Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Crisis - what crisis? Blame it on the social sciences

The Guardian contacted several lead authors of IPCC WG1 who spoke on the condition of anonymity. One said:

"I am annoyed about this and I do think that WG1, the physical basis for climate change, should be distinguished from WG2 and WG3. The latter deal with impacts, mitigation and socioeconomics and it seems to me they might be better placed in another arm of the United Nations, or another organisation altogether."

So The Guardian came up with the headline: "Climate scientists hit out at 'sloppy' melting glaciers error -- Experts who worked on the IPCC report say the error by social and biological scientists has unfairly maligned their work"

Another scientist said: "This is a transient and manufactured crisis and will likely go away with time …What the science community needs is a few huge donors to throw millions of dollars behind PR campaigns to counter the propaganda out there. We are being attacked through baseless smear campaigns and we are not PR experts."

So the crisis has nothing to do with IPCC science (=physical science). It is either due to ‘soft sciences’ or to evil machinations. Or both.
Read the full story here.


Anonymous said...

WG1 is definitely better than WG2.

But, the crisis does have to do with climatology.

The subtantial criticisms of Klotzbach and Douglass and others have not been given due accord.

Your excellent survey nor that of Roger Pielke of the opinions of climatologists is not reflected in the IPCC reports.

The Hockey Stick and associated dogdiness are awful. The opinions expressed by 'team' members in the climategate emails that 'we know f*&ck all about previous temperatures' are a damning critique.

WG2 is pretty much a lost cause. WG1 may be much stronger but it's still flawed.

Philip said...

Another quote from the guardian article: "... the blunder over the glaciers detracts from the very carefully peer-reviewed science used exclusively in the WG1 report". I suppose this might be trying to give the impression that the physical science is all sorted out, even if the soft science is not, but as far as I can understand it even the physical science is not all sorted out (correct me if this is wrong). For example, I get really confused when I read over some of the literature on cosmic rays and climate, and then compare with how it is dealt with in WG1. It seems obvious that it is cross-disciplinary ideas that are needed here, able to criticise and synthesise across the different disciplines and yet sometimes such ideas do not seem welcome.

If even the physical science is not all sorted out and irrespective of how true it is that C02 is the major culprit in causing climate problems, it seems to me like a good idea to prepare for shifts in climate (however caused), and for this we all need the best possible advice. I'd have thought this kind of advice is not really grounded in the physical sciences, more in the soft sciences and engineering. I wonder therefore whether the goal of the IPCC might best be shifted so that it avoids WG1 altogether and instead provides advice on dealing with the problems related to climate change? Meanwhile leaving the physical scientists to get on with their investigation of the detailed workings of the climate system.

Unknown said...

I have strong doubts that Douglass or Klotzbach are any relevant, but they are published both AFTER the AR4 was written (2007 and 2009). Of course it's now very en vogue to blame the IPCC for everything, from the situation in the third world to the quality of indian glaciology, but to claim that they should anticipate future publiction in their reports seems a little strong to me.
"What the science community needs is a few huge donors to throw millions of dollars behind PR campaigns to counter the propaganda out there."

That seems an interesting suggestion. Still I doubt that we will be able to compete with big oil but at least we could somehow employ some social scientists to keep them happy and to let them do what they know best.

Anna said...

Over at Bishop Hill's blog I just found something rather interesting that could be relevant in this discussion of the chapters in the IPCC report. It is a comment on the summary of chapter 9, by climate scientist Andrew Lacis, at GISS, and he is not at all happy with it. Please read for yourselves.

In his comment he says something that should be obvious, but doesn't really seem to be that in the current debate:

"Attribution can not happen until understanding has been clearly demonstrated. Once the facts of climate change have been established and understood, attribution will become self-evident to all".

Anna said...

And no 3 George, perhaps you are the right person to ask: what is it that Big Oil does in the climate debate?

What are the arguments they use, and which persons are spreading these arguments?
I'm not being sarcastic, I just really want to know, to be able to see if I've "bought" arguments that are really unarguably wrong and spread by "evil forces".

Philip said...

Anna #4. That is what puzzles me. There seems to be lack of understanding on the causes of climate change, even though the fact of it and its potential danger seems clear. So why is the argument about causes so much more important than the discussion of what can be done to protect people from any bad outcomes?

P Gosselin said...

Look what Andrew Lacis, colleague of James hansen, wrote about the executive summary:

Looks to me like there is no consensus. In fact it looks like there are some who completely discount the AGW hypothesis

Unknown said...

is this a great burden, pleasure, or what ever to be colleague of Jim Hansen? I know, types like you P Gosselin believe in everything written about Jim Hansen. But I think, Jim Hansen does not eat children.

I do not agree with your conclusion. The chapter is named: Understanding and Attributing climate change. Lacis comment was on the Draft from November 2005!!!! I do not know what was changed after that.

Lacis commented to the chapter itself as follows:

The scientific merit of the IPCC Assessment Report would be substantically improved by
simply deleting this chapter. Understanding is a prerequisite before any credible attribution can take place. The chapter starts by putting the cart ahead of the horse -
attributions are made left and right without ever laying a foundation to stand on. The
objective of the Assessment Report should be to present a clear and convincing
documentation of climate change, and avoid becoming a punching bag for climate change
critics and skeptics. The place to start is with the observed record of greenhouse gas
increases. These GHG increases have physical consequences, i.e., the GHGs produce
radiative forcing that is driving the climate system to a new equilibrium. And, there is a
global temperature record that verifies that that is indeed what is happening. If, for
political reasons, this chapter needs to be retained, it should be rewritten as a synthesis of
what has been learned in the earlier chapters, and moved to the end of the Report. If
written well, "attribution" will become a self-evident conclusion that is based on the facts

So, P Gosselin, your conclusion is really, really wrong. And I assume, Bishop Hill exactly wanted you to have this conclusion. Therefore, I think "Skeptics" like Bishop Hill are dishonest persons.

Unknown said...

sorry, to be clearer: Lacis critic was absolutely strong and harsh. BUT: the conclusions of Hill and Gosselin there is no consensus, Lacis (a colleague of Jim Hansen, wow) trashes the so called AGW hypotheses and so on, is absolutely misleading and wrong. The comment of Lacis shows this clearly. It is absolutely unbelievable how paranoid and ideological blinded "skeptics" really are.

SO, my question is: did the chapter change a lot after the first draft?

P Gosselin said...

Ghost, whoever you are.
Whether Lacis is a sceptic or not does not change the fact that THERE IS NO CONSENSUS. There never has been. So live with it.
A growing number of scientists, public policymakers, the German weather etc. are realizing the whole CO2 affair was an overblown scare. Lacis comments, whether made in 05 or 07, tell the story: The science was hijacked by enviro-mullahs and green-police wannabees.
And just so I am clear, I am not a sceptic of the AGW hypothesis. I go far beyond that. I scoff at the notion of AGW. To me it's 90% crap that ought to be flushed. Concerning Lacis, what he said and in what context, I will check it and see what Bishop Hill reports. You may want to take your concerns to Bishop Hill directly. To me what Lacis believes amounts not to a hill of beans in the end.

Philip said...

So Lacis does support the AGW case, but feels that chapter 9 is not needed, as the fact that both temperatures and C02 levels have increased is enough to establish the point. Have I understood correctly? The thing that confuses me is that the cosmic ray effect also provides an explanation for increased temperatures and I can't see why we should accept one explanation ahead of the other. The AR4 doesn't seem to me to provide very convincing reasons for discarding the cosmic rays theory. Can anyone offer any insights?

Unknown said...

P Gosselin, just some questions:

* why did Bishop Hill not mention that was a comment to the first draft?
* why did he not mention the part I quoted (it was just 1-2 pages before the second comment)?
* does Jim Hansen have anything to do with this? Why did Hill mention hi?
* did Lacis really trash the "mainstream" science? Not in the comment.
* do you know the differences between the first draft and the final version? I do not know.
* does the final chapter 9 reflect the critics of Lacis? Is there really first attribution and then observation now? I do not think so: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9.html
* does the executive summary reflect the critic? I am not sure...

just some questions... as blogger I would try to find answers before I would write it. As a reader, I came up with this questions... which questions did you have?

Hans Erren said...

To anybody who has the illusion that WGI is honky dory, I'd like to point to the rejected comment by Steve McIntyre and the related climategate email.

“The use of Wahl and Ammann (accepted) does not comply with WG1’s deadlines and all text based on this reference should be deleted. WG1’s rules require that all references be “published or in print” by December 16, 2005. Wahl and Ammann was “provisionally accepted” on that date, and not fully accepted until February 28, 2006, at which time no final preprint was available. Substantial changes were made in the paper between December 16, 2005 and February 28, 2006, including insertion of tables showing that the MBH98 reconstruction failed verification with r-squared statsistics, as had been reported by McIntyre and McKitrick in 2003. These tables were not available in the draft considered by WG1 when developing the second-order draft.”

The Lead Authors’ response was:
“Rejected- the citation is allowed under current rules.”

h/t David Holland comment February 5th, 2010 at 5:46 pm

And let's also not forget the complaints of Pielke Sr on the land use issues, which were grossly underrepresented in the IPCC report.

Anna said...

ghost, good questions . Perhaps you should try posting them on Bishop Hill or WUWT, where the Bishop post just showed up.

I think the main conclusion from Lacis comment is that the people writing the summary were unsuitable for the task, mainly because they could not refrain from writing with a "clear and obvious political agenda".

MikeR said...

"So, P Gosselin, your conclusion is really, really wrong. And I assume, Bishop Hill exactly wanted you to have this conclusion. Therefore, I think "Skeptics" like Bishop Hill are dishonest persons."
I really think that the Bishop Hill article was perfectly clear, as he says there:
"Remember, this guy is mainstream, not a sceptic, and you may need to remind yourself of that fact several times as you read through his comment on the executive summary of the chapter:"
The whole point of the article was that a climate science expert and believer in AGW was saying that that chapter was terrible, and they ignored him. Perhaps Gosselin isn't familiar with Bishop Hill's way of talking?
Bishop Hill isn't responsible for the mistake that Gosselin made. And you shouldn't be saying that he is dishonest, when he was quite clear.

Marco said...

Of course, in reality chapter 9 is now seen approvingly by Andrew Lacis. Gabriele Hegerl has also commented: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/does-an-old-climate-critique-still-hold-up/

There we go, another teapot tempest.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Marco -- This is the price of consensus.
Or are you saying that Lacis now thinks his comments were wrong in the first place?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
@ReinerGrundmann said...


you are not convincing anyone by name calling. You seem to be holding a grudge which is a private matter -- unless you tell us why we should care.
Insulting other people using a pseydonym is not what we want on this blog.

Hans von Storch said...

Ghost/18 - I will delete your mail. Statements such as X is an idiot and liar and so is Y are totally inacceptable.

Marco said...

don't know if my earlier comment will come through, but I suggest you read the link I gave, especially the comments from Gabriele Hegerl. I don't think there is any evidence that Lacis was pressured, and any suggestions to the contrary will require such evidence.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Thanks for the link Marco. I find Hegerl's statements less convincing than Revkin's article. Also, there are some very good comments to it.

Revkin quotes from the Executive Summary of chapter 9 which he finds troublesome:
"Human-induced warming of the climate system is widespread. Anthropogenic warming of the climate system can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the troposphere and in the oceans."

Observation and attribution are two different things. Hegerls says the chapter provides the nuances and detailed qualifiers, Revkin insists the Executive Summary is misleading.

Marco said...

Maybe Gabriele can answer you here. My comment was mainly aimed at your unsubstantiated claim that Lacis took his criticism back because of fear of reprisals (that's the only way I could understand your comment on consensus).

Leigh Jackson said...

Revkin gives the last word in his follow-up blog to Anthony Broccoli.

"Perhaps the issue here involves the expectations of the reader. You see the excerpts from the Chapter 9 executive summary as “sound bites” and Gabi sees them as headings for the qualified statements that follow. When I read the executive summary, the verbal likelihood qualifiers stand out (they are in italics), but they are not present if I isolate the two sentences in question.

Because I have only been an I.P.C.C. contributor and reviewer, I can’t comment on the difficulty of crafting language that satisfies both scientists and policymakers. But I do have the experience of frequently speaking to the general public and, on occasion, policymakers. They often want sound bites as a call to action or a basis for inaction. My inclusion of the verbal likelihood qualifiers (e.g., likely, very likely, extremely likely) is often quite unwelcome by some of those who hear my talks. I continue to use them, however, because doing so affords me the opportunity to discuss the culture of science and how such likelihood estimates reflect the strength of the available evidence."

Wisely spoken, the "error-bars" are there in the Summary for Policymakers - for those interested. Hegerl and Revkin are both correct.


Leigh Jackson said...

Sorry, should have said the Executive Summary, not Summary for Policymakers.

Unknown said...

Even a consensus report cannot satisfy everyone. Some traces of preoccupation of the coordinating lead authors are inevitable, and if we blame them too strong we can accomplish nothing.

It seems that too strong emphasis by WG1 scientists to peer-reviewed scientific journal articles resulted in inadvertent defamation of WG2 and WG3 which must cover the areas of issus where scientific disciplines have not estabilished.

Even as far as physical science is concerned, climate change is a complex matter.

I think that the (so-called) scientific consensus on climate change is that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission is likely to be the most important factor to drive the global mean surface air temperture in the coming century unless unexpected events happen. And changes of various climate variables accompany this global warming. As far as we consider the global mean temperature also smoothed by several decade intervals in time, we can consider both natural variability and additional anthropogenetic effects such as land use change minor.

To evaluate whether the changes will be so harmful to the human society of the world as to warrant preventive policies, some assessments of regional climate changes are needed, for impacts of climate to ecosystems and society occur locally. For this limited purpose, local studies need not cover every place of the world. Adequate samples would suffice. And IPCC seems to be good at assessing regional climate change in this sense.

On the other hand, people must adapt to changing climate with less and less dependence on fossil fuel at every place. We should make wise use of science to do that. We should make regional environmental assessments (and perhaps projections). Here, global warming is just one of the factors. We must consider land use change primarily as a factor directly influencing ecosystems and secondarily via climate change. I do not think that these broad issues can be covered by IPCC. It may be necessary to free many of the relevant scientists from the burden of IPCC.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Andrew Lacis has now commented on DotEarth. It is a long post I suggest you read it yourself.
He distinguishes between scientific peer review and the IPCC consensus process, especially the Executive Summaries. With regard to the latter, he states:

"The other aspect of the IPPC AR4 report is the political posturing component as exemplified by the Executive Summaries. Here, the need for group consensus appears to trump the need for factual correctness."
Read it here @62

Georg said...

"I find Hegerl's statements less convincing than Revkin's article."
Since you've read the respective IPCC chapter and werent convinced by the attribution methods which you proposed to improve in numerous papers of yourown or since you think the entire concept of a summary of something is evil?

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Georg, calm down and do not misrepresent what I say.
I did not comment on the ENTIRE CONCEPT OF A SUMMARY and did not call anything EVIL.

I think the quote from Lacis in my previous quotes sums it up much better.

Leigh Jackson said...

Reiner 27
Who or what determines "factual correctness"? Scientific consensus, perhaps?