Repost Mr Eschenbach had not had the chance to respond to this article before the two weeks wherein comments are automatically closed have elapsed. This re-post will allow him, and others who have not yet read this article, to comment.
Over at Watts Up With That, Willis Eschenbach asked 14 + 2 questions about climatology which he wanted answered by mainstream climatologists. Walter Meier—who appears to be a sweetheart—from NSIDC took a stab at answering them.
I was asked to take a look at Eschenbach’s and Meier’s answers and then answer myself. Here we go.
Preface Question 1: Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?
Nope. Although I would rather be outdoors killing me something to eat unbothered by cell phones, car alarms, iPad-carrying hipsters, and this damn computer. I am a friend to trees, dandelions, soft rain, and fuzzy animals, especially the delicious ones. But I would never slur myself with the quasi-religious title “environmentalist.”
Nobody likes a mess, and everybody should be made to clean up after themselves, especially outdoors, With me, the people-parts of the environment comes first, and all the non-people parts are a dim second. Plus, I have sufficient confidence that mankind can solve its own problems.
Preface Question 2: What single word would you choose to describe your position on climate science
Tired. If the debate had remained among scientists about which cloud parameterization was best, how to carry through observational uncertainty in models, or on methods to quantify sensitivity to changes in solar irradiance, then life in climatology would interesting and stimulating.
But of course it hasn’t. That technical stuff still happens, but it’s buried under layers of “advocacy.” It’s got to where you can’t trust anybody.
Everything is now predictable. If I hear one more “activist” or politician lecture me that “It’s worse than we thought (which is why I should be allowed to regulate your life)” I’ll scream.
Question 1. Does the earth have a preferred temperature, which is actively maintained by the climate system?
No. Not only that, but the Earth has no preferences of any kind. Only that which is aware can have preferences.
No complaining about my answer please. I understood the question; I get it. Here’s the answer you expected: Nothing in the universe has remained constant; ipso facto, nothing on Earth has, either. Its orbital parameters are constantly shifting, its heat source constantly fluctuating, its own surface constantly rearranges itself, and each brand of its living matter insists on dying, procreating, and expelling various effluvia into the dirt and air.
There is no way—as is no way—to derive any kind of equilibrium from these conditions, except that you specify all these conditions as constant. And since they are never constant, over no time period, there can be no equilibrium.
Question 2: Regarding human effects on climate, what is the null hypothesis?
Lord save us from statistics talk. It is this kind of simplistic thinking—this search for quick yeses or noes—that has caused half the problems. Lust for power and prestige and downright ignorance has caused the rest.
But, to play along: You might say that it is “mankind has no effect.” This hypothesis is immediately false (see Q1). Of course mankind has an effect; but so do ants, bees, walruses, and aardvarks. The only questions of interest are how much effect do we have, are those effects harmful or helpful, and are there ways to mitigate the harm and stimulate the help?
Question 3: What observations tend to support or reject the null hypothesis?
Go to a window and breath on it. Notice that fog? That’s all the evidence you need that you and the rest of your species affect the climate. Sure, your breath, sweet as it may be, changes things only infinitesimally, but even the smallest change falsifies the “null” of no effect.
As to what observations indicate the magnitude of your effect, I believe we all know the usual suspects. Although it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that, five years from now, some heretofore unknown Molecule X or Cause Y turns out to be “more important than anybody realized.”
Question 4: Is the globe warming?
Sure it is, in places and times. It’s also cooling in other times and places. And it will go on warming and cooling heedless of anybody’s feelings.
Question 5: Are humans responsible for global warming?
Of course, partly. Just as they’re partly responsible for global cooling. I think the better word—the one that’s in the mind of all those who would rule us—is culpable. How culpable is mankind for the changes in the historically-badly-semi-observed climate?
People are hot to assign blame for inclement weather. Since there hasn’t been too much of that, they’re latching onto weak or vague promises of future inclement weather to claim that intervention—guided by them, naturally—is necessary.
Incidentally, nobody or nothing experiences climate, whereas everything experiences weather, defined as the constant changes in wind, water, temperature, pressure, and so forth. It sometimes appears that a thing experiences climate, but that is only because it is existed long enough to have experienced a lot of weather. “Climate” is entirely a statistical phenomenon (or a series of statistical phenomena).
Environmentalist and political leeches are staring lustfully into deep pockets and scheming ways to filch nickels of each dollar from millions of shallow pockets. To these folk, it is a priori true that mankind is culpable for all of nature’s ills. This is why so much of the debate is wearisome: what these people accept as evidence and their appreciation of uncertainty is severely limited.
Question 6: How are humans affecting the climate?
This is yet one more version of Q2, asked for the fifth time in a row. The short answer is that they are affecting it in every way that it can be effected.
Listen: built into these questions is the implicit dichotomy that mankind does or does not affect the climate. I reject this dichotomy: or, that is, I accept it, but regard it as obvious that we do affect the climate. A far better question is, as I have already said, how much? And as to that, see the next questions.
Question 7: How much of the post-1980 temperature change is due to humans?
I don’t know. Nobody knows. Those who claim to know are too certain of themselves. In order to say why, for example, temperature has changed, we must know what temperature used to be. And that we do not know with the level of certainty sufficient to precisely apportion blame to the dozens and dozens of possible causes of change. This would be the case even in climate models are perfect, which leads us to the next question.
Question 8: Does the evidence from the climate models show that humans are responsible for changes in the climate?
With bells on. But so what? In effect, they were programmed to say that. They certainly weren’t programmed to say that mankind wasn’t responsible.
The facts have been made to fit the case. Modelers went into this trying to prove their theory that man-caused change is noticeable; very few tried to disprove it. We have been shown how these models have reproduced, statistically speaking, past data. But these reproductions are weak evidence that the theory behind the models is true. Any number of alternate theories could be used to build models that reproduce past data just as accurately.
This means that the best and most convincing evidence is how well a model can predict the future. As to that, read on.
Question 9: Are the models capable of projecting climate changes for 100 years?
Of course they are. But they have not demonstrated that they can do so accurately. See the next question.
Question 10: Are current climate theories capable of explaining the observations?
Yes, of course; partly. But in order for us to believe these models—that is, have confidence in the theories that drove their design—they have to skillfully predict independent data, which is defined as data that was not used in any way to build or inform them. (“Hold out” data almost never counts as independent data, incidentally, because it is always peeked at.)
That models have not yet done so is partly not their fault: there just hasn’t been enough time to make a set of independent predictions of sufficient length to judge their skill. Those few predictions we have seen have not been good enough to beat a naive persistence model: which says that what happened last year, will happen again this year. I’m not even sure that models have beat independent “climate” forecasts, which say that what happens next year and every year will be the same thing.
Question 11: Is the science settled?
Question 12: Is climate science a physical science?
Yes, of course.
Question 13: Is the current peer-review system inadequate, and if so how can it be improved?
It sure is, but it can’t be improved: it’s broken in every field, not just climatology. Humans are just too crazy for there to exist a perfect truth-discovering mechanism. If anything, too much is being published. See also this.
Anyway, the real difficulty is not among scientists, but among politically active civilians who believe whatever they want. Bizarrely, these folk always have stronger beliefs than do most scientists. Worse, activist mania gives rise to a strong negative pressure that influences scientists such that they (the scientists) artificially increase the confidence they have in their theories.
This is because it is human nature to show friendliness by tailoring your message to suit your audience, and there is no more receptive audience than an activist looking for a new way to grieve.
Question 14: Regarding climate, what action (if any) should we take at this point?
We should all agree to calm ourselves. I suggest a one-year moratorium on any public announcement of climate science. No press reports, no blog posts, no Senate votes, no speeches, no new environmentalist literature, and especially no new journal papers. Where appropriate, granting agencies should agree to one-year extensions so that nobody frets over their pay.
Everybody should agree to just shut up for one full year of peace and quiet. What joy!
Scientists can and should work during this year; they can talk informally among themselves, but they must not talk to any civilian; no hints given, either. They should spend this time free of political tumult marshaling their best evidence for and against global warming.
After a year, with the public and politicians less frenzied because they were cut off from a source of worry, scientists can tell us what they have found. But the first who says, “It’s worse than we thought” should be shot dead.