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Lacis, The IPCC, Simple Physics And Post-normal “Science”

There’s troubles with commenting at the NYT so I will re-post some of my notes to Revkin’s “Does an Old Climate Critique Still Hold up?” here:

(a) Given all the discussion taking place now, and the glaring mistakes obvious to all, it is apparent that nobody has ever read the IPCC report at a meaningful level of detail. A professional editor and a pre-established maximum number of pages should be there for AR5.

(b) I am not sure how to reconcile Dr Hegerl’s statement “We felt Andrew Lacis’ comment reflected that he couldn’t clearly see where statements came from, which is why we strengthened the pointers from the technical sections to the executive summary” with the note to Dr Lacis’ expert comment “Rejected“. Usually, rejected comments are not acted upon.

(c) I’d suggest people drop the “Greenhouse effect is simple physics” argument. Simple physics shows that warm air moves upwards, and a room’s floor is generally colder than its ceiling. However, mountaintops are generally colder than sea-level locations. Why? Because the free atmosphere is a complex system where you can’t just apply simple physics (for a different example: think of anti-oxydants’ wonders in Petri dishes and the failure to translate that into effective anti-aging treatments in the real world)

(d) Call me old-fashioned, but I find “post-normal science” a misnomer (almost, a case of reification). “Post-normal science” is not “science” and should be defined with a more appropriate moniker.

  1. 2010/02/10 at 16:40

    The IPCC AR4 process was fundamentally flawed . The Summary for Policymakers was finalised and published before the WG1 text was finalised. The latter was edited as far as possible to conform to the former instead of the other way around. However ,even after that, the most important WG1 conclusion is still there in plain sight . The key section is AR4 WG1 section 8.6. This deals with forcing, feedbacks and climate sensitivity.The conclusion is towards the end – it says:
    “Moreover it is not yet clear which tests are critical for constraining future projections.Consequently a set of model metrics that might be used to narrow the range of plausible climatechange feedbacks and climate sensitivity has yet to be developed.”
    What could be clearer – we dont yet know enough even to be able to test models let alone use them make accurate predictions of future temperatures. Therefore all the work of WG2 and especially WG3 is mere idle speculation and the Summary for Policymakers falls into the same category. The latter however happily calculates temperatures out to 2100 and attributes the projected warming to human activity “with a high degree of confidence”
    Politicians in the west especially Brown, Cameron and the Milibands in Britain and the Democratic leadership in the States then rushed hysterically into the great AGW scaremongering campaign for political ends.
    I doubt that any of them ,including also Al Gore, have ever bothered to read WG1. for themselves.

  2. kim
    2010/02/10 at 14:58

    As we see, ‘post-normal science’ isn’t science at all; it is perverted policy. The ‘Precautionary Principle’ is a Paean to Ignorance.

    • 2010/02/10 at 15:11

      From now on, according to the ‘Precautionary Principle’, we should stop believing in anybody that mentions the ‘Precautionary Principle’

      • ScientistForTruth
        2010/02/10 at 15:52

        If the Aztecs had embraced the Precautionary Principle they would still be sacrificing humans every night in case the sun didn’t come up.

  3. Chuckles
    2010/02/10 at 14:38


    First off, thanks for your posts on the subject of PNS. I first learnt about it from them, and have been spreading the word ever since.

    That said, I find it very useful as an absolute refutation, in the sense that since all of the IPCC/CRU/GISS AGW work is PNS, it is not science at all, and there is no point in discussing it as such.

    We now have Revetz himself clearly identifying all their work as PNS, so sorry, there is no science there, post normal science is not science; come back when you’ve done some?

  4. ScientistForTruth
    2010/02/10 at 10:20

    (d) I agree. I’m really dismayed at the post by Ravetz on WUWT, which is getting rave comments. As I said in a comment to that post, this is like the Trojans thinking the wooden horse was a gift from the gods. After years of fighting, the Trojans were destroyed by bringing in the enemy amid great rejoicing. As far as I’m concerned, unless and until Ravetz repudiates what he has said in the past then he is part of the problem. For the facts on Ravetz, Hulme and post-normal science see here:


    Mike Hulme (carefully groomed by Ravetz) has the IPCC as the classic example of post-normal science activity. He says:

    “It has been labelled “post-normal” science. Climate change seems to fall in this category. Disputes in post-normal science focus…on the process of science – who gets funded, who evaluates quality, who has the ear of policy…The IPCC is a classic example of a post-normal scientific activity.”

    There is huge danger here. I know from comments on my blog that Ravetz sees WUWT as the perfect candidate for post-normal activity, fitting in with his “extended peer review” concept. IMHO Anthony Watts has been suckered on this one.

    • 2010/02/10 at 11:12

      SFT – I wouldn’t be so catastrophic. Post-normal science might have its own space and usefulness…just, it’s not science

      • geoff chambers
        2010/02/11 at 16:48

        ..as homeopathic medicine might have its usefulness, as long as you don’t call it medicine (or sell it in pharmacies, or say it can cure things, or disguise it as pills, or talk about dosage..). I suspect that what PNS claims to be which normal science isn’t could better be described by another term (“thought”, “reasoning”, “common sense” …)

  5. 2010/02/10 at 10:03

    Interesting exchange by Revkin. There is a sense of the scales falling from the eyes about the IPCC. Agree with you about post-normal science too. Just some people trying to do good science. Appreciate your blog too, thanks.

  1. 2010/02/15 at 10:21

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