Thanks to Mr, or Mrs, Anonymous, that generous individual who has graced us with a new batch of emails from the world’s top climate scientists. These new missives are guaranteed to generate a certain amount of harmless fun.
It has always been my contention that the amount of over-certainty in climatology matches that found at any freshmen dorm room political discussion. These emails corroborate my hypothesis in spades (p < 0.05). Let's not, like many quoted in these emails do, engage in any amateur psychology or nervous nattering, which is pointless and makes you look like a weak-willed idiot. Just five examples today. More to come. Update The emails in this cache end around October of 2009. I did not find any after this date. In this sense, there is not a lot of new information. Are these part of the original cache filched by Mr Anonymous but only now being released, or are they the result of new infiltrations? Probably the former.
In an email thread [3723.txt] quoting Charles “Chick” F. Keller, Prof. Richard C. J. Somerville writes:
“Perhaps the most important is that satellites don’t show much warming since 1979 and disagree substantially with the surface record, which must then be incorrect. Were we able to resolve this conundrum, I think most of the other objections to human generated climate change would lose their credibility.”…
Even though much of the differences may now be apparently explained, it’s still a terribly messy job. The satellite system wasn’t designed to measure tropospheric temperatures, the calibration and orbital decay and retrieval algorithm and all the other technical issues are ugly, and nobody knows how much the lower stratospheric cooling ought to have infected the upper troposphere, among other points one might make.
No matter what one does on trying to make the MSU data tell us a clean story, there are remaining serious uncertainties. That’s basically what the NAS/NRC study chaired by Mike Wallace concluded, and it’s still true, in my view. Plus the data record is so short…
I also think people need to come to understand that the scientific uncertainties work both ways. We don’t understand cloud feedbacks. We don’t understand air-sea interactions. We don’t understand aerosol indirect effects. The list is long. Singer will say that uncertainties like these mean models lack veracity and can safely be ignored. What seems highly unlikely to me is that each of these uncertainties is going to make the climate system more robust against change. It is just as likely a priori that a poorly understood bit of physics might be a positive as a negative feedback.
Somerville goes on to forget all of these uncertainties to claim that global warming theory must still be real, at the same time vilifying skeptics for the “preconceived” conclusions. Ah, me.
In the same email thread, Chick is quoted as saying “AND keep in mind that increased CO2 is good for us–more agriculture, etc.” This is retorted by Mike (Michael Schlesinger), “…not clear increased CO2 is good for us. And in US, more crop production means more tax money used to provide subsidies–it costs us money.” Prior to reading this, I would have thought only a ideologically rattled economist could claim that more and cheaper crops would be bad.
Chick also says this:
Sooooo, you can say all you want that all the prestigious societies and folks say it’s AGHGs, but they’ve been bamboozled by a few of elitist scientists. As long as satellites show no recent warming, the entire AGHG hypothesis collapses, not because multi-atomic molecules don’t cause the atmosphere to be more opaque, but because there are no positive feedbacks which the models need to get the “right” answer.
So, what I need is strong evidence that the surface record is indeed correct (UHI effect is small, and marine boundary layer approximation is correct).
Mike counters with “Well, how about all the ecosystem changes (species ranges) that are consistent with the warming?” Well, how about ’em? These have never historically been as well measured as temperature, yet changes in them are said to be just as certain? That can’t be so.
Chick agrees. In an answer to Mike, he writes:
Also, I’m confused about RSS results. They don’t look at
MODEL FINGERPRINTS–okay so you explain some of lack of arctic warming, but not the antarctic where the sea ice in some places is actually increasing. I tend to point to a neat paper by Sue Solomon et al where they show that ozone deplection leads to increased strength of circum polar winds leading to cooling inside the vortex and warming outside it. Comments by anyone?
ON ARCTIC ICE MELTING–last I heard was that original estimates were not correct and that ice melt was much less. Any recent references ?
“LOTS OF THINGS ARE CHANGING SHOWING WARMING”
name two! Mountain glaciers are retreating but ambiguously–could be century trend, not primarily due to last 30 years, and some aren’t retreating. Any good references to quantify this one?
Got a second one? butterflies heading north? what else.
From HotAir, we have a series of quotes from Michael Mann, of Hockey Stick fame:
 Mann: By the way, when is Tom C going to formally publish his roughly 1500 year reconstruction??? It would help the cause to be able to refer to that reconstruction as confirming Mann and Jones, etc.
 Mann: They will (see below) allow us to provide some discussion of the synthetic example, referring to the J. Cimate paper (which should be finally accepted upon submission of the revised final draft), so that should help the cause a bit.
 Mann: I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don;t know what she think’s she’s doing, but its not helping the cause […]
Yes, the cause. The cause. Well, Mike, what “cause” would that be? The reason to ask is that your words indicate that you might suffer from a bad case of confirmation bias. I.e., that you are more certain of yourself than you have a right to be.
From 0338.txt, we have Eddie Gibb the Communications manager of Demos. Gibb is excited about Gaia—yes, the Earth-as-Goddess, as living-being hypothesis as championed by Lovelock and now, I am saddened to learn, supposedly philosopher Mary Midgely (she gave the business to Richard Dawkins over memes, etc.).
…we are particulalry interested in the fact that michael meacher has expressed interest in gaia, while george bush appears to personify the “anti-gaia”. in short, we ask, does the gaia hypothesis have the power to both inform the politics of the environment and also a scientific culture attunded to the times.
Meacher is a leftist pol in Great Britain. Gibb wants to collect “green” scientists and politicians on this topic. I suppose this really isn’t an instance of over-certainty as it is gentle nuttiness.
From 1630.txt, an email from Phil Jones to Andy (Andrew Revkin at the New York Times):
You raise an interesting issue. We’ve all heard the comment, why should I believe in climate change when the weather forecasts can be shown to be wrong some of the time. The forecasts in this paper take this type of question a stage further. As Stefan says they are very much ‘work in progress’ and they are attempting to get to more policy relevant timescales of the next 20 years. Their success or not, though, will likely influence how govts and the public might respond to the need for more Kyoto type reductions in the next few years.
Please read the rest of that email. Fascinatingly, Jones forgets to answer Revkin’s concern, which is disappointing because it’s a good question.
Stefan Rahmstorf also semi-sort-of-kinda-answers Revkin:
Dear Andy, thanks for asking. I think this an interesting paper and this kind of decadal forecasting will become increasingly important. On the other hand, it is still early days, this is pioneering work and many aspects of this are not yet properly understood, as Richard Wood rightly cautions in his N&V. Not least, nobody knows what the MOC really has done over the past decades.
So what does this mean for the forecasts?
The prediction of European cooling: I’d take that in a Bayesian sense as some evidence for possibly cooler temperatures, but not enough to make cooling more likely than warming for me. So if I had to bet money at equal odds on warming or cooling, I’d still bet on warming, although with less confidence than previously. I’m not sure their error bars give the full error – note for example that their forecast error bar for 2015 in Fig. 4 is almost zero, so even without having had time to properly look at what this error bar encompasses, I suspect that it is not the full uncertainty. And of course they predicted the 1994-2004 period to be quite a bit cooler than before, and it turned out to be warmer (Fig. 3c).
Nice to see Bayes! Stefan caps it with this:
You could test how serious the authors are: tell them that a prominent climatologist is offering them a bet of $10,000 at equal odds that global mean temperature will be warming over the next decade. Are they prepared to bet against this?
This was written on “29/04/2008”, and compared to then now is cooler. That’s a lot of money, Stefan! Did you get anybody to take the bet?
In 1848.txt, Dr Nick Brooks, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia writes
There is a need to stand back from the debate and unmask it for what it is – a battle between two ideological movements in which the science is often lost or deliberately suppressed and/or manipulated in its interpretation.
He means between “promethean” capitalists and the other side. Brooks is a fan of the “precautionary principle”, which is an economic rule-of-thumb which says, “Spend money on whatever concerns me.”
A final thought – those that oppose the precautionary principle most vigorously are often those that strongly support precautionary spending on defence to guard against possible future attack by unidentified enemies – odd eh? We are much more certain that the climate will change (with or without human intervention) than we were that the Soviet Union would launch a nuclear attack on the West. In the end it comes down to vested interests, paranoia, ideology and machismo. I think someone should point this out to the Washington “think tanks”.
Now, we knew that an attack by the USSR would kill millions, and that our retaliation would have killed millions more. Life would have been uncomfortable for the survivors. There is very little uncertainty in that judgment. Plus, given what we know of human behavior the chance of war was not small. It made sense to “do something” back then to avoid war and so avoid mass death. Perhaps too much was done, perhaps not enough.
But with climate change, we only have the possibility of a small change in temperature, which in itself is meaningless (a logical point, mind). It is far less clear what will happen because of climate change. It is not even clear that a changing climate is everywhere harmful. Nevertheless, the potential for harm was thought significant enough to spend and spend and spend and spend some more on research, yet more research, including funding the salary of the good doctor Brooks, flying to meetings to discuss research, building buildings to house research, and on and on and on. This was and is the precautionary principle in action.
Yet since we have admissions that the climate models aren’t (yet) skillful, isn’t that enough spending until we learn more? Do we need new government oversight and bureaucracy?
There are, coincidentally, a good number of emails in this release which ask for “one world government.” This is probably because the folks involved in this work found themselves on an email list. But isn’t it curious that the call for more government is always associated with “the cause”?