William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Scott Adams’s Climate Science Challenge

Scott Adams’s Climate Science Challenge is of interest—thanks to reader Francsois for bringing it to our attention—because of his name-brand recognition. Here is the gist:

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

Notice I am avoiding the question of the measurements. That’s a separate question. For this challenge, don’t let your scientist conflate the measurements or the basic science of CO2 with the projections. Just ask the scientist to offer an opinion on the credibility of the models only.

Remind your scientist that as far as you know there has never been a multi-year, multi-variable, complicated model of any type that predicted anything with useful accuracy. Case in point: The experts and their models said Trump had no realistic chance of winning.

Your scientist will fight like a cornered animal to conflate the credibility of the measurements and the basic science of CO2 with the credibility of the projection models. Don’t let that happen. Make your scientist tell you that complicated multi-variable projections models that span years are credible. Or not.

Then report back to me in the comments here or on Twitter at @ScottAdamsSays.

This is the point which I (a bona fide climate scientist) and my compadres (also bona fide climate scientists) having been making for years—and years. Mostly in vain for, you see, climate science has long been eclipsed by climate politics and climate religion.

Climate politics insists on maintaining the status quo, i.e. the moneyed Consensus, and climate religion believes mankind is necessarily harmful to the environment. Both views aren’t keen on the points Adams makes.

It is the key, fundamental, and only point necessary to understand that if a theory or model makes lousy predictions, then something is wrong with the theory which needs to be fixed.

Global climate models make lousy predictions, therefore the models are in error due to, say, typos in the computer code, or the theory on which they models are based is in error due to mistakes in the physics or chemistry. Both the models and theory could be broken, of course.

Adams’s point is that, even if a scientist can admit that the models make lousy predictions, he will insist that adding CO2 to the atmosphere must raise the temperature near the surface. Nobody disputes that. The consensus on this is 100%. It had better be 100%, else there is something basic wrong with our physical understanding of the world.

But even though all (as in all) agree that adding CO2 warms the air, it is not true that it warms it to any dangerous level. And that if, perchance, it does warm it to dangerous levels, that we as a species cannot figure out how to handle it with aplomb.

It is those two points—the amount and consequence—which are being questioned. The amount we already know, based upon year after year of busted forecasts, is unlikely to be dangerous. And the consequences, we know based upon much experience, don’t appear drastic, or even noticeable.

Anyway, it ought to be a small amount of fun to see if any Consensus scientist will allow his name to be used on the record for Adams’s Challenge. At best, I’m guessing, he’ll get one or two who admit the forecasts have so far been bad but they’re going to get better any day, with the implication that they’re going to predict warmer weather accurately.

This leads us to an email from reader Dominik Wegrecki:

I really want to share your articles on facebook, especially the ones about how climate models are bad at predicting climate change, however I’ve been hassled for not “fact-checking” before, so this time around I’m doing just that.

https://skepticalscience.com/climate-models.htm

See the link for a rebuttal to your claims that models aren’t doing a good job.

I would refute it myself, but unfortunately when it comes to statistics and sciency talk, it’s mostly gibberish to me. I was hoping you could refute the refutation.

Since I’m sick unto death of climatology, as we repeat the same points endlessly as we wait for time to pass and the old guard to die, I’m too tired to repeat them yet again. As a resource, I have the search function (bottom of the page) and a number of articles on the Classic Posts page.

Meanwhile, let’s follow the Challenge. Maybe something fun will come out of it.

Oh, since this was big: 100% Of US Warming Is Due To NOAA Data Tampering.

15 Comments

  1. So to prove you & Scott Adams wrong Scientifically all we have to do is show 1 example of a multivariate model that has made proven predictions year after year! Here is 2: Eienstien’s theories of General Relativity and his theory of Special Relativity!

  2. Dominik: There is no rebuttal known to man that will change the mind of a true global warming worshipper. No matter what facts are presented, they will argue your source is wrong, doesn’t mean what it says you think it means, they will change the subject, attack you for being mean, tell you NO ONE on Skeptical Science is EVER wrong, ever, ever, ever, etc. (They will also tell you John Cook is a climate scientist, so we know they are wrong in at least one case.) People who believe in global warming do so with absolutely religious faith that nothing can shake, especially on places like Facebook, where scientific understanding is close to absolutely none. They believe because their friends believe, “everyone” believes, etc. To argue is to be a heretic. Social media is about group think and reinforcement of the ideas people are required to have to be part of the pack. It has nothing to do with truth.

    Feel free to give it a run, but you will end up realizing there is NO THOUGHT WHATSOVER involved in their beliefs. Without any thought, changing minds is very, very difficult. Until “everyone” believes differently, the belief will remain inside their welded shut minds.

  3. My singular issue is Adams conflating a physical model with a sociological model. They are completely seperate entities.

  4. Also, Skeptical Science supports “consensus” science. Is the irony or hypocrisy? Or a truly Derrida-esque deconstruction of meaning?

  5. Nearly every sentence of the article linked to at the end is incorrect. For an excellent tutorial on why and how climate data is adjusted, see:

    http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/01/thorough-not-thoroughly-fabricated-the-truth-about-global-temperature-data/

    Scott Adams’ bet has already been taken up. In addition, previous, similar bets have all been won by “consensus” climate scientists:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/betting-on-climate-my-2017-challenge_us_584c457ce4b0151082221bcf

  6. I’m going to adjust the voting data to prove that Hillary won! I just had to correct the data for PA, MI, and WI.

  7. Nate.
    That could get to be fun.
    Betcha least populace state to most populous state vs percent for Hillary is linear. And county vs percent for Hillary is a hockey stick!

  8. I will of course need an emergency Obama grant to demonstrate how one linear curve and one exponential curve prove that Hillary actually won the election

  9. The topic is interesting to me in general: justifying what I believe in matters that can’t be known with absolute certainty. Primarily I’m interested in having a factual basis for my beliefs for my own satisfaction, but I’d also like to be prepared to convince others who are interested and have an open mind.

    It helps not to be emotionally invested in a topic. AGW falls in this category for me, since one thing I am absolutely sure of is that, because of simple economics and the demonstrated nature of humans living in societies, the atmospheric levels of CO2 will continue to rise unabated, at least until there is a cheaper alternative to oxidizing hydrocarbons to power our world. This will happen even if all the dire predictions of the CAGW folks are proven true. In other words, AGW is purely an academic exercise.

    But the topic is still interesting to me even though I believe nothing can be done about it. What’s going to happen in the future (after I’m long dead, as it turns out)? Who will be proven correct?

    I believe that adding CO2 to the atmosphere by oxidizing hydrocarbons will cause ocean temperatures (the only thing that matters) to rise over the long term, due to the “Greenhouse Effect”. Why do I believe this? I believe it because experts on both sides of the issue agree on this point.

    I believe that greenhouse affect has a large negative feedback. In other words, adding CO2 to the atmosphere will not result in “thermal runaway”. I believe this because I was trained adequately enough in college physics to understand the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, which states that the radiated power from an object is proportional to the 4th power of it’s temperature. And again, experts on both sides of the issue agree that the large negative feedback exists.

    I believe that if the negative feedback value is purely the feedback one gets from the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, AGW will occur, but it won’t be catastrophic. I believe this because, yet again, experts on both sides of the issue agree on this point.

    That last point is the key to the whole argument for me. Even the AGW proponent experts admit that the warming one calculates from the Stefan-Boltzmann equation is not enough to be particularly worrisome. In order for it to be worrisome, they reduce this negative feedback by hypothesizing various positive-feedback mechanisms that reduce the overall large negative feedback in the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to the point where the warming becomes dangerous.

    A big surprise to me was that this feedback modification parameter is not an output from the models, it’s an input. In other words, the single most important factor in the AGW models comes not from physics calculations, it’s a fudge factor input into the models! Where did they get this fudge factor? It was adjusted to get the models to match past reality (“hind-casting”). The hind-casting essentially started with the assumption that all of the warming over the time span of the simulation was due to CO2, with no significant natural variation component.

    At this point, I fall back on my experience with interpolation and extrapolation. Basically I’ve had good success with interpolation, but very poor results with extrapolation, for any but the simplest system response. No matter how you look at it, the model designers version of hind-casting is still interpolation. From everything I’ve read, the model designers fudged the feedback modifier to get the hind-casted output to match reality. That fits my definition of interpolation, and only extrapolation is a true test of a model.

    So that’s why I believe what I believe about AGW. I’m always looking for readable material on the subject that might cause me to modify my belief.

  10. Adams’s point is that, even if a scientist can admit that the models make lousy predictions, he will insist that adding CO2 to the atmosphere must raise the temperature near the surface. Nobody disputes that. The consensus on this is 100%. It had better be 100%, else there is something basic wrong with our physical understanding of the world.

    The Earth’s climate systems are open relative to energy. Energy can both enter and leave the systems. This statement is indisputably 100% correct.

    The statements quoted above demand that qualifiers be applied. As the concentration of CO2 and other radiative-energy inactive gases increases in the atmosphere, the energy content of Earth’s climate systems potentially might increase. The energy content will increase if the expected effects of radiative-energy inactive gases is greater than the losses of energy. Changes in energy content do not always result in changes in temperature. However, changes in temperature are the primary expected effects for the case of Earth’s climate systems.

    The magnitude of temperature changes is a function of the properties of the materials that experience changes in energy content. For a given amount of energy change liquid water experiences a significantly smaller temperature change than the air in the atmosphere, for example. Changes in the phases of water, solid to liquid, liquid to vapor, for examples, occur at constant temperature as the energy content increases.

    Climate science projects, and in contrast to predict, potential changes in energy content and temperature change, in part, because future occurrences of certain natural events that affect energy content cannot be known. By the same token, the effect of future human activities that also affect the energy content cannot be known, and must be considered to be hypotheses. Both the natural events and human activities might be such that the energy rejected by the systems is greater that the effects of increases in energy content due to radiative-energy inactive gases.

  11. I think my first attempt vanished into the aether.

    Adams’s point is that, even if a scientist can admit that the models make lousy predictions, he will insist that adding CO2 to the atmosphere must raise the temperature near the surface. Nobody disputes that. The consensus on this is 100%. It had better be 100%, else there is something basic wrong with our physical understanding of the world.

    The Earth’s climate systems are open relative to energy. Energy can both enter and leave the systems. This statement is indisputably 100% correct.

    The statements quoted above demand that qualifiers be applied. As the concentration of CO2 and other radiative-energy inactive gases increases in the atmosphere, the energy content of Earth’s climate systems potentially might increase. The energy content will increase if the expected effects of radiative-energy inactive gases is greater than the losses of energy. Changes in energy content do not always result in changes in temperature. However, changes in temperature are the primary expected effects for the case of Earth’s climate systems.

    The magnitude of temperature changes is a function of the properties of the materials that experience changes in energy content. For a given amount of energy change liquid water experiences a significantly smaller temperature change than the air in the atmosphere, for example. Changes in the phases of water, solid to liquid, liquid to vapor, for examples, occur at constant temperature as the energy content increases.

    Climate science projects, and in contrast to predict, potential changes in energy content and temperature change, in part, because future occurrences of certain natural events that affect energy content cannot be known. By the same token, the effect of future human activities that also affect the energy content cannot be known, and must be considered to be hypotheses. Both the natural events and human activities might be such that the energy rejected by the systems is greater that the effects of increases in energy content due to radiative-energy inactive gases.

  12. The 1989 NYT article below says historical data fails to show warming. Today that same data shows warming, if we are to believe the experts. Today’s unproven model is the only thing that has changed.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1989/01/26/us/us-data-since-1895-fail-to-show-warming-trend.html

  13. I am one old coot with a chemistry training that does not accept it as certain that adding carbon dioxide to the open atmosphere, where other things chemistry are going on and there are bulk flows that occur due to differential local heating (primarily from absorbed incoming radiation, which is affected by local conditions, and nearly all of which is solar but not absolutely all, otherwise IR and microwave astronomy are not possible and solar derived incoming radiation is about half IR and half shorter wavelength bands), plus the measured changes in total atmospheric volume (it expands and contracts) will make the surface skin temperature and thus the near surface air temperature (locally, which is the only thing that counts for living things that must be fruitful and multiply in a series of nows) rise. I’ve done IR spectroscopy. Adding carbon dioxide to a bottle in a lab and shining an IR light of the proper frequency, in the restricted conditions of a lab setting will make the temperature of the gas inside increase depending on the power added.  What it will do, if the conditions required come to be, a drop in the lapse rate (this is known for adding water to the column does just that, from -9 K/km to -6.5 K/km [from memory, yet somehow I never recall error bands being stated when this is mentioned to the general public]). The lapse rate is the change in local temperature as one goes away from the surface up. [Yes, I know, you can say the same in the other direction, swapping the signs.]

  14. Another thing. It seems to me that a verbal ruse is being effected. Climate, by definition, is a statistical statement (an abstraction that is conditionally true). Earth has a weather system. If Earth has a climate system, how can it be something other than a statistical description of weather at a different (and arbitrary) time scale and thus dependent on the weather system? But, but, but, … what? If our carbon dioxide emissions affect the climate, they must, logically, affect the weather (see the ‘hot spot’, aka a lowered lapse rate).

    Now it should also be considered that every successful living biological organism must alter its local environment to enhance its own survival, aka reproduction. Man does affect the local weather (UHI). So do trees and grasses and other animals and even the unicellular forms (which, according to some, have completely transformed the Earth, including its oceans and atmosphere) affect the local weather.

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