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Climate Hustle

What do you get when you put 100 climate scientists in a room?

Posted on 22 July 2010 by John Cook

No, this isn't a joke (although you're welcome to post a punchline in the comments if you can come up with a funny answer). Instead, I was imagining what would happen if you filled a room with the world's leading experts on climate science - the scientists who are actively publishing climate science papers in the peer-reviewed literature. If you asked this group of climate experts if they thought humans were causing global warming, what would they say? Here's a visualisation of the response (obviously green are convinced that humans are causing climate change, red are skeptical):

Why does this matter? Does a consensus of climate experts prove that humans are causing global warming? No, science doesn't work that way. The evidence for man-made global warming lies in the multiple, independent observations that confirm man's influence on climate . It's not based just on theory or models or even just a single dataset but many different observations all pointing to a consistent result. In my quieter moments of introspection when I wonder if this could all be wrong, ultimately I can't avoid all the different lines of evidence.

But not everyone has the time or inclination to dig through the peer-reviewed literature to uncover all the empirical evidence. Or read the thousands of pages in the IPCC reports. When it comes to complex science, whether it be climate science or heart surgery or how a plane manages to stay up in the air, we defer to the experts who do this stuff for a living. Why? Because they know every nook and cranny of their area of expertise. Every day when they go to work, climate scientists are knee deep in the full body of evidence. They arrive at their opinion of man-made global warming by taking into account all this evidence. The reason why there's a consensus of scientists is because there's a consensus of evidence.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 166:

  1. If the 97% agree that anthropogenic global warming is occurring, what do the other 3% say? Is it that they simply not convinced, or that the evidence does NOT point to AGW?
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    Response: It is possible to track down what the 2 to 3% say - the Anderegg paper is based on public statements signed by climate scientists. So you can always track down which climate scientists have publicly signed statements of climate skepticism. My guess is the majority of them would agree that humans are raising CO2 levels and that higher CO2 causes warming, but that negative feedbacks will reduce the warming. A "Get out of jail free" card generously handed to us from the climate. This is the view of scientists like Richard Lindzen and Roy Spencer.
  2. I suspect the other 3 have their hands over their ears, and are saying, "I can't hear you, I can't hear you,..." ;-)
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  3. The other 3, I would say, have a level of cognitive dissonance that they're dealing with from a personal or political standpoint. It's not that they're bad scientists, they're human like all scientists. They're just finding the capacity to ignore the overwhelming evidence in favor of what they prefer to believe to be the truth.

    Beyond that, IF (a very monumental IF) they did manage to locate that "missing link" in climate science that showed that current warming was clearly NOT anthropogenic, then they would be vindicated and written into history for all time. Whereas if they are wrong they are more likely to be merely forgotten.
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  4. 100 climate scientists walk into a bar, and ...
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  5. I'd say the other 3 are not convinced, & are still looking for that elusive, exotic factor that might *really* be the cause. I'm completely fine with that because that's the way science works. Personally, I hope they *do* find that *other* factor, because it would be a great relief to me to know that humans aren't causing Global Warming. Personally, though, I feel that all the available evidence suggests otherwise. Also, even if AGW was disproved tomorrow, I'd still argue for a reduced reliance on fossil fuels on the basis of *general* pollution & resource sustainability!
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    Response: The whole "maybe there's some other yet to be discovered cause" line of thinking fails to take into account that we're directly observing all this heat being trapped by CO2. We don't think CO2 is causing warming just because we've eliminated all the other options - we're actively observing an increased greenhouse effect at CO2 wavelengths. To deny man's influence, you need to not only find another cause but also explain what's happening to all the heat being trapped by CO2.
  6. Sorry, no good joke. But if you put 100 scientists from any one field into a room, you will get plenty of arguments. A reasonable chance of some heated arguments. But most likely the arguments won't be about any of the things the denier side thinks are important -- because most or all of the people in the room will know that those things really are not important or not in dispute.

    John's guess on the 3% is probably a good one. I suspect that the 3% also include some who would have agreed if you said "probably changing" as opposed to "changing". They just have some doubts about one aspect or another (like the feedback question).
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  7. It's not funny but...... three red guys in the back corner being ignored ;)

    I would have thought 100 of them would be green if you asked that question. Most of the so-called deniers I've read seem to accept CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that increasing CO2 is anthropogenic. From what I've read the so-called denier scientists seem to hold a range of ideas including.

    1) We have focussed solely on the effect of CO2 while denying or ignoring natural variability.
    2) We have over-estimated CO2's impact on the climate.
    3) We have ignored other ways of how we changed the environment, such as land use.
    4) We are still in the early stages of climate science either in our data collection or theories. We still have too much to learn before we can pass conclusions.

    The simple reduction of things to yes/no becomes a real problem when you're trying to assess were the science is at.

    (I can't help feeling sorry for those discriminated red guys. Some bring it on themselves and no doubt enjoy it but it strikes me some of them are just going were their science takes them)
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  8. Answering #3: they will be cursed long before they are forgotten. For their intransigence is a major contributing factor to the incredibly stubborn delay of our political and social leaders in taking effective action to prevent a catastrophic rise in average surface temperature.

    There might not be as strikinga consensus concerning when we will start feeling the effects of this failure, but that won't stop me from placing my bet: my bet is that by the end of the 21st century, even the skeptics will have a hard time denying the onset of catastrophe. Even by 2150 only the stubborn will still be denying it. The rest of us will begin to feel it as crop failures and decreasing water supplies drive up food and water prices.
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  9. You get local warming.
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  10. MattJ
    "cursed" wow!

    How about just excluded, blacklisted, demonised as in the pay of Big Oil........oh wait.
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  11. Honestly, the issue isn't so much that there are the three that disagree with the consensus of the other 97. One expects that in science. It's that the main stream media puts the three on the same level (if not higher) as the 97.

    Think of it this way. What if 97 senators in the US Senate were from one party? How much sway would they have on policy. Certainly far less that the 3% of climate science contrarians currently have on climate policy.
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  12. Whoops. Sorry, I flipped that. If 3 Senators were all there were in one party they would have far less sway than the 3% of climate science contrarians currently have on climate policy in the US.
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  13. John: When it comes to complex science, whether it be climate science or heart surgery or how a plane manages to stay up in the air, we defer to the experts who do this stuff for a living. Why? Because they know every nook and cranny of their area of expertise.

    Having seen the appalling standards of care tolerated in some areas of medical practice in Australia and having heard a few things about the safety culture of a well known Australian airline from an engineer ostracised by its management, I'm rather choosy about who I'd go to see about a medical problem and who I'd fly with.

    I'm not saying the 97% have got it all wrong or even that they haven't got all or most of it right. Like the rest of us, I can't go through the many thousands of peer reviewed papers (many of which contain scientific arguments that are way beyond my ken). But I do feel that focusing on majoritarian views actually distracts us from the excellent and stimulating science that so often appears on this site.

    I guess my problem stems in part from my work as a psychiatrist which includes a substantial slab of forensic or medicolegal reporting. Consequently, I've had an unusually high degree of exposure to systemic dysfunction in many of the institutions in which we normally trust (and which I have to trust when dealing with them in every day life because I have no choice - I would otherwise find myself reduced to a paranoid mess).
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  14. John,

    "It's not based just on theory or models or even just a single dataset but many different observations all pointing to a consistent result."

    This is a bit nebulous and too convenient for me. There are many instances where things don't point to a consistent result, off the top of my head Trenberths "missing heat". If that is any idea in climate science that fully satisfies your inquiring mind then... well I don't know.

    But your comment did get me thinking. "what are the ten most important climate science experiments" (or 20, or data sets or theories or whatever). Something that amounts to the complete picture (Somebody's going to tell me to go read the IPCC report).
    As well as a list of denier arguments how about the best of climate science, if you dare include all the limitations and caveats associated with the work. I realise you sort of do this on a daily basis, for which I'm grateful, but I'd be interested in that sort article. Maybe it's too much to sum up in one article.
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    Response: I attempt to do that in the empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming. In truth, though, that page is in sore need of updating. I've yet to incorporate some of the human fingerprints plus I've learnt a few new "human fingerprints" in recent weeks that I'm desperate to blog about but just can't seem to get to. So on the to-do list is to blog about these other human fingerprints, then revamp the empirical evidence page, synthesising it all into a single, user-friendly, well-cited, easy-to-understand page. Just let me get through the other million things I have to do and I'll get onto that asap! :-)
  15. HR - the only climate scientist dissenting views that I have heard are either:
    1/ There is an undiscovered natural variability or
    2/ negative feedbacks gives us a lower sensitivity

    I'd have said IPCC treated your other points very thoroughly but I know that non-climate scientists have tried to push them. Want to list the climate scientists you think follow your ideas? Can any of them do physics?
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  16. What do you get when you put 1oo climate scientists in a room?

    FEAR - because a world-wide press conference is about to start and not one of them remembered to bring the Skeptical Science list of one-line answers.
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    Response: They've got an app for that now :-)
  17. Actually HR, since there is a suggestion that you think these points have some validity, perhaps you can show some evidence.

    1) All variability has physical causes. Where is the evidence of natural variability that isnt adequate captured by known physics and accounted for?

    2) We measure 3.7W/m2 of forcing from our GHG(cf <1 for solar min/max) and that is over-estimating? Again, where is the evidence for a more important factor.

    3) We have?? Estimated at 0-0.4W/m2. Obviously we have NOT ignored the issue. Where is the evidence that this is underestimated.

    4)Doubtful, but uncertainty cuts both ways. Suppose ECS is 6 not 3? How much risk to you like?
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  18. 11 robhon

    Somebody like Roger Pielke Snr might say he has no say in how policies are being formed because his field of climate science is being effective ignored by the IPCC. From recollection he was part of the IPCC in the early days but left when he felt his viewpoint was being ignored. He now writes and often read blog, publishes and seems to still work to shape policy but all this as an outsider who can easily be ignored. The power in this example lies with the IPCC not Pielke. You're maybe over-stating the power of the blogosphere.
    The Copanhagen Summit wasn't scuppered by deniers, each nation went in with it's own agenda based on it's narrow nation interests not on whether they read WUWT or SkepticalScience. I actually think stalemate and continued talks was what most ultimately wanted. Still seen to be still working on the problem while not committing to something that will harm their economy or hand advantage to their competitors. It's an oft used tactic.
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  19. John, the only change I would make to the graphic is to place the three red people right up front. The 3% get much more press than they deserve because they have great ability to place themselves "front and center".

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    Global Warming: Man or Myth?
    My Global Warming Blog
    Twitter: AGW_Prof
    "Global Warming Fact of the Day" Facebook Group
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  20. While I am just a scientist rather than a "Climate Scientist" you can count me as a supporter of the alleged 97% who claim that humans are affecting global warming.

    For me the interesting question is whether the "Anthropogenic" component of "Global Warming" is measurable.
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  21. HR #14

    "There are many instances where things don't point to a consistent result, off the top of my head Trenberths "missing heat"."

    For a substantial case it's pretty usual to be able to get three "off the top of your head" items. For example, off the top of my head, some of the convergent evidence is:

    1. Independent sources of global temperature change.
    2. Ecosystem changes showing a warming world (e.g. beetles devestating boreal forest)
    3. Earlier onset of spring in the NH.

    There, easy. You refer us to one single item based on an inappropriately short time period, with a complex measurement model lacking the required precision to be sufficiently sensitive over a such short time period. If there really is the inconsistency at largethat you claim is possible, then you really should be able to do better than that "off the top of your head".

    Or will your attempts already be covered in the excellent list of one line rebuttals?
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  22. 97% of researchers who believe humans do not significantly change climate do not bother going into climate science in the first place.

    Over 97% of phrenologists believed bumps on the head influence mental faculties.

    Etc etc.
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  23. Roger Pielke Snr in my opinion is not a denier and I would read his published science with respect. However, things like reduction in aerosols opens us to full force of GHG forcing. What I have seen of his blog arguments confuse proximate and ultimate causes.

    GC - you ask about attribution. Your opinions on this review perhaps?
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  24. 15scaddenp at 12:34 PM on 22 July, 2010

    "1/ There is an undiscovered natural variability"
    In some aspects of climate science some believe the natural variability is discovered, it's just not accepted as part of the IPCC's view of the world.

    I'll give you Chylek and others who have identified the Arctic/Antarctica seesaw effect which seems to be completely ignored when considering the consensus view of the affect of AGW on the poles.

    Pielke is always banging on about land use and often cites papers from other groups on his blog to illustrate his points. he seems convinced the IPCC is ignoring this issue. If it's true that land use changes are under-estimated or ignored then that does suggest we

    Schwartz puts GHG forcing around 1 I think. And some believe the whole process of trying to calculate the GHG forcing in the way we do is flawed.

    How about the 18 science groups participating in the CERN CLOUD experiments who seem to think there is at least sufficient evidence in the present data to pursue these very expensive experiments.

    There are also plenty of instance were we've identified the fingerprint of AGW only to discover that things aren't quite so simple, how can this be if our knowledge is so complete. Theories around 20th century hurricane numbers and intensity were recently debunked. I can't remember the reference but I'm pretty sure I recently read a paper on the problem of identifying 20thC AGW associated precipitation trends. I watched a doco narrated by Brad Pitt last night that was still pushing the Himalaya meme.

    That will do for now.
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  25. 14 kdkd

    "beetles devestating boreal forest"

    I'd be interested in the reference for this one.
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  26. kdkd at 13:23

    Your three points, are not in themselves proof of anything, other than climate change... for anthropogenic contributions it all comes down to the measured back radiation... and its calculated effect(i thought it was more on the order of 2W/m2? was the 3.7 W/m2 including water vapor feedback? @ scaddenp)

    And there are still plenty of unknowns in the climate system... ocean circulation is not actually that well understood at this stage. Cloud formation/ and its response to raised humidity/greenhouse forcing and feedback. Then you have stratospheric cooling/ and does this effect pressure systems in the troposphere? etc...

    The radiative properties of the GHGs etc are well understood, but not every factor.
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  27. 14 kdkd


    "You refer us to one single item based on an inappropriately short time period, with a complex measurement model lacking the required precision to be sufficiently sensitive over a such short time period."

    I agree with all that. That's part of the "climate science is in it's infancy" idea. Lets list all the other too short data sets in climate science.
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  28. thingadonta - put 100 scientists in room and 82 think AGW is real. Same cant be said about phrenology.
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  29. Joe Blog #27

    OK, then "off the top of my head" again:

    1. Close coupling of temperature increases to CO2 emissions.
    2. Fossil fuel signature of atmospheric C isotopes.
    3. [ a fairly complicated statistical argument showing that CO2 overtook solar as the main driver of climate some time in the early/mid 20th century which I have personal familiarity with, but won't explain in great detail off the top of my head].

    HR #25

    A quick google scholar suffices (again off the top of my head): First paper I found from Nature, and completely independent of the climate science: here. There are other references too.

    HR #27

    Well volunteered, it sounds like it will be an interesting task for you :). We'll see how it affects the overall scientific consensus, or if it's small isolated bits of information surrounding the consensus :).
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  30. HR - well Chylek has been taken apart elsewhere but antarctic/arctic oscillations are well known. What we have now though is warming in both.

    Schwartz - he has now revised upward.

    CERN cloud - well this is looking for mechanism but various studies (show see "its cosmic rays") show you dont get a noticeable effect even if true.

    joe blog - ocean circulation has mysteries but OHC is now pretty well tied down. Local effects of AGW still remain very challenging but heat redistribution doesnt have much affect on the overall heat budget.
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  31. Lets change the subject. Imagine that the room is filled not with climatologists but with doctors.

    Now imagine that the split in opinion on what treatment you desperately need was the same, 97 to 3.

    Who's advice would you take?
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  32. scaddenp
    Not his 2010 paper. And "taken apart" seems highly inappropriate, assimilated into the body of climate change literature seems better. In fact the need to "take apart" science that stands outside the IPCC consensus is worrying in itself.
    The oscillations may be well known but when I read about Arctic warming they are never mentioned. I'm skeptical there is any recent antarctic warming trend. I'm aware that Steig report a warming trend since 1957, what they didn't point out in that paper is most of that warming came in the first decade. Since about the mid 1960's antarctic temperature looks fairly flat.
    Have a read of

    Twentieth century bipolar seesaw of the Arctic and Antarctic
    surface air temperatures (2010)
    Petr Chylek,1 Chris K. Folland,2 Glen Lesins,3 and Manvendra K. Dubey4

    CERN CLOUD - and there is enough data out there to support the grant proposal for this experiment. I'm afraid as much as you would like it to be, this idea hasn't yet been "taken apart".
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  33. What do you get...? -97 of them will say:"let's open the window" but as 100% majority is demanded by the people who put them in the room, you get nothing. Sorry hangove'd.
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  34. "In fact the need to "take apart" science that stands outside the IPCC consensus is worrying in itself. "

    Papers are "taken apart" when they are wrong, not because they disagree with the IPCC consensus. Of course, wrong papers are sometimes just ignored. Correct papers withstand attempts to take them apart.

    Really, this whole idea that scientists in a whole host of fields reflexively bow down before the IPCC is beyond ridiculous.
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  35. HR - any paper on either side with errors needs to be taken apart but yes, I was referring to the earlier one on sensitivity. I have not read the 2010 but GRACE ice loss would indicate that it is not getting colder (though note that models do not predict much warming in Antarctica).

    The cloud experiment - well till they do it, who knows? I think the climate angle was rather pushed to get funding but even if it has some effect, the observational data is against it having much significance for climate change.
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  36. #31 ScruffyDan

    Assume unpleasantly it bowel cancer.

    If I got a pain in my gut, blood in my stools, been to the doctor, had the endoscope, had a biopsy and the test says it's cancer. There is only one possibly drug on the market. 97 recommend that drug the 3 go down a different route. The answer seems obvious.

    What if I walk into the room just with a pain in my gut. 97 say I've probably got wind, 3 say I should consider bowel cancer.

    What if there are a choice of options for treatment. And the numbers are split.

    What if............
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  37. 35 scaddenp

    "I think the climate angle was rather pushed to get funding"

    That made me laugh out loud.
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  38. 34 Jeff Freymueller

    I don't think we are allowed to comment on the climategate e-mails on this wesite, but here goes. I read in them a concerted effort among some to get rebuttals of papers in specifically to beat the IPCC deadlines. That is not the normal course of scientific debate, that is politics.

    I also don't think they are particularly bowing down. I think the broader politics around the IPCC fits fairly naturally with the views of many people, climate scientists included.
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  39. #38 HumanityRules, so are you suggesting that they would not have done a rebuttal if not for the IPCC deadline? Or can you point to a single example of this where the rebuttal was rebutted? I think the answer to both of those questions is no. But perhaps you have an example of a paper where a rebuttal was rushed to beat an IPCC deadline, and afterward the original paper became a highly cited and influential paper while the rebuttal was cosigned to the circular file?

    As for the broader politics, I think you are acting as if science and the political punditry operate on similar principles. They don't.
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  40. HumanityRules at 15:21 PM on 22 July, 2010

    97 say your pain is probably wind, 3 say it might be cancer.
    They put their heads together and say "We'll do a scan / other tests and see what they tell us."

    And when the tests are done - who do you listen to? The person who looks at the image and says I can't see anything, or the qualified radiologist who says, "Look at this area here. We'd better investigate further."

    And who's qualified to investigate further? Yup, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists. Not your mum or next door neighbour or the shop assistant. Experts.

    Who should we listen to on climate issues. Experts!!
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  41. #7: HumanityRules at 11:39 AM on 22 July, 2010

    I would have thought 100 of them would be green if you asked that question. Most of the so-called deniers I've read seem to accept CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that increasing CO2 is anthropogenic. From what I've read the so-called denier scientists seem to hold a range of ideas including.

    1) We have focussed solely on the effect of CO2 while denying or ignoring natural variability.
    2) We have over-estimated CO2's impact on the climate.
    3) We have ignored other ways of how we changed the environment, such as land use.
    4) We are still in the early stages of climate science either in our data collection or theories. We still have too much to learn before we can pass conclusions.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I don't know what you mean by those "scientists" you mentioned. Were you referring to 'skeptics' who are actual Climatologists or are you referring to just any scientist in any field?

    As far as their "range of ideas" you've listed, are they really representative of most leaders of the "skeptical" that we are familiar with?

    1) "We have focussed solely on the effect of CO2 while denying or ignoring natural variability."

    Not really. Solar variation has been taken into account and there is no way it can be responsible for our situation in the past century. Furthermore, the limits of its fluctuations are such that it will never be a major driving force. Perhaps a minor nuisance if it gets its spots back but less and less of a contribution as our emissions and feedbacks (Siberian Permafrost) crank the temperatures up.

    I'm sure you've heard this AGW response. The question is, what is your counter rebuttal?

    2) "We have over-estimated CO2's impact on the climate."

    Is this a reference to Lord Monckton's re-computation of CO2's Global Warming abilities? According to his self reviewed Calculatus Eliminatus computations ;-) CO2 has 1/6 the ability to warm things up that all physicists have been telling us.

    Please keep in mind his logic and consistency. In one presentation he stated that 300,000 ppm of CO2 during "Snowball Earth" had no effects at all. In other revelations of his, he tells us that if we keep up our normal emissions (reaching about 800 ppm), we will have 1/2, maybe 1 degree Fahrenheit rise. Please figure out the inconsistency of that.

    Are we supposed to believe that a man who claims to have invented a cure for MS, Herpes Simplex VI, the common cold and finally a treatment for AIDS; is to be taken seriously in his estimates of what CO2 can do?

    3) "We have ignored other ways of how we changed the environment, such as land use."

    Am I imagining how the destruction of the Amazon Forest and others have been taken into account by AGW's?

    4) "We are still in the early stages of climate science either in our data collection or theories. We still have too much to learn before we can pass conclusions."

    When will we advance into a more mature stage of climate science? Perhaps in the year 2100 when 98% of the population of 100's of millions are illiterate?

    My apologies if my sarcasm makes one wince but that last statement is the most pathetic of them all. Yes, we do have sufficient knowledge to make a decision on a situation which, in it's 'best case scenario', is going to wreak sufficient damage to collapse nations worldwide.
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  42. Normally dissent is a good thing in science. I'd say that the 3% are essential for keeping the 97% in line. It's important for a scientist to know that there are people who will question your results. Evil people that would be delighted to find out that you made a mistake. It keeps you on your toes.

    The unusual situation in climate science is the way the science is mixed with politics. The reasonable or unreasonable doubts of the 3% and the various theories of the 97% are taken out of context. When it's told in the medias, both can be turned into something different.
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  43. Well, since doctors keep coming up in the discussion (ScruffyDan @ 31 & HR @ 36) and John Cook, let me give you some real life examples.

    In my field (apart from medication and ECT), we have psychotherapies of which the current favourite is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is actually quite a useful adjunct in helping manage milder forms of depression and anxiety. However, being a therapy which can be done from a manual, there is no end of research purporting to show the benefits of CBT. The evidence base seems most impressive. CBT outcomes are usually compared to outcomes on patients on a 'waiting list' or receiving 'supportive psychotherapy' (talking about your problems to a sympathetic listener).

    When you look at the actual studies, all too many rely on a several week trial demonstrating some improvement (eg, in the form of lowered scores on a psychometric test). However, in the real world of office and hospital based psychiatry dealing with patients with severe chronic conditions, CBT may have limited application.

    One research unit on anxiety disorders in a city which shall remain unnamed run by a professor who shall remain equally nameless and genderless has published very impressive outcomes for CBT therapies. Interestingly, s/he claims that s/he can achieve these results without medication. When I first entered private practice, I had a number of challenging patients with severe anxiety disorder whom I referred to the unit hoping they7 would receive more expert treatment. Inevitably, the patients were sent back to me with a polite note stating that they needed medication and hence were not suitable for the treatments on offer. No wonder they were (and remain) so successful - they took only the easiest of patients.

    Much the same happens in drug trials which often run over a six (maybe twelve) week period in which Drug A is compared with Drug B (where Drug B is a well-established treatment). Often dosage are fixed so as to achieve a standardised treatment. Patients selected are often 'pure' populations bearing little resemblance to the patients in the real world who often have multiple comorbid conditions. Outcomes again are often based on changes in scores on psychometric testing. The study will be published if the person pushing drug A manages to obtain a statistically significant improvement in psychometric scores over Drug B.

    Of course, in real life psychiatry, you end up treating many patients for months often varying drug dosages and combining drugs and spending a great deal of time trying to help them make sense of their predicament (which is what you often have to do in general medicine which is largely about the management of chronic disease). Moreover, in real life, a 50% reduction in a patient's score on a psychometric test may sound impressive - however, it often does not represent functional recovery (which is the most relevant metric).

    Clinicians (as opposed to researchers) are all too aware of the frail evidence base of much medical practice but do the best they can to apply the research data. Our learned colleges spend a great deal of time putting out practice guidelines which are sometimes helpful and sometimes seem quite removed from the realities we encounter in our offices and in hospitals.

    To my shame, I have to undermine your confidence in the medical profession any further by dwelling on unspeakably corrupt behaviour by inter alia academics with very impressive research profiles who act us guns for hire for insurance companies. These are the same people who publish studies and act as peer reviewers towards whom mere clinicians such as myself ostensibly look to for guidance.

    What horrifies me about the behaviour of the latter is that they cause needless suffering to injured parties caught up in an adversarial system (and add substantially to the ultimate cost of insurance claims by blocking common sense resolutions). Moreover, the same doctors tend to dominate the medicolegal sections of their various colleges - ie, the poachers are the gamekeepers.

    In an earlier post on 21/07/10, someone remarked that you didn't need to have peer reviewers who were moral giants to pick out junk science. However, having seen so many moral pygmies in positions of influence in my profession, I struggle to overcome cynicism about the world of science and academia.

    Do I still trust my own doctors? Well, actually, yes I do - they've helped me enormously through some challenging health issues. I would add that i have very high expectations of the colleagues to whom I* entrust my health. Do I still read my professional journals? Of course though sometimes with a jaundiced eye when I see an obvious disconnect between research findings and the realities I encounter in day-to-day clinical practice.

    To come back on topic, do i accept AWG as likely to be a major challenge for us as a society? Yes - though I believe there's some uncertainty around the scale of the positive feedbacks. I was far more sceptical a couple of years ago. John's obvious sincerity and commitment to very courteous moderation giving a voice to disparate views has played a major role in this process.

    However, I wince when the medical profession is cited as a model for trusting climate science. I've seen too much of the dark side.
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    Response: I've had my own dark experiences with the medical profession. Maybe I'll stick with engineers as my 'expert metaphor'. Haven't had any bad encounters with engineers yet.

    Thanks for the kind words, they're quite appreciated. I'll make it my goal to convince you of the evidence for net positive feedback over the new few months :-)
  44. HumanityRules at 14:54 PM on 22 July, 2010

    You’re missing the point HR. None of your examples provide any cause for considering the science on the greenhouse effect deficient, or the role of CO2 as a greenhouse gas, or the consequences (with uncertainties) of massively enhancing its concentrations, or that alternative potential contributions are sidelined.


    Each of these scientists (not to mention Lindzen and Choi) has presented flawed analyses (dismally so in the case of Chylek and Lindzen/Choi) in an attempt to support low climate sensitivities. Each of their analyses is objectively incorrect, in the cases of Chylek and Lindzen, by a rather astonishing cherry-picking of data points apparently to support a preselected “answer”. I don’t actually see how objectively flawed analyses can be used to support your notion that alternative theories and contributions are ignored.

    Your statement: . ”In fact the need to "take apart" science that stands outside the IPCC consensus is worrying in itself.” is specious. In every scientific field scientists read published work and may discover real or apparent flaws and may write a comment to the relevant journal. Objectively flawed work will very likely be noticed and highlighted. Chylek (and Lindzen and Choi’s) rather astonishingly flawed analyses were “taken apart” not because they “stand outside the IPCC consensus”, but because they are rubbish.

    Bottom line: If we want to understand the Earth surface temperature response to enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations, we reject analyses that are massively and objectively flawed. Wouldn't you say so HR? Or do you think it's appropriate to pretend that flawed analyses are not flawed in order to support a pretence of an "opposition" to the science?

    One might additionally ask the question about the motivation of those that go to the effort to prepare analyses that border on the fraudulent.
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  45. Looking at your room full of climate scientists, it illustrates with clarity the skewed reporting of the issue in the various media outlets.
    If I'm being charitable it's their desire to report in a balanced manner that makes them wheel out those same three 'red' guys from your room time and time again to have their say. Their views become disproportionately amplified in the publics perception of the state of scientific understanding.
    Of course there are uncertainties which , I would argue, are already more than adequately expressed in the IPCC assessments, but the notion of some sort of dichotomy in the 'debate' about the anthropogenic influnence on climate is utterly false.
    Truely fair and balanced reporting would move the discourse towards the worrying degree of warming we're actually observing, the likely regional and global implications and the potential human and ecological damage associated with doing nothing to curb CO2, and how to effectively curb fossil fuel burning. That is where the debate should be a whopping 97% of the time.

    Unfortunately with much of the mainstream media siding with an increasingly influencial blogsphere that propogates snake oil science we're being fed a information diet that approaches 50% rubbish. That is why your efforts here are so important and so appreciated.
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  46. HR, Chris, villalobo>
    On HR's point (1):

    If I understand Roy Spencer corectly, his point of view is that part of the present warming could be caused by natural variation. This means internal variation of the climate, without any forcing from the sun or other external influences. The big weak spot of this theory is that while he does mumble about the influence of cloud cover, he does not point to any concrete mechanism, or has any data that suggests the existence of such long cycles.

    On the other hand, I don't see that the possibility has been excluded. It seems to me that we just don't understand the dynamics of climate well enough to say with certainty that there are no such internal variations. If I had to bet real money, I would bet against it, but this seems to be one of those loose ends, which sooner or later have be tied up.
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  47. scaddenp at 15:18 PM on 22 July, 2010

    HumanityRules at 15:25 PM on 22 July, 2010

    "I think the climate angle was rather pushed to get funding"

    I agree with scaddenp. In particular the presentations of Jasper Kirkby are disgraceful, and his descriptions of the roles of CRF, solar irradiance and increased greenhouse gas concentrations on earth temperature variation of the last 1000 years show are a dreary misrepresentation of the science.

    However he got his funding. Fine. And it's encouraging that the CERN CLOUD project has got a number of pukka solar and aerosolic scientists on board.

    But what is CLOUD going to discover HR? We know categorically that changes in CRF can have made no contribution to the very marked warming at least since 1958 when the CRF has been monitored in great detail. There simply hasn't been a trend in the CRF that is compatible with the theory of how CRF might modulate the Earth surface temperature. CLOUD isn't going to change that. It will result in some very nice data on aerosolic particle seeding of water condensates under controlled conditions in a chamber linked to a particle accelerator. There's a big interest in the mechanism of aerosol formation and CLOUD is very likely to give some nice insight to that.

    But it simply isn't going to affect our understanding of the role of greenhouse gases in Earth temperature, nor is it somehow going to "magic" a role for CRF in the large and widespread contemporary warming. Scientists have made an objective analysis of the role of CRF in contemporary warming and the evidence simply doesn't support a role, however nice the science from CLOUD might be.

    Like your examples of flawed attempts to support a low climate sensitivity (Chylek; Lindzen; Schwartz) we can look at these things objectively and assess their value to our overall understanding. That's why 97% of "publishing climate scientists" likely consider that enhanced anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing dominates 20th century and contemporary warming.
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  48. Marcel Bökstedt at 18:43 PM on 22 July, 2010

    I don't see why we should give Roy Spencer any priviliged consideration Marcel! As with science in general it's all about the evidence and Spencer simply doesn't provide any evidence that might lend us to take his idea very seriously. That's not to say that there might not be some natural contribution to 20th century and contemporary warming; however the evidence doesn't support anything more than a weak contribution (there might be a small net solar contribution but this has been less than zero for the past 20 years or so; some of the early 20th century warming was likely due to recovery from volcanic cooling which suppressed greenhouse-induced forcing during the late 19th/early 20th century). Do you (or anyone out there!) think there is good evidence for a stronger natural contribution? In any case natural contributions largely average temporally towards zero, and it is only external forcings that can result in progressive and cumulative increase in the thermal energy in the climate system.

    I find Spencer as a sort of "celebrity crowdpleaser" quite interesting. He makes lots of mileage by presenting rather humdrum analyses in the scientific papers which he "sexes up" on his blog. However amusing or interesting that might be I think there's a darker side to this: it's difficult to forget that he spent the better part of 15 years getting the analysis of satellite-based tropospheric temperatures hopelessly wrong until this was highlighted and correct by others, especially in a series of papers in Science in 2005. Spencer continues to pursue analyses that might give the impression that climate sensitivity might be lower than the rest of the science indicates.

    From a science point of view it doesn't matter since we can take an objective view and consider the evidence on its merits (that's likely why 97% of publishing climate scientisits consider that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions dominate 20th century and contemporary warming). Unfortunately a tiny proportion of scientists who seem to have an interest in pursuing dodgy analyses get a disproportionate amount of attention!
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  49. Incidentally, if some may think I'm a little hard on Spencer, Kirkby, Lindzen and Chylek (it's possible his climate sensitivity paper was an abberation, but it is jaw-droppingly dodgy), it is a good idea occasionally to highlight work that at the very least shows a disregard for normal scientific standards.

    After all there are some astonishing political and agenda-led efforts to insinuate "wrong-doing" on the part of a few climate scientists who have published important work. This is accompanied by a deplorable incitement to bullying from a few web blogs by people that either don't know the difference between right and wrong or who simply don't care.

    If we're objectively interested in hunting out flawed science, then it's pretty clear where much of this resides. Oddly the perpetrators get a free ride while the baying mobs attack the scientists whose work stands the test of time and independent reproduction. That should be pointed out occasionally!

    Scientifically speaking, it's not a big deal that Chylek, Spencer, Lindzen, Kirkby et al make horribly flawed presentations. We can recognise poor analyses and let these pass. This sort of stuff has little effect on the scientific processes even if it does waste a little time. The problems come in its influence on public perception as we've seen time and time again.
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  50. There will always be a small percentage of scientists that reject overwhelming evidence due to their religion or ideology. There are geologists that reject the theory that earth is more than 6000 years old because it clashes with their interpretation of the bible. Should we give them attention because they are geologists and are supposed to know better?
    Some groups reject the AGW theory based on interpretation of the bible, probably some climate scientists as well.
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