Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Climate Wars

Climate is both politics and science. These fields are never independent; instead, they are connected in multiple and ever new ways. The recent elections in the US changed majorities, with effects on future climate politics, of course. In the  The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes an alarming comment. The new chairman of the Oversight Committee, Darrell Issa, wants to investigate climategate and climate scientists once again. "Not content merely to ignore the science, they have decided to go after the scientists", writes Kolbert.

This will have consequences for any climate bills in the US, for the US position in the Cancún climate negotiations, and for the freedom of science, too. They want it all. This has nothing to do with a new dialog between skeptics and mainstream science such as here on klimazwiebel; instead, this is a war on science in the name of religious fundamentalism: "I believe that's the infallable word of God, and that's the way it's going to be for His creation", says one of the four members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Seen through this lens, climate change stands as a symbol in a fight between good and evil. This is the atmosphere in which discussions on the IPCC or climate committee are no longer about improvement, transparency and good or bad science: "Why, after all, have a panel on energy independence and global warming if you don't believe in either?" Instead, this is about the end of the discussion.


Anonymous said...

Did I hear something about Lysenkoism in these pages some time ago?

Jon Saenz

Werner Krauss said...

you did read about Lysenkoism here, but how do you relate this to the recent development in the US? Do you think skeptics like Barton and others put an end to "climate Lysenkoism" or do you mean that they start a new (religiously motivated) one? Please explain.

Anonymous said...

I think they start a new (well, not that new, remember Barton) one. That is my sincere opinion.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps my previous explanation is too short, I develop it a little bit more. A fundamental factor in the existence of Lysenkoism is (in my point of view) that "somebody" must have the ability to apply some "pressure" onto scientists.

I can't see the way a scientist (or a group of scientists) without executive power can be "Lysenkoists".

Anyway, in your previous discussions about Lysenkoism, I didn't write anything about it, since I have never worked on this issue before and I am not a social scientist. Thus, my opinion probably is of no value here ... But I find the "force factor" is fundamental if one tryes to understand Lysenkoism. I see (again) the force factor acting here.


P Gosselin said...

When scientists are involved in wrongdoing, it needs to be investigated. Scientists cannot ne put above the law.
They too must face the consequences of any deception they practice, just like anyone else does - even if these wrongdoers claim their intentions were good. Fraud is fraud. A law-abiding, democratic society is indeed obligated and owes it to the people to investigate and render justice, as needed, and even if objected to by people who think they know better.

This has nothing to do with invading science. To the contrary, it is about restoring science.

Unknown said...

Sherwood Boehlert has already retired in 2007. He, as the chair of the Science Commitee of the House, asked the National Academy of Science for a review of the "hockeystick" issue which resulted in the NRC (North) Report. There seems to be no Republican Speaker following his style. Boehlert writes "Can the party of Reagan accept the science of climate change?" on the Washington Post.

Anonymous said...

P. Gosselin.

Nobody discusses that scientists must meet law. The problem starts when they are investigated once. Twice. Three times. And, still, they will be investigated yet another time, as it seems clear now. You find that fine. You already know that they are involved in wrongdoing. Previous researches on those issues didn't arrive to the same conclusion.

You say "Fraud is fraud" and I agree with that ... IF (IN CASE) there was fraud. Something that in several cases (the famous "hide the decline" or "contain the medieval warm period" are good examples) is far from clear.

I wonder whether some people will start investigation after investigation until they find the result they expected from the start, it's a matter of changing the jury enough times. This seems a little bit Lysenkoist to me.


sHx said...

Werner Krauss, I take it you consider scientists as Jedis. If that were the case, then their funding would be the Force, and the politicians would be the Jedi-masters.

So before a politician can say "May the Funding be with you", don't you think they're entitled to know whether it will be for good or evil?

I am only going with your analogy here.

itisi69 said...

Well, to stay with climate, climatologists sowed the wind, now they reap the whirlwind. Ask yourself (or Jim Hansen who went to the US Congress some 30 years ago with doom stories) how this all could happen. I have not heard one complaint from the majority of climate scientist society when these charlatans Gore and Pachauri collected the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of climate science and politics ran away with AGW

As they say: sit really still when you get a shave,

itisi69 said...

The problem starts when they are investigated once. Twice. Three times. And, still, they will be investigated yet another time, as it seems clear now. You call these investigations? I call it word games....

Werner Krauss said...

Hmmm. No, it's not like Rambo versus the Viet Cong, or Master Jedi versus Dark Vader, or free market versus communism. That's how the Republican folks and their tea party friends want to present it: good versus evil (climate scientists as the evil, of course).
Re-opening the climategate box is just a means to sabotage climate politics in general. It means returning to the stone age of the climate debate. Stone age means returning to evil alarmists versus well meaning skeptics - stone age means pre-klimazwiebel!
The world is not black and white. Instead, there is a problem with greenhouse gas emissions, with rising sea levels, with rising temperatures. We all know that there are lots of uncertainties, and that's why there are so many discussions going on in order to find out how to cope with this problem. klimazwiebel is exemplary in some respects: instead of reducing complexity, we open up the discussion to ever more complexity. We are long past the alarmists versus skeptics discussion; instead, we have together an ongoing discussion on climate and energy problems which are indeed real. True, we still have to figure out how that reality (and the science of it) exactly looks like, but we are far from denying this reality at all!
Instead, the current discussion in the US is far from that. It is about closing the debate once and for all. They don't go after climate scientists for the sake of science and truth; quite the contrary, they are deeply anti-scientific and anti-democratic.

Unknown said...

Sherwood Boehlert, a former Republican Congressman, writes "Can the party of Reagan accept the science of climate change?" .

In 2005 he was the chairman of Commitee on Science, and he asked the National Academy of Science for review of issue of so-called "hockeystick", which resulted in the NRC (North) report in 2006.

He retired from the Congress in 2007, and there seems to be no Republican member of Congress like him now.

ghost said...


reducing science to obtaining funding is just plainly wrong. Republicans and their screechy followers do that. It is wrong.

Anonymous said...


I am afraid you would only call investigation to a process that produces the only outcome you are ready to accept. That's my impression. I might be wrong, but I don't think so.

Jon Saenz

Stan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sHx said...

Werner Krauss, how about CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) hypothesis for a religion?

1- The gods (Scientists)
2- The sacred texts (IPCC reports)
3- We are all sinners (Our carbon footprint)
4- We must repent (Stop using fossil fuels)
5- The end of the world is nigh! (the looming climate catastrophe)
6- The four horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Pestilence and Death. Identical to the ones AGW believers scare people with)

Werner Krauss said...

Oh. you think I am God? Wow! You are really easy to impress! But I think I don't need followers like you. I am sick and tired of this plain and stupid argument. I made it already about twenty years ago; there was a time when it helped to clarify some things. But nowadays? After one year discussion on klimazwiebel? Come on. What a waste of time that is....

Or did I misunderstand here some subtle ironies?

sHx said...

@Werner Krauss
You know Germans are famous for many, many things, but definitely not for their sense of humour. With Darth Vader and Master Jedi representing each side on Die Klimazwiebel, you ought to be credited for trying. This was the first attempt at humour that I could detect on Die Klimazwiebel after 365 days of 24/7 operation.

For your information, no, Werner, I don't think you are a god. That's what CAGW cultists have turned Climatologists into. I stopped believing in god at seven years of age, after I saw him (yep, he is male) in a dream and asked for a steam train as present. He failed to deliver, and I've stopped being impressed by such pretentious entities ever since. It was my scepticism of god/s that helped me develop a healthy CAGW scepticism.

So, no, Werner, not every CAGW sceptic is a god-fearing, gun-toting, Tea Party voting, tobacco-chewing, oil shill. That is the perception deliberately cultivated by certain Climatologists in the minds of easily impressionable CAGW faithful, so that they won't stray far from the flock. Like the way your average priest would portray an atheist: the devil in disguise!

BTW, I really like Die Klimazwiebel. It is one of the least ideologically driven climate blogs, and it offers a unique perspective not present in any of the Anglo websites.

Anonymous said...


It is really hard to try to maintain any kind of constructive dialog with a person (you) that writes things like these:

"That is the perception deliberately cultivated by certain Climatologists in the minds of easily impressionable CAGW faithful, so that they won't stray far from the flock. Like the way your average priest would portray an atheist: the devil in disguise!"

You have absolutely no theoretical background rooted in physics to discuss the basic fact that more CO2 mathematically implies a warmer surface due to basic laws of physics. You don't find any need to discuss the details (of the mathematics or the physics of the problem) and still, you have the answer to the policy implications of the problem: "Do nothing, they are worst than priests, let's kick them in their a__es"

BTW. Your comments above are some of the most ideologically driven and uninformative ones I have seen during the last years. I have to admit that I usually don't read those blogs where people like you feel happy writing things like your comments above.

Jon Saenz

Werner Krauss said...

Okay, I am not God. Just tried...
The image of the God fearing, gun-toting, Tea party voting skeptic is not only a fantasy cultivated by Climatologists; I am afraid it is also a self-representation of some influential Republicans these days.

Thanks for giving credit at least to the attempt of showing humor. There is more of it on klimazwiebel, besides excellent poetry and sheer nonsense.

sHx said...

@Jon Saenz

"You have absolutely no theoretical background rooted in physics to discuss the basic fact that more CO2 mathematically implies a warmer surface due to basic laws of physics."

Somebody is angry. Lucky for him I got to read it, or the missive would amount to somebody yelling at an empty chair.

Sir, you have absolutely no theoretical background in philosophy, politics, satire and rhetoric. If you did, you'd be ashamed of the similarities between the CAGW movement and a Medieval doomsday cult... right down to the fraternity of popes and priests pitying the ignorance of the masses. Enough to ring the alarm bells.

Season's Greetings, sir!

Anonymous said...


Still... more CO2 mathematically implies a warmer surface. Despite all your profound experience in politics and philosophy, rhetoric, satire and perhaps even theology, this is a problem of physics, Sire.

Jon Saenz

Hans von Storch said...

I do not think that you are right; at least your statement is very unprecisely formulated.

Mathematics does not prove anything (I hold a degree in mathematics); we have some equations, which after some mathematical operations suggest the warming. That is, mathematics is asserting warming given that the questions are correct. However, they are not. Instead they contain, als almost all geophysical equations, parameterizations - i.e., semiempirical closures for describing otherwise undescribable effects. The equations are approximations. The presence of aerosols, of clouds etc are implicitly decribed in the empirical constants (or functional relationships) in the equations.

By your insistance on "mathematics" (I guess you mean "physics") you are doing more harm than good - you declare that "the equations" would represent first principles like mass conservation; when people find out that we are dealing with convenient approximations - which are very good and we have good reasons to believe at least in their functional form, but the choice of the constants is possibly less "first principle" - then another chunk of trust in our profession is gone.

The argument for asserting that anthropogenic warming is presently at work, is indeed moticated by equations; the eventual proof, however, is of statistical nature - an analysis of past temperature data (detection) and a consistency check which of our ideas (quantified by models) is explaining the warming best.

Of course, as almost always in science, we collectively could err. Think of physics at the end of the 19th century.

Anonymous said...

To clarify one subject:

To Jon Saenz
      (# 22: "Still... more CO2 mathematically implies a warmer surface.")

and Hans von Storch
      (# 23: "[A]n analysis of past temperature data (detection) and a consistency check which of our ideas (quantified by models) is explaining the warming best.")

A few days ago there was this confusing -- or maybe confused? -- piece:

      "'Während die Proxy-basierten Rekonstruktionen ein kontroverser Bereich der Forschung bleiben, zeigen die Thermometer-Daten unzweifelhaft, dass sich die Erde erwärmt und liefern die Hauptbeweise dafür, dass dies der menschlichen Aktivität zu verdanken ist. Dieser Beleg bleibt unbestritten', erklärt der Klimaforscher Hans von Storch im Dezember 2009 in einer Stellungnahme in ,Nature'."
      (Scinexx, 10.12.2010: „Climategate“. Ein Super-GAU der Klimaforschung und die Folgen. Der fatale „Trick“. Pfusch am Klimawandel-Symbol?)

Hans von Storch, I can only assume that you followed certain discussions. It was somewhere mentioned by relevant scientists in peer reviewed literature also what you, Jon Saenz, can read here, too:

      “Even with the instrumental record, the early and late 20th century warming periods are only significant locally at between 10-20% of grid boxes.
      ((Climate Research Unit) Phil Jones in an email to Michael Mann, Malcolm Hughes, Raymond Bradley and Tom Crowley, 11 Mar 2003, 08:14 hour)

I find this confusing, but yes, here too:

      It must be said. People must know it.

And I'm not sure, but satellites do not carry thermometers, don't they? They do not "measure temperature", don't they?

And, for instance, Bolivia (which country is after the yearly IPCC militainment conference globally under debate because of their Cancun proactivism) provides no data_of_thermometers/no_measuring station which would be included in "current temperatures" by -- I think -- NASA and CRU (?).

That nobody stands up here is justified, or not?


Hans von Storch said...

Namenlos, we had a thread on the issue of detection and attribution - see: Maybe you have a look?

The thermometer reord seems fine to me; the attribution is done with this record (and model-based hypotheses about the effect of different "drivers") - so that my "quote" (which is not a quote) is by and large ok.

A thermometer measures the expansion of mercury, not temperature - from this expansion we estimate temperature. Satellites measure radiation, which is used to derive temperature.

10-20% local significance. I do not know which null hypothesis they test, maybe trends? Trend testing is not a very meaningful practice as it essentially assesses only if the time series are white (or better red). A significant trend does not necessarily continue into the future (such as a significant temp trend from May to July - it does not continue to November).

But, local series suffer from much more regional variability; when averaged across many points, then this regional variability is reduced; signal-to-noise ratio increases and the average (global or continental mean) shows the forced development much clearer.

The Scinexx-article is not well the researched. For instance, the assertion "Der Chefredakteur des „Climate Research“ musste allerdings wirklich seinen Hut nehmen." is simply false - it was me, and everybody can read about the circumstances on my home-page.

sHx said...

"... more CO2 mathematically implies a warmer surface... this is a problem of physics..."

The way 2+2 implies 4? Or the way Climate Science implies the Day of Apocalypse? This is a problem not just for physics but for everyone, your worship.

sHx said...

Of course, my last reply was to that who shall not be named.

Hans von Storch said...

sHx and Jon, please calm down your rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hans (23).

You rise several points and I think I must complete my previous comment to answer them.

a) Mathematics versus physics.
You are right that in a virtual world where different physical laws were acting, perhaps more atmospheric CO2 could lead to a cooler surface. However, given that the laws of physics are the ones we currently know, I hope you will agree with me that increasing CO2 levels can only yield a warmer surface if we solve the equations in a mathematically correct way. Unless a negative feedback that nobody has yet found appears, surface will be warmer if we respect basic laws of physics, expressed as equations and solved by mathematical means.

b) Other forcings.
You are right that there are other forcings, I never said the contrary. But radiative forcing computations show which their values are (as currently known) with respect to CO2's one. Scientists (me too) even accept some of them are negative, but the net forcing is not negative. Anyway, this is something I never disputed.

c) Parameterizations.
You are right that they do not reflect first principles. I understand that you want to stress the things we currently do not know. However, I don't think we should forget what we really know. The parameters can (and will probably) be better known in future computations, but I personally do not think that results will significantly change. If you look to line by line radiative transfer computations or to parameterized radiative transfer computations, both point to a warmer surface with more CO2, and those results agree with surface and satellite measurements. We already know that and we should make that clear. Perhaps not very efficiently, but I tried to make that clear.

d) Harm versus good to the credibility of profession.
I understand what you intend when you write that. I even respect your position. However, I disagree that comments such as the ones above (and several other ones) should be left without an answer. But this is a matter of personal taste and this is your blog. I appreciate your effort even though I do not think that the outcome will be the one you expect. You are older and wiser than me and I might be wrong but in any case I sincerely wish your efforts are successful.

e) We could collectively err.
Sure we could, and I know enough about the history of physics in particular and science in general to know that. However, I think it is a must to make clear that "to err" or "to deceive" are different things. We could err (I don't think so), but it will take a lot of effort to show our collective error. And when somebody shows us our error, we will accept it and we will solve it (you know that). It is much easier (but pointless) to insult a whole community of scientists as deceivers. Anyway, you also know that most of the times a new theory appears, it includes as a subset the parts of the theory that we already know and that are currently supported on measurements. Therefore, I know for sure that climatology will be better in 20 (or 100) years. I agree with you on this, but I don't hope that future climatologists will tell us that CO2's radiative forcing is negative (-1.6 W m^{-2}). Relativity didn't change Newton's laws for inertial systems at low speeds. Classical mechanics is still taught at all the undergraduate physics degrees of the Universities through the world. Quantum mechanics didn't require any change to the computation of the orbits of the planets.

Best wishes.

Jon Saenz

Hans von Storch said...

it seems to me that you argue that the relationship between CO2 concentration and temperature is described by a physical law. It is not; if there would be no water vapour and no clouds, it may possibly be; but given the water the link is properly described by an approximation, which I personally consider reasonable; it may turn out later that the details need revision (in particular, the numerical details, how much warming is associated with how much increase in CO2 concentration).

All this has little to do with mathematics.

Avoiding harm - I have no problems when somebody is opposing views, which are false or are considered false. But let us be precise in our arguments - and not downplay uncertainty and the (possibly very small) possibility for later revision.

-- Hans

Anonymous said...

No, Hans, you have misinterpreted what I say. I particularly mention "physical laws" (plural). I also say "if we solve the equations" (plural again). Even in my first message I said (quoting): "more CO2 mathematically implies a warmer surface due to basic laws of physics". Plural, again.

I know there is no simple single equation which shows that "More CO2 => Warmer surface". I am not that naive. If your point is that nobody has never proved the uniqueness and existence of the solution of the complete set of equations and that the unique solution is (whatever) using a lot of lemmas and theorems.... Then, you are right. But that is not what I am saying.

There are a lot of equations reflecting several physical principles. You can use a simple equation (single layer atmosphere at equilibrium) and you can solve it analytically to show that increasing the long-wave absorptivity the surface temperature must increase. You can tell me this is too simplistic. Well, then, we can use a one dimensional model for a plane-parallel atmosphere, a line-by-line radiative transfer computation, a radiative-convective model or even a GCM, which finally means using a set of equations with or without analytical solution (even probably not a closed set of equations). It depends on the complexity that you want to achieve. But the outcome is always the same if you respect the laws of physics (more CO2 means increased surface temperature). You say there is no mathematics there .. I see some, despite the lack of lemmas, theorems and proofs of uniqueness and existence of the solution. I do not hold a degree in mathematics like you, but I have studied some through my life. If you reduce the existence of mathematics in a physical problem to the existence of a uniqueness and existence theorem, you should probably not fly in airplanes.

You explicitly mention feedbacks twice (something I didn't mention just to stay away from GCMs).

So, let's focus on feedbacks now, as that is the concept we should use, according to your messages above. I hope we don't dispute water-vapor feedback is on my side (this IS positive unless we don't respect the laws of physics). You mention clouds. My answer: Why not ice-albedo feedback? ... Why only clouds? You are translating the problem from first principles to observations/statistics to avoid my mention of mathematics.

Now, let's play this game of feedbacks ... I hope you agree that climate sensitivity is the proper parameter we should focus on if we consider all the feedbacks. Do you agree with me here, Hans? I am just guessing. So, the next step is ... Which is the probability that climate sensitivity is negative?

This is a complex problem. But the likelihood of the answers is not arbitrary. A mathematically correct solution showing that "more CO2 => cooler surface" can probably be constructed if you violate physical laws (convergence of energy leading to a negative derivative of temperature with time, for instance). But if you take physics in consideration the outcome is clear. Unless somebody someday finds THE negative feedback that we still do not know which is...


Jon Saenz