More on RealClimate’s Unfalsifiable Models
This being the age of the Internet, not everybody reads after the second or third paragraph. So here’s a quick summary explaining why I write that “RealClimate Raises the Bar AGAINST Climate Models“:
(1) In the “RealClimate World”, models cannot be falsified by a single observation (i.e. atmospheric phenomenon). That phenomenon is called ”weather”, and “weather” for RealClimate is “noise”)
(2) In the “RealClimate World”, models cannot be falsified by a set of short-term observations. That set is just part of a “specific trajectory” towards the expected climate change / global warming. And RealClimate is “not too concerned” about a “specific trajectory“.
Example for point (1): If models indicate the world will get warmer by the year 2100, but world temperatures dip in January and February 2008, RealClimate can still “honestly” claim the models are right, and whatever happened is just a momentary event, during which the “signal” of anthropogenic global warming has been “obscured” by this or that natural (or man-made) cause.
Example for point (2): If models indicate the world will get warmer by the action of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, but world temperatures don’t climb after 1998, RealClimate can still “honestly” claim the models are right, and whatever happened is just the way things are going at the moment, with a random pause in temperature increases that is just one of the hundreds of possible “trajectories” that will take us to a warmer world.
The only way to verify if the climate models are right is by waiting a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check the world has actually got warmer. How many years? More than 10, evidently (see 1998), perhaps more than 30, following the classical definition of “weather”. And by how much, the temperature increase? Pretty much any positive amount would suffice to state, once again, that the “models are right”.
This looks like some kind of “suffocating love”, with the modellers so worried about their models, they have shielded them from almost all possibilities of falsification (in the process, pretty much abandoning “science” as usually understood).
And this is not the only contradiction: if the only way to see the models at work is by waiting a number of years, how could anybody advocate to “act now to save the Planet” because “the science is settled”?
The issue of model falsifiability has already been a topic on the NYT’s “Tierney Lab”, daring to ask this past January questions such as “Are there any indicators in the next 1, 5 or 10 years that would be inconsistent with the consensus view on climate change?” and “Are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent [with global warming}?“.
And what did Gavin Schmidt reply on RealClimate? No, and no:
this subject appears to have been raised from the expectation that some short term weather event over the next few years will definitively prove that either anthropogenic global warming is a problem or it isn’t. As the above discussion should have made clear this is not the right question to ask. Instead, the question should be, are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?
No “short-term weather event over the next few years” could ever disprove that “anthropogenic global warming“. And observations (events) and their analyses, in the RealClimate world, are only interesting to “improve the models“.
It’s hard to fail to spot in Schmidt’s reply that they did go back to “Hansen’s 1988” and other old projections, but whilst the bits that agree with the models are signs that those projections are “good“, those that disagree are so “for reasons that are as yet unclear“.
Instead of scientists trying to interpret the world, in RealClimate we have people subordinating the world to their models.