Odd that anon wrote these words above. It perhaps shows to readers exactly how denier propagandists work. In one of their two comments Anon mentions a post of mine from February 2010. It has 15 comments on it. In a reply, I linked to our very own Sarah Ferguson's email crowing about her FOI "denial of service" attack against CRU.
Here it is:
Posted Aug 1, 2009 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Reply

E Mail:
Ms. Ferguson,
Attached please find a letter acknowledging your request received 26 July 2009.. It also contains further information regarding the handling of this request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I will be in contact with you further in due course.
Cheers, Dave Palmer

Heading to letter
(Our Ref: FOI_09-100)

I assume that the reference number means that this is the 100th email Palmer has received! This will presumeably totally foul up his plans for a vacation.

As Anon seems so uninformed perhaps they need to know that each request was for data from five countries which would have had to be handled separately. Now, I don't know if anon ever learnt to count but 5 times maybe 100 = hundreds. QED.

Nick Palmer said...

Here's a link to Steve Mosher on Climate Audit setting up the list of hundreds of countries they wanted their minions to request the meteorological data of. Those you will see are those remaining (about 250'ish) after Mcintyre's minions have already started their dirty work.

click for link to post

And here is Mosher telling the minions to send five requests each

Nick Palmer said...

Anon "asserted":

"proof that big oil were contributing funds to CRU was posted on Nicks blog entry of 10 feb 2010
until that time Nick was adamant that big oil/energy funded sceptics, it is to his credit that since that time he no longer makes this assertion"

This is what anon said back then:
"I thought big oil etc. funded the deniers, then this www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/about/history"

Firstly, Anon is mistaken or uncomprehending or has a poor memory. I never was "adamant" about this - or even mildly assured. You just make stuff up anon, like so many in the denialist movement (although you're quite obviously not one of their big guns).

Anon implies that the "proof" they posted was something amazing and unknown yet, if you read my reply back then, you will see that it was hardly news to me that fossil fuel industries now sponsor environmental initiatives. I had made it clear then, and also before, that the fossil fuel industries stopped (I'm simplifying for brevity here) sponsoring denialism over 10 years previously. This was from 1997 - 2001. Their Global Climate Coalition, which was the front organisation, was shut down in 2002 when the industries accepted that climate change was a danger (do you hear deniers - the fossil fuel industries - those with most to lose - ACCEPTED THE REALITY of the threat from manmade climate change because the evidence had become so strong. Now please pipe down and go away.

Anon also wrote back then in Feb 2010:

"you make the assertion that the
heartland,cato,marshall institutes and the cei are all funded by big oil".

I wrote 553 words painstakingly answering anon in a reply containing many links to documentary proof of the facts (not assertions) on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 3:26:00 PM click for link to that comments page

and yet today Anon (same one?) writes (the writing style looks incredibly similar):

"now the claim is right wing think tanks and people like the Koch bros. fund the sceptics

unsubstantiated allegations and accusations are at best worthless and at worst propaganda

could we see the evidence of this funding please Nick?"

My comment back in February last year started:

"Answering deniers and self-described sceptics is mostly a big waste of time. Why didn't you look it up yourself? Why don't you already know this sort of stuff?"

To which I would now add, Anon, why do you appear to suffer from amnesia so often? It is a characteristic of some people who post like you that they frequently repost the same/similar disingenuous requests after they have been exhaustively answered.

Some speculate that the reason they repeatedly do this sort of thing is that they are not actually indulging in a dialogue with those such as me but their actual target is the onlookers - to make it appear as if they are making reasonable requests for info and clarification whilst, in reality, trying to manufacture doubt in the onlookers' mind - manufacturing a false idea that there is a genuine debate to be had. Gish Gallopers all of them.

Nick Palmer said...

Just to finish off this. A great post from the comments section of the Guardian. I haven't checked it but normally, "warmist" sources are almost entirely accurate (98%+) whereas denialist sources are (98%+) wrong. Some in both camps then take their base case and exaggerate.

Boy, the conspiracy is really getting big isn't it??
We have two lists here. Perhaps a look at the opposing teams is in order.

LIST # 1
Professional scientific societies that agree with the IPCC on global warming.

National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)


Woods Hole Resesarch Center

US Geological Survey (USGS)

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)

American Association of State Climatologists

Federal Climate Change Science Program, 2006 (the study authorized and then censored by Bush)

American Chemical Society - (world's largest scientific organization with over 155,000 members)

Geological Society of America

American Geophysical Union (AGU)

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

American Association of State Climatologists

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

American Astronomical Society

American Institute of Physics

American Meteorological Society (AMS)

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Stratigraphy Commission - Geological Society of London - (The world's oldest and the United Kingdom's largest geoscience organization)

Chinese Academy of Sciences

Royal Society, United Kingdom

Russian Academy of Sciences

Royal Society of Canada

Science Council of Japan

Australian Academy of Sciences

Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts

Brazilian Academy of Sciences

Caribbean Academy of Sciences

French Academy of Sciences

German Academy of Natural Scientists

Indian National Science Academy

Indonesian Academy of Sciences

Royal Irish Academy

see part two

Nick Palmer said...

Part two

Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy)

Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Union of Concerned Scientists

The Institution of Engineers Australia

Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)

National Research Council

Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospherice Sciences

World Meteorological Organization

State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)

International Council on Science

American Physical Society (APS)

Australian Institute of Physics (AIP

European Physical Society

European Science Foundation

Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS

Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)

Network of African Science Academies

International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS

European Academy of Sciences and Arts

InterAcademy Council (IAC)

International Arctic Science Committee

Arctic Council

European Federation of Geologists (EFG)

European Geosciences Union (EGU)

Geological Society of Australia

International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics

National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT

Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

Royal Meteorological Society (UK)

American Quaternary Association (AMQUA

American Institute of Biological Sciences

American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV

American Society for Microbiology

Institute of Biology (UK)

Society of American Foresters (SAF

Deniers would have you believe that somehow all these organizations and the thousands of scientists from 120 countries, who have been doing the research for 20 years, and over 30 years for some, are all scamming you in some dark conspiracy. Wow, and they call the scientists alarmists!

Okay. Are you ready for List # 2? Drum roll please.
LIST # 2
Professional scientific societies that Do Not agree with the IPCC on global warming.
American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Canadian Association of Petroleum Geologists (CAPG)
That is the whole list.

Now lets see who is smarter than a fifth grader. Who do you think is fooling who?

Nick Palmer said...

Re-reading these posts, I see I didn't post any direct evidence of the Koch Brothers large sponsoring of anti-climate science think tanks such as Cato, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity etc.

There's an interactive graphic half way down this page chock full of suitable evidence.

The Cato Institute was actually founded by one of the Koch brothers.

You see anonymous, you spout off with comments such as "unsubstantiated allegations and accusations are at best worthless and at worst propaganda". So, what I said was neither allegations nor propaganda (at least not the sort designed to fool people). It was the truth. The fact is, unfortunately, the vast majority of what deniers believe is propaganda based on lies and/or stupidity and the outpourings of people who make a career out of misleading the masses. They repeatedly chant that we have no evidence in exactly the same way that a nasty little child will say that its parent is nasty too.

When deniers are provided with evidence they won't look at it or will simply ignore it because it comes from a source they don't like.

It's not as if this is a new observation; with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer":

"I'm just climate denyin'
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises.
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest"

Nick Palmer said...

Tony - Here's an interesting link which shows the lengths some go to to traduce "progressives" and others.

I'm not explicitly suggesting that the same root causes are behind some of the smarter denialist propaganda but just look who turns up at the bottom of the article, the infamous Koch brothers who are heavily involved in sponsoring libertarian and far right think tanks (and certainly had paws in starting the Tea Party). BTW sceptics, don't bother with your usual deceptive and time wasting demands for evidence - there is videotape of one of them doing it.

All these Koch sponsored outfits are, at least nominally, against further government "restrictions" (translation: they are against government which tells them they can't do certain things they want to - which would lead to wrecking the planet).

It all seems a little incestuous.

TonyTheProf said...

Prince Charles: Climate sceptics gamble with the future
The Prince of Wales has hit out at climate change sceptics for what he calls the "corrosive" impact they have on public opinion.
The prince was speaking to an audience of MEPs and other policymakers at a conference in Brussels.
He warned against the pursuit of growth at the expense of the environment.
And the Prince said environmentalists should sell the benefits of sustainable living rather than just telling people what to give up.
In his speech, Prince Charles set out to illustrate how problems with the environment led directly to economic difficulties.
And he attacked climate change sceptics who he said were denying a vast body of evidence.
The implication of their arguments was that thousands of scientists throughout the world were conspiring to destroy the capitalist-based market system, he said.
"I would ask how these people are going to face their grandchildren and admit to them they failed their future."
He added that they were playing "a reckless game of roulette with the future inheritance of those who come after us."
"I cannot see how we can possibly maintain the growth of GDP in the long term if we continue to consume our planet as voraciously as we are doing," he warned.
He claimed the fabric of "the Earth's life support system" may be beginning to fragment.
Pointing to the destruction of the rainforests he said that stopping the process was "not a lifestyle choice".
Failure to address it meant an end to any chance of stopping climate change.
But the prince also criticised environmentalists for concentrating "on what people need to stop doing".
"If we are constantly told that living environmentally friendly lives means giving up all that makes life worthwhile, then it is no surprise that people refuse to change."

Nick Palmer said...

Blimey Anon - it just looks as if the Koch's are just about behind everything sneaky.

Click for astonishing insights

There are hugely wealthy American family trusts behind it as well, but they are not as big as the Koch brothers.

Nick Palmer said...

"But the prince also criticised environmentalists for concentrating "on what people need to stop doing".
"If we are constantly told that living environmentally friendly lives means giving up all that makes life worthwhile, then it is no surprise that people refuse to change.""

Well, I hesitate to correct Prince Charles when he is mostly so right but the quotation above is quite a large strawman. Environmentalists really don't say this at all, in fact they are heavily on the side of more satisfying lives of deeper contentment.

Charles knows this really but I suspect he is throwing some form of gauntlet down to mainstream environmentalists to make their view more clear, because he worries that they have been misrepresented and traduced by the usual suspects.

Anonymous said...

prince charles eh!

a man who lives so high off the hog most of us can't even imagine
that type of lifestyle,
and all at the expense of the taxpayers

privilege is not sustainable!

the arguement here is not one of how corporations destroy the environment everywhere they go,
they DO,and governments let them

the matter at hand is does increasing atmospheric CO2 (by 2 or 3 times) lead to catastrophic global warming

the historic and scientific record
says no

Anonymous said...

interesting list nick,

how do you feel about woods hole research center being partners with goldman sachs?

do you think that because the executive committees (mindful of R&D grants)of science societies throw their weight behind AGW,all their members agree?

google Steven J Welcenbach's resignation letter to the american chemical society

or Harold Lewis's from APS

rich family trusts and big oil/energy do fund right wing think tanks but, could you please post evidence that these organisations also fund the likes of:-
Andrew Montford (bishop hill blog)
Joanne Nova (jonova.com)
Steve McIntyre (climate audit)
Anthony Watts (wattsupwiththat)

read about A.Watts who promotes
the idea of energy saving and alternate energy generation
to wit, he drives an electric car on his daily town runs,has retrofitted CFL's , LED lighting , better insulation and a 10KW solar array in his home, as a school trustee he pushed through a 150KW solar array for the school

so, on an ideological and practical level he is greener than many environmentalists

propaganda,even if you think it to be in a just cause,is still propaganda


Nick Palmer said...

the matter at hand is does increasing atmospheric CO2 (by 2 or 3 times) lead to catastrophic global warming

the historic and scientific record
says no

You really need to be more precise when you state unsupported denialist rhetoric. You did realise that what you wrote is so ambiguous that any innocents looking at it might jump to the conclusion that they are in no danger? The problem is you are using absolutes.

When dealing with an imperfectly understood complex system like the climate, science will never ever say any predictions will definitely happen exactly as they are made. It's hard wired into the very philosophy of "science speak". Probabilities, deductions and inferences are what is relevant. What we know is that increasing CO2 by "2 or 3 times" will warm the average temperature of the planet. We know that the forcing we are applying is stronger and much faster than those from the natural cycles we know about that propelled the planet into and out of ice ages.

By analogy, the situation is like living in a city which has earthquakes, let's say Tokyo or San Francisco. Science can say to a San Franciscan that the odds are that there is going to be another really big earthquake there. But exactly when is unknown. And how big. It could be tomorrow; it could be thirty years from now. Science would never say the movement of the San Andreas fault will lead to a catastrophic earthquake of magnitude 8.5 at 3.35 PM August 12 2015. It will say that the odds of a large earthquake happening there within a certain time are so much and the longer you look at the more certain it becomes. There are also very small odds that the accumulated tension in the fault lines could be discharged by a series of much smaller earthquakes. There is a meme in denialist propaganda that suggests that because things aren't 100% certain that we are in no danger. Ultra stupid.

The use of the phrase "lead to catastrophic global warming" is a classic weasel phrase as it suggests a false dichotomy - either global warming will be 100% catastrophic or there will be no problem at all. Any rational person should support whatever action is necessary to avoid the probability of catastrophic global warming (you agree?) but what about the other possibilities? Extremely dangerous GW; very dangerous GW; dangerous GW; dangerous to some areas GW; moderate danger capable of being adapted to GW etc.

see part 2

Nick Palmer said...

part 2

Clearly, there is an uninterrupted spectrum of possibilities all the way from Armageddon to nicer conditions for some areas. Do you feel lucky? Implying that because the very worst might not manifest itself, that we must therefore be safe is just (edited)...

If you were betting on a roulette table, and the odds were 35 to 1 against you, would you bet your life savings on one spin of the wheel?

"The historic and scientific record" actually says that past natural forcings smaller than we are applying very fast today caused climate changes for tens of thousands of years that, were they to happen today, would be definitely catastrophic for our civilisation. However, the records cannot be used to state unequivocally that, because smaller changes in the past caused very disruptive events, the larger changes we are now applying will definitely cause the same or larger disruptions, but they should raise a gigantic red flags. If you heard that your great grandfather was bitten abroad by a snake and died that should at least make you very wary of any snakes you met in that country until you knew beyond doubt which were non-poisonous. If "the records" showed that they were mostly poisonous in the past would you take precautions knowing the potential consequences?

Finally, I will rewrite your phrase to strip it of its weasel attributes.

The matter at hand is does increasing atmospheric C02 (by 2 to 4 times over pre-industrial levels of 280ppm), and all the feedback processes that will probably be set off by this, lead to catastrophic or dangerous global warming that will be irreversible for centuries? The inference from the historical and scientific records very strongly suggests it to be highly probable - but not absolutely 100% certain.

Anonymous said...

are you in denial nick?

the ice age of 450mya had atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 4400ppm,that ammount of CO2(nearly 12 times todays)did not bring earth out of that ice age,the milankovitch cycles did, yet you maintain that CO2 is a much stronger forcing than natural forcings

do you see where your logic fails?

Nick Palmer said...

propaganda,even if you think it to be in a just cause,is still propaganda

Umm - that's a bit like suggesting that the police shooting someone to stop them further shooting up a school are morally equivalent to the gun totin' murderer. Very silly.

rich family trusts and big oil/energy do fund right wing think tanks but, could you please post evidence that these organisations also fund the likes of list of various sciency sounding blogs followed.

No-one said that ALL contrarians deniers, sceptics etc are funded by trusts/Koch's etc. There are plenty of enthusiastic but misguided amateurs but the sponsored think tanks etc are responsible for the propaganda which is pumped out in the mainstream media - the purpose of which is to sway people's viewpoint for POLITICAL purposes.

That is the danger from the malignant propagandists - that they might confuse too many voters thereby leading to inappropriate political action/inaction being taken because it looks to the politicians as if that was the democratic majority's will.

Those manipulators don't actually care about whether Jo Nova, Lucia, McIntyre, Mosher, Watts, Willis Eschenbach or Lubos Motl are accurate or not because the majority of the voting public will never see those blogs directly. All Joe Public will see is op-ed articles placed in the WSJ/Mail/Express/Telegraph etc that, amongst other sources, will refer to these "sceptical" ideas factories to mislead the reader.

I don't know if the people behind this malignant propaganda actually know they are lying and twisting or if they are so deluded they cannot realise it any more. All that is established is that when the very same tactics were used by the tobacco industry to manufacture doubt about the science relating to smoking and cancer, the tobacco executives were eventually proved to have known about the reality of the science whilst they were still spreading lies and disinformation. That's why the tobacco companies were fined such huge amounts.

Of course the climate change disinformation initiative is vastly greater than that originally run by the tobacco executives and if people listen to it the eventual consequences won't simply be the equivalent of more people getting cancer but will be world wide and will affect everybody.

As far as the resignation letters go I was familiar with the Lewis one but not the Welcenbach one. I have now read it. You really do clutch at straws don't you! Remember there are many, many 100's of thousands of members of those societies yet you quote two rather rambling letters that the denialosphere have been trumpeting (because they have precious little else). Again, you are looking for perceived flaws on the face of the supermodel and claiming that a small spot proves she and her entire family are completely ugly. You need to break out from focussing on paranoid nitpicking and ambiguous insinuations to make your case.

BTW, one of the "resigners" looks to have extreme libertarian views and the other is extremely old. Based on what they wrote, I would say their critical faculties are nowhere near optimum anymore.

Nick Palmer said...

Sorry for the delay but Dimitri Zenghelis (senior fellow at London school of Economics, a principle author of the Stern Report, etc.) is debating Bjorn Lomborg tonight at LSE and I was asked to do some research about how Lomborg has rather drastically changed his position on climate change over the years. He was never a classic denier and always admitted the basic science but he used to say that spending money on fixing climate change would only achieve a little but spending the same money on many of the other problems there are would have far greater benefits ergo don't bother about avoiding climate change.

His original "Copenhagen Consensus" (2004) of hand picked economists identified climate change as one of the least worthy problems to invest in. He's recently done a massive volte-face and now acknowledges that climate change is probably the most urgent problem that must be fixed right now but he still maintains his view that there are better ways to fix it than the solutions that he characterises (using some straw man arguments) the mainstream as recommending.

Sorry Anon, you just weren't very high on my list of priorities...

Anon wrote:

do you see where your logic fails?

Oh boy, your really asking for it now!

Your way too simple logic has such gaping holes that it fails catastrophically. As usual, science's doesn't. Briefly, back then 450 million years ago, things were very different - you also need to keep in mind the timescales involved, that the Sun wasn't as strong, the continental land surface was clustered around the South Pole and there was virtually no life on land.

You might have got your latest Gish Gallop denialist meme from Ian Plimer's book, "Heaven and Earth", page 165:

"The proof that CO2 does not drive climate is shown by previous glaciations...If the popular catastrophist view is accepted, then there should have been a runaway greenhouse when CO2 was more than 4000 ppmv. Instead there was glaciation. Clearly a high atmospheric CO2 does not drive global warming and there is no correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2."

Of course, once Plimer's deceit/stupidity was out there, it rocketed around the denialosphere.

To answer Plimer's "lying by omission" (he's a Professor - he just can't be that ignorant...) and extreme cherry picking, we have to fill in some parts of the background that are (deliberately?) missing.

Nick Palmer said...

Part 2
If Anon is calling up the Ordovician glaciation 450 million years ago to sway readers, they should be aware that the planet was not as it is today. Most land was in the Southern hemisphere and the "glaciation" was mostly the Southern ice cap. Here's an illustrative graphic

The land surface started the Ordovician as a single continent called Gondwana which started the period centred on the equator and then drifted toward the South Pole when the mid-term glaciation happened. Milankovitch cycles had differing relative effects back then because the land was in very different places... Today most of the land masses are in the Northern hemisphere, back then almost entirely the opposite was the case.

The Ordovician Period started with a major extinction event and ended with another about 440 Mya that wiped out 60% of marine genera. Climate is sensitive to forcings and very bad things can happen if you push it too far. Geddit, Anon?

This paper from Herrmann, Patzkowsky and Pollard (2003) explains some of why CO2 could be so high yet glaciation occurred. It also shows how orbital forcing (Milankovitch cycles) helped Earth get out of the glaciation, although they were not the whole story click for link

The Plimer figure of 4000ppm was probably taken from Robert Berner's GEOCARB model (Berner and Kothavala 2001) click for link (funny how denier/"sceptics" believe in models only when it suits them, huh?). The error bars quoted by Berner et al are very large so the actual CO2 figure was estimated at between 2400 and 9000 ppm. Berner explicitly advised against using his model to estimate Late Ordovician CO2 levels due its inability to account for short-term CO2 fluctuations - the model had minimum steps of 10 million years. He stated:

"This type of modeling is incapable of delimiting shorter term CO2 fluctuations (Paleocene-Eocene boundary,
late Ordovician glaciation) because of the nature of the input data which is added to
the model as 10 my or longer averages. Thus, exact values of CO2, as shown by the
standard curve, should not be taken literally and are always susceptible to modification."

Anon also needs to know that the time period they are invoking was before there were any land animals; land plants were most likely only non-vascular ones such as liverworts, mosses and algae. No trees, nothing significant to form a land based carbon cycle.

It's doubtful if land animals could even have survived in such a high CO2 environment.

Nick Palmer said...

Part 3

During the Ordovician, the Sun was several percent dimmer (~4%) according to established nuclear models of main sequence stars. Here's how we can infer that the Sun was 4% fainter then.

click for link

Even assuming Anon's figure of 4000ppm way back then, when the Sun was fainter, that is "only" equal to about 4 "doublings" of 280ppm pre-industrial revolution (1750) CO2. A rough calculation shows an increase in solar irradiance by ~4% over the past 400 million years would yield something like +9 watts/m2 extra forcing. That is why we are as warm as we are today with much less atmospheric greenhouse CO2. 450 million years allowed life to adapt to a 4% increase in solar irradiance notwithstanding that the Earth did not heat up as much as a simple analysis might suggest - a lot of that CO2 was sequestered by rock weathering and went into limestone, chalk etc - it didn't all go into creating oil and coal!

The Sun got hotter but the greenhouse effect reduced a lot. Compare that to the anthropogenic CO2 forcing over a micoscopically short period (250 years) of something like +1.5 watts/m2 (1/6th of that the amount due to the Sun brightening over 100s of millions of years).

The fainter Sun back then made the CO2 threshold level for glaciation to be around 3000 ppmv or so (well within the error bars of The GEOCARB figures) which explains (along with the logarithmic forcing effect of CO2) why a runaway greenhouse didn't occur back then. With a dimmer sun, the Earth would have frozen up completely unless there was very high CO2 levels remaining from the primordial atmosphere (before there was any life).

To summarise: a much smaller increase in CO2 today will produce a climate that would have required much higher CO2 to achieve in the Paleozoic (the overall period of which the Ordovician is part).

As a general post script to those who want to know who to trust - a lot of the denier sources are sharks, motor mouths, wormtongues and politically motivated operators who turn a blind eye to a lot of stuff they ought to pay attention to. They routinely use deceptive "facts" and simplistic misrepresentations of reality and always cherry pick information to make their slippery case. They rely on the fact that, as Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In short, the Gish Gallop.

Climate scientist on the other hand tend to be inarticulate nerdy uber-geeks who believe that, if they just present the science, people will see the truth. They do not realise that an unprincipled debater will almost always sway the masses.

Here is ubergeek Richard Alley on why CO2 is the biggest control knob we have on the climate. Clearly he was the "smartest kid in the class"!

Nick Palmer said...

Paradigm Wars 1: A Clash of Symbols

Truth versus lies. The paradigms are not equivalent and it is beyond what the Gods themselves contend against to give them equal house room.

The supremely smart Rachel Maddow explains, in this Youtube clip the mechanism whereby the media machine of the American right not only invents and spreads lies and stupidity but is now incapable of realising that there is actually real valid true stuff out there beyond their limited horizons.

Needless to say, this is exactly how the AGW denial machine carries on too.

TonyTheProf said...

The paradigms may not be equal but the global warming paradigm is still very weak in terms of making refutable predictions, unlike, for example Newtonian mechanics or Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.

There is a good deal of "hindsighting" with the models, but they don't seem to good with predictions.

There seems to be a lot of jumping on bandwagons, and making unsubstantiated and facile claims that are completely beyond the science. For example:

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”.

“Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

Equally "ClimateSmart 2050", the Australian initiative for Queensland noted that "the world is experiencing accelerating climate change as a result of human activities", which is giving rise to "worse droughts, hotter temperatures and rising sea levels...a tendency for less rainfall with more droughts"


That was produced with association with climate change scientists - there is no mention of flooding. Of course, in hindsight, flooding is "consistent" with global warming.

Nick Palmer said...

You wrote
"The paradigms may not be equal but the global warming paradigm is still very weak in terms of making refutable predictions, unlike, for example Newtonian mechanics or Einstein's Theory of General Relativity."

Partial nonsense. You shouldn't conflate the basic theory with the predictions from the models. There are many aspects to what, in precis, is described as climate science to the general public. The denialosphere of course massively exploit this lack of discrimination between what is "settled" and what is less certain for propaganda purposes.

The basic theory is that if you increase CO2 (or any other greenhouse gas) significantly then the Earth will definitely warm up. This was predicted; it has actually happened and will continue to happen. Measured results of a prediction confirmed. The measured energy imbalance of radiation in versus radiation out matches the predictions very closely. Hardly "weak", but rather very strong confirmation.

The precise speed, degree and whereabouts of the warming is a lot harder to get right. You reference Newton or Einstein's theories but the number of parameters in these are very small. It is "easy" to make falsifiable predictions with these. There are so many conflicting and interfering natural cycles, and Earth's systems, particularly the oceans, have such gigantic inertia that the global warming signal can only be discerned over a period of at least 15 years. The predictive element of the science has developed considerably over the last 15 years largely because the computer power available today is so much more than existed previously.

The problem with the inertia factor is that, by the time the effects are so obvious that even the Daily Mail, Delingpole, Beck and Fox news cannon fodder can understand their reality, it will be way too late to stop the ensuing devastation.

Earth's coupled climate/ocean systems have millions of parameters affecting how the warming will manifest itself. I am afraid this "lack of successful predictions" is a bit of a denialist meme. They use it along these lines:

"Global warming scientists said "blah-blah". Blah blah didn't happen (yet) so therefore all global warming theory is wrong therefore CO2 can have little or no effect therefore we needn't do anything
which is the equivalent of claiming a supermodel is totally ugly because she has a mole on her cheek

You quote Dr David Viner with the denialist like cherrypick of:

"within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. "

Written in 2000, 11 years ago, Dr Viner nevertheless went on to say in the same article click for original

"Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said."

Not too shabby was he? You also must always remember that what you read is words reported by a journalist. To give a comprehensive and accurate statement Viner would have needed several thousand words to do justice to the full scientific truth, yet sound bite media is what the public see and what the denialosphere uses to do their dirty work.

Nick Palmer said...

You also seem to cherrypick from the "Queensland Climate Smart" document.

you quote:

which is giving rise to "worse droughts, hotter temperatures and rising sea levels...a tendency for less rainfall with more droughts"

and then claim that:

"there is no mention of flooding"

Firstly, increase in severity of weather events has always been predicted. It is entirely consistent with what has always been predicted for climate changes that Australia could suffer increased droughts with "less rainfall" and still have increased and more severe flooding. Indeed in the years before this one severe drought is exactly what happened. Average the rainfall out and it'll probably be less than normal, just concentrated into a few events.

Right from the very first page, page one of the executive summary, I found this:

In the future, Queensland will experience longer and hotter summers, less rainfall, more evaporation, increased severe storm and cyclone activity

from the climate change projections pages:

an increase in cyclone intensity, with maximum wind speeds up by 5–10 per cent by 2050 and rainfall associated with these events up by 20–30 per cent (Hennessy et al.

and from the "Preparation for emergency response" page

The Queensland Government is working to identify actions that will improve community resilience to the hazards of climate change, especially in relation to heatwaves, floods, landslides and bushfires... Work is also under way to map threats to Queensland’s coastal settlements and produce computer models to predict flooding and erosion caused by extreme storm events and sea level rises

Beware the people who use cherry picking deception, like a magician uses legerdemain, to fool you

TonyTheProf said...

"Heavy snow will return occasionally, says Dr Viner, but when it does we will be unprepared. "We're really going to get caught out. Snow will probably cause chaos in 20 years time," he said."

At least that is something approaching a prediction. Now what does occasionally mean? Does it mean if we get five snowing winters that Dr Viner's claim is falsified?

That;'s the trouble with these statements, it's like trying to pin down jelly. They have almost as much predictive force as astrology, where the words are chosen so that they can mean virtually anything depending on what turns up.

Regarding the Australian document, floods is not a word mentioned in the bullet point predictions:

a tendency for less rainfall, with more droughts anticipated (Preston & Jones 2006)
• an increase in cyclone intensity, with maximum wind speeds up by 5–10 per cent by 2050 and rainfall
associated with these events up by 20–30 per cent (Hennessy et al. 2004)

"rainfall" is not the same as floods! And didn't the cyclone come AFTER the floods?

Yes there is mention of floods in the emergency preparations, but this is not - as looking back I discovered - part of the PDF that is searchable! I looked for flood, floods, flooding, and that section seems to be a bitmap insert! So I'm not cherry picking there; just frustrated by a badly created PDF!

Nick Palmer said...

Perhaps I should have mentioned earlier that the Climate Smart document shouldn't be used as a target to attack the underlying science. It is largely a policy document with only very basic scientific opinion in it. No doubt the original submissions were heavily pruned to be shoehorned in. Compare what the IPCC "basic science" says about extreme weather events by clicking the link. This too is grossly simplified. There is no getting away from the fact that real world systems are complicated and cannot be fully described in the sound bite space that the media and documents like Climate Smart allocate.

While the denialosphere ruthlessly exploits this factor to misdirect the masses, I would hope that others, once it has been explained, won't.

Taken from FAQ 10.1 IPCC AR4 WG1 2007 - only mildly edited for length...

Are Extreme Events, Like Heat Waves, Droughts or Floods, Expected to Change as the Earth’s Climate Changes?

Yes; the type, frequency and intensity of extreme events are expected to change as Earth’s climate changes, and these changes could occur even with relatively small mean climate changes. Changes in some types of extreme events have already been observed, for example, increases in the frequency and intensity of heat waves and heavy precipitation events (see FAQ 3.3).

In a warmer future climate, most Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Models project increased summer dryness and winter wetness in most parts of the northern middle and high latitudes. Summer dryness indicates a greater risk of drought. Along with the risk of drying, there is an increased chance of intense precipitation and flooding due to the greater water-holding capacity of a warmer atmosphere. This has already been observed and is projected to continue because in a warmer world, precipitation tends to be concentrated into more intense events, with longer periods of little precipitation in between.

In concert with the results for increased extremes of intense precipitation, even if the wind strength of storms in a future climate did not change, there would be an increase in extreme rainfall intensity. In particular, over NH land, an increase in the likelihood of very wet winters is projected over much of central and northern Europe due to the increase in intense precipitation during storm events, suggesting an increased chance of flooding over Europe and other mid-latitude regions due to more intense rainfall and snowfall events producing more runoff. Similar results apply for summer precipitation, with implications for more flooding in the Asian monsoon region and other tropical areas. The increased risk of floods in a number of major river basins in a future warmer climate has been related to an increase in river discharge with an increased risk of future intense storm-related precipitation events and flooding.

There is evidence from modelling studies that future tropical cyclones could become more severe, with greater wind speeds and more intense precipitation. Studies suggest that such changes may already be underway; there are indications that the average number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes per year has increased over the past 30 years. Some modelling studies have projected a decrease in the number of tropical cyclones globally due to the increased stability of the tropical troposphere in a warmer climate, characterised by fewer weak storms and greater numbers of intense storms. A number of modelling studies have also projected a general tendency for more intense but fewer storms outside the tropics, with a tendency towards more extreme wind events and higher ocean waves in several regions in association with those deepened cyclones. Models also project a poleward shift of storm tracks in both hemispheres by several degrees of latitude.