Saturday, October 13, 2012

Interview with Eduardo Zorita

Interview with Eduardo Zorita
by Hans von Storch



Eduardo, please tell us your professional background. What did you study, how did you come to climate science, with climate-science problems and issues have you dealt with?

I studied physics at the University of Zaragoza, a biggish city located between Madrid and Barcelona, and obtained Ph.D. degree in Solid State Physics. My area of research durung my doctorate was the study of defects and impurities in some type of in crystals applying spectroscopic techniques, mainly magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a method that is also widely used in medicine. I became interested in climate science partly by chance. The German DAAD - an agency that funds foreign students in Germany and German students abroad - allowed a group of students to visit a few research institutions and universities in Germany over a period of two weeks,. One of these institutions was the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. I remember that Stephan Bakan gave us an overview talk about the state of climate science at that time. I had not taken any courses on meteorology or oceanography at home, and somehow I was struck by the shear interdisciplinarity of climate science: from Hasselman's stochastic climate models to geochemistry, and of course climate models. I felt strongly attracted and after the completion of my Ph.D I decided to test my luck. Post-docs and graduate students that wanted to work in a foreign institution were awash with funding in Spain at that time, and I could pick between the European Space Agency in the Netherlands and MPI in Hamburg.

What is your scientific understanding of the problem of greenhouse-gas related climate change? Which statements would you consider as very certain, and which would you consider as presently contested. Are there issues, which you consider "unsolvable" for the time being, maybe be even forever?

It is clear that carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases and their increase the atmosphere must lead to higher surface temperatures. If CO2 concentrations rise to , say 1000 ppm (now they are about 400 ppm) its effect must be very clear. We are, however, still at concentrations in which its effect may still be confounded by other factors, among them internal random variability, which hinders a precise quantification of anthropogenic global warming. Other impacts further down the chain are more uncertain, for instance, the effect of rising temperatures on hurricanes, precipitation patterns, and meteorological extremes. I think it will be very difficult to attribute changes in extremes to anthropogenic greenhouse in the foreseeable future.

Do you think that you, as a person trained as physicist, look at problems differently than, say a meteorologist or a geographer?

I think so. Physics students learn a particular way of tackling problems. Physics provides a set of guiding principles the laws of conservation (of mass-energy, momentum, angular momentum, etc.). Also important are the symmetries that a particular problem presents. A physicist's instinctive first reaction is to identify which quantities are conserved, what remains unchanged, which properties remain invariant regardless of different perspectives you may take to look at the problem, what can be transported from a simpler problem to a more general problem. Sometimes I even think that physics is just variations of the general theme of 'eigenvectors': to reduce a system to its conserved quantities and just get rid of the inessential and mutable properties. Other disciplines tend to fathom the problems in all their complexity, classify, memorize, etc. I do not know if the physicist's way of tackling problems is better than others’. Probably not always, but sometimes it is helpful to just dismiss the distracting details and focus on the essentials. One of the difficulties of studying the Earth's climate is that it is an open, non-linear, heterogeneous system, and for that type of systems physics offers no clear 'guiding principles', at least none that I am aware of. You have the conservation of vorticity, maybe the principle of maximum production of entropy, but I am afraid those principles do not bring you very far.

There are a number of key concepts. Would you mind telling us, what these terms mean for you? Data? Model? Theory? Falsification? Uncertainty?

I would cast model and theory under the same umbrella, although not everyone would agree. Theory is just a very condense model. They both are an internal representation of reality that allows making some predictions of yet unknown phenomena. Data are important to suggest the theories/models and to test them - so it is important that verification data are independent of the data used to construct a theory or model. Uncertainty appears in two different forms. One is that we can never be sure that a particular theory is a faithful and unique representation of reality. For instance, are there completely different theories that could describe and predict certain phenomena? The second form of uncertainty stems from the limitations of a theory, which due to the lack of data or computer power or lack of the adequate mathematical methods, could be in principle correct, but cannot deliver accurate enough predictions. This is the uncertainty we face in climate science.

Falsifiability is a very important property of any theory or model. It is this property that supports science - as opposed to religion for instance. A theory must always be at risk of being proven wrong, and thus if it has lasted for a long time it is likely closer to be a correct explanation. At the same time, this risk of falsification may be falsely interpreted as a lack of knowledge. We see this sometimes in circles opposed to Darwin theory, who for instance argue that this theory is an hypothesis and not a theory, since even the Darwininst still are debating against each other. Something similar occurs in climate science as well. Policy makers and the public in general should be aware that science is never settled - this is the soul of scientific activity - and yet the state of science at a particular moment in time has to flow into policy decisions, with all its uncertainties and limitations.

What would you consider is the significance of paleoclimatology? How robust are the results of this field? Is there a chance or a great improvement?

Paleoclimatology has some similarities with history. It offers a wider perspective and play field in which to test our hypothesis. There have been quite a few advances in palaeoclimatology. More records and new type of proxies are been retrieved, although some are over-interpreted. Paleoclimatologist are now, I think, more critical of their own findings, and there is an awareness that not all proxy records are reflecting past climatic conditions. Modelling is becoming more widespread and more powerful due to the increasing computer power. Future advances would be, however, incremental, but I hope that we will have soon a more accurate picture of the global climate during the Holocene, and the interplay between the external drivers, like the sun, volcanoes, greenhouse gases, and the internal climate variations. I fret that climate models will then face significant challenges to simulate the reconstructed climate, but many things can be learned from this as well.

You are a frequent reviewer or journals - could you summarize your experience concerning this practice?

My personal experience is very positive. I always learn very much from the 'raw' manuscripts that other scientist write. I learn myself how to write my manuscripts better (hopefully). In 2011 I reviewed a few tenths of manuscripts and project proposals. It takes some time but I think it is a very good personal investment. Whether or not peer-review increases the general scientific level of the published literature is still an open question. It is important to bear in mind that peer-review is not a rubber-stamp of truth, and most manuscript nowadays can get published in one way or another. Peer-review is just a first filter about the consistency and potential interest of a manuscript. As any evaluation system, peer-review is not perfect, but I do not know how it could be improved. It takes time to review a paper and thus a manuscript is usually revised by 2 reviewers, which I think it is not enough, at least not in some cases. The danger of gate-keeping when only two reviewers are involved is too large for some controversial manuscripts. But to commit 10 reviewers for a review would be impractical. Sometimes I think that a mixed system would be better, in which the manuscript is first read by 10 people who just give a 'go' or 'not go' vote, and then the text can be reviewed in depth by two of them. Another solution would be that the editors take a more pro-active role. Quite often, the editors just blindly accept the reviewers’ recommendations, without filtering the reviews that are obviously biased. Open review systems are becoming more popular but so far with limited success, since not many people devote time to participate.

What do you think the role of social sciences and of cultural sciences could be in the field of climate science?

I guess there are two ways in this direction. It may be argued that society modulates the way in which climatologist (or scientist in general) work. I cannot see it so clearly, but probably I cannot see through because in this case I would be the object of study. The other direction, I do see an interesting role for social sciences in the field of climate policy- adaptation or mitigation and its interaction with technology. Here I am clearly out of my depth, but I feel that we can learn something by looking at how societies in the past accepted (or not) scientific knowledge and adopted (or not) technological and environmental changes. We now take many things for granted. Vaccines, electricity, transportation, communications, etc. But at some point in the past, these were also new technologies. It would be interesting to know why and how these technologies became ingrained in the society. What was the role of the state or of similar institutions and the role of the individuals, etc.

Do you know Merton's norms of scientific conduct. Would you agree to these norms, or are they mere naive and unrealistic requests?

Among the five rules I have read about (Communalism, Universalism, Disinterestedness, Originality, Skepticism) I would agree with all except with Disinterestedness, according to which scientist are assumed to work for the benefit of common goal, rather than for personal gain. I do not think this is realistic and even necessary. Scientist have to cooperate, now even more than in the past, but the motivation of a scientist is not, in general, the benefit of a larger group of scientist or mankind. Scientist are scientist because they enjoy their job, the personal motivation is just the challenge to break a secret code. The benefits for society are a side effect.

Climate science is close to climate policy. Could you first dwell upon your view, how science and policy making should interact?

Climate science, and science in general, cannot offer full certainty. But it does offer an instrument to interpret observations and suggests ways of action when some goals are desired. Scientists that are involved in policy should be very clear about the uncertainties, and policy makers should also be aware that sometimes there are alternative views. Scientists are also human beings with all their frailties and biases. In the end, policy making entails risks, but informed decisions should be less risky than uninformed decisions. Thus, policy makers should indeed seek scientific advice, but in my opinion, not directly from active researchers but from independent bodies. If I were to design health policy I would not like to have the advice of star researchers that may have all kind of vested interests in academia, press, industry or finance. I would rather like to have the assessment of an unspectacular body of paid professionals that can explain to me what the researchers are doing but that have otherwise no stake in the matter.

And how is this link, according to your perception, in case of climate science?

Climate science and policy makers mainly interact via the IPCC. I have always had a hard time trying to understand the role of the IPCC. It produces its regular reports, which in the case of Working Group I (the physical basis of climate) are in general terms of high scientific quality. It is a very good source if you already have a scientific background and wish to inform yourself about climate science. But I really do not see how the IPCC can help policy makers. I guess that very few, if any, policy makers are reading the WG-I report. The Summary for Policy Makers is co-written by government officials and scientist, and thus it seems that it is the result of some type of obscure negotiations. This leads to all sorts of wrong incentives, also for scientists. In some countries, a criterion for promotion is whether your work has been cited by the IPCC, this gives already an idea about how the IPCC reports are misused for goals totally alien to the intended purpose. I think another type of IPCC would have been much more useful. For instance, the US government, when faced by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, called Feynman to lead an investigation team. The IPCC could be something of this sort: a commission lead by independent scientists, who are not climate scientists themselves, but who are smart enough to gather the information they need from the sources they deem adequate.

Some scientist feel very motivated to influence policy directly, and I have the impression that in the end these scientists are being misused by the politicians themselves, which can then boast green credentials in the next elections. Sincerely, I do not feel that, in general, policy makers really feel the need to be informed about climate science, unless it serves their own preconceived agenda. It is true that climate, with its long time scales involved, poses an 'unprecedented' problem to everyone involved: policy makers, scientists and the voters. I want to be optimistic and hope that the climate problem will be solved, but probably it will be solved in ways that we cannot foresee now, and not by the intense lobbying of policy makers.

You set up the Klimazwiebel within an hour, or so, on 9 December 2009. What was the motivation for doing so? What did you expect to get?

That was immediately after Climategate. We felt that times have changed enough so that it was possible to engage in a more open discussion about climate issues, including a hopefully a more unbiased information about climate research. I expected the discussions to be more or less rational, at least much less aggressive that we see in other blogs. From the very beginning we did not want to moderate the comments, with obvious exceptions.

And what did you get?

In general terms, I think that the Klimazwiebel is the blog we wanted to have, and thus I am quite satisfied with the results. One point that probably we will never know is whether or not any reader has changed his initial stance on any of the issues we have discussed, and admits that he might have been wrong after all. That would be a real achievement in this polarized atmosphere.

Is running Klimazwiebel worth the effort?

The goal of writing good blog entries regularly takes a lot of time, and often in my case they are not that good. I am often surprised by the reaction of our readers, which I guess is a good sign. Personally, I have realized a few important things. One is to never be convinced of being completely right. The engagement with the readers can lead to 'circle the wagons' and the impulse to delete comments, but I think it is often healthy to ponder if 'that stupid reader' may have a point after all. This is almost never the case, but only almost.

The heated days of the hockeystick are mostly gone. How do you asses in hindsight the situation in the past, what is the present situation?

I would characterize the period of the Third Assessment Report, the one that included the hockey stick graph, as a period in which criticisms about climate models, observation uncertainties and of course, uncertainties about climate reconstructions, were downplayed and even suppressed. I recall many sceptical comments about the hockey-stick reconstruction among climate researchers that were simply not publicly voiced. We now see published papers that display and discuss the deficiencies of climate models and of climate reconstructions, which would not have been published 10 years ago. In this sense, the situation is more open, and in my view, also better for climate policy. Some would argue that scientist should present a closed and tidy story about anthropogenic climate change, but in the end this will backlash.

Would you mind telling us how you judge "climategate"?

Climategate did not show that the essentials of climate science were wrong or that anthropogenic climate change is the result of a conspiracy. It did show that some scientists were impelled to present a clean story, cleaner than it really is, and in doing so they went a bit too far. In some way it showed a kind of 'window dressing' that extended into the peer-review process. This is similar to what happens to political organizations: they have to present a clear message to the public at the cost of diluting or simplifying the whole story. In the end their credibility sinks, and this is also what happened to climate science in general.

The scientific corpus did not need to be revised after Climategate. The cases in which other independent groups attempted to revisethe conclusions that appeared compromised by Climategate, it turned out that the conclusions were in order - I am referring here to the Müller et el reanalysis of the station temperature record. The procedures of climate science or of climate communication did require a review, for instance by the International Academy Council. Trust is one of the most valuable currencies and it is very easy to lose. I was not surprised by the Climategate emails, I can understand that many were surprised, and not in a positive sense. The reaction of the climate researchers to Climategate was clumsy, but this actually demonstrates that climate scientist are not part of an organized conspiracy and that they are not members of a secret society. They are just individuals that share some interests, but do not collude in the sense as it has been sometimes portrayed after Climategate.

I think the lessons from Climategate have not been completely learned. I personally would have advocated much more transparency, for instance making the IPCC author meetings public on the internet.

Are there "alarmists"? Is that a good term?

Yes, I think there are alarmists, if by that term we include those that see anthropogenic forcing behind every change we see in the environment. Perhaps alarmist is not the right term. I would rather use the expression 'climate hypochondriacs'.

What do you think about skeptics, about deniers?

Deniers have a similar mindset as alarmists. For them, no amount of evidence is or will be enough to convince them of the anthropogenic effect on climate. Ironically, both wield the application of 'scientific method' as weapon to combat the adversary. In reality, both are rather closer to religious position than to a proper scientific way of inquiry. There is a useful method to find out whether we are fundamentalist. Pose the question of what type of experimental evidence would be required for us to change our most firmly held belief, e.g. that climate change is a hoax or that the end of the world is approaching. If we cannot find an answer, then we are fundamentalist.

Scepticism is a more subtle concept. All of us should be sceptic about everything, first of all about ourselves. What I miss among some sceptics is that they apply a biased scepticism. We see this quite clearly in so called sceptical blogs, when they praise articles that they think defend their positions, but they fail to scrutinize those papers in the same way as they do with the IPCC, for instance. Healthy scepticism should, however, not lead to paralysis. At the end of the day, we have to take decisions, take risks framed by uncertainty, and accept the consequences of decisions that turned to be wrong. It is a matter of weighting risks and opportunities, and different persons would come to different conclusions even when they are faced with the same scientific evidence. The example of vaccination is enlightening. In the last epidemic of Mexican flu, some medical authorities recommended vaccination, other were more 'skeptical'. We will never know who was right.

Finally, a forecast, or a number of scenarios. What will be the state of climate science in 20 and in 50 years? In terms of knowledge and societal significance?

I hope that in 50 years, with long series of satellite data, we will know how sensitive climate is to external perturbations, and probably we will know how large internal climate variability is. But, hopefully, at that time anthropogenic the carbon dioxide will have ceased to be an issue. My tentative prediction is that the main source of energy will be geothermal and that climate science will be focused on other fields, e.g.: provide accurate decadal predictions at regional scales, and to evaluate and design geo-engeneering. For instance, how to modify hurricane tracks (or typhoons...), how to stop a drought spell, etc. Some important climate research centres, like CRU and GFDL were founded in part with this purpose in mind, for instance to study the consequences of the Soviet plan to divert Arctic rivers. Maybe there will be a strong interest in simulating the climate of Mars. If I live long enough to see this predictions come to pass, I would not mind to be handed the Gattaca prize by one of its employees.

73 comments:

intrepid_wanders said...

Thank you very much for bringing them blog to the "unwashed". Some of us just have engineering backgrounds in metrology but are not scientific enough to comment on it.

While I only agree with 90% of the responses from Dr. Zorita, that 10% skepticism is mostly diluted with his honesty (and the all other authors here). I will copy the information here and teach my daughter how *REAL* science is discussed.

All of you are invaluable (Even if I think you AGW levels worry are close to the Ozone worry).

Anonymous said...

My question would be where Eduardo has gotten the false impression that Feynman led the Rogers Commission. He didn't.

eduardo said...

@2

Yes, you are right. Thank you for pointing this out. Feynmann was just a 'plain member' of the commission, but even then I think it is a good example of engagement of recognized scientist from other disciplines in the IPCC Assessment reports.

Anonymous said...

Following on one of Eduardo’s comments (and hoping not to be the stooopid reader ;-):
“Pose the question of what type of experimental evidence would be required for us to change our most firmly held belief, e.g. that climate change is a hoax or that the end of the world is approaching.”

For me the following data (or proper use of it) will make a difference to adopt a different view of the one I hold at present (contrarian to cAGW, sceptical of AGW and indifferent to GW):

1. If the amplification factor of CO2 for temperatures was known with some certainty (I understand that it is still a matter of discussion. I trust Lindzen in this). Could it be that the failure of GCM models to correctly predict temperatures in advance (empirical data) is linked to assuming an erroneous value for this parameter? Time will tell.

2. If climate scientists in their assessments of our influence on climate used the actual % of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere and refrained from stating, and using, the figure of 40% (or even a higher value) for the accumulated anthropogenic CO2. While it may be true that accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere is equivalent to 40% of anthropogenic emissions, that fact does not support the use of that figure to calculate our impact (which is only our % contribution. See also my next point which I think is related to this).

3. If we knew that climate scientists were correct in assuming that CO2 natural sources and CO2 natural sinks are at equilibrium (which I seriously doubt). In raising this concern I should say that I’m a biologist and I would expect (a priori) that increases in the earth temperature may lead to shifts in the behaviour of the earth biomass (i.e. amounts of photosynthesis, respiration etc). Please notice that respiration is a process equivalent to combustion, and that CO2 produced by biomass respiration cannot be distinguished from CO2 derived from fossil fuel combustion: Not by the C13/C12 ratio (since fossil fuels were originated by the remains of biological organisms), not by a decrease in atmospheric O2 (since respiration and combustion are equivalent chemically). With regard to the assumed equilibrium between CO2 natural sources and CO2 natural sinks, please notice the following report showing increases in soil respiration associated to temperature increases
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20336143
Aren’t climate scientists taking too much risk assuming the existence of some natural (zero balance) equilibrium for CO2 fluxes?

4. If we knew for a fact that the correlation between CO2 and temperature was positive (which does not appear to be the case: see 3rd down graph posted by O. Humlum on


20080927: Reflections on the correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2
(Please click on the link of the same content to arrive at the graph)
Below that graph the author notices:
“Consequently, the complex nature of the relation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 since at least 1958 therefore represents an example of empirical falsification of the hypothesis ascribing dominance on the global temperature by the amount of atmospheric CO2.”

I surely take heed of his advice and check his graph frequently. Am I being fooled by the author? If so How?

Eduardo, in retrospect, thank you for being very brave and speaking your mind about climategate. It does tell much about your integrity as a scientist (my overdue respects for you!)

Best regards
Alfonso

Manfred Mudelsee said...

Dear Eduardo,

thanks to you (and the questioner) for the insight into your thinking.---I have a question.

You say: "They both [theory and models] are an internal representation of reality that ..."

Does that mean that you accept a philosophy-of-science position where something like "objective truth", independent of our human cognizing efforts, exists?

This is interesting since on this blog we have cultural and other scientists, perhaps including even the questioner, who seem to favour the opposite position, namely of philosophers such as Ravetz or Fleck, who in my view assert us that "objective truth" does not exist but is rather a mere sociological construct. Your opinion?

Best

Manfred (also physicist)

eduardo said...

@2,
Hola Alfonso
thank you for your comments. A few short answers to your post:

why do you trust Lindzen more than other scientist ? is he less politicized. Yes, there is still a large uncertainty in some of the amplification factors , or feedbacks. Future changes in clouds are uncertain, but the water-vapour feedback is much less uncertain, with most models simulating a strong increase in specific humidity, something that at first sight, is quite logical.

I also would like to believe hat climate sensitivity is small, but what is Lindzen is wrong and the amplification factors are indeed large ?

Most climate projections and simulations of the historical climate are driven by the observed concentration of greenhouse gases, i.e. by the amount of GHG that remain in the atmosphere, not by the emissions. There is thus no wiggle room for modellers here.

The fossil origin of the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is pinned down by the ratio of C14/C12, since fossil carbohydrates contain no radioactive C14.We observe that the ratio C13/C12 is decreasing , and thus the most of the carbon excess has a plant origin, and the C14/C12 is decreasing, and thus most of the carbon excess is fossil. There are few sources that match both properties.

The increase of GHG jas very few degrees of freedom, it is basically an upward trending smooth curve. So a correlation does not say much. It will also correlate with Spanish unemployment. Additionally, temperature is driven by other factors other than GHG, specially in the 20th century.

The GHG theory puts forward a mechanism to explain the recent increase in global temperatures. If we do not accept this explanation, which other specific mechanism has been responsible for this increase ? To argue that it is natural variability, the AMO, PDO, or similar, may be interesting, maybe even correct, but at this stage it is just hand waving. A proper alternative scientific theory should look different, and much specific than that.

eduardo said...

Manfred,

I think that my co-bloggers rather defend the position that the science, understood as what scientist do, is strongly influenced by society. I would not think that Werner, for instance, doubts the existence of a world external to ourselves.

My position is that, at the very least, the Klimazwiebel exists, and generalizing from here, the whole universe exists. However, I would be much more cautious about our science. I would think that it can be much strongly influenced by our human nature (in singular) , rather than by our cultures (in plural). Would the putative inhabitants of another galaxy have developed the same physical theories based on the same mathematical objects ? I would say there is not compelling reason to believe that.

Werner Krauss said...

Fleck, Ravetz and cultural scientists on this blog said that "objective truth is a sociological construct"? I think this is a so-called "Mudelsee-construct": when you post a fake assertion often enough on the blogosphere, it will turn into an objective truth. We will see if it works!

hvw said...

Werner,

The hypothesis that "all scientific knowledge is socially constructed" (for example the law of gravity) is thrown around here quite often, and it would be of great educational value to me and other ill-read audience to have a comment explaining how this is reconcilable with the existence of an objective reality. Thanks.

Reiner Grundmann said...

hvw

you seem to be keen to continue our old discussion, be my guest!

Since you pose the question above, how one can reconcile the statement that all science is socially constructed with the existence of an objective reality, I would ask you:
how do you know about objective reality?

hvw said...

Hello Reiner,

thanks for chipping in. Yes, I am asking the same thing again, because I am still stuck with making that premise of STS work with the rest of my little ontology.

how do you know about objective reality?
To stick with the example, the law of gravity appears to work in the same way for anybody anywhere, independent of cultural and social context. This meets my criteria for "objective reality". The question is, how can this knowledge be socially constructed if it remains constant across all socio-cultural environments?

Note: My question pertains to the statement that "all scientific knowledge is socially constructed". Accepting just that "all science" is socially constructed might be less problematic for me.

Anonymous said...

@6,
Eduardo, thank you for your responses. My 2 cents about your comments:

Why I pay attention to Lindzen? For me he looks balanced, he ponders on what he thinks he may know and also on the related uncertainties. He also takes a distant, and refreshing, view on the problem (i.e. the earth has warmed by just some tenths of 1ºC in the last 150 years) and makes you wonder if we aren't making to much fuzz over something completely normal (natural variation?). Overall, I have the feeling that he is a man that knows the size of his ignorance and that he is cautious about jumping into conclusions that the data may not support (and yes. Knowing that he is fallible as we all are). That rings as the sound the voice of knowledge should have.

You also say: “I also would like to believe that climate sensitivity is small, but what if Lindzen is wrong and the amplification factors are indeed large?” Eduardo, my gut feeling about it is that we are better off to recognize our ignorances about reality (if that is the case) than to try to explain it and predict the future based on uncertain premises (i.e. not knowing the potential effects of CO2 over cloud cover, and therefore albedo, seems too big of a shortcoming and does not support in my view the choice of using a high climate sensitivity to CO2) That in itself wouldn’t be important if it only affected the climate scientists in their daily business (the search for understanding reality: which will lead them just to a right or wrong conception of reality), but attempting to implement policies that will consume limited resources affecting our well being based on those same premises is another subject. Don’t you think?

“Most climate projections and simulations of the historical climate are driven by the observed concentration of greenhouse gases […] not by the emissions. There is thus no wiggle room for modellers here” Eduardo: Agreed, but when it comes to calculating anthropogenic attribution on GW caused by fossil fuel burning, shouldn’t we be using what we humans really contribute (% of total CO2 emitted) instead of using every bit that gets accumulated in the atmosphere and saying that it is mainly our fault since it is equivalent to 40% of what we produce? I continue to regard the use of that inflated figure as a bad choice scientifically, and feel it is based on advocacy.

Eduardo, I have seen figures about the Suess effect (+/- 0/00 14C vs time). Just one question about it: Has anybody calculated the fluxes of 14C-free CO2 required to effect the observed decreases in 14C during the first half of the 20th century? If so, how well those calculations fit with the amounts of fossil fuel usage at that time. I’m really curious about this, but I cannot get a copy of the Stuiver M, Quay P. 1981 paper to see the absolute figures of measured 14C.

While it is true that “a correlation does not say much.” (about causality), doesn’t a lack of it (as O. Humlum shows in his graph) tells a lot against the hypothesis of CO2 being a main driver of climate?

Finally, I do agree with you that at present we may not have an alternative theoretical mechanism to explain GW, but that does not make AGW theory -by itself- valuable scientifically. As contributors to this blog know, the history of science is full with examples of once-valued theories (i.e flogist, vitalism etc) that were falsified, on due time, by later scientific understanding. We’ll have to wait and see about AGW.

Just for your information, I’m interested on your views for the exact same reasons that I’m interested in Lindzen’s views.

Cheers :-)
Alfonso

Hans von Storch said...

hvw : I would accept "gravity appears to work in the same way for anybody anywhere, independent of cultural and social context", but "the law of gravity"? - what is that, this "law"? Do all people mean the same with that term, independent of cultural and social context"?

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo & Hans,

Thank you for the interesting interview.

My lay opinion changed slightly after blogs like Klimazwiebel appeared. In 2009, I was somewhat skeptical of global warming and would have put odds on of about 50-50 that the global warming problem was a false alarm.

Today I'd be far less willing to bet that it's a false alarm - I'd probably bet 10-1 now that it's not a false alarm - whether we can realistically do anything about it is another matter.

However, I think there's an important question that could have been asked and could in general be discussed a whole lot more in the blogosphere:

Suppose some of the luke-warmers are right. Suppose the best estimate climate sensitivity changed to 2 C per doubling CO2 instead of 3 C. It seems to me a lot of papers are coming out pointing to forthcoming revision downwards (I could be wrong, but certainly a lot of people have this view out there).

This question never gets answered because usually the response from the alarmist types is to attack anyone who argues this as a denier (or ignore them and hope they go away).

The big question is - would it even matter? Stephen Schwartz for instance, who is known for arguing for a low climate sensitivity in the literature, argues that it really wouldn't matter - we'd still have a climate change problem - just slightly more time to deal with it.

I don't think this gets discussed enough. What if the lukewarmers are right? Many skeptics assume, I think, that if the lukewarmers are right, there's no problem. What does Klimazwiebel think?

And what if Lindzen is right - and climate sensitivity is about 0.7 C. Would we agree that the problem more or less goes away then? I also find it unsettling that there seems to be a consensus to ignore Lindzen's most recent papers, despite the fanfare about how important it was to refute the 2009 paper - when the refutation was more obvious.

hvw said...

Hans von Storch #13,

but "the law of gravity"? - what is that, this "law"? Do all people mean the same with that term, independent of cultural and social context"?

I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone who associates the term "law of gravity" with something else than you do (no jokes about decreasing quality of secondary education here, please :).

Obviously there are even cultures that have no concept of gravity, because they are not interested, because of lacking capabilities, or because it is irrelevant in the dominating knowledge system. But just because that knowledge is absent somewhere doesn't mean it would not represent "objective reality". What knowledge is gained, with which methods and how it is expressed are certainly functions of socio-cultural context.

But any culture that is interested in how things are attracted to each other just by themselves, which comes up with a description of the phenomenon, will make the same predictions as we do, no matter whether they express this knowledge in French, by invoking gods and daemons, or in an alien form of mathematics. Therefore that knowledge is identical to ours, independent of socio-cultural context. And it has to be, if you believe in the existence of an "objective reality". I gladly concede that the process of arriving at scientific facts is a social construct, the result, however must be objective. And this seems very much add odds with the basic tenet of STS. Reiner to the rescue?

Reiner Grundmann said...

hvw:
"I gladly concede that the process of arriving at scientific facts is a social construct, the result, however must be objective."

Yes, it is, insofar it is shared by relevant communities

"And this seems very much add odds with the basic tenet of STS."

No it is not, see above. You could even say "it is real because it is constructed"

Hans von Storch said...

hvw: Could you please be a bit more accurate - I do not know what you mean with the "law" of gravity, all what I know is the ubiquitous "phenomenon of gravity".

The "process of arriving at scientific facts is a social construct" is misleading; I would say, this is a social process of constructing.

Also, what do you mean with a result being "objective"?

we are interacting here along the boundary of different scientific cultures, and it is not surprising that we observe difficulties in communication. Such a trans-disciplinary interaction suffers very often from different meaning of terminology (which are constructed differently in different communities). Thus, we all should strive for agreeing on what we mean when we uses words and concepts.

Anonymous said...

@Eduardo Zorita and HvS

Thank you very much for this beautiful blog post!!!!


Yeph

Werner Krauss said...

@ hvw #9

I thought about it, but frankly, I don't understand your question. Why should the fact that laws, scientific knowledge or houses are constructed contradict or even deny their "objective reality"? Of course, gravity, climate or houses do exist - or do you really think I would consider them as mere wordplays? So I actually don't understand why you ask me such a strange question. Maybe you can explain again, what exactly is the problem?

Anonymous said...

In case Alfredo is still looking in, his question on trusting Humlum can be found here:
http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2012/10/carbon-dioxide-and-temperature/

And if Alfredo really thinks Lindzen is so objective, he likely never ever read one of Lindzen's op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. And this story is perhaps the saddest after the Lindzen & Choi 2009 case:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/03/misrepresentation-from-lindzen/
in which Lindzen relied on a non-expert (a retired professor with a clear ideological bias), who as an excuse for making a mistake made further false claims.

eduardo said...

@ 12
Alfonso,

Agreed, but when it comes to calculating anthropogenic attribution on GW caused by fossil fuel burning, shouldn’t we be using what we humans really contribute (% of total CO2 emitted) instead of using every bit that gets accumulated in the atmosphere ?


Here you are assuming that there is another non-anthropogenic source that has contributed to part of the observed increased in concentrations from 280 ppm to 400 ppm today. Which is this source ? In the past million years the highest concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been about 280 ppm. If there are other natural net sources, why didnt they show up before ?


Just one question about it: Has anybody calculated the fluxes of 14C-free CO2 required to effect the observed decreases in 14C during the first half of the 20th century?

“.. For trees in the state of Washington the measured 1949-1951 atmospheric AI4c level was 20.0+__ 1.2%o below the 1855-1864 level. Model calculations indicate that in 1950 industrial CO 2 emissions are responsible for at least 85% of the AI4c decline, whereas natural variability accounts for the remaining 15%.

“Humlum shows in his graph) tells a lot against the hypothesis of CO2 being a main driver of climate?”

CO2 does not need to have been the main driver of climate change along the 20th century. Actually, this is not really well known. In my view the question is rather that if anthropogenic CO2 has contributed to the temperature increase so far, why should it not continue to do so in the future ? and then what are the consequences of a CO2 concentrations of 600 ppm, 800 ppm, or even higher after 2100 AD ? It does not mean that we are necessarily experiencing catastrophic climate change, but it does mean to increasing emissions represent increasing risks.

'We’ll have to wait and see about AGW.'
This would be your point of view. How much should temperature increase further for you to change it ?

hvw said...

Reiner, #16:

Ah, maybe I read too much relativism into the "construction statement". So you are saying that scientific facts are constructed doesn't preclude them from being "objective", that is "true, independent of social and cultural context"? This would go a long way towards making an interdisciplinary exchange between social constructivists and scientists possible.

hvw said...

Hans von Storch, #17

I do not know what you mean with the "law" of gravity, ...

That is some socratic question to drag me into a philosophical argument, just so you can hit me on the head with "How the Laws of Physics Lie" later? I don't want to engage in this, because all I could offer in that department is kitchen philosophy, and it would detract from the more practical problem at hand. Just assume I mean with "the law of gravity" the same what you mean (or the physicist next door if it doesn't make sense to you at all). Important here is only the property of a "natural law" that it is an example of scientific knowledge which is "objective" in the sense that it doesn't depend on social or cultural context. Else it would not be called natural law.

The "process of arriving at scientific facts is a social construct" is misleading; I would say, this is a social process of constructing.

Yes you are right, that is what I wanted to say.

Also, what do you mean with a result being "objective"?
That it doesn't depend on social or cultural context.

we are interacting here ..

YES! This cannot be stressed enough. An I might add that to "we all should strive for agreeing on what we mean when we use words and concepts" can be extremely tedious. But that seems to be a constant in humanities/science attempts at interdisciplinarity -- and a main cause for failure.



hvw said...

Werner,

Maybe you can explain again, what exactly is the problem?(W)

The motivation to bring this up: From reading some tidbits about STS and related stuff, I have the impression that these fields may have methods and know-how that could possibly contribute to the advancement/extension of environmental sciences (ES) to better function at the interface between "classical" science and the real world (politics and such). ES draws its justification to a large extent from the claim to inform policy, regulative bodies, etc., but how exactly this is supposed to work is under-studied, and not sufficiently represented in the actual scientific practice, in my opinion.

The problem: For STS and related fields to contribute, it is necessary that these social scientists talk to and work with natural scientists. A great many natural scientists will be put of by a statement "all scientific knowledge is socially constructed" to an extend that they consider further talking or listening as a waste of time.

The reason they are put of by this should be clear to you, Werner. In your study of researcher's culture you must have encountered Real Scientists, often physicists, whose self-conception depends crucially on their belief to produce universal truth and describe objective reality. People who put this cartoon on their office door. Particularly in climate science, many of these types do the heavy lifting in model development, so you can't just ignore them. The statement above seems to imply, upon cursory reading, a negation of science's claim to produce objective and universal knowledge.

Why should the fact that laws, scientific knowledge or houses are constructed contradict or even deny their "objective reality"

Because "construction" implies some freedom of the constructor about the product of the construction process. That is why you end up with a great variety of houses -- but there is only one law of gravity. Scientists like to think of their results that they "found" them, implying that they have no control over what exactly they find, and that everybody else will find the same thing, if she finds anything at all. That makes their findings "objective", in the sense of being independent of society and culture.

Maybe the problem lies in "construction" being a technical term in your field, the meaning of which doesn't degrade gracefully when used in everyday language. But sitting on your special meaning and shouting "I don't understand" to everybody who uses the word differently won't carry you very far. Note HvS'(#17) remark about an essential ingredient for interdisciplinary undertakings.

eduardo said...

@hvv

'but there is only one law of
gravity'


I think I understand what you mean, but maybe it is not that simple. Consider the following Gedankenexperiment. Two civilizations have lived apart without contact with each other. Newton lived only in only one of them, and Einstein only in the other. One developed the concept of force, derived Newton gravitational law and checked that this law gave accurate predictions of all gravitational phenomena on Earth. The other civilization developed the concept of field, realized that the speed of light in vacuum is always constant and derived the general theory of relativity, and checked that this law provided accurate predictions of all gravitational phenomena on Earth. Now both civilizations meet, and realize that both theories are so far accurate and yet both theories look completely different.

We know now that both theories are incomplete, so it may happen that they meet a third civilization with yet another completely different theory that provides the same accurate predictions on Earth.

You would argue that these are a sequence of approximations to the final true theory, but how do we know there is only one true theory ? And if there is one why should these sequence lead to the true theory. Could not it at some point get stuck because it was the wrong path from the very beginning ?

Manfred Mudelsee said...

Eduardo et al., hallo!,

man kann die Wahl (Newton/Einstein bzw. Kraft/Feld) doch einfach als weitere Annahme in dem üblicherweise implizit, fast unbewusst gemachten Set einbauen, das da heissen mag: Raum, Massen, Zeit (Kant (auch Masse eine Kategorie?)), dazu Peano-Axiome (natürliche Zahlen) und was man für reelle Zahlen braucht (fällt mir eben nicht ein). Sobald eingebaut, könnte es möglich sein (ich weiss nicht, ob man zeigen kann, dass es zwangsläufig möglich ist), die entsprechende Theorie herzuleiten. Und Vergleich mit Beobachtung, Verfeinerung usw.

Mit den Soziologen (auch denen hier?) und ein paar Philosophen (Kuhn, Polanyi) diskutiere ich gerne, was denn alles zum Set hinzugehören soll, und dass diese Set-Auswahl durchaus Subjektivität, Werte und womöglich gesellschaftlichen Einfluss spiegelt. Dass es spannend ist, am Set zu spielen und Theorie-Effekte zu studieren (Eduardos Grüne Männchen).

Wenn sich diese oder andere Leute, zu denen ich trotz Krauss noch immer Fleck oder Ravetz zähle, dann jedoch auch noch des zweiten Schrittes (Herleiten der Theorie, Vergleich mit Beobachtungen) bemächtigen wollen, also "Deutungshohheit über die Wahrheit gewinnen wollen" --- nein.

Sorry to have switched into German (which discussants seem to be able to follow).

Manfred Mudelsee

Werner Krauss said...

hvw,

thanks for this detailed explanation. Just a few short comments:

No, actually I haven't met scientists whose self-conception rests " on their belief to produce universal truth and describe objective reality". Quite the contrary, most of them are fully aware that their results only reflect a small portion of reality, and this incompletely, because only based on mathematical models etc etc...very modest people, far from "universal truth". Just like Eduardo says: so much uncertainty...great to talk to when they explain their work.

But paradoxically, it is also true that "many natural scientists will be put off by a statement "all scientific knowledge is socially constructed" to an extend that they consider further talking or listening as a waste of time."

The interesting point is that instead of arguing, they (okay, some - I have to generalize here) simply refuse to do so and consider it a waste of time, as you correctly say: they turn away, they block communication: they react culturally, in a psychologically interesting way - very confusing, indeed!

Obviously, we deal here with the culture (and politics) of science and not with scientific terminology. Everybody knows, that scientific knowledge is constructed; scientists know best. They only don't want Reiner Grundmann to say this, or me.

Discussing common terminology is always useful, but it is not the root of interdisciplinary cooperation; the only requirement is something like trust, respect and humility. STS people won't kill you or eat you up. Scientists are not monsters. Sounds ridiculous? No, this is the power of institutionalized academic culture.

Mr. Mudelsee above gives a sad example how to spoil the party from the beginning: he still sets the rules for communication on his own premises (based on prejudices, not listening or even reading), thus showing that he is not interested at all in interdisciplinary communication.

Manfred Mudelsee said...

Dear Werner Krauss,

the reason for my silence in this discussion was that I felt offended by your wording in #8: "so-called 'Mudelsee-construct'". We do not know each other in person, and the only other encounter by me with you was here on Klimazwiebel, on a personal account of mine on flooding, to which you responded, seemingly without interest in interdisciplinary communication, with a citation of Loriot.

I think you lack knowledge in my education, scientific career and also the rest of my person. You cannot meaningfully coin such a phrase as above. I would be pleased if you behaved more respectfully. Bear in mind that you are one of the main commentators on this site and have a certain responsibility.

Manfred Mudelsee

(My apologies to the others for this excursion!)

hvw said...

Eduardo #25,

nice move :). Exploiting that for my chosen example the more general theory can be formulated independent of the preceding theory. Physicists ...

Of course you are right with the questions you pose. I don't even have an opinion of whether there is one true theory and I don't have good arguments why scientific progression should converge to it, other than it looks like so, from the history so far. I guess you could even consider Newtonian physics as an example of "gotten stuck" until Einstein came along. I just doesn't felt like it because Einstein preceded compelling experimental evidence that Newtonian physics is lacking, afaik.

But these are old philosophical questions, which I am not aiming to answer or discuss here. The statement that I am trying to wring from the social scientists here is much more modest and trivial. It is simply that to judge for example the correctness of your model's dynamical core, social and cultural influences and conditions are irrelevant, that this knowledge is "objective", even though it might be incomplete and/or imprecise.

Once this is established (and I hope Reiner already did this further up), one can talk about what it then means for a scientific fact to be "socially constructed", and what are the implications for climate science. I don't see them, but the STS people seem to believe its important.

Werner Krauss said...

Dear Manfred Mudelsee,

my apologies for offending you. Of course, this is nothing personal; obviously, I was in an intellectual fighting mood. And there is a reason for that (for fighting, not offending):

We already had a discussion about one of your articles, where you make the following statement:

"In fact, an irrational, “post-normal” standpoint (Ravetz, n.d.; Fleck, 1980), which holds that truth is a sociological construct, seems not to lead to a way of advancing our understanding." (Effects of dating errors on nonparametric trend analyses of speleothem time series. M. Mudelsee, J. Fohlmeister, and D. Scholz, 2012).

Reiner Grundmann or I (I forgot) told you that this statement is not very helpful, as it is biased, wrong and does not do justice to Fleck and Ravetz (or s.th. like that, I forgot). I was surprised that you nonetheless repeat it here on Klimazwiebel. It is still wrong, biased and does not reflect what Ravetz and Fleck said. And to call "postnormal" irrational - do you think you get through with this on a blog which openly flirts with postnormal science? Open provocation causes polemic reaction - but if I crossed the line, my apologies. Seriously.

eduardo said...

I think Manfred refers here to irrationalism in the philosophical sense, as opposed to positivism

Reiner Grundmann said...

hvw

by saying you won't be drawn into a "philosophical discussion" you try to avoid the real questions, which admittedly are difficult. But you make it even more difficult because your move does not allow to specify the meaning of certain terms ("truth", "objective", etc) which you seem to hold dear (far from leaving philosophy behind!). Either we discuss these things properly or we leave them. You cannot "tease out" something from me under the pretense of "lets forget the philosophical debates".

Your favorite example (which seems to be the favorite example of all realists) is gravity, but you refuse to explain what you mean by it. I assume you are using it because it apparently allows us to grasp its reality (or objectivity, or truth) intuitively, just by watching the apple fall. From this it is easy to make the inference that this applies independent of context and therefore the law of gravity exists. But this does not follow. The only thing that follows is that under certain circumstances this behaviour is regular. WHich leads us into the problem of induction... but that would be philosophy again...

Or do you refer to the law of gravity in a different way?

Manfred Mudelsee said...

Dear Werner (you see how fast I can forgive),

thank you very much for your reply. You are right, I had forgotten to mention that CPD article. Reiner Grundmann, whom I cite here without permission, emailed: "Das ist schon eine starke Karikatur des PNS Ansatzes, gelinde gesagt." Which I, really, viewed as a kind of corroboration (although I exaggarated).

I bought Ravetz' (n.d.) "The No-nonsense Guide to Science" upon a recommendation by von Storch here in 2010. On pages 62 to 63, a certain unhappiness set in with your reader, when Ravetz reports about Galileo. There he makes the assertions that in "normal science": "there is no place for judgment" and that "each of the puzzles [the students learn during their training] has just one correct solution amidst all the incorrect ones." Both citations contradict my own experience: as climate time series analyst, I frequently make judgments based on intuition (e.g., graphical residual analysis of statistical regression results). And as student in physics/mathematics, it was refreshing to see how many different ways of proof may exist for the same mathematical problem. I cannot recall that we were taught (Univ Heidelberg) that there exists only one way; teachers were interested in how differently we did things.

On pages 76 to 77, Ravetz then comes to defining "post-normal science". He writes: "In very many fields of public policy formation and decision making in advanced societies, 'civil society' is included in the processes. Post-normal science can be understood as a recommendation that this be done even in cases where the core of the issue is scientific" (my bold). On the same page (77), he then writes of scientific problems that "cannot be solved by 'normal' methods", to which he subsumes climate change. He also says (top of page 77) that normal, puzzle-solving science is totally inadaquate as a method because it cannot deal with uncertainty. When reading that, I thought to myself: this guy, with no demonstrated training in climate science, wants to tell me what is right and wrong, what is true and not. I wrote into the book on that page: "Blödsinn (31. 7. 10)! Normal climate science produces CIs [confidence intervals], p-values, etc.; and it does not make recommendations."

I concede, however, that my reading of Fleck and Ravetz has been only cursory and that I should do better here. Perhaps I can learn from you and the others.

Best,

Manfred

hvw said...

Reiner,

And I thought we were almost there. The only term here that seems to require agreement of definition is "objective" and I have stated many times now what I mean with with it. Also the gravity example seems to make people going philosophical.

So again, could we agree on the following statement?

"Scientific knowledge, for example that encapsulated in the dynamical core of a climate model, is socially constructed, but this is no contradiction to it being objective, in the sense of being independent of the social and cultural environment of the people who constructed it, and yielding the same results for anybody who applies it."

Nothing against philosophical discussions, but I'd like to stay on topic, and the question "What is truth?" doesn't seem to be relevant in the context here. Correct me if I am wrong. But I would really appreciate if you did this by linking the philosophy somehow to actual climate science. Also, maybe I could understand you position better, if you explained why it is relevant that "scientific knowledge is socially constructed", what does that gain us over the traditional view that science is more a process of "finding out" how nature works? Is there any impact on how we consider results from climate science in the global warming debate?

eduardo said...

interview with Andy Lawrence

Anonymous said...

@21
Eduardo, thanks for the link to the Stuiver and Quay paper.
Regarding your statement
“CO2 does not need to have been the main driver of climate change along the 20th century. Actually, this is not really well known.”
I think that many concerned observers of GW, like me, will fully agree with your wording of our basic knowledge of the problem. Perhaps, it is exactly just the point we are trying to make (i.e make sure we define our degree of ignorance), and feel very distressed by scientists that pretend otherwise (thanks for making this point).
I feel glad that we share a common basic point of departure. From then on we may differ about what we should do about it, and when we must do it. For me still, climate sensitivity and exact human attribution are key factors to decide.
Still another caveat is: are there any other 14C-free natural sources being underestimated at present? To be sure I don’t know, but there is an interesting abstract out there that may suggest so.
http://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EGU2011/EGU2011-7778-1.pdf
Best
Alfonso

Anonymous said...

@20
Sorry, but I found no relevant information for disregarding O. Humlum’s graph and suggestions at the link you supplied

With regard to your second point Lindzen has, at least for me, shown a good disposition to correct any mistakes he makes (LC2009 and 2011) and he is elegant in doing so. In addition, despite all the criticisms his ideas receive from the status quo on climate science, a recent observation may even support the existence of an iris-like-effect mechanism buffering the temperature in this planet
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2011GL050506.shtml

Finally, to be sure everybody has ideological biases (not only Lindzen), but I think that those should be outside of the matter of discussion when looking at the merits of a scientist’s contributions.

Best
Alfredo? :-)

Reiner Grundmann said...

According to STS the important thing scientist try to achieve is establishing facts and the task of STS is to show how these facts have been created (constructed, shaped, fabricated, manufactured etc—obviously some words are more prone to misunderstanding than others). Facts are stabilized through various mechanisms (adding modalities to initial statements, modifying equipment and substances, enrolling new supporters) but in the end, when a new accepted fact has emerged, the process of creation has become invisible. We then assume it was produced by natural causes and adequately reflects nature.
STS also claims that these facts are only stable if the context remains stable. Clinical procedures will only work “everywhere” if the clinical environment can be re-created, if the laboratory can be recreated in other places. Thus your clause “independent of the social and cultural environment of the people who constructed it” is ambiguous. It need not be the same people (with their specific beliefs) but the same setting (artefact, program, laboratory, skills of scientists) which has produced the fact.
Let us apply this thought to climate science. I have posted Drieschner’s article from DIE ZEIT and naively asked “Who is to be believed?” Eduardo has indicated where some of the major disagreements lie. From this I would conclude that climate science with regards to predictions about future temperature rise has not come up with stable facts yet, it is still a contested field in which various statements are seen as facts by some scientists, but not by others. However, there are interesting intersections between science and the public: some statements are supported by new supporters of the alleged fact, catastrophic climate change. These new actors are in the media, in politics, and in civil society. This leads to an amplification of the statement and to a temporary stabilization of this claim as a fact. But it is precarious and may unravel at any point in time.
Another example relates to the historical temperature record and the critics of the hockey stick, both professional and lay. The scientists proposing the new fact (“unprecedented warming”) were challenged to provide data and code for replication purposes. The critics could not replicate the results and thus were successful in partly undermining the robustness of the new fact. According to the clause “independent of the social and cultural environment of the people who constructed it” you would come to the conclusion that it was not an objective fact.
There are many other statements which have reached a precarious status, think of the increase in frequency of extreme events and disasters. Such statements are stable in some political and cultural contexts but not in all. While Munich Re and Chris Field support it, others don’t.
If you follow this argument, which of the many statements from climate science could be regarded as stable facts? I think there is at least one: that we have seen warming of 0.8 degrees in the last 200 years.

Hans von Storch said...

Thanks, Reiner, I think your explanation was enlightening (for me). Thanks. The definition via stability seems quiet workable for me.

It seems, however, that "stability" is a matter of degree. While the increase of temperature in the 20th century is very stable, in particular after the effort of BEST, others are also stable, albeit less so - a major one is "the warming of the 20th century can not be explained without a dominant presence of the anthropogenic GHG effect". In the parlance of hvw and his friends, this would be expressed: "the warming in the 20th century is mostly due to the anthropogenic GHG effect". In my formulation the creation process is explicit, in the other it has been taken out.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alfonso,

First of all an apology for getting the name right. I had just been in a discussion with an Alfred, (not Alfredo), so I guess I mixed the names.

Regarding the link I provided: John Nielsen-Gammon shows there is no lack of correlation between CO2 and the temperature increase. I am not sure which graph of Humlum you are referring to, so I commented on the conclusion you drew.
However, I now realise you may have been referring to Humlum's recent paper, which was debunked within a few days. Please see the following two links:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2012/09/el-ninos-effect-onco2-causes-confusion/
http://troyca.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/comment-on-the-phase-relation-between-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-and-global-temperature/
Troy Masters has written more on this later, showing that climate models which explicitly have CO2 as a forcing, show the apparent "lag" between temperature change and CO2 change. In other words, the supposedly inverse correlation also occurs in the models.

I believe further discussion on Lindzen will just be that you trust him, and I don't. However, I don't think Davies & Molloy supports the iris hypothesis in any way, since the DM12 refers to ENSO as the driver of the cloud height changes, not warming (the iris hypothesis is a bit of a chicken-egg, who was first? discussion). But worse, there already is a paper out that suggests the observations of DM12 are questionable due to poor data in the early years of the MISR mission:
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2012/2012GL053171.shtml
D&M will thus have to redo their analysis, and preferably also include the two last La Nina years to see if their original results still hold. I doubt they do, but let's see.

Werner Krauss said...

Manfred Mudelsee,

ja, das sind sehr schöne Zitate, die Sie da ausgesucht haben. Schade, dass Ihnen nicht mehr als "Blödsinn" dazu einfällt. Da kann ich Ihnen auch nicht weiterhelfen. Ich kenne das als Ethnologe, auch ich muss mir immer wieder sagen lassen, dass Ethnologie nicht Physik und eigentlich auch gar keine Wissenschaft ist. Dieses Dilemma lässt sich argumentativ nicht lösen. Doch auf der Klimazwiebel geht es trotz aller gegenseitiger Kritik zu wie bei den Kurden:

„Die feinen Netze, die wir entfaltet haben, werden von ihr [der Kritik, W.K.] auseinandergerissen wie die
Kurden von Iranern, Irakern und Türken; aber bei Anbruch der Nacht überschreiten diese Kurden die
Grenzen, um untereinander zu heiraten und von einem gemeinsamen Vaterland zu träumen, das aus den
drei Ländern, die sie vereinnahmen, besteht.“ (Latour 1998: 14).


Anonymous said...

There is a "not" missing in my apology to Alfonso. Sorry 'bout that!

Anonymous said...

@40, 42
Dear anonymous,
No need to apologize by the slip on my name (no offense felt).

The Humlum graph that I’m referring to, and his comment about it, is in his blog (it is not in the peer review literature, but I do not think that matters as long as the data represented are correct, and I have no reason to suspect they are not). To arrive at the graph follow the link I provided before, and in the page you arrive at: click again on the link of the same name. In the new page scroll down to the 3rd graph and that’s it). Below the graph you’ll find Humlum’s comments which if the graph is correct I have to support.
Second, I thought that by saying iris-like-effect-mechanism it was clear that I was not saying Lindzen hypothesis was supported by the link I provided. I just was attempting to point out that a temperature-dampening-mechanism (and in that function similar to hypothesized Iris) could be acting on our planet. Sorry if my wording mislead anybody in a different direction that what I intended.
In regard to that potential dampening mechanism you inform that we’ll have to wait longer to decide if DM12 holds water (I’ll do). Thank you for the information and the links.
Best
Alfonso

Anonymous said...

@42
Dear anonymous,
I just realized that my indications to reach Humlum’s graph won’t work (I thought that copy-pasting of the link would work. It does on word documents).
Instead follow the next link
http://www.climate4you.com/
in that page, on the left column down, chose Climate reflections. On the new opening page choose
20080927: Reflections on the correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2
After opening that last page, scroll down to the 3rd graph: That is the one I’m referring to.
Best
Alfonso

Anonymous said...

Take a randomly chose list of 'scientific facts', such as this:
http://listverse.com/2007/12/19/top-20-amazing-science-facts/
Which one of these 'facts' did scientists set out to 'establish', which ones have 'natural causes' and which ones are 'socially constructed'?

Anonymous said...

Dear Alfonso,

Humlum's graph is a good example of fooling people about long-term trends by focusing on the variability around the trend. Nobody claims that CO2 is the dominant factor setting the temperature on a daily or monthly basis in the atmosphere. It does set, along with the other forcings, the "reference point" of the temperature of the atmosphere, around which the variability will take place. This can actually be seen quite well in the graph, as the "baseline" around which the "wiggles" take place is still going up.

In other words, in my opinion Humlum attempts to debunk a strawman argument, while his own graph does not support the claim that CO2 is not a major driver of climate *change*.

Anonymous said...

@45
Dear anonymous,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. However, at this moment in time I’m not yet agreeing with your interpretation (I may still lack sufficient time perspective).

I understand that, using the same plot of data, you could fit it to a straight line (and you would get a result to support a positive influence of increasing atmospheric CO2 on global temperatures). However, the question is if doing so is the best choice to obtain a mathematical distillate that best captures the empirical data. Humlum chooses instead a polynomial fit and gets a curve with 3 different segments: i) an early one with a negative sign for the [CO2]/T relation, ii) a middle one with a positive relationship between both parameters, and iii) the final (and still developing) segment in which that relation turns once again negative.

Since the choice of data appears reasonable (all the period encompassing Mauna Loa observations: 1958 to present), the question for me -still unanswered- is which of the 2 methods of data fitting best captures the empirical data to help on its interpretation.

For me, Humlum is at least right in attempting a different representation of the data and pointing out to the discrepancies (sign changes) observed in the correlation as a serious difficulty in ascribing a (+) dominant effect of CO2 over temperature at present. However, the empirical data used only represent 54 years, and it is possible that a longer observation period may show a different development of the polynomial fitting in which the last (present day) segment turns out to be part of the previous positive trend (and in that sense not differing from a straight fitting of the data).

In any case, I do not feel that Humlum is using any straw-man arguments. He only choses a different representation-fitting of the data, and as a consequence we have a different perspective to think about what all those data may mean.

Presently it may be impossible to decide which interpretation is correct, but for me Humlum is correct in doing this exercise, focussing on uncovered details (they are usually important), and pointing how those may collide with alternative interpretations.

Best
Alfonso

Anonymous said...

Dear Alfonso,

First, what is the physical argumentation to use a 5th order polynomal? There is none! This is not just a minor issue, it is a major issue. You can try some things yourself, just in excel, using the new Hadcrut4 data. If you take the same period Humlum used, and make a 5th order polynomal fit, you will get some numbers for the coefficients. Then do the same with the whole dataset (up to August of this year). Compare the coefficients, there are some significant differences already. Worse, go another 8 years back (to 1950) and see how the polynomal changes. This shows the extreme sensitivity of a polynomal fit to the end points. Note that with the data up to this year, we'd have a huuuuuuuge cooling waiting ahead in the next 2-3 years.



Second, the strawman is that Humlum argues that CO2 determines the temperature of the atmosphere on short time scales (he does not directly say so, but it is clear that this is what he argues), and then provides a graph that shows this is wrong. However, this is not the claim that mainstream climate science makes. It is well known that there can be enormous exchanges of energy between the atmosphere and the oceans (e.g. ENSO), which will have major short term effects on the temperature of the atmosphere. There are also other forcings, both short term and long term, that need to be taken into account, which is exactly what climate models do.

hvw said...

Reiner,

thank you very much for your extensive comment. You actually took great care to address my problems -- and I guess it helped. The first observation is that your definition of "fact" is different from what I used. It is more of an operational nature (fact is what is accepted as such by some relevant community), whereas what I'll call now a capitalzed "Fact" refers to an at least very good approxiamtion of an "objective truth" about nature, independent of who accepts it or not. You were right that I cannot even claim that this exists and a the same time chicken out of a real philosophical argument. Yet, its what I believe, and I am at least in large company. In the first paragraph of the interview with Andy Lawrence (Eduardo's link) this Astronomer demonstrates quite some differentiated awareness about the social process of construction, yet holds that in the end we find the "objective truth about the world". I think that is a typical mindset for natural scientist.

The good news is, I don't need to decide this in order to profit from the paradigm and venture point of STS which you linked so nicely to exmples. Mainly because for the problems at hand (possibly corresponding very much to those that Ravetz et al. label "post-normal"), the policy relevant scientific questions cannot (yet) be answered by Facts; we only have facts with varying degrees of stability. I can see how it is important to study the life cycle of these facts, how they relate to different actors, interest groups, otherwise defined communities and that is STS' job here in my understanding. Surely this is important with respect to how science does and/or should influence policy, but I find it also very interesting to look at how policy relevance might modify the scientist's quest for Facts.
(to be continued)

hvw said...

(cont.)
Your example with the ZEIT-article: There is a problem I am facing not the first time, and that is ignoring which community exactly regards something as a stable fact. Even inside natural science, often the contructor will present the new fact with way more caveats and much more cautiously than his collegue from the field next door, who wants to use the result in her own research. When economists, politicians or journalists (in no particular order) step in, a new fact may be created that might lose all connections whith what was constructed originally. "Actors in media, politics and civil society" may indeed amplify and temporarily stabilize ascientifc claim as a fact, but I would claim this only happens in the media/politics/civil society - sphere and has no bearing on how this claim is perceived in the scientific community. This of course doesn't mean these unscientific facts were not important -- on the contrary. You bring up the hockey stick issue and that is a nice illustration. The authors were never shy to admit the huge uncertainties in MBH98/99. Mann even complained that his work was also exaggerated and presented as a much more stable fact than appropriate by political interest groups. De Freitas/Soon/Baliunas criticisms were immediately seen as flawed and ignored, in science that is, not by the blogging civil society or american politicians though. Five years later, "unprecedented warming" had very much stabilized in the scientific community (notwithstanding von Storch and Zorita's 2004 critique of MBH's and others' statistical method) but this was (and apparently still is) not reflected in the perception of the lay audience (if "sceptical" blogs are any indication). Similar issue with extreme weather events. You will really need to work with drugs to get a scientist in the field to state as "fact" any attribution to global warming (except heatwaves perhaps). Yet, just because a politician or Peter Höppe do this, a disagreement in science is constructed, which you can't see inside the scientific community. In general, facts in science are a) way more uncertain but b) way more stable than it appears from reading the ZEIT and the pertinent blogs.

which of the many statements from climate science could be regarded as stable facts?

Quite some which form the basis of climate models, but there is not enough space in the margin to list them all. As a "higher level" stable fact I would consider the radiative forcing of CO2, N2O, CH4.

Thanks again for your comment. That really made me think.

hvw said...

(cont.)
Your example with the ZEIT-article: There is a problem I am facing not the first time, and that is ignoring which community exactly regards something as a stable fact. Even inside natural science, often the contructor will present the new fact with way more caveats and much more cautiously than his collegue from the field next door, who wants to use the result in her own research. When economists, politicians or journalists (in no particular order) step in, a new fact may be created that might lose all connections whith what was constructed originally. "Actors in media, politics and civil society" may indeed amplify and temporarily stabilize ascientifc claim as a fact, but I would claim this only happens in the media/politics/civil society - sphere and has no bearing on how this claim is perceived in the scientific community. This of course doesn't mean these unscientific facts were not important -- on the contrary. You bring up the hockey stick issue and that is a nice illustration. The authors were never shy to admit the huge uncertainties in MBH98/99. Mann even complained that his work was also exaggerated and presented as a much more stable fact than appropriate by political interest groups. De Freitas/Soon/Baliunas criticisms were immediately seen as flawed and ignored, in science that is, not by the blogging civil society or american politicians though. Five years later, "unprecedented warming" had very much stabilized in the scientific community (notwithstanding von Storch and Zorita's 2004 critique of MBH's and others' statistical method) but this was (and apparently still is) not reflected in the perception of the lay audience (if "sceptical" blogs are any indication). Similar issue with extreme weather events. You will really need to work with drugs to get a scientist in the field to state as "fact" any attribution to global warming (except heatwaves perhaps). Yet, just because a politician or Peter Höppe do this, a disagreement in science is constructed, which you can't see inside the scientific community. In general, facts in science are a) way more uncertain but b) way more stable than it appears from reading the ZEIT and the pertinent blogs.

which of the many statements from climate science could be regarded as stable facts?

Quite some which form the basis of climate models, but there is not enough space in the margin to list them all. As a "higher level" stable fact I would consider the radiative forcing of CO2, N2O, CH4.

Thanks again for your comment. That really made me think.

hvw said...

Hans von Storch #39,

Thanks for the "degrees" of fact stability; I adopted this instantaneously.

Your assumption of my parlance is not quite right. Indeed I would use "your" version, if speaking to a professional audience since it is more correct, better style, and less attackable to just report what has been observed. I would perhaps use the version you put in my mouth when speaking to a lay audience, because the formula "can not be explained" requires an understanding of what has been tried to explain, in order to transport my idea of this fact's degree of stability.

Anyways, to look for whether a formulation reflects the construction process or not is a nice idea.

Afraid I can't speak for "my friends" here, but I am happy you assume I have friends ;).

eduardo said...

@16 Alfonso,

the argument would go a bit like this.
To detect the effect of CO2 in the temperature record does not necessarily mean that CO2 is the major driver. You only need a good statistical method that is able to see the needle in the haystack. There is sometime confusion about this.

However, if we can detect its effect now, when the concentrations are relatively minor, what would happen when they continue to rise ? It is quite logical to think that CO2 can become the major driver in the future because it will be an unabated forcing. Nothing is completely certain but the risks are certainly big.
Furthermore, there are reasons other than climate to move towards sustainable energy sources, and especially very good reasons not to continue burning coal.

Maybe if the debate had been posed in these terms in 1992, we would be by now much further

Anonymous said...

@53 and 48
Dear Eduardo (and Anon…),
Observers of GW may have got the idea that CO2 was a dominant driver of warming from (not conveniently pondered) statements found in IPCC reports:

TAR SPM Figure 4 footnote: “The warming over the last 50 years due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases can be identified despite uncertainties in forcing […] Changes in natural forcing during most of this period are also estimated to be negative and are unlikely to explain the warming.”

The figure I refer to above lends credibility to the concept (widely held by the common citizen) that “levels of CO2 exert a dominant effect” over internal natural forcings since, according to models, in the absence of anthropogenic emissions a expected cooling during the period should have been observed.

Consequently, Anon, the idea that “CO2 is a main driver of temperature” if wrong should be refuted, and I think Humlum is correct in analyzing its faults. No strawman debunking here, just fighting a misleading oversimplified picture of reality. We observers deserve a clearer picture of the facts, and I thank people like Humlum that attempt to do so.

Eduardo, I have no major disagreements about your concerns as you state them. You are convinced the risk we are facing is important and should be confronted sooner than later. You may be right (I think that the problem is that nobody knows the answer to the question of how dangerous is CO2 for our planet) but being a Spaniard you also know that “el remedio puede ser peor que la enfermedad”. That is not a minor concern. In the history of health sciences there are numerous examples of remedies that were more harmful than the maladies they attempted to cure (i.e. thalidomide just for one).

For me there is a home message to learn from this. Science-based decisions should be taken when a solid scientific basis for the facts is known and after balancing the pros and cons of acting over the perceived risks (I’m not particularly fond of Post-normal “science”).

Failing to act that way will only harm Science (and maybe even human life).

Best to both

Alfonso

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo/Hans,

The question I asked above is, in my view, an important one. It seems to me this blog is of little use if questions from the lay public are always ignored. I'll have to say Gavin Schmidt is pretty good at answering questions.

I have read just about all of Eduardo's posts here, and I was particularly interested in those posts on sea level rise and an interesting one on the 20th century temperature record. I would have guessed, to be honest, that he is himself a luke-warmer. Is there a material disagreement with his position and that of Steve McIntyre as far as the central question of climate sensitivity is concerned?

Regardless, the question 'what if the lukewarmers are right' is never considered. It's always "alarmists are wrong!" "No the deniers are wrong!" The implications of a weak skeptical position need to be discussed more.

Best regards,
Alex Harvey

eduardo said...

Dear Alex,
thank you for your reminder. I oversaw your very first question.
Yes, I think you are right. Realclimate and the Klimazwiebel cannot be compared. Although we at the Klimazwiebel have a Piece Nobel Prize Winner as well :-) , Realclimate have, in my view, a stature, a vision and a mission, which t I at least certainly do not have. l. So I tend , sometimes too often, to let the readers discuss among themselves. But this time you asked me directly, so my apologies.

I would not say I am a lukewarmer. Lukewarmers defend the position that warming will occur but more slowly and probably not so strongly as some alarmist say. My position is that we cannot know. There are simply too many things we dont understand well enough. I would like to believe that climate sensitivity is low, but my left side of the brain - or the right, I dont know for sure - tells me that this is just a believe. The present estimations of climate sensitivity range between 1.5 and 4.5, but we cannot objectively attach probabilistic to any number in between. People that apply Bayesian methods come up with probability distributions, but those are in turn also partially based on expert judgment. I would be much happier if modelling groups working independently will come up wit models with the same climate sensitivity. This is clearly not happening.

What I definitively support is to convey the whole information, including what it is known and what is not known. This is why sometimes I react more emotively when I see articles or opinions that just gloss over the huge unknowns in climate research. The science in not settled by a mile, but in both directions. I think it is as wrong to say that climate sensitivity is 3 degrees than to say that the temperature trend in the recent decades disproves anthropogenic warming.

As far as I can tell, Steve does not have a clear position on this. Most of his blogs, if not all, are aimed at unveiling what he thinks are errors, mistakes, exaggerations in climate research. I would miss in his blog the same criticism about papers and blogs written by 'skeptics'. Too often he hurls personal comments that I dislike. But I also should say that I learned quite a lot from his blogposts in his initial years. After Climategate he has become too political.

Anonymous said...

Alfonso, I only now noticed your response, and it is one that unfortunately is not surprising to me. In particular it does not surprise me that you do not at all question the 5th polynomal that Humlum uses. My BS meter went into hyperdrive on that one.

What you apparently do not get from the IPCC reports is that CO2 forcing is small on a short time-scale, and easily drowned by the larger interannual variability. You really need long time-scales to see it pop out of the signal. For example, a large El Nino or La Nina can cause + or -0.2 in global temperatures on an annual basis. That's about 10 years of CO2 forcing (assuming 3 degrees/doubling). Add the solar cycle, which can also give +/- 0.1 or so, and you can get 15 years of CO2 forcing completely drowned by internal variability.

The difference between CO2 forcing and the other two I just mentioned is that CO2 forcing is unidirectional upwards as long as we emit more CO2 than is taken up by natural sinks. We have no reason to assume that ENSO (the El Nino's and La Nina's) will remain in a phase that offsets the CO2 forcing (as it currently is, with two La Nina's in 2010 and 2011 dragging temperatures downward). And even if that does happen, this is not necessarily good either: it just means the heat is stored in the oceans, with as yet unknown consequences.

There's also little reason to assume that the solar output will reduce for the next few decades to the extent that it offsets CO2 forcing.

Humlum shows a nice and easy picture, but one that simply does not correspond to reality. His method to "refute" CO2 as the main driver for long-term increases in global temperatures is false, as it focuses on the short-term wiggles. Whether he does this on purpose or simply cannot see the difference between the two, I do not care. Fact is that his analysis is exactly the misleading picture of reality that you assign to others.

Regarding your comment on making decisions on a solid scientific basis: have you consider the question of adding CO2 to our atmosphere? Is there a solid scientific basis to claim that that is safe? Your case of thalidomide is a good one: we added it to women's bodies with disastrous consequences, which we only found out later. We started in a situation where we did not know enough of what that would do. Yet you reverse the situation for CO2: adding it to the atmosphere you consider OK, even though we have no solid scientific basis to say it is safe. And now those who want to go back to baseline (no further increase or even reduction) are those who need to show this causes no harm? This is the opposite of your thalidomide example! In medical sciences, but also in the case of e.g. pesticides, you now have to show that adding a compound to the environment is clearly offset by the advantages. No such analysis has ever been done for CO2, so following your thalidomide example there is no solid scientific basis to allow any emissions of CO2 into the environment.

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. Of course, there's no obligation to respond. Congratulations for the Nobel Piece Prize. :)

Your position on climate change is more or less exactly the same as mine. Of course, I am not a scientist, so perhaps it is meaningless when I say it.

Nonetheless, if I had to make a wild guess on climate sensitivity - the lack of recent warming in the ocean - Loeb et al. 2012, Hansen et al. 2012, Levitus et al. 2012 - recent paleo papers like Schmittner et al. 2011, Koehler et al. 2010 - papers on lower than modelled transient climate response like Gillett et al. 2011 - lack of warming in Antarctica - lack of acceleration in sea level rise - then the Schwartz et al. papers, not to mention those Lindzen papers that must not be mentioned :) - I would bet on a lower climate sensitivity - while fully agreeing with you that there's no way of ruling out values greater than 4 - and I'm sure there are other papers that could be pointed to that support this.

Still, this is tempting - especially to people who can't really evaluate the science - right? It's easy to get the _impression_ that sensitivity is lower than the IPCC says.

So you haven't answered my main question - which is the hypothetical question. _What if_ the equilibrium climate sensitivity is lower? What if it's 1.5 degrees celsius per doubling of CO2 instead of 3? Most skeptics would declare victory.

But would it really change anything? Isn't it true we would still need to stop emitting CO2 in order to avoid future climate change - even if sensitivity was as low as 1.5?

My feeling is that if this hypothetical question was discussed more it might resolve a lot of argument with skeptics - or at least move the rather boring arguments that have been going on for many years to a more interesting question.

Best wishes,
Alex Harvey

Anonymous said...

@57
Dear Anonymous, some comments on yours:
“…it does not surprise me that you do not at all question the 5th polynomal that Humlum uses. My BS meter went into hyperdrive on that one.”
And how is your BS detector doing on the graphs showing an almost perfect correlation of increasing CO2 and average global temperatures? Yes, those that you link @ 20? No BS-D overdrive on those? What happens if you just fiddle with the scales of T and CO2?

“What you apparently do not get from the IPCC reports is that CO2 forcing is small on a short time-scale, and easily drowned by the larger interannual variability”.
Do actually IPCC reports tell us about this drowning [of CO2 effects] by natural variability? Maybe, at least you say they do, but I know the last IPCC report (FAR SYR 2007) states, no pondering here, “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations…” and continues as reinforcement “This is an advance since the TAR’s conclusion that “most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations”.
So, I have to agree with you: I do not get from IPCC reports (the pondering) that you suggest I should notice.

“Humlum shows a nice and easy picture, but one that simply does not correspond to reality”.
Well, He just plots the data and, up to that point, that is a factual representation of nature (a picture of reality, if you like, with regard to those 2 parameters)…the interpretation of what the plot means is what may be a matter for argumentation. It would be interesting to know which fit (linear or polynomial) has a better goodness of fit, don’t you think?

“Regarding your comment on making decisions on a solid scientific basis: have you consider the question of adding CO2 to our atmosphere? Is there a solid scientific basis to claim that that is safe? Your case of thalidomide is a good one: we added it to women's bodies with disastrous consequences…”

You are missing the point I was trying to convey to Eduardo. My point is that attempting to fight an illness (AGW) for which we do not know its severity (maybe severe cAGW, maybe a non-illness GW) we may jump into spending resources on expensive solutions (renewals) that do not solve anything (either because we are not the cause of the illness or because we cannot make a dent on the problem) and perhaps have harmful consequences for human beings. The resources so spent will not be available for other, perhaps more profitable, ventures. If so, the citizens of our society will pay dearly for any mistakes we made if we are not cautious.

For example, the green-minded EU may be loosing jobs and energy-demanding industries to cheap-coal-fuelled China, and that is neither decreasing the global CO2 emissions nor giving more job opportunities to EU-citizens. I get the impression that you seem convinced the problem we are confronting is so serious that requires to fulfil such prices (in human welfare, or sacrifices).

Well, I do not think the scientific evidence for concluding so is still in sight. I have come to love our Open-Society and it would be a pity if we lost it based on, however well-minded, misinterpretations (if they are indeed so).
Sorry, but my argumentation on thalidomide was intended as an example of a cure for a mild or non-illness situation (morning sickness/sleep) with undesired severe consequences.
Best, Alfonso

eduardo said...

@58

Dear Alex,

you should send the congratulations to the Klimazwiebel. I was not awarded not the Nobel Piece Prize..

You are right that lately there has been a slew of papers suggesting a lower climate sensitivity than the IPCC range, or at least in the lower part of that range. If that were true it would be something to congratulate all of us, but I remain sceptic until the evidence is more solid and this can take years. The recent lack of warming may be an indication of lower sensitivity or an indication of larger internal variability or both. If the cause is internal variability, then warming should resume more strongly than before.

If climate sensitivity turns out to be close to 1.5 degrees or less, I think hat the case for urgent reduction of GHG emissions would be much weaker. That value of sensitivity would imply a warming of about 0.8 or so in 2100, roughly the amount we have seen in the 20th century. It as been noticeable but certainly not catastrophic. Also, a sea-level rise of 20 cm would be perfectly manageable. The argument that emission reductions could be delayed until more efficient technologies are available would sound quite reasonable. Emissions would have to be eventually cut, but not immediately.

Anonymous said...

"What I miss among some sceptics is that they apply a biased scepticism."

This is dead on correct.

Eduardo...I have said it before, but you are a prince of a man. Really respect you and would buy you some serious beers were we ever together.

You take care, please. Very, very proud of you for your honesty.

P.s. Interestling...I have the distinction of being the very first person who had a post moderated on this site. Weeks after it opened and when the policy was 100% free speech. (Not complaining, I deserved what I got. Like to mix some childish games in along with the serious comments.)

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo,

You write above that a sensitivity of 1.5 would imply a warming of 0.8 by 2100.

The CO2 level now is close to 400ppmv. I suppose a sensitivity of 1.5 implies a transient climate response close to the equilibrium sensitivity(?).

I can't see how you can find a value as low as 0.8 by 2100 unless you're assuming a very low projection of CO2 emissions.

We are exceeding the upper bound of the A1FI emissions scenario. So a CO2 concentration of >1000ppmv by 2100 isn't unrealistic is it?

1000ppmv is about 1.25 doublings of CO2 relative to the present. Thus, surely if ECS was 1.5 C then the rise at 2100 would be around 1.5 * 1.25 which is about 1.9 C.

In any case I am interested to know what the CO2 concentrations are you assume at 2100 and why.

Kind regards,
Alex Harvey

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo,

You said above that a value of 1.5 C for sensitivity implies a warming of about 0.8 C in 2100. So what are you assuming about the atmospheric CO2 levels in your analysis?

If the CO2 level gets to 1000ppmv in 2100 and is ~400ppmv at the present then this would represent 1.25 doublings of CO2. If we disregard any 'warming in the pipeline' then shouldn't we get about 1.25 * 1.5 = 1.9 C with a little extra 'in the pipeline'?

Kind regards,
Alex Harvey

eduardo said...

Alex,

I was roughly assuming a business as usual scenario, close to 1% per year of GHG concentrations. The long term increase in the last decades is a bit lower than that, but I think for the same of the argument the accuracy is enough.

Here, you can find the relationship between equilibrium sensitivity and transient climate response (i.e. the warming attained at CO2 doubling with a 1% per year increase in concentrations) for the IPCC TAR models. The 'warming' in the pipeline varies substantially, depending on the vertical ocean diffusivity and on the rate of forcing growth, but you can see in the table that TCR is roughly half of ECS

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo,

The observation in Hansen et al. ('Climate response times: Dependence on climate sensitivity and ocean mixing', Science, 1985) suggests that systems with low climate sensitivity might reach equilibrium quite quickly relative to systems with high sensitivity. Are you sure it is reasonable to assume that when TCR is about 1/2 even when ECS is as low as 1.5?

And as for your assumption about the emissions scenario I've been hearing that CO2 has been increasing at something like 2 or 3%/year since the IPCC SRES of 2000 - I guess you feel this is alarmism?

eduardo said...

Alex,

There are tow competing parameters: the sensitivity and the vertical diffusivity. You are right that, keeping the diffusivity constant, the heat in the pipe line becomes smaller for smaller sensitivities. This is nicely explained in Isaac Held's blog. But if you go the model list that I linked in my previous comments and focus on the low-sensitivity models, say around 2K, you can see that the TCR is still 61% for model #21 or 75% for model #16.

Regarding the increase in CO2 concentrations, he 2000's has been a decade of strong growth, maybe anomalous (?). Taking a longer term perspective since 1950 or so, one gets a growth of 0.7% per annum. Nonetheless, I would agree with you that GHG concentrations of 700 ppm or higher in such a short time span is well into unknown territory.
My general point is that whereas an ECS of 3K or higher is indeed a serious threat, an ECS of 1.5 K or lower would give us a much longer time to adapt or mitigate (except for ocean pH). The sense of urgency is different in these two scenarios, I think

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo,

The link to Isaac Held's blog is broken - I would be very grateful if you could tell me which of Isaac Held's posts you were referring to. There are a few possibilities.

I admit that I do worry that with China and India raising massive, growing populations out of poverty by burning fossil fuels, the rate of increase of CO2 emissions could continue to accelerate. Maybe the A1FI scenario is not unrealistic?

Which reminds me - along with the question of, "just what if the skeptics are right?", these emissions scenarios are also hardly ever discussed. I find this strange - perhaps this is another casualty of the polarised war between the climate change skeptics and alarmists. They've drawn their trenches along each side of the climate sensitivity issue and nothing else important seems to get discussed.

eduardo said...

@67

Alex,

sorry for the broken link. This is the correct one http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/blog/isaac-held/2011/03/11/3-transient-vs-equilibrium-climate-responses/

I think the high-end scenarios have been indeed discussed before. For example, Mark Lynas' book 'Six degrees' has to be based on one of those high emission scenarios.

Alex Harvey said...

Dear Eduardo,

I guess my information comes primarily from what is discussed on the internet, (and some threads in the peer reviewed literature that I follow), but not so much books. In the six or seven years I've been following this I can't recall a controversy about the emissions scenarios. Perhaps I'm not following the right blogs. In any case thank you for correcting the link and taking the time to clarify these issues. I look forward to your future posts.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo, Mark Lynas' book "six degrees" is not based on a high emission scenario, but discusses what each degree of temperature rise would mean for the planet, one degree at a time (up to six).

Helmut Z. Baumert said...

@Dr.Zorita:

A principle of max entropy production, mentioned in the interview with Hans v. Storch,
does not belong to the secured knowledge of physical sciences. It is rather an
obscure speculation. I recommend to read Ilya Prigogine and Herrmann Haken.

@Objectivity of science.
At least physical sciences are in a comfortable
situation: If you search the internet with your smartphone, you prove
billionfold the notions and ideas of theoretical physics about virtually
strange things like quasi-particles, e.g. electron holes in semiconductors and the like.

@Climate science part of physics?
Yes, it IS a special part of physics and covers changes on Earth-like planets
with and without human populations.
Humans are a (possibly singular) perturbation of this class of problems.
The consequences of climate for society are NOT a matter of physics.
If we mix that then we arrive where we are:
at a total mess called today inter- or trans-disciplinarity ...
Best blogging, Helmut

eduardo said...

@71

Dear Helmut,

'A principle of max entropy production, mentioned in the interview with Hans v. Storch,
does not belong to the secured knowledge..'

You are completely right, but notice that I categorized those principles as 'guiding'. With that I meant principles that may be helpful in the search of the correct equations

At least physical sciences are in a comfortable
situation'
I would say that physical sciences are in a ''more' comfortable situation. However, 'correct ' physical theories usually do not arise by a magic wand . There are usually one among many failing theories. How can we be sure that that 'correct' physical theory just manage to fit the available data and maybe one successful prediction by chance ? Why should a correct physical theory be cast in mathematical terms ? do mathematics exist or are they created by humans ?
'

Helmut Z. Baumert said...

@72

Dear Eduardo, thanks for the comment. I was irritated by the textual neighborhood of a solid conservation law and the max entropy production hypothesis.

>How can we be sure that that 'correct'
>physical theory just manage to fit the
>available data and maybe one successful
>prediction by chance ?
A look into the history of physics might be helpful. We can learn how the SYSTEM of physical theories evolved over centuries, with some enduring zigzags at its outer classical and higher dimensional boundaries (high energies, large/tiny scales, complexity in condensed matter etc.). Today its kernel is robust, has large regions where, e.g., elements like quantum or relativistic rules overlap with Newtonian rules. Such a look may help for judging about theories/models.

Besides measurement or observation or gedankenexperiment, another instructive test of a theory is technology. If physics-based technology allows you to go to the Moon and securly back to mama, then most parts of the physics behind that endeavour were probably correct. But I dont want to open the stage here for climate engineering.

>Why should a correct physical theory
>be cast in mathematical terms ?
Latin was the language of the Roman Empire, and Math is the language of the Physics Empire. Not more, not less. There is mutual
enrichment between bookkeeper math and stormy forward phys.
Another question is how future intelligent machines will change reasearch in theoretical physics, as e.g. teaching goes already today increasingly into the web. Africa listens to Lenny Susskind, for example. It's time to put (exciting) climate lectures onto the web, and this for free, please, and no 'monologues with camera'.

>do mathematics exist or are they
>created by humans ?
Math (not the applied version) may possibly be reduced to the notion of infinity. Infinity is the math expression of the essential/non-essential divide, a construction of the human decision maker for survival in a complex dynamic world full of chances and necessities.

Remains the question whether climate science is real science, a growing burocracy, an industry, or both? Where begins science and where engineering, where simple modern practice?

Or happens science only when we either by chance discover new things (America, for example) or when we solve important riddles/enigmas? Enigmas are the driver of the hungry brain and thus: Where are the enigmas of the climate machine?
Eduardo, thanks for your provocating thoughts!
Helmut