Thursday, November 4, 2010

Judith Curry's blog

Judith Curry has an interesting blogpost under the heading 'Reversing the direction of the positive feedback loop'. She analyses the dynamics of the climate issue as driven by a policy process with the self-interest of the IPCC at its heart.She writes:

 at the heart of the IPCC is a cadre of scientists whose careers have been made by the IPCC.  These scientists have used the IPCC to jump the normal meritocracy process by which scientists achieve influence over the politics of science and policy.  Not only has this brought some relatively unknown, inexperienced  and possibly dubious people into positions of influence, but these people become vested in protecting the IPCC, which has become central to their own career and legitimizes playing power politics with their expertise.

The entire framing of the IPCC was designed around identifying sufficient evidence so that the human-induced greenhouse warming could be declared unequivocal, and so providing the rationale for developing the political will to implement and enforce carbon stabilization targets.   National and international science programs were funded to support the IPCC objectives.  What should have been a political debate about energy policy, environmental quality, and reducing vulnerability to weather and climate disasters, became a debate about the nuances of climate science, with climate scientists as the pawns and whipping boys.

Read the full thing here. Here comment has created hundreds of comments over the past two days.


Anonymous said...

Judith Curry writes:

"When I refer to the IPCC dogma, it is the religious importance that the IPCC holds for this cadre of scientists; they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC."

Does any scientist on this blog agree?


Werner Krauss said...

The first quote sounds like a description of the usual career process in science. There is nothing unusual about this; that's the way it goes. Apply for a prestigious and relevant project, and you will surpass your peers (sometimes).

Part two has also familiar elements: when you apply for a specific position or project, of course you are expected to defend the respective agenda. The quest for truth takes place in world where common sense is not suspended. One should not forget that the basis of the scientization of a political problem is the willingness of science to participate in this process.
The scientist temporarily may become a pawn or whipping boy, but come on, there ain't such a thing as a free lunch. The real whipping boys are ordinary people who have to live with this gridlock between science and politics, that is, with unsolved problems. Unless they start to take action themselves.

Marco said...

I, as a scientist, must disagree with Judith Curry. Strongly, even. For the simple fact that she provides absolutely zero evidence for her claims. None. Zero. Zilch.

Some of her commenters try to provide evidence ("Climategate!"), but fail to substantiate how that proves Curry's claims about the IPCC as a whole.

Of course, the internal contradiction is amazing. She claims she wants to regain trust in climate science, and then starts a story in which she essentially tars ALL IPCC authors as being part of a religious cult.

It's also interesting to note that John Nielsen-Gammon decided to keep it short and sarcastic (he's more a Pielke friend than of any of the supposed 'bad IPCC scientists'), and that Eric Steig's second attempt at a civil conversation is once again attacked. 'Bad' behavior is 'bad' only when the 'bad' person does not say the things the 'offended' person likes to hear, apparently.

Roger A Pielke Sr. said...


My experience agrees with Judy's characterization of the IPCC process.

As just one example, in the CCSP report on reconciling surface and tropospheric temperature trends, which was used in the preparation of the 2007 IPCC report by mostly the same individuals, I was forced off of that report.

I have documented this in depth in

Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2005: Public Comment on CCSP Report "Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences". 88 pp including appendices.


"E-mail Documentation Of The Successful Attempt By Thomas Karl Director Of the U.S. National Climate Data Center To Suppress Biases and Uncertainties In the Assessment Surface Temperature Trends"

There are quite a few of my colleagues who feel the same way including junior climate scientists who know they cannot speak out or face retribution in terms of tenure and loss of research funding.

sHx said...

Judith Curry is wise not to name names in her blog post but she is right. Here is how careers are made thanks to IPCC:

1- Micheal Mann "plucked out of obscurity" and his PhD "rushed through".

2- Former Greenpeace activist, Richard Klein appointed an IPCC lead author at the age of 25. He got his PhD six years later.

If it wasn't for the blogosphere we wouldn't have known much about these exceptional IPCC-made careers. Who knows what else has gone on behind closed doors throughout the life of IPCC?

ingno said...


I do not think that JC's point is to try to prove the misconduct of the inner circle of IPCC. She takes that for granted in this article.

So, if you do not see any problems with how IPCC works, then this is not for you.

However, there are quite a few of us that do see serious problems with IPCC and the politization of science. And her article is about explaining how that came about and works - from her own experience.

As I see it, she give a better explanation of the problem than her previous one, such as "tribalism" which is quite obvius but does not really explain anything. And it is definetly better than any conspiracy theory where all of it has been masteminded by some inner circle of activist-scientist back in the late 70th. I find her idea of positive feedback loops quite convincing. Of course she only describe the main mechanisms at work, and much detail has to be filled in. How and why did these loops start anyway (history)? What keeps them going? What's the role of main-stream-media? Etc.

Roger A Pielke Sr confirms part of the picture above. What does other scientist that have felt the cold say? How does it work for young scientists in the field? It seems to me that there is a lot for future historians of science to dig into here.

Ingemar Nordin

Marco said...

Ingemar, she takes the supposed misconduct of some climate scientists, and tarnishes the WHOLE IPCC. And much of that misconduct is supposed misconduct.

Her "positive feedback" loop may sound convincing to those who want it to be right (look, another positive feedback!), but those who look at Dennis Bray's surveys find that climate scientists, by-and-large, subscribe to the IPCC statements. Anonymous surveys, so no impact when you contradict the IPCC. Many non-IPCC climate scientists also included, and yet the same story. People from all over the world involved. Still the same story.

That some young scientists have improved their career by being involved in the IPCC does not mean what they write is wrong. And as more and more research is showing, the IPCC reports are conservative. Kinda contradicts Curry's "positive feedback", unless she means the downgrading of the effects of AGW. Which she clearly does not...

eduardo said...

I think Curry's reflections are too broad-brushed and not terribly timely. If these comments would have been made public in 2005 , I perhaps would have paid much more attention, but I dont see really the point to characterized all scientist that have worked for the IPCC before and even for now for IPCC5 based on issues that arose in the Third and Fourth IPCC. Many of her comments are simply not fair to many scientists that did not seek to boost their careers and that actually moonlighted for free for the IPCC for many months. Thus it wont be for me very surprising if the scientific community would not pay a terribly lot of attention to them. In some sense, she is making the same mistake as her now opponents by speaking down to the immoral scientist from an ivory tower of integrity. Bart Verheggen is completely right: these comments polarize, and we really do not need more polarization. Many of the problems that Curry is highlighting now have been discussed almost ad nauseam, and I think it might have been more justified to frame - or reframe them- from the perspective of how they can be avoided in this IPCC 5 and in the future. Sadly, I read them as if they were written by a rabble-rouser rather by someone that tries to push for constructive reforms taken into account the mistakes of the past.

Regarding the contents more specifically, I think the positive feedback diagnosis has some elements of truth, but it will be very difficult to establish where the origin of the feedback loop was. For me the media played a very important role. In my limited experience with them, they did tend to distort and highlight the most alarmist aspects and downplay any mention of uncertainty. Some scientist did voluntarily used the media as a loudspeaker. I do not think, however, that careers were advanced by direct participation in the IPCC. Rather, careers can be more strongly boosted by a 'strong' publication record, and here the existence of a self-reinforcing loop of alarmist publication-career advancement seems to me more likely, but very difficult to prove.
The IPCC reports have indeed a strong influence on the design of research policies of public bodies like the European Union, but this is hardly a reason for critique. That is exactly one of the roles that the IPCC should fulfilled better: to point to existing research gaps.

What basically remains unclear from Curry's comments is whether or not she thinks that the IPCC should be dismantled or should be reformed.

eduardo said...

@ 1
stated in that sweeping fashion,I would not agree.

One only needs to read the last IPCC report and find many examples of uncertainties and different opinions explicitly displayed Maybe JC is referring to some parts of the Third Report and maybe Fourth Report (the last one), more clearly in the summaries, and in WG2 and WG3.

Anonymous said...

Eduardo sais it with a cooler tone than I have managed to do, but I completely agree: Curry is being way too broad brushed and adds to the polarisation.

His critique, painted with a much smaller brush and without the hyperbole and innuendo, is also much more constructive (though at its heart perhaps not all that dissimilar from Judith's).

My more detailed response to Curry:

Mathis Hampel said...

there is an interesting comment by Don Aitkin at Nov 3, 4:42 pm in JC's blog: (I hope he doesnt mind me quoting him here)

"I appreciate what you have done and are doing, but in the story above there is no electorate, no ‘people’. Enviro advocacy groups, governments, scientists, the media and lobby groups weren’t just operating on some kind of stage in an empty auditorium. There was an audience, and getting the audience to agree was the point of the play.

In my view the IPCC endeavour and all those gab-fests in Rio and elsewhere had an impact on the electorate because, to a degree, parts of it were already prepared for the message. Since about 1950 the western developed world has become steadily wealthier. On the ordinary GDP measure my own country is more than three times wealthier than it was then. But it is not three times ‘happier’. The growth of wealth has been accompanied by, and to a degree caused by, the education of everyone, the entry of women into the workforce, the great expansion of the research industry, the improvement in communications of all kinds, and so on.

At the same time, there has been in many countries, though not the US, a decline in the reach and power of organised Christianity, in part caused by the same phenomena. Here I quicken the pace: materialism is excellent at some levels, but it doesn’t answer existential questions, and it doesn’t finally satisfy. Into the vacuum has come a kind of restlessness about ‘what it’s all for’, and a worry that we, the humans, might be responsible for the adverse consequences of materialism that we see around us. The online Macquarie Dictionary now lists the recent coinage ‘affluenza’, a word meaning ‘the dissatisfaction that accompanies consumerism as a path to happiness’.

The green movement, which is quite old now, has supplied both an answer to the ‘what is it all for?’ question and a program that, if followed, would make the anxious feel good about themselves and what is happening. Although the greens have not captured the majority, they have been successful enough to make the big players take notice, and adapt what they do and say so that they do not appear to reject what the greens say. In doing so they have become to a degree captive of the green position. As I said in another post, politicians, having accepted some of the green perspective, now have the task of managing expectations, and this is quite difficult at any time. Their characteristic procedure is to talk a lot but act only symbolically. This way they do not anger that part of the electorate that accepts the green position (CO2 is bad), and keep in power, waiting for some indication of what to do next.

I think that if you plugged all that into your account above it would add greater texture and greater meaning."

Also I think to remember Bruno Latour calling the IPCC and epistemological monster...

Shub said...

Structural criticism and observations of the type Dr JC has offered, but perhaps in more somber tones, has appeared regularly in the literature since the early days of the IPCC. These have been dutifully ignored, or met with violent reaction from the establishment, that is sure to follow JC now.

JC, unlike those tagged as skeptics, still belongs firmly in the establishment. If she were to make her criticism specific, as opposed to being broad-brushed as it is now, it would only mean naming names eliciting the expected violent reaction from certain quarters who have a historically proven track record of their feathers being easily ruffled, threats of which have already been posted on her blog.

Therefore for folks like Bart, who seem interested in preserving a sembleance of integrity to their research commmunity, it would actually be preferable that JC's criticism remain broad-brushed. JC has taken her shot at her own community, in what she sees as a self-therapeutic action - just swallow the bitter medicine and forget about it.

Hans von Storch said...

I would agree that Judith's critique is too general; there are many who simply do a good and altruistic job, in particular in WG I. But the request for more research about the social dynamics of the IPCC, of positive feedbacks as described by Judith, is meaningful for me. One of the reasons for demanding that involvement into the IPCC process should be strongly term-limited is just aiming at avoiding such positive feedbacks. We need more analysis of the social dynamics behind the IPCC process, more on the "rewards paid out" in doing the IPCC job.

Shub, could your provide a "short" (?) list substantiating your assertion "Structural criticism and observations ... has appeared regularly in the literature since the early days of the IPCC."

Luboš Motl said...

I can’t believe that Eduardo Zorita is serious when he questions Judith Curry’s self-evident points. He even claims that no climate scientists advanced their careers by their links with the IPCC. They sacrificed sleepless nights for the mankind, or something like that. Wow. ;-)

Even as recently as a year ago, I would expect to remain much closer to Eduardo than Judith in November 2010. Well, it would be a wrong expectation.

The IPCC has been by far the single most efficient way to advance – and guarantee – the career of the climate scientists (and even scientists in many adjacent disciplines) who got associated with the panel. Because of this very affiliation, they were suddenly viewed as “essential”, “unfirable” etc. – it would be wrong even if the IPCC didn’t have the alarmist bias.

In the Czech Republic, because of the IPCC, it just looks like – media-wise – that there only exist two professional climate scientists, namely the same Metelka and Tolasz who "sacrifice" themselves and accept all those laborious trips to beaches in Indonesia, South Korea, and other places. Metelka is a standard alarmist while Tolasz is a von-Storch-like moderate. But both of them travel to the same places. Tolasz surely realizes that it's a pleasant work.

Of course, it’s so hard work, Eduardo. They must also raise their hand and agree that Rajendra Pachauri should stay, because the possibility for him to leave isn’t even on the ballot. No other people would surely sacrifice themselves by agreeing to raise their hand if the only award were ordinary vacations in tropical Asia.

The ClimateGate could have been the first moment when the insane irrational growth of the benefits for the people linked to the panic began to decelerate – or be reverted. People who have joined the field, with any attitude, in 2010 may have been driven by the passion to learn. But at least 90% of those who joined any climate-related organization before November 2009 were surely largely driven by their personal benefits. And I don’t really have solid evidence indicating that the number is below 100%.

Luboš Motl said...

There is another axis here in which the people may have gotten polarized – i.e. revealed their genuinely real differences. So far, we would only talk about the crusader vs. skeptics divide. However, there’s another divide – about the question whether climate science (and the community) itself should be given the funding and advantages it is getting. It’s not quite the same question. After all, it may be important if it is ultimately going to agree that the Earth will not get burned, right?

I think that Eduardo (and Hans, as I see right now) is just defending some group interests of the community – a community that has grown unreasonably large and rich for unfair reasons. It’s been swimming in the money and media interest to such an extent that Eduardo doesn’t even seem to realize that the vacations in Indonesia and elsewhere actually cost money – and non-climate scientists have to work hard (and not just raise their hand or copy links to existing articles) to earn such things. Most people never visit Indonesia, ever.

Dr Curry’s description of the climate community today may be broad-brushed – but it’s because this is exactly how the reality looks like, too. The hysteria has fanned unreasonably high advantages for this particular discipline – and indeed, not only the most vocal fearmongers but also many other people have benefited from this dynamics and many of them even began to take it for granted.

For years, we would hear that 97% of the climate scientists agreed that the Earth was in lethal danger because of CO2. And in effect, it was true. Almost no people in the community openly opposed such propagandistic assertions because they understood damn well that it was useful for their personal interests.

Unfortunately, as I see now, this included some people who didn't care much about the climate alarm. But even if they hadn't contributed to the hysteria significantly, it's still true that they benefited - and it's still true that they may plane to protect the benefits that have been earned for the discipline by their alarmist colleagues.

Hans von Storch said...

Lubos, you know that your categorical assertions are incorrect and just a caricature; for some you are right, but there are many others.
Why not trying a nuanced analysis, using evidence, and coming forward then? - Hans

ingno said...

Marco and Eduardo,

To defend Judith somewhat here, she talks about a cadre of scientists at the heart of IPCC. And it seems to me that most of her blame is directed at that cadre. However, in earlier articles she also blame herself and other scientists for being naive and not realising that they have fallen into the trap of defending the "IPCC story" as a whole (including the alarmist and overly certain claims). And, she also blames the politicians.

However, whether the blaim is justified or not, it is the system (the self-enforced loops) that I find interesting. But it needs more. As Hampel points out, the comments by Don Aikin is very relevant here (about the western electorate). We also have to bring in the mechanisms of politics and the media in her model

Hans von Storch said...

Who would the "cadre of scientists at the heart of IPCC" be?

isaacschumann said...

I am generally a big fan of Dr. Curry's, but I have to agree with some of her critics here; the tone and generalizations in her post really detract from the possibly more useful criticisms that she makes. One of her stated aims is to take some of the heat out of the climate debate, I don't think this furthers that aim.

I see on her site that she seems to have backed off from this a little bit in a follow up post.

Marco said...

Hans von Storch and Ingemar:
As someone kindly pointed out on Judith Curry's blog, 75% of the authors on WG1 of AR4 and TAR were different. Take the 25% that are the same, and we have "the cadre" I guess...It just does not include those that Judith appears to suggest in all her blogposts as "the cadre".

Further, Ingemar, studies published after 2007 all point to the IPCC predictions being conservative (perhaps with the most notable exception the temperature, funnily enough). Quite a strange thing if the IPCC is supposedly too alarmist to have the real world data and newer analysis pointing to even more alarm.

Finally, James Annan had some choice words about Curry's uncertainty analysis: incoherent nonsense. There may be areas to criticise the uncertainty analysis and calculations of the IPCC, but Curry essentially uses an *intuitive* model. *her* intuition, it should be added, and commonly in areas where several experts have already tried to correct her mistakes. Gavin tried to educate her on GCMs, "gryposaurus" tried, John Nielsen-Gammon tried...and yet she keeps on repeating the same nonsense. Of course, those pointing out she's wrong are just part of the "cadre"...

Anonymous said...

The "its the system and not anybody in specific" line that JC has used is just something that is trying to backtrack out of specific accusations. It is similar to what governments do - i.e. "we don't have a problem with the people of this country, its their governments that are the problem." But having pointed to a "cadre of scientists" and then diverting attention to "the SYSTEM, not anybody specific" is just trying to deflect criticism of badly argued points to begin with.


Shub said...

Dr von storch,
Two to three items come to mind.
Firstly, 'structural observations' I gleaned from Leigh Glover's 'Postmodern Climate Change', 2006 (ISBN-0415357349). It contains a readable history of the IPCC's evolution with many references.

Secondly, Sonia Boehmer-Christiansen's articles on the IPCC anticipate the 'positive feedback' well in advance. Her articles highlight the supposed problem of the putting into place the UNFCC framework/precautionary principle.

@ReinerGrundmann said...

Clearly the tone of her blog is more like a rant than an academic analysis. But the intuition about positive feedback is a good one.

One mechanism for career advancement is to convert symbolic catpital (like IPCC membership) into academic capital. The IPCC does not do research but assesses the state of knowledge. There are no formal academic criteria to do this job.

Marco: You allude to JC's mistaken uncertainty analysis. Could you be more specific? The way you have put it just sends the message that JC=nonsense. I hope this was not your intention, or was it?

ingno said...

Lubos #14

This friday evening I read -2 centigrades on my thermometer. And in Cancun it is ... hmmm +25 C.

Is that what you mean Lubos? Well, I surely see your point. But no thanks... Well,I am bribable but the stakes have to be higher that that :-)

Of course fringes like that may play a part, especially for young academics, but I doubt that they are very important. But suppose that you have a fresh PhD in your pocket and you get a fantastic respons on your latest graph from all over. An that it is even published 4 or 5 times in a world report from UN. Would you be flattered? - It is this kind of attention and repons on your academic work that Judith Curry is talking about.

corinna said...

After reading Judith Curry's blog contribution, I must say I have some difficulties to understand the indignation about it. I cant really agree that she is blaming all scientists who have contributed to IPCC, her analysis is much more differentiated than the paragraphs selected by Reiner indicate.

I feel that there is quite some truth in her analysis. The IPCC activities had become rather central in climate science and had promoted carriers in climate science and related fields.
I only can agree that the selection as contributing or even lead author results in a gain of authority in the scientific community, and that the selection itself seems to have replaced the scientific merits to some degree.

In my opinion it is very healthy to express this openly and I must say I enjoyed reading her analysis.

ingno said...

Marco #20,
"Further, Ingemar, studies published after 2007 all point to the IPCC predictions being conservative"

Are you sure?

"Finally, James Annan had some choice words about Curry's uncertainty analysis: incoherent nonsense."

This is not a very intelligent comment. I understand that some scientists may be offended by Curry's hash words. But, as I said, her main point is about the mechanisms and the momentum of the IPCC-train.

It is no use trying to downplay the fact that climate science IS special. And the reason for that is the very existence of IPCC and its political importance. The climategate letters is NOT normal practice in science. At the very least they show the uncertainty of the roles of the involved persons. Are they acting as scientists or are they primarily acting as communicators of a politically hot message?

corinna said...

I have problems to follow your comments:

Finally, James Annan had some choice words about Curry's uncertainty analysis: incoherent nonsense. There may be areas to criticise the uncertainty analysis and calculations of the IPCC, but Curry essentially uses an *intuitive* model. *her* intuition, it should be added, and commonly in areas where several experts have already tried to correct her mistakes. Gavin tried to educate her on GCMs, "gryposaurus" tried, John Nielsen-Gammon tried...and yet she keeps on repeating the same nonsense. Of course, those pointing out she's wrong are just part of the "cadre"...

What are you talking about? And what did you intend to express by that:
"....Curry essentially uses an *intuitive* model. *her* intuition"

Is there anything wrong with intuition in your world?

And what is wrong with that she does not agree with the experts which tried to "educate" her? Is it necessary that you disqualify her analysis and opinions as nonsense? She is a very well qualified climate scientist and could well expect being treated with respect even if you don't agree.

Marco said...

both James Annan and Michael Tobis already pointed out that her uncertainty analysis is just plain wrong. Go to their blogs, I don't want to spam this one with too many links (look for "Judith Curry: Born Beyond the Shark?" on MT's blog, JA has several posts on the subject).

The short story is that her uncertainty analysis is nonsense. It is very, very poorly substantiated, and she's claimed uncertainty in places where her uncertainty is because she apparently does not have enough knowledge on the subject. And watching her over the last few months, this is a repeating element: she makes a large claim, is challenged on the claim, and then runs away, sometimes repeating the claim again elsewhere. One case-in-point: she claimed Mike Mann was chosen for IPCC TAR because of the hockeystick. I pointed out to her that the IPCC lead authors were chosen in 1997, and that the hockeystick was from 1999. Narrative broken, no response from Judith Curry. But she hasn't quite given up on trying to find something fishy with Mann's election.
Other case-in-point: she claimed papers were kept out of the literature because they contradicted the IPCC. Several people asked her to provide an answer.
Third case-in-point: she made large claims about GCMs and aerosol modeling. Gavin Schmidt set her straight. Some months later, and she repeats some of those claims on her blog, gets challenged by evasive reply, no further response.
Fourth case-in-point: she claims there is significant uncertainty about the increase in temperature from doubling CO2 alone (no feedbacks or anything else). Arthur Smith challenges response. See a pattern here?

There are more such examples, which to me begs the question "what the [self-censored] is she doing?" I can understand why 'skeptics' love her: she clouds the issues even more, is desperately seeking for a good narrative, and remains 'civil'. The quotation marks are because one may use nice words, but making so many unsubstantiated claims and not correcting them (or substantiating them) when shown false is not civil in my book.

ingno said...

Marco #7,

you made another interesting point here:
"but those who look at Dennis Bray's surveys find that climate scientists, by-and-large, subscribe to the IPCC statements"

Yes, that is interesting. Their confidence in climate theories and in their models does not seem to be so high. But they seem to agree with the statements of the IPCC - which is based on the very same theories and models! Strange, is it not?

But if you read some of the earlier blogarticles of Judith Curry she there claims that although she was, and is, a "warmist", she really did not have a good insight of the whole picture. She has full control over her own research of course, but ended up defending all of it. Now, if I may speculate a bit, is that not typical of how science works? We take it for granted (indeed, we must) that we can trust our collegues. And in this case, since IPCC claims to have truthfully taken ALL climate scientists into account, we ASSUME that they give an overall picture that fits the bill for everybody. And if that is the case, then we go out and defend this concensus view, even if we can spot one or two faults whithin our own field.

Well, that is at least hypothesis that might explain the results of Bray and von Storch.

Anonymous said...

Peer review is always more informative. Adding to Marco's points, here is one where JC wrote a post which I believe, is essentially, an expansion of what she hears from her commenters with model verification and validation experience. Steve Easterbrook pointed out that her claims regarding V&V practices for climate models were incorrect.

JC has thrown out a lot of accusations. The above examples show that these are not necessarily expert insights. Nothing that she has written however reveals anything that one hasn't already heard in many unsubstantiated comments made by skeptic bloggers before.


Louis Hooffstetter said...

Many of you obviously still buy into most of the IPCC's research but here is where the big red flag went up for me:

"The role of the IPCC is to assess (on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis) the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation." (From item 2 of IPCC document "Principles Governing IPCC Work", online at

Any scientific minded person should be instantly floored (gobsmacked) by this statement. At the risk of sounding like Mr. Obvious, here's why:

Data should never be collected and interpreted to support preconceived conclusions. From the statement above, (and a review of papers by several IPCC authors) it's apparent that some IPCC researchers have done exactly that. This is how you do politics, not science.

Any climatologist who dares question "the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change" is branded a pariah by IPCC scientists. These same scientists then do everything in their power to destroy the careers of the 'heretics'.
(Please don't anyone insult the readers by asking for references, as the history of this abhorrent behavior is so well documented you'll risk looking like an idiot.) Thankfully this thread is relatively civil, but it's obvious that Judith Curry is simply the latest "heretic" to come under this same kind of nasty attack.

If IPCC researchers want to convince me their work is valid, here's what they need to do:

Show your work. Release ALL data and code and comply with ALL FOI requests. (Why does anyone even have to say this!?)

Focus on empirical data, not models. Models are interesting and useful to some degree, but they may or may not approximate reality.

Agree to disagree. If you disagree over inconclusive data, don't retaliate by trashing people's careers.

Stop calling me (and everyone else who's not a climatologist) stupid. If your data is sound and you explain it correctly, (not just really slowly) people other than climatologists (statisticians, physicists, engineers, geologists, biologists, mathematicians, and the guy next door with a good science head) are intelligent enough to understand the science behind climate change. Most climatologists are professors, but apparently they are not very good teachers.

Zajko said...

The original feedback post was too provocative in places for my liking, but hey, it's Judith's place. The feedback idea is a good metaphor though, and I can see it operating in the history both sides. There's definitely been many pairings in the climate debate that have proven mutually beneficial (or mutually destructive), and led to developments neither party would have been capable of on their own.
Still making up my mind about the blog, but right now it has my attention.

Hans von Storch said...

Louis Hoofstetter - this "Please don't anyone insult the readers by asking for references, as the history of this abhorrent behavior is so well documented you'll risk looking like an idiot." is a good example for how not to express yourself here in the Zwiebel. I personally do not mind looking "like an idiot".

Your request "Focus on empirical data, not models." tells me that you may not have understood the scientific method, which is not mostly data nor mostly models. (There are very many different sorts of things, which are labelled as models, with different objectives - which models are you referring to?) - but it is the interpretation of data (which need to be of certain quality) in the light of contemporary knowledge (conceptual models and otherwise).

I ask you to try to differentiate your assertions; be less general and grandiose, but evaluate the chances that you yourself may err, may not have understood the full spectrum of complexity involved.

This request does not imply that I would consider you stupid. There may be a few stupid people around, but most are not. When you wrote your comment, you seemingly were angry, which often limits analytical skills. That's why we suggest to sometimes wait writing a comment by a few hours.

"Agree to disagree" is a key principle in our regional IPCC-like assessments for the Baltic Sea Region (first round completed in 2008; second round just launched), for the Metropolitan Region of Hamburg (to be published on 22 November this year) and the futore North Sea assessment NOSCCA. Also Dennis Bray's surveys among climate scientists is a kind of "agree on disagreement", at least a documentation of disagreement.

I personally would accept your verdict "Most climatologists are professors, but apparently they are not very good teachers." for myself, but I know many who are excellent teachers - maybe one reason why climatology had such a stunning (for some: unwanted) success in catching the public's attention?

Most climatologists, I know of, are not professores but postdocs, PhD students and plain scientists. More on demographics, see in Dennis Bray's reports about our surveys.

Marco said...

Ingemar, I have already discussed the problems with the questionnaire elsewhere. The short story: how a scientist interprets a question is not the same as how a layman would interpret the same question. Ask a physicist whether quantum mechanics is understood well enough, and he'd likely not ask in the affirmative. The layman easily interprets the answer as "quantum mechanics is 'just a theory' " (with "theory" not understood in the scientific science). Right after they use all kinds of applications that are built on our understanding of quantum mechanics. Scientists always want more information, more insight, more data, more accuracy. You will scientists argue that it isn't 10.2% but 10.3%, even if it for most(!) practical purposes would not even matter if it is 9 or 11%.

That *Curry* has been making large pronouncements about the IPCC while she did not understand most of it, is not the problem of other climate scientists, many of which (based on her recent many, many mistakes) may well have a much better understanding of the IPCC reports. Case in point: someone who answers a "true/false" statement with a "30% true, 30% false, 40%....errr...true and/or false", does not understand uncertainty. That'll be Judith Curry.

Marco said...

Louis Hooffstetter: you make a big mistake in your 'translation'. It is a scientifically fully valid question to ask: if there is AGW, how much is it, what is its risk, and how may we then adapt or mitigate?

Unlike your interpretation, there is no pre-conceived conclusion in the principles governing the IPCC. With the questions above, the answer could easily be "there hardly is AGW, its risks are small, one could perhaps reduce risks even further by A, B, C, etc". Fact of the matter is that the answer is "AGW is significant, poses significant risks in the near future (50-100 years), the risks are A, B, C, etc, and we may adapt or mitigate by D, E, F, etc."

This is a rather undesired conclusion for some, and hence is attacked by throwing as many stones as possible, and hoping a few will hit.

Pascvaks said...

When a group of fools at a big Family Picnic start playing with a skunk, it's very likely that they will not be the only ones who will regret the experience. Even the innocent are sprayed.

DR said...

Marco said at #20 (November 5, 2010 5:22 PM)

"Further, Ingemar, studies published after 2007 all point to the IPCC predictions being conservative (perhaps with the most notable exception the temperature, funnily enough)"

So are you suggesting that CO2 has a direct effect on indicators such as sea ice, sea level, etc. that is not mediated via temperature? Or have I misunderstood you?

Anonymous said...

People like Judith Curry:

Many scientists don't. The honest way of Klimazwiebel, Roger Pielke and Judith Curry seems to be the best way!


Hans von Storch said...

"Further, Ingemar, studies published after 2007 all point to the IPCC predictions being conservative (perhaps with the most notable exception the temperature, funnily enough)" - also one should consider the fine formulation "studies ... all point to" not "all studies point to"; one may ask, are there others? Were those which did, mostly from certain quarters, which tried to influence Copenhagen? Was the issue of hurricanes included?

Must assertions always be that general, or is there some virtue in the details? - Hans

Anonymous said...

In all the comments on this thread, it seems to me that one of the biggest issues has not even been mentioned.

That is while it is demonstrable that the IPCC reports do discuss uncertainties in the body of their report, somehow these uncertainties don't make it into the Summary for PolicyMakers which is what is drawn to the attention of the press, government officials, and the public at large.

With IPCC 4, they even released the SPM some time before they released the body of the report, further guaranteeing that the distorted message of the SPM was the one that gained public attention.

Then when questioned on the overly aggressive tone of the SPM, the IPCC team point to the uncertainty statements in the body of the report, and ask "How did you form that view?" "Why are you asking those questions?"

It is very clear that the problem has been in the way the message has been politicized by the IPCC as a whole. Climate scientists must have known about this issue, but were complicit. Judith Curry is one of the very few scientists to stand up and blow the whistle. Where are the rest of you?

eduardo said...

I think all would agree that the IPCC processes needed a large or small revision. Some would go for a big overhaul, some for small re-alignment. Some even would call for a total dismantling.

What I find a bit disturbing in JC criticisms is, apart from the tone, is that is basically based on the previous IPCC perceived shortcomings, in a moment when a new IPCC has just started. One may express the opinion that nothing has changed, offering some evidence for that, or one may offer some guidance about how the new IPCC should operate.

Anonymous said...

Further to my comment in #40. Eduardo says: "For me the media played a very important role. In my limited experience with them, they did tend to distort and highlight the most alarmist aspects and downplay any mention of uncertainty."

There was comment at the time about the way the IPCC SPM was framed. In fact, The Fraser Institute made the effort to prepare their "Independent Summary for Policy Makers" which sought to summarise the body of the 2007 IPCC reports.

You can hardly blame the media, when all they had to work with was the SPM that IPCC provided them with.

Marco said...

Hans, I agree I was too general. A bout of frustration there.

DR: Yes, you have misunderstood me. If anything, the fact that various projections were underestimated compared to observations suggests there is more sensitivity to small changes in temperature than initially 'believed'. Or we're underestimating the temperature changes...

Marco said...

Anonymous: please point us to places in the SPM where the SPM does not correspond to the 'scientific' report in terms of uncertainties and the like.

Pekka Pirilä said...

According to "Principles Governing IPCC Work", the IPCC should restrict its activities to the objective presentation of scientific knowledge. This alone does not support effectively any policy decisions, but these require addtional inputs. Such addtional input can be found from many IPCC documents and it is one central source of present controversies.

Perhaps the role of IPCC should be more strictly limited to science and additional bodies in the spirit of "The Honest Broker" created to support the policy processes. I discuss this idea somewhat more in

Oxbridge Prat said...

Marco #43, you seem to be claiming either (1) that we don't understand the mechanisms by which temperature rises lead to secondary effects (see level rise, ice melting, hurricane intensity, etc.) or (2) that the measured temperature rise is a poor proxy for the actual temperature rise.

A much simpler explanation would be that something else is causing the secondary effects (changes in ocean currents, black carbon, etc.), and that the measured temperature rise reflects the true temperature rise, which is lagging behind the IPCC predictions.

Marco said...

Oxbridge Prat: the true temperature rise fits quite nicely with several IPCC projections.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Marco #47, the measured temperature rise does fit within the lower range of the IPCC projections, but it runs below the mean. Whether you believe this difference is statistically significant yet depends on your error model.

But, for simplicity, let's delete ", which is lagging behind the IPCC predictions" from my final sentence. You haven't disagreed with anything else I said, so can I take it that the first paragraph is a fair summary of your position?

Marco said...

Oxbridge Prat: no.

We may not know *exactly* how temperature rises affect ice melt and sea level rise, and we may be underestimating the temperature rise. However, the latter does not mean the measured temperature rise is a poor proxy, it means we may need a scaling factor.

Your "simpler" explanation means: A must be explained by W, B by X, C by Y, and D by Z. Which isn't exactly "simpler"...

Oxbridge Prat said...

Marco #49, there is nothing very complex about my "explanation" because it is not an explanation: rather it is a suggestion that we should stop pretending that we understand the link between ice melt and temperature rise.

Note that it is not just a matter of a scaling factor: there is no feature in global temperature corresponding with the major melt of 2007. If that is accepted then we should stop using ice melt as evidence of global warming, and stick to simpler measures, such as temperature.

In summary: measured temperature is the best proxy for temperature, and that is what we should be assessing, not poorly understood secondary indicators.

Jay Currie said...

The problem at the intersection of climate science and policy is that the combined uncertainties of climate science - (measurement error, opaque homogenization and adjustment strategies, the ongoing UHI issues, the necessity of over simplification in modelling) - create a situation where policy makers would be idiots to undertake largely unproven macro measures to reduce CO2 emmissions. If they understood the actual uncertainties.

The IPCC is happy to use 90% as a high certainty level. Which seems useful but when trillions of dollars of lost output and potentially wasted resources are at stake, is really the most minimal reason for action.

Worse, honest scientists, and there are many, recognize that, by its nature, climate is unlikely to be predicted with anything like engineering certainty.

For the agenda driven, this level of humility in the face of the facts is unacceptable. So rather than waiting for a level of certainty which approaches 100%, they instead invoke the precautionary principle - an entirely normative and unscientific notion - and proceed to use worst case to generate policy prescriptions of staggering cost.

This is not science, this is politics pure and simple. And, oddly, improvements in the data, the resolution of the UHI issue, or a demonstrated log term cooling in the face of a rise in CO2 would not change their minds.

The purely political precautionary principle can be invoked at pretty much any degree of certainty provided the outcome can be painted in scary enough colours. Science leaves the building as the precautionary principle walks in the door.

What this discussion needs is hard data, complete transparency, a willingness to admit error and a recognition that climate science is in its uncertain infancy.

A hundred years from now we will have better numbers, a resolution of the outstanding uncertainties and a climate record which will have increasingly accurate measurements through the various cycles of natural variability. Until then predictions are almost certain to fail any engineering level of analysis. And therefore it is folly to act one way or another

@ReinerGrundmann said...

what if it is too late in 100 years?
And why do you think politics is somehow less worth than science?

Hans von Storch said...

J - the issue is how to deal with a perspective which comes without "engineering level of analysis" (meant here: accuracy). Can you decide about means to deal with a problemn only if such an accuracy is given? Most political problems are not.

I wonder if there are environmental (and economic) problems, which can be analysed with "engineering accuracy"? Is "engineering accuracy" really accurate? I doubt it.

Maybe you want to read Roger Pielke jr.' Honest Broker.

Lazar said...

... what's used today as "engineering accuracy" is *only used* because that level of accuracy is possible... if 90% was the best possible accuracy... that's what "engineering accuracy" would be today... this isn't some immutable gold standard... two hundred years ago, two thousand years ago... did they sit on their hands and build nothing?... ask the Victorians and the Romans... they *needed* to build stuff... we need to make decisions...

Anonymous said...


Overall I agree — not only/alone with the configurations described by Judith Curry but also in particular, for instance, with corinna's comments above (# 25); allthough I agree with Reiner Grundmann's position not just in one instance: We see another — as Reiner put it — "interesting" blog post by Judith Curry — and we can experience good intuition. With Judy's multilateral abilities and proficiencies she is to me currently anyway — for nearly a year up to the present — one of my soulmates in many cases.

Good to see that (t)here are also a lot of people sympathizing with Judy's attempts for building a bridge — or bridges. It is beginnings, apparently; especially since what Judy has "written on these topics has received a fair amount of attention, but not from climate scientists" (Curry: November 5, 2010 at 9:31 pm) so far (Yes, marco, I followed the transitionally ineffective, unrewarding discussions provided by you.).

Judy's post 'Reversing the direction of the positive feedback loop' was followed by a second blog post on that topic. Below I quote some text from the first part of her blog post and of the replies/comments given by her on the first part alone.

She declares her motives, tries, and purposes f.ex. as follows (November 5, 2010 at 11:15 am) (our bracket):

      "As a climate scientist, I am concerned about that [i.e. "public reputation of climate science" – cf. ibidem] and trying to understand what happened and why."

Also others — beside me — are "concerned"/warned and want to know — or want to inform — more f.ex. about the "History of the IPCC" (confer also one "history of the IPCC's evolution" provided by Shub (comment # 22)).

What Judy writes about "self fulfilling prophecy" here:

      "Once the UNFCCC treaty was a done deal, the IPCC and its scientific conclusions were set on a track to become a self fulfilling prophecy."

remembered me of a quote by the politician Lajos Kossuth (cited after the economist Rudolf Sieghart (see "Zolltrennung und Zolleinheit; die Geschichte der österreichisch-ungarischen Zwischenzoll-Linie", Manzsche k. u. k. Hof- Verlags- und Universitäts-Buchhandlung, Wien 1915, p. 209)):

      "Das Omega der Prophezeiung politischer Rechenmeister wird zum Alpha der Erfüllung".
      (My translation: "The omega of the prophecy of political reckoning masters becomes the alpha of the fulfillment".)

In regards to obsolete "political reckoning masters" confer also here.

Cordially yours namenlos

(End of CHAPTER I; to be continued...)

Anonymous said...


Further down — as Shub, for instance, argued (# 12) also — Judy points to some kind of system structures (November 4, 2010 at 3:08 pm) (Judy's emphasis):

      "I absolutely do not name any individuals here, for many reasons. The primary one being that the problem is with the SYSTEM. That some people used the system to for their own personal advantage is not surprising or particularly problematic (who can blame the graduate student appointed to be a lead author for the IPCC from using this to their advantage). The problem was the positive feedbacks and lack of checks and balances in the system, and how the whole thing snowballed."

Confer also "structural observations" by Shub above in comment # 22 (see also one anonymous contributor here or eduardo here).

Judy explains further one point of view and what she thinks about some interrelationships, which suggest that there can/could be a kind of (pressured/advantageous) groupthink among the IPCC staff (November 5, 2010 at 10:26 am):

      "[T]he scientists themselves aren’t personally pushing a green agenda; rather they are caught in a green political machine (UNEP/UNFCCC) and the whole system has made it advantageous for the scientists to support it."

She explains her intentions and gives reasons what caused her to interfere in this broad brushed manner (November 5, 2010 at 9:21 am):

      "I am trying to motivate people to think more broadly about this whole issue, and stop talking about the danged emails, which are a symptom of the problem, not the cause."

I agree with her wholeheartedly on this polarizing issues (November 5, 2010 at 8:40 am):

      "Self reflection isn’t comfortable, but as we approach the 1 year anniversary of the 'event,' some self reflection is in order. While it may temporarily look like its increasing the polarization to the climate scientists that are most centrally involved, until we air these issues and scientists and their institutions do some self reflection, this problem isn’t going to go away."

And I agree with her observations — althaugh they might be gently overstated — here (November 5, 2010 at 5:32 pm):

      "The fact that I don’t see others raising these issues after one year is a concern."

• • •

A big thank you for anwering Yeph's (# 1) question goes f.ex. to Roger Pielke Sr, marco, and eduardo (I still have to read the links you provided above, Roger.).

Cordially yours namenlos