William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Is climatology a pseudoscience?

The short answer, I will disappoint many of you by saying, is no. Like I wrote before, climatologists are generally nice people genuinely struggling with understanding the immense complexities of the oceanic-atmospheric (and space!) system. It might be that many of them are misleading themselves by custom tailoring models to show them what they expect (or desire?) to see, but this has not reached a level where it is done with intent. Most mistakes that are made are honest ones. And it is also true that much has been learned while examining climate models. Still, while scientists are in general noble creatures, there does exists the possibility of them sliding into the abyss.

So suppose, if you are able, that significant man-made climate change is false; further, that it cannot happen, and that all changes to the climate system are due to external forcings, such as those caused by changes in solar output. Just suppose all this is true for the sake of argument.

Now put yourself in the place of a climatologist, one of the many hundreds, in fact, who was involved with the IPCC and so shared in that great validator, the Nobel Peace Prize*. You have spent a career devoted to showing that mankind, through various forms of naughtiness, has significantly influenced the climate, and has caused temperatures to grow out of control. Your team, at a major university, has built and contributed to various global climate models. Graduate students have worked on these models. Team members have traveled the world and lectured on their results. Many, many papers were written about their output, and so forth.

But something has gone wrong. The actual temperature, predicted to go up and up, has not cooperated and has instead stayed the same and even has gone down. What do to? Let’s take a “What would a scientist do” quiz and find out.

Your model has predicted that temperatures will go up because CO2 has, but unfortunately temperatures have gone down. Do you:

  1. Abandon the model and seek a new career
  2. Discover where the model went wrong; publish results admitting why and how you were wrong
  3. Sit and wait: after all, the temperature is bound to increase sooner or later, hence validating your model
  4. Believe that the model cannot be wrong, else so many people wouldn’t believe it, and so posit some new source that is “holding back” warming, and only if that new source weren’t there, your model would be perfect.

The correct answer, it should go without saying, is (2), though (1) is not a horrible option for the shy, but it is really only open to beginning graduate students or professors reaching emeritus status. And if you do go for (2), as you should, option (1) naturally follows from it. (I must remind you here that significant man-made global influence is an impossibility by assumption.)

Would anybody opt for (3)? Certainly, because it’s the easiest thing to do, though not as many as you would think will go this route mostly because it would be too difficult to answer critics with a “Just wait and see!”

The slide begins with choosing (4). Nobody would, or should, abandon a well-developed model because an observation or two is not consonant with that model. Some time has to pass for enough failed predictions to mount up. How much time? That’s always difficult to tell. If the best climate models over-predict global temperature for a year, this is not cause for concern. For two years, no big deal. Even three to five years would not cause undue suspicion. But more than that, then something has gone wrong.

That is the state of the art today: climate models regularly over-predict temperatures; certainly the IPCC “scenarios” are too high, and they have been for more than five years. No climate scientist yet has gone to the quiz and opted for answers (1) or (2); several, of course, have opted for (3), saying five to ten years isn’t enough and that “more time” is needed. Nobody, that I know of, has said how much more time.

Has anybody gone for answer (4)? Yes. Already we are seeing papers—peer-reviewed, to be sure—that posit sources that are “masking” the true warming. So far, these papers are concentrate on aerosols, which are particles, caused by mankind naturally, that can, through various mechanisms, block incoming solar radiation and lead to cooling. Aerosol cooling only gets you so far, however, because aerosols are heavy, short-lived particles whose effects are actually easy to measure. So if models continue to over-predict, even after accounting for aerosols, some other source that “masks true warming” will have to be found.

Bob Park, physicist and resident curmudgeon at the American Physical Society, writes regularly on pseudo-science, and has identified “The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science.” Not all of these signs now apply to climatology, but number [3], “The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection” is most relevant.

Since we haven’t detected the predicted warming, it must be masked or otherwise held up by something. Aerosols are one source, but an inadequate one, so another is needed. What will this source be? Of course, we cannot know for certain, but I can guess, though I blush when I do so: I predict it will be statistics.

Yes, it will not be long before we begin to hear arguments like the following: “The predicted warming cannot, of course, be detected with the naked eye. You have to use our extra-special statistical model which accounts for various factors and which shows a statistically significant warming has indeed taken place, thus our models are accurate. Oh, yes, we have a low p-value, too.” These models will, in the course of things, be criticized, then modified to become more complex and opaque, but they will always lead to the same conclusion: the models, though they appear wrong, are actually right.

Not all climatologists will fall prey to these temptations; many or most will modify their models, will see that mankind is not in as much trouble as originally thought, and move on to do work on, for example, the Indian monsoon. But others, because they cannot admit to being wrong or because they want it to be true, will stay the course and claim that only they and their models can detect the true warming. Here is where Park’s six other signs will be found. These scientists will [1] pitch their “claim directly to the media” and say [2] “that a powerful establishment [big oil] is trying to suppress his or her work.” They will [6] work “in isolation”, and offer [4] “anecdotal evidence” in the form of temperature anomalies from select locations. They will claim that it was [5] always known that mankind has a harmful effect on the environment and they will propose [7] ever more complicated “new laws of nature to explain” the apparent lack of warming. And it will be at that point that climatology becomes a pseudo-science.

Don’t laugh, because this sort of thing happens all the time. Some readers will be old enough to remember when paranormal research was the rage in the early 1970s. Peer-reviewed papers appeared on the subject, even in prestigious journals like Science. Just around the corner, mankind would be able harness untold power by just using his mind. Goats, for example, could be killed just by staring at them (yes, really). It was an exciting time. Early on in the work, it was obvious that man only used 10% of his brain, and that psychic events were real. Experiments were run, but most failed. New experiments, toning down the original claims were run, but these failed too. Various physical and biological mechanisms to explain psychic abilities were proposed, but none could be validated.

Test after test failed, until the number of failures was so huge that, by the mid-1980s, most people wised up and left the field. But not all did. Some claimed, through the use of “sophisticated” statistics, to find the signal that nobody else could see. Most of these statistical methods were poorly or improperly executed, and to those of us who know something about these statistical models, it was obvious that paranormal researchers were just fooling themselves (I wrote a book on this topic).

So did the parapsychologists take the scientist quiz and opt for number (2), admit they were wrong, say so, and then move on? Do I even need to answer? The idea, the allure and promise of paranormal powers are just too powerful for some people to fight against, and so they seek patches to the theory instead of pitching it. Psychic abilities just have to be real, and it is this desire instead of empirical observations that drives current research (such as it is).

We are only just starting to see parallels with parapsychology and climatology, the most prominent now is model patching. Of course, it might turn out mankind really does significantly influence climate, so the fact the we now see model patching is not proof that mankind has no influence. But it should give us pause and should lead us to examine, in a systematic way, the deviation of model forecasts from actual observations. And remember the old saying, there’s nobody so easy to fool as yourself.

*No Arafat jokes, please

35 Comments

  1. Roger Pielke, Jr.

    January 28, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Interesting thought experiment. But what if you change the prior 180 degrees. Wouldn’t actions 3 and 4 then be the correct ones to take?

    If models are to be anything more than confirmations of faith (and Park’s #3) then shouldn’t climate predictions be provided for variables and time scales that allow for verification against actual observations?

    It is the lack of such forecasts and corresponding observations that presents a challenge for climate modeling. Even with global average temperatures debates currently are raging about what has been predicted and what it would take to compare them with observations (and which observations).

    BTW, I posted up a link to your blog over at prometheus, keep up the nice work 😉

  2. I get the feeling some scientists, frustrated by years of getting no real results, have given up on pursuing real scientific work. And as long as their junk keeps making waves with the media and public, and draws huge amounts of funding, why go back to something as unrewarding and mundane as real science?

  3. Administrator

    January 28, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Roger,

    I’m not so sure #3 is ever the right action to take given either significant warming is true or false. #4 is the right thing to do, initially anyway, given significant warming is true or false.

    But at some point, even if significant warming is true, you will still have to change your models to accommodate the empirical observations you did not predict.

    I am sympathetic, however, because climatologists have nothing else but their models.

  4. There’s an easier statistical trick. Just set things up so that “the theory is true” is the null hypothesis. Then insist that all must accept it as true unless you can reject the null hypothesis to a 95% level of confidence.

    I’m pretty sure this is happening– you can read various defenses pointing out that various models are theories can not be falsified because they fall within 2 sigma error bounds.

    After explaining a theory (or model predictions) can’t be falsified based on the data, the text will change to suggest “and so it must be true.”

    The second is not correct. The fact that something cannot be falsified based on limited doesn’t imply it’s true. It may be true– or not.

    Of course, we see the flip side of this argument from people who insist something must be considered false simply because it can’t be proven based on limited data.

  5. add potion #5

    Assume the model is correct and cliam that the obervations are incorrect.

  6. Phil Jones, responsible for world temperature data at the CRU, has replied this to Warwick Hugues who requested for the CRU’s stations’ temperature series (always and still under seals) :
    “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it”.

    I’m not sure there is an appropriate line in your quiz for him.

  7. Any thoughts on the claims in this website? http://www.skepticalscience.com/
    It is also playing the skepticism card.

  8. I have had many thoughts on this posting and almost do not know where to start.

    OK, IMO what a real scientist would do;

    1. Evaluate the model and determine:
    a:Where the model went wrong
    b:Whether the model can be modified to correct it’s problems
    c:considering a – whether the model can do what you set out for it to do.
    d: can it give any sort of meaningful result
    e: start from scratch on a new model
    f: Abandon modeling climate and model systems more suitable and save your career.

    2. Put all this money and brain power into some creative experiments to produce good empirical data.

    Regarding your 3.

    You may have to wait 30 years if some of the solar models are right and Solar Cycle 24 and 25 are sunspotless.
    Solar cycle 24 might give you a respite, but then CO2 is no longer the major driver of climate. Roger, you might be pulling a retirement cheque by the time the next warming arrives!

    Regarding 4:
    This has already started read the Independent’s – Ray of Hope :Can the Sun Save Us From Global Warming?
    Oh give me a break – let all genuflex to the Great Sun God Sol

    A model is not a hypothesis. It is only one way to investigate the hypothesis.

    The hypothesis here is that Anthropogenic produced CO2 will cause Catastrophic global warming.

    What are all the assumptions made in this hypothesis? How valid are they?
    (I have just viewed Dr. Spencer’s latest video, where he questions the assumptions of Climate stability and the Carbon Cycle)

    What are all the predictions made from this hypothesis? Does the data validate the hyposthesis?
    (Pattern of tropospheric warming/cooling; stratosphereic, diurnal patterns, hemispheric warming, warming related to latitude etc., etc.)

    What are the problems arising from the predictions or the data so far collected. Can they be reconciled?
    (In cosmology, for example, the Big Bang Theory had to be modified by the addition of the idea of Inflation)

    What will falsify the hypothesis?

    I have never seen these criteria clearly expressed in a table for this hypothesis. I have seen a website which sort of did this, but the CO2 failed every test
    and the Solar Hypothesis passed everyone. This sent my BS antennae a-humming. I do not believe for a moment that the CO2 hypothesis, supported by some very smart people, scores a zero.

    As a Canadian taxpayer who is about to pay through the nose, I would like to see somewhere such a rigorous and complete table on not only the CO2 hypothesis, but the solar, oceanic and any other hypothesis out there. I think the climate scientific community owes us some clarity on this. Maybe someone in the climate scientific community could take this on.

  9. I think Roger Pielke is alluding to this, but how does the phenomenon of “confirmation bias” come into play? When individuals have their life work wrapped up in a particular hypothesis, it must be difficult to keep an open mind to other explanations to the observed data.

  10. Steve Hempell says:
    “I have never seen these criteria clearly expressed in a table for this hypothesis. I have seen a website which sort of did this, but the CO2 failed every test and the Solar Hypothesis passed everyone. ”
    It really depends on whether you want to place the weight on the theory or the data. Supporters of the CO2 hypothesis ignore the fact that the data does not seem to support their claims by insisting that the CO2 hypothesis is the only hypothesis that provides a causal link between the CO2 and the data – even if it is not perfect.
    The solar and ocean hypotheses fit the data a lot better but lack a rigorous scientific foundation that explains the connection between the alleged cause and climate.
    Most theoretical scientists seem prefer the explainatory power of the CO2 hypothesis and assume it to be true until it is proven to be false.
    Such a position is perfectly reasonable if we were talking about esoteric topics like string theory. However, the CO2 hypothesis has some pretty alarming social policy implications.

    For that reason, it is not good enough to say the ‘the hypothesis is correct because we can’t think of any other explaination’. What we need is proof in the form of predictions based on the theory that come true. So far, the data does not really support the theory. Unfortunately, the AGW alarmists keep moving the goal posts which prevents us from getting to the point where we could conclude that the theory has been refuted.

  11. Raven:

    So this is the state of science these days? There are rules to the scientific method. I had it pounded into me in high school and university. Why do scientists get a pass these days?

    Here is a link to the site with a table:http://members.shaw.ca/sch25/FOS/Climate_Change_Science.html#CO2_Versus_Sun

    At least this guy had the cahonnies to put it in a table. When I e-mailed him this was his reply:

    If Solar won in all cases, perhaps it explains climate change better than CO2. If the table is “a little too pat”, perhaps you could provide some feedback on ways to improve the table. You could comment if each test fairly concludes that the Sun wins. You could provide tests that show that CO2 wins. I intend to provide a fair table. If you could provide a proper test that shows a CO2 win, I will include it.

    The scientific method requires that scientific theories be subjected to tests and validation by real world data. You have indicated that a doubling of CO2 theoretically increases temperature by 1.3 C. This is a hypotheses that must be subjected to tests. It is not an observation or a test, therefore, it can not be included in the table. How can you design a test to confirm this prediction?

    OK, CO2 guys step up to the plate (and this is not aimed at you Raven). Lets see what you have. If you can’t organize your hypothesis in such a manner it’s pseudoscience.

  12. Much to ponder in this little essay, which I have linked to here:
    http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002723.html

    And quoted some from.

    Thanks William

    And I think I will add number 5 as suggested by Robert Burns:

    Assume the model is correct and cliam that the obervations are incorrect.

  13. Raven:

    I forgot. Regarding the ice cores and the rate of change from them.

    The problem is this is only one place on the earth. Temperatures locally might easily increase or decrease 2.5 degC / cent. Has anyone done this on the Vostok ice core or any other ice cores in a different locations? If not why not?

  14. Steve Hempell
    “You have indicated that a doubling of CO2 theoretically increases temperature by 1.3 C”

    Actually, most scientifically minded skeptics agree with that number. The trouble is 1.3 degC of warming over 100 years is inconsequential and not a cause for concern. CO2 only becomes an issue because the alarmists claim that positive feedbacks will amplify that warming into something that we need to be concerned about (3.0 – 4.5 degC are the IPCC numbers but many alarmists use much larger numbers).

    This makes verificiation of the alarmist claims a little more complicated because every one agrees that the temperatures should go up (assuming no solar or ocean effect) and the only debate is by how much.

    For example, the next solar maximum will be around 2014. In order to validate the IPCC claims the temps around 2014-15 will have to be at least 0.2 degC above the peak temps after the last solar max around 2005 (note that temps lag solar maxes by a couple years).
    If the temps are only 0.1 degC then skeptics did a better job of predicting future temps.

    Unfortunately, the AGW alarmists will likely move the goal posts before then if it looks like their predictions will be off and will insist that the warming is being hidden by some other factor and will start up again soon (i.e. if it looks like we will have a weak solar cycle then the alarmists will embrace the solar hypothesis as the explaination for the ‘temporary’ respite from warming).

  15. christopher Hanley

    January 29, 2008 at 2:44 am

    As far as I am aware, the hypothesis that human activity was very significantly affecting the av. global temperature (as opposed to the ‘greenhouse’ effect itself) became widely postulated around 1980, before there was any convincing evidence and was enthusiastically adopted by a generation of scientists who were students during the ‘counterculture’ decade of the mid ’60s-’70s.

    The IPCC is a creature of this cohort.

    With a few notable exceptions, I’m afraid later generations of science graduates have been drilled into the AGW orthodoxy, even from early childhood, such that William’s initial proposition, “suppose, if you are able, that significant man-made climate change is false” has become impossible for them.

    Whatever the future temperature trend, many people like myself will have to endure the daily insults to our intelligence served up by the media, blaming every weather event and other effects, on ‘Global Warming’ (with the implied guilt) not to mention the higher living costs and inconvenience imposed by government regulations to “fight climate change”.

    I should not forget, of course, the disastrous effect that adoption of the IPCC policies would have on the future of sub-Saharan Africa.

  16. Some other comments:
    The author of that table needs to provide references to back up each of his claims. For example, some GCMs do predict Antarctic cooling and I don’t know why he thinks that outcome is predicted by cosmic ray theory. I am generally wary of simplistic arguments that ‘debunk’ AGW. If it was really that easy to debunk we would not be having this conversion.

    The rate of change argument is an interesting talking point but I am not sure that it adds anything more than the proxy studies published in peer review journals that show a MWP with rates of change which are similar today. Both sets of data illustrate that the claim of ‘unprecedented’ warming is not supported by the facts.

    Unfortunately, warmers are quick to dismiss that detail by claiming that MWP had different causes than the warming of today. That is yet another example of why it is necessary to verify the CO2 hypothesis by looking at actual data.

  17. Administrator

    January 29, 2008 at 6:56 am

    I hadn’t thought of number 5: claim bad data. While it might be used, it won’t get you very far. You can’t claim surface observations are bad because, if anything, we know that they are, and that they are probably biased high due to “heat island” effects. Best to keep quiet about them altogether.

    You’d have better luck with satellites, but even here you’d be in trouble. It might be that, say, satellites have a negative bias, meaning they consistently measure lower temperatures than are actually present. But even with a negative bias, there would still have to be an upward trend to the data to show some kind of warming through time (the amount would only be off by a constant).

    Unless you were to claim that the negative bias also increases through time, hence masking the true warming. I won’t say nobody would offer this explanation, but it would be an amazing stretch. An “environmentalist” might buy it, but I don’t think it would get much play in the journals.

    I think, instead, that Raven is closer to the mark. The sun will finally seem important, but of course not too important, and that after the next cycle is over (in a mere 11 or so years), warming will be back with a vengeance.

  18. Administrator

    January 29, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Chandran,

    The http://www.skepticalscience.com/ page is very well done; they are not skeptical in the sense that I am, but they are open and willing to listen to argument.

  19. Thanks. I’ve really appreciated your site. I’ve been becoming increasingly skeptical about the AGW proponents — both their analyses and remedies. But I don’t want to just join an opposing tribe. It’s not easy for a layman to get access to evidence so I’m grateful for the help.

  20. A good question, and should be extended beyond the capability of handling statistics and models. As a matter of fact, the UNFCCC has no definition on CLIMATE. How do we know what is climate is, and whether climatology is a science? The WMO definition about ?statistical mean? is hardly a serious scientific term.
    This is was recently discussed on http://www.whatisclimate.com/index.html by the following text:
    ?J. Gibbs expected WMO? s initiative to define weather and climate in 1987
    Dr. Gibbs seems to have been a conventional trained scientist, still aware that good research work needs good definitions. Back in 1987 he discussed ?Defining Climate? in a six page long paper, on the notion that it is useful in any field of study to re-examine the meanings attached to apparently simple words frequently. Before continuing, it is to stress, that WMO did not follow his recommendation, instead ?permitted? the conclusion of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) without a definition of weather and climate at all. Did WMO do it with intention, or can WMO explain why such definitions are not needed?
    Dr. Gibbs, who was Permanent Representative of Australia with WMO from 1962 to 1978, saw it quite differently, assuming that if a significant ambiguity has developed in the use of the terms weather and climate, there is merit to exploring the definitions so as to avoid serious misunderstanding. Whatisclimate has no problems to agree with this, but despite Dr. Gibbs? good intention not willing to accept the use of these terms as an appropriate means in scientific field. ?
    The full text is filed under ?C- 325 ? W? at http://www.whatisclimate.com/c325-gibbs-expected-wmo-initiative-define-weather-climate-1987.html

  21. Thank you for a terrific article!

    Additional reading –
    “The Skeptical Environmentalist – Measuring the Real State of the World” – Bjorn Lomborg (wide-ranging treatise)

    “State of Fear” – Michael Crichton (terrific, fast-moving fiction)

    David Lemberg
    Executive Producer
    SCIENCE AND SOCIETY

  22. One of your premises is wrong – that temperatures have not increased as much as the models predict. The GISS, NOAA and Hadley Centre temperature trends are not far off the model predictions.

    This also points to another important premise which is not alluded to in your article.

    The agencies that are “officially” recording the temperature changes are also the ones who are developing the models and staking their careers on the global warming predictions.

    James Hansen and the GISS run the most quoted models and the record one of the most quoted temperature records.

    Same with Phil Jones and the Hadley Centre and the NOAA.

    You need to add:

    5. Adjust the records and data to fit with the predictions.

    6. Discount other temperature records like those produced by satellite which do agree with the data you publish.

  23. Administrator

    January 29, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    There has been significant interest in this post; it has been cross linked and discussed at several places.

    Here is an interesting one:
    http://scienceblogs.com/islandofdoubt/2008/01/the_seven_signs_of_pseudoscien.php

  24. #24 Ouch, I like the way you link to the other side. I check out RC and other such website to give me a reality check. Right now I’m reading 2 books one pro, one con.

    So, I am going to take my “Let get back to rigorous, basic science ” ball and see if I can bounce it at another phpBB.

    But I will continue to lurk here, however.

    O by the way Dr. Briggs have you seen:http://video.energypolicytv.com/displaypage.php?vkey=6f9554fe9375772ff966&channel=Climate%20Change

    Particularly, the bit in the middle re the Carbon Cycle and GHG assumptions? I not sure whether this is of interest to a statistician but you might wnat to take a peek.

  25. 10. Raven | January 29th, 2008 at 12:04 am, you wrote:

    “The solar and ocean hypotheses fit the data a lot better but lack a rigorous scientific foundation that explains the connection between the alleged cause and climate.”

    I’m not sure I understand the phrase “rigorous scientific foundation.” Could it be taken to mean “plausible mechanism,” or “theoretical basis”? If so, then “rigorous” and “scientific” don’t seem applicable: I thought scientific rigor required that theories be subjected to the acid bath of real world testing.

    BTW, I was inspired to write this from having re-read Steven Weinberg’s fine essay “Tales of Theory & Experiment”. Some theories, such as General Relativity, are embraced because they’re elegant, no matter how slender the empirical data, while others, such as Quantum Mechanics, are tolerated in spite of their ad-hoc creakiness, because they are data-rich, and powerful.

  26. I wonder if Park’s warning signs 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 apply to several “anti-AGWers” aka “skeptics”?

    1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media
    2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work
    4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal
    5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries
    6. The discoverer has worked in isolation

  27. Administrator

    January 30, 2008 at 6:09 am

    Jennifer,

    Looks like I was wrong and you were right: there is a place for #5 in the list. See this piece by Pielke:
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/001320pachauri_on_recent_c.html

    Briggs

  28. Administrator

    January 30, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Maurizio Morabito, at the link given below, asks whether Park’s seven signs could apply to skeptics.

    To that: yes, and yes absolutely. There will never be a shortage of cranks in the world. And I think the skeptics side has an overwhelmingly higher probability of finding one than on the main-stream climatologist side. Of course, there is an endless series of cranks on the “activist” side, too.

    http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/william-m-briggs-statistician-is-climatology-a-pseudoscience/

  29. I reckon it’s being so nice and so noble that has led climatology along its current path. What could be nicer or more noble than saving the planet? And to how many of us is it given to be able to save the planet? So if the SARS’ group’s story lines depart from common experience, if the Earth system modellers can tweak up the airborne fraction, if the radiation physicist can bump up the back radiation, if the climate modellers can invoke some extra feedbacks, if the impact modellers can concoct some scarey consequence, then so be it. And if they forget to mention the initial assumption that mitigation measures and technology is deemed to stand still in arriving at their prognoses; well, their hearts are all in the right place. They’re individually saving the planet and helping the next guy down the research line to do the same – so add unselfishness to niceness and nobility.

    Option 4 has long been the favoured route in “the” science. “The” science is the science that is settled and on a par with the science that says the sun will rise tomorrow. It’s a hallmark of “the” science not to converge as advances are made or observations improve, but to push the envelope every time a new process appears on the scene or an old, previously discarded one is legitimised by some high authority.

  30. 26. PaddikJ | January 30th, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Your quote on relativity vs. quantum expresses my point better than I did. Solar theories are rooted in measured correlations between solar activity and climate. However, there is little theoretical basis that explains why the sun would have the observed effect. That is why solar theories which match the data are echewed by theoretical scientists in favour of a CO2 hypothesis that does not match the data.

  31. I used to be a climate sceptic, partly because I’ve been writing mathematical models of physico-chemical systems since 1967 and therefore treat with derision the claimed accuracy of the climate models. And partly because I’ve been an experimentalist too since about 1971, with lots of experience of temperature measurement, and so also laugh at people accepting “measurements” of “global temperatures” so uncritically. However, I then started calling myself a climate cynic, because it seemed to me that the climate “scientists” had changed from being merely inept and incompetent physicists to a group acting in bad faith. Lately I’ve decided to be blunter yet; I am now a climate atheist, scorning Pope Gore, his acolytes and their absurd doctrine of Global Warming. Of course, I accept the plausibility of our being in a mild spell, but that’s global warming without the capital letters.

  32. As we are collecting statistical flaws and lacunae here, let me mention one which I think is at the heart of the man-made global warming thing, at least in the lay mind and his opinion forming gurus. And that is the “prosecutor’s fallacy”.

    That’s the fallacy that says the probability that the evidence is true if the accused is guilty is the same number as the probability that the accused is guilty if the evidence is true. In our case an example is equivalencing the high probability that sea level will rise if global warming is true with the probability that global warming is true given that sea level is rising. Practised probabilists will recognize the Bayes formula as being at the root of this with omitted terms like other factors that may also account for the evidence and other scenarios that the evidence may also be in accord with.

    Of course this equivalence is not made explicit but it is there fair and square every time Sir David King or Al Gore use the phrase “is consistent with”. This is deliberately done to create the impression that causation has been established. For example, a model output being “consistent with” observations is tantamount to saying that the model has the processes right. The prosecutor fallacy is also alive and well living in “fingerprint” land where observations that fit the theory are triumphantly listed but not observations that don’t nor any mention of other theories that the observations would equally support.

  33. Great stuff, Jim. Of course Hathaway’s prediction was based on 2006 data. Since then NASA has seen the solar conveyor belt slow to a crawl and cycle 24 has failed to start on time. If I understand correctly these and other factors indicate that 24 will be very weak as well, certainly not as strong as 23. Unfortunately, it’s beginning to shape up to be another Dalton Minimum period again, with uniform predictions of a VERY weak cycle 25. I hate the cold.

    Skepticalscience.com is for Koolaid drinkers only. It is dedicated to debunking any and all arguments skeptical of AGW. This site actually claims that, if Maunder Minimum type conditions appear again, the effects would be dwarfed by co2 warming. Riiight..

  34. Maybe I just dreamt the rumour that James Hansen is working on a third-generation computer model. After the failure of cooling and warming jobbies this is to forecast that if we continue to pump out CO2 as we are then the global temperature will stay catastrophically the same.

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