Copenhagen climate change blah blah

December 12th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, denialism | 266 Comments »

Sorry, this felt a bit rushed and PollyFillaesque, I hope it’s vaguely interesting…

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 12 December 2009

So as we career towards a mediocre outcome in Copenhagen, why do roughly half the people in this country not believe in man-made climate change, when the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists do?

It certainly predates the leaked emails (on which there is surely nothing more to say). Firstly we have the obvious psychological issues. We’re predisposed to undervalue adverse outcomes which are a long way off in the future, especially if we might be old or dead soon. We’re inherently predisposed to find cracks in evidence that suggests we should do something we don’t want to do, hence the enduring appeal of stories about alcohol being good for you, and policy initiatives have hardly helped on this front. Suggesting that personal behaviour change will have a big role to play, when we know that telling people to do the right thing is a spectacularly weak way to change behaviour, is an incomplete story: you need policy changes to make better behaviour easier, and we all understand that fresh fruit on sale at schools is more effective than telling children not to eat sweets.

This is exacerbated, of course, because climate science is difficult. We could discuss everything you needed to know about MMR and autism in an hour: the experimental techniques of epidemiology and other disciplines, how they’ve been misrepresented, the results, strengths, and weaknesses of the key studies. Climate change will take two days of your life, for a relatively superficial understanding: if you’re interested, I’d recommend the IPCC website itself, where they have a series of three executive summaries for policy makers, which are perfectly good pieces of humourless popular science writing.

On top of that, we don’t trust governments on science, because we know they distort it. We see that a minister will sack Professor David Nutt, if the evidence on the relative harms of drugs is not to the government’s taste. We see the government brandish laughable reports to justify DNA retention by the police, or their stance on copyright, with flawed figures, suspicious missing data, and bogus arguments. We know that evidence based policy is window dressing, and now, when they want us to believe them on climate science, to justify Stern’s paltry 1% of global GDP to mitigate a global horror, we doubt.

Then, of course, the media privilege foolish contrarian views because they have novelty value, and also because “established” views get confused with “establishment” views, and anyone who comes along to have a pop at those gets David vs Goliath swagger.

But the key to all of this is the recurring mischief of criticisms mounted against climate change. I am very happy to affirm that I am not a giant expert on climate change: I know a bit, and I know that there’s not yet been a giant global conspiracy involving almost every scientist in the world (although I’d welcome examples). More than all that, I can spot the same rhetorical themes re-emerging in climate change foolishness that you see in aids denialism, homeopathy, and anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists.

Among all these, reigning supreme, is the “zombie argument”: arguments which survive to be raised again, for eternity, no matter how many times they are shot down. “Homeopathy worked for me”, and the rest. Zombie arguments survive, they get up and live again, immortal and resistant to all refutation, because they do not live or die by the normal standards of mortal arguments. There’s a huge list of them at realclimate.org, with refutations. There are huge lists of them everywhere. It makes no difference.

“CO2 isn’t an important greenhouse gas”, “Global warming is down to the sun”, “what about the cooling in the 1940s?” says your party bore. “Well,” you reply, “since the last time you raised this, I went and checked, and it turns out that there were loads of suphites in the air in the 1940s to block out the sun, made from the slightly different kind of industrial pollution we had back then, and the odd volcano, so that’s sort of been answered already, ages ago.”

And they knew that. And you know they knew you would find out, if you could be botheredbut they went ahead anyway and wasted your time, raising it, knowingly, as if it was unrefuted, as if it was unrefutable, and worse than that, you both know they’re going to do it again, to some other poor sap. And that is simply rude.


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266 Responses



  1. CoralBloom said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:12 am

    You have missed one reason why around half the population do not believe in climate science.
    Too few people take science subjects at school. So you have to convince people to pay attention to the science when they really don’t know what science is.

    I’ve one other point. As a nation, we are really lazy too. Haven’t you noticed just how many people are convinced they know everything without actually learning about everything to begin with? We don’t, as a nation seem to value expertise of any kind any more. Expertise and authority have become entirely confused.
    I’ve never studied climate science, so I can’t say from my experience what is what. However, I do know climate scientists know far more about the climate than I. If they say we have a big problem, then it’s a very good bet we have a big problem.
    Well done on Radio 4 tonight.
    150 year old girlfriend? Now Ben, be careful with her wont you!

  2. Ben Pile said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:40 am

    The problem of treating the climate change debate as polar is that we expect one side to be comprehensively right, and the other comprehensively wrong.

    So even if we can say “the world is warming, and it’s our fault, and perhaps we ought to do something about it”, can we really say that the future will consist of oceans of carbonic acid, rising 100 meters above today’s sea level, with whatever percentage of species of organisms wiped out, and human civilisation gone and forgotten, or hanging on to existence by a thread?

    The answer to the question “why do half the population not believe in global warming” might simply be that they in fact have a fairly good nose for bullshit, and aren’t buying greenwash. That’s a problem for climate change activists, not one cause by climate change deniers.

  3. milli said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Thanks I never remember my password,apologies I didn’t really read all of your post. I am a scientist. I think that climate warming has been hijacked by corporate interests. the uK governement ie miliband not bald!! has
    pushed this issue beyond the beyond. why I ask? to push brown in 2010.
    i believe in forests, clean air, good food, etc.. but not at the expense of a carbon market,or offsets which will as always in history help the rich intellectuals and leave us the middle class struggling to live a life we want to but can’t. f**K them and their grandiose meetings. this is a serious matter that deserves more seiours attention than a ticking clock.

  4. Pittens said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:48 am

    Acutally, everybody I know with a science degree is a skeptic – at least of the alarmist position. The “misinofmred” eceptics on the web consiste of scientists, programmers, physicists, metroologists. The Believers consist largely of the anti-capitalist ex-CND class not one of whom could solve a quadratic equation.

    The only science is the Stefan BOlzman constant – from which we can work out the radiation of a black body without the greenhouse effect. The Earth should be about 20 degrees cooler. This effect tells us that a doubling of Co2 will lead to – at most – an increase of 1 degree in a century and, since the effect is logarithmic another doubling will lead to another .5 degrees. So nothing to see here.

    There will be feedbacks, and quite likely negative feedbacks ( since positive feedbacks are unlikely in any stable system). Once again, nothing to see here.

    The climate scientists have used models with no feedbacks at all, put them into computer models, and those models did not explain the temperature increases to 1998 ( a lot of which was faulty instrumentation in any case), and so they claimed “forcings” – i.e. plugged in models which did work to explain the warmings until 1998.

    Those models are what people use to predict the 6 degs nonsnese. Unfortunately they have not predicted the stagnation in the last 10 years. Change the models? Nope. Just say natural variations ( note that was not used for the increase up until 1998).

    There is much more. Adjustments of data, loss of data, reluctance to give their raw data.

    And the hockey stick graph. A clear fraudulent use of one form of measurements at once stage ( tree ring proxies), then the removal of the proxies to the measured temperatures *when the tree ring data set should be calibrated to the latest temperatures* or the proxies used all the way through. The lack of correlation indicates an urban heat effect in the data.

    and on, and on. How many years let until warming continues? Would it be fair to ask in 2020 if there was no real warming from now if the 6 degree temperature by 2100 be revised downwards? Or will we have spent trillions by then?

  5. montimer said,

    December 12, 2009 at 3:09 am

    Whilst i absolutely believe that the world is getting warmer, and agree that the science shows that the trend is, at least in part, man made, I don’t believe that any of our current actions are the way to deal with the issue.

    Many of the government initiatives feel like simple revenue-raising. When the best ways of making society more efficent lie in improving public transport and allowing more flexible working conditions, slapping 10p on a litre of fuel every few months is at best cynical, and at worst damaging to the cause.

    More to the point though, whether global warming is, in this case, man made or otherwise, the climate will always be in flux. Reducing waste and pollution, and making societies more efficent is always a good thing, and there are many measures that would be of real benefit to society (supermarkets offering paper bags, refundable deposits on REUSABLE glass and plastic bottles and universal school bus services spring to mind), but ultimately there will come a time when the climate changes without our influence, and without us being able to do anything about it. Maybe it’s now, maybe not, but rather than trying to hold back the tide of change with half-hearted legislation and endless conferences, couldn’t the money be better spent adapting our world to a warmer climate. By adapting crops to grow in warmer, more arrid conditions, and on finding new places to live for the populations of low-lying islands, as well as improving flood defense technology, we would be in a position to deal with the future, even if climate change isn’t man made.

  6. iliff said,

    December 12, 2009 at 3:23 am

    PollyFillaesque? I’m impressed by how much of this you got into this evening’s Any Questions on Radio 4. Nice job (on both counts).

    µ

  7. Paula Thomas said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:24 am

    A piece that chimes well with me. I have just been arguing with a friend about this. I sent one of the lists to her. She accused me of being a member of the new religion of environmentalism. I then explained some of the science and pointed out the experimental support. Her reply? It’s bloody cold today!!!! Oh and she mentioned having studied nature all her life, clearly not scientifically in any way!

    Oh and I seem to get sent a lot of links to wattsupwiththat.com urgh!!!

  8. Cytos said,

    December 12, 2009 at 6:32 am

    In complete contrast with Pittens, most of the people I know with science degrees (in physical sciences) are firm believers. The idea that people who support the man-made climate change hypothesis are mathematically illiterate is , frankly, laughable. In fact, many of the 1000s of scientists whose work is represented in the IPCC reports are physical scientists.

    As someone said: ‘we’ve started the worst experiment in history in the only test-tube we have left’

  9. Paula Thomas said,

    December 12, 2009 at 7:29 am

    @Pittens

    Where did you get the idea that the Earth’s climate was a stable system? It was one of the first systems discovered to be chaotic!!

  10. orzr said,

    December 12, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Scepticism about climate change comes from suspicion about the motives of those who campaign for action. Many are no doubt honourable but many have careers and incomes that depend on climate change.

    This is presented as a black or white issue that the globe is either warming or it isn’t, which suits a lot of people on both sides of the argument. Deniers want to be able to portray the whole thing as a global conspiracy, which suits their mindset. “Warmists” are quite happy to have the whole range of scepticism portrayed as barmy loons.

    What does seem apparent is that, as it is in some people’s financial interests to spread doubt about climate change (e.g. oil companies), it is in others’ interests to exaggerate the risks and shorten the timescales in which we must take action.

    The climate change debate has the feeling of being managed. The CRU emails have shown how unwilling some of the scientists are to have anyone look at their data, as opposed to their presentation and interpretation of it. Too often, we are told we must accept the science because it is settled, and not allowed to check for ourselves.

  11. jodyaberdein said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Preseumaby Pittens, as directed you did the reading homework about GCMs, what they do and don’t contain, and what a forcing actually is? If not you are at risk of confirming either Ben’s penultimate, but more likely Ben’s last paragraph.

  12. gideon said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:07 am

    orzr:

    ‘Many are no doubt honourable but many have careers and incomes that depend on climate change.’

    Firstly – in the UK especially, blue sky science is appallingly paid. You have to fight for funding like a rabid weasel, and if you get funding, it’s generally laughable. If you’re working in climate research here, it’s because you love it as a subject, not because it pays £££.

    Case in point: my degree was from UCL’s Dept of Space and Climate Physics. Being OK but less than inspired at the subject, I went into IT when I graduated; where, within 4 years, I was paid a better salary than climate scientists with 20 years experience. Given the amount of computational stuff required, most modern scientists could do technical IT jobs with their eyes closed. There are a regular tide of good postdocs who just can’t live on a research budget and get poached by the City – where they are paid five or six times as much.

    Secondly: the globe is warming; at least, the global mean surface temperature is increasing. This is proven and accepted by everyone including the sceptics (who conceded the point grudgingly, then set about trying to persuade policymakers and the public that warming was good – e.g. the Greening Earth Society). There’s still some uncertainty about the precise extent of warming, because the science is not finished by a long way, and the anthropogenic degree of warming will depend on our response (or lack thereof). That’s why the predicted temperature increase is a range, not a value.

    Thirdly: scientists are ready and willing to show their data sets and working. Meteorological agencies and governmental bodies are frequently less so; and scientists working for them are often under contract of confidentiality.

    However, if you’re going to cast a critical eye over someone’s data, it’s going to take a certain amount of admin work on the part of the scientist; and as such, the scientists would prefer to present their data to someone who knew how to analyse it properly.

    So if you’re presented with a FoI request from a sceptic who:

    a) you know doesn’t actually understand the subject on any level beyond the popsci paperback

    and

    b) is looking at it with the sole intention of finding ammunition to persuade the public that you and your colleagues are misguided, dishonest or incompetent

    – well, you’d be forgiven for viewing it with a certain amount of justified irritation.

  13. arganoid said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Some responses to the zombie arguments in the comments:

    www.skepticalscience.com/climate-sensitivity.htm
    www.skepticalscience.com/Working-out-climate-sensitivity.html

    www.skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm

    www.skepticalscience.com/Hockey-stick-without-tree-rings.html

  14. TomFP said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Reading thermomaniacs trying to talk away the Fabrigate emails is like watching Wylie Coyote spinning his legs in the air after he’s run off a cliff – the longer we wait the more fun it is when he plummets.

    This would all be hilarious if it weren’t for the fact that::

    Good science and good scientists have been driven out by bad science and bad scientists,

    A lot of (quite) well-meaning people have given their hearts to this druidical piffle,

    We nearly ended up with another casino market trading in a commodity given an arbitrary value by an argument whose falsehood was bound to emerge eventually – a recipe for another GFC.

    Vast sums have already been misspent on this fraud, and could have been better spent growing the world economy and devising alternatives to fossil-fuels,

    Last but not least, none of this proves that the climate isn’t capable of shitting on us, in ways that we can’t resist. Learning to live with such episodes requires healthy, growing economies, not ones which have dissipated their wealth investing in a 21st Century tulip-bulb market.

  15. phayes said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:15 am

    “Preseumaby Pittens, as directed you did the reading homework about GCMs, what they do and don’t contain,…”

    Do they contain the creation of an Earth-swallowing black hole by the LHC so that Pittens’s simplification might be appropriate?

  16. njdowrick said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:17 am

    @Pittens (#4): I’m curious as to your reason for saying “…a doubling of Co2 will lead to – at most – an increase of 1 degree in a century and, since the effect is logarithmic another doubling will lead to another .5 degrees.” It is specifically the implication that if doubling were to lead to a 1 degree temperature rise, then the logarithmic dependence of temperature on CO_2 concentration means that a further doubling would lead to only a 0.5 degree rise that concerns me.

    I know what logarithms are, and it seems to me that a further doubling would lead to another 1 degree rise if the dependence truly is logarithmic. On this small point, could you explain your reasoning a little more fully?

    Thank you. I am happy to learn.

  17. martinbudden said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Interesting question. I think there are a number of reasons:

    The debate is often being conducted in quasi-religious terms. People are “climate change believers” or “climate change deniers”. If the debate is quasi-religious then scientific arguments loose their weight.

    The debate is often tribal. It takes more than a scientific argument to get people to leave their tribe.

    Hypocrisy. Al Gore makes a powerful argument, but he is clearly a hypocrite – he has not significantly changed his lifestyle. The Copenhagen summit has elements of hypocrisy – stories of 1200 limos and 140 private planes do not advance the argument for doing something about climate change. People are not convinced by hypocrites, however powerful or correct their arguments.

    Scientists are often naive in their approach to convincing people. Generally “proving someone wrong” is not a good way of bringing them round to your point of view.

    As you point out, we don’t trust the British government on science.

    Lack of action. If climate change was a real threat then, the argument goes, surely the government would be actually doing something about it. But there is little visible action by the government.

  18. ratTus rattUs said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:41 am

    why do roughly half the people in this country not believe in man-made climate change[?]

    Because the people in this country do not feel any climate change. When changes become more perceivable more people will change their opinions.

  19. Antony Eagle said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Climate change deniers and their sympathisers seem to suggest that there is some sense in which it is to someone’s advantage to have action on climate change—as @orzr says above, “it is in others’ interests to exaggerate the risks and shorten the timescales in which we must take action.” But this is massively implausible. I can see easily why it might be in the interests of coal-based electricity generators, oil companies, aluminium producers—indeed, nearly all large industrial enterprises—to deny that their activities contribute to damaging climate change. I don’t really see anyone beyond the most fringe of green groups thinking that the major financial and social adjustment that climate change mitigation calls for is desirable or advantageous. I’ve never seen any clear explanation of why anyone, least of all governments who are dependent on the mercy of voters, should wish to introduce economic incentives in the form of carbon taxes or a carbon trading scheme that will hit voters in the hip pocket, if there was no compelling reason to do so.

    On another matter: I think that a small part of the blame for the persistence of zombie denialist arguments must be placed on closed access publication methods. The considered conclusion that almost all individual scientists have come to is that reflected in the IPCC reports, representing the accumulated scientific knowledge published in many hundreds of peer-reviewed research reports. (That is enough to make it correct to describe it as the ‘scientific consensus’, but I’m reluctant to do so—climate change deniers seem to see in this widespread and individual agreement some kind of evidence that there is a conspiracy, and talking of consensus only brings out the irrelevant charge that ‘science doesn’t operate by consensus’, followed by historically inarticulate spluttering about Galileo, as if the late middle ages were just another period of normal science.) But when an individual searches the web for climate change research, the vast bulk of this accumulated knowledge is locked behind paywalls, leaving space for a lot of non-peer-reviewed non-research to come to be seen as the public face of climate change research. In short: while the majority of scientists publish their work in a way that remains hidden to the public, and lack the time to carry on two simultaneous publishing careers, those who cannot get their work into proper journals will ‘publish’ it freely on the web.

    This gives a very distorted picture to the casual inquirer, who is unlikely to be clued in to the niceties of academic publishing. For every genuinely educational site publicising the science, there is a denialist counterpart, and, what with a general lack of scientific literacy, little for the ordinary browser to do but consider there to be a debate between the scientists. I’m not sure that breaking down paywalls will do much to help the problem of scientific literacy, but at least it would stop claims like @orzr’s: ‘Too often, we are told we must accept the science because it is settled, and not allowed to check for ourselves’. If we could simply point to the original journal articles and say, ‘there is the research, nothing to hide here’, I think we’d eliminate some of the rhetorical posing of denialists.

  20. alexbregman said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:53 am

    A few days ago the Met Office released its data set of global temperatures since 1850 and made the (correct) point that the current decade has been the warmest on record.

    Via the Guardian web-site or directly you can readily access this data:
    spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdGE5VVVxYzM2OVA1TXM5TEhIVENOT3c&hl=en

    What do we find? A big spike for 1998 (0.515 deg above the reference), a dip for 1999 and 2000, and then a rise back up to 0.4 for 2001. So far, so good.

    But then what do we see? A more or less level state for the next 8 years, around 0.45 deg (with a conspicuous dip to 0.313 in 2008).

    So whilst the ‘warmest decade on record’ is a valid comment, the data reveals another very significant point that has not been mentioned at all – it appears that this was the decade when global temperatures actually levelled out. I would have thought that the fact that global temperatures have (for a few years now) stopped rising is a very significant finding.

    I am not myself a climate sceptic, and am certainly not saying we can stop worrying about climate change. But I do find this apparent ‘economy with the truth’ by an official body very disturbing. Please, Ben, tell me that I have misunderstood something here….

  21. bald_rob said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:12 am

    For some, it is because they confuse skepticism, with contrarianism. Opposing the majority view makes them feel clever.

  22. Ronnie Horesh said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Sad to say, most of us hate smugness – or the appearance of it – more than we love the future of the planet. It’s silly, irrational, and probably tragic. We need scientists and policymakers to show some humility. We need movies made and presented by ordinary people (nothing personal, Al). We need fewer publicity stunts by enraged activists (that’s how they are perceived), and more attempts by ordinary people to engage with ordinary people.

  23. dvavasour said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:33 am

    “The science is settled”

    “Climate Change Deniers”

    The tone of the language used to respond to enquiry about the causes and the measures being taken is enough to antagonise me. There is so very much of the mechanisms we don’t understand, and so much variation in the measurements presented, and that’s before we start on projecting into the future.

    The “carbon footprint” method may have the benefit of being simple to understand, but it oversimplifies things to the point of being counterproductive. We equate pure CO2 and water vapour at ground level coming out of cars with a cocktail of complex aromatics coming out of aircraft in the upper atmosphere, seeding clouds which themselves directly cause warming.

    The crusading zeal of those who have found a cause is not compatible with calm and rational consideration of the validity of hypotheses put forward.

  24. Peter Whale said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:56 am

    You are a scientist. Why is the raw data and methodology and computer programs not released so that the science can be replicated by any interested party? Especially for public funded research. I thought replication was the basis of science.

  25. kim said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    I think the saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is pertinent here. So people glean these little bits of info (like the medieval period being warmer), and they think they’re cleverer than people who have Ph.D.s in this stuff and have spent 30 years of their life studying it.

    The Ibsen play An Enemy of the People is pertinent here. The main character, a doctor, finds out that the local spas in a town are contaminated, and making tourists ill. The townspeople depend on the tourists for their living, of course. So are they grateful to the doctor for telling them the waters are contaminated? Well, what do you think?

    It’s really the same point Gore made in An Inconvenient Truth. The idea of having to do something about global warming makes everyone feel uncomfortable, so the response of many people is to get angry at the messengers. Scientists are just making all this stuff up, you know, because they make money out of it, and in any case, scientists are sometimes wrong about things so they must be wrong this time. And I read something that said it was hotter in medieval times, so obviously global warming isn’t really true. And then they can get into their 4×4 and drive to the corner shop with a clear conscience.

  26. gideon said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Ronnie: Out of interest, when was the last time you saw a working scientist stand up and self-publicise?

    By and large, they’re a modest bunch, who, all things being equal, like to be left alone to get on with the job.

    It is typically the reporting of their work by others that builds them up; the myth of the genius. Even the intellectual stars like Feynmann and Einstein spent much of their lives just getting on with the job, regardless of how posterity portrays them.

    Scientists are ordinary people; they may have a job that can cover pretty important stuff, and can make us reconsider our place in the grand scheme of things; but as people they’re typically as humble as anyone else.

  27. tattonchantry said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    @njdowrick #13

    I plotted them for you.
    y = x2 (purple)
    and
    y = log(x) (blue)
    upperweather.com/images/bblog08/kmplot.png

    So, blue is logarithmic, and pink is exponential.

    CO2 would be the x axis and temperature would be the y axis.

    Temperature would go along the logarithmic line with increases in CO2. This is because of the way CO2 can only absorb and re-emit at certain wavelengths. It is very selective, and once it has absorbed energy at that wavelength it re-emits it at another wavelength. Therefore it cannot be re-absorbed by another CO2 molecule.

  28. njdowrick said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    @tattonchantry (#21): Thank you for the graphs! They show me the difference between a power law and a logarithmic dependence very nicely. However this still doesn’t explain to me why repeated doublings in CO_2 concentration should lead to progressively smaller changes in absorption *if* the dependence is logarithmic. It is this that I am hoping @pitten will explain.

  29. notzed said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I was feeling a bit melancholy today to start with but I gotta say, the comments here and particularly on guardian.co.uk are really depressing.

    That the major challenge of our time – a threat to to our very survival – can be dismissed by so many using such flimsy and outrageous `arguments’ says something about our `civilisaion’. I’m just not sure what yet, but it can’t be good.

    Have our schools failed us that science is simply so mis-understood? Do the general population really learn much from school anyway, or is the media (presumably the source for most people’s `ongoing education’) to blame for failing us all yet again? Or is it simply that a well orchestrated campaign from interested parties, based on years of honing the craft, can sway a large swathe of the population to believe anything `they’ want it to?

    Perhaps it has always been thus – after all, religion used to wield all the power for a terribly long time, and that is also based on easily refuted nonsensical childish bullshit, and one of the major ones even on quite literally `zombie’ arguments. Maybe people simply don’t want to know the truth.

  30. dcls14352 said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Maybe I and the British public are sceptical because people who say they can predict the future (in this case climate sceintists) are almost always frauds and liars. If I said I could predict what the FTSE would be in a 100 years I would be treated like a crank especially if I could not accurately predict what it would be next year. Saying trust us we can predict the weather next century but not next year makes me very very suspicious of the so called science. As the proof of science is being able to predict future events with high accuracy I think calling it science is highly misleading. If we applied to same rational process to climate science we apply to drug testing we would not even have proved there was a disease.

  31. gideon said,

    December 12, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    @notzed: sadly, it would appear to be the case – you *can* frequently sway a large swathe of the population to believe anything you want to; or, at the very least, destroy the public perception of a consensus on something you don’t want them to believe.

    A good book to read on the subject is ‘Brave New World Revisited’ by Aldous Huxley; it’s a good accessible read on spin-doctoring, media manipulation and mass persuasion; written at the height of the Cold War.

  32. tattonchantry said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    @njdowrick #28

    Isn’t that what I just explained? It’s because you will have diminished IR returns from CO2. This is a really hard subject I know, and I promise I don’t mean that in a demeaning way. I have been working with this stuff for quite a while. @pitten is still wrong with the actual numbers but the concept is correct.

    Does this explain a little?
    upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Atmospheric_Transmission.png

    If you look at CO2 on that graph, it can only absorb at certain wavelengths, those wavelengths are all longwave and therefore emitted by the earth. Once it is absorbed by a CO2 or H2O molecule it will be re-emitted at another wavelength, then it cannot be re-absorbed by CO2.
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan–Boltzmann_law

    There is a finite amount of energy at that wavelength, so doubling the CO2 will not make more energy at that wavelength be absorbed. Therefore the dependence is logarithmic.

  33. Ian said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    So, here’s my problem.

    I accept that the climate is changing – and I accept that mankind is causing it.

    However – I am horrified by the various approached being suggested about how we tackle it. It seems that the agenda of people who hate modern society and hanker for an agrarian fantasy have latched onto this cause, and used it as the hammer with which to smash all progress.

    Should the climate changing mean an end to aviation? or should it mean that we develop smarter planes? should we be trying to reduce our carbon footprint by essentially dismantling the industrialised world, or should we be pushing for the next big breakthrough?

    For me, we have one key issue – not enough money is being spent on blue sky research into the problems of climate change.

    Large scale geo-engineering may be untested and risky – but it has to be preferable to collectively laying down to die from hand wringing?

    We can – and indeed, must – engineer our way out of this situation.

  34. tkp said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Global conspiracy theories, of course not. But we should be very very happy that people are strongly sceptical – this will save us all. Commies are all evil, Global cooling, house price “ladder”, WMD in Iraq, gonna get bin laden and world will be safe, smoking doesn’t kill… there are thousands of “beliefs” presented as “all evidence points to… and therefore the rest are deniers, flat earthers etc”

    As dcls14352 says, this sort of prediction should be presented with all the doubt a good/ethical scientist would observe. Instead, it is fact and you can see by the documentaries of girls swinging from branches in tornadoes and waves sweeping through New York that it is true. No drama there then. With my kids, I always switch between the Global warming documentaries and the god channels and show the similarities, ie, there is a great angry god sending fire and floods and disease but I can save you with my knowledge and … well money (we gonna tax you for it and manage your behaviour and this will also inhibit the rapid growth of developing countries).

    I believe in a degree of global warming caused by humans and even CO2, but I am very happy they have not yet convinced everybody of the consequences when they act and speak the way they do.

    I believe in faith, but it is doubt that gave me an education (Oh, I wish I could claim that…)

  35. PlatoSays said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Ben, what I find most disturbing about your article is an absence of knowledge of what has been uncovered by two very well regarded websites.

    In just the last couple of days – it has been demonstrated repeatedly that the temperature records have been changed without mentioning how or why.

    Changing historical data records ? WTF? And funnily enough they make the past cooler so that today seems warmer [oh and deliberately removing the MWP too].

    The politicisation of science and scientists acting as advocates is wrong.

    This is a massive scandal – I heard you on AQ and was really disappointed at your lack of current knowledge – this isn’t about a nonsense paper about vaccines, it’s about the massive rigging of the data that every scientist has used as the base for their research.

    No wonder lots of scientists think the globe is warming – the datasets [yes GISS/CRU Met Office] have been contaminated/overwritten.

    Take ten minutes to look at the sticky on WUWT – there are lots of graphed examples of how the data has been changed without explanation.

  36. seanie said,

    December 12, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    “I would have thought that the fact that global temperatures have (for a few years now) stopped rising is a very significant finding.”

    Well you’d be wrong. The scope for variability year to year greatly exceeds the underlying warming trend, so average temperatures will not rise in a monotonic fashion. It is entirely to be expected that there will be periods in which the short term ‘trend’ is flat or even down. But such ‘trends’ have no statistical signficance given the noise in the system.

  37. Tim Passingham said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    There are plenty of reputable scientists out there saying that the climate is warming, and that we are causing at least some of that warming. There are vastly less saying that this is not so. There are others, such as Lovelock, who believe it is already too late, we don’t understand the system (or Gaia) well enough and that we had better start building nuclear reactors yesterday.

    The question for people who do not believe in global warming and want to do nothing at all about it is whether, in the event we all get toasted, they will be prepared to accept that it was their fault that civilisation collapsed. I really cannot understand that viewpoint. So it costs a lot of billions. So what? If the financial system was worth saving at a cost of trillions (not sure I have the right number of 0’s there – the numbers got rather big) I think the risk of civilisation collapsing might also be worth investing a bob or two to mitigate.

    Finally a plea to those who talk about reducing ‘carbon’, ‘carbon’ offsetting, and so on. Carbon is good stuff – quite useful really, being the basis for all organic life and all that. It’s CO2 and methane that, in excess, cause problems. I can imagine kids growing up getting scared of pencil lead – too much carbon.

  38. gideon said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    @PlatoSays: *which* two very well regarded websites, and precisely who are they well-regarded by? Cite your sources.

    ‘the sticky on WUWT’. Aha. Ahahaha. So a known sceptic website says that scientists are making it all up and this assertion constitutes a worthwhile argument?

    *sigh* – I mean, part of me hates shooting the messenger, because, let’s be honest, just because someone has the bad manners to disagree with me doesn’t mean that they’re automatically wrong. But in this case they are so flagrantly and wilfully ignorant that it’s nigh-on impossible not to sound superior.

    Do you understand that the Medieval Warm Period was a *local* effect, which does not contradict a *global* cooling during the same period?

  39. PlatoSays said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    38 gideon – playing the man not the ball. I rest my case.

  40. gideon said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    @PlatoSays: …and you’ve just made my point for me.

    I’ve a degree in Physics and Space Science from UCL in 1996; I’ve been arguing on the subject in various places for 14 years now; I know much of the literature and the main points of view pretty well and am still in contact with ex-colleagues who remain in the field.

    This does not make me right. It doesn’t give me a justification for dismissing your point of view out of hand. But it does give me a certain familiarity with the subject under discussion; and if you’re going to advance trivial fallacies (such as the MWP line) as truth, then be prepared to be told to go away and do a basic bit of reading up on the subject, in the name of intellectual integrity.

    Cite your sources. Raise specific points. Show your audience that you actually understand the viewpoints of more than one group and have done some representative reading around the subject.

    Unless you do that, well, you’re welcome to your opinion, but don’t expect other people to treat it as substantiated.

  41. Michael leahy said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Ben, I admire what you do and I like your writings, but I can’t understand why you so completely fail to be skeptical on this issue.

    I just want to comment on your first paragraph:

    “So as we career towards a mediocre outcome in Copenhagen, why do roughly half the people in this country not believe in man-made climate change, when the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists do?”

    The whole problem here is: what do you mean by man-made climate change? As a science journalist you should be clearly separating data from models and science from politics, not swallowing the whole poison pill. Man-made climate change is a slippery term that may or may not smuggle in a whole bunch of extraordinary and unlikely claims, and a multitude of disagreeable political outcomes. We obviously have at least local effects on climate around our settlements. Accepting this means I “believe” in man-made climate change. If you polled me there is nothing to differentiate my position from the worst alarmist nonsense. Even worse, the political positions are tacitly assumed to follow.

    The first reason not to believe in the commonly formulated AGW theory is simply that the temperature data is patchy and unclear, and the scientific arguments unconvincing. The next reason not to believe is because the people screaming loudest about this are untrustworthy: politicians, celebrities and journalists (no offence meant) and they are clamouring that they need our money and intend to drastically change our society.

    The hyperbole of claiming that you know what the “vast, overwhelming majority” of scientists believe on this broad spectrum just makes it clear that the argument here is emotional. If you can appreciate an emotional argument in return: reconsider Ben, you are on the wrong side here. Just remain skeptical.

  42. Guy said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Well Ben you really let the lunatics out of the asylum!!
    The fact that there has been a well funded and highly cynically orchestrated campaign by the fossil fuel industries to smear and discredit the underlying science, now seems to be forgotten in the East Anglia emails furore.

    Yes the emails are a disappointment. If however you take the time to read them fully ie not the selective quotes fed to the press, then they aren’t that damaging. If I was a climate scientist, then I’d be careful how I wrote up and released data, knowing that the deniers will always fight dirty. Similarly if I’d done a trial on MMR that could be taken out of context by the anti-vaccine lobby.

    Like you I share the frustration of how to argue with these people. I find the Socratic method is about the best. Pretend ignorance and listen to their selective data. Then ask them to define in detail what data they would wish to see before they accepted climate change produced by man. Unfortunately I suspect that most of them would demand to see the total submergence of Bangladesh before they cared.

    Understanding and modelling chaotic systems is neither easy nor an exact science but ignoring the changes which have already happened is denial and nothing else.

  43. seanie said,

    December 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    “The first reason not to believe in the commonly formulated AGW theory is simply that the temperature data is patchy and unclear, and the scientific arguments unconvincing.”

    The temperature records are clear and consistent and the underlying science is rock solid basic physics.

  44. Tetenterre said,

    December 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Probably get my head shot off, but hey…. :-)

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but the reasons that I remain sceptical about the extent of AGW include:

    * Over-stating the case by alarmists and failure of alarmists to correct blatant lies by their supporters. An obvious case in point is Gore’s concealing, behind a graph-line that was about 3000 years thick, the phenomenon that temperature rise preceded CO2 rise by ca.800y, so he could make his implication that ice-cores showed that CO2 caused warming. It was only after sceptics jumped on ie that alarmists (e.g. the realclimate brigade) acknowledged what they must already have known. It is refreshing to see that at least the Hadley mob have started to take exception to overstated climate alarmism.

    * Alarmist “bibles” like Monbiot’s “Heat” that are infested with special pleading, affirming the consequent, argumentum ad hominem and just about every other cheap trick used by pseudoscience, but which are not condemned by alarmists.

    * The alarmist straw man that sceptics deny that warming has happened in the last 160y. The argument is not about that — it is about whether either the temperature or the rate of change are unprecedented. Whenever anyone erects a straw man, I automatically become sceptical!

    * In normal science, if a prediction is made by a hypothesis and that prediction fails to occur, the hypothesis is rejected. The AGW model seems to be curiously immune to this.

    * Did I mention MWP, RWP, HCO and ice core data?

    * The concealment (and destruction) of raw data and methodology; in normal science, everything is open. When people start concealing stuff, the alarm bells ring.

    * The ad-hoministic notion that anyone who is sceptical must be some right-wing goon or in the pay of “big oil”. For the record, I’ve never had a penny from “big oil” and I feel bloody uncomfortable knowing that I hold a similar view on climate to the likes of Morano when I utterly detest almost everything else I know about them.

    * Policies like the “Climate Change Levy” that actually result in an increase in global CO2 emission (but do result in less oil being used in the UK than would otherwise have been the case) — and yes, they did know beforehand that it would have this result (because they were told!).

    * The phenomenon that so many alarmists play the “scientific consensus” card with respect to AGW, but ignore it when it comes to things like vaccination, GM food, homoeopathy or whatever their other pet causes are — indicates to me that it’s not science, but prejudice, that informs their position.

    * Do Gore or the delegates at the COP15 jamboree actually live as though they believe what they spew about AGW? Not in my opinion — bloody hypocrites!

    There are many good reasons for reducing our reliance on oil and for caring for this planet a damned sight better than most do, but asking for “trust” and belief”, or pretending that their are no legitimate grounds for scepticism does no-one any credit.

  45. PhDChem said,

    December 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    I’m a long time reader of this blog, but have never felt the need to post until now. Where are you global warming “skeptics” who are posting coming from??? You can’t be regular readers of this blog can you? It has been my observation that most people who read this site at least have a basic understanding of science, but the “skeptic” comments here are just mind boggling. Ben, keep up the good work!

  46. PlatoSays said,

    December 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    45 Man not the ball again. I happen to be a very regular visitor and one who has donated to this blog.

    Prof Dick Lindzen of MIT appears to have doubts too – perhaps he doesn’t have ‘a basic understanding of science’ either

    www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen.htm

  47. Guy said,

    December 12, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Tetenterr, now you’ve lost me
    “so many alarmists play the “scientific consensus” card with respect to AGW, but ignore it when it comes to things like vaccination, GM food, homoeopathy or whatever their other pet causes are ”
    There is scientific concensus on vaccination, homeopathy and GM food. It’s easy to understand the trials on homeopathy or vaccination. It’s harder on climate change, so scientific concensus does become more important.

  48. tkp said,

    December 12, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    PhDChem (yes, we got it).
    Bens work is excellent, and along with many radio shows, blogs, documentaries, and editorials we can keep the debate about truth going.

    There is my problem. I am not a Skeptic of the science. I am very skeptical of the scientists, the lobby format, the conclusions, the extrapolations, the political chummyness, and most of all, the attempt to “close the argument”. Most “skeptics” as they are described, may not be too far from the same thinking, but it is the bundling of “therefore we must….”

    The scientific debate died long ago on this one. Ben’s view here is an example. A little about the science being already concluded, now lets bash the disbelievers and get on with our program… Even if I personally believe that 200-300 million people may be affected in the next 50-100 years, many more will die of starvation, war, conflict before that. As a priority, climate change is a political diversion into which possibly very intelligent scientists are being seduced with the possibility of fame, grants, kudos, respect, notoriety, and the feeling that they have “saved the world”. I want to tone down the argument because it is a diversion from much more real problems.

    Newton, Einstein, Plank were not mutually exclusive. Their theories developed because no-one closed the argument. Scientist should promote good solid science and present it to the public. Politicians can then bastardise it. But don’t go to bed with them.

  49. Daibhid C said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    dcls14352: If you’re sceptical because scientists can’t predict with accuracy what the weather’s going to do short term, so how do they know what it’ll do long term, consider astrophysicists, who can confidently predict the sun will become a white dwarf in a few billion years, but can’t predict how many sunspots there will be over the next week. Or behaviourologists, who can largely predict what society will do in certain situations, but can’t tell you what individuals might do without asking them.

    Long-term, large-scale predictions are easier to make than short-term, local ones, because all the random factors can be assumed to have “cancelled out”. I can’t tell you if a tossed coin will come up heads or tails, but I can tell you that out of a thousand tossed coins you should get about 500 of each.

  50. Fish Custard said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Given that about 0.00001% of the population know enough to understand the science – and I doubt anybody here does, pro or anti, including myself – it’s only human to look for other “signifiers” of good thinking.

    It may be poor logic to “play the man”, to think that if, say, GMcK says [not-x] then [x], but in the absence of ten years’ full-time study and in a fevered political climate.

    And when you get UKIP, Nick Griffin, Sarah Palin, Saudi Arabian despots, and other assorted nutcases saying [not-x], then I’ll assume [x] unless I get very, very good reasons not to. None of the above have been very, very good reasons.

  51. Fish Custard said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Gah!

    “in a fevered political climate” it’s the best I can do.

  52. quasilobachevski said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    @tattonchantry,

    Regarding your post #21, I don’t understand what your graphs are supposed to demonstrate.

    1. y=x2 (by which I assume you mean y=x^2) is *not* exponential. You’re thinking of y=2^x, I presume.

    2. Your graphs don’t have units or labels for their axes!

    In your post #32, you argue that this logarithimic law follows because CO2 absorbs and emits radiation at specific wavelengths. That’s an interesting argument! But the link you give is for the Stefan–Boltzmann law, which is something different.

    Do you have a reference for this logarithmic law?

  53. njdowrick said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    @tattonchantry #32

    I think you are answering a slightly different question to the one that I was raising. The references you have given make it clear to me why the effect of increasing the CO_2 concentration is more complicated than simply “double the CO_2 and twice as much radiation is absorbed”: thank you!

    My question to @pitten was more basic: if temperature T depends logarithmically on concentration c, so that T = A log c + B, then it seems to me that repeatedly doubling c would increase T by the same amount each time (A log 2). I wanted to see if I had misunderstood what “logarithmic dependence” means, or if @pitten had slipped up. I was hoping to use his/her reply to correct my mistake and/or to judge how seriously to take the rest of what was said in that comment.

    I’m sorry if what I was asking wasn’t clear; maybe that is why @pitten has not replied. Still, thank you for taking the trouble to explain things to me: I appreciate it!

  54. Tetenterre said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    @PhD Chem (#45): Would it help if I signed with the letters that I’m entitled to put after my name?

    @Guy (#47): Exactly so — the science is much clearer on vaccination, homoeopathy, GM, etc, yet so many alarmists are happy to trot out the “scientific consensus” argument for AGW, then refuse to have their kids vaccinated, eat their sugar pills, and scare-spread about “Frankenstein foods”. i.e. inconsistent logic.

    Science isn’t a consensus game; it’s an evidence and intelligent interpretation of evidence game. A single counter-example is sufficient to sink a scientific hypothesis (but not, evidently, a climate-scientific one :-) )

    As a general point, I have long held that anyone who insists that “the science is settled” is determined to represent himself as being indistinguishable from either a fool or a religious zealot. The science is rarely settled on anything.

  55. ayupmeduck said,

    December 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    @Pittens

    You say:

    “This effect tells us that a doubling of Co2 will lead to – at most – an increase of 1 degree in a century and, since the effect is logarithmic another doubling will lead to another .5 degrees.”

    I can’t see how you can jump from your black body radiation calculations to this conclusion? Maybe I’m missing something?

  56. PhDChem said,

    December 12, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    @Tetenterre (#54) Feel free to put any letters after your name that you feel appropriate. I did it merely to let people know what background I’m speaking from (a published scientist). And as far as climate change goes, it doesn’t make me an expert. Now if you want to talk about the synthesis of pharmaceuticals on the other hand….

    PS. to say that science isn’t a consensus is just plain wrong. Current science is a consensus (what most of us accept has been proven sufficiently). That is not to say that new ideas can not change the consensus however. Look for example at the changing field of main group chemistry (the consensus is shifting from “can’t be done”). However, the scientific consensus on the increasing rate at which the earth is warming is not currently changing away from the view that is held by the majority. If new data comes to light (will probably take a few decades) that refutes the current trend then those scientists which you term “believers” will shift their views to the new data. If they can’t do so, then they are no longer scientists.

  57. PKenny said,

    December 12, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I hesitate to join in here (my first post in this forum) but here goes.

    I was surprised to hear Ben Goldacre say on ‘Any Questions’ that cooling in the 1940s had been refuted. He says above that this is all down to sulphites and volcanoes. This doesn’t seem to fit with the analysis I did (out of curiosity to know the facts, not from any predetermined position). I am not a climate scientist, but I have a degree in statistics from UCL and have specialised in time series analysis, so I feel qualified at least to have a look.

    I took as starting point the GISS data. I used monthly data for the Northern hemisphere (because clearly there is more warming there that in the Southern), starting with 1960 to the present but then working back to the start of the series in 1880. The object was to find a measure of trend, but one which would follow any curvature in the ‘true’ trend; this rules out any simple moving average. I chose the Henderson moving average, which can follow a cubic polynomial and has an optimal smoothing property; it is used as the trend measure for pretty well all published official economic statistics, and a program to calculate it is available from the US Census Bureau.

    The length of Henderson can be chosen at will, depending on the amount of detail you want. After trial and error, I found that an average of 8 years (actually 95 months – the length must be an odd number) smoothed out the year to year fluctuations very well, and showed an oscillation of about 10 years cycle length, which seemed to correlate well with sunspot numbers. Trying to smooth this cycle out and show the underlying long term trend, I used a Henderson over 25 years (actually 301 months). This gave a good picture of the trend back to 1880, which fell into three parts:
    a. A steady rise from 1880 to 1940.
    b. A sharp downturn in 1940, with continuing downward movement until around 1970.
    c. An upturn in around 1970, with continuing upward movement until the present.
    Within these periods the movement was near enough monotonic.

    Coming at last to my point, I don’t see how the decline from 1940 to 1970 can be due to the composition of pollution being different. Something happened quite suddenly in 1940, which turned a rising trend into a falling one, and the fall continued for about 30 years. Was this all due to volcanoes – if so, which and when did they erupt? I recall seeing newspaper articles in the early 1970s saying ‘are we entering a new ice age?’, so the fall was noticed at the time. It seems much more plausible that this fall, and the 10-year oscillation, reflect changes in solar output. This does not say that the rise since 1970 is all due to solar effects; I simply don’t know about that.

    Sorry I don’t know how to put graphs up here to show these effects. If anyone wants to see them, you can download my conference paper (rather lengthy, I’m afraid) from www.pbkresearch.co.uk/Papers/JSM2009PaperRev.pdf – the long term trend is shown in Figure 8.

  58. johnnye87 said,

    December 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    While there are scientists on both sides of the argument, it’s easy to forget that there is also an even split of completely scientifically illiterate people on both sides. Deciding you’re a “warmist” based ignorantly on the fact that most of your friends are is no smarter than deciding you’re a skeptic based ignorantly on the fact that you want to be contrary, and it still wouldn’t be if anthropogenic global warming was unequivocally proven tomorrow. The reason the debate is often seen as a religious one is because you have two opposing groups of morons distorting the arguments of the minority who actually know what they’re talking about.

  59. Lifewish said,

    December 12, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    I see two problems with the flow of information from climate scientists to the general public.

    Firstly is the build-up of apologetics: everyone has their own pet counterargument. All of these arguments are debunked, but trying to push through them and focus on the core arguments is like wading through a piranha river.

    Each counterargument propagates independently, so you never know what someone is going to try on you next. You have to memorise all the possibilities, however daft, or the denier will be able to claim that they’ve stumped you.

    This is the same issue we have with the evolution debate. You can lay out as much detail about palaeontology, ALife, in-vitro evolution, evolution of novel proteins in microorganisms, etc. It doesn’t matter: someone will say “but doesn’t evolution break the laws of thermodynamics”. Unless you know the correct response (“only if a rock warming in the sun does”), any spectators are not going to be impressed by your erudition.

    The second issue, which is more specific to climate change, is: it’s actually quite hard to get at the raw information. I know when I got interested in evolution, everything I read tended to include citations to journals. So I went and read the original research, and now I know lots of case studies from biology none of which would make any sense if evolution were false. After a few weeks I was programming evolutionary simulations on my PC.

    That doesn’t seem to happen in the climate debate. It makes it very difficult for interested geeks like me to build up enough background knowledge. That in turn transforms the debate into a battle of pre-packaged arguments: “I see your website and raise you a pop-sci book”.

    Possibly I haven’t got that far yet. I’ve bought the “Rough Guide to Climate Change” and I’m going to read the IPCC report when I have a moment – hopefully they’ll contain the info I need.

    But it’s going to take more than a couple of weeks before I can start writing my own climate models. That’s a problem. To build up a large population of supportive geeks, we need to expose people less to the highly-politicised conclusions and more to the underlying science.

  60. Fish Custard said,

    December 12, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    @johnnye87: Agree, of course, that a non-scientific approach isn’t good, but what are we supposed to do? The vast majority of the population don’t have the time to track down every footnote and every piece of data to be able to properly make their own decision.

    In a political system which is [supposed to] run on “informed” voters, how do we get informed except through the distillation of expertise through commentators? And how do we evaluate those commentators except by reputation and track record?

  61. scotslawstudent said,

    December 12, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Peter Whale @11:56 am

    Replication does not mean running the same programs on the same data as the other guy. That just wastes everyone’s time. It means that if you go out and find other data and perform your own operation on the data you’ll come to the same conclusion.

  62. Veronica said,

    December 12, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I knew nothing about climate change until about 2 weeks ago – after the CRU “ClimateGate” e-mail leak. Since then I have been getting myself educated and I have to say that if there is a consensus it is only in the media, who of course love doom and gloom (the Millennium bug, swine flu, MMR, etc.). I’ve become a sceptic. I believe the world is currently in a warming phase but I don’t think man-made CO2 is the major culprit. For some good analysis of the sceptical side of the debate please see wattsupwiththat.com/.

    There was a great guy on the Today programme on Monday, I think it was… said that climate science is an inverted pyramid with very few people actually analysing and computing the data, and then lots of people using it, even more commenting on it. There are really only a couple of datasets we are relying on for the change models and the sticky post at the top of the website I just mentioned will demonstrate why the datasets are flawed. The small group of scientists in charge of the major models are of course constantly on line to each other and reinforce each others’ beliefs.

    The climate scientists have swallowed their own kool-aid, as the Americans say. Or in this case, warm-aid.

  63. markus82 said,

    December 12, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    come on Dr Ben, you should be better than this. Who ever said the climate should stay stable? of course it changes over time. look at the tropical swamps that formed all the coal and fossil fuels we are currently burning. Look at the ice ages. The reference data set is pathetic, even with ice cores from greenland, its still a really small historical record. Of course the massive burning of fossil fuels will have an impact on the earth, but know one has performed a controlled experiment. Science is the method of observation, reason and experiment, and if you havent proved it, you havent proved it. So perhaps instead of banging on about how stupid climate denialists are we should perhaps be saying there is a 75% chance this is causing climate change and the consequences are potentially so severe that we need to act now. The way we seem to have concentrated on carbon emmisions is an excellent form of misdirection what about all the excess heat thats genenrated by human civilisation? what about the stupidity of using oil to produce plastic packaging? or the pathetic building of mile high skyscrapers? come on Ben, up your game

  64. seanie said,

    December 12, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    tamino.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/whats-up-with-that/

    A very entertaining blog post, analysing how the denialists favourite blogger is so incompetent he didn’t realise that different temperature records use different baselines.

    If you didn’t know anything about the subject two weeks ago, you’ll know even less now if you’ve been relying on whatsupwiththat.

    Which would be something of an achievement I suppose.

  65. Tim Passingham said,

    December 12, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    To global warning deniers. Do you have house or life insurance? If so, have you asked yourself why?

    I see ‘Mr Goldacre’ (latest Civil service approved term) agrees the science is hard, but surely there is enough of it to ‘take care’? Why all the hot air? Sure there are different levels of insurance and we can argue about that, but is doing nothing much at all a serious option?

  66. PlatoSays said,

    December 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Seanie @ 62

    Playing the man not the ball yet again.

    Debate the data if you want to be be credible.

    Anyone can hurl abuse – it doesn’t make the science any more valuable or believable.

  67. seanie said,

    December 12, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Debate?

    As pointed out in the article, the ‘skeptic’ side usually consists of the same old tired ‘zombie’ bullshit.

    There are certainly issues worth debating, but just because someone is entitled to a defferent opinion doesn’t mean that opinion has any merit or that it has to be taken seriously.

    If you don’t value or believe the science the fine.

    It makes fuck all difference as to whether increasing CO2 will cause increasing temperatures.

    It will.

  68. gideon said,

    December 12, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    @Platosays (again!)

    ‘Debate the data if you want to be credible.’

    You’ve been challenged by me to debate the data already.

    Anyone can cherrypick statements from a search engine to support their position; you’ve still not given any impression that you have any grasp on the data in context.

    Habeas corpus, chum.

    Bring forth your arguments, give us an impression that you can actually view all sides critically, stop the faith-based appeals to higher authority (whether it be WUWT or Lindzen) – and you might yet contribute usefully to the debate.

    I think you are wrong – and ignorant to boot.

    I don’t think that this makes you a bad person or ipso facto deficient; I am criticising your position and your apparent understanding, not you as a person. Show me something that gives me cause to revise that opinion; I will revise it.

    But it you won’t revise your opinion and you won’t study the subject, then have the honesty to admit that your belief is faith-based, rather than one achieved by any sort of critical analysis.

  69. FedUpJosie said,

    December 12, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    tkp @48 and other ‘folks’

    Good. So once you have sorted out the climate debate, can you please take a look at and sort out the DNA debate, the debate on which part of your body digests, food, and finally the debate about whether a cat is animal or vegetable!
    You sound like a learned person to me and therefore I’m sure you’ll have it all sorted out and explained to us all in no time at all.

    Fish Custard @50
    I know.
    Before we know it, we’ll have the master carpenter, or the fishmonger telling the surgeon which scalpel to use, and the surgeon will be expected to politely debate it for fear of upsetting the learned non-surgeons.

    I give up with the British public I really do.

    Excuse me while I call the hairdresser – got a leak in one of the pipes and the hairdresser is just the person I need to teach the plumber how to sort it out for me. Once that is done, I’ve an accountant coming round to sort out the garden tomorrow – couldn’t have a gardener, after all ‘cos he wouldn’t know how to do it, would he?

  70. Prospero said,

    December 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    I think Ben Pile had it when he wrote that half the population have a fairly good nose for bullshit. I belong to that half. I consider myself a philosophical skeptic. As such I have tried to make up my mind about dozens of issues that have come my way even though they are way out of my league scientifically: Holocaust denial (a travesty), homeopathy (bunk), and lately the anti-vaccine campaign (complete nonsense). When it comes to climate alarmism I am convinved that it belongs in the same category of junk science and pseudo-religion as homeopathy and the other subjects mentioned.

    Mr Goldacre’s invective will certainly not change my mind.

  71. tattonchantry said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    @quasilobachevski

    You are quite right, I made an elementary mistake. I was trying to show the overall shape of the two functions,as njdowrick was thinking that there logarithmic is more of a 1:1 ratio. Is this better?
    upperweather.com/images/2009/Screenshot-1.png

    as for the logarithmic reference, would you believe the IPCC? After they had to revise their first report they even admit it. About half way down here: www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/044.htm

    The Stefan–Boltzmann law was what the original question I was addressing was about, and it does fit quite nicely. I talks about the wavelength the earth will absorb and re-emit.

    @njdowrick I answered that question for him. I think I showed really well that each time you double CO2 (which would be on the X axis of the linked picture) the temperature (Y axis) would not increase as much as the last time. Therefore, T depends logarithmically on concentration c, so that T = log(c) and the picture shows Y=log(x). No he did not slip up.

  72. quasilobachevski said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    @tattonchantry,

    Is this better?

    Well, it’s good that you have correctly plotted an exponential! Still no axis labels or units, though.

    Thanks for the reference to the logarithmic law. (I’ll have to read up on “radiative forcing” to understand it fully.)

    But, like Pittens and unlike njdowrick, you seem to have misunderstood how logarithms work. You say:

    …each time you double CO2 (which would be on the X axis of the linked picture) the temperature (Y axis) would not increase as much as the last time.

    This isn’t right, I’m afraid. Remember the following simple fact about logarithms.

    log(ab)=log(a)+log(b)

    So if x is the amount of CO2 and you double it, you get

    log(2x)=log(x)+log(2)

    In other words, every time you multiply x by 2, you add log(2) to y. Sorry for the equations – I don’t know how else to explain it!

    Does that make sense?

  73. tkp said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    FedupJosie.

    When the accountant tells you how to run your business it “always” succeeds. The hairdresser can tell you exactly how to wear your hair (because you don’t know) and the plumber can tell you that all the pipes in your house need replacing – and you will – because they are the experts. The bankers know banking, we should stay out, and politicians etc etc.

    I can see why you’re fed up. I imagine life is full of nasty surprises for you. And it is not just the British public. There are people all over the world who blindly bow to the “greater authority”.

    Now. No more insults or sarcasm. There is some very useful debate going on here and it is helping convince political skeptics like me (even though I am not necessarily a science skpetic). It is really important for scientists to understand that standing in front of the public and screaming in their face that they are stupid and wrong and need to follow their superior knowledge… well, it just doesn’t work – can’t think why. Communicate. We are fellow citizens in the same boat. Use your intellect, not your title.

  74. scotslawstudent said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Prospero: You said “I think Ben Pile had it when he wrote that half the population have a fairly good nose for bullshit. I belong to that half.”

    Wikipedia says “Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits.”

    I think most people would consider their ability to detect BS is better than most. Statistically they’re probably wrong, it’s just how the human mind works. I have no evidence of your reasoning ability except from your comment here but I’ve already seen at least one fundamental flaw in the process you use.

    I think you also can’t say that you believe all these other things that are opposed by some minority groups are true and therefore you get to say that what you’ve decided that your position, which is in this case contrary to the prevailing majority opinion, is going to be right because of your previous successes in other fields.

    I think it says a great deal that George W Bush believes in human originated climate change.

  75. Fish Custard said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    If an “expert” plumber was to examine my pipes and tell me they need replacing, and I say “but could that damp patch on the carpet have been caused by me spilling some Vimto?”, and they tell me, no, they’ve examined the damp patch and it’s definitely water and they know where it’s coming from, I’d most likely believe them. [Especially if
    quite a few plumbers were saying exactly the same thing.]

    If I kept arguing the same point over and over [“Not Vimto? Then was it cider? Was it Nesquik?”] the plumber would quite possibly get wee’d off and walk out, and if then he sent an email to his plumber mate in the next town saying “watch out for Mr Custard, he’s an arse, best not tell him you’re a plumber” I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

  76. Fish Custard said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    And if the consequences of not getting the pipe fixed were that the house would be flooded I’d be much more wary of going “nah, he’s talking bollocks”.

  77. Veronica said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    But of course if we don’t believe in anthropogenic global warming there are still three good reasons to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels:

    1. They generate other pollutants – suphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates.
    2. They are mostly in the control of countries with flaky governments.
    3. They are going to get more expensive as they begin to run out.

  78. AnotherBee said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    I came here from the Guardian thread in order to concentrate on Ben’s “why people behave the way they do” questions and to get away from the troll feeding frenzy that accompanies any blog on climate change. More heat than light.

    I think the question (of why people not believe the scientific consensus) is worth sociological study. I am not a sociologist; I have not studied why opinions form the way they do, so the following is my speculation.

    Firstly, part of what we bring to our consideration of any message is our opinion of the messenger. There is a small proportion of the population that enjoys the misery of saying “We’re all doomed”. These are the sort of people who (used to) parade with placards saying “the end of the world is nigh”. The rest of us treat these people as eccentrics and ignore them. In the Climate debate, the people with the placards are not scientists. The “early adopters” in this case tend to look like New Age environmental activists. (They have taken the conclusions of the science on board and they trumpet the warnings and call for immediate actions. Sometimes extreme actions.) And the rest of us look at the messengers and treat them as eccentrics.

    Secondly, this issue has scientific, political and economic components. The science is, like all science, a work in progress; like any theory, it is subject to research, testing and refinement. But unlike, say, changes to the standard model in particle physics, climate science is pointing to direct economic and political consequences. The science predicts outcomes and either we carry on as we are, and face major changes or, in order to maintain the status quo, we must change.
    Nobody likes change.
    Thus there is reluctance to believe the predictions and resistance to the changes.
    Faced with consequences they don’t like everyone resists. (It’s a natural emotional response.) In this case, the resistance takes the form of not believing the messenger. And because the science is covering a massive subject and because it’s a work-in-progress, it is easy to pick up small pieces of detail to question. This creates the endless arguments because it’s easier to deny the science than to face the political questions.

  79. Veronica said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    @ seanie

    I have of course read lots of other stuff and not just WUWT. Including the wonderful HARRY_READ_ME file. CRU says it can’t release the data that their model is based on under FOI because it belongs to all the countries that donated data to it. If the IPCC, CRU etc. want us to stop being sceptical, thay should arrange for permission to be given so we can all see the raw data and how it has been manipulated. I’m worried that there have been several layers of adjustment applied such that the data is meaningless, or worse, misleading. That’s why I pointed out the post on WUWT. It gives one example of how “corrections” were applied to a temperature data station in Darwin which made a temperature fall into a temperature rise.

    One of the principles of science is that it should be repeatable. Without access to the raw data, that cannot be demonstrated.

  80. tkp said,

    December 12, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    The trouble with that Veronica is that although it is intellectual, indisputable, based on sound evidence over many decades, and involves innovation that developing countries can achieve as much as western countries.

    What it lacks is the ability to apply additional taxation, lost revenues on current taxation on fossil fuels, and no ability to reduce the speed of development of developing countries.

    Govts are not yet ready to give up the reliance on fossil fuels just yet – they want that dependence to last as long as possible. Western govts want to frame the debate as “keep using fossil fuels but make it economically crippling” – the developed nations can swallow that better than the developing nations. (eg, every country has wind, or waves, or sun, so how do you control the engine of development- energy – you need a single principal source for energy and need to control that! Currently it is fossil fuels)

    I absolutely agree with you. Pollution is destructive, and fossil fuels and excessive use of them is ridiculous. But the west, the east, and the oil producing nations form a geopolitical balance that may suit to keep with the flaky govts against loss of economic superiority – can’t be summed up here. But this is why skeptics and believers can’t agree – because the argument is much deeper than “co2 bad – reduce co2 good”.

    Are they talking extensively (as opposed to lip service) in Copenhagen about massive money going to innovation… No, just set difficult limits, controlled by western govts, achieved through taxation. Sorry, a very complex subject hacked into a laborious “comment” – but you can’t twitter this argument.

  81. gideon said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:24 am

    @78.

    Veronica, the science *is* repeatable.

    Go and observe under the same experimental conditions, using the same equipment and method of observation, obtain some raw data of your very own, run it through the same analysis – and you’ll (in all probability!) obtain some fairly similar results.

    You do not need access to someone else’s raw data to replicate their results; merely their experimental method – indeed, relying wholly on someone else’s observational data is extremely dangerous, because you could repeat their experimental error and thus provide a false confirmation of the original experiment.

    ‘Nullius in verba’ – ‘on the words of no-one'; there is ultimately no substitute for doing your own research; for investigating things yourself; it’s why the scientific method is taught the way it is, and why you still get taught to get your hands dirty in the lab, even when it is an experiment that is thoroughly well-known already.

    (Of course, when the experimental data is obtained from an Earth-orbiting satellite or polar ice cores, there’s a limit as to how practically Joe Public can replicate the experiment; these things cost money – but the data is ultimately out there to be gathered and should be the same for any given method, regardless of the personal prejudices of the experimenter.)

  82. milli said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:45 am

    I don’t understand why people are debating the science of climate warming. no-one can predict climate change even einstein. but changes are necessary to clean our air, water, food, maintain our ecosystems. I don’t care if the climate change science is difficult to interpret, if it addresses these problems. how many of us can really understand the climate change data, no-one really has taken the time to inform us except Gore?
    But I do believe that a climate treaty is unobtainable, it won’t happen. USA giving tax-dollars to china won’t happen believe you me. they are trying to impose a carbon market on the US. Our everyday financial markets are corrupt and just collapsed, can they now come up with a better solution. Goldman Sachs and the likes are anxiously awaiting this new market/money grabbing scheme. It is disgusting.
    The US climate bill will reduce CO2 emissions, but expand oil drilling in Alaska and other concessions. whats the point? one good outcome the EPA in the US have the legal authority to control emmissions because of the adverse health effects.
    -a drunken, failed,scientist who does not understand the science behind climate warming.

  83. Layne said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:47 am

    I was a Cum Laude student in the physical sciences. I’m not a skeptic. I am quite convinced that man is not causing any catastrophic warming. There are intelligent people on both sides of this debate. But I don’t know of any skeptic who believes as they do because of an aversion to change, or a desire to break from the status quo. C02’s concentration in the atmosphere is so low that no one (including the most ardent warmer) could justify warming from C02 alone. Powerful positive feedbacks were hypothesized to create the “catastrophic” scenarios envisioned by some. Many of these scenarios are so extreme as to be ridiculous. There is a great deal of theater on the warming side.
    I think some reasons why some well educated scientists choose to believe in warming include:
    1. An overpowering ideological devotion to:
    a. environmentalism/Pantheism
    b. Anti-industrialization/Anti-Capitalism or Anti-Americanism or Socialism.
    Some are serious Academics accustomed to functioning in a space of unproven theory. They’ve made the mistake of believing they’ve landed on the answer, and when the empirical evidence doesn’t fit the hypothesis, they think they just have the model a bit wrong, and they must tweak it to finally find confirmation. They’re still tweaking, but the degrees of freedom in this chaotic model are far beyond what they imagine.
    Some “believers” don’t believe at all. They’re in it for the money, and there is far more money on the warmist side than the skeptic’s side. Has anyone noticed that “Big Oil” is fully on board with the AGW theory? Are you all aware some of the CRU letters include evidence of discussions with Big Oil? For “renewables” to compete, fossil fuels must become very expensive. And Big Oil would hate this?

    There are historical records which precede the debate that blow a hole in the AGW theory. If you look at long term records not tainted by AGW activists, they depict the combined effects of superimposed cycles. The day, the seasons, the orbit of the moon, the Gleissberg cycle, precession, the variations in our orbit, Barycenter theory – all these things explain, or attempt to explain, those cycles. The fact is, like the feedbacks, we don’t fully understand the mechanism for the cycles we’ve seen, only that they occur. The Global Climate Models touted by warmists don’t even attempt to reconcile all of these cycles. Therefore, there is no PROOF of AGW, except in the minds of believers. Too much is unknown. Listing the reasons why this theory are implausible would take a few weeks to summarize. I am confident we’re in a cooling phase (which by the way, was predicted by many skeptics) which I expect will last 2 or 3 decades. With the Holocene so long in the tooth, I certainly hope that is all the longer it will last.

  84. Prospero said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:57 am

    Dear Scotslawstudent,

    if Wikipedia says that “illusory superiority is a cognitive bias”, I say that Wikipedia is engaging in a fallacy known as begging the principle. Which doesn’t surprise me at all, given the known defects of that encyclopedia.

    Mr Goldacre engages in another such fallacy when he lumps in all known climate skeptics with homeopaths and anti-vaccine activists.

    This sort of reasoning is just not convincing to one who is used to investigate issues with an open mind. If I can get that point across here I will be totally satisfied; engaging in yet another silly, holier-than-thou internet discussion of climate policy is not something I am interested in – to put it politely.

  85. Cytos said,

    December 13, 2009 at 1:36 am

    I’m amazed at the apparent number of readers of these fine pages that have come out to declare themselves as skeptics (or straight out deniers) of anthropogenic climate change.

    I wonder if there are some that have appeared from elsewhere to troll, but even given that – there appear to be a few who are rightly happy to label homeopathy, chiropractic, etc. as woo – but are resistant to the overwhelming evidence in support of anthropogenic global warming.

    The vast majority of quality peer-reviewed publications in that area demonstrate that we currently have a warming climate, partly caused by rising CO_2 levels which we are producing at an ever increasing rate.

    Are you guys not reading these papers? Are you relying on third-hand information from blogs and such?

    The IPCC reports are a well referenced review of many of these papers, and they are very careful to define their terms and the uncertainty surrounding them:

    From the synthesis report:

    “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level”

    “Global atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values determined from ice cores spanning many thousands of years.”

    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations. It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica)”

    www.ipcc.ch/

  86. tattonchantry said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:33 am

    @quasilobachevski
    This is getting asinine, I do not know why I am wasting so much time. Of course there were no axis labels or units. That’s because, like I said, I was just trying to show the SHAPE of a logarithmic function.

    Then you go trying to prove one side of the equation.

    log(ab)=log(a)+log(b)
    So if x is the amount of CO2 and you double it, you get
    log(2x)=log(x)+log(2)
    In other words, every time you multiply x by 2, you add log(2) to y. Sorry for the equations – I don’t know how else to explain it!
    Does that make sense?

    Congratulations, you have just solved an identity. And you are correct, that if you double the amount of CO2 then you will have twice as much CO2.

    You were trying to prove this statement of mine wrong.

    each time you double CO2 (which would be on the X axis of the linked picture) the temperature (Y axis) would not increase as much as the last time.

    For that you need 2 variables.
    should we try it with numbers?
    log(5)= 0.698970004
    log(10)= 1
    log(20) = 1.301029996

    So, if log(amount of CO2) = Temperature
    each time you double CO2 you get less of an increase in Temperature.

  87. Prospero said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Dear Cytos,

    we have just been presented a ‘Copenhagen Diagnosis’ by 26 leading climatologists that departs significantly from the 2007 IPCC assessment report.

    Not even Al Gore would agree that the IPCC 2007 assessment report constitutes the final verdict when it comes to the state of our climate. Gore voiced his dissent in a recent Newsweek interview and wisely declined to put in an appearance in Copenhagen. In his view, NASA scientists Drew Shindell and Gavin Schmidt (of IPCC fame) have convincingly demonstrated this summer that greenhouse gases other than CO2, taken together, play a larger role in global warming than CO2 does.

    All in all, I think that there is a lot more that we should know – but don’t – about the climate forcing effects of particular concentrations of greenhouse gases and of the interaction of greenhouse gases with aerosols and clouds. I say more research is needed, not into climate policies, but into the physics of the global climate. Before we can determine which policies, if any, may be desirable or necessary, we have to establish clearer parameters.

    All of which is not to deny global warming or the notion that human behaviour may be the main cause of it.

    I am quite satisfied to be called a ‘troll’ for voicing these views. It shows that the opposition isn’t as sure of its stance as it purports to be. And by the way, science is never ‘settled’, it is by its nature dynamic. Soldiers may close ranks in order to survive. Scientists close ranks only at the peril of their professional status.

  88. scotslawstudent said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:36 am

    Prospero: Obviously Wikipedia is not perfect but its role as my reference here is it is something which I’m certain we are both able to look up. In other words I’m not referring to you to a hand written scroll of parchment that’s stored in a locked filing cabinet in a library in Siberia or so on and you don’t need to take my word on it. I really thought I was being nice and open.

    Illusory superiority simply is a cognitive bias. I can’t put it in simpler terms, it’s taught in the first term of most, if not all, undergraduate psychology classes, it’s very widely known and it’s regularly found whenever you ask people to rate themselves against others. It’s not begging the principle, it’s naming the experimental result. It’s the other way around. It’s like how Newton knew things fell down and named what made them fall gravity. He didn’t think up gravity and then got things to not float anymore.

    No, what Goldacre does here is uses an analogy — people who do not accept majority scientific consensus (for many reasons) can be grouped together on that basis because their behaviour is analogous. They’re from different fields, I get it, but they have that other thing in common, that’s the fallacy of splitting hairs. They differ on many others but they have that element in common. You don’t use climate data to debunk a faith healer (because that’s obviously irrelevant) so you don’t treat them equally but can you group them together? Sure you can.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “open mind”. It doesn’t appear to be the meaning I use, being open to conflicting evidence and arguments. If you show someone a peer reviewed paper, in a prestigious publication, with decades of supporting data and a sound methodology (they exist) and ticks all the boxes of the scientific method and they say “oh, I don’t believe that, it’s all caused by the heat from the centre of the earth” are you actually supposed to accept their utterly incompatible, illogical and barely-even-anecdotal point of view because your mind is open? I can’t comment on if it’s automatically holier than thou (I find this tends to be only in the eye of the less holy party) but is that even fair?

  89. FedUpJosie said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:48 am

    tkp said

    Use your brains and debate how we are going to sort out the climate.
    If you don’t like it take yourself off to begin an undergraduate course where you just might grasp the basics. Then perhaps a PhD if you are good enough. Then just maybe you can get a job predicting glacial change.
    Or do you think a I should call a plumber to tell me how to interpret the next DNA-protein interaction I look at?
    I earned my title and I’ll use it where appropriate. You earned the sarcasm and contempt. Guess you can use it where appropriate too…

    The scientific debate is over. If you are so convinced it is hunkdorey, swap house with someone living on Tuvalu for a few years.

  90. FedUpJosie said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Veronica@79

    One of the principles of science is that it should be repeatable. Without access to the raw data, that cannot be demonstrated.

    Repeatable means you go and get your own data and see if yours correlates. It doesn’t mean you check someone else’s sums!

  91. Prospero said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Dear Scotslawstudent,

    I have already been here for too long. If people start putting ridiculous words in your mouth (like you do with the quote about the ‘heat from centre earth’) it’s time to go. Have yourself a nice consensus, night-night.

  92. CoralBloom said,

    December 13, 2009 at 3:40 am

    To all the trolls,

    Here is how this thing needs to work.

    In science, if you think someone is wrong in their interpretation of the scientific data, you form your own alternative hypothesis and search for the evidence to disprove the scientist you disagree with. Climate scientists have been doing this for years. There is now a consensus, an agreement among experts. There is no point choosing to believe, or not to believe data and then looking for a political debate; you do that with politicians. You debate with politicians what should and should not be done.

    I’m a scientist in a very different field, with my own interests. I don’t have the time, the will or the expertise to begin to sit down and sift through the reams and reams of research papers looking at the data, the interpretation.

    It seems to me, there is a consensus among those climate scientists held in the highest regard by their peers that climate change is happening and that human activity has played a very important role in that.

    That is all I need to know, at the end of the day.

    No self-respecting physicist would troll around slamming the work of a biochemist or a cell biologist. They are wise and professional enough to know it is not their field – physics is. If they truly felt there was something wrong with a piece of research in biochemistry for example, they would ask questions, maybe even learn a lot of biochemistry in their search for understanding. They may eve have a go themselves to try to show what the problem is with the disagreeable data and come up with a solution, an explanation.

    The climate scientists have been warning all of us for way too long, they have provided us all with enough talk, enough TV documentaries, enough review papers.

    It is time to stop explaining the science. This has been going on for decades now. Scientists can not do this any more, we do not have time to educate those who do not want to be educated. Scientists are not paid to educate those who do not want to be educated. It is really that simple. Science is not a belief system it is a method, a freely available method.

    Gravity is no longer a topic for debate. The transport of oxygen around the body by red blood cells is no longer a topic for debate. We no longer debate what the material of hereditary is, it is now known to be nucleic acids.

    It is time to accept the science of climate change is no longer a topic for debate. The experts have studied and understood what is going on, what effect we are having on this planet. It is time to accept. That, people, is what scientists, what adults do; they come to accept the evidence and they move on.

    The only debate is this. Carry on as before, or do what needs to be done to stop the process.

  93. Ben Pile said,

    December 13, 2009 at 3:44 am

    scotslawstudent, ‘roughly half the population’ – the number of people Dr. Goldacre understands do ‘not believe in man-made climate change’ – is a too large a population to account for in terms of a psychological mechanism. I think we can discount the ‘cognitive bias’ account.

    To be fair, you seem to recognise this when you say “people who do not accept majority scientific consensus (for many reasons)…”, but you seem to be making a new mistake when you say that they “… can be grouped together…”

    As I was trying to explain above, people may have responded to the climate debate “wrongly” because, as we all know, a substantial part of the broader argument consists of sheer hyperbole. In particular, I would argue, the argument that emerges from the current government and other politicians is particularly shallow. You don’t need to be an environmentalist to sense greenwash.

    To compare people who believe differently to you on this matter with others who have an less orthodox view on alternative medicine and vaccination because “their behaviour is analogous” is also a mistake. Teh climate debate is different. What may be being expressed as scepticism of climate policies or politics may be captured by polls as scepticism of climate science. Similarly, what is expressed as scepticism of the science may turn out to be scepticism of the policies in question accurately reflecting the science. We might agree, for instance, that climate change is happening, but we might disagree that mitigation is the best course of action.

    It seems clear that “climate change is happening” is often held to be equivalent to “something must be done to stop it” and “this course of action must be taken”. There are plenty of bad arguments in favour of action to mitigation climate change. And there are probably a large number of people on the “right” half of the population who are “right” for the “wrong” reasons. We should take care not to project our own prejudices onto poll results.

  94. Cytos said,

    December 13, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Prospero,

    Of course the science is never settled – I don’t believe I said it was. I was just expressing a general concern over people weighing into a debate without taking the time to read the source material.

    The IPCC report is by no means a final verdict, but it *is* the general consensus of a large number of scientists drawing on the peer reviewed literature. The Copenhagen Diagnosis (www.copenhagendiagnosis.org/) extends this with the most recent literature since the IPCC, and it largely comes the same conclusions.

    I completely agree that there’s a wealth of complexity to and we desperately need more research into understanding the mechanisms of climatic variation – especially to understand the effects it will have on both the welfare of humans and biodiversity in general.

    Given this consensus – should we not start researching how best to mitigate its effects rather than whether on not its happening at all?

  95. Mark P said,

    December 13, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Ben, your article is precisely one of the reasons I am distrustful of global warming. For a person who routinely excoriates poor science in others, you then go and fall for the same routines yourself.

    1) I cite your evidence from authority. Who cares what (made up) percentage of “scientists” support Anthropogenic Warming? Since when is that a basis for good science?

    2) Straw men ahoy! All doubters are linked in on group, despite the huge range, from out and out cranks through to men and women of vast learning.

    3) We have nonsense about the media valuing contrarian views? Are you certain of that? Sometimes yes, but there are plenty of cases where contrarian views get excluded. Ask the BNP if they feel contrarian views get a full hearing. Anyway, just saying being anti-GW is “contrarian” does not make it so, especially given that the % of people sceptical of GW is quite large. You are name calling in an attempt to win an argument by emotion.

    If you find some bad anti-Global Warming science, then you should expose it. Find the claims, test them, and give a reasoned argument.

    Currently you are merely name calling. It’s just the sort of adding heat without light that you should oppose, not join it with.

  96. phayes said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:05 am

    “Currently you are merely name calling.”

    Well that’s because that’s just about all the respect that you and the other ignorant, innumerate and scientifically illiterate AGW ‘sceptic’ twerps posting in here deserve.

    “Why do these people keep bugging us like this?”

    www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2009/12/trust_scientists

    Because they’re twerps, Mr. Economist – half-witted half-informed Dunning-Kruger effected twerps.

  97. Mark P said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:14 am

    I forgot

    “More than all that, I can spot the same rhetorical themes re-emerging in climate change foolishness that you see in aids denialism, homeopathy, and anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists.”

    I call bollox on this. The crankiness quotient between your listed examples gives it away.

    For homeopathy to be correct would require a radical revision of all modern science. Aids denialism requires quite a lot of medical and biological material to be false.

    Anti-vaccination requires a lack of understanding of statistics and an over-reliance on anecdote.

    Yet it is the Global Warmers who ask us to believe that a system that has worked for millennia is suddenly different now and we have decades to save it. They are the ones positing a change in everything we understood.

    And it is the warmers who trot out the anecdotes, not the deniers. Polar bears and icebergs and glaciers etc. The deniers meanwhile look at the temperature measurements over the last 200 years and don’t see the rapid changes.

    Anthropogenic Warming arguments exhibit a great number of same traits as bad science. Watch them trotted out, time after time. Correlation becomes causation.

    One symptom of a crank over-simplifying a complex problem down to a single cause. Think of that the next time you are asked to believe all global warming is down to an increase in atmospheric CO2 percent by 0.01%. (That’s it folks.)

    And we won’t even go into the Gaia nonsense, which is pure crank.

  98. Mark P said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:17 am

    “Well that’s because that’s just about all the respect that you and the other ignorant, innumerate and scientifically illiterate AGW ’sceptic’ twerps posting in here deserve.”

    I have a post-graduate degree in Chemistry. I teach Maths.

    I am not illiterate, innumerate or unscientific. I have looked at the evidence for warming, which I have some of the technical background to understand. I don’t believe it.

    Your “argument” pretty much proves my point.

  99. WillKemp said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:30 am

    I believe the world’s getting warmer – hell, it’s been doing it for the last 14 thousand years or so, why should it change now. I don’t know or care whether carbon dioxide is making it happen faster – but i do care about environmental destruction.

    I think a significant part of the reason why “half” the population believes in global warming and half doesn’t is because half the population cares about the environment and the other half doesn’t. The hysteria about global warming is a very good thing if you care about the environment, because it can only help to slow down the destruction – and hopefully reverse some of it.

    But this muddling of caring about the environment (and therefore wanting everyone to believe in global warming) and some rather abstruse climate science has led to a vast amount of nonsense being written about it in the media – which can only fuel scepticism.

    A good example of this is the “Faces from the frontline” article in the Guardian Weekend magazine yesterday. It’s full of scenarios that are purportedly caused by global warming (or, at least, that’s the implication) – but most, if not all, of them are clearly not caused by global warming at all. Most of them (on the surface) appear to be caused by things like deforestation or poor water management. Even people who don’t have in depth knowledge about this stuff can smell a rat in articles like that.

    I’m quite convinced that the main fuel for scepticism is bad journalism.

  100. quasilobachevski said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:31 am

    @tattonchantry,

    log(5)= 0.698970004
    log(10)= 1
    log(20) = 1.301029996

    So, if log(amount of CO2) = Temperature
    each time you double CO2 you get less of an increase in Temperature.

    No.

    1.301029996-1=0.301029996

    1-0.698970004=0.301029996

    The (additive) difference is the same. Not less, the same.

    It is true that the percentage increase goes down, but that’s not what Pittens said in comment number 4, and it’s not what you implied either.

    You may think I’m knit-picking, but the difference is important. If Pittens were right that

    a doubling of Co2 will lead to – at most – an increase of 1 degree in a century and … another doubling will lead to another .5 degrees

    then it would follow that any amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would only increase the world’s temperature by 2 degrees. But that’s not the case! And it’s important to be clear that that’s not the case!

    (I’m ignoring the unnecessarily offensive first half of your post. Believe me, I’m not confused by the mathematics. Indeed, I’m a mathematician by profession. I’m trying to get to the bottom of what you think the mathematics means.)

  101. quasilobachevski said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Gah! Runaway blockquote! Drat.

  102. quasilobachevski said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:49 am

    That last bit should have looked like this:-

    You may think I’m knit-picking, but the difference is important. If Pittens were right that

    a doubling of Co2 will lead to – at most – an increase of 1 degree in a century and … another doubling will lead to another .5 degrees

    then it would follow that any amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would only increase the world’s temperature by 2 degrees. But that’s not the case! And it’s important to be clear that that’s not the case!

    (I’m ignoring the unnecessarily offensive first half of your post. Believe me, I’m not confused by the mathematics. Indeed, I’m a mathematician by profession. I’m trying to get to the bottom of what you think the mathematics means.)

  103. phayes said,

    December 13, 2009 at 7:07 am

    @Mark P.

    “I have a post-graduate degree in Chemistry. I teach Maths. … Your “argument” pretty much proves my point.”

    Heh! You just can’t see it can you? Have you really no idea how stupid that remark is? “A little knowledge…”, as they say.

  104. jimbob said,

    December 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

    “ratTus rattUs said,

    December 12, 2009 at 10:41 am

    why do roughly half the people in this country not believe in man-made climate change[?]

    Because the people in this country do not feel any climate change. When changes become more perceivable more people will change their opinions.”

    Really?

    Because I am only 37 and I can remember November 5th being frozen solid pretty much every year when I was a kid, and now sometimes being T-shirt weather. Autumn seems to extend right into December now, as opposed to November about 30-years ago.

  105. xtaldave said,

    December 13, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Yowsers – a lot of hot air has been generated by this article.

    Right, (cards on table) as a postdoc research scientist at the coal face of biochemical research, I have no in-depth expertise in climate science. So I approach the issue of climate change the same way I approach science from any field that I am not familiar with – from a position of agnosticism – in this case – surely the default position. ;)

    The vast majority of peer reviewed I have seen evidence suggests that the climate change evident is, at least in part, due to human effects. The real “clincher” for me, was this figure in the 2007 “summary for policy makers” IPCC report that Ben alluded to above.

    Download this pdf:

    www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf

    Look at page 6, figure SPM4. Graphs of observed temperature per year with predicted temperatures using climate models ± anthropogenic effects.

    Those with anthropogenic effects predict the observed temperature changes very well, whilst those without do not.

    If you’re looking for a smoking gun – that’ll do me nicely.

    (caveat – I am aware that these are *models* – but as, in climate science, there is a sample number of 1, and no controls – *models* is all we got)

  106. xtaldave said,

    December 13, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Sorry for typos – coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. :)

  107. Andrej Bauer said,

    December 13, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Ben asked for world-wide conspiracies among scientists. While there may not have been any, there certainly are many examples where practically all scientists were wrong about an issue. If you call that a conspiracy or a mistake does not matter to those who believed otherwise. Also, a mistaken concensus would have practically the same effect on policy makers as a conspiracy. And to name a few examples: the Earth is the center of the universe, God created animals, bloodletting helps patients, infinity cannot be dealt with mathematically, etc.

  108. phayes said,

    December 13, 2009 at 9:27 am

    @Andrej Bauer

    First, you’ll have to do better than that with your examples (which – apart from the (bizarrely) pure mathematical one – are really empirically unsupported pre-science era assumptions and beliefs rather than scientific consensuses, anyway)¹. Second, even if you do it’s irrelevant – the current scientific consensus is, by definition, the best ‘guess’ we can make right now.

    ¹ Addressing the only one of your examples which bears any resemblance to a mistaken scientific consensus: in one perfectly valid coordinate system, the Earth /is/ the centre of the universe. In another, the Earth is a hollow sphere containing the entire universe. From a modern perspective, the ancient astrologer-astronomers weren’t even wrong!

  109. Tetenterre said,

    December 13, 2009 at 9:36 am

    @Tim Passingham (#65): I don’t know about your house insurance, but mine does not claim to prevent possible disasters. It is intended to help me deal with the consequences of (statistically unlikely) disasters *if* they occur.

    @ PhDChem (#56): ‘those scientists which you term “believers” will shift their views to the new data. If they can’t do so, then they are no longer scientists.’

    (a) I think you will find that I have not used the term “believers” anywhere on this blog.

    (b) I agree entirely with your last sentence. (For both sides of the argument!)

    Another general point:
    “Zombie arguments” is a clever sound-bite but it is infested with a considerable amount of the logical fallacy of /petitio principii/, i.e. it assumes that the argument has been refuted. I submit that, in many cases, all that occurs is that a counter-argument is posited, but the initial argument has not actually been refuted. (Do I really need to cite examples?) In other words, “zombie argument” can be a way of attempting to close down a discussion without having to address the substantive points.

  110. Tim Passingham said,

    December 13, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I pay for insurance because I think something might go wrong and I want to be able to make repairs if it does. I also pay to try and avoid things going wrong (so I get my car serviced yearly even when I do not do many miles). If I lived near a river I would be trying to ensure that there were flood protection measures in place even if the river hadn’t flooded in recorded history.

    What is the problem with taking active steps to protect ourselves in case the science is right? I happen to think that the majority of scientists are right, and that we really are in for a rough ride. Even if I was less sure, I would not have a problem in taking measures to insure myself (by working out ways to repair damage) and to protect myself (by preventing damage in the first place) just in case I was wrong.

  111. Tyversky said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    IMO (albeit an uneducated one) there is still some space for scepticism on this topic.

    Here’s one example to back that assertion;

    public.web.cern.ch/public/en/Research/CLOUD-en.html

    I’d recommend reading the first few pages of the proposal;

    cloud.web.cern.ch/cloud/documents_cloud/cloud_proposal.pdf

    Interesting to see the New Scientist article though. My opinions on this subject like most are open to change but while people like CERN are doing research like this I don’t view it as a closed book like some people here.

  112. Peter Whale said,

    December 13, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Scotslawstudent Without the raw data methodology and computer programs used I would not be able to compare results. Replication is fundamental to science.

  113. topcat said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Hi Ben,

    I think there is more to say on the emails as even the BBC (Newsnight and This Week) is still getting it wrong, with Nick Cohen calling the sceptics ignorant (fair enough) but then condemning the CRU scientists for manipulating data and suppressing research. No wonder many remain sceptical or at best confused.

    As people trust you, I really think you ought to explain that the emails do nothing to undermine the actual climate science…

    Here are links to sites which explain the emails:

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack-context/

    www.nature.com/nature/journal/v462/n7273/full/462545a.html

    scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/12/quote_mining_code.php

  114. tanveer said,

    December 13, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I think it is important to remeber that the global warming debate has 2 aspects one political and the other scientific and that these are inter-twined. I have issues with both.

    Even if man-made global warming is happening is the response advocated by the IPCC the right one? Hammering everyone with carbon taxes and giving them carbon credits to control their lifestyles sounds like a new labour wet dream. Surely it would be better to switch energy production into nuclear power and also invest in ambitious geo-engineering projects that can absorb the excess CO2? Renewables may have a marginal role to play but that is about it so to base your entire policy on making renewables work sounds like madness to me. But this is not considered the right thing to do because it does not fit into the green-tinted vision of the IPCC where people have to be punished so that they behave in the right way and that seems to be use less energy, be less ambitious and make do with what nature has given us.

    On the scientific front it seems that the global warming supporteres have not been entirely honest. They have refused to share their data or models and have obstructed any access to them. They will only tolerate those in agreement with the ‘consensus’. This is the very essence of an unscientific approach.

  115. tattonchantry said,

    December 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    @quasilobachevski

    I too got my undergrad in mathematics. I did say that pittens numbers were wrong, but his overall point is correct.

    I’m trying to get to the bottom of what you think the mathematics means.

    I am simply saying that if, with all of the CO2 added to the atmosphere over the last century, we have seen 1 degree of warming, then if we double the CO2 we will not see another degree.

    Let’s say the last hundred years we emitted 100 billions tons of CO2 and we saw 11 degrees of warming (I know the numbers are wrong, but let’s use it for simplicity)

    By your logic if we doubled the amount of CO2 over the next 50 years we would get another 11 degrees. When in reality, if you double it, it looks more like this:
    log(100,000,000,000) = 11
    log(200,000,000,000) = 11.30102996
    you would have to double it more than three times just to get another 1 degree of temperature.
    log(400,000,000,000) = 11.602059991
    log(800,000,000,000) = 11.903089987
    log(1,600,000,000,000) = 12.204119983
    in order to get another 2 degrees you would have completely taken over the atmosphere with CO2.

    then it would follow that any amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would only increase the world’s temperature by 2 degrees. But that’s not the case! And it’s important to be clear that that’s not the case!

    I guess if you could add ANY amount of CO2 to the atmosphere you could get 2 more degrees. You would have to ignore so many other chemical properties of the atmosphere to get to that conclusion. You are talking about an order of magnitude more CO2 than we have emitted over the last century. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to prove that we have license to keep polluting unconditionally. Quite the opposite. I hope that we never get these amounts of CO2 to see what would happen. The fact is you have to start talking about feedbacks in order to get the kind of warming that the IPCC is talking about. You will never get there from CO2 alone.

    I’m ignoring the unnecessarily offensive first half of your post.

    I apologize. You are actually quite likable. I wish I had a way to buy you a beer.

  116. ambrosen said,

    December 13, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    @Mark P

    One symptom of a crank over-simplifying a complex problem down to a single cause. Think of that the next time you are asked to believe all global warming is down to an increase in atmospheric CO2 percent by 0.01%. (That’s it folks.)

    That’s a misleading number, Mark P, as it’s (vaguely in the ballpark of) the absolute rise in CO₂, not the percentage rise, which since 1960 (at Mauna Loa, Hawaii) has been from 315 ppm to 385 ppm, slightly greater than a 20% increase. Those numbers also show that you underestimated increase in the absolute proportion of CO₂ in the atmosphere by a factor of 7, too. (0.385% – 0.315% = 0.07%).

  117. scotslawstudent said,

    December 13, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Peter Whale:

    Well, no, you’re right that replication is essential to science but just running someone’s program on your computer isn’t that. If you had their data and their programs you could run their program against their data and, unless they’d flat out lied to your face, your computer would come to the same result as their one did. What does that show? That you can both run a program and copy out what it said, big whoop. If you only run the same operations on the same data it doesn’t actually prove anything about the results. It basically proves that the first group of people are able to accurately read from a screen and write it down without making too many mistakes.

    Replication means that if you perform the experiment yourself you get the same result. That means you just need the methodology and you can fill in the rest yourself — your own programs and your own data if you wanted. You don’t need to borrow Newton’s apparatus to prove gravity, you just need to follow his methodology and that’s written just below the headnote in most research papers.

    If you took your own century or two of climate data, did the same operation that they told you they did on their century or two of climate data and they graphs you got were statistically speaking comparable then you’ve shown that their results are repeatable. The methodology is right there in the public domain and all that you need to do is collect some data to test against it. They’ve done that and got the results they published.

  118. PlatoSays said,

    December 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    I’ve just skimmed this very long thread – it is full of ad hom attacks on those who happen to disagree with AGW.

    I wonder why that is. If the science is ‘so settled’, why are blogs/phone-ins/comment pages full of hundreds of comments and thousands of similar reader agreement?

    I’m not interested in advocating a cause, I want to know what it reality – if this is ‘contrarian’ – so be it, Galileo had the same issue.

  119. Tetenterre said,

    December 13, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    @scotslawstudent (#117): A couple of points:

    “If you took your own century or two of climate data…”

    Yeah, you’d have to, given that some of the raw data has been destroyed.

    “The methodology is right there in the public domain…”

    No, it isn’t! That is one of the reasons people like me are sceptical. If all the methodology and raw data were in the public domain, I’d have much more confidence in what I am told; the fact that it isn’t makes me wonder why.

  120. Lifewish said,

    December 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    @scotslawstudent (#117):

    “If you had their data and their programs you could run their program against their data and, unless they’d flat out lied to your face, your computer would come to the same result as their one did. What does that show?”

    It would show that the analysis they performed leads to the result they claimed. That’s essential for error-spotting (which is an essential part of science, even if it does get abused in the climate change debate).

    Once you’ve confirmed that, you can double-check the data and the methodology. If both check out, you can be reasonably sure that the conclusion is valid.

    I understand your point about replication. However, in this situation, a true replication is:
    a) economically infeasible (cos most people can’t afford satellites)
    b) impossible to complete (since a new satellite couldn’t gather from 1990)
    c) generally very wasteful

    In this context, it’s far more effective to focus on scrutinising the existing data and software. If we can’t do that, we’re rather stuffed.

  121. killary said,

    December 13, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    On AQ Ben spoke about the Zombie Arguments of the climate change sceptics that are killed by AGW proponents but keep on re-appearing.

    But what about all the AGW Zombies? There is the Hockey Stick – that has been killed repeatedly but is still the emblem of the movement. There is the “man-made warming fingerprint” that keeps on getting demolished, only to be re-asserted. There is Ben’s own explanation for the cooling from 1940 to 1970 – again this has been thoroughly disproved, but he still happily trots it out.

    If AGW is true why do the AGW proponents rely on so many logical fallicies? This is by no means a complete list but they use: Argument from Authority – all the time; Ad Hominem attacks on opponents – repeatedly; Poisoning the Well – saying that the opponents are all funded by big oil, or they are all homeopath-loving, flat-earth believing, right-wing denialists; Post Hoc ergo Proper Hoc – we have warmed, CO2 causes warming, therefore CO2 must have caused the warming; Argument from Ignorance – we cannot explain the warming without the AGW hypothesis, therefore the AGW hypothesis must be true.

    There are many more.

  122. FedUpJosie said,

    December 13, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Tetenterre @119 et all
    “No, it isn’t! That is one of the reasons people like me are sceptical. If all the methodology and raw data were in the public domain, I’d have much more confidence in what I am told; the fact that it isn’t makes me wonder why.”

    Take yourself off down to the local university library and look it up! The data is available! Or are you so determined to convince yourself that East Anglia is full of nasty little scientists (just as ridiculous as Red Under the Bed).

    Go online and read the free science publications, pay to read the ones that cost, just like the academics have to do.

    One you’ve done that, I’m sure you’ll have no problem in writing a research grant and having it approved – well, don’t you have a responsibility to demonstrate to all of mankind that you are correct and that the scientists are not quite capable?

    On you go, roll your sleeves up and settle down to doing a better job than all those clever scientists… Make your mother proud! Or are you just, banging your feet, letting your belly rumble and throwing your little spiderman out of the pram…

  123. quasilobachevski said,

    December 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    @tattonchantry,

    I wish I had a way to buy you a beer.

    Me too!

    Look, here’s the point. Pittens’s argument, which you seemed to be defending, went something like this.

    1. The greenhouse effect is logarithmic.
    2. Therefore the greenhouse effect can’t warm the planet more than a couple of degrees.

    To illustrate point 2, Pittens said:-

    This effect tells us that a doubling of Co2 will lead to – at most – an increase of 1 degree in a century and, since the effect is logarithmic another doubling will lead to another .5 degrees.

    Now, as njdowrick pointed out, this is wrong. It’s not that the numbers are wrong – of course I have no idea what the actual numbers are, I’ll leave that to the experts – it’s that Pittens’s explanation of the behaviour of logarithms is wrong.

    And this misunderstanding of logarithms shows that part 2 of his argument is also incorrect.

    You seem to have backed off from Pittens’s position now. If I understand you rightly, you now assert that logarithmic growth means that it merely needs a lot of CO_2 to cause significant warming (as opposed to an infinite amount).

    Of course it’s true that logarithmic growth is slow (as your calculations show), but exactly how slow will depend on the constants involved (a matter for the experts). As you’ve already shown us that the IPCC models are logarithmic, it seems clear that a logarithmic model can lead to significant warming. Which seems to me to contradict your assertion that it can’t.

    You seem to be claiming not that the IPCC is using the wrong model, but merely that their interpretation is incorrect. Is that fair?

    I realise that there are several places in the above where I’ve inferred your argument. If I’ve misrepresented you, please feel free to put me straight.

  124. DrJG said,

    December 13, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    @73

    tkp: “It is really important for scientists to understand that standing in front of the public and screaming in their face that they are stupid and wrong and need to follow their superior knowledge…”

    I suggest you read Fish Custard @75, put yourself in the position of his long-suffering plumber, and then reconsider why sometimes, just sometimes, scientists want to scream.

    In general, scientists do not Start their communication process in that manner – though, of course, Ben has repeatedly pointed out examples of how our media repeatedly subverts their attempts at accurate (and non-sensationalist) communication of their findings.

    Or to use Ben’s metaphor from this week, which is after all one of his main points, if you were repeatedly attacked by Zombies, You might scream.

  125. climatesock said,

    December 13, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Things aren’t quite as bad as you’re led to believe, Ben.

    I think your figure of roughly half the people in this country not believing in man-made climate change comes from a recent Times/Populus poll. The reporting of the poll claimed that only 41% of Britons think that global warming is man-made.

    However, this conclusion is only possible with what seems to me to be a pretty twisted reading of the numbers. You can only come to the figure of less than half believing in AGW if you count as disbelievers the 32% who agree “There is a widespread theory that climate change is largely man-made but this has not yet been conclusively proved”. It seems natural to see this group as exhibiting a view that a complex theory like AGW inevitably leaves some room for doubt before it is conclusively proved – rather than claiming that they actively disbelieve AGW.

    Another reading of the same poll shows that:

    * Around 5 in 6 believe that climate change and global warming are taking place;
    * Only 23% disbelieve AGW;
    * Nearly 4 in 5 think that climate change is either very serious or the most serious problem we face.

    Sadly, the Times presented the numbers as saying that a majority doubt AGW, and then other media outlets (including the BBC), followed this flawed interpretation.

    www.climatesock.com/2009/11/original-spin-distorts-new-climate-change-poll/

  126. DrJG said,

    December 13, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    @107:

    “there certainly are many examples where practically all scientists were wrong about an issue.”

    Perhaps true, but many more examples where time “proved” (without getting into arguments about what constitutes “proof”) the scientific consensus correct.

    Would you advocate using the alternative, non-consensus view as the basis for your approach to a problem, because in a minority of cases it turns out that that would have been the best option?

  127. DrJG said,

    December 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    @14 TomFP:

    “Reading thermomaniacs trying to talk away the Fabrigate emails is like watching Wylie Coyote spinning his legs in the air after he’s run off a cliff – the longer we wait the more fun it is when he plummets.”

    Conclusions are, of course, in the eye of the interpreter. Some of us have rather enjoyed the spectacle of various deniers falling over themselves to put the worst (or, in many cases, worse-than-) possible spin on some pretty innocuous and innocent phrases in informal emails. The desperation to do so might be evidence of the need to grab hold of anything to try and shore up a fragile position.

    Furthermore, if emails are to be used as evidence, I am sure that many of us would like the opportunity for unfettered access to the relevant email archives of some of the fossil fuel business interests on the denial side of the debate. Of course, I do not know if there is anything in those archives which would weaken their position, but I wonder how many reading this debate believe that they would ever offer such access?

  128. Ben Goldacre said,

    December 13, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    my take on climategate was pretty much the same as tom feilden’s on the today programme (don’t know if its online anywhere):

    1. “trick” means technique

    2. he just sounded exasperated about FoI requests, having been bullied by zillions of them, but it was still out of order

    3. saying you will argue to keep papers you consider shit out of a report is not entirely bonkers

    4. saying you think an editor of a journal is rubbish for taking a paper you consider to be rubbish is not entirely outrageous

    i wld add to that, the fact that the datasets are not freely available is fairly stupid, and the govt shld find ways to make sure that license agreements on data sources of public importance (inc clinical trials) can be sidestepped.

  129. Ben Pile said,

    December 14, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Ben Goldacre – “2. he just sounded exasperated about FoI requests, having been bullied by zillions of them, but it was still out of order”

    How many FOI requests, *exactly*, were the researchers ‘bullied’ by?

    Wouldn’t the best way for researchers to cope with FOI requests be to:

    i) comply with them (I think you agree)

    and,

    ii) manage expectations of science.

    I.e. with so much political capital invested in the outcome of scientific research, the scientists involved ought to have been more cautious. The mistake many climate scientists seem to make *for themselves* is to imagine they can be both advocates and researchers.

  130. Ben Pile said,

    December 14, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Let me add something to my last comment. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with a researcher being an advocate of a certain cause or course of action. But it creates practical problems when the two roles become so easily confused, as they seem to in the climate debate.

  131. anji said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:43 am

    Does the actual temperature matter? Surely in any case, at some point, we will run out of oil, gas, coal etc.?
    I’m not a denier, but I read some of the comments about global temperature records. The CO2 effect seemed easy to understand for GCSE level science, I recall my textbook having a picture of a greenhouse surrounding the earth.

    I think possibly famine, poverty and war will do us in before global warming. Maybe add in a bit of pestilence as well, especially once everything is resistant to antibiotics. I think we should spend less time trying to get developing countries to reduce their carbon footprint and a little more time sharing our stuff with them. It makes sense to be nice to each other in the limited time we have left instead of bickering.

    I realise I have said all of this with absolutely no scientific proof to back me up.

    I recycle, cycle and have only been on 6 flights in my life. However I do have 4 children which some would say is far worse for the future of the world (overcrowding) than any of the good I’ve done so far.

  132. CoralBloom said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Ben,

    Not sure is this is the Today programme you were thinking of:
    news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8396000/8396711.stm

  133. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Hi, Ben.

    There’s no point debunking one zombie argument with another. The fact is no-one was measuring so-called white aerosols at the time (or indeed any time after) in the atmosphere. It’s a hand wave, a guess. There are other guesses, PDO and the like. I suppose it’s a distraction.

    I do “believe” in AGW in the sense that I “know” the basic physics to be sound. The multiple possible feedbacks effect are an entirely different kettle of fish. I’m just underwhelmed by the catastrophe porn peddled. I prefer good old empirical evidence.

    What is “normal” climate anyway? Pick any point from this graph (it’s derived from the central Greenland ice core data):
    www.foresight.org/nanodot/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/histo5.png

    What about this one?
    www.foresight.org/nanodot/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/histo4.png

    Going back further, “normal” means I’d be posting this under a couple of miles of ice.

    Surely our time, money, and effort would be better spent on adaptation strategies to whatever nature might bring.

    Apologies to all those who feel I’ve been blasphemous. I’m going to bin this month’s cheque from ExxonMobil in penance.

  134. bodenca said,

    December 14, 2009 at 11:29 am

    #57 PKenny. Thanks for your contribution.
    On the 1940s,50s,60s period, I suggest you think back, or talk to someone old enough with a good memory. They will tell you that they were the decades of glorious red sunset skies. That is to say, the higher energy, blue-UV end of the sun’s spectrum was being cut out before reaching and warming the earth surface. A major culprit was particulates – smoke, soot and dust. Think world war, atmospheric nuclear test explosions, and the phenomenal post-war rise in burning coal (and the sulphur in it). And, yes, there were measurements of particulates, which supported attempts made to clean up soot (before sulphur). But the main cleaning was the abrupt switch from coal to oil about 1970.
    Climate scientists had predicted that this decade would see a couple of years’ cooling, what with solar low and NAO. If it’s merely flattened off, that suggests underlying global warming has accelerated to above what had been predicted.
    About your method. You say the mid-century cooling was monotonic but were the bracketing dates tightly defined, or partly artefact of the choice of length?
    External physical influences (planetary, solar) are very regularly periodic. Emergent properties of the global environment system itself can be erratic, like el Nino/la Nina. Between the extremes are cycles with feedback signals similar in magnitude to system noise, resulting in rather irregular durations. I think the North Atlantic Oscillation is a case. I’ve been thinking that maximum entropy would pull these features out of the data trends better than either harmonic analyses or moving averaging.

  135. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 11:51 am

    #134 bodenca.
    “They will tell you that they were the decades of glorious red sunset skies.” That’s anecdotal at best, and the sort of thing that is rightly condemned on this very blog. (I should point out that I don’t think the cooling period refutes AGW anyway.)
    “Climate scientists had predicted that this decade would see a couple of years’ cooling, what with solar low and NAO.” Can you cite anything that says that? I certainly can’t find anything in the relevant IPCC reports. (I’ll readily admit I could be wrong here.)

  136. skyesteve said,

    December 14, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    First things first – I am no climate expert. My interests are in healthcare and disease and the evidence in that field is not clear – there is a lot of postulation and extrapolation but not much hard evidence or, sometimes, selective evidence (e.g. reports on increased number of summer heatwave-related deaths in Europe seldom accompanied by any estimates of reduced cold-related deaths if winters are milder and cold-related deaths currently vastly out-weigh heat-related deaths in Europe).
    Is the planet warming? – probably. Is CO2 to blame? – probably, to some extent at least. Has the acitivity of mankind over the last 200 years caused/contributed to this – probably, at least to some extent. Do we need to take better care of our environment, minimise the use of finite resources, clean up after ourselves, etc.? – of course, that’s a no brainer whether the climate is changing or not!
    Resources are running out and we are saying or doing nothing about the fact that the planet is over-populated to the tune of about 4 billion people and rising.
    However, for me these are not really the issues of the climate debate. In fact, it’s no longer a debate. It’s become very polarised with both sides in denial and lacking pragmatism. Ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims are increasingly being made by both sides and it is the truth that suffers.
    From my perspective it’s hard for the climate change camp to help persuade people to change their ways (as, in my view, they clearly need to do) when some of their members make claims which aren’t substantiated by the evidence. If you are trying to envoke change it only needs one silly false profit of doom to make ordinary folks think you are just crying wolf, no matter what the science says, because the people whose minds need changing are, by and large, not scientists.
    People are fundamentally selfish (and I don’t mean to be misanthropic when I say that). It’s going to take a lot for them to give up their cars; their flights; their unlimited energy supplies; their white goods and other electronics; their food shipped half way round the globe just so we can have utterly tastless strawberries in December. It’s going to be equally hard to persuade people who aspire to these things that they can’t have them.
    Sorry – no solutions here – just my rambling thoughts…

  137. mooli said,

    December 14, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    @Ben Pile

    > How many FOI requests, *exactly*, were the researchers ‘bullied’ by?

    At one point they received 58 from a single individual in a five day period.

    My understanding is that FOI legislation has specific provisions to allow “vexatious” requests to be disregarded.

    > Wouldn’t the best way for researchers to cope with FOI requests be to:

    My understanding is that in this case a separate department handles FOI requests and determines what the best course of action would be.

    > i) comply with them (I think you agree)

    Not if the requests constitute harassment, or are for information that the researchers are not at liberty to divulge, is exessively burdensome to collate, or for information that is trivial or publicly available already. All of these seemed to apply in one form or another in this case.

    > ii) manage expectations of science.

    Difficult when your private emails are stolen, and a baying mob accuses you of fraud without justification. Anyhow, why are researchers responsible for managing expectations?

    > I.e. with so much political capital invested in the outcome of scientific research, the scientists involved ought to have been more cautious.

    More cautious – precisely how and why?

  138. coachingleaders said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Ben, you might say ‘pollyfillaesque’ – I say a fine summary of the issues around people’s belief or not in man-made climate change. Thanks in particular for the last sentence, as I was previously puzzled by why I often feel angry when reading stuff by climate change deniers. Now it makes sense.

  139. killary said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Yarmy has already made this point, but I would like to reinforce it, because this is typical of the misinformation and anti-science comments from those who are advocates for catastrophic AGW.

    Bodenca tells us: “Climate scientists had predicted that this decade would see a couple of years’ cooling, what with solar low and NAO”. Can he find any dated reference to a climate scientist making this prediction. Obviously there are a lot of climate scientists so it should be possible to find at least two who did predict cooling this decade. Of course his comment using the phrase “climate scientists” makes it seem as it that was the consensus and settled view of those involved in the subject.

    But even if there were some climate scientists who predicted “a couple of years’ cooling” did any of them predict a decade without any warming? The IPCC reports did not predict that, but showed models with steady warming during this decade.

  140. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    #138 coachingleaders
    How many people on here have said they don’t believe in man-made climate change?
    Oh, and that obscene use of the phrase “denier” with all the baggage it carries is beyond disgusting.

    I see you are an NLP guru! The irony is laughable.

  141. NeilHoskins said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Not polyfilla at all, Ben. Excellent, concise piece.

  142. killary said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    mooli tells us about the 58 requests under FOI made in a single day.

    A little bit of explanation is required. Steve McIntyre made a single FOI request for data on 26 June 2009. This was rejected first because he was not an academic (which is not of course a valid reason for denial of the request even it were true) and secondly because CRU claimed to have made confidentiality agreements with some of the providers of the raw data, and that it would take too long to sort the data that was restricted by these agreements from that which was not.

    This was met with requests under FOI for the details of the confidentiality agreements with each of a number of different countries. It now seems that no there were in fact no such agreements at all and that CRU was being economical with the truth about this – but the requests that were needed to find this out are being used by defenders of CRU as an example of harassment.

    The emails show that CRU had a policy of refusing all FOI requests and had worked out varies strategies of how to achieve this, long before there was even a single application made.

    It is a bit odd that a blog that usually decries bad science is seeking to justify the misuse and hiding of data.

  143. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Oh, and Ben, if you think the IPCC is a completely independent organisation beyond reproach, you might give this a little read.

    klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2009/12/to-scare-or-not-to-scare-that-is.html#more

    (Yeah, it’s an appeal to authority, Eduardo Zorita in this case, but it’s food for thought nonetheless.)

    What’s the point though? It’s clear there’s no room for any scepticism or even questioning on any topic within the climate debate.

  144. PKenny said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    #134 bodenca
    Thanks for the comment – I thought my effort had been buried in all the flying flak!
    I was born 1933, so I can remember this period. I don’t recall any great change from before 1940 (though I was a bit young then!) or after 1970. The real problem with an atmospheric pollution explanation is the sharpness of the change in 1940. The trend is rising throughout the 1930s, falling throughout the 1940s. The 25-year Henderson trend necessarily rounds off sharp turns, as I needed to do to get rid of the 10-year oscillation, so this is in fact an almost instantaneous change. The underlying data are a Northern Hemisphere average; I can’t believe in any human activity change affecting the whole hemisphere that quickly. It seems much easier to envisage some external influence with wide effects, and the sun is the obvious candidate. Is there any reliable source for solar energy output data covering that period? – if so, I could re-run the analysis with that as an ‘explanatory’ variable.

    >You say the mid-century cooling was monotonic but were the bracketing dates tightly defined, or partly artefact of the choice of length?
    I don’t understand your question. There are no bracketing dates, unless you mean 1940 and 1970. These turns are equally visible when I used the shorter (8 year) Henderson, but with the 10-year cycle superimposed. I do know how smoothing can generate cycles as artefacts, but what is remarkable about the long term trend from the 25 year Henderson is the absence of any apparent oscillation. There are two minor ripples in about 1900 and 1960; otherwise, as I said, the rises and falls are ‘near enough monotonic’.

    What puzzles me about the whole debate is way solar output is sidelined in so much of this discussion. Global temperature is ultimately a balance between energy reaching earth from the sun and energy re-radiated from the earth. I can see a roughly 10 year oscillation in temperatures since 1960, and if I use sunspot numbers as an ‘explanatory’ variable I can remove most of this. Sunspot numbers are presumably a proxy for solar output, so clearly there is an effect at that time scale. Yet I see references to studies which have supposedly disproved ‘solar forcing’. If the terminology means what I assume it does (I am obviously a newcomer to this field), this contradicts my results.

    I am not tying to get into the slanging matches that go on here; I would just like to understand some of the data. I joined in here because I couldn’t understand Dr Goldacre’s comment dismissing cooling from 1940 to 1970 as a ‘zombie argument’. I can see the numbers, straight from GISS, I trust my analysis, and I don’t understand arguments based on pollution or volcanoes. Any clarification would be welcome.

  145. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    #144 PKenny
    The key stat for Solar output is what is called TSI (Total Solar Irradiance) and it really doesn’t vary enough long term to change global mean temperature significantly (it’s something like 0.15K).
    There’s tons of material here:
    www.leif.org/research/

    In particular,
    www.leif.org/research/Historical%20Solar%20Cycle%20Context.pdf

    Svalgaard is a solar physicist at Stanford. In short, he’s unimpressed with solar-climate connections. He also had a habit of asking awkward questions on RealClimate and Tamino, but I think he’s given up on them because as he says there’s “too much heat, not enough light”.

  146. Ben Pile said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Mooli, you say that FOI rules allow requests to be disregarded in the case of it being used as a means to harass, or where the party holding the information does not have the right to release the data, or where the data is already in the public domain. You say all these conditions applied – the FOI requests were harassment, the FOI requests related to information that the researchers did not have the right to release, and that the information was in the public domain. You argument seems to contradict itself.

    First, the claim that researchers were harassed by FOI requests cannot be true if it is the case that there is a mechanism for ignoring FOI requests designed to harass researchers. It would, as you say, be a seperate department who would ‘harass’ the researchers on behalf of the person making the request. If researchers were harassed, it was the separate department failed to meet its responsibility.

    Second, the information requested cannot simultaneously be in the public domain and not be. If the information was in the public domain, then the researchers could easily have directed people to it. If it wasn’t, then it surely must be the researcher’s responsibility to explain where the data may be obtained.

    You say that it is difficult to manage expectations of science when emails have been stolen, and published on the internet. This, I think misses the point that researchers have failed to manage expectations of science for at least the 2 decades leading up to ‘Climategate’.

    “why are researchers responsible for managing expectations?” you ask.

    Because they aren’t engaged in a process that is divorced from politics. They are not doing ‘value free’ work. There is an expectation that climate science will produce instructive data that will be used conclusively in the debate about ‘what to do about climate change’. The researchers cannot claim to be unaware of the consequences and significance of their research, and how much is invested in it. Some of them have made public statements arguing just that – that their work has greater significance than mere research for its own sake. That confuses the role of the scientist with the role of the advocate. But often, criticism of advocacy is avoided by emphasising the authority of the scientist.

    At issue is a claim that ‘science says’ something that demands far-reaching changes throughout the world, its economics, its politics, and its productive industry. Don’t you think that any person likely to be subject to those changes – which is every person in the world, after all – has a moral right to have every single part of that argument explained to him or her, just as they would have with any democratic process of change? Scientists must therefore either manage expectations, or answer questions. We can’t at the same time use scientific authority as the ground for political arguments while hiding that ground from public scrutiny.

  147. mooli said,

    December 14, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    @PKenny

    The following is a really good resource to arguments that have been made time and again and have well established answers (Ben’s “Zombie Arguments”).

    www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    There’s an interesting section on the mid century cooling:

    www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-mid-20th-century.htm

    Note figure 2 which shows how several known forcings (including solar activity) into a net positive forcing forcing, and then in figure 3 how that can be matched to GISSTemp, and the combined forcings account for the overall trend pretty well. Its important that aerosols act fast and would be expected to affect the Northern hemisphere (where they were emitted) more than the Southern, which again is something we see if we compare the temperature trends in the two hemispheres.

    Along with the understood aerosol mechanisms, there is a theory discussed on there (along with a link to the paper in question) about the bias introduced by alternative temperature measurement techniques in the 1945 that – if true – could well account for the “sudden” drop-off that you find so perplexing. Essentially it boils down to a switch from using US ships in wartime for oceanic temperature measurements to UK ones postwar, who took the temperature differently and eliminated a warm bias in US measurements.

    www.skepticalscience.com/A-new-twist-on-mid-century-cooling.html

    Again, as always – we don’t know everything. That doesn’t mean we know nothing.

  148. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    @Mooli

    www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-mid-20th-century.htm

    Of course, several of the factors listed there were not actually measured directly. Certainly the contribution of each has been adjusted to fit the observed temp trend. I don’t mean that as a criticism, after all that’s all part of trying to build a model that describes a physical system accurately. But maybe it should be stated more explicitly?

    One might also throw in the PDO here:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pdoindex_1900_present.png

    A simple eyeballing is suggestive (but perhaps spurious).

  149. mooli said,

    December 14, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    > You argument seems to contradict itself.

    I disagree, obviously :)

    > First, the claim that researchers were harassed by FOI requests cannot be true if it is the case that there is a mechanism for ignoring FOI requests designed to harass researchers. It would, as you say, be a seperate department who would ‘harass’ the researchers on behalf of the person making the request. If researchers were harassed, it was the separate department failed to meet its responsibility.

    It would ultimately boil down to harassment by proxy, essentially harassing the department charged with responding directly to FOI requests – but in any case because such a department would need to contact targeted individuals for details, they would in turn be harassed. But then, the harassment is not merely in the sheer number of requests, but also in their seemingly unjustified or frivolous nature. See eg. McIntyre’s request for emails WRT a critique of a particular paper in a period running from 2006 – 2008. The subject has to investigate why that particular period, how many mails would be affected, whether its feasible to provide them, whether its actually justified, then spend time on an email explaining why he feels this is inappropriate – all a total waste of time, and all merely ammunition for McIntyre to claim he’s being stonewalled.

    > If the information was in the public domain, then the researchers could easily have directed people to it. If it wasn’t, then it surely must be the researcher’s responsibility to explain where the data may be obtained.

    Asking researchers to provide information that they have already told you is available from primary sources is a waste of time, and a nuisance. Indeed – asking researchers for data you already have is a waste of time and a nuisance. Also, believing someone can “easily” do something is a terrific assumption on your part.

    > You say that it is difficult to manage expectations of science when emails have been stolen, and published on the internet. This, I think misses the point that researchers have failed to manage expectations of science for at least the 2 decades leading up to ‘Climategate’.

    I actually don’t know what you’re going on about here – what precisely do you mean by “manage expectations”? What form would that management take? When have expectations been badly managed and how does that affect the science?

    > But often, criticism of advocacy is avoided by emphasising the authority of the scientist.

    No, criticism is rightly directed to the scientific arena. If you want to critique science, do it in a scientific way, rather than conducting a media witch hunt based on theft and smears. *By far* the most occasions when I’ve seen someone use the “authority of [an individual] scientist” approach it has been in an attempt to argue against AGW – eg Lindzen, Singer, Plimer etc. Whenever I’ve seen these people critiqued it has been on the strength of their science, rather than on the authority of any specific individual.

    > Don’t you think that any person likely to be subject to those changes – which is every person in the world, after all – has a moral right to have every single part of that argument explained to him or her

    Sure – hence the IPCC summary reports.

    > Scientists must therefore either manage expectations, or answer questions.

    By rights, those asking the questions must accept the answers. Of course, you’re really referring to the wider public sphere where there really aren’t any rules that are able to govern such behaviour. If you look at the way this has been conducted in recent years, you have one “side” bound to high standards of transparency and accountability, where debate must be conducted amongst peers that have met a certain threshold of expertise, where every conclusion and line of evidence must be caveated and constrained by statistical likelihoods – while the other “side” is actually free to lie with impunity. Seriously – what do you suggest?

  150. phayes said,

    December 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    @PKenny: “I am not tying to get into the slanging matches that go on here; I would just like to understand some of the data.”

    Really understand the data?

    www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&hs=nMD&q=climatology+books&btnG=Search&meta=&aq=f&oq=

    geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/ClimateBook/ClimateBook.html

    Or just enough to see the extreme zombie irony of e.g. killary’s posts?

    www.newscientist.com/article/dn11462-climate-change-a-guide-for-the-perplexed.html

  151. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    If anyone is in any doubt as too how complex and uncertain the whole business of atmospheric aerosols is, I suggest a little light reading:

    www.lanl.gov/1663/files/documents/Item/723/1663_mar09_aerosols.pdf

    Waving your hands and saying, ‘oh that cooling in the 60s, it was all just pollution’ just isn’t good enough. Zombie argument, indeed.

  152. PKenny said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    #147 mooli

    Thanks. I followed this link, since it’s directly relevant to my question:

    www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-mid-20th-century.htm

    You said:

    >Note figure 2 which shows how several known forcings (including solar activity) into a net positive forcing forcing, and then in figure 3 how that can be matched to GISSTemp, and the combined forcings account for the overall trend pretty well.

    I think we must be looking at different graphs here. To my eye, the temperature downturn in 1940 is visible even in the unsmoothed data in Fig 3, but where is the matching downturn in the net forcing? It remains steady or slightly rising until after 1960.

    Incidentally, I followed the link from this page to the ‘Open Minds’ post on ‘Hemispheres’. If you scroll down the page to graph comparing the hemispheres, the ‘NH smoothed’ line almost exactly matches my 25 year Henderson trend for the NH, except for the upturn around 1900, which may be an end effect. Yet ‘Open Minds’ also says it’s all down to aerosols, which I can’t see in the aerosol data.

    #145 Yarmy

    Thanks again. I looked at the Svalgaard paper you mention. His graph of TSI on page 9 shows 10 different measures, which doesn’t help much! The Hoyt series, if smoothed to remove the sunspot cycle, matches my NH long term trend quite well from 1880 to 1970,including cooling from 1940 to 1970, but not thereafter. However, Hoyt is clearly the outlier in this collection. Would I be considered nutty to include Hoyt TSI as a variable in my model?

  153. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    @PKenny

    Hoyt and Schatten is outdated and effectively obsolete. All the evidence now points to a near flat TSI trend. I believe this link…

    www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-mid-20th-century.htm

    …uses the obsolete reconstruction, which is a problem for the early 20th century warming in that model.

  154. Yarmy said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Although I could be wrong!

  155. Ben Pile said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Mooli, “harassment by proxy”… You say that the FOI act allows ‘vexatious’ requests to be ignored, but that “…because such a department would need to contact targeted individuals for details, they would in turn be harassed.”

    This isn’t true. The ICO’s website gives guidance to compliance officers. And I hardly think that there have been sufficient FOI requests were submitted that the researchers in question found it difficult to get on with their lives, let alone research. I would argue that the FOI gives more protection to researchers than it gives rights to people seeking information.

    Can you explain exactly how many FOI requests were made, and how many were obliged, and over what period? At the moment, this information is lacking from our discussion. Maybe I should submit an FOI.

    “McIntyre’s request for emails WRT a critique of a particular paper in a period running from 2006 – 2008. …”

    Got a link? At the moment, my symapthies are with McIntyre. I’ve been reading CA since the beginning, and I think he’s more interested in getting to the bottom of the methodology than exposing the conspiracy or otherwise attempting to stall progress at the CRU with a barrage of FOI requests. Ain’t that the way science is supposed to get done? Moreover, he’s been met with a substantial amount of hostility and harassment himself. But let’s not get into bad guys, good guys, and who started it… It’s ‘science’ we’re interested in, not playground politics.

    “Asking researchers to provide information that they have already told you is available from primary sources is a waste of time, and a nuisance.”

    Well, you know, it may well be a nuisance. But what is at stake is the reorganisation of the global economy, industry, international relations, and the lifestyle of every person on the planet. That’s a bit of a nuisance too. But apparently, science says that’s what needs to happen. And if there are people like McIntyre who think they need information that they think they have not been given, so that they can test the claim for themselves, that’s something researchers must surely have to endure. Or, they can, as I’ve suggested, manage expectations.

    “believing someone can “easily” do something is a terrific assumption”

    I see. I thought you said that the information is trivial, or is in the public domain already. Again, I think you contradict yourself.

    “what precisely do you mean by “manage expectations”?”

    There is an expectation that science can produce conclusive and instructive data with respect to climate change. “The science is in…”, “the science says…”, and so on. Science is expected to do a lot of the work for political and moral arguments in the climate debate. That’s principally a shortcoming of the political sphere, but scientists haven’t done much to dampen such expectations, and often indulge in them just as much as politicians and other activists. There is even an extent to which the political landscape is defined by the stances people assume with respect to climate change. That speaks loudly about the role ‘science’ is playing in all of this. Prof. Mike Hulme has said some interesting things about this, but his view doesn’t seem to be shared by the wider climate science community.

    “By rights, those asking the questions must accept the answers.”

    I don’t think that there’s any reason why we should accept the results of FOI requests as equivalent to truth.

    ” while the other “side” is actually free to lie with impunity. Seriously – what do you suggest?”

    I don’t think that dividing this into ‘sides’ really helps. Because it just turns the debate into a story about goodies who can’t make mistakes, and baddies who want to destroy the planet.

  156. Cole_ford said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    In common with most neigh sayers, I haven’t read all the arguments, not even all the entries on this thread even, but I wanted to throw out a question to the the climate change doom mongers amongst us. I agree that climate change is probably happening, I’m even willing to conceed that if the evidence says it’s so then the change is man made (or even just man assisted). But in the end shouldn’t we face up to the fact that the real concern is for ourselves? Not the planet, not even the other lifeforms on the planet (since evidence from the past extinctions shows how resillient they can be) and as such is it just another example of self interest masquarading as a moral principle? I am willing to bet (with some degree of certainty at never having to pay out) that the world will be very different in 1 million years time, perhaps with humans being extinct but with life still abundant.
    I appologise if this has been said before, or if it has been answered. I’m new here!

  157. ignoranceisalearnedbehavior said,

    December 14, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    @Cole-ford…
    imho the problem primarily with climate change is its rate. Whatever the causes, the faster it happens the harder it’ll be for us to cope with (or adapt to). Curbing emissions and improving energy efficiency seems a prudent thing to me to do…how capable we are of doing so is an entirely different question.

    As a layman, after a couple of trying to read up on the subject all I can say is it’s really rather complicated and confusing and frankly I’m going to trust the scientists who seem, on the whole, to suggest some level of caution with our outputs as a species.

  158. Tetenterre said,

    December 14, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    @FedUpJosie (#122):

    I don’t know if you’re being deliberately disingenuous or if your post is merely a case for Hanlon’s Razor, but:

    * Destroyed raw data is not available to anyone.
    * Raw data that is withheld (even after FOI requests) on the pretext of copyright or whatever is not available to anyone.
    * Pray tell me where the *full* details of Mann’s statistical methodology may be found.

  159. quasilobachevski said,

    December 14, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    @Tetenterre,

    You keep blithely referring to “Destroyed raw data”. As someone who doesn’t claim to know anything about either side of this debate, could you point me to the evidence that any data has been destroyed?

  160. bodenca said,

    December 14, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    #144 PKenny
    Yes! This is a bit like holding a conversation in a war zone. I see (#139) my input was “misinformation and anti-science comments from those who are advocates for catastrophic AGW”.

    Sorry about “bracketing”. I did mean 1940 and 1970. I think you are giving a stronger meaning to “monotonic” than I do. To me it means merely “without change in the sign of the gradient”. You mean the gradient is remarkably constant?

    I didn’t know of a sharp change at 1940. No reason I should, but that’s partly why I asked about method. You’ve received answers about solar energy coverage for that period. I have also seen data for sulphur oxides and particulates for some of that period correlated with discrepancy between solar irradiance and temperatures. As it’s never been my line of business, I have never bothered to keep track of it. It’s all out there somewhere, but may be out-of-date.
    The red sky (well remarked then) anecdote that I threw in as a last minute edit seems to have acted as a red rag to bulls … which are colourblind – how far can we take this analogy?)

    Meanwhile, All …
    It looks like I’ve got a job on. I was a fly on the wall to discussions about how cooling would occur temporarily at this solar low. Those involved were publishing climate scientists. I’m surprised to find that commenters here know of no mention of it. So, I’ll go search, unless someone knowledgeable out there is fed up with Copenhagen.

  161. ae35 unit said,

    December 14, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    As a total non-scientist who struggles to understand all the finer details regarding GW, I give you the utmost proof that climate change is not happening!

    It is forecast heavy snow this weekend in the UK…..this has been taken by most swithering members of the public to be a great sign that GW is pure fantasy!

    How can you compete against this kind of mass thinking!?

  162. Veronica said,

    December 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Josie @90. The data is largely government owned. We can’t go and put satellites into orbit or set up terrestrial data stations to make our own calculations. Reproducibility in this context would mean granting access to the RAW data and allowing people to do their own modelling with their own clearly stated set of assumptions. But the raw data has been denied via the freedom of information act. Why? The more I hear about data that has been denied to the public, the more sceptical of the climate change models I will get.

  163. Brady said,

    December 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Ben’s clumsy forays into the catastrophio global warming debate are raising eyebrows abroad as well.

    “Like many loud pseudo-sceptics, Goldacre is actually very conventional and is often blindly unquestioning. Outside of his own field of medicine he almost always clings to the “consensus” and peer review while giving true sceptics a good kicking. With medicine he plucks the low hanging fruit of some of the more obviously egregious studies paid for by drug companies but otherwise wears blinkers.”
    www.climate-resistance.org/2009/12/paging-dr-goldacre-warmer-zombies-on-the-climate-ward.html

    Please Ben, your friend George Monbiot was even fooled by CRU “scientists”. Maybe there is a lesson to be learnt here for you?

  164. hadfield said,

    December 14, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Veronica

    I think you might be surprised by how much data is available. Take a look at this page

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/data-sources/

  165. Nomark said,

    December 15, 2009 at 12:04 am

    I’m disappointed in you Doc. Considering that the theme of this blog is the abuse of science, surely you ought to have had something harsh to say about the CRU’s shenanigans. From here it looks as though you don’t fancy keeping company, however briefly, with their more familiar critics. Which is understandable, but you know as well as me that this piece is a copout.

  166. quasilobachevski said,

    December 15, 2009 at 12:06 am

    Brady,

    Ben’s clumsy forays into the catastrophio [sic] global warming debate are raising eyebrows abroad as well.

    Climate Resistance’s editors are based in York and Edinburgh. Does “abroad” mean Scotland!?

  167. phayes said,

    December 15, 2009 at 5:25 am

    “Climate Resistance’s editors…” – including Ben Pile who has posted comments above and, apparently without irony, is described elsewhere on the ‘net as a “science writer”.

    The climate-resistance.org post which Brady provided a link to opens with this spurious criticism:

    ‘“Goldacre’s sulphites example is very poorly chosen, and for a professional sceptic, he appears remarkably willing to defer uncritically to zombie lists of zombie arguments.”’

    The “very poorly chosen” bit links to this post: www.climate-resistance.org/2008/04/black-and-white-aerosols-show.html

    – a very chosen and heavily processed cherry in which the author of the paper whose comments best suit the ‘sceptic’ agenda of distortion and magnification of uncertainty is described as the “more candid” of the two.

    You’re the one being fooled, Brady. Cleverly and deliberately, so it’s no reflection on you, but if you want the truth instead of selected and mangled fragments of it I suggest you look elsewhere:

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/04/yet-more-aerosols-comment-on-shindell-and-faluvegi/#more-672

  168. mrmuz said,

    December 15, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Good to see Brady bringing in the “No True Skeptic…” argument. I expect to see that in every online debate about this.
    BG, how dare you call yourself a skeptic when we’ve caught you red handed not dismissing out of hand a massive multi lateral science that’s had dubious aspersions cast at it.
    The credulity!

    (there are of course a million self appointed internet “true skeptics” that have no trouble taking the word of notorious repeated liars and contrarians if it fits their “God I just hate Greenies!” prejudices)

  169. mikewhit said,

    December 15, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Good sport in today’s Express: “100 reasons why climate change is natural” by Martyn Brown (wasn’t he on KYTV ?)
    www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/146139

    … includes such unassailable ‘reasons’ as:
    * MP says xx% of people in UK don’t think warming is man-made
    * warmest period in Earth’s climate was 700 million years ago

  170. mooli said,

    December 15, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    > This isn’t true. The ICO’s website gives guidance to compliance officers.

    Which part isn’t true?

    www.ico.gov.uk/Global/faqs/freedom_of_information_for_organisations.aspx#f219A8692-DBD3-4941-A2D7-4DDEADEC3477

    Determining whether a request has any serious purpose or value in this case is difficult without direct experience of the material involved.

    > And I hardly think that there have been sufficient FOI requests were submitted that the researchers in question found it difficult to get on with their lives, let alone research. I would argue that the FOI gives more protection to researchers than it gives rights to people seeking information.

    If you have not seen how many requests, or what was in them, or what would be involved in compliance, how can you *possibly* know that? Undue burden is not necessarily about number, it is about effort involved in responding to a single request as well.

    > Can you explain exactly how many FOI requests were made, and how many were obliged, and over what period? At the moment, this information is lacking from our discussion.

    Maybe you should ask McIntyre that question. As I said – the submission of 58 in 5 days is an extreme example, and I’m mainly concerned with the nature of the requests than the sheer volume. If you think these things are important (and you’re the one banging on about it), you should do the work to track down the information, no? Rather than pretending that it is some important detail that’s been refused to you?

    > Maybe I should submit an FOI.

    Sure – to McIntyre, right?

    > Got a link?

    I refuse to link to those emails. However, in my specific example I refer to a widely publicised one, which I excerpt here under sufferance, which contains the following from McIntyre:

    “I request that a copy of the following NOAA records be provided to me: (1) any monthly time series of output from any of the 47 climate models sent by Santer and/or other coauthors of Santer et al 2008 to NOAA employees between 2006 and October 2008; (2) any correspondence concerning these monthly time series between Santer and/or other coauthors of Santer et al 2008 and NOAA employees between 2006 and October 2008.”

    And the following comment from Ben Santer:

    “As I pointed out to Mr. McIntyre in the email I transmitted to him yesterday, all of the raw (gridded) model and observational data used in the 2008 Santer et al. International Journal of Climatology (IJoC) paper are freely available to Mr. McIntyre. If Mr. McIntyre wishes to audit us, and determine whether the conclusions reached in our paper are sound, he has all the information necessary to conduct such an audit. Providing Mr. McIntyre with the quantities that I derived from the raw model data (spatially-averaged time series of surface temperatures and synthetic Microwave Sounding Unit [MSU] temperatures) would defeat the very purpose of an audit.

    I note that this work began in December 2007, following online publication of Douglass et al. in the IJoC. I have no idea why McIntyre’s request for email correspondence has a “start date” of 2006, and thus predates publication of Douglass et al.

    My personal opinion is that both FOI requests (1) and (2) are intrusive and unreasonable. Steven McIntyre provides absolutely no scientific justification or explanation for such requests. I believe that McIntyre is pursuing a calculated strategy to divert my attention and focus away from research. As the recent experiences of Mike Mann and Phil Jones have shown, this request is the thin edge of wedge. It will be followed by further requests for computer programs, additional material and explanations, etc., etc.
    Quite frankly, Tom, having spent nearly 10 months of my life addressing the serious scientific flaws in the Douglass et al. IJoC paper, I am unwilling to waste more of my time fulfilling the intrusive and frivolous requests of Steven McIntyre. The supreme irony is that Mr. McIntyre has focused his attention on our IJoC paper rather than the Douglass et al. IJoC paper which we criticized. As you know, Douglass et al. relied on a seriously flawed statistical test, and reached incorrect conclusions on the basis of that flawed test.”

    > At the moment, my symapthies are with McIntyre.

    There’s a surprise. On the other hand, my sympathies are with pretty well everybody but McIntyre.

    > I’ve been reading CA since the beginning, and I think he’s more interested in getting to the bottom of the methodology than exposing the conspiracy or otherwise attempting to stall progress at the CRU with a barrage of FOI requests.

    Well, I would disagree. As far as I’m concerned he’s not interested in advancing the science in the main or even replicating results or improving methodology – rather about obsessing over tiny details in the past work of a few specific individuals. Worse, he’s determined to conduct that particular obsession unaccountably, in public, littered with personal insinuations of the worst sort.

    > Moreover, he’s been met with a substantial amount of hostility and harassment himself.

    Absolutely nothing compared to the hounding, criminal acts, misinformed public accusations of fraud, and death threats visited upon those he’s targeted – don’t even pretend the situations are comparable.

    > Well, you know, it may well be a nuisance. But what is at stake is the reorganisation of the global economy, industry, international relations, and the lifestyle of every person on the planet. That’s a bit of a nuisance too. But apparently, science says that’s what needs to happen.

    Science says what the likely outcomes are if certain assumptions hold true and explain why that might be so. It can identify which behavioural and technological changes may have the greatest impact on changing those future scenarios. It will (unfortunately) be politics that will determine what actions we take to best ensure the continuation of our civilization – informed by the science, but it is not a scientific decision.

    > And if there are people like McIntyre who think they need information that they think they have not been given, so that they can test the claim for themselves, that’s something researchers must surely have to endure. Or, they can, as I’ve suggested, manage expectations.

    Scientific findings are often supposed to be robust to different approaches. The way you are *supposed* to do it is reproduce results by looking at the published literature. If you end up processing things slightly differently but come up with the same results this is a good thing – if your results are different this needs to be published and discussed so we can find out why. Surely McIntyre should be expected to conduct himself in the same way as the scientists he purports to critique, through peer review, rather than kicking off character assassinations from a blog? Yet his publications on this subject are few and far between, and have not stood up to scrutiny in the past.

    > I see. I thought you said that the information is trivial, or is in the public domain already. Again, I think you contradict yourself.

    There is a difference between information being trivial or public domain, and the ease with which a researcher (who should be doing other things) has to handhold a hostile questioner through obtaining that information. Information might be trivially obtained from a third party with the relevant permission. Demanding that the researcher obtain said permission and provide it to you themselves is not simple, a nuisance, and – frankly – impolite. See the email above – Santer felt he’d already provided everything necessary and was being pursued for things that were irrelevant or difficult to obtain. Given that he’d given information on raw data, provided his results and his methodology, he didn’t understand why he should take the time to reproduce intermediary processing steps when McIntyre is free to recreate these himself. Simply *discussing* such a request is a waste of time. Spending time determining whether it is possible or necessary to provide said information is a waste of time, and it is *this* sort of thing that is the undue burden.

    How is it that scientists are normally able to conduct their affairs without resorting to FOI requests?

    > There is an expectation that science can produce conclusive and instructive data with respect to climate change. “The science is in…”, “the science says…”, and so on. Science is expected to do a lot of the work for political and moral arguments in the climate debate. That’s principally a shortcoming of the political sphere, but scientists haven’t done much to dampen such expectations, and often indulge in them just as much as politicians and other activists. There is even an extent to which the political landscape is defined by the stances people assume with respect to climate change. That speaks loudly about the role ’science’ is playing in all of this. Prof. Mike Hulme has said some interesting things about this, but his view doesn’t seem to be shared by the wider climate science community.

    There’s a bit of hand-waving here – seriously, what have scientists done that you feel they shouldn’t have, and what do you think they should now do?

    > I don’t think that there’s any reason why we should accept the results of FOI requests as equivalent to truth.

    I said nothing even approaching that. My point was that if you have had an answer to your question, by rights you should stop asking the question. This does not happen – instead the question is repeated as if the answer does not exist. I know I’m in danger of actually staying on the topic of this blog post but – bear with me – this is precisely Ben’s Zombie Argument point. You claim it is fine to demand answers. I claim that when answers have been helpfully and patiently provided time and again and been ignored and misrepresented, it is dishonest to regurgitate old arguments again.

    > I don’t think that dividing this into ’sides’ really helps. Because it just turns the debate into a story about goodies who can’t make mistakes, and baddies who want to destroy the planet.

    Pretending that there are no “sides” is unhelpful. Pretending that this is a “debate” is unhelpful as well – the debate, such as there is one, is conducted by scientists. Stealing emails and then claiming fraud with no evidence whatsoever is not a debate. Claiming that rising temperatures have been manufactured and that all findings and data associated with the CRU is not a debate. This “debate” has already been turned into a tale of plucky uneducated Galileos striving to expose scientific fraudsters getting fat off grant money.

    The real debate is laid out in the IPCC assessment reports, and once again – scientists are trying to present their work honestly in the face of hostility and bald-faced lies. What would you have them do differently?

  171. Squander Two said,

    December 15, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    It certainly predates the leaked emails (on which there is surely nothing more to say).

    Nothing more? This is the second sentence of the first Bad Science column that has so much as mentioned the matter. Have to say, if I were the country’s leading popular writer on the subject of bad science, who had pretty much single-handedly created the genre as a topic fit for journalism, and a huge world-spanning bad science news story cropped up, I’d cover it.

  172. Squander Two said,

    December 15, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    The question being asked here by Ben and lots of the commenters is: why do AGW sceptics believe what they do? Well, I’m an AGW sceptic, so I can at least tell you why in my own case. I have done so here.

  173. Ben Pile said,

    December 15, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I am flattered that Phayes thinks that I have “Cleverly and deliberately” fooled people with a “very chosen and heavily processed cherry”.

    But it seems that it is Phayes who is passing judgement over the quality of “science writing” and the moral integrity of “science writers” on nothing more than which putative side of the debate the writing in question appears to “support”.

    It’s not obvious how the RC post Phayes has linked to contradicts our post on aerosols. The RC post is a review of a model-based, single study of regional effects, whereas our post discussed the lack of empirical, historical evidence relating to the ratio of aerosols, such that statements about their influence over the mid-late C20th ought to be treated with caution. Instead, commentary on the era in the wider debate have treated claims about aerosols as ‘settled’, and have thus been premature.

  174. phayes said,

    December 15, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Who do you think you’re trying to kid, Pile? Do you really think that the people who come to read this site are likely to be too stupid to see through your slippery sophistry?

    For a start, the subject of your post on aerosols – Carmichael and Ramanathan’s paper – doesn’t contradict the zombie argument-killing explanation for mid-century cooling, despite that post’s blatant attempts to insinuate that it does:

    “Which is especially interesting because aerosols are absolutely central to the standard way of explaining away a thorny problem for global warmers – the period of cooling (~1944-1974), which occurred in defiance of rising CO2 concentrations”

    Next, the more recent Shindell and Faluvegi post/paper I linked to reinforces the point which both Carmichael and Ramanathan made in their comments in your aerosol post (and which its doubt sowing spin tries to reinterpret beyond recognition) and realises Carmichael’s expectation:

    “And as we get better measurements of the present, and better models that can drive these simulations for the last 50 years, or so, we’ll see that we’ve improved our understanding and that the aerosol effect is as important as we’ve indicated.”

    So the zombie argument¹ was and still is a zombie argument and Ben Goldacre’s choice of it as an example is in no way “very poor” as you have falsely claimed.

    And don’t be flattered, Pile – I didn’t intend the word “cleverly” in a complimentary sense.

    ¹ www.newscientist.com/article/dn11639-climate-myths-the-cooling-after-1940-shows-co2-does-not-cause-warming.html

  175. fileundercommonknowledge said,

    December 15, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Pumping vast volumes of gas into the environment has to have an effect.

    It’s the bad science (remember, that’s what you used to write about?) that upsets me – people carried-away by their fervent passion to distort, obfuscate and fabricate data to support their position; peer-level review reduced to a tick-in-the-box exercise (or blocking of funding or publication if you are in the “wrong camp”). Does this make me an “AGW denier”?

    I wish that I was in a position to do this:
    wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/sen-piccola-letter-on-psu-prof-michael-mann.pdf

  176. Ben Pile said,

    December 16, 2009 at 12:30 am

    Phayes,

    You are reading far too much into the quoted section of our post. We are not insinuating anything – certainly not that the Ramanathan & Carmichael paper contradicts the aerosol-masking theory. We clearly and simply argue that the discovery that black carbon is a major driver of warming adds a whole new layer of complexity to the issue. And that was confirmed in our conversation with the authors, who went on to tell us that the empirical support for aerosol-masking was “pretty flimsy”.

    This, we felt had implications for the wider political discussion, particularly in the wake of the Great Global Warming Swindle – which, as we have made clear on our blog, we don’t think broke any interesting or new ground, nor demolished anthropogenic global warming theories. The reaction it provoked was far more interesting. One such came from Bob Ward, who argued that the cooling and the mechanism behind it were well understood:

    “However, the DVD version of the programme does not make any mention of the impact of atmospheric aerosols on the record of global average temperature. The producer of the programme, Martin Durkin has attempted to justify this by suggesting that if aerosols caused the cooling between 1945 and 1975, then global average temperatures should be lower today, because he believes that atmospheric concentrations of aerosols should be even higher today than they were during that period. But the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report pointed out that “[g]lobal sulphur emissions (and thus sulphate aerosol forcing) appear to have decreased after 1980”.”

    Now, it would be stating the obvious to say that we and you have interpreted the outcome of the conversation differently. You quote Carmichael:

    “And as we get better measurements of the present, and better models that can drive these simulations for the last 50 years, or so, we’ll see that we’ve improved our understanding and that the aerosol effect is as important as we’ve indicated.”

    You seem to be reading a lot into this, too. It merely says that science gets better at explaining things. It doesn’t say anything about the present understanding of aerosols, and their influence on temperature.

    Your New Scientist link was written a year before the black carbon paper was published, before it was known that black carbon was so influential – causing 60% as much warming as CO2 overall (up from 0.2-0.4 Wm-2 to 0.9 Wm-2). The update at the bottom of the piece was added after the BC paper, but refers to a different study apparently explaining the short, sharp downward blip around 1945 – but not the longer term temperature slump. So I’m not sure what you’re getting at there. Especially as the article concludes: “Climate scientists acknowledge that the aerosol issue is one of the key uncertainties in their understanding.” Also, the “zombie argument” being challenged by NS is this: “Climate myths: The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming”. Our argument is a different one – that contrary to Ben G’s claims, the post war temperature slump has not “been answered already, ages ago.”

    Like zombie arguments, there is often a tendency to polarise the climate debate before even any discussion of science or politics has begun. Thus, the ‘science’ becomes a means to either attack or defend a given position, often prematurely, and often rather too passionately. It’s easy to spot, though. Science – or rather a superficial treatment of the scientific debate – is a thin veneer behind which lurk statements about the heretic’s moral character. “Science” is a fig leaf, behind which shameful politics and prejudice are concealed. It only takes a mild breeze to expose such a disposition.

  177. phayes said,

    December 16, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Ben Pile,

    “You are reading far too much into the quoted section of our post. We are not insinuating anything”

    [“aerosols are absolutely central to the standard way of explaining away a thorny problem for global warmers”]

    You really must think we’re all a bit thick here, or that we’re unfamiliar with idiomatic English.

    “We clearly and simply argue that the discovery that black carbon is a major driver of warming adds a whole new layer of complexity to the issue.”

    Don’t you just! As though it were a revelation, adding a dose of poison to the thorns of the “thorny problem” which the “global warmers” have been “explaining away”, instead of what it really was: blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2008/03/carbon_dioxide_not_the_only_cu.html

    “You seem to be reading a lot into this [Carmichael quote], too. It merely says that science gets better at explaining things. It doesn’t say anything about the present understanding of aerosols, and their influence on temperature.”

    On the contrary, from my perspective it is your aerosol post that seems to be wishing into it (and not it alone) a whole lot of uncertainty that isn’t there: “Look at that old graph the other climatologists made – they didn’t include the BC contribution! Oooh! Maybe there’s enough doubt now to make plausible the idea that the CO₂ contribution is largely a misattribution. Rise O zombie! Rise!” … “Oh! :( Well now, that wasn’t very candid, was it? Let’s ask the other guy”.

    “So I’m not sure what you’re getting at there”

    The zombie argument. Not ‘also, the “zombie argument”': the central issue here – the zombie argument hook upon which you hang your spurious opening criticism of Goldacre’s mention of it at the beginning of the rambling post Brady linked to. My link to the NS article was just there to remind us all exactly what that zombie argument is…

    “Also, the “zombie argument” being challenged by NS is this: “Climate myths: The cooling after 1940 shows CO2 does not cause warming”. Our argument is a different one – that contrary to Ben G’s claims, the post war temperature slump has not “been answered already, ages ago.””

    Exactly. And in that case your argument is just a foolish strawman argument: Goldacre did *not* make claims that the post war cooling has been (completely) explained (ages ago), but that the zombie argument associated with it has been thoroughly debunked. The distortions and insinuations in your aerosol post (and the fact you linked to it) misled me into believing it was an even more foolish argument: a false claim that the zombie argument isn’t really a zombie argument after all.

    How very silly of me.

    “Like zombie arguments, there is often a tendency to polarise the climate debate before even any discussion of science or politics has begun…”

    I’m sure you’re right but I hope you’re not trying to pull some kind of pot-kettle-black job on me. If you are you’ll wind up choking on the irony of it. I’m not the one with the dodgy ‘climate sceptic’ website. I’ve no record of using or abusing science to defend political views or prejudices. Go look up my posts in the forum here. IIRC in all the time I’ve been here I’ve posted in exactly two of the innumerable AGW-related threads. Once recently because Clive James, who I like, disappointed me and once because someone erroneously thought that statistical evidence and arguments were intrinsically ‘weak’ and not a prominent feature of ‘hard’ sciences. I don’t give a monkey’s about the politics and the only reason I’m dancing here in the shop window with you now is because I’ve grown sick of AGW ‘sceptics’ believing they really are sceptics and can get away with idiotic crap just because they’re not stupid or deluded enough to buy Oscillococcinum 30C when they’re sick.

  178. lasker said,

    December 16, 2009 at 11:12 am

    At last a topic I know something about.After much remote controlled study blinded by double malt whiskies I conclude that there is only one way to deal with Zombies and their arguments. One must shoot them firmly through the brainstem every time. Merely calling them names may put one at risk of joining their ranks.
    The study had a homeopathy arm but sadly it got bitten off.

  179. mikewhit said,

    December 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Re my earlier #169 – someone has added a post to the Express article giving responses to all 100 points – kudos !

  180. throg said,

    December 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Why are so many people sceptical? Personally, I think the answer to that question is quite complicated, so I’m going to split it into three posts to cover each point I’d like to make – propaganda v. science, the problems with the models as I understand them, and why doing something (anything) rather than nothing is not necessarily a good idea.

    I’ve always believed that science and propaganda are, at best, uneasy bedfellows and, at worst, diametrically opposed. I therefore feel very uneasy when I see a propaganda war being waged by the “warmist” fundamentalist lobby, often at the expense of promoting the actual science.

    So-called MMCC Scepticism covers a broad spectrum of opinion. Of course, at one end of that spectrum are an unholy collection of conspiracy theorists and political extremists like Nick Griffin and Sarah Palin. At the other end are people like myself who appreciate and (to a significant extent) understand the scientific principles, but are still sceptical about the way the good science is being combined with bad mathematics and even worse software engineering to construct bad models, which in turn lead to dubious predictions.

    Given that this is the case, why do MMCC proponents insist on tarnishing anyone who is sceptical with the same labels? Using words such as “anti-science” and “luddite” to describe anyone other that the aforementioned extremists is not only rude, playground-level, name calling but also diminishes the credibility of those throwing such terms around.

    Even the word “denier” seems to have been carefully chosen, with it’s association to nutbag theorys such as Holocaust Denial. As for “Climate Change Denier” – how many sceptics actually deny that the climate is changing, as opposed to being sceptical about the rate and nature of that change? My opinion on this is reinforced when I read comments aligning MMCC scepticism with homeopathy, the autism scare and even Elvis spotting.

    Bottom line – if you want to encourage me to be less sceptical, concentrate on addressing the issues raised by moderate or “lukewarm” sceptics and stop the childish name calling.

  181. throg said,

    December 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Here are some of the issues that I’d like to see addressed before I become less sceptical.

    “The vast overwhelming majority of scientists believe in MMCC”. Respectfully, I suggest that’s both misleading as a headline and irrelevant when you drill down into the detail. It’s becoming a habit for me to ask “which scientists and where are they from?” whenever I see this kind of pronouncement in the MSM.

    (Thanks, BTW, for referencing an article on New Scientist where I have to be registered to read it).

    Substitute the word “climatologist” for “scientist” and at least the statement would then be true and accurate, but of course it projects much less credibility. As it stands, we really have no idea how many physicists, doctors, computer scientists etc. etc. believe in MMCC, and even if we did I’d suggest that their opinion is only relevant to their area of expertise. I’ve read enough of BG’s writing to believe that he genuinely is a MMCC believer, but as he says “climate science is difficult” and he is “not a giant expert on climate change”. In which case, why so much certainty and so little scepticism when there is at least some question about the methods being used by the climatologists we’re being asked to rely on?

    I’m a software developer with a fair amount of experience in modelling complex systems. As such, I feel at least a little qualified to comment on the software models being built by climatologists. Based on what I’ve seen, the models are broken, because so far the predicted outcomes aren’t matching the subsequent measurements. I say broken, because it’s not a case of “refinement”, an argument I often hear. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, and computer models can’t be a little bit broken. As with all good science and engineering, either the outcomes are measurable and reproducible, or they’re not.

    BG claims “there is surely nothing more to say” about Climategate. With my software developer hat on, I beg to differ. The focus of the MSM has predictably been on the e-mails, but some of the software is now also in the public domain, along with notes that suggest that the data necessary to run the models are missing and even made up. We also have confirmation that the base data have been lost / destroyed and only the derived data remains. Does that not make you feel at least uneasy?

  182. Teapot said,

    December 16, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Part of the problem is that politicians and environmentalists often go beyond what the scientists say, ignoring variation and uncertainty.

    As far as I can see the people who actually know what they are talking about will say that we are fairly sure that the world got warmer over the 20th century, we are fairly sure that this was not just random variation, we are fairly sure that humans are responsible for at least part of the warming, and we are fairly sure that the warming will continue.

    Its in the nature of the problem that we can’t be much more exact than that. Sadly we can’t clone the earth and say “here are 30 Earths with an industrial revolution and 30 Earths without one, and lets do a two-sample t test to see if the mean temperatures vary in 2010″.

  183. throg said,

    December 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I read a lot of comments along the lines of “reducing pollution is great – so what if MMCC claims are dubious?” There are (at least) two answers to this.

    The first is obvious. MMCC is being used to promote all sorts of initiatives. A lot of those initiatives will cost a lot, probably make little difference and may even be driven by ulterior motives other than Climate Change. Copenhagen springs immediately to mind – only this morning, I heard a MMCC activist say that it was all about profit, government power, taxes and big corporations on R4FM. It seems we’re both sceptical about the motives of our politicians here.

    If it was just a case of (for example) reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and investing in fusion research, renewables etc., I’d be all for it. Fossil fuels are running out, they’re dirty and the remaining reserves are mostly controlled by regimes I’d rather we weren’t dealing with. The thing is, I don’t need MMCC to encourage me that this is a good idea.

    That leads me to the second, more subtle problem. If, as many of us suspect and the likes of Al Gore have even intimated, MMCC claims are being overexaggerated, that bubble will eventually burst. When that happens, it will be a bad day for science. All scientifically minded people will be tarnished by the exposure of any untruths, sceptic or not.

  184. bodenca said,

    December 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I withdraw suggestions in my previous comments that solar irradiance is a significant influence on year to year global temperature. I am put firmly in my place – which is labelled “Out-of-Date”.

  185. Ben Pile said,

    December 16, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    There doesn’t seem much point in responding to most of Phayes last comment, except for this,

    Phayes: “I’ve no record of using or abusing science to defend political views or prejudices.”

    I don’t really care to look up Phayes ‘posting record’ to see whether or not this is true. And I don’t need to. Phayes’ own comments here are sufficient. Phayes (perhaps unintentionally) uses one of the Zombie arguments that we discuss in the offending blog post – “The politics flows from the science”.

    It’s hard for people attaching themselves to climate arguments to recognise the political nature of what they are arguing. But look at it this way… on the basis of a scientific claim about industrial society’s effect on the environment, an international agreement is being sought that will create legally binding limits on productive activity. The consequences of climate change politics – which have been seemingly premised on science – are far-reaching, and are extending. Moreover, they transform the conventional model of democratic politics, and transform the relationship between individual, authority, and political institutions – because this action has been taken ‘above’ and outside of the conventional democratic process. Whether or not this action is proceeding on the basis of good science, its effects are identical to that of an ideologically-driven transformation of social organisation.

    To ask questions about that transformation and about its legitimacy and the nature of the process and what is driving it is held by the likes of Phayes to be equivalent to ‘denying’ science. Phayes has internalised something about the debate, such that we can say with certainty that he is not as detached from the ‘political’ as he would like to think. I may well have misinterpreted the scientific literature in question (though I really don’t think I have), but Phayes’ perspective seems to cause him to see the post in question as an attempt to “Cleverly and deliberately” deceive people – a moral argument, not a scientific argument. What this speaks about is the fact that there is much prior to the science, and it is behind the science that arguments such as Phayes’ conceal moral and political premises, possibly even from themselves. Climate scepticism/denialism provokes an angry and aggressive reaction from Phayes, not cool scientific detachment, even when the object of that anger isn’t really climate scepticism, but a question about the role of a scientific theory (aerosols) in the wider political debate. Thus, Phayes sees my site as a ‘climate sceptic’ effort, when in fact there are no ‘climate sceptic’ arguments there at all. What there is there, are attempts to interrogate the assumptions that exist prior to climate science in the climate debate. Phayes no doubt sees it as ‘deception’, but the intention is to challenge the polarised view of the climate debate, and to criticise the anti-development and anti-human nature of environmentalism on the premise that environmental problems do not demand special environmental politics and undemocratic political institutions such as have been established.
    Phayes only deceives himself when he imagines that he does not bring his politics to his arguments about the climate.

  186. throg said,

    December 16, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    This is a low blow even for a propaganda war …

    www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2009/12/cop15_questions_about_sex.html

  187. Tetenterre said,

    December 16, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    @quasilobachevski (#159):

    Nope, not doing it blithely. :-)

    For the Google-challenged:
    bit.ly/6C63EW
    bit.ly/3FhMN

  188. DougieJ said,

    December 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Ben,
    I have to admit to a massive sense of disappointment when I read your views on this issue. Great, I thought, if ever there was a ‘bad science’ topic for Ben to get his teeth into, it’s the man-made global warming religion. To find that you swallow wholesale the ‘settled consensus’ line, even after Climategate, beggars belief.

    The ‘thousands of the world’s scientists agree on AGW’ line is misleading in the extreme, given the fact that the data comes from only a handful of centres who then benevolently homogenise/manipulate it for the better understanding of us ignorant souls. The ‘stolen’ e-mails (the focus on that is interesting – as has been pointed out elsewhere, it’s as if the main story to come out of Watergate was the need to upgrade the window latches) reveal a systematic undermining of the peer-review process over a long period of time. Not a ‘conspiracy’ as such – just people who ‘just knew they were right’, so saw nothing wrong in ‘tweaking the data’ to fit the hypothesis.

    To the person who said ‘urgh’ to being sent links to wattsupwiththat.com/ – why not try reading the site instead of assuming it’s Big Oil propaganda? And it’s also a mistake to dismiss Steve McIntyre’s climateaudit.org/. NASA (one of the key data centres in this area) kindly thanked him for pointing out an error in their data, in stark contrast to the Jones / Mann behaviour.

    Lastly (at the risk of being a ‘bore’ – unlike all the obsessive alarmists of course!) – given the massive cap and trade bubble already taking shape – to portray the debate as between pure of heart greens on one side and nasty filthy oil companies on the other is risible.

  189. skyesteve said,

    December 16, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    @186 – spot on – this is just crap journalism; all too easy to put Bjorn Lomborg in same list as Nick Griffin – mud sticks as they say. Surely better, if you have a problem with someone like Lomborg, to dissect his arguments piece by piece and show where you think he is wrong rather than write this sort of guff. That’s what scientific discussion should be about.
    This is what I meant by my earlier post about how this is no longer a debate but rather a highly polarised shouting match where slander and vitriol are the norm and all that’s being generated is heat (to further contribute to global warming?!) and no light.
    This is all too easy for both sides of the argument but, as I said before, climate change, however it’s happening and whatever it’s likely scenarios, is as nothing to the fact that the planet is grossly over-populated and finite resources are being abused and squandered – neither of these are due to climate change – climate change is the symptom not the disease.
    We’ve all got to be less greedy and less selfish but I can’t see that happening anytime soon (and, as before, please don’t see that as misanthropic). However, I’ve made my own wee first step – no Xmas cards for last two years. Sounds trivial I know but when you factor in the cost of producing and printing the card; the ink and pen you write in it with; the envelope you put it in, the stamp you stick on it; the glue on both envelope and stamp; and all these wee post vans/trains/planes tootling all over the place…

  190. bodenca said,

    December 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Please could someone give an answer to a simple question, and thereby put an end to all this stuff about destroying data.
    Was the CRU the official repository for the data, with recognised resposibility for its preservation?
    If the answer is yes, they are culpable.
    If the answer is no, no-one outside CRU is in a position to complain.
    End!

  191. phayes said,

    December 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Phayes notes the evasions, further dissembling, and completion of the break with anything remotely connected to the facts and the science and wonders if it would help Pile remedy his ‘analysis’ if Phayes were to disclose his birth sign…

    It’s Taurus.

    :)

  192. quasilobachevski said,

    December 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Tetenterre,

    Thanks for the links. Interesting, and new to me.

    Obviously a google search for “destroyed climate data” will generate a lot of results. Whether or not those results have anything to do with anything is another matter.

  193. DougieJ said,

    December 16, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Ben, the titles you give to the links in your Mini Blog are revealing. You are clearly trying to link anti-vaxx and pro-quack views with AGW scepticism. I put it to you that this is *exactly* the wrong way round. If anything, the caricature of an AGW sceptic is usually a loud, cynical American, like Marc Murano, who that nice Prof Andrew Watson of UEA famously called an ‘asshole’ live on Newsnight. I’d hazard a guess that he’s unlikely to be into homeopathy…

    Also, regarding another title in your Mini Blog ‘BBC’s obsession with two sides to everything’ – are you seriously trying to suggest that the BBC has not been enthusiastic to the point of zealotry on the ‘settled science of AGW’?

    Over-generalising of course, but if you can’t see that every cold snap is reported as ‘weather’, while every heatwave is linked in some way with AGW, then I fear you’re the one in ‘denial’.

    Your comment about the e-mails: ‘on which there is surely nothing more to say’ – do you mean on this site, on the web in general or in the mainstream media? Because for a topic of this epochal import (only the ‘last chance to save the planet’ according to Gordon Brown) it’s had remarkably little coverage outside of the blogosphere.

    You only have to think of the tsunami of coverage these hacked e-mails would have had in the media if the same level of collusion, deletion of data, splicing data and obscuring the results, shutting out contrary views etc had been between oil companies.

    Before we move on from the e-mails, I’d like to remind you that your Guardian colleague George Monbiot, perhaps the leading green voice in the UK, said he felt ‘betrayed’, ‘never more alone’ and called for Phil Jones to resign.

    But you’re right ‘nothing to see here, move on, sweep sweep’.

    Like I say – bitterly disappointing.

  194. quasilobachevski said,

    December 17, 2009 at 12:01 am

    bodenca,

    Was the CRU the official repository for the data, with recognised resposibility for its preservation?

    Good question!

    This isn’t at all authoritative, but a little googling suggests that the original data is kept by the Met Office. For a “sceptical” source that seems to confirm this, see here.

    Tetenterre,

    Assuming the Met Office really do have the original data, I can only think of two possible reasons that you failed to mention this while blithely asserting that raw data has been destroyed.

    1. You’re too Google-challenged to find this out for yourself.

    2. Mendacity.

  195. jodyaberdein said,

    December 17, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Of note:

    Interesting post over at realclimate comparing raw data to the CRU results:

    tinyurl.com/ycd45sj

    But of course I guess they are all co-conspirators.

    Also in the interest of balance you can now see Monbiot & Plimer head to head.

    tinyurl.com/ydvuh4z

    J

  196. throg said,

    December 17, 2009 at 7:43 am

    @185 “Climate scepticism/denialism provokes an angry and aggressive reaction from Phayes, not cool scientific detachment.”

    You mean a bit like this – taken from one of BG’s tweets over night …

    bit.ly/63VWkq

    Even allowing for some media distortion in the reporting of this story, this sort of behaviour is not something I’d be proud of. As Andy McHaffie is quoted as saying “I do hope the next few audiences…are liberal enough not to boo Johnny again”.

    I do enjoy the Bad Science column and respect BG’s courage and his approach to many topics, but I’m disappointed that in this and other cases his one response to anyone not “toeing the party line” on MMCC is ridicule.

  197. jodyaberdein said,

    December 17, 2009 at 8:40 am

    What is going on with the world? David Bellamy, James Randi and now Johnny Ball. It’s quite a blow to lose your childhood heroes you know.

  198. throg said,

    December 17, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Given that this is the Bad Science blog, I was wondering what people (including BG) make of Post-Normal Science?

    I’m curious, because that seems to be what Climate Science is based on, according to Mike Hulme in this comment piece from the Guardian.

    www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/mar/14/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange

  199. phayes said,

    December 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Honestly! This (affectedly) sanctimonious whining about hostility is even more irritating than the wilful ignorance, illogic, evasiveness etc. which provoked it in the first place.

    It seems to have escaped the notice of some that this website is badSCIENCE.net. There are sceptics here (genuine ones), and stuff like logic, facts and science aren’t optional extras which you can choose to dispense with in your arguments and expect to get away with it.

    If your comments deserve cool scientific detachment in response, they will get cool scientific detachment (or politeness if your comments lack scientific content but aren’t egregiously off-topic).

    In fact even if you do come here armed with fallacies, canards, zombie arguments, irrelevant political agendas and other nonsense you might still be met with cool scientific detachment – at least initially.

    But there are of course some things which are more or less guaranteed to provoke hostility in a sceptic forum. I’ve mentioned one or two already but one of the worst offences as far as I’m concerned is pseudo-scepticism (even the merely lazy kind). Out in the wider world, impersonating a hospital doctor or policeman might attract a prison sentence. Impersonating a sceptic in here will attract nothing more severe than a little hostility and derision. So even if you’re a little delicate or thin-skinned it’s not really so bad, surely?

    And what on earth did you expect anyway? :)

  200. mrmuz said,

    December 17, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    If nothing else, this discussion has drawn the lines between the sides more clearly than most. Those against AGW are typically libertarian/free marketeer types and have made up their minds based on not liking carbon trading, or any large intergovernmental activity for that matter.
    And hey, maybe I’ve picked my team to some extent by being an old pinko who doesn’t mind government acting for the collective benefit occasionally (not that I’m a fan of emissions trading either. More on that later).

    However, I don’t think anyone who really looks at this can say the denialist crowd (whether you are one or just find their attitude sympathetic) are not employing all the tactics of political spoilers and arguing in much the same way as creationists, anti-vaxxers et al. These people dispute all conclusions that could possibly go against their position. All of them. Nothing that could possibly support AGW is given any credence; if the data says one thing, they say the assessment is wrong. If that’s shown to be incorrect, they dispute the data itself or attack the person saying it.
    They slip and slide, they cherry pick, they gallop from one red herring to another, they misrepresent, they outright fabricate. This is fact. “Your” favourite crusader for truth might not do all those things, but no one who’s actually looked at this phenomenon can ignore it’s happened an awful lot.
    The other side, by contrast, aren’t guilty of much more than overstatement. (the science not being literally “settled” is not the same as it being wrong or without support btw)

    I don’t think they realise it yet but many are ultimately denying the ability of humans to posess scientific knowledge of the world at all, since the variations and errors they pick over and use as grounds to dismiss every conclusion they don’t like exist in everything from atomic theory on up.

    The notion that the science is in any way hurt by climate gate is ridiculous too. Someone hacked into some emails so chuck the whole thing? Scientists being candid and having opinions in private? Quelle suprise. Jesus, think for a moment people. This is Inquisitional thinking on display here, not reason.

    Anyway, I agree that this is within Ben’s purview as a science journalist and he could talk more about it. But perhaps he doesn’t want to because it’s getting plenty of coverage by people with greater expertise all over the ‘net.

    I think the middle ground is that no one really likes emissions trading. Hell, the greenies never wanted it in the first place. There’s a story in the whys and wherefores of it somehow ending up being the default measure. I would suggest Ben cover that somehow, but too much of it fall under economics I’d suspect.

  201. Ben Pile said,

    December 17, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Phayes. “And what on earth did you expect anyway?”

    I expected you to make my point for me.

    You did not disappoint.

    Thank you.

  202. carpsio said,

    December 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Ah… the irony of coming to this blog and finding that even Ben Goldacre – a man I *worship* for his attempts to bring rationality to science coverage in this country – has fallen into step with the ‘scientific consensus.’

    I don’t even think it’s worth rehearsing the arguments here, because they are so entrenched, but this is undoubtedly one area of ‘science’ where people will look back in disbelief upon and use a classic case-study in groupthink.

    Before you play all-pile on, bear in mind these facts.

    We don’t accurately measure surface temperature now.

    We don’t have a control for Earth’s climate against which to test

    We don’t have an instrumental temperature record at all before the 18th century

    Instrumental readings for surface temperature are entirely unfit to make claims of accuracy at the level of tenths of a degree

    Computer models have not predicted recent climatic trends

    Tarring all sceptical scientific sentiment – and there is plenty – as ‘right wing’, ‘denialist’, ‘flat earthers’ etc is not a way to conduct science

    There’s a 90% probability that you have decided on the validity of climate scepticism by reading warmist rebuttals without ever reviewing the source science.

    You. Are. Wrong.

  203. phayes said,

    December 17, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Heh! Good grief!

    How very wrong I was to suggest earlier that these AGW cargo cult sceptics are probably “not stupid or deluded enough to buy Oscillococcinum 30C when they’re sick”.

    In their version of ‘scepticism’, right is the new wrong and demolishing your cretinously illogical argument is making your point for you.

    I had no idea just how demented some of these whacko twerps really are.

  204. phayes said,

    December 17, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Bah! *wacko*

  205. mrmuz said,

    December 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Good of carpsio to turn up and illustrate my point. He’s not arguing that the data is incorrect, or the methods or the conclusions, but that all knowledge in this area is impossible.
    To do that he has to chuck out scientific methodologies of inference and statistical analysis employed right across science, not just in climatology.
    Much of medical knowledge is developed without isolated variables and independant controls, for instance, as they are impossible in a living system.

    I’m willing to bet he(?) is far less skeptical of economic projections in use on a daily basis.

  206. throg said,

    December 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    @199 “Honestly! This (affectedly) sanctimonious whining about hostility is even more irritating than the wilful ignorance, illogic, evasiveness etc. which provoked it in the first place.”

    Is there anything else you would like us to shut up about? ;-)

  207. throg said,

    December 17, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Meanwhile, still waiting for a response about PNS, the quality of the software models etc. etc. …..

  208. Squander Two said,

    December 17, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Mrmuz,

    For the record, I’m extremely sceptical of economic models, because I know a bit about economics. In my experience, most economists are sceptical of them, and use them more as guides to be discussed than predictions to be believed. As a matter of interest, the insurance industry decided a few years ago that too much reliance on modelling was eating into their profits, and they’re moving away from it.

    The rest of your characterisation of sceptics is absurd, and pointedly based on criticising our personalities and ascribing to us motives that you think we must all possess. Anyone who disagrees with me must be stupid and venal. Yeah, yay science!

    > Someone hacked into some emails so chuck the whole thing? Scientists being candid and having opinions in private?

    Er, no. It’s more the collusion to illegally evade FOI requests, which should never have been required in the first place, the admission that they would rather destroy data than allow it to be scrutinised, the counterscientific assertion that source data from scientific research should not be given to anyone who might look for problems with it, and the programmer’s comments which appear to show that CRU can’t even replicate their own results, that are cause for alarm. Rudeness really is not the problem, and by claiming that it is, you’re either erecting a straw man or completely ignorant of what you’re talking about.

  209. mikewhit said,

    December 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Interesting series of BBC programmes:
    www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00dqcmw/Earth_The_Climate_Wars_Fight_for_the_Future/

  210. phayes said,

    December 17, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    “Is there anything else you would like us to shut up about?”

    Yes, throg: the quality of the software models etc. etc.

    You claim that you:

    “appreciate and (to a significant extent) understand the scientific principles, but are still sceptical about the way the good science is being combined with bad mathematics and even worse software engineering to construct bad models, which in turn lead to dubious predictions.“

    Your extraordinarily damning and very general assertions would be a serious matter indeed if they amounted to anything approaching valid criticism.

    But unfortunately for you, I am a genuine sceptic and I don’t believe a damn word of your hand-wavy accusations and don’t believe they deserve a response. If you want me to take you seriously, there is a vast body of complex and nuanced science (on both the empirical and modelling sides)¹ which you must actually *demonstrate* to be as flawed as you have suggested that it is.

    Even more unfortunately for you though, you obviously² cannot do that simply by coming here and making wild claims. If there is any merit to your ‘concerns’, you sure as hell aren’t going to be able to demonstrate that in a (readable length) comment post here. You need to publish in the relevant journals and convince the climatology community. I suggest you begin with an email correspondence with Isaac Held or something and come back here when you’ve turned the field of climatology on its head.

    I will be the first to congratulate you.

    ¹ uc.princeton.edu/main/index.php/component/content/article/28-all-videos/3210-uchannel-feature-week-the-ipcc-climate-change-series
    ² well… obviously to a genuine sceptic at least.

  211. mrmuz said,

    December 17, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Squander

    That was only one aspect of the whole idea. Most criticism of Jones in particular uses quotes that he’s a nasty little man who is prejudiced against people who don’t agree with him. That is the bulk of mainstream denier talk on that subject I’ve observed and many online debaters lead with it. (and your fear of his quote about not giving data to those who try and find things wrong with it requires a very narrow reading. You know perfectly well it could refer to people who merely want to pick at it and quibble rather than reproduce findings for peer review. Poor choice of words perhaps, but he’s right to be worried about it. This is an ethical conundrum, of course. Science should be open in principle, but we all know that can be misused. And yes, I know there’s mechanisms to prevent nuisance FOIs. The relevance of the fact that Bad Science itself, when digging at people I find questionable, has had FOI campaigns refused for being ‘too organised’ is not lost on me. Ultimately, as far as anyone has shown me, there’s nothing in those emails to suggest we have to a) chuck global warming as a theory, or even b)chuck CRUs findings. People repeat to me often that that’s what climategate means regardless).
    You can say that it’s low grade stuff and the more considered analysis is elsewhere if you look and that may be true. But we’re all badly represented by the loudest in a percieved PR side. (in case you’re wondering, I always point out to people that today’s weather is not an indication of climate change one way or the other)

    Generalities are a convenience of language. If you don’t think what I’m saying applies to you, then what are you worried about? I’m not sure exactly what your middle part refers to (if it’s the politics bit, on reflection that was a bit hasty as far this thread goes. Too many debates around the traps merging into one). However, that deniers employ the tactics and logic I describe and have done so many times is easy to find. If you’re not in this group then fine. Stand back while they are heaped with deserved scorn. You ought to be helping for the sake honorable rigour.
    You can talk some sense to the denialists, I’ll calm down the activists.

  212. bodenca said,

    December 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Before we lose sight of it altogether, Ben’s original question was about reasons for belief.
    He mentioned psychological bias: undervaluing distant adverse outcomes; behavioural inertia.
    OK, he did that with reference to disbelief in man-made climate change, but the same question could be asked of those who do believe. Althought those posting reasons for (dis)belief here claim to be rational, to assert that half the population believes the one thing, or the other, on the basis of understanding the science of climate change seems a touch optimistic.

    Here’s another bias. I might believe that the world is warming dangerously. In that case, it would be rational to want to curb that warming. Yet consider. “Warming isn’t man-made, but it sure needs curbing” is almost unheard of. “Warming isn’t man-made, so stop trying to prevent it” seems reasonable. What we have is a favouring of “natural justice” at the expense of reason. It’s an afront, to have to save ourselves from a danger that is not of our own making.

  213. Squander Two said,

    December 18, 2009 at 2:01 am

    > and your fear of his quote about not giving data to those who try and find things wrong with it requires a very narrow reading. You know perfectly well it could refer to people who merely want to pick at it and quibble rather than reproduce findings for peer review.

    Yeah, and? The same can be said of every result ever published in any field: some people might scrutinise those results for reasons other than peer review. Some of those people might have forgone conclusions. So what? You’re still supposed to publish your data. This is basic science. Can we try and imagine, for a moment, any of the regulars here giving a pharma company or weapons manufacturer a free pass for the same behaviour? Inconceivable, isn’t it?

    > Poor choice of words perhaps, but he’s right to be worried about it.

    No he isn’t. Jones clearly thinks AGW sceptics are on a par with the people who think CERN is going to destroy the Universe, so why on Earth should he worry about what they might do with his results? They’re just fringe nutters, right? Jones doesn’t think for a moment that anyone he considers a proper scientist is going to listen to them, so what’s the problem? What’s his worry? He should be shrugging this off, not fighting it for years. That is, he should be shrugging it of after publishing his data.

    > This is an ethical conundrum, of course. Science should be open in principle, but we all know that can be misused.

    Not much of a principle you’ve got there if you’re willing to abandon it so readily.

    Publish your data. Let people scrutinise it — yes, even people you don’t like or respect or trust. The alternative is “You must believe what I tell you to because I’m a scientist”, which leads directly to Roy Meadows and Lysenko. It’s sad that anyone might think the choice between openness and authoritarian tyranny is an ethical conundrum.

    > Generalities are a convenience of language. If you don’t think what I’m saying applies to you, then what are you worried about?

    No, you claimed very clearly that you were talking about everyone who’s at all sceptical of AGW. You can defend that position or retract it, but don’t act all surprised when someone responds to you as if you wrote what you did in fact write.

  214. mrmuz said,

    December 18, 2009 at 4:54 am

    I am actually more sympathetic to people who don’t want to part with their data because of all this, including homeopaths and the like. Defensiveness on the part of people who feel as though they are under attack is not surprising in the least.
    We’ve seen a lot in recent years that illustrates nicely how a misrepresentation of the science can cause more public doubt than is warranted, and it’s easily used to confuse and mislead.
    As with debating other topics like evolution and so forth, there are very complex and difficult to explain to lay people. It’s very easy to introduce FUD and confusion into the debate and much harder to get rid of it once it is there. I can easily see some would feel incapable of fighting an endless battle against bad faith assaults on your field (or being unable to discern which is which after a while). I can’t excuse a breaking of scientific principles on those grounds, but I can understand how it might happen.
    (your dichotomy between openness and authoritarian tyranny is ridiculous and not worth bothering with beyond these brackets).

    In principle I suppose Richard Lenski should furnish Andrew Schlafly with everything he asks for to check his findings. In practice, I can see why he does not.

    >you claimed very clearly that you were talking about everyone who’s at all sceptical of AGW.

    I can’t for the life of me find where I have done this.

  215. DougieJ said,

    December 18, 2009 at 9:47 am

    You know what? It’s over. We (the sceptics) have lost.

    This article on Copenhagen (‘The Great Green Land Grab’) by AA Gill in the Sunday Times nails it:

    “The environment was outside the big tent. Now it’s inside and it makes absolutely no difference what opinion polls or referendums say. It matters nought that the Green party has singularly failed in every democracy. It doesn’t matter that they’re all as boring and righteous as goodness. It doesn’t matter that scientists fake messages and bury statistics, that they do everything in secret. None of this matters now. It doesn’t even matter if it’s actually going to happen. All that matters is that the people who matter think it matters.

    When the heads of nearly every government turn up here to make promises, sign agreements that they will undoubtedly break and fudge and chuckle over and lie about, that’s not what’s important. They may bounce the cheque, but they won’t bounce the reason for writing it. They’re on board for global warming.”

    www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/copenhagen/article6954391.ece

    So true.

    The words of Michael Crichton are highly pertinent at this point, I feel:

    “I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

    Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

    There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

    Hope you feel good on the sunlit uplands of righteousness Ben. Ciao.

  216. throg said,

    December 18, 2009 at 10:11 am

    @210 Quoting you out of sequence, but dealing with the important stuff first.

    “If there is any merit to your ‘concerns’, you sure as hell aren’t going to be able to demonstrate that in a (readable length) comment post here.”

    That’s very true, but I was hoping that the flaws in the models were so obvious that I didn’t need to extend my point in depth.

    Google is your friend. Find some of the stats and graphs generated from the models a few years ago, compared to actual measurements. Now narrow it down to those predictions where the data coincides significantly AND the methods and data are open for scrutiny AND are being used by the IPCC etc. I’ll be delighted if you can find some and post links here, because so far I’ve not seen any.

    I will reassert a basic premise, one which I notice you failed to challenge. If the predictions from your model do not match subsequent metrics, your model is broken – do not rely on any further predictions until you’ve fixed it.

    “But unfortunately for you, I am a genuine sceptic and I don’t believe a damn word of your hand-wavy accusations and don’t believe they deserve a response.”

    I don’t care what you believe. I don’t even expect you to take my word for it, despite having a Comp Sci degree from a respected Uni and over 20 years experience in software development, including (as I mentioned) modelling complex systems.

    I do think you owe it to yourself, however, to download the leaked files …

    wikileaks.org/wiki/Climatic_Research_Unit_emails,_data,_models,_1996-2009

    … and peer review the code and developer comments. If it’s not your field, find someone you trust who can do it.

    There’s a lot there, but if someone I was mentoring brought me some of the code I’ve looked at so far, I’d tell them to go away and not come back until they’d done it properly, preferably using Agile methods and in particular TDD, because so far I’ve not seen any unit tests, which in my book is unforgiveable.

    “You need to publish in the relevant journals and convince the climatology community. I suggest you begin with an email correspondence with Isaac Held or something and come back here when you’ve turned the field of climatology on its head.”

    I’m a software developer / computer scientist. I’m focussed on the software model element of this particular issue, because it’s my area of expertise.

    Here in software land we have a very effective peer review mechanism that’s been in place for years, namely the open source community, of which I am but a (very) small part. If the CRU or anyone else would like to release all their source code and base data to us, then we’d be able to do (at least) two things – peer review the model in depth and contribute improvements to the software itself.

  217. throg said,

    December 18, 2009 at 10:34 am

    @211 “Ultimately, as far as anyone has shown me, there’s nothing in those emails to suggest we have to a) chuck global warming as a theory, or even b)chuck CRUs findings. People repeat to me often that that’s what climategate means regardless).”

    It’s a real pity that the e-mails are part of the leak, because that’s what most people are focussed on and are dismissive of. This is understandable, because the vast majority of people also don’t have the skills to wade through the accompanying Fortran code and documentation, which (IMHO) is the real smoking gun.

    As a personal aside, I have to question why anyone would use Fortran, flat file merges etc. for any of this. Relational databases (e.g. MySQL), C++ and even Java (my tool of choice) have been around for a long time and they’re all free, both in the beer and the speech sense.

  218. Squander Two said,

    December 18, 2009 at 11:13 am

    > We’ve seen a lot in recent years that illustrates nicely how a misrepresentation of the science can cause more public doubt than is warranted, and it’s easily used to confuse and mislead.

    And that’s the problem, right there: the CRU think it’s their job to bring the public round to a certain point of view. That’s not science, it’s politics.

    And let’s just reiterate what the crucial FOI request was for. Not in-depth details of technique and algorithms used and so on, but simply the raw data, the temperatures, unadjusted. I agree that scientists, because of simple time constraints, shouldn’t have to respond to every request from everyone about every little detail of their work (although they could pre-empt that by simply publishing the lot, which would be the scientific thing to do anyway). But, in this case, what we’re talking about is the failure and then the stark refusal to publish the raw data they used to get their results. Forget the scepticism. What if a sympathetic scientist wanted to reproduce their results? If the adjusted data is available and the raw data isn’t, how can anyone test the method used to get from one to the other?

    Since it now turns out that the raw data has never been made available to anyone, it rather looks as if the peer reviewing has been done by people who just took their word for it.

    Throg,

    > It’s a real pity that the e-mails are part of the leak, because that’s what most people are focussed on and are dismissive of. This is understandable, because the vast majority of people also don’t have the skills to wade through the accompanying Fortran code and documentation, which (IMHO) is the real smoking gun.

    Absolutely, yes. Although you might think that people who pride themselves on their evidence-based scientificism might bother to look at all the evidence rather than just dismissing the emails and ignoring the rest.

  219. bodenca said,

    December 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

    OK! Reading linked sources, I have located how I misunderstood previous info on coal pollution.
    I withdraw everything I first posted (#134). Sorry to waste your time.

    PKenny
    I had originally been determined not to post on this topic because I knew my knowledge was very uncertain (as has now been abundantly demonstrated). I then jumped in after all because I was hacked off to see how people like yourself (#57), who politely show interest in becoming better informed, can be simply ignored here. Sorry I didn’t do better.

    Ben
    Back on your original topic, I do have a slight criticism. I think it would be better to compare prejudices (sources and activations) between those not believing MMCC and those who do. Freeing oneself from bias by understanding the science may explain the position of climate scientists, but what of the consensus with them? These are not exactly equivalent, I know, but we do understand that studying stressed ecosystems needs baseline studies of unstressed, and study of illness needs knowledge of what it means to be well.

  220. phayes said,

    December 19, 2009 at 6:21 am

    “I’m a software developer / computer scientist. I’m focussed on the software model element of this particular issue, because it’s my area of expertise.”

    Your area of expertise, throg? So you keep saying, but what ‘expert’ in this field would exhibit such spectacular ignorance of computational science (*not* computer science!) that he or she would question why anyone involved in the field would be using Fortran?

    And anyway, you’ve already guaranteed yourself first place in the 2009 Dunning-Kruger effect awards with a piece of comedy gold in one of your first comments here:

    “I’m a software developer with a fair amount of experience in modelling complex systems. As such, I feel at least a little qualified to comment on the software models being built by climatologists. Based on what I’ve seen, the models are broken, because so far the predicted outcomes aren’t matching the subsequent measurements. I say broken, because it’s not a case of “refinement”, an argument I often hear. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, and computer models can’t be a little bit broken.”

    You really should’ve stopped there. You’ve made it abundantly clear that you have no idea whatsoever what computer modelling of physical systems is all about, let alone the specific application to climatology. The flaws in the climate models are indeed ‘obvious’ – to the climate scientists and modellers at any rate – but not to you, I think.

  221. PKenny said,

    December 19, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    bodenca (#219)
    You shouldn’t feel personally responsible – I had a good idea what this group was like before I made my first post. I just wanted to take up Goldacre’s claim that the 1940-1970 cooling is a ‘zombie argument’. It’s a pity he didn’t surface to offer supporting evidence. I did get a few useful comments and leads to further reading.

    After all that, I must say I have seen nothing that convinces me that the mid-century cooling has been explained. The nearest I got to an explanation was mooli at #147, but the graph referred to simply doesn’t show what it is supposed to, i.e. there is no downturn in the ‘net forcing’ to match the downturn in NH temp in 1940; mooli did not reply to my comment, so I assume the point is conceded.

    Most comments say that TSI is irrelevant, but I am not convinced. All the TSI series referenced by Svalgaard show a short-term oscillation, which is clearly correlated with the sunspot numbers. The actual change is quite small (by eye, the maximum peak-to-trough amplitude is 1 watt/ sq. m. in about 1365). Nevertheless, the temperature trends in my analysis show a matching oscillation. Clearly at this time-scale TSI can produce temperature changes, so why could the larger 1940-1970 cooling not be accounted for in the same way?

    Of course, the question is whether TSI changed over that period. There are no direct measurements, as far as I can understand, and all the series shown by Svalgaard are based on proxy measurements of some sort. The question in my mind is still why does the Hoyt and Schatten series show a downturn starting in about 1940, when no other does. Did they use a proxy which no other series uses, which turns down at that time; if so, is there any obvious reason for including/excluding that proxy? It would cost me money to get a copy of the Hoyt & Schatten paper, and I might not understand it fully even then. Is there someone out there who does understand and could help me?

    As before, I am not trying to join in the polemics here, just understand what I find from my modelling of the GISS. There will probably be flak anyway, which I will dodge, but anything factual would be gratefully received.

  222. throg said,

    December 19, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    @220

    OK, mea culpa – I let my personal prejudices (as, amongst other things, an OOP advocate) get the better of me with the throwaway dismissal of Fortran.

    I don’t really want to get into Fortran v C as it’ll take us wildly off topic, but in my defence if you Google that very phrase I think the 2 million or so hits would indicate that it’s not quite as cut and dried as you’re trying to make out. ;-)

    I’m more interested in understanding why the models should be relied upon if subsequent measurements don’t match the expected outputs. It sounds like you’re in a position to explain this?

  223. phayes said,

    December 19, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    @throg #222

    Re: Fortran v C etc. Personally, I’d rather everything were now written in (Common) Lisp ;-) but Fortran was made for the job and for a long time has been to scientific (super)computing as cobol was to business computing. There is a *lot* of ‘legacy’ code etc etc. – you know how it goes.

    So anyway… the problem is this: what exactly do you mean by “don’t match”? It is well known (from consideration of non-linearity, discretization error, intrinsic uncertainty etc.) that not even God, armed with a *perfect* mathematical model of the entire physical system; a subatomic-sized element/grid resolution; and a *perfect* specification of initial data, could expect model outputs to “match” measurements.

    Perfection is unattainable even for very simple physical systems – constraining and quantifying divergences and uncertainties is what matters – and as far as I’m concerned the fidelity attained by the climate models so far should be regarded as one of the great achievements of modern science:

    www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch8.html

  224. throg said,

    December 19, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    @223

    I appreciate what you’re saying – in layman’s terms, it’s nigh on impossible to be spot on with predictive models, and indeed perfection is possibly an indication of fraud.

    It seems to me, however, that we’re talking about deviations that are more than statistically significant. There’s plenty of claims that the climate change models from ten years ago suggested significant increases in global warming whereas the actual measurements show plateauing of temperatures or even cooling.

    Until the CRU leak, it was easy to write these claims off as exaggerations, anti-MMCC propaganda etc., but the leak suggests that these claims have at least a certain amount of truth in them.

    Is this the case? If not, why not? Alternatively, if so, why are the models not invalid?

  225. phayes said,

    December 19, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    None of what you are saying makes any sense to me. The CRU leak is irrelevant. “More than statistically significant” is a meaningless phrase. Objective physical reality is unaffected and unaffectable by spurious claims, propaganda, zombie-like cognitive failure, argumentum ad ignorantiams etc. Only the science can help anyone gain an understanding of the AGW issue.

    So I don’t understand what’s still bothering you, throg, but I think you have all the material you need to work it out for yourself. You have the relevant chapter of the IPCC, there is a link below to a page on a website that may be of further help, and direct links to the videos (and an important pdf of slides for the first video) on the webpage I posted in #210 are there now (in case *ahem* you did look before but found they weren’t there).

    If that is still not enough I really don’t know what to say. PKenny was given (links to) the explanation for mid-century cooling that he/she sought, and has clearly read it, but inexplicably has contradicted it and rejected it. mooli didn’t reply to that in a comment but he/she probably did respond – with a Gallic shrug.

    www.gfdl.noaa.gov/climate-modeling

  226. PKenny said,

    December 20, 2009 at 10:39 am

    phayes (#225)

    I don’t see why you find my comments ‘inexplicable’, unless you haven’t looked at the graphs mentioned. Please look again, and tell me whether I am going mad. I was given the link to www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-mid-20th-century.htm, and told that Fig 3 showed how movements in ‘net forcing’ matched those in GISSTemp. I looked at Fig 3, I have looked at it again, and I just can’t see any downturn in net forcing in 1940. To my eye, it remains flat or slightly rising until the early 1960s.

    My analysis of the trend of the GISS NH temp shows a sharp downturn in 1940. I am not alone in this; there is a graph on Open Mind at
    tamino.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/hemispheres/#more-349
    which almost exactly matches mine. To my eye, there is nothing in the net forcing series which looks anything like this.

    I am not a climate scientist, but I have worked as a statistician all my working life, and I can at least read graphs. I did not enter this field in order to defend a prior position, but just to apply my knowledge of time series analysis to understanding the facts. When I am told that data show something which I cannot see there, I ask for further clarification. I got no response from mooli. Please, phayes, look again at the Fig 3 referred to above. Tell me that you can see a justification for the 1940 cooling in the net forcing line. If you can, I shall have to consult my optician and then a psychiatrist.

  227. phayes said,

    December 20, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    @PKenny #226

    “I don’t see why you find my comments ‘inexplicable’”

    Because I don’t understand what your difficulty is. Perhaps you are not taking into consideration all the information that is there or something?

    I see exactly what you describe in the *global mean* net forcing graph of Fig 3. I note that it is composed of various +ive and -ive contributions having differing lifetimes (e.g. +ive CO₂ long, -ive aerosols short) and my general knowledge suggests that there is good reason to believe that they are not emitted/distributed equally among the two hemispheres.

    I see exactly what you describe in the split out NH and SH smoothed mean temperature graphs at the second web page, too. Clearly all the cooling is in the NH in the period of interest. Given the information I have from the first web page about the -ive forcing contributions and my general knowledge about the distribution of their sources, I am not surprised.

    Okay, so we don’t actually have a split out NH/SH net forcing graph to complete the picture, but it would be bad science *not* to use your general knowledge here. Furthermore, even if you play Devil’s advocate and say you have absolutely no idea what the reasons for that period’s NH cooling might be, going on to say that therefore CO₂ is not contributing to recent global warming would be a non sequitur. A zombie argument, even. :)

    Is that any help?

  228. feynmanfan said,

    December 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    This World Bank survey is very interesting: siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDR2010/Resources/Background-report.pdf
    (Hat tip to Mark Mardell, BBC)
    Seems to suggest that most people – even Americans ;-) – do actually believe that scientists agree global warming is a problem. The trouble is that they don’t want to pay to do anything about it and believe themselves that it’ll only be a problem many years from now. The attitude is thoroughly split on whether any country has an obligation to help any other to cope and the US / rest divide is more obvious there.
    It strikes me that it’s part of the US “look after yourself first” attitude, which isn’t all bad, because it goes along with accountability for your actions and equality of opportunity. But it’s dangerous in a problem like climate change where free-riders / tragedy of the commons are a major feature.
    I’m more positive than most on the US changing: Obama seemed to actually “get it” in the Copenhagen negotiations and got a deal done, even though it’s far from ideal. Better to have a starting point than a farce.

  229. bodenca said,

    December 20, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    phayes
    Many thanks for your explanations, for the vital links and for your persistence. Much appreciated.

  230. PKenny said,

    December 20, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    phayes #227

    Firstly, to dispose of the red herring in your final para, I have never said that CO2 does not contribute to global warming, because it is obviously not true; the physics and the recent data both show this. But I do believe CO2 is not the whole story, and think we need to understand the relative magnitudes of the different effects, in order to know what to do about it. Looking at a period when CO2 was increasing and temperature decreasing seems an obvious way of identifying other effects.

    You say you don’t understand what my difficulty is. To see this, remember that I was responding to a comment by mooli. The whole of the relevant para from mooli (#147) is:

    “Note figure 2 which shows how several known forcings (including solar activity) into a net positive forcing forcing, and then in figure 3 how that can be matched to GISSTemp, and the combined forcings account for the overall trend pretty well. Its important that aerosols act fast and would be expected to affect the Northern hemisphere (where they were emitted) more than the Southern, which again is something we see if we compare the temperature trends in the two hemispheres.”

    So mooli says that the combined forcings in Fig 3 explain the temperature trend, including the mid-century cooling, and that the main cooling effect of aerosols is in the NH. (Incidentally, I originally chose to look more at NH because it shows much more warming than the SH since 1970, by a factor of about 2. I suspect that the major part of the hemisphere difference is down to the land/sea difference; there is a much greater area of land in the NH than the SH, and we know that land is warming more than sea.)

    My response to mooli is that the combined forcing shown in Fig 3 does not explain the cooling from 1940, which I think you acknowledge. I have had no response from mooli.

    Coming to your comment on this, it may be that I don’t understand the meaning of forcing. It looks to me that Fig 2 shows the effect of all the different influences, all reduced to a common scale of their effect on radiation, so that they can be added to get the net forcing. I don’t see the relevance of the question of lifetime. The forcing effect of CO2 and aerosols in 1940 depends on the concentrations of those factors in 1940; how long they have been in the atmosphere and how long they will survive will be reflected in concentrations at other dates, but they have no relevance to net forcing in 1940. If net forcing does not turn down in 1940, which it does not, that is the whole story. If I am wrong here, please explain where.

    This may be pointless, but I will say that I replied to your #225 because I resented what you said about me there. The full quote is:

    “PKenny was given (links to) the explanation for mid-century cooling that he/she sought, and has clearly read it, but inexplicably has contradicted it and rejected it.”

    Perhaps I am too sensitive, but this seemed to suggest a wilful perversity on my part. I have explained the problems I had with those links, and I have repeated that with more detail here. We may not agree, but could you not acknowledge that there is scope for legitimate difference of opinion?

  231. avid02 said,

    December 20, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    I have just read Ben Goldacre’s book, Bad Science and have come to this site to learn more. All the sensible tennets he advocates in his book seem, to be entirely forgotten in his response to this question. He gets frustrated by people buying into scare stories about vaccines yet appears to be caught up in a far larger scare story and denigrates anyone who questions it in just the same tones the alternative medicine and nutritionist ‘experts’ he exposes.

    There has never been a time when there hasn’t been a “The world ends tomorrow, Be Prepared.” scare. Will anyone admit that every other scare bar none has been wrong? Will anyone try to explain why this band wagon is different?

    Recently we have had , The hole in the ozone layer, SARS Chicken flu, swine flu, asian flu, Aids, as a threat to everyone in the UK, the millenium bug and lots more we have all forgotten. None of them have ever proved to be true but the usual suspects, J Porrit and dear Prince Charles spring to mind, have climbed on the band wagon and John makes a very good living out of it.

    There has been no observable climate change in Britain in the last 50 years, just normal variability. Just look at Mayflower the humble Hawthorn. Despite every claim to the contrary about what it should do, it flowers in May, just as I assume it has done since the Pilgrim Fathers went to America.Anyone who claims there has been climate change in Britain over the last 50 years must be dotty.

    Carbon dioxide is thought to have made up about one third of one tenth of one percent of the atmosphere a hundred or so years ago and it may be rising to about one half of one tenth of one percent of the atmosphere in 20 years. Some suggest that this will cause a rise in average surface temperature of less than half of one percent and that this will have a catastrophic effect on life on earth, despite there already being at least a 70 degree variation in temperature over the earth on any one day.

    None of this sounds plausible, especially when the man who has bankrupted the economy of Britain wants to throw vast sums of money at criminal regimes in the third world as a way of alieviating the effects. You do not need to be a scientist to realise the rush for windmills is expensive stupidity. No wind, no heat.

    The head of the British push for climate change, the Hadley centre, is no more a climate scientist than I am, or Ben is. The Indian head of the UN lot is compromised by the riches he earns, like Al Gore from his position.

    Many people do not believe you can accurately tell the temperature of the earth in the past from tree rings, anymore than you can detect the honesty of a politician by feeling the bumps on his head, or reading his expenses file.

    Few believe that core samples from glaciers give an absolutely uncontaminated picture of the world of millions of years ago, anymore than fossils show the skin colour and sexual preferences of dinosaurs.

    We do not believe that scientists are anywhere near to understanding all the facets or even the most significent facets of climate and weather. When we hear weather forecasters speaking in the same serious, unqualified tones about the weather in 100 years as they do about the weather tomorrow, we reflect that yesterday, they were wrong about today, when speaking with just the same conviction. We have constant proof that their forecasts are little more than guesswork.

    I have worked most of my life and paid my share. Now that I want to see a little of the world a bunch of unconvincing people claim that I will destroy the earth by my selfishness. They wish to rob my hard earned savings to give it to tin pot rulers in the third world.

    Their case is lacking credibility, plausibility or proof.

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  233. phayes said,

    December 21, 2009 at 10:28 am

    PKenny #229

    “My response to mooli is that the combined forcing shown in Fig 3 does not explain the cooling from 1940, which I think you acknowledge.”

    Not really. It would be more accurate to say that I am not surprised that the combined global net forcing does not explain that cooling in the NH.

    The relevance of the aerosols’ short lifetimes is that they remain localised, and the failure of net forcing to turn down in 1940 is absolutely not “the whole story”. I really cannot understand why you think it is.

  234. madeleine1962 said,

    December 21, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I wonder if I can add a sort of humanist perspective?

    I’m glad that Goldacre – who should be given the Nobel Prize for services to rationalism – is not condescending and doesn’t hold forth about how those unconvinced about AGW are just in denial because they’re afraid, don’t want to give up their Hummers, etc. And I agree that people who rave on about hoaxes, or keep saying “What about the snows today then?” are just tiresome. You find such people in every debate: what interests them is not the truth, but the fun of the back-and-forth, as if all the great controversies were just some form of sport.

    But many of us are uncomfortable saying we “believe” in AGW because we don’t understand it. And the fact is, the expertise involved in this, as in many other questions (foreign policy, bank bailouts, etc.) defies us. Sure, I can spend a couple of days reading the IPCC summaries, and feel they are compelling. But then, I can spend a couple of days reading the (to me) equally convincing “Taken By Storm.” Who’s right? As someone who likes to confine myself to evidence-based opinions, the only respectable answer I can *ever* give is “Fuctifino.”

    So when people say they’re skeptical, a lot of them mean that they’re not sure whom to trust. Thus, the real question is: Is this mistrust well-founded? I think it is. The discussion is incredibly politicized, on all sides. Right-wingers hate the AGW theory because it calls for concerted action, implicitly condemns industrialism and suggests that we’ll all have to modify our fancy lifestyles. But then again, left-wingers love the AGW theory for precisely the same reason. And scientists are as vulnerable as anyone else to all the ordinary temptations of human nature: to be important, to be the prophet of the apocalypse, or Joseph outlining the importance of rationing to a hesitant Pharoah and thus saving Egypt. When a theory is intrinsically attractive or repulsive, even scientists can lose their mojo.

  235. tanveer said,

    December 21, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    #234

    Agree with your point of view. People are not sceptical because they are ‘deniers’ or ‘flat earhthers’ or whatever other insulting term is thrown at them. The fact is that the elite are trying to railroad the Copenhagen agreement through without taking people with them. When Tony Blair says that we should take drastic action on climate change even if the science is not conclusive or even wrong then that makes me very uncomfortable and reminds me of Iraq and look what happened there.

    The fact is the science is not conclusive, the climate system is poorly understood and especially all the feedbacks that occur in the system. So to say that we can somehow control the climate by a certain agreed percentage reduction in CO2 by politicians at Copenhagen seems ridiculous.

  236. Higton said,

    December 21, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    @ The pkenny debate

    Anyone mapped global population size or industrial ouput against this?

    I’d do it myself, but finding the data isn’t all that simple for those without access to data held in universities and their ilk.

  237. skyesteve said,

    December 21, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    In the spirit of Yule can we not all agree on the following (sorry if this seems a bit like New Age fence-sitting but I fear unless both sides pull back from the brink we will all be losers).
    The Earth’s climate is changing. It’s always done that but this time there is the possibility that current changes are, at least in part, (wo)man-made.
    We don’t yet know what the full nature and extent of these changes will be or what the ultimate consequences will be. We may cope just fine or we may be “wiped out” but somewhere in between seems most likely. The truth is that nobody yet knows.
    Meantime what do we all do? Surely no-one can contest the facts that we cannot carry on polluting our rivers and oceans, pumping noxious chemicals into our atmosphere or burying our crap underground without there being some consequences to those actions? So what’s the fight about?
    Can we not all just agree that we’re making a bit of a mess of it and we need to do something to change that. Our finite resources are just that – finite. Wake up and smell the coffee.
    When your standing on a railway line and a TGV train is hammering towards you at 200mph who gives a crap about the science of how you and the train got there in the first place?! There’s clearly a problem and something’s got to be done.
    Talk about fiddling while Rome burns…

  238. PKenny said,

    December 21, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    phayes #233

    OK, you are trying to use the NH/SH difference to explain away my points about 1940 cooling. Let’s follow that and see where it goes. We have the following facts:

    1. From Open Mind at tamino.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/hemispheres/#more-349, we know that the NH temp trend turned down sharply in 1940. This was a sudden change; in 1938 the trend was rising, by 1942 it was falling.

    2. From the same source, we know that the SH trend turned down at the same time, or maybe a year later (it’s not possible to read the graph that accurately). The fall didn’t last as long as in the NH, but while it lasted it was as steep.

    3. From www.skepticalscience.com/global-cooling-mid-20th-century.htm, we know from Fig 3 that global net forcing did not turn down in 1940; it continued flat or slightly rising until the early 1960s.

    4. From the same source, we see in Fig 2 that the component of global forcing due to aerosols, the supposed source of the 1940 cooling, is near enough flat at a level just below zero from 1920 or earlier to 1960.

    5. From general knowledge (as you say, we must always take that into account), aerosols have a screening effect on incoming radiation, so the aerosol forcing will always be negative. The data in Fig 2 are consistent with this.

    Now consider your hypothesis. You believe the NH cooling in 1940 was due to aerosols, which are short-lived, so there must have been a sudden increase in aerosol concentrations in the late 1930s, producing a large negative forcing in the NH. There is no such negative forcing at the global level, so there must have been a positive forcing in the SH to offset the NH effect. But firstly aerosols cannot produce a positive forcing, secondly that would have produced warming in the SH rather than the observed cooling.

    To All

    So, in my view, the 1940 cooling could not be due to aerosols. None of the other components of net forcing in Fig 2 provides a plausible path of forcing, i.e. a large negative starting at the right time. The only data I have seen showing the right timing are the TSI figures from Hoyt and Schatten, which everyone now seems to disregard. As I asked above, does anyone know what proxy measurement H & S used, which no other TSI series uses, which gives the 1940-1970 downturn?

    One other thing which puzzles me, referring back to Fig 2 in the skepticalscience post, is the tiny effect attributed to solar irradiance. You can just see it as the zig-zag orange-coloured line close to the axis. The zig-zags are presumably the effect of the sunspot cycle. In my analysis of medium-term temperature trends from 1960-1990, this cycle is clearly visible in both hemispheres, but its amplitude is much greater than this suggests; it is large enough to offset the longer-term trend (presumably due to CO2), when the two are moving in opposite directions. Any comments on this, preferably factual rather than polemical, would be gratefully received.

  239. madeleine1962 said,

    December 22, 2009 at 12:43 am

    @ skysteve (237)

    “Surely no-one can contest the facts that we cannot carry on polluting our rivers and oceans, pumping noxious chemicals into our atmosphere or burying our crap underground without there being some consequences to those actions? So what’s the fight about?”

    Well – the fight is about the facts that you’ve decided can’t be contested! So it must seem sort of irrelevant.

    I can’t help hearing a sort of religious undertone here. Your imagery suggests that by indulging in our reckless greed, we’re messin’ with forces we don’t understand which will eventually cause our destruction. It’s the same rhetoric that American conservatives use about gay marriage or stem cell research. It’s the same rhetoric in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in Jeckyll and Hyde- in fact, in the story of Adam and the apple: We are playing God and we must stop before God sees and gets really pissed at us!

    There is, of course, a perfectly agnostic discussion about things like river pollution and renewable energy. I don’t mean there’s no such thing as pollution, or that a river bristling with mercury is A-OK. I mean that it doesn’t help us see things clearly if we make such things a channel for our general human anxieties about Our Place In The Universe.

    @235
    I should add that lots of people talking about AGW, on both sides, don’t sound politicized to me – I don’t mean to imply that everyone is – nor that uncertainty means inaction. But yes, I agree that one can’t ask people to be comfortable about accepting theories they can’t understand. And we can’t ask, also, that they try to “understand” it.

    I’m actually quite interested in this. How to make good choices today? In the “old days,” we would say, “learn about the facts and make up your mind.” THis is simply not possible. So how do you make judgments? – because you can’t avoid them: you must vote for policy.

  240. phayes said,

    December 22, 2009 at 2:26 am

    @PKenny #238

    You are going even further astray with your interpretations of the graphs. Most seriously, it looks like you have just not understood what it is that needs an explanation in terms of forcings. This…

    “1. … This was a sudden change; in 1938 the trend was rising, by 1942 it was falling.”

    …sort of variation does not. Can you not see from the graphs just how variable the temperatures are, independently of changes in forcings?

    “You believe the NH cooling in 1940 was due to aerosols, which are short-lived, so there must have been a sudden increase in aerosol concentrations in the late 1930s, producing a large negative forcing in the NH.

    No. That is a non sequitur. As the skepticalscience.com page points out, the falling of NH temperatures over a 30 year period post war is what needs explaining in terms of (estimated) forcings. And it has been explained (modulo the uncertainties not represented on those graphs).

    In fact the explanation is good enough even without invoking the correction described in another page there and also here:
    www.newscientist.com/article/dn11639-climate-myths-the-cooling-after-1940-shows-co2-does-not-cause-warming.html

  241. skyesteve said,

    December 22, 2009 at 7:09 am

    @239 – Hi Madeleine – Sorry if I offended! Definitely NO religious overtones here and I did try and put in a New Agey disclaimer at the start!
    What I was trying to say is that the climate is changing and we may be partly responsible. The consequences are uncertain but it’s clear that we cannot carry on living the way we live without there being consequences. And I think the resources/pollution discussion is important as I believe it’s worng to see climate change as something happening in isolation.
    So definitely no nonesense about Gaia or our “place in the universe” from me (except, of course, at a quantum level when I am happy to accept that I am no more than a fairly lucky arrangement of atoms that were here before me and will still be here when I’m gone).

  242. PKenny said,

    December 22, 2009 at 11:56 am

    phayes #240

    “Can you not see from the graphs just how variable the temperatures are, independently of changes in forcings?”

    No. My comments are explicitly about the trend, i.e. the smoothed line in the Open Mind graphs, and this is remarkably uniform. The quote from my post could have been written more fully, but equally accurately, as:

    “in 1938 the trend was rising, and had risen for more than 25 years; by 1942 it was falling, and continued falling for more than 25 years.”

    As the plot shows, the only interesting thing that happened to the NH trend between 1910 and 1970 was the sudden downturn in 1940.

    How is my argument a non sequitur? To produce the observed cooling from 1940-1970 through the effects of short-lived aerosols, there must have been an increase in negative forcing from aerosols throughout this period. The suddenness of the change of trend requires a steep change in forcing in around 1940, with that new level being maintained until the end of the cooling. The estimates of aerosol forcing in the skepticalscience post show no such change.

  243. Squander Two said,

    December 22, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Skysteve,

    You’re wrong about resources being finite. Stuff is finite. Resources equals stuff times ingenuity. Ingenuity is infinite.

    A good example of this is that we can now get more energy out of a cubic yard of air than our ancestors could get out of a ton of coal 150 years ago.

  244. phayes said,

    December 22, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    @PKenny #242

    “No.”

    That’s what I thought. You are mixing in unsupportable claims of detection of features not attributable to natural variation with the supportable one. The latter has a clear fingerprint and other good evidence from the physics and models which make its accepted attribution eminently reasonable. I still have absolutely no idea why you dispute that and your comments are making less and less sense to me. We don’t seem to be on the same page¹ even as far as detection is concerned, let alone attribution, and progress is impossible under these circumstances.

    ¹ www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9.html

  245. madeleine1962 said,

    December 22, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    @ skysteve
    No offense at all! I didn’t mean to sound offended. (It’s always tricky to convey a tone of voice accurately in comments, isn’t it – probably why so many discussion boards degenerate almost immediately into shouting matches where you practically have to wipe the spittle off the computer screen.)

    You’re quite right: climate change *might* be nothing, but it *might* be a disaster. And while it’s true that we might create problems by avoiding a disaster that may not materialize, it’s equally true that we will probably create future problems *whatever* we do. So, as a matter of policy, I am all for renewable energy, using those unpleasant light bulbs that burn for 1,000 years, growing veg in available car parks, and so on. (I grow my own veg. Badly, but I try.)

    In fact, I hope that the climate change debate will bring thrift back into fashion. Extravagance, which we in the US are especially fond of (hey, why not wrap each individual slice of cheese in its own cling-film!!), serves zero purpose, and is kind of sickening. Thrift, on the other hand, doesn’t mean you don’t have cakes and ale – but it just means you don’t waste stuff for the hell of it. You deploy ingenuity, which as SquanderTwo says is infinite, to make the most out of the least. (Make stock out of your turkey carcases!)

    On which festive note, I conclude!

  246. throg said,

    December 24, 2009 at 7:35 am

    @231 and @234 sum it up nicely for me, particularly …

    “So when people say they’re skeptical, a lot of them mean that they’re not sure whom to trust. Thus, the real question is: Is this mistrust well-founded?”

    That’s spot on. I’m desperately trying to maintain a balance with my reading on this topic, trying to avoid sensationalism in place of real science etc. It really does seem to me that the honest answer is “we don’t know”.

    That’s fair enough, but not good enough when the powers that be are proposing such drastic solutions that may cause more problems than they solve.

  247. phayes said,

    December 24, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Quite right. Arguing about what to do about climate change (if anything) should be encouraged, and the argument should be based on the science. It’s a shame that it has become so difficult for people to decide whether to trust that the real science is in the IPCC report or in Taken by Storm.

    “The chief aim of science is not to open a door to infinite wisdom but to set a limit to infinite error” —Brecht, Galileo.

    www.nature.com/climate/2009/0905/full/climate.2009.41.html

  248. quasilobachevski said,

    December 26, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    avid02,

    Recently we have had , The hole in the ozone layer, SARS Chicken flu, swine flu, asian flu, Aids, as a threat to everyone in the UK, the millenium bug and lots more we have all forgotten. None of them have ever proved to be true…

    I’m amazed to read this.

    Many of these were genuine threats – for instance, Parmageddon really could have happened. That all were averted can be ascribed partly to good luck, but also partly to effective action (preparing vaccines, promoting condom use, banning CFCs etc).

    You seem to want to employ the following ridiculous line of reasoning: “Some dangers in the past have been averted, therefore we should ignore all dangers we can predict.”

    *headdesk*

  249. bocin said,

    December 28, 2009 at 8:41 am

    A consensus of opinion does not make good science. Many times throughout history the “consensus” has been proven wrong by one person with the vision and insight to find the answers others were blind to.
    The reasons for the inability of the people who form the consensus to conceive or even to seek truth come in many forms. Probably the biggest offender is dogma. Second I’ll give to greed. Perhaps you can find more to add to the list. I’ll bet none of them are terms we learned in high school science!
    Now ask yourself- which of these shortcomings is your excuse for following the crowd?
    It’s a mighty good thing Galileo Physical truth and not the comfort of the consensus……
    Science is not a democracy.

  250. bocin said,

    December 28, 2009 at 8:43 am

    It’s a mighty good thing Galileo sought Physical truth and not the comfort of the consensus……(edit previous)

  251. phayes said,

    December 28, 2009 at 9:50 am

    @bocin

    I sincerely hope your absurd mischaracterisations of the process of science and the nature of scientific consensus are not taught in high schools.

    www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/global_warming_misinformation_galileo.html

  252. Tetenterre said,

    December 28, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    @quasilobachevski (#194)

    We can continue this when you have learned and understood the meanings of /petitio principii/ and /false dichotomy/ and their implications for the validity of a scientific argument.

    (Additional clues: (a) CRU did destroy raw data (b) CRU staff did encourage others to destroy data (c) MetOffice has not yet recompiled the raw data so its current status is functionally indistinguishable from “destroyed”.)

    General point:

    I was recently reading a rather good book on science and I came across a few statements, made in relation to a different topic but which are, I submit, pertinent to any scientific enquiry:

    “…they don’t tell you how they randomised … This is a classic warning sign…” (Briffa’s cherry-picked tree rings?)

    “…it’s important that research is always published, in full, with its methods and results available for scrutiny. (…) In fact, as a general rule, it’s always worth worrying when people don’t give you sufficient details about their methods…” (Mann et al, CRU, etc. refusing to release full details; upward “corrections” to temperature data; etc.?)

  253. quasilobachevski said,

    December 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    @Tetenterre,

    I’m not making a scientific argument, I’m asking you to substantiate your assertion that CRU destroyed raw data.

    So far, I have only seen evidence that CRU lost data that was also stored elsewhere (at the Met Office), and for which the Met Office (rather than the CRU) were responsible. This seems very different from your claim (although I don’t think anyone would dispute that it would be preferable if the data were published in an accessible format).

    I don’t see how asking you to back up your own assertion is question-begging.

    Sorry for accusing you of mendacity (I assume that’s the false dichotomy you allude to) – that was over the top, I admit. But surely you can see that it’s frustrating when you make such strong claims and then back them up with such flimsy evidence?

  254. Dr Paul said,

    December 28, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Ben, you are making a basic assumption and that assumption is that the climate scientists are, without question, right and you seemingly fail to question this. By doing so you are making a basic scientific error because everything should be questioned in order to gain a better understanding. Otherwise we would all still believe the earth is flat, not so? History is littered with scientific pronouncements that have been proven incorrect, even (or maybe particularly) in your field. Correct?

    This is not medicine where things are relatively simple – it works or it doesn’t and one knows in a relatively short period.

    Climate science is a science based on predictions and those predictions are based on computer models, which are supposedly based on past events, where the scientist tries to predict future events. By its very nature, this is unpredictable because future or unforeseen events may change or one may find that the evidence gained from past events was flawed. For example witness the met office trying to predict the weather. How often, in your own experience, are they right?

    I’m not a climate scientist so I can’t comment on the validity of the science but I am a computer scientist and if the model that was leaked on the internet from the East Anglia climate research centre is the model used then I think it is questionable and at the minimum should be investigated to validate the method used.

  255. PeterLondon said,

    December 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Please don’t compare the argument to Aids deniers and MMR hoaxers. You’re a fine scientist Ben and your book enriched my life greatly. But I am a climate sceptic- since labels are so important in my new country there you have it. I was at Science Museum earlier today and was disgusted by the propaganda techniques used to promote the Copenhagen summit—-TO CHILDREN!

    You are a man of science. You are also correct in saying that lack of trust in government is also playing a role in the growing numbers of the anti-global warming crowd.

    We are too dependent on petroleum. In that case, let’s remove the subsidies we give this industry – including the subsidies that fund their ‘green’ research and consider allowing the entrepreneurs to get us out of this mess.

    Over a century ago the world was running out of ‘whale oil’. The world panicked over how they were going to enjoy indoor lighting. SOLUTION: A man by the name John D. Rockefeller who hired an R&D crew to create a by-product called Kerosene.

    Incase you case interested. I have not owned a car since 2000. I do not fill the void in my life with extravagant purchases but with good coffee at Monmouth, good company, a terrific career, good conversation and a family to die for.

    Ben, the debate is not over. I am an intelligent, educated man and incase you’re wondering, I am not a pawn of the oil industry.

    Solutions..or atleast a step in the right direction.. I still adore you Ben but please read on.

    1) End Subsidies to oil companies and you’ll see a sudden surge in innovation that makes the ones of the past 2 decades seem paltry in comparison. Patent laws are what’s killing us, not CO2/warming/ climate skeptics (or whatever other label we are pinned with)

    2) Stop threatening developing countries with trade wars if they don’t comply. that will lead to a real environmental disaster.

    3) I wish everyone a terrific 2010 – my girlfriend wants me to come to bed…sorry. — I wrote the solutions portion lastly by the way.

  256. phayes said,

    December 31, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Good grief!…

    Bad Science Antiphrasis of the Year Awards, 2009:

    1= “Climate sceptic”.
    1= “Computer scientist”.

    ?

  257. qdc said,

    January 4, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    The comments have trailed off somewhat.

    In reply to:
    #190.bodenca and
    #253.quasilobachevski,
    December 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm
    who said:
    “I’m not making a scientific argument, I’m asking you to substantiate your assertion that CRU destroyed raw data.
    So far, I have only seen evidence that CRU lost data that was also stored elsewhere (at the Met Office), and for which the Met Office (rather than the CRU) were responsible. This seems very different from your claim (although I don’t think anyone would dispute that it would be preferable if the data were published in an accessible format).”

    See this video made prior to climategate.
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpmrGoi2JRo
    In passing, note Jones’s response in 2004 to a request for data:
    “Even if WMO [World Meteorological Organization] agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.”

    But to confuse matters, see Realclimate (The AGW) blog at: www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack/
    38Jay says:
    20 November 2009 at 1:54 PM
    Again, I write to the moderator. What did I write that was so inflammatory that you would not post it? I have not attempted to stir anything up? I would like to know the truth. Thats all. The truth needs no moderation nor to be covered up. What is wrong with my saying that? Maybe you can post this and a response as I don’t see what could possibly be wrong with this post.
    My only questions now is…
    I hear a lot about the FOIA and data that was being withheld that is now lost or destroyed. Is there an explanation or a reference to that which would answer what I have been hearing on the other end?
    [Response: No data has been lost or destroyed. – gavin]
    (The response given here is presumably by Gavin Schmidt.)

    Then this newspaper report 9 days later reporting that CRU scientists admit that the raw data was destroyed:
    www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6936328.ece

    It would be difficult to summarize more succinctly (or brutally) the state of “consensus” climate science than has John Smith’s comment on January 04, 2010
    at 06:05 AM at: www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6924898/The-Met-Office-gives-us-the-warmist-weather.html

    “David Welch – the methodology of climate change science is as follows:

    1. start with a (preferably apocalyptic) desired result
    2. select data to support the desired result, ignore or destroy data that does not support the desired result
    3. create models to predict the desired result – when the predictions turn out to be incorrect, obscure the predictions
    4. destroy or lose the unmanipulated raw data so that there is no possibility of independent (in)validation”

    to which I can add subverting peer review, look at this sorry tale written from first-hand experience & revealed by the climategate emails:
    www.americanthinker.com/2009/12/a_climatology_conspiracy.html

    As stated by many above who have contributed comments to this blog (very sensible comments, including Michael leahy, Tetenterre, markus82, Prospero, Ben Pile, Tyversky, Nomark, Squander Two, throg, DougieJ) we are hugely disappointed by Ben Goldacre’s treatment of this important topic.

    I especially appreciated #202.carpsio December 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm, who said:
    “Ah… the irony of coming to this blog and finding that even Ben Goldacre – a man I *worship* for his attempts to bring rationality to science coverage in this country – has fallen into step with the ’scientific consensus.’ … You. Are. Wrong.”

  258. proveyance said,

    February 4, 2010 at 3:55 am

    @bald_rob

    Having contrary to prevailing ideas that are giggled and snickered at by the populace makes me feel clever? That notion always irritates me, as it forgets the price I’ve paid to be skeptical of the majority views.

    Can’t a man ask how Usama bin Laden, who reportedly died at a US hospital in Dubai in late December 2001 is still issuing Jihadist rhetoric without uncomfortable smiles of displeasure? Not really. Try getting a promotion or laid with questions like this swimming around in your head. It’s been most stressful.

    More on Usama for the statistics buffs. Before Sept. 11, 2001 his recorded statements included on average 400 religious references per hour. Since that time, his average fell immediately to around 20. But what does that have to do with 9/11. Nothing really.

    My advice is to maintain a life of fact-finding, and withhold any conclusions. That is unless you are within arms reach of Dick Cheney. In that case, by all means do what comes naturally.

  259. DougieJ said,

    February 14, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Ben,
    I’ve been away on a desert island for the last few weeks.

    Anyway, I’m back now and I thought I’d pop in here to just, y’know, see if anything of note has happened on the climate change issue while I’ve been away.

    I’m sure it hasn’t, after all the issue is settled beyond all doubt (as an overwhelming majority of scientists overwhelmingly agree), but just in case I’ve missed anything, can you update me?

    Cheers.

  260. Ben Goldacre said,

    February 14, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Hi DougieJ,

    while you were away, a man who works in an organisation wasn’t very stylish about correcting a small error.

    b

  261. DougieJ said,

    February 14, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Thanks Ben,
    Glad to know there’s not been any examples of bad science uncovered. It would only give those nasty planet destroying big oil funded deniers further, ahem, fuel.

  262. Graham Stanford said,

    March 7, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Its common sense, mankind’s releasing greenhouse gases & particulates into the atmosphere will have some effect on climate. But “common sense” is not a useful tool for a practitioner of the scientific method. The fact that an overwhelming majority of scientists believe that there is a causal link is not in itself proof. The history of science is littered with cases where the scientific establishment has got it wrong. Scientists need to move away from the action committees and return to their position as professional sceptics, who require cast iron proof.

    The current conventional wisdom on climate change is based on a small increase in global temperature, extrapolated over a long period of time. If its not “Bad Science” its certainly “Weak Science”. If scientists vigorously pursue the case for intervention, they weaken their own position of impartiality.

    I am in favour of creating a sustainable future, but this can only happen if the population of the globe is convinced we are on the right track. This is a mammoth task, which needs to be moved forward slowly & surely. Creating dodgy doomsday scenarios will inevitably lead to a backlash, which will delay the process.

    It is simpler to convince people that breathing rubbish in the atmosphere is unhealthy and needs to be curtailed. There is widespread incidence of asthma, and the point can be easily made and is difficult for anyone to counter.

  263. arnuxii said,

    July 25, 2010 at 5:59 am

    This is one of the coldest periods in the history of the planet due to there being an land mass at the south pole.

    For most of the history of the planet it has been much warmer.

    So when the planet gets warmer and there is more co2 all hell will break loose and we will all die?
    I don’t think so.

    If it was so bad every time the climate gets warmer there would be a mass extinction but there is no correlation.

    The problem with the alarmists is they don’t know enough science to understand the consequences of global warming.

    Also, if runaway global warming was possible it would have already happened and we would not be here.

    Global warming is real and it’s almost all good.

  264. sphelps696 said,

    March 7, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I am not a climate science, but I am a scientist, and I seen many good reasons to be skeptical of some of the global warming claims. Part of the problem is a lack of transparency: too much emphasis is put on peer-review (in subscription-only journals closed to the general public) at the expense of making data and methods as transparent as possible. If more proponents of climate-change published their results and code on the web site in a format like this:

    justdata.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/step-by-step-debunking-climate-change/

    as opposed to fancy subscription-only journals then I’d give them a lot more credence.

  265. Colin Dixon said,

    July 5, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    I like some of the storys on this blog and the theme as well. I’m thinking the IPPC is very Bad Science, a couple of Australian Scienitsts have a lot of data on this, have you looked at it. sciencespeak.com/ David Evans has a background in mathematics, computing, and electrical engineering. He helped build the carbon accounting model for the Australian Government that tracks carbon in plants, debris, soils, and agricultural and forest products. There is no evidence that man’s carbon emission are the main cause of global warming.sciencespeak.com/NoEvidence.pdf if convincing.

  266. SteveMD said,

    July 23, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Surely part of the problem is the over-simplification of skeptical views. Not all skeptics “deny” climate change, nor even anthropomorphically-driven climate change. But many know hyperbole when they hear it and don’t appreciate being treated like sheep to be herded into compliance by scare-stories. Such tactics have been used to dupe us too often, so don’t be surprised when some of us react with the assumption that we are being conned again.