Archive for August, 2010

The End Of Road For Climate Looting

2010/08/21 6 comments

Russian heat and droughts and fire? Maybe it’s global warming. Pakistani (and Kashmiri) floods? Maybe it’s global warming.

Or maybe not.

Likewise for the European heatwave of 2003, and pretty much any flood or drought Revkin, Romm and friends have ever been able to hear about in the news. Expect the law of diminishing returns to kick in quickly.

Now, wouldn’t it make more sense to finally abandon the rather unpleasant rushing after the latest tragedies in the hope of being able to blame them on (anthropogenic) global warming? Rather than behaving like “climate looters”, it would be far more effective for AGW believers to figure out where in the world a “climate signal” might be materialising (eg where trends in disasters are present or on the edge of being detectable), in order to concentrate minds on forecasting what if anything might happen in those specific places also with the goal of pushing adaptation projects forward.

This is not all too different from what vulcanologists already do. And it looks like a good litmus test to tell scavengers from the rest.

Is Climatology A Thing Of The Past?

2010/08/20 3 comments

UPDATE: This argument doesn’t need to rely on Tamino’s opinions. The ENSO graph is more than enough. More shortly.


For an inordinately long time, one of the biggest troubles with Climatology has been its fixation with predicting the future, far before it will ever be able to understand the actual mechanisms of Earth’s climate in detail enough.

This has several nasty consequences, including a predisposition on the part of the very scientists to describe the future as some kind of catastrophe, and to make do without professional niceties (what is the point of being gentlemanly when the world is risking a fiery end of ice or fire?)

There are however indications that, in truth, the situation is the other way around, with the mainstream climatologist a prisoner of the past.

One could look at the humorous suggestions by Italian scientist Vincenzo Ferrara on how to be right about climate change (always). More seriously, the 1972-1975 paradigm shift seems to speak loud and clear on the subject.

As should now be understood by all, the scientific consensus in 1972 was that the world was cooling. Even Peterson, Connolley and Fleck state as much between the lines of their much-misunderstood (by its authors) paper. Things changed then with Damon and Kunen’s paper in 1975, the consensus became about a warming globe, and the rest as they say is history (more here).

How intriguing then to find that the World’s temperature might have started going upwards (again) but when, between 1973 and 1975. Says who? Says Tamino.

In a world they believed was cooling, climatologists found ways to explain why it was cooling. In a world they believe is warming, climatologists find ways to explain why it is warming. The fact that those beliefs are based on scientific data and theories means nothing more than current and past climate science have been scientifically feeling their ways through a very obscure dark. No sign any of us is any the wiser.

This bodes nothing well about Climatology’s ability to tell us anything about our future, in terms of risk management or much else. Like WWI generals, mainstream climatologists constantly fighting the last war might actually end up becoming a policy hindrance, a litigious and politically untrustworthy source of continuousdistraction.

The only surefire prediction we can therefore makeis that if for any reason the Earth’s temperatures will plummet, there will be no shortage of well-intentioned people, scientists and otherwise, ready to extend a trend of the recent past to next century and beyond.

Categories: AGW, Omniclimate

Brick Walls And Ravines

2010/08/18 1 comment

Please somebody find an AGW believer with some concept of rhetoric!!

My comment just posted at Skeptical Science, in reply to ‘No one in their right mind would drive into a brick wall because the outcome is “uncertain.”’

Yes, but no one in their right mind would drive into a ravine to avoid  the brick wall. Also because cars are designed to help passengers  withstand some kind of impacts, but not others.

It would be ironic to see the world embark into another Titanic moment a  hundred years after the original tragedy, steering away at the wrong  moment and therefore ruining any chance of survival.

UPDATE: another comment of mine

about SL’s moderator response to #7

I thought everybody agreed that all efforts implemented so far, and especially the European ones, were too little, too slow, too late and too much of a whited sepulchre to be taken as example of what serious mitigation would look like…

usually one is presented with a choice between climate catastrophe and the wholesale redesign of the economy… that’s why I for one am much more interested in adaptation

Freedom vs Old Fogeys. Freedom wins.

How telling… a great exchange at WUWT clarifies the GHG effectonce and for all to countless readers.

In the meanwhile, people run in circles at RC, none of them the wiser.

There is no freedom to think where there is no freedom to be wrong. And there is no progress where there is no freedom to think. Trivial, isn’t it.

Categories: AGW, Omniclimate

‘Skeptical Science’ Falls For The Unscientific

2010/08/06 3 comments

I am appalled at the level of scientific misunderstanding shown in the Skeptical Science “Confidence in climate forecasts” guest blog post by Kevin Judd (and, presumably, John Cook).

There is no such a thing as a “climate forecast” (yes I have raged about this same point in the past, for example here and here)

What climate models do is run “scenarios”, “what-ifs”, computations in which some parameters get changed, and everything else remains equal. That is a normal way of conducting risk analysis, but only if everybody keeps in mind that OF COURSE in the real world everything changes, and nothing remains equal.

The surface temperature, for example, is also affected by unknown variables such as future volcanic eruptions and solar activity. Hence, the actual temperature difference between 2010 and, say, 2050, is pretty much unknowable.

Climate models are therefore tools to probe risks and sensitivities, not crystal balls. As a matter of fact, they can’t, won’t and never will tell us anything precise about future weather, weeks, months, years or centuries in the future: just as no donkey will ever win the Kentucky Derby.

That doesn’t mean climate models (or donkeys) are useless: rather, they should be used for what they are worth using.

And yes, you can ask Gavin Schmidt if you don’t believe me 😉

ps some will say that the difference between “forecast” and “scenario” is lost among the general public. Well, as Einstein would have it, scientific communication should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

And why is this so important? Schmidt again: “there is a real danger for society’s expectations to get completely out of line with what eventually will prove possible, and it’s important that policies don’t get put in place that are not robust to the real uncertainty in such predictions“.

The Neuroscience Of (Climate) Catastrophism

Can we explain the widespread fondness in climate catastrophism as the unfortunate by-product of the mechanisms of our brains and societies? Apparently, we can: as the consequence of judgment extremism, simplistic dichotomy, and confirmation bias.

[Of course I am and always will be totally against the many attempts at pop-psychology, done with the aim of finding out why people don’t just sheepishly follow everything they’re told, about climate change catastrophes. But what I am going to mention below, is actually a solidly scientific point of view]

In IHT’s printed edition’s (Jul 31, 2010)  “Greece and the Power of Negative Thinking” where Thierry Malleret and Olivier Oullier express some thoughts about the recent Euro economic crisis about Greece, that could be applied almost as-is to AGW catastrophism as well:

there are lessons to be learned from neuroscience on what distorts our cognitive abilities […]

For a start, “judgment extremism” pays dividends. The neural system used when anticipating rewards is active long before the one in charge of evaluating risks and losses. Most academics and opinion-makers know that the rate of return on postulating extreme outcomes is far greater than that of simply establishing facts: A columnist is much better off predicting a dire outcome than being caught up with the facts that lead to a complex and uncertain one.

Therefore, an outlandish prediction (albeit, perhaps, inadequately grounded) […] is likely to be rewarded by editorial success and intellectual kudos; and by the time it may be proven wrong, it might well go unnoticed.

A narrow framing of choices is another problem. […] Although our brains do not function biologically in a dichotomous fashion, binary thinking is the brain’s favored method, as it is easier to categorize events in terms of success/failure, cooperation/competition, rational/irrational, etc.

This is why, regardless of the context, a careful “it depends” explanation will never be as convincing as a clear-cut opinion. Accordingly, we tend not to paint a nuanced picture of a complex reality, but to stick to the version constituting extreme outcomes. This leaves very little room for analyzing the nuts and bolts of the [response] process, with its inevitable successes and failures.

Then there is another bias: We tend to form opinions by falling back on intuitions or hunches and then look for confirmatory evidence to reinforce these. When someone confirms our views, they are reinforced in our brain’s reward /system. Hence, we seek further evidence to validate those views, shutting off contradictory information.

This is not exactly exciting news. If true, the above means we will always have to deal with some form of climate catastrophism. On the other hand, if the above is true it will also be another defense item against the onlsaught of “it’s worse than we thought” newspieces.

Are Global Warming Discussions Contributing To…Global Warming?

2010/08/05 1 comment

You bet they are. Think about all those people traveling from one climate change conference to another. Think about all those tons of global-warming-related newspapers columns field-researched, produced, printed and then carried around in countless countries.

And think also of the countless discussions all over the ‘net about (yes) climate change and global warming. Some of them, admittedly, by the same people meeting up in somebody else’s blog like old friends singing the same old (counterpointed) tune. As commented at the Global Warming Infographic blog post by a “Kevin Ahern“:

I think it is marvelous that seemingly endless groups of people chase each other around the internet as soon as a blog about AGW crops up . It is obvious that these ‘discussions’ have been had before all around the world. In fact we are now getting to the merry-go-round of ‘cut and paste/ insert link here’ debate. The more I try to understand the issues the more I realise that MOST people with an opinion don’t understand the issues . And NO I am not going to follow link after link over and over to reach the opinion I have ……. I don’t understand the intricaces of the earths climate and nobody else does either.
I neither accept or deny , I can neither prove or disprove, and the burden of proof either way is probably beyond my,(and many many others) comprehension anyway.
So sorry if i don’t lose too much sleep over the issue.

(guilty as charged, Guv!)

Anybody in the mood of computing an estimate…what is the “climate forcing” caused by our collective “hot air”?

Infographic Showing Media Ineptitude Of AGW Believers

2010/08/02 3 comments

The “Global Warming Infographic” by Renegade Conservatory Guy purportedly showing the status of the “global warming debate” among scientists, the media and the public is as visually impressive as scientifically unsound.

There’s e.g. conflation of American (media) and British (public) results, as if Mad Cow disease had never happened, and the world were really a single place (does anybody understand the fact that ETS is alive in Europe and pretty much nowhere else, for example). The author has also some issues even if media coverage “includes a skeptic viewpoint”, as if it were a mortal sin even to mention the possibility of an alternative viewpoint. Anderegg 2010 makes so many assumptions and mistakes, it’s in dire need of independent confirmation. And so on and so forth.

Given the strength of the underlying case, I am always amazed at how good these efforts are at showing the “believer” side of AGW as mediatically inept. It is a well-known fact that poll results are deeply influenced by how questions are phrased, hence either there is a proper scientific study on the attitudes of scientists, public and the media about global warming (perhaps with more than two categories), or any infographic will be just another opinion piece. “Informed opinion”, yes, but still an opinion.

Furthermore, even taking the figures as “truth”, one would still be left wondering if it’s the Public following the Media, or viceversa. In the former case, we are back to old theories about propaganda and a naive public ready to lap up anything they read about, as if Communism and the Vietnam War had never happened.

In the latter case, it’s the simple idea that the media is in the business of “selling a product” to willing buyers, i.e. the public. Which of the two is the most likely scenario?

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