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Climate Hustle

Hotties vs Frosties?

Posted on 9 July 2010 by John Brookes

Guest post by John Brookes

There is much heat in the blogosphere debates between those who believe that we are warming the planet, and those who are highly skeptical of such claims. I will put my cards on the table right now, and say that I think we are warming the planet. There is a lot of mistrust between the warring factions. People like me are referred to as AGW alarmists, while people on the other side are regularly derided as deniers. So to start with, I'd like to take some heat out of the debate by giving nicknames to the combatants. Those on my side will be referred to as "hotties", while the other side will be referred to as "frosties".

What are hotties like? Hotties are latte sipping, bicycle riding, quasi-intellectual, communist, greeny idealogues who hate the modern world and want to drive us back to the dark ages. Most Hotties have been hidden away in their ivory towers for so long suckling off the taxpayers teat that they know almost nothing about the real world, the world they are trying to destroy. They want to impose more and more rules limiting what you can do. Hotties have been brainwashed by an elite who are using the threat of climate change for their own ends. The elite consists of politicians are intent on creating a world government, and tame but dishonest scientists who are rewarded financially for fudging data and saying what the politicians want to hear. Hotties try and drown out all dissenting opinions. Philip Adams is their hero. Hotties should wash more often.

How about the frosties? Frosties are chainsaw wielding, grumpy, overweight, middle-aged men who drive older model 4WDs. They have Galileo complexes and opinions on everything, are outraged by most things, rail against the youth of today, and are suckers for conspiracy theories. They cherry pick data, and use tired and discredited arguments as though they are brand new. They would argue that black was white, if they thought that admitting black was black would weaken their position. They intimidate and harass real climate scientists, while their own Plimer, Monckton, Nova, Archibald, etc are in the pay of industry and have less credibility than John Worsfold talking about the Eagles next premiership. They don't have heroes. Rugged individuals who are single-handedly supporting the whole of western civilisation have no need for heroes. Some do have a bit of a crush on Jo Nova though.

So I've spent some time on both hotty and frosty blogs, and this is not what I see. For example on Jo Nova's blog, I have found many well meaning frosties who are only too happy to help expand my limited understanding of the science of climate change. At one time I put up a post which said that most hotties and frosties did not understand what was going on, but were simply barracking for their side. Rather than wishing me good riddance, Eddy, a regular there, encouraged me to aim higher. Thanks to Eddy, I've decided to work a bit harder to understand what is going on. Many of the frosties are doing exactly the same thing, trying to work out what is going on. They think that attempts to reshape our world without fossil fuels spells disaster, and think it is their duty to fight against it. Sure there are some frosties who are over the top and abusive, but the same can be said of some hotties. Of course there are also frosties who uncritically lap up any new argument which supports their case, while demanding much higher standards of the hotties. There are also probably a few who are paid directly or indirectly by big coal.

A similar judgement can be made about most hotties. They genuinely believe that climate change is a serious problem which needs to be tackled, not because of their ideological beliefs, but because of its predicted effects. Most of the climate scientists are actually committed to finding the truth, even if it puts them out of a job. Scientists are like that, they are driven by a desire to understand, and their reputation in the scientific community, should they be found to have any other motive, would be mud. Just like the frosties, most hotties are trying to improve their understanding of climate change. Of course there are some hotties who will believe any old rubbish which says that humans are bad and the world is about to end because of it (and I blame the catholic church for this ;-)). There are also probably a few scientists who are so wedded to the idea of climate change that it gets in the way of their objectivity.

I don't think there is any hope for the lunatic fringe on either side. If your starting point is that the people on the other side are evil incarnate, then you won't move from that. But for the rest of us, maybe there is some common ground. Can we find the points on which we agree? Much more importantly, can we pinpoint the exact places where we disagree?

Say you are marking a short answer question in a students physics test, and their answer is wrong (no post modernism here). Unless the student has absolutely no idea what they are talking about you will usually be able to find the exact place they went wrong. For example, they assumed that a cube had 8 faces, rather than 6. After this mistake, even if they use the correct method, their answer will be wrong. If they want to get the right answer, they must return to the mistake and correct that.

Of course the real world isn't so clean cut. It’s not normally a simple problem where you know all the facts exactly and just have to join them together appropriately to get "the answer". Imagine our student having to tackle their problem, but with no knowledge (and no way of finding out) just how many faces a cube has. They may look at systems they understand reasonably well, and work backwards until they conclude that a cube has about 5.3 +/- 1 faces. So they'll use this range of values, and it will give them a range of values for the answer. If this range is not too large, it may be useful. Of course if they botch things up and conclude that a cube has 17.3 +/- 0.2 faces, any results based on this will be useless. It is often the case with problems that there is more than one way to skin a cat, and someone else may find a way of tackling the problem without needing to know the number of faces a cube has. If their results don't agree with the cubist ones, then there will be a bun fight until most people agree with one or other side. What if one or two people refuse to agree? Well, you just carry on without them. You are doomed to get nowhere if you need everyone to agree with you.

It follows that for many real world problems, you won't be able to "prove" anything. You will over time simply build up a weight of evidence to help you make decisions. This is particularly so for climate science, where you can't say, "Here is a world I prepared earlier".

Of course the fervent hotties will say, "But we've already done all the necessary work, and the weight of evidence is overwhelming." And the fervent frosties will say, "They haven't proved anything. They have failed to address this and this and this. Their results are meaningless". And there is validity to both of these points of view.

Let us take just one point, “Global temperatures over the last 15 years don’t show any signs of warming”. Most frosties are smiling now, while most hotties are like “WTF?” If both sides are looking at the same data, then how can they disagree? Surely one side must be dishonest or deluded. Well, no actually. Here is a graph of some data.

Up or down?

Is it increasing, decreasing or staying the same? Have a good look - take all the time you like. Don't scroll down yet. Can you draw any conclusion?

You can apply all the statistical tests you like, and draw trend lines, or trend curves or do whatever you like, and I will have no faith in any statement other than, “You can’t tell”. But that is not what I say. I say it is definitely increasing. I’m absolutely sure of it. Why? Because I know where the data came from, and I have a model in my head of what I expect that data to do, and when I look at that data, it only confirms the model.

The data is the daily maximum temperature for Perth for September 2009. Here in Perth, we get warmer during September (that is the extremely simple model I have in my head), and with this in mind, when I look at the data, that is exactly what I see – a steadily increasing trend with some unusually warm days at the start of the month, and one unusually cold one at the end.

This is why frosties and hotties can look at the same data and see different things. The frosties look at the data without any underlying model, and see no trend. The hotties look at the data in the light of their models, and see something different. The point of difference is not that they see different things, it is the presence or absence of an underlying model of what they see.

So lets sort out our common ground, and work out where our differences really come from. At least then we can have a debate which is better than, "You are a moron", "No, you are a moron".

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 201:

  1. Here's the problem though John-*context*. Whilst it might be true to say that the warming of the last 15 years is *not* statistically significant (show me anyone who claims otherwise), that represents a gross oversimplification. Anyone who is being honest knows that, over a 15 year time period, global temperatures are subject to a very high noise to signal ratio. That doesn't mean that the planet hasn't warmed in that time. For instance, if I take the temperature data of the last 15 years (1995 to 2009), I get a positive slope of +0.0149, & an R-squared value of 0.402 (where anything greater than a 0.5 is usually accepted as statistically significant). What makes this all the more damning though is that the last 5 years of that 15 year period have been dominated by a *deep solar minimum*-yet still the Frosties can provide no evidence of actual cooling. Why do the Frosties always insist on cherry-picking the dates which they *think* will give them the result they want (usually it fails, like their 1998-2008 cherry pick, which still gives a positive slope of +0.0106) instead of looking at the bigger picture?
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  2. Drat, a hottie got in first. Mind you, that's quite unusual in the blogosphere. . .

    Any way, to try to follow the mellow tone of John's post, which I take to be an expression of a kind of equivalent to the "what would a reasonable man understand?" position (coupled to a welcome appeal for collaborative effort to resolve a polarising issue that appears to be characterised by people taking a "whatever the other lot think means absolute doom and disaster therefore I am entitled to be as ploemic and unreasonable as possible" approach), can I suggest that the names for the camps might work better as "hotties versus "notties"?

    Rant over . . . ;-)
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  3. John, with all due respect, do you seriously think this is a kind of academic dispute where people of goodwill are just arguing over interpretation of data?
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  4. Ian @2 - Great idea! Hotties and Notties - I'll use that from now on.

    David @3:

    "John, with all due respect, do you seriously think this is a kind of academic dispute where people of goodwill are just arguing over interpretation of data?"

    No, I think there are people of ill will on both sides. However there is not much point talking to them, so from a pragmatic point of view, I will be assuming that I am talking to people of goodwill. Strangely enough, just thinking this brings a smile to my face.

    Its a bit like when I'm cycling and a car toots me. In the old days I would get infuriated, until one day I decided that if ever a car tooted me, it must be someone I know saying hello. So now if I get tooted, I give a cheery wave and continue happily on my way :-)
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  5. You know, Ian, I'd love nothing more than to believe that the "notties" are correct. Unfortunately all the evidence I see points in the opposite direction. That the planet was able to warm by an average of 0.0125 degrees per year between 2000-2009-in spite of sunspot numbers unseen since the Maunder Minimum-really doesn't leave me with much confidence that humans aren't causing Global Warming!
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  6. I admire your diplomacy John, but one of the biggest hurdles to a truly rational debate around climate change is the division into two equal camps. This is perfectly illustrated by by the media. News isn't interesting unless you have two diametrically opposed camps thrashing it out in a TV 'debate'. But real life isn't like that - and in this case we are playing with fire.

    I used to spend many hours 'debating' with 'frosties'. But their camp is so tainted with political (AGW=tax) personal (I hate Gore therefore AGW is false) or religious (science = evolution and is therefore false) bias that have no place in rational scientific debate.

    I prefer to see the rational debate taking place between climate scientists - only 2% of whom could be described as being anything like 'frosties'.
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  7. I don't think the ending is worded quite very well. It might be a subtle difference in wording:

    Sitting in the Northern Hemisphere, I know it's going to gradually get warmer from January to June. That doesn't mean I'm going to look at a single month's data like that above, and say it shows warming just because I know that seasons exist. If the single month by itself doesn't actually show warming, then I can't say that the single month by itself does show warming.

    Rather, I would pose it thus: There is a longer term trend (seasons), which is readily apparent when you look at the longer span of data (several months). If you only look at a couple weeks, this trend is no longer apparent because weather variability is strong enough to obscure the seasonal signal, over that time period.

    If they really want to (and they appear so inclined), the frosties will always and forever be able to pick out the equivalent of the couple weeks of ambiguous data, where weather obscures the longer-range pattern. There could be unambiguous warming from now until 2100, but at any given point during that span, they can always try to say that there isn't any statistically significant warming for the previous ~10 years.
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  8. Psychologists suggest that groups become gradually more polarised in their opinions as debates go on, so someone initially in the ‘don’t know’ category could be irreversibly convinced either way. Despite Kuhn’s theories, the peer review procedure, a dedication to the truth, and sometimes quite fierce competition amongst scientists should prevent ‘Warmists’ becoming over-partisan. However, the ‘Frosties’ have no such restrictions and will become more and more ideologically entrenched.

    There appears to be two sectors of the ‘Frosties’ camp. Those driven by political conviction and the less educated. Arguing with either camp appears to be a thankless task for different reasons. The former just insults, ridicules, or ignores you, whilst the latter are almost completely oblivious to evidence. Particularly lacking is the inability to distinguish trends from data, and the tendency to ignore anything other than what they physically perceive for themselves. These perceptions will be heavily distorted and magnified by the polarisation effects mentioned above.

    I have come to the view that about two thirds of the public either haven’t the time, conviction or the relevant education to participate in scientific debates, and a simple democratic vote will always be swayed by public relations manipulation and their own selfish interests, rather than hard evidence.

    A rather depressing picture emerges from public views of the ‘climategate’ enquiry. Despite the conclusions, this MSN poll suggests that 60% of people still believe the “scientists fabricated data to support their beliefs on man-made warming!” Hopefully more scientific polls will be yielding more hopeful figures, but this simply illustrates the magnitude of the problem.

    climate scientists poll
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  9. Marcus #1.

    Actually the significance threshold for Pearson's R on 14 degrees of freedom at p < 0.05 is 0.497 ( two tailes), so in this case r_crit is roughly equal to 0.5.

    Anyway, a significance table for R clearly demonstrates what a blunt instrument correlaitons are.
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  10. This is the best climate blog I have ever disagreed with 8-)

    And if there's ever going to be a "best climate blog entry of 2010" it'll get my vote!!

    My disagreement is small but fundamental. You forgot the lukewarmers ("Warmies"?), "those who believe that we are slightly warming the planet"...
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  11. #1 Marcus at 17:47 PM on 9 July, 2010
    instead of looking at the bigger picture?

    Science is not about pictures. It is about propositions, which can either be true or false. Pictures do not have this quality.

    Is the big picture below a false one?

    After all it is there for anyone to see (at least for folks living in the Northern Hemisphere).

    Propositions can be handled using logic, pictures are subject to vision.

    A picture cannot be falsified, for it says nothing. One can either see what is shown by the picture or not. Pictures do not lend themselves to analysis. If you take a picture apart, it simply disappears. Pictures are holistic, the scientific method is analytic.

    Pictures may have enormous heuristic value. They help the mind to find true propositions, but the truth-value of propositions found is not determined by the picture.

    Coffee also helps the mind to find its way through the intricate web of logic, still, it is not praised as a tool of science.
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  12. Berényi Péter at 19:23 PM on 9 July, 2010

    That was a rather unnecessary post Peter since "looking at the big picture" means taking a broad perspective of all of the data and information that bears on an issue. It doesn't have anything to do with "pictures" in the sense that you've misconstrued it.
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  13. „... We are playing with fire ...”

    I think the important discussion on climate is to ignore (at least) these two phenomena as:
    - "claptrap" - ie those present (or ignoring “uncomfortable” data - cherry picking) that seemed irrelevant questions ...
    - percentage “treated” of science (that is by the "2%"),

    Doubts are serious (too serious). If they really did not, no business even super-rich super VIP ...

    Example - recently, Schwartz's work here, I quoted. His question: “We know we have to change the course of this ship, and we know the direction of the change, but we don't know how much we need to change the course or how soon we have to do it.” - has to have an answer.
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  14. Fun posting, but there is no dispute, that I am aware of, about the temperature in Perth during September 2009. The sort of climate data under dispute is the GISS surface temp data. It doesn't look anything like the data from Perth in Sept 2009. It is absolutely irrational to assert the GISS data "show no increase in temperature." The 100 year moving average of the GISS anomaly data has increased every year for each of the 30, 100 year bins. One would expect to observe this consistent increase in temp anomoly, under the assumption of no warming trend, with a probability less than 2^(-30).

    My point is that your frosties simply deny the data. They either impune how the data was collected or restrict the given data set they analyze (say to Sept, 2009 in Perth) so that for that restricted set, they can argue no conclusion is statistically possible. For me, this is a generic significant difference between your frosties and the hotties.

    The frosties impune the published data but typically don't collect their own. The frosties aren't about advancing our empirical knowledge.
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  15. Donald Lewis

    "The frosties impune the published data but typically don't collect their own. "

    To be fair, it's a little unreasonable to expect anybody to just set up a brand new global network of weather stations. I doubt that's what you meant here, but taken absolutely literally, that's what it looks like.
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  16. This is an excellent diplomatic post. Thnx John. (Funny how I didn't connect the John Brookes posting at Novas with this Brookes)

    I wish you had of left out the bit about Big Oil paying notties.

    Marcus at 17:47 PM on 9 July, 2010 said...

    "Anyone who is being honest knows that, over a 15 year time period, global temperatures are subject to a very high noise to signal ratio. That doesn't mean that the planet hasn't warmed in that time".

    Yes that's true Marcus. But it makes me wonder, how is it that in the early 90's we were so confident that AGW was happening that we set off on protocols like Kyoto? The pre 40's warming was said to be mostly natural, but the post late 70's early 80's warming was mostly anthropogenic. Hardly 15 years and subject to signal to noise ratio indeed.

    Maybe if the "lunatic fringe" of the hotties side didn't jump the gun with "must do this and that or we're doomed" so early in the piece when most reasonable minded people were happy to keep an eye and an ear out, we'd now be having conversations on a different level. Maybe.'


    p.s. John, you're welcome back at Novas anytime, don't be a stranger.
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  17. John Brookes at 18:42 PM on 9 July, 2010

    "No, I think there are people of ill will on both sides."

    In terms of the science the misrepresentation and "ill will" are hugely on one side of this issue (the "anti-science" side) as it has always been for some rather obvious reasons [*]. If we are going to pretend that there is a sort of "equivalence" then we're engaging in the same sort of self-deception that has caused so much grief and personal misery in the past [*].

    I'm not sure what the answer is other than persistently to address the flaws and misrepresentations from those that deliberately distort the science or who have been suckered into thinking that posting nonsense on blogs (or attempting to winkle dodgy science into the scientific literature) is a good way to address important problems.

    I agree with you that much of the "frosties" impulse (where it's not brutal self-interest [*]) is ideological; e.g. your suggestion "They think that attempts to reshape our world without fossil fuels spells disaster, and think it is their duty to fight against it." One might have thought that the inherent illogic in that stance would be obvious, but apparently not. It bears a strong relation to the rather hardcore "libertarian" philosophy that's quite widespread in the US (if blogging Americans are representative!) which considers that any problem that might require collective efforts to address has to be "pretended" into non-existence by misrepresentation, since their political philosophy cannot accommodate collective efforts....

    [*]e.g. D. Michaels and C. Monforton (2005) Manufacturing Uncertainty: Contested Science and the Protection of the Public’s Health and Environment Am. J. Public Health 95, S39-S48
    link to full paper
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  18. The overall message of the post above seems to boil down to 'perception is Truth'... which sadly is how many people approach the world, but NOT reality.

    'How you look at the graph' does NOT determine whether values are increasing or decreasing. That can, and must, be determined by BASIC MATHEMATICS. No 'model' required except an acceptance of fundamental mathematical realities.

    That said, a temperature graph of one small location for one month tells us precisely nothing about global climate. I realize you were using it as an illustration of your 'differing perception' hypothesis, but I find that position inherently destructive. When something can be reduced to a mathematical proof the choice to 'perceive it differently' is nothing short of nihilism.
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  19. Anyone who makes claims of conspiracy, fraud, incompetence or cheating against the science or the scientists involved, but who then calls any enquiry into such accusations a white-wash, can't be treated as genuine ( a 'frostie' ?) or rational. That, however, rules out any input from all those self-proclaimed auditors and pseudo-science bloggers out there being taken seriously; which rules out 95% (at least) of the so-called skeptical noise.
    What's left, then ? Not a lot, especially on the anti-AGW scientific side, so who are the 'hotties' supposed to be arguing against ?
    It seems to me that on one side is the science; on the other is the noise of political/ideological denial; and in the middle a few isolated individuals who don't like taking sides or who prefer to be different - especially if it gives them an audience.
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  20. Humbug,
    Kyoto was adopted in 1997, not the early 1990s.

    It did take some time in the beginning, before people became confident that warming was indeed definitely taking place.

    Hansen was confident there was warming in 1988, but you must note that he was examining the trends over the past *30* years, when he said that. He then somehow estimated the chance that the warming to that point could take place through natural fluctuations. And, finally confidence comes from having basic physics on your side; people were predicting warming well before it was obvious.

    Now, was everybody confident by 1988 like Hansen was? No. Not at all. People were cautious. But through the 90s and 2000s, it became more and more apparent. When finally it was found that the UAH satellite team's initial findings of no warming and then limited warming were in error, then there was really no room left. There simply was warming since the 1960s/1970s.

    But it's bizarre to say that you won't accept that warming is happening now, just because somebody else accepted it was happening by 1990 or 1997 and gave reasonable analysis to support their position.
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  21. In my opinion, the difference between a frostie and a hottie is not about reflexes in looking at ambiguous data. It is about preconceptions which are prescientific. That is why "denial" is an appropriate term, in my view. The frosties rarely present all their assumptions. Perhaps they are unaware of them. In any case, in my view, they are driven to reject a wealth of evidence by internal arguments they may never voice. As a result they scramble to vocalize arguments saying the opposing view is not really established beyond (unreasonable) doubt. They want their preconceptions to survive the onslaught of data that seems to contradict their preconceptions. In my experience, the only way preconceptions can survive the onslaught of empirical data is through ones luck of preconception, or denial of the data.

    I would compare the theory of anthropogenic global warming to the theory of evolution. Where I live, the polls all indicate that the majority of the population does not believe in evolution. (The general population believes, instead, in an origin of species as the result of something compatible to what is described in the Bible.) When you ask educated folks, among the sub-population that denies evolution, about their view of evolution, they may provide a long list of "reasons" not to believe the science. None of those reasons will mention the bible. The reality is they think evolution contradicts the bible, so they know evolution didn't happen, so there must be a problem with the data and/or the researchers.) Instead one hears, the data is incomplete, two scientists disagree about details, Darwin was wrong about something, a duck isn't a dinosaur, ... whatever.

    The preconceptions bolstering climate change frosties are just more diverse and not yet well identified by the hotties.
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  22. Baa Humbug at 20:47 PM on 9 July, 2010

    Marcus: "Anyone who is being honest knows that, over a 15 year time period, global temperatures are subject to a very high noise to signal ratio. That doesn't mean that the planet hasn't warmed in that time".

    Baa Humbug: "Yes that's true Marcus. But it makes me wonder, how is it that in the early 90's we were so confident that AGW was happening that we set off on protocols like Kyoto? The pre 40's warming was said to be mostly natural, but the post late 70's early 80's warming was mostly anthropogenic. Hardly 15 years and subject to signal to noise ratio indeed."

    Marcus gave you the answer to that Baa Humbug in the very first sentence of the comments:

    "Here's the problem though John-*context*."

    It's what distinguishes science/knowledge from superstitution/"common sense". We already knew in the early 90's what we know a little better now, that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, that it is a dominant contributor to the Earth's surface temperature, that increasing atmospheric concentrations will cause the Earth temperature to evolve towards a higher "equilibrium" temperature and so on.

    We don't have to "see" the earth temperature rising to know with a high degree of certainty that the Earth will warm as greenhouse concentrations rise, any more than we have to see atoms to know that these exist or to see DNA mutations in somatic cells to know that cigarettes greatly increase the risk of lung cancer......
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  23. Baa Humbug, in addition to carrot eater's points... please note that the 1970s were FAR from "early" in the debate over human induced global warming. That started around 1900 when Arrhenius's projections of warming from industrial CO2 emissions were dismissed based on a number of assumptions (e.g. single layer readings, saturation, ocean uptake) which have each been disproved over the subsequent century. The 'middle' period would be Guy Callendar's work on atmospheric CO2 levels primarily in the 40s and 50s. The 70s and 80s were indeed the END of the period of legitimate scientific debate over whether AGW was happening. No remotely rational scientist now disputes this... only the degree of warming we can expect is still in question, and even there the scientific grounding for 'skeptic' positions (e.g. 2 C or less from a doubling of CO2) is becoming incredibly thin.
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  24. carrot eater (@15)

    I wasn't trying to be fair. I was making an observation, and trying to characterize John B's frosties.
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  25. carrot eater at 20:33 PM on 9 July, 2010

    To be fair, it's a little unreasonable to expect anybody to just set up a brand new global network of weather stations.

    On the other, other hand, one might ask more generally "why not"? Much of the data from weather stations is widely available, and more detailed access to the data can be purchased at a rather trivial cost (e.g. in relation to the funds available to oil companies or corporate-funded "think tanks"). But the only people doing these analysis outside of the NOAA, NASA Giss, UAH are well-informed and clearly scientifically literate individuals whose analyses have appeared on several blogs. Why don't the "frosties" have a go at this (as opposed to attempting to insinuate wrong-doing with pictures)?

    The last time I checked (maybe a couple of years ago) US federal funding for direct climate science was around the same level as for nanotechnology (around $1000 million p.a.; it may well be higher now, but probably in a similar proportion to nanotechnology whose level it seems to roughly track).

    This is not a large amount by any means, and if the corporate sector (especially oil/gas/coal) truly considered that the science is somehow unrepresentative of "reality", then they could easily have funded a very major scientific initiative to address this. But they didn't and don't; instead they give small funds to individuals and organizations that misrepresent the science.......go figure!
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  26. chris:

    Anybody can take the existing data sets and analyse them in their spare time, with no funding at all. And I do note the asymmetry here, in who does something constructive with those data, and who does not.

    But the original language was "collect" their own data. Meaning, actually set up new weather stations, all over the world, suitable for measuring long-term climate trends. That's just not something that private industry or private individuals can be realistically expected to do. Though I could imagine private individuals doing something much less ambitious - maybe set up three stations in different sorts of locations in the same area.

    On a side note, not everybody realises this, but the US government has done this themselves - because of concerns over the existing network of stations, they've set up a new network called the CRN. These are fitted with modern instrumentation, and are specifically designed and maintained with climate in mind - far away from any urban heat islands, and to be kept immune from station moves and other disruptions.
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  27. and for what it's worth, the UAH record is maintained by frosties.
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  28. Incidentally, the term "hottie" might be a little problematic since especially here in the UK it has a rather specific meaning !

    Which brings to mind one of the distinguishing features of a science (like climate science) that has a heavy "anti-science" "deadweight" dragging along behind it, namely that the anti-science group are massively gender-weighted (usually rather unprepossessing middle, to late middle aged men for which the term "hottie" doesn't spring to mind!). It's quite striking in comparison to climate science where as in other real science disciplines, there are lots of female scientists, many in prominent positions (one can determine this by looking at author lists on scientific papers in climate science).

    This is an important point I think. Women form a very significant proportion of the science effort, and in my experience are (just like male scientists) attracted by the hands on satisfaction of experimentation, the intellectual rewards and the sheer pleasure in finding stuff out and contributing to progress in important areas. Very few women seem to have the stomach for the knowing deception and dishonesty that characterises much of the efforts of the "frosties". That's not to say that there aren't a few female bloggers that would be characterized as "frosties"......
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  29. carrot eater at 22:42 PM on 9 July, 2010

    "and for what it's worth, the UAH record is maintained by frosties

    ...oops! When I wrote "...NOAA, NASA Giss, UAH...", I meant "....NOAA, NASA Giss, UEA..."

    (I was being accidentally acronymonious!)
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  30. Thnx for the replies carrot chris and cb.

    I wasn't debating the validity of AGW at my comment #16.
    I merely pointed out that if 15 years of data is hamstrung with noise, as Marcus stated, then that 15 years must apply at all times.

    carrot: yes Kyoto the meeting was held in 1997, lets allow a couple of years at least for lead up time ha? remember the Rio Earth summit was 1992.

    I would have thought any global T data from 1976 to 1991 was a 15 year stretch full of statistical noise, just like it is now, no?

    Chris: Well I accept that you and many others accept CO2 to be the dominant contributor to earths surface temperature, but I and many others aren't so sure. That is a fact that needs to be acknowledged and we need to work on that as Brookes is admirably trying to do now.

    CBDunkerton: With all due respect, your post at #23 is exactly the reason why this debate seems endless. "No remotely rational scientist" and "sceptics position is becoming incredibly thin" isn't going to cut it with me or any other sceptic.
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  31. chris at 22:44 PM on 9 July, 2010 says..

    "Very few women seem to have the stomach for the knowing deception and dishonesty that characterises much of the efforts of the "frosties"."

    Yeah good one Chris, really constructive that was.

    Tell you what, please disregard my reply to you, you and I can't have a civil discussion. People in glass houses.
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  32. Baa Humbug at 22:56 PM on 9 July, 2010

    Chris: Well I accept that you and many others accept CO2 to be the dominant contributor to earths surface temperature, but I and many others aren't so sure.

    Just to clarify Baa Humbug, I didn't say that. I said "that it is a dominant contributor to the Earth's surface temperature...". I don't think anyone could argue with that. Obviously Earth orbital cycles are dominant contributions to Earth temperature during the late Quaternary, as are periodic extraterrestrial impacts, massive tectonic events and the progressively increasing solar output through the entire evolution of earth history...
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  33. Humbug:

    As I said, when Hansen spoke in 1988, he was reviewing the previous 30 years. And he had physics on his side.

    If you like, you can go and do the statistics working backwards from 1992 or 1990 or 1988, and see how far you have to go to reach a statistically significant trend, if you ever find one.

    As for CO2 being the dominant contributor: be careful how you phrase that. At the moment, it's the single biggest factor in how the temperature is changing over the long term. But it doesn't always have to be. If the sun goes and does something wacky, then it will be the sun. If a string of massive volcanic eruptions go off, then it will be that. If our pollution habits strongly change such that aerosols increase very rapidly, then it would be that. The point is, you have some ability to quantify all the forcings, and see what the relative magnitudes are.
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  34. Baa Humbug at 23:06 PM on 9 July, 2010

    I didn't consider I was being controversial Baa Humbug. That's a statement of fact isn't it? As in all areas of science there is a high representation of women. That obviously applies to climate science too (have a look at authors of climate science papers).

    I can only think of one female climate scientist that would be considered part of the anti-science group, whereas ther are obvioulsy lots of middle aged gents that are (for example peruse the list of speakers at the recent Chicago "alternative" climate science event). Clearly the "alternative" approach to climate science (if I can put it kindly) exemplified by the latter grouping isn't very attractive to female scientists.
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  35. and Humbug, along the same lines: the wording of the various IPCC reports from 1990 to 2007 reflect the increasing confidence in the observation of warming that is possible, as time passes.

    Meaning, in 1990 you have some confidence that something is happening along the lines of what you'd expect from the physics. By 2010, you have much more confidence.

    Either way, it's beyond silly for you to say "because I was sitting on the fence in 1992 while somebody else had more confidence than me, I'll now refuse to re-assess the situation even as everything advances"
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  36. If you are an alarmist, what does that make me? A rabid doomsayer.
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  37. Baa Humbug at 23:06 PM on 9 July, 2010

    Actually, now that I've read my post again, I accept that you do have a point. I was considering the fact that there is (happily) a dearth of women that actually engage in anti-science efforts efforts of the sort that attempts to winkle dodgy analyses into the scientific literature, or participate in "alternative" "non-science" "climate meetings", or are prominant in hounding climate scientists. That contrasts with the very large number of women that do real climate science.

    I accept however that I shouldn't equate this group (the anti-science one) with "frosties" across the board. As John makes clear in his top post, "frosties" refers more generically to those that dispute the science and may do so with good faith. So my apologies. I was referring to the rather more "hard core" "frosties"....
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  38. I think there's a timing aspect to climate change that's far too often overlooked, and it explains why many hotties (including me) feel such an overwhelming sense of urgency.

    There are two layers of latencies, arranged sequentially, that come into play. The first is the human one: How long will it take us to realize what all that CO2 is doing and then go through the political process and take sufficient action to act in our own best interest? Obviously we're still in this stage.

    The second latency is the Earth System itself. The extremely long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is about as inconvenient as truths get. We've all seen the projections that say if we stopped all CO2 emissions today we'd experience continued warming for the next X years. (Someone fill in the exact number; it escapes me at the moment, but I know it's uncomfortably large.)

    An apt, albeit grisly analogy that I think describes the timing of our situation: Continuing to emit CO2 at anywhere near the current BAU level is NOT the equivalent of refusing to believe a stove is hot and touching it anyway. In that case, we can rely on our reflexes to prevent very serious harm. What we're doing is instead deciding to put our hand flat against the hot stove and hold it there for agonizing minutes.

    In other words, if we wait until virtually everyone is convinced that AGW is real and has to be dealt with, it will be far too late to avoid an enormous amount of pain. We simply can't overcome those two layers of latencies quickly. Decarbonizing modern economies (including some developing ones, like China) will take a long time, likely decades, and then we'll still have to deal with all that CO2 we've already emitted. And if decarbonizing includes completely shunning coal and the cooling effect we get from its extremely short-lived sulfur emissions, we would face a big surge in additional warming. That's all without invoking the truly nightmarish scenarios, like defrosting permafrost and methane hydrates to add a big, additional pulse of methane and/or CO2 to the mix.

    Sounds like a bad 1970's disaster movie, doesn't it? Sadly, it's the situation we're in. If you accept some very basic points -- the long lifetime of atmospheric CO2, the warming it causes, the basic characteristics of societies and politics -- then I don't see how anyone can escape the conclusion that further delay in reducing our CO2 emissions would put us on an almost unimaginably bad path.
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  39. And here we go again:
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  40. John Brookes' original bottom-line point is worth re-emphasizing:

    People who think that the argument that AGW is happening is based on just looking at the data will be unlikely to see a trend worth worrying about: It looks vaguely random.

    However, the concern comes from:
    1) Having a physical model of the world and the climate, based on our understanding of the physics;
    2) Deriving a trajectory of temperatures (a trend) based on that understanding; and
    3) Looking for DISCREPANCY between the calculated trend and the measured data. In Popperian terms: You can never PROVE the theory, you can only look to see if the data DISPROVE the theory. If the data fail to disprove the theory, it's a success. At least for now.
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  41. #12 chris at 19:55 PM on 9 July, 2010
    That was a rather unnecessary post Peter since "looking at the big picture" means taking a broad perspective of all of the data and information that bears on an issue. It doesn't have anything to do with "pictures" in the sense that you've misconstrued it

    No, it was not unecessary. The article above is about different ways of perception. One way is trying to visualize all of the data and information that bears on an issue. It is a holistic approach, has great pedagogical value but has nothing to do with the scientific method.

    Most of the people here seem to be preoccupied with the big picture. That is, if some detail would not fit, they just tend to ignore it.

    Any OHC (Ocean Heat Content) history reconstruction with an upward slope fits into the big picture nicely. However, there are a number of different OHC reconstructions with this general property which are still inconsistent with each other. This is the point where things start getting interesting, but it is also the point where folks here tend to lose interest.

    The same with UHI (Urban Heat Island) effect on surface temperature history. The effect is shown to be huge everywhere locally, even on pretty rural sites like Barrow, Alaska. We also know that world population has doubled twice since the beginning of last century, therefore on average local population density has increased fourfold everywhere.

    Still, no one is inclined to take a closer look at the UHI effect on surface temperatures, because a large downward adjustment of the trend would make it unfit for the big picture. There are always multiple lines of evidence you know and none of them can be scrutinized thoroughly, in itself, because people insist all of the data and information that bears on an issue should be taken into account.

    But that is not so, science does not work that way. Each piece of evidence should be able to stand on its own right, irrespective of any support that may or may not come from another domain.

    Preoccupation with robustness springs from the same vein. It fancies even if some of the claims supporting the big picture would come out as untenable, there are still multiple, independent lines of evidence, so the big picture should be correct irrespective of any flaw.

    It is an inherent property of pictures. You can remove any pixel you want, it does not do much harm to the picture. You can even remove all the pixels at the same time, but khrrrm, wait.

    'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'
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  42. "But for the rest of us, maybe there is some common ground."

    This might work in some political environments, but not for science. Science is not about finding common ground with some arbitrary opposition.
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  43. John Brookes:"I don't think there is any hope for the lunatic fringe on either side. If your starting point is that the people on the other side are evil incarnate, then you won't move from that. But for the rest of us, maybe there is some common ground. Can we find the points on which we agree? Much more importantly, can we pinpoint the exact places where we disagree?"

    I agree that there is no talking with the extremes on either side. As to whether there is common ground, amongst the reasonable folks, there is much more than you seem to think IMO. Generally, the disagreement for these folks is btw the Hotties (a doubling of CO2 will cause 2-4.5C of warming) and the Warmies(btw 0.5-2C). Probably >90% of the reasonable people in both camps will fall somewhere in these two ranges.

    Cheers, :)
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  44. Berényi Péter at 01:11 AM on 10 July, 2010

    Well your first post was a misrepresentation as I indicated Peter. You've changed the subject into something a little more interesting.

    If we are interested in a subject with important issues around (i) an evidence-base and (ii) causality, we will always (if we wish to address the subject honestly) "look at the big picture".

    For example we might be interested in the cause of lung cancer and more specifically the causal relationship with smoking ciggies. The "big picture" might be encompassed within the following knowledge base (theory) and empirical evidence:

    (i) A vast epidemiological effort has established a correlation between ciggie smoking and lung cancer [EMPIRICAL].
    (ii) Our understanding of the molecular basis of some forms of cancer encompass the idea that certain molecules (carcinogens) can damage DNA beyond the ability of somatic cellular repair machinary to correct this, and that expression of mutant forms of important cell cycle control proteins can result in cell proliferation and cancer (THEORY based on EMPIRICAL observation and basic Mol. Biol.)
    (iii) We can observe these mutations in proliferated tissue in biopsies from lung cancer patients. [EMPIRICAL]
    ...and so on....

    Now of course we could decide to eschew the "big picture" and focus on sub-elements of the subject where there might be uncertainty. That's fine; it's the areas of uncertainties that scientists like to inhabit since that's where discoveries will be made. The problem is when these sub-analyses are used to attempt to misrepresent the relationships that are well understand from a "big picture" perespective; e.g.

    (a) Here is a group of heavy smokers that don't have lung cancer. Clearly smoking doesn't cause lung cancer.
    (b) I've analyzed DNA from lung biopsies of ths cohort of lung cancer patients. I can't find any evidence of mutations in important cell cycle regulatory elements in these patients. Clearly cancer isn't caused by the mutagenic effects of carcinogens.
    ....and so on....

    Your OHC example is somewhat related. We know that global warming is occurring, we can measure this in the real world and examine its consequences (EMPIRICAL), and can understand the causal relationships within a large body of THEORETICAL knowledge (based on earlier EMPIRICAL analyses).

    As you say, there are a number of OHC analyses. None of these is inconsistent with our understanding of global warming and its causes and consequences. The important issues with OHC currently center around our ability to measure this reliably, especially in relation to short term variability. These are fascinating issues and of intense interest to the scientists who study these. However there is a limit to how much we can productively "gnaw over" these on a blog such as this.

    My feeling is that an essential problem with focussing on the sub-themes of a broad set of analyses that bear on a subject (like global warming in response to raised greenhouse gas concentrations) is that it leads to the temptation (particularly apparent in a rather brutalist inductive approach) that one selects a particular set of data or analysis in order to attempt to precondition a conclusion by "loading" the premise.

    That's not a problem for science and scientists who love to wallow in areas of uncertainty. Unfortunately, as in the smoking example, focussing on the sub-themes can be used to cheat Joe Public out of his democratic right to a reliable representation of the subject (the "big picture"). Focussing on the uncertainties in sub-themes is the standard way of misrepresenting the science, as is described quite nicely in the paper I linked to above. As long as we're aware of that evcerything's fine and we can argue about OHC to our hearts contet!
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  45. Oops, I forgot my last point, which was that the primary points of disagreement are IMO: 1. the role/effect of natural variations on temperature(including what the natural "forcings" on temp are) and 2. the validity of the observational record.
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  46. chris at 02:00 AM on 10 July, 2010(

    ooops...I meant:

    "...particularly apparent in a rather brutalist deductive approach....)"

    also apols for the long post.
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  47. Ba Humbug, we actually had about 40 years of warming to go on between 1950-1990-warming which couldn't be explained by any *natural* cause that we could see, not the less than 15 you claim. We also had the strong knowledge of the IR-absorbing effects of CO2 & Methane to come up with a reasonable hypothesis for why the planet was warming in the absence of increased insolation. The warming in the 1st half of the 20th century was well explained by the rapid rise in sunspot numbers over this time period. What you seem to be doing, Humbug, is *assuming* that the Climate Scientists who did all the initial leg-work were some kind of stupid panic-merchants. This is just the kind of anti-intellectualism I've come to expect from the rabid fringe of the Notties Movement.
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  48. We need to find a label for the people who average out the opinions of the frosties and hotties. Is "air conditioneries" apropos? :)

    "The frosties look at the data without any underlying model, and see no trend. The hotties look at the data in the light of their models, and see something different. The point of difference is not that they see different things, it is the presence or absence of an underlying model of what they see."

    This passage could be taken as: frosties are unbiased, or frosties are unscientific. I think most people that get serious about this issue has a model in their heads. I'm not sure why the hotties (or the frosties) are assumed to not look at "the other side."
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  49. BP,
    This is a blog, we aren't performing the scientific method here, that's for practicing scientists out in the field producing peer-reviewed research. We are reviewing the evidence that is produced by that science to gain a broad understanding of our world and where we are headed. This is inherently a "big picture" approach. To abandon this approach is to say that science can make no broad statements about how the world works; it is reduced to a meaningless excercise in data collection.
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  50. According to this article, Hotties are green. But if global warming (hypothetically) proved to be due to Nature, would these green folks advocate going against Nature to artificially cool the Earth? Meanwhile, all those lattes are generating waste heat which of course has nothing to do with global warming.
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    Response: If global warming proved to be due to nature, then all our CO2 emissions are not causing warming. Set aside for the moment the question of how all the trapped heat directly observed by satellites and surface measurements is not causing warming. If we believe CO2 is not causing warming, then reducing our CO2 emissions will have a minimal effect. You can't say adding CO2 has no effect but not adding it will have an effect.

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