Monday, February 15, 2010

Ravetz in the Guardian

Jerry Ravetz has a comment in today's Guardian online. He praises the blogosphere for providing the tools for the extended peer community:

Surfing the blogs will reveal a wealth of debate. Participants need not have PhDs. Challenges are made to leading scientists (and to critics) which cannot be simply brushed aside. Of course it is passionate and confusing; the science is complex and so are the arguments. This is a sort of democracy of science in action, and the blogosphere could help to provide the much desired link between science and the public.
 In the comments section we see the following statement:

'Could you tell me why you deleted this sentence from my article:
On the better blogs (as the one where I first posted, www.wattsupwiththat.com), the monitors ensure that the debate is courteous.'

I wonder why this sentence had so much significance for the Guardian moderators ;-)

48 comments:

_Flin_ said...

"Then egregious errors in some alarmist warnings by the Nobel prizewinning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were revealed."

Being? The Himalaya Glaciers in WG2 that contradict WG1? And apart from that? "Egregious Errors in Alarmist Warnings" seems a bit over the top to me.

While the statement that the "the blogosphere could help to provide the much desired link between science and the public" is true, a view at the two sides of the medal wouldn't hurt. What if the "challenges, which cannot be brushed aside" come often, harshly and uneducated? Being spread like a wildfire through the blogosphere, forcing scientists to divert their valuable time away from their work towards these challenges (well, maybe scientists should just get used to hiring PR people, journalism is going down the drain anyway, many skilled writers are available)?

And what I do not like at all is the subtile notion that the climate debate is not over at all, that AGW is seriously disputed.

I really prefer the Op'Ed of Kerry Emanuel from MIT in the Boston Globe stating nicely what is disputed and what isn't.

Anonymous said...

"And what I do not like at all is the subtile notion that the climate debate is not over at all, that AGW is seriously disputed"

It is not a subtle notion it is truth. Because we just don't know.


lucklucky

eduardo said...

@1
Dear Flin,

In my view, Kerry Emanuel should have been a bit more careful.
The last statement that 'The rate of rise of surface temperature is consistent with predictions of human-caused global warming that date back to the 19th century and is larger than any natural change we have been able to discern for at least the past 1,000 years' is in my view not justified. I mean specifically the 1000 years bit.

Note that he is not referring to the level of temperatures through the past millennium (which is uncertain) but to the rate of warming. I am not aware of any paper analyzing the *rate of change* of temperature in the past millennium. If you can point to a study, I would be grateful.
It would not be fair to justify the expression 'able to discern' as correct if it turns out that we have not been able to discern anything, this would be currently a poor choice of words.

This statement is also not very well defined. Rate of change over which timescale? One year, one decade, one century? Jones, in the last BCC interview, cites two periods in the past with rates of warming statistically indistinguishable from the present, and by now everyone has read the Jones interview.

Perhaps this is just a typo, an error by the journalist editing the text, or perhaps an attempt to stretch the available evidence. If the latter is true, this is again not good.

Werner Krauss said...

Eduardo, just a short question: Do you believe in AGW, and if so, do you believe that AGW is a problem that we should take care of? I know that Hans von Storch answers both questions with 'yes'; I don't know your opinion. Sorry for this direct question, I am just curious when following all these detailed debates.

Werner Krauss said...

to Anonymous 2

Hej, do you have this automatic answering software? Each time the software recognizes 'climate - debate - settled - over', it automatically delivers the respective statement? Cool! I thought only alarmists have it (climate - debate - not closed - open).

Werner Krauss said...

I consider this statement of Ravetz even more focused than his recent post on wattsupwith and klimazwiebel. I only wonder how the debate can be advanced instead of being permanently reduced to this one single question: AGW yes or no. In case Ravetz is right and the question will never really be answered: how to proceed? No climate politics at all? But even most of the skeptics agree at least with Pielke sen. that regional climates change due to anthropogenic influence. Or am I wrong? Regional climates are everywhere. It would be interesting to discuss how the notion of global climate changes when we take regional climate as the starting point (and not the other way round as 'alarmists' do).
Climate politics are necessary, whether you are a skeptic or not. Am I right? I understand the discussion about simplified notions of global climate change; this is indeed necessary for more adequate climate politics. But the fight against 'alarmists' should not become an end in itself. Instead, one should acknowledge that these so-called alarmists share something very important with even the skeptics: the notion that we should make climate a matter of concern.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner
"I only wonder how the debate can be advanced instead of being permanently reduced to this one single question: AGW yes or no."
Yes, accepted but how can you then ask Eduardo if he is a true believer?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner,
Regarding the climate policy questions, there are sceptics and sceptics. Many sceptics (the 'true sceptics', nowadays called 'deniers') see the uncertain science as a reason to do nothing. Their cultural worldview or political agenda is stongly wedded to free markets and or anti-state intervention. They hope that every new little piece of information that seems to unsettle the science will demolish the very notion of climate policy.
There are others who think that no matter how certain the science, we should take action. I would hope that many on this blog share such a view. But I don't think that many sceptics would subscribe to it.

_Flin_ said...

An advancement would be to discuss the questions: "How to ensure the quality of dispute in an extended peer review process?"

- A kind of new publishing mechanism? Where questions and objections from the extended peers enter a database and trickle upwards through levels of expertise until they can be answered?
- How is it possible to ensure that errors aren't blown out of proportion?
- How can science concentrate on science and not on PR?
- How is it possible to ensure that answers are understood?


Currently there are U.S. Senators (probably just coincidentically with a 100% big oil voting record) saying that "hide the decline" refers to temperature.
There are newspapers that distort "there is no statistically-significant warming" into "there is no warming.
There are People who do not understand that a short time variance around a long term trend does not make the long term trend obsolete.

Werner Krauss said...

to Reiner 7

why not ask? Eduardo is such a wonderful debater, and I am really curious.

to Reiner 8
you name it! I agree! There are skeptics and there are skeptics, and it indeed makes a difference! Same is true for 'alarmists', by the way. And it makes a difference. In my experience, alarmists and skeptics of a specific kind can agree on many points, and it is interesting to follow their discussion why they frame the problem differently (and it has consequences how you frame the problem, so there really is something at stake in these debates).

Werner Krauss said...

to Anonymous 2

"And what I do not like at all is the subtle notion that the climate debate is not over at all, that AGW is seriously disputed"

This relates to my above points. What to do? When is a debate closed, and who is to decide? And is it possible to leave the question open and to proceed anyway? There are so many blackboxes out there; there would never be any progress if we doubt each time the basics. Climate indeed is a problem - is this something most can agree upon? Whatever the cause of the problem, the result should be pretty similar. Or not? I understand that action is related to the framing (the causes), but to argue for no action as long as the basic question is not 100% solved is often times identical with a destructive attitude. Boycott as a way of life, just like the tea party folks. Has its own beauty, too, but it is not a sustainable attitude and deadly for debate.

plazamoyua said...

@ Reiner.

There are others who think that no matter how certain the science, we should take action. I would hope that many on this blog share such a view. But I don't think that many sceptics would subscribe to it.

Probably you are right, and there are not many "sceptics" very happy with the "taking action" idea.

Let me show you a short of "scepticism". The word expert. Very confusing. It relates to experience, and everybody agrees to be guided by experience. But "expert" is also related to something quite oposed to experience, as a "climate expert". There is no climate experience. There are very few good data, and some amount of very obscure data, and a lot of interpretation which can not be tested so far.

I may be wrong, for sure. But unless some revealing climate predictions come to be true, I think at this stage of climate science it would be very probable to have a 90% of the scientists agreeing in something which eventualy comes to be pretty wrong. It wouldn't be the first time with a young science.

Of course waiting to the forecasts to come true is not a good idea, if the dangerous warming is real. But taking action may be dangerous in case the warming happens to be good overall. Or just natural.

Yes, "scepticism" tends to paralyze. Sometimes is good, sometimes is not. And "action" in the complex earth system has been of very unpredictable results, so far.

Me thinks. (And sorry for the length, and I hope this doesn't offend climate experts.)

_Flin_ said...

@Werner Krauss 11:
How can you leave the question "AGW exists" open? The basic premises - that are agreeable by most literate persons - being
- Global Warming exists
- Global Warming is Anthropogenic
- It's cause is CO2
are attacked constantly.

Scientifically the debate may be over (or rather concentrating the research on questions that are to be answered).

But politically it is not over at all, obviously.
And people who profit from 4,5 billion dollars of oil and 800 million dollars of coal being produced every day and fearing what rising energy prices might mean to their production of 38 Million tons of Aluminium a year are working were hard that this debate will not be over any time soon, if they can prevent it.

Werner Krauss said...

Flin

maybe you have to separate argument one from argument two. There is for sure sometimes a direct relation between the two, but not always. Here on this blog there are many people who don't believe your CO2 thesis and who are NOT paid by the oil industry (I guess). And as far as I understand even people like you 'believe' that this is true what you say - in contrast to 'I know 100%'. Ravetz points at this problem; maybe there will not be an indisputable evidence in the near future for one of the positions.
The problem is how to proceed. A real skeptic will never confess that you are right; and you will never confess that you were wrong all the time. But like Obama said: Muslims and Christians have a common problem, their children. Do they have a good life? Both, skeptics and alarmists, have to reorganize their belief systems in order to be able to move on in a reasonable and productive way.
(Hm. Sounds very pastoral, I have to admit.)

plazamoyua said...

@ Flin

Can't you avoid this absurd ad hominem? There are a lot of interests in both sides of the debate, but the interests don't add anything to the argument.

Jones has got 13 million ponds in grants, and he would'nt have in case there was no alarm. As Mann, with his 2.5 million in recent "stimulus" money. But this hasn't any meaning in the debate, unless you are going to decide your opinion by faith.

Reiner Grundmann said...

For those of you who think that science could settle the political question, I have quote to chew over. It is from an article by Dan Sarewitz, entitled 'How science makes environmental controversies worse':

"Consider climate change, which may variously be understood
as a “problem” of climate impacts, weather impacts,
biodiversity, land use, energy production and consumption,
agricultural productivity, public health, economic development
patterns, material wealth, demographic patterns, etc.
Each of these ways of looking at the problem of climate
change involves a variety of interests and values, and each
may call on a body of relevant knowledge to help understand
and respond to the problem. Not only may the interests, values,
and knowledge relevant to one way of understanding
the problem be, in small part or large, different from those
associated with another way, but they may also be contradictory.
Conversely, those holding different value perspectives
may see in the huge and diverse body of scientific information
relevant to climate change different facts, theories, and
hypothesis relevant to and consistent with their own normative
frameworks. This condition may be termed an “excess
of objectivity,” because the obstacle to achieving any type
of shared scientific understanding of what climate change
(or any other complex environmental problem) “means,”
and thus what it may imply for human action, is not a lack
of scientific knowledge so much as the contrary—a huge
body of knowledge whose components can be legitimately
assembled and interpreted in different ways to yield competing
views of the “problem” and of how society should
respond."

plazamoyua said...

@Reiner 16

Then, we should maybe try to know what the discussion is about. As far as I know "sceptics", or "deniers", or "flat-earthers" -or whatever they call them to stop the debate before the debate begins, are not talking about environmentalism. What I hear them talking is about CO2.

P Gosselin said...

He writes of the need for:
1. improved quality assessment procedures, more clear and more open than at present,
2. non-violent communication. This is based on self-criticism and on respect even for those whose views you abhor and whose legitimacy you deny.

Here! here!
Indeed, those who feel they can go around and win the day by offending others with slurs and name-calling belong in a zoo with the gorillas.

And the more they continue trying to settle the science by applying brute authority (like the medieval Catholic Church), the more they are going to lose whatever credibility is left...which aint much.
They've turned off and offended far too many highly respected experts. And conducting bogus investgations will also not result in more good will, believe me.

P Gosselin said...

http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/news-anzeige/climate-change-klimawandel-statement-von-william-happer-cyrus-fogg-bracket-professor-of-physics-princeton-university/

Werner Krauss said...

to Reiner 16
This is a fine quote. Values and norms - this is even true for the production of scientific knowledge itself, or what do you think?

to plazamoyua 17

it depends - what is P Gosselin 18 talking about? CO2 or environmentalism? I guess both - am I right, P Gosselin?

to P Gosselin 18
is your rant ironic or are you serious now? Hard to judge without any additional hints... could be a satire in this context. Or do you really believe that 'they' are the evil?

P Gosselin said...

Krauss,
Look at the record yourself and you be the judge. It really doesn't take much smarts to detect it. If people can see unprecedented warming in gigabytes of crappy data, surely they ought to be able to see bad inconsiderate behaviour when it flares like the 4th of July.

Recommended reading:
http://www.novo-argumente.com/magazin.php/archiv/novo104_24

By the way, how about I send you this year's heating bill and the German government sends you the bill to repair this winter's street damage (€25 billion!!). On both sides a little warming would be much appreciated.
Actually, it's no joke. You are going to get the bill.

P Gosselin said...

And here's an informative clip for AGW believers and fundamentalists (you all know who I'm talking about):
http://vimeo.com/8815829

plazamoyua said...

And here's an informative clip for AGW believers and fundamentalists (you all know who I'm talking about):
http://vimeo.com/8815829


For those who prefer spanish subtiltles to german ones:

http://plazamoyua.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/documental-del-climategate-yle-tv/

to Werener Kraus 20:

I would bet CO2.

_Flin_ said...

@plazamoyua: Were the problem and the discussion a scientific one, it would seem indeed that my arguments are bias ad hominem, in the way that I try to undermine the credibility of the "skeptics" by questioning their impartiality.

As it is, the problem is currently a political one, where media and policy makers try to dismiss the rather probable event of Global Warming with flat out wrong statements. Such as "Snowmageddon proves: No Global Warming" (false, precipitation <> temperature) or Sundays Jones' citation, where "15 years no statistically significant GW" becomes "15 years no GW". Which are examples of the last week only.

So while these two examples might appeal to Joe Plumber in their simplicity (and in a strange way do not lack some kind of abstract beauty of the twisted sort), they are, to take up a wording of yours, about as flatearth as it gets. Do these examples look more like a conscious effort to understand the world and do the right thing, or more like opinions that are firmly rooted and have to be broadcast? There is no credibility at all that I could possibly undermine with arguments ad hominem, when it comes to e.g. Sen. Inhofe of Oklahoma.

So the questions remains:
AGW, yes or no? IPCC 4AR: Very high confidence that it exists.
Due to AGHG? IPCC 4AR: very likely

@Werner Krauss: I did not want to give the impression that everyone who doesn't agree with AGHG (and mainly CO2) being the main cause of Global Warming is paid by the Oil/Coal/Aluminium lobby.

@P Gosselin: Brute Authority? You mean like hacking into peoples servers and publishing a selection of their E-Mails?
And just in case you didn't notice: precipitation <> temperature, weather <> climate

Marco said...

@_Flin_: the 'skeptics' are getting some really surprising data their way. January 2010 saw the highest ever January anomaly in both satellite records, and the current February anomaly is looking to be even higher and truly record-breaking. When oh when will people learn that the world is a bit bigger than Western Europe or the US...

Werner Krauss said...

to P. Gosselin 21
Sorry, sure, i could have guessed. You don't make jokes.

But again the 'War Gott gruen' article? HvStorch posted it recently. In my comment I wrote that our klimazwiebel skeptics have better arguments. Obviously, I was wrong. What a disappointment.
Viel Spaß beim Schneeschippen und Eiskratzen.

_Flin_ said...

Oh... just as I post, I see that the E.I.K.E. is brought out...

*sigh*

Well, the Senate hearing of William Happer (engl.).

Prof William Happer, chairman of the board of directors at George C. Marshall Institute, is surely impressive. But the logic of some of his arguments appears flawed to me. You cannot argue against the connection of CO2 and Global Warming on the grounds that it was warm at some other time before (It wasn't actually that warm in 1100, as you can see inthe Loehle et al 2008 correction of his 2007 paper, it was warmer around 850). This is flawed, because you can not argue that the hole in my head can not be connected to the bloodstained hammer in your hand, just because you once saw a boy falling down a ladder and landing on a stone, resulting in a hole in the head, which proves that stones on the ground are the cause of holes in the head.
And there is currently wine growing (well, not at this very moment) in Cornwall.

&c. &c. This is a hearing in Senate. Not a paper with footnotes. So no proof for the opinions is needed. Why isn't Prof. Happer publishing his thoughts and theories about the greenhouse effect, water vapors and the lessening incremental influence of CO2 on global warming due to the blocking of infrared light in... let's say... Physical Review Letters?

It is nice to see all skeptic arguments summed up by a scientist outside of the field. But then I think George C. Marshall Institute is as much in the midst of all of it as you can get outside of CRU.

Actually I prefer studies like von Schukmann et al 2009 (Draft) about the amount of energy absorbed by sea water, or just take a look at The World Meteorological Organization press release saying: 2000-2009 is the warmest decade. So much for GW.

_Flin_ said...

@Marco: The problem is, even if it was accepted that GW is happening, as long as the cause isn't accepted and agreed upon by as much people as you need for legislative action in the US, neither the course of action nor any mitigation is possible.

But when I read the Quadrennial Defense Review of the Department of Defense, it is rather comforting (again in a strange way). Because these guys couldn't care less about what anybody else thinks.

And with the statement about the "green" carrier group (=air craft carrier + support + planes) the article in the Guardian about jet fuel made from algae becomes close to believable.

corinna said...

Flin:
>Were the problem and the discussion a scientific one, it would seem indeed that my arguments are bias ad hominem, in the way that I try to undermine the credibility of the "skeptics" by questioning their impartiality.

>As it is, the problem is currently a political one, where media and policy makers try to dismiss the rather probable event of Global Warming with flat out wrong statements. Such as "Snowmageddon proves: No Global >Warming" (false, precipitation <> temperature) or Sundays Jones' citation, where "15 years no statistically significant GW" becomes "15 years no GW". Which are examples of the last week only.

Why not trying to come back to a scientific discussion, dropping the bias and hominem in argumentation and trying to understand the arguments from the other side?
We had quite good discussion the last 2 months so far on this block, but now it starts to flatten.

I guess you just have to acknowledge, that the debate, the public one but also the scientific one, is not over.
In addition to misbehavior of a group of climate scientists, errors appearing in the IPCC assessment reports, conflict of interest of engaged persons and structure of the IPCC also
the hypothesis of AGW (or say it such its relevance for the global warming) is debated. You find many discussion of it in peer reviewed literature,
meanwhile quite a bunch of good (and of course also less good) paper. The debate is of course not only going on in scientific paper but also in
the blogosphere, exchange between scientists and in the public.

The debate has started already many years ago, but is now becoming more and more visible.
Lindzens exchange with Rahmstorf, the copenhagenclimatechallenge, the US minority report are examples for scientist starting raising a different opinion in the public:
http://www-eaps.mit.edu/faculty/lindzen/Publications_other.html
http://www.copenhagenclimatechallenge.org/
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=83947f5d-d84a-4a84-ad5d-6e2d71db52d9


Corinna

eduardo said...

@ 4

Werner wrote' Eduardo, just a short question: Do you believe in AGW, and if so, do you believe that AGW is a problem that we should take care of? '
Dear Werner,

your questions reminds me another similar question from Claudia:
do you love me ?

And as with that other question the answer must contain a lot of nuance, but I am happy to give you *my* answer. I guess AGW means 'Antropogenic global warming'. Well, everyone has to believe in AGW. By the obvious fact that I exist and my temperature is usually 36.8 C, I am warming my environment, and so I am contributing to global warming. This just illustrates that the question is not if, but by how much. It is the same nuance as in the question above :-)

Do we have to take care of it? Do you mean whether emissions should be reduced ? Yes, emissions should be reduced to zero and energy should be imported from Mars. they should , it should.. the question again is not if, but by how much, and how and at which price. Should we reduce emissions to zero right now? probably not. Tomorrow?, probably not either. So again it is a graduated response. A yes or no is not the right answer to this question. There are many other factors that a climate scientist alone cannot fathom. I would be pretty humble on this.


Now, to answer bit more seriously, it is clear that higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reduce the heat loss of the surface and this should produce a warming. The amount of warming produced directly by an increase of CO2 concentrations is not very large, but according to theory and models it is amplified by feedbacks, some of which are better known than others. So we get into more and more uncertain territory. To cut a very long story short, if everything were perfectly known, all climate models would produce the same results when confronted by the same increase of CO2, and this is obviously not the case. The differences are, to my view, very large. I really would like five models, say MPI, GFDL, NCAR, Hadley, and an additional one which name I dont remember now :-) would agree predicting the same warming in every region to within 1 K or so under doubling of CO2 concentrations. I deal with climate model data a lot in my daily work. Sometimes these data do really look like reality, mostly when dealing with temperature, but also often the models produce things that are clearly not like reality, in particular if you go to regional scales. Simulated temperatures do a fairly job when compared to observed temperatures in the past century, but when you go to precipitation or atmospheric circulation, cloudiness, etc, the resemblances gets more and more blurred.
This being said, I am not aware of an alternative theory that can explain the recent, say last 30 years, warming. Yes, cosmic rays and so.. well, I am quite skeptical about it. However, the AGW theory is not perfect, and it does not always fit well with observations. So I think AGW is a partial truth, and that it- and its climate models - are still not sophisticated enough to predict the future to the accuracy one would like.

This would suggest that a tendency to reduce emissions is a good idea.

Werner Krauss said...

Eduardo 30

Eduardo, I love you, too! At least, I appreciate your detailed answer. 'AGW is a partial truth', this is an answer an anthropologist can deal with. Partial truths are perspectival, relational, and relative - far from certainty, but enough to search for political solutions in a democratic way (and under consideration of other partial truths). In combination with Reiner's post #16 and his fine Sarewitz quote, this is a finally very satisfying end of a long day. Something to think with.
Thanks and good night!

Anna said...

Eduardo no. 30

Thanks for a nuanced, sincere and humble answer in this debate, in strong contrast to people in both "camps", who seem to be completely convinced about being right and use this blog to hit others in the head..

The real discussions of the merits as well as the weaknesses of the hypothesis is what makes this blog worth reading!

P Gosselin said...

Eduardo,
"This being said, I am not aware of an alternative theory that can explain the recent, say last 30 years, warming."

Are you serious?
That's quite an astonishing statement.

Concerning the reduction of emissions, what is being proposed is that we commit suicide because of our irrational fear we're all going to die soon. That's what's being proposed.
But the hard truth is that human society has come a long way over the last 100 years in using resources efficiently, thanks to free market mechanisms. Bjorn Lomborg's book Environmental Skeptic makes a powerful case.
We are using far less energy per dollar of GDP than we did 40 years ago. The industrialised countries are much cleaner today - because they are rich. Indeed the answer is to make poor countries richer, and not to make the rich countries poorer.
Yet, the charlatans and power monopolists will have us believe that things are getting so bad and so out of hand that we have no choice but to start performing dangerous experiments on society.
Indeed I'm looking forward to hearing Prof Philip Stoot at the next IQ² debate that is coming up soon.
http://events.intelligencesquared.com/current-events.php?event=EVT0217&utm_source=Intelligence+Squared+newsletters&utm_campaign=090d074dd9-16th_Feb_2010_5x15_Eaglman_Wellington2_16_2010&utm_medium=email
Right now policy is being driven by a brute authority that is trying to stampede the masses over a cliff. We've seen it in AIT, the Stern Report, Day After Tomorrow and host of other kook releases.

P Gosselin said...

The reason I feel your comment is astonishing is because:
1. warming only occurred from 1978 - 1998 and was hardly unprecedented (look at the satellite data).
2. Similar warming spells occurred time and again over the last several hundred years.
3. There are other theories out there that provide an explanation.
You're not aware of them?

P Gosselin said...

"Let the science come out."
http://www.pjtv.com/v/3100;jsessionid=abcZycmVh7iv6hsmetDBs

P Gosselin said...

Sorry about the hyperactive posting this evening, but just one more before I retire.
http://nofrakkingconsensus.blogspot.com/2010/02/cult-of-expert.html
LOL! Don't let them "Prof" and "Dr." and "Expert" and "Real Climatologist" titles fool you.
Knowledge and good data make a person smart, and not a title.
Especially in the field of climate science!!

eduardo said...

@33,34

Dear P. Gosselin,

'This being said, I am not aware of an alternative theory that can explain the recent, say last 30 years, warming."

'Are you serious?
That's quite an astonishing statement.'


yes, sorry, I am serious. As I wrote there are some alternative hypothesis, for instance cosmic rays or the effect direct solar irradiance (cosmic rays would influence the Earth's climate by the solar modulation). But in my view this are hypothesis. I confront them with the same level of scepticism than AGW. I think everyone should do so. The effect of cosmic rays on cloud cover is quite speculative. There are no experiments proving the causal link (CERN will start one soon using a chamber bombarded by 'artificial' cosmic rays. Let see what comes out this experiment which is due in the next couple of years. If something interesting comes out of it, I revise my opinion.

Regarding the direct effect of solar irradiance, it is difficult to pin down a mechanisms that these relatively small variations in solar output may affect climate. Statistical studies, such as Scafeta and West - probably you were referring to those papers- indicate that the influence of solar forcing for the warming in the last decade might have been larger than 'usually' thought. Ok, it might be true, but even in this case they do not say that solar forcing can explain *all* warming. For this I think we need CO2 in the atmosphere, barred another unknown mechanism. Should it appear, I revise my opinion.

I can understand that some people put a lot of confidence on these alternative theories. I can also understand that other people put a lot of confidence on CO2. I think that part of this confidence is visceral, and that is what I try to avoid.

Related to your comments on energy policy, probably I will agree with you in some of the points you make. I would also be quite sceptical about experiments with society, of which we had a lot in the 20th century, of all sorts. Nevertheless, I think that it is at least reasonable for some people to think that CO2 may be a threat, and this does not make them being 'charlatans or monopolist'. There is a rational basis. If we all tried to understand the rational arguments of the 'other side' we may perhaps see that there are many points of agreement.

plazamoyua said...

I did like yor post (30), Eduardo. But I do think if "warmism" was proposed in those terms, the discussion would be a very different one. In fact it would be a discussion instead of a no discussion, and the actions to be taken would be tested and fact checked, etc. Looks quite sensible.

Where I do have some problems is here:

There is a rational basis. If we all tried to understand the rational arguments of the 'other side' we may perhaps see that there are many points of agreement.

There is a rational basis indeed. But there are a lot of ideas with a rational basis which lead to pure madness. And then, there are some group of ideas which -for whatever the reason, are particularly appealing to human brain. For example the "original sin" (industrialization) annoying the gods (Gaia), and the need for redemption (cutting economical growth). You have a lot of examples.

No, this doesn't falsify the dangerous CO2 thesis. But I think one needs to be really carefull when dealing with this sort of very appealing ideas.

Undesrtanding the rational arguments of "the other side" is easy. I do. But understanding the conclusions without evidence, is not that easy. And understanding the science is settled, is impossible at this stage.

P Gosselin said...

Concerning alternative theories to explain 20 and 30 year warmings and coolings, I was thinking more in lines of ocean oscillations.
Perhaps measurements of solar activity over the last 40 years being quite high in combination with a warm PDO over the last 30+ years could explain much of the warming of 1979 - 1998.

Many other surprises seem to be appearing. Stratospheric water vapour seems to have decreased over the last years, thus indicating the models are completely wrong - this I recently read.

And now I see this latest claim of falling sea levels:
http://www.climategate.com/sea-levels-proven-to-have-fallen-for-past-six-years#more-4236
I don't know if this report is reliable. I also recently read that the rotational speed of the planet does not support claims of rapidly rising sea levels.

I have also started wondering about just how much of last century's sea level rise is due to sediment displacement.
Rivers discharge massive amounts of sediments into the oceans, dust storms, wind and coastal erosion transport huge amounts of sediment into the seas. I don't think the volumes involved here can be considered as insignificant. Sediment displacement is not a cycle, rather it is a permanent redistribution of material on the planet's surface. Doing a "Milchmädchenrechnung", I'd say up to 0.5 millimeter per year of sea level rise could be possible.

_Flin_ said...

@Eduardo: A very thoughtful and neutral post. If all skepticism takes this form, much will be accomplished.

@P Gosselin:
Considering the energy policy:
Pollution is not regulated by the market. While pollution causes a range of negative effects like cancer, asthma or damage on buildings, these effects usually can not be attributed to a single polluter. And because of that the damage can't be sued for. But the damage exists (whether AGW exists or not). So the economic way to handle pollution has to be to tax it and let government pay for the damages. There is no other way to allocate the costs that society has to pay for to the polluters. The situation for GHG is similar.

Concerning "commiting suicide":
Reducing emissions is not suicide. An example: The average american passenger car drives 22.5 miles per gallon. Bigger SUVs or V8 Pickup Trucks or similar do around 15 miles per gallon. Which is the same as a Porsche GT3 racing sportscar.
Cars like an Audi A3 do 46 mpg, Toyota Prius around 48 mpg, not to talk about really small city-cars like a VW Lupo, managing up to 78 mpg.
So how is driving an A3 instead of a Dodge Ram V8 suicide?
Or heating with heat pumps or geothermal plants instead of gas? Or insulating? Or producing energy with nuclear power instead of coal?

There are a lot of measures like choosing a different sort of car that can be accomplished rather easily. At least in the transportation and residential sector, which account for about half of CO2 emissions.

So if actions are taken for CO2 reduction, it will not necessarily be damaging to the economy, but damage certain sectors (like oil and gas, coal, aluminium) while others benefit (wind power, solar power, heat pumps, efficient car manufacturers).

And leaving CO2 and AGW aside, the need for more energy efficieny and less burning of oil is obvious. Production of oil has risen only 1,9% over the last 5 years. If the need for ressources increases while the supply stays more or less the same, prices rise and more efficiency is needed. So those who use their expensive energy efficiently will thrive.

_Flin_ said...

@P Gosselin: The paper about Stratospheric water vapour you are talking about is Solomon et al 2010.

A discussion of the findings is here, from a non-skeptical point of view.

Sea levels are an interesting point, especially when it comes to Argo.

One often cited study is Willis et al 2008, another paper is here.

The findings you refer to originate over at Hockeyschtick. And as far as i can see this is dynamic height, taken from all argo buoys with no concern at all for quality control etc. And aren't sea level and dynamic height two different things?

_Flin_ said...

Sorry for triple posting, but I think the Hockeyschtick example above is a perfect argument for the dire need of Ravetz' demand for quality control in the extended peer review process.

Björn said...

@ eduardo #30

This one was admirably brillant!

If I may add another point why I am quite happy with CO2 reduction policies even as a skeptic in the AGW hypothesis since reading the TAR findings that often contradicted my scientific intuition as a trained physicist.

Last year, I did an economic study on the European electricity market with a scenario up until 2020 and 2030. There were many eye-openers that really struck me, although I have been following the energy market since many years.

Energy policies before AGW used to have three main concerns: low cost of energy supply, supply security and a maximum of national independence. Let's have a look at the major energy commodities:
+ Coal is produced in most countries in some quantities and is available still for the next couple of centuries, nevertheless the top 6 coal exporters are Russia, China, Indonesia, Australia, South Africa and Bolivia, not all of which are considered as politically stable countries.
+ Uranium is predominantly produced in "good" regions (Canada, Australia and USA) and available for another few centuries, hence on issues on nuclear power except final waste deposits.
+ Oil and gas are produced in countries and regions that we don't understand and with which we don't really want to do business: Russia, greater Arabia, Kazachstan, Venezuela, Nigeria. I am not fully decided on Peak Oil (the hypothesis that oil production has reached or will reach soon the maximum production and that we will run out of oil in the next couple of decades). Many people who have a point of view on peak oil do pronounce it on a similar quality of information than AGW alarmists / skeptics ;-)

Three quarters of nowadays electricity in Europe (and in Germany) are produced from coal and uranium. Securing long-term electricity supply under geopolitically unstable conditions hence means foremost to generate more power from renewable energy sources and uranium.

One might speculate whether politicians use AGW alarmists as 'useful idiots' in order to promote policies away from oil and gas that otherwise would be rather difficult to transport in polite and diplomatic words...

_Flin_ said...

@Björn: Just in case you aimed at me with "Many people who have a point of view on peak oil do pronounce it on a similar quality of information than AGW alarmists / skeptics":

The 1,9% rise in oil production for the years 2004-2008 were from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, which I would estimate as rather non-alarmist. The 5 years were admittedly cherry picked by me.

Björn said...

Dear Flin,

I wasn't aiming at any particular person here. Only I have participated in many discussions with self-proclaimed commodity experts who produced rather shaky arguments on whether or whether not peak oil is a short-term reality. The question is deeply interest-infested and rather unresolvable for outsiders, and the few Saudian and Russian people who could potentially know will never ever speak.

The issue with oil data is that no one can look directly at those reserves that happen to be below-ground, and that the instrumental records are well-kept company and government secrets.

My learning from my involvement in some commodity industries was never to trust any numbers. No one has the correct ones, and energy commodities in particular are political topics even more directly than climate science is.

eduardo said...

@ 40
Dear P. Gosselin,

The PDO is an intriguing 'phenomenon' indeed, but perhaps too much may be expected from it. There exists several 'oscillations' of this type, the Nor Atlantic Oscillation, the Pacific North American pattern, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Basically all theses oscillations are not physical processes, but such descriptive indices of climate variations. So the PDO describes decadal fluctuations in the sea-surface temperatures that mainly occur in the North Pacific. But the PDO as such does not give any information about the causal processes that are at the origin of these fluctuations. In some sense they are like stock indices, S&P, Dow Jones, DAX, etc. To argue that the economy in Germany is flourishing because the DAX is rising could be a bit misleading. Perhaps the causality is the other way around. However,. the PDO could have an influence in global temperatures if, for example, the fluctuations in sea-surface temperatures cause a change in cloudiness and therefore a change in the external forcing. Even in this case, the pattern of temperature change caused by the PDO should also match the spatial pattern of observed warming - stronger at high latitudes, stronger over continents, mostly stronger in wintertime. It could be, but all in all, I think it would be improbable. On the other hand, I agree with you - and I wrote in my previous comments- the models grapple with some observations - perhaps being 'just compatible with them', and stratospheric water vapor and the vertical profile of warming belong to these issues. Now people will look at the simulated decadal evolution of stratospheric water vapor in models, and I am afraid that models will be all over the place, showing very different behaviours.

Anyway, we are know at almost 400 ppm CO2. I do not know where a limit could lie, but I think almost all of us would agree that 1000 pm would not be a great idea. So at some point we will have to limit emissions. Perhaps we dont need to become CO2 vegans, but we would need to give all technologies a serious consideration.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Silvio Funtowicz has an interesting comment on the older thread about Ravetz's piece. In case you missed it, have a look here

Reiner Grundmann said...

Jerry Ravetz replies to comments on WUWT, have a look here