Here's Why Mann Is So Bothered About His "Enemies"

Much of the contents of [Mann's] book is old news“, according to Peter Gleick. In fact, an entire day spent at a website owned by somebody who interviewed the Man, has turned out nothing more than statements accompanied by “that’s nothing new” and “for those buried in the intellectual wastes of the Murdoch media – it will be brand new territory“.

IOW the general consensus appears to be that there is nothing in Mann’s book that has not already been mentioned, described or referred to somewhere on the web (and, I suspect, in the Climategate emails). Somebody tried to make the point that, according to agiographers, Mann’s book contains enough “to spark a dozen Master’s theses“. But that is not the point.

The point is, what would one find in Mann’s book that is nowhere else? Who knows…an insight, a revealing detail, whatever, anything as long as it is new. There has to be a reason to buy and then read the book, right?

According to Mann’s own supporters, the answers to those questions are still “nothing” and “none”. Well, no wonder Mann is ever so bothered about his enemies…with friends like Mann’s, no one needs enemies!

Nothing New About Fudging – Mass Delusions Among Scientists

I’m sure nowadays the NYT would not even mention such a book as Alexander Kohn’s ”FALSE PROPHETS“, if it said anything about climate science:

By John Gross
Published: December 30, 1986

[...] Deceptions as blatant as this are -as far as anyone can tell – rare in the annals of science, but they represent only one end of a broad spectrum of possible scientific cheating. At the other extreme are errors that are at least partly the product of wishful thinking or a failure to guard against bias; in between come numerous gradations of what the Victorian scientist Charles Babbage classified as ”trimming” and ”cooking” (manipulating the data, suppressing inconvenient facts), along with plagiarism, making bogus claims about the probable course of research and the more subtle varieties of Babbage’s third category of misconduct, outright ”forging.”

[...] here are errors, as Mr. Kohn says, that ”are nothing to be ashamed of,” and he begins by considering some examples – in particular, those cases of collective error where a scientist’s initial mistake has been taken up and repeated by other scientists until it assumes the proportions of a mass delusion.

During the 1920′s and 1930′s, for instance, some 500 publications in reputable quarters were devoted to the phenomenon of ”mitogenetic rays” – ultraviolet rays that were erroneously thought to be emitted by plant or animal cells while they were dividing. Mr. Kohn observes that ”mythogenetic rays” might have been a better name; but he also tries to account for what it was that predisposed so many scientists to believe in them, and in subsequent mirages such as ”polywater” (a supposedly anomalous form of water – one eminent authority, J. D. Bernal, referred to it as ”the most important physical chemical discovery of the century”) and ”scotophobin” (a substance said to induce fear of darkness in rats). [...]

As I already said, this stuff should be mandatory reading in all science schools.

The First Ever Climate Change Reporter (And Skeptic)

Who was the first one to write about climate change? For a while I thought I had found the most ancient reference in world literature: Lorenzo Magalotti in 1683 (referred to by Giacomo Leopardi in 1832)

[One and a half centuries ago Magalotti wrote] in the Family Letters: “It is certain that seasons’ natural order is worsening. Here in Italy it is common saying and lamentation that the half-seasons have disappeared; and in this confusion, it’s without doubt that the cold is advancing. I have heard my father that in his youth, in Rome, on the morning of Easter Sunday, everybody would change into summer clothes. Nowadays whoever can afford not to sell his shirt, I can tell you he’s very careful not to abandon any winter piece of clothing”. This is what Magalotti wrote in 1683.

Then Tony Brown and WUWT found something even more remote: Saint “Cyrian” (actually, Saint Cyprian) from around 250AD

The world has grown old and does not remain in its former vigour. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the suns warmth are both diminishing. The metals are nearly exhausted the husbandman is failing in his fields. Springs which once gushed forth liberally now barely give a trickle of water.’

I can happily report we can push the date a couple of centuries further back, by referring to “De re rustica” (“Agriculture“) by Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (around AD40-50). From Book 1, 1:4-5:

[...] I have found that many authorities now worthy of remembrance were convinced that with the long wasting of the ages, weather and climate undergo a change; and that among them the most learned professional astronomer, Hipparchus, has put it on record that the time will come when the poles will change position, a statement to which Saserna, no mean authority on husbandry, seems to have given credence. For in that book on agriculture which he has left behind he concludes that the position of the heavens had changed from this evidence: that regions which formerly, because of the unremitting severity of winter, could not safeguard any shoot of the vine or the olive planted in them, now that the earlier coldness has abated and the weather is becoming more clement, produce olive harvests and the vintages of Bacchus in the greatest abundance. But whether this theory be true or false, we must leave it to the writings on astronomy [...]

Note how little has changed, with Authorities convinced the climate is changing, and the unconvinced agriculture expert…

(h/t Fabio Spina and - Google English translation)

Humans Are Not Vermin

Letter sent to the IHT-

Dear Editors

So you’ve finally realized there’s a set of simple innovations that could save the lives of millions right now, help the environment and perhaps even slow down global warming (see John Tierney’s “A renegade climate idea that could work“, IHT, Jan 18, 2012).

The fact that those actions have been neglected thus far because of lack of “glamour” and an obsession with cutting carbon dioxide emissions tells everything one needs to know about the inhumanity sadly intrinsic to many environmental activist organizations.

Humans are not vermin. Children dying as we speak because of black carbon filling their lungs in windowless huts are not trade-offs to sacrifice in a fight to convince the world to use fewer SUVs.

Prof Roger Pielke Jr’s “iron law of climate policy” says CO2 emission cuts policies always lose against economic growth pushes. Such a rule ought to be expanded : because we’re humans, and we should remember our humanity. Therefore policies that save human lives have to take precedence over attempts at defining global environment-related treaties. Always.

Peter Gleick, Astroturfer?

UPDATE: For those interested in abrupt climate changes of the past

I recently surmised Peter Gleick be an astroturfer trained to make greens look less than…bright. This article would be compatible with that hypothesis, as the author shows no grasp of the history of climate, including what are known as Younger Dryas and the PETM.

It should also be obvious to all that the longer we look in the past, the lower our ability will be to discern one decade from another, and then one century from another. The climate might as well have changed dramatically every year a million years ago, still the paleo traces will only show some kind of long-term average of it.

We cannot seriously compare contemporary records with those of the past without considering that. It would be like saying more things happen now than in the Middle Ages just because more people write now than in the Middle Ages.

The continuous mentioning of the fabulously flawed 97% figure (it’s 97% of 77 out of 1,372) is just the cherry on the cake. Is Exxon funding the Pacific Institute?

The Beginning Of The End

I have a confession to make…it ain’t much fun to talk climate change at a time where AGW and especially Catastrophic AGW are taking blows left, right and center. So in order to keep this blog lukewarm, here’s a heartful “thanks!” to New Scientist for providing the context for planetary temperatures so far:

Around 500 million years of Earth temperature

Around 500 million years of Earth temperature

And yes, our current climate WARMING catastrophe is at the bottom right.

A Truly Climategate Pathetic Paper

<3373> Bradley:

I’m sure you agree–the Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should never have been published. I don’t want to be associated with that 2000 year “reconstruction”.

And here it is: “Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia” aka “Mann, M. E., and P. D. Jones, Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia, Geophys. Res. Lett., 30(15), 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814, 2003.”

We present reconstructions of Northern and Southern Hemisphere mean surface temperature over the past two millennia based on high-resolution ‘proxy’ temperature data which retain millennial-scale variability. These reconstructions indicate that late 20th century warmth is unprecedented for at least roughly the past two millennia for the Northern Hemisphere. Conclusions for the Southern Hemisphere and global mean temperature are limited by the sparseness of available proxy data in the Southern Hemisphere at present.


Reconstructions of hemispheric mean temperatures over roughly the past two millennia employing proxy surface temperature data networks with sufficient spatial and seasonal sampling, temporal resolution, and retention of millennial-scale variance, support previous conclusions with regard to the anomalous nature of late 20th century temperature at least about two millennia back in time for the Northern Hemisphere. To the extent that a ‘Medieval’ interval of moderately warmer conditions can be defined from about AD 800– 1400, any hemispheric warmth during that interval is dwarfed in magnitude by late 20th century warmth. The sparseness of the available proxy data in the Southern Hemisphere lead to less definitive conclusions for the SH or global mean temperature at present.


Orwell Explains Simon Singh (And Other Intellectual Bankruptcies)

It’s been a source of constant surprise the fact that Simon Singh, “a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner” would be willing to tell Wired wholly antiscientific statements such as in response to a question “How are we supposed to know what’s true?“:

Don’t come up with a view, find everybody who agrees with it, and then say, “Look at this, I must be right.” Start off by saying, “Who do I trust?” On global warming, for example, I happen to trust climate experts, world academies of science, Nobel laureates, and certain science journalists. You have to decide who you trust before you decide what to believe.

Throwing oneself into the hands of the experts? That’s a total abdication from reason, an open-armed welcome to complete foolishness as a tool for scientific debate, and a justification for chiropractors if they had any working brain cell left. It’s the “death of knowledge“, as pointed out by Karl Popper in “The Myth of Framework” (already mentioned here by Nicholas Hallam Mar 31, 2011 at 2:43 PM):

[...] in my view, the appeal to the authority of experts should be neither excused nor defended. It should, on the contrary, be recognized for what it is – an intellectual fashion – and it should be attacked by a frank acknowledgement of how little we know, and how much that little is due to people who have worked in many fields at the same time. And it should also be attacked by the recognition that the orthodoxy produced by intellectual fashions, specialization, and the appeal to authorities is the death of knowledge, and that the growth of knowledge depends entirely upon disagreement

Singh repeated the same foolish argument at the Spectator “Global Warming Hysteria” debate(London, March 29 2011), as reported by the Bish:

Simon Singh’s presentation was memorable, but unfortunately mostly for the wrong reasons. He set up what he called a credibility spectrum, with scientists and academies on one side and sceptics on the other and called on us to trust the establishment on the climate change issue. His whole presentation, while outstanding in terms of slick delivery, was an intellectual void, amounting to little more than ten minutes of argument from authority, a point later made by Graham Stringer. It struck me as a little ambitious to even try this sort of fallacious approach to an audience that was likely to be both hostile and well informed on climate science itself. As catcalls of “what about the hockey stick?” rang out, it was clear that many people knew exactly what has been happening. Asking these same people to trust the word of the scientists struck me as a foolish mistake.

It’s a point made also by Fraser Nelson:

the argument “trust the experts” is becoming less persuasive as the information revolution progresses. Hierarchies are being flattened in every walk of life, and this includes intellectual hierarchies. As Mark Penn says, elites are more impressionable than the masses — so more likely to be persuaded by a scientific consensus. The public want to be persuaded, not told that they should believe the Clever People.

Fraser goes on to describe Singh’s foolishness number two, the complete misunderstanding of the debating point:

Simon Singh [...] seems to be anxious to have a ding-dong with someone who doesn’t think the planet is warming and that mankind is, at least in part, responsible. I’m afraid I can’t help. My problem is with the political response to the science.

As for foolishness number 3, well, nothing better than having Singh write a web article about global warming showing zero-to-nothing knowledge of the topic beyond a quick reading of the IPCC and an insane trusting of Skeptical Science.

It’s a catalogue of offenses against thoughthood (sadly, same applies to others who should know better, such as Phil Plait and Bill Nye), a completely irrational behaviour that had been left unexplained. Until now. Note in fact how during the debate, Singh had some sort of slip of the tongue, saying that “the smart money was in Global Warming“, fully justifying James Delingpole’s rebuttal:

Unless Singh can raise his game and actually engage with the argument rather than bullying his opponents with the help of Sleb Twitter pals and his Ipse Dixit logical fallacies, I think we all know who the real muppet is.

However, if we look at it from a different point of view, it had all been described by George Orwell in “James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution” (my emphasis – there’s more to it but I’ll leave that to a different blog):

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. [...] Within the space of five years Burnham foretold the domination of Russia by Germany and of Germany by Russia. In each case he was obeying the same instinct: the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible.

There we have poor Simon Singh then, simply continuing an established tradition among intellectuals. He believes that the pro-AGW lobby is winning, that the IPCC and the Skeptical Science’s of this world are where the “smart money” is: therefore, he “decides” to “trust” them, “decides” to “believe” in them (note the mixing up of science and faith), even roam the world to proclaim his servile, antiscientific, unreasonable stance on the topic.

Just wait until the climate wind changes then, and in 2021 Singh will be out presenting a new book on “Why people wrongly believed in catastrophic climate change“.

AD 1764-1791: The First Climate Change and Geoengineering Acts

Have environmentalism and climate change fear always been based on an unproven ideology full of hate against humanity and its material progress?


Introducing the (fourth?) climate change and geoengineering act: the Kings Hill Forest Act, “passed in 1791 on St. Vincent, [...] setting up a “rain reserve”in an upland part of the island“:

 The Kings Hill Forest Act passed on St Vincent in 1791 was a remarkable piece of legislation. Above all, it was based on a novel climatic theory, that deforestation might cause rainfall decline. The objective of the Act was to “appropriate for the benefit of the neighbourhood the Hill …….and for enclosing the same and preserving the timber and other trees growing thereon in order to attract rain”. The fact that the Act was highly innovative was clearly recognised at the time. Governor James Seton commented that the Act is “of an unusual and extraordinary character”, not least in the powers which the state arrogated to itself to control land and to impose penalties for its misuse. In the language of today the Act thus conceived of two kinds of sustainability, at a local level, in terms of timber supply; and in a much broader climatic sense. It thus enshrined in legislation a highly sophisticated set of principles and was, in short, based on ‘scientific’ theory rather than on social structures or assumptions.

(more details about the Kings Hill Forest Act - fascinatingly, the actual text is very likely to mention clouds too, resulting in the wording “for the purpose of attracting clouds and rain”)

Environment worries? Check. Impending climate catastrophe caused by human greed? Check. Evil deforestation? Check. Strong-armed governmental intervention? Check. And yhe idea was not new. Already in Tobago (1764), Barbados and Dominica (1765) local authorities had been busying themselves in planting trees in order to get more rains:

an ordinance was passed in 1764 designating the mountainous part of Tobago a protected forest, “reserved in wood for rains.”This protected forest still exists within its original boundaries. The legislation that created it marked a critical watershed in the history of environmental concern, since it applied a universal scientific theory about earth-atmosphere processes (since shown to be substantially correct) to a local environment. It was thus the forerunner to all subsequent national and international attempts to control rainfall and climate change. The 1764 Tobago ordinance specifically recognized the need to restrict profits to sustain an environment in the long term. Moreover, the mechanisms used to set up forest reserves under the ordinance justified the alienation (in the face of much local litigation) of large tracts of private plantation land to colonial state control and implied a permanent role for the state, rather than the individual, in conserving forests and the atmosphere. In 1765, identical ordinances were applied to Barbados and Dominica.

Also in Mauritius (1769):

In a law of 1769, called the Reglement Economique, and in later laws passed after Poivre had left the island in 1772, an extensive system of forest reservations and riverside reservations was established in Mauritius, on the basis both of climatic arguments to protect the rainfall and to provide a sustainable timber supply

Pierre Poivre, Commissaire-Intendant of Mauritius from 1766, is in fact a key person in this story (that can be traced back to “the pupil of Isaac Newton“):

Pierre Poivre had already been extensively involved in attempts to transfer spice trees from the Dutch East Indies to Mauritius. In the course of trying to develop these and other objectives Poivre set up what was effectively a physiocratic state on the island. However, partly as a result of his experiments in plant transfer Poivre was already very interested in soil conditions and the effects of deforestation on moisture and local climate. He had developed these ideas in Lyons in the context of agricultural society meetings during the 1750s and in a paper written in 1763 made direct reference to what he thought were now well-established connections between deforestation and rainfall change. The provenance of these notions is not clear and further research would be needed to establish the source of Poivre’s very definitive desiccationist convictions. But it seems likely that the main source of inspiration for Poivre’s climate thinking came from the arboricultural handbooks written by his contemporary, Duhamel de Monceau. De Monceau, an anglophile, had in turn been very much influenced by the thinking of Stephen Hales, the pupil of Isaac Newton and the discover of the principle of transpiration. A Newtonian linking of trees and atmosphere was thus essential to early environmentalism.

Stephen Hales of 1677-1761, of course. There is another possibly complementary reason behind Poivre’s efforts though: the arrival in Mauritius in 1768 of botanist Jacques Henri Bernardine de Saint Pierre, later author of Paul and Virginie (1787) and clearly influenced by the thoughts of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. And what did Rousseau write in Emile: or, On Education?

Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the author of things, everything degenerates in the hands of man. He forces one soil to nourish the products of another, one tree to bear the fruits of another. He mixes and confuses the climates, the elements, the seasons. He mutilates his dog, his horse, his slave. He turns everything upside down, he disfigures everything, he loves deformities, monsters. He wants nothing as nature made it, not even man himself. For him man must be trained like a saddle- horse; he must be shaped according to the fashion, like trees in his garden.

There we go then: climate and geoengineering legislation officially based on science, but on a “science” in turn based on activism takings its inspiration from the science-free humanity- and material-progress-hating thoughts of a distant philosopher (Rousseau).

Nothing new under the sun. Science-based policy, it ain’t.

(h/t Fabio Spina and

Schechtman's Lessons

From Haaretz, from an article published a full six months before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Dan Schechtman, some climate-relevant findings. In no particular order:

  1. “Unchallengeable basic tenets” must be considered as transient in any scientific field
  2. Any scientific field that is considered “closed”, “solid”, “total” is ripe for a revolution that will still be burning decades later
  3. New discoveries are surrounded by suspicion and ridicule, accompanied by outright rationalized dismissals
  4. It doesn’t matter if you can show people your discovery. It doesn’t matter if they can replicate your discovery in their own lab. Many will still refuse to believe it. We have not moved an inch since the times of Galileo and telescope-denier Cesare Cremonini
  5. Many of them will change their mind only if the discovery is demonstrated using their old techniques
  6. Scientists-discoverers don’t keep their techniques secret
  7. Many discoveries are observed for many years, before somebody realizes there is a new discovery to be made of those observations
  8. Scientists-discoverers are worried about losing their job because of their discovery
  9. And rightly so
  10. They are even worried of being unable to find any job because of their discovery
  11. You need at least two Professors to support the article describing the discovery, before it passes so-called “peer” review
  12. The famous, influential, powerful people invited to deliver the keynote addresses at scientific conferences, they are very likely wrong on any new topic
  13. We have no idea how many Schechtman’s will forever remain unknown, because they didn’t have the luck and the guts to persevere the way Shechtman did

And now for the excerpts:

[...] Since the birth of modern crystallography in 1912, when x-rays were diffracted from a crystal for the first time, until that moment 70 years later, this branch of science had relied on an unchallengeable basic tenet [...]

The scientists concluded that there can be no pentagonal symmetry in crystals, since they cannot create periodic order – as anyone who has tried to cover a bathroom floor with five-sided tiles knows. In countless observations over many decades, crystallographers indeed saw only geometric crystals, all of them possessing rotational symmetry.

But on that April day in 1982, when Shechtman looked at the pattern of points created by the crystal of the alloy he had prepared in the lab from aluminum and manganese, he saw a structure that contradicted both rules: the 10 points that appeared through the microscope attested to the existence of pentagonal symmetry; and the immediate conclusion was that the crystal did not possess a periodic structure. Shechtman had discovered a new world, in which there are solid crystals, but the known order was gone. [...]

Within days, his peculiar ideas generated suspicion and ridicule, to which he would be subjected for some time [...]

“I told everyone who was ready to listen that I had material with pentagonal symmetry. People just laughed at me,” [...]

In the months that followed, he tried to persuade his colleagues in the lab that what they were looking at was a previously unknown crystal. But in vain. “I knew my observations were in order. I couldn’t explain the phenomenon, but I knew it was material that no one had seen before me, impossible material according to the laws of crystallography,” he says [...]

One day, the administrative director of his research group approached him. “He gave a sheepish smile, placed a textbook on my desk and said, ‘Please read what’s written here.’ I told him that I taught my students from the book, but that I also knew that we’re dealing with something that exceeded the book’s understanding,” Shechtman says. The director returned 24 hours later and asked him to leave the research group, because he was “bringing disgrace” on the members. [...]

the researchers at the institute were not able to check the discovery for themselves. Many of them did not know how to work with an electron microscope, which is the most appropriate tool for identifying rotational symmetries in small crystals. Moreover, he notes, “They were not really interested in dealing with it.”

Shechtman also forwarded the findings to a friend, who was about to go on a scientific tour. When the friend returned, Shechtman relates, he brought an array of off-the-wall explanations for the 10 microscopic points, gleaned from colleagues. None of them took seriously the possibility that it was a case of pentagonal symmetry. [...]

only one person was ready to listen in earnest: Prof. Ilan Blech [...] Shechtman now felt sufficiently confident to publish an article on the subject. Until then, he says, “I was afraid to publish alone, in case it turned out to be nonsense.” [...]

Shechtman turned to the senior scientist John Cahn, who had invited him to work in the institute. Cahn initially had reservations, but afterward worked with Shechtman and proposed that they co-author an article. For the mathematical aspects he added a French crystallographer, Denis Gratias, and the three wrote an article that was a concise, refined version of the first article. They added Ilan Blech’s name as a fourth author and sent the article to Physical Review Letters, which also deals with physics. The addition of Cahn’s name turned out to be a winning move: the article appeared in November 1984, within a few weeks of its submission [...]

To get researchers to believe him, Shechtman described exactly how to prepare the alloy. “There are people who keep the mode of preparation secret, but I wanted every researcher who had an appropriate laboratory to be able to prepare the material and examine it under an electron microscope within a few days,” [...]

despite the success in repeating the experiment in several labs, only a few scientists accepted the thesis of pentagonal symmetry. Leading scientists rejected Shechtman’s conclusions, and towering above all of them was Linus Pauling [...]

“There are tens of thousands of chemists in the United States, and Pauling was their star,” Shechtman notes. “He would open the conferences of the American Chemical Society, and quasiperiodic crystals were always his topic. I attended one of the conferences, at Stanford. Thousands of people were there, and he attacked me. He would stand on those platforms and declare, ‘Danny Shechtman is talking nonsense. There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.’ [...]

In the first years following the discovery, Shechtman’s support came primarily from physicists and mathematicians. But crystallographers had a serious problem with the findings: Shechtman had used an electron microscope, whereas their main tool was the x-ray. “It’s as though a mechanical engineer were to explain to a heart surgeon how to perform an operation,” Shechtman says. “From their point of view, I was not a crystallographer, because I had used a tool they considered imprecise and illegitimate.” [...]

in 1987, friends of Shechtman’s from France and Japan succeeded in growing quasi-periodic crystals large enough for x-rays to repeat and verify what he had discovered with the electron microscope: the existence of pentagonal symmetry. [...]

“In the forefront of science there is not much difference between religion and science,” Shechtman says. “People harbor beliefs. That’s what happens when people believe something religiously. The argument with Linus Pauling was almost theological.” [...]

As his fear of not finding employment faded, Pauling’s assaults became a compliment for Shechtman. “I realized that if it’s Pauling against Shechtman, then at some level we are equals. [...]

Prof. Shlomo Ben-Abraham, one of the first Israeli scientists to support the discovery, says, “Until Danny’s discovery, we thought the subject of crystal structure was completely closed. Today, nearly 30 years later, we know we have not even scratched the surface. [...]

Prof. Ron Lifshitz, a physicist from Tel Aviv University, describes Shechtman’s discovery as “a scientific revolution that is still in going on.” Science, he says, must now answer questions that were once thought to be basic and closed, such as what a crystal is, alongside new questions, such as how the nonperiodic structure influences the qualities of those materials. [...]

For decades, crystallography clung to a mistaken description of the physical world, which was presented as a solid, total truth. On the other hand, that same science was able to acknowledge its mistake and refute long-held basic assumptions within a relatively short time, once the theory was shown to be inconsistent with reality. Still, it was necessary to have someone who is capable of shouldering the revolution.

Prof. Ben-Abraham explains Shechtman’s strength: “The greatness of a discoverer lies in knowing what he has discovered. People encounter things and ignore them for one reason or another. I know of four documented cases in which people found this before Danny.” However, he notes, because all the books state that pentagonal symmetry is inconsistent with periodicity of crystals, the researchers ignored what they saw. [...]

Proof That Venice Is Sinking And Not Sinking Due To Climate Change

  1. Venice is sinking (the city in Italy, that is)
  2. It is apparently sinking due to human activities (buildings, gas and water extraction, etc)
  3. However, were Venice not be where it is, it would not be sinking
  4. Venice is where it is because it was founded by escaping populations around 421AD
  5. The populations were escaping from invading Germans and Huns
  6. Germans and Huns were invading due to climate change

QED: Venice is sinking…due to climate change.

  1. Venice is not sinking
  2. It is not sinking because storm surges are expected to happen less often
  3. Such expectations are due to climate change.

QED: Venice is not sinking…due to climate change.

Next: why it is legal for the UK Government to collect VAT on fuel duties; how President Obama has started decreasing the Afghanistan war effort by sending in more troops; why banks too big to fail must be encouraged to get even bigger.

See: the world starts making some sense!

Science Vs. Science-Based Fantasy Embroidery

Andy Revkin’s increasingly more interesting “Dot Earth” blog quotes “Yadvinder Malhi, an Oxford University biologist who is focused on the Amazon and climate” questioning the Amazon-is-doomed “findings presented at the meeting” and decrying “the resulting media coverage“:

(Mahli) I must say I find it frustrating that the gloomiest take on news gets such a big profile. This is based on one model, and that model has flaws, especially its temperature sensitivity that seems too great (David Galbraith’s work), and its rainfall that seems to low

Revkin and Mahli should be not surprised a bit, as the embroidery of fact-based hypotheses (if not outright fantasies) and their presentation as “the latest science” is a popular endeavor (=gets the biggest profile) and not just in climate circles. For example, here’s the decrying of the equivalent behavior, about Pompeii:

Beard, a classics professor at Cambridge University, takes cheeky, undisguised delight in puncturing the many fantasies and misconceptions that have grown up around Pompeii — sown over the years by archaeologists and classicists no less than Victorian novelists and makers of “sword and sandal” film extravaganzas.

While many scholars build careers through increasingly elaborate reconstructions of the ancient world, Beard consistently stresses the limits of our knowledge, the precariousness of our constructs and the ambiguity or contradiction inherent in many of our sources. “There is hardly a shred of evidence for any of it” serves as her battle cry, and it’s a noble one.

The Pop Psychology Of Climate Change

This is how it might have all started:

  1. Over the years since Illuminism and the Industrial Revolution, lots of very intelligent people with a penchant for control freakery got convinced the world was going to the dogs, due to intrinsic faults in the way humans organized their societies
  2. They thought the only solution was their own particular form of egalitarianism/socialism/communism
  3. Eventually, they all found a discharge valve for their ongoing frustrations in the existence of actual Socialist states, “Workers Paradise” and the likes
  4. Sadly for them, but happily for many people, that all collapsed around 1989 (with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall) and then 1991/1992 (with the disappearance of the USSR)
  5. But then, in their established mindset, if there is no hope for Socialism then there is no hope for humanity itself
  6. This means that for lots of very intelligent people etc etc, the world is effectively going to the dogs, or better yet to the cockroaches. But how?
  7. Cue “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW) as the “perfect storm”, including the world going to burn to cinders and people and societies too selfish to recognize their guilt
  8. This makes “global warming” a particularly leftist ideology, no matter what the science behind it actually says (and doesn’t)
  9. Some people (for obvious reasons, mostly not of a Leftist disposition) actually recognize the situation for what it is (AGW as a political attempt at reorganizing human society around the communal good as established by whomever is in charge, dressed up as a purely scientific theory even if cracks continuously need to be tapered up (see the “scientific group” called the IPCC getting the one and only political Nobel Prize, Peace’s).
  10. Those people dare express their skepticism.
  11. But if you are convinced the world is going to the dogs because of human and societal faults, therefore those skeptics are ipso facto the very representation of human and societal faults.
  12. Hence the skeptics “have” to be silenced, summarily dismissed, marginalized, described as figures of fun or evil or both

Is there any way out? Yes there is. All we need for the AGW brouhaha to get out of the way, allowing climatology to be more science than politics for the first time in 15 years or more, is for something else to keep busy those mostly Leftists with good intentions on making everybody’s life as awful as possible but in a “Workers Paradise”.

Where is a big financial crisis when one sorely needs it? 8-)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change

(yes, it has already been used: here, here, here, here, here)

Will human civilization survive the giant climate shifts that will be caused by our SUVs (or by any other cardinal sin brought about by the comforts of modern life)? And what about humanity?

Who knows?

But one thing I am now more sure of. The biosphere will do just fine. Plenty of animals and plants and bacteria and archeas and viruses will prosper if the world will get warmer, if it will get cooler, or if it will continue as before (whatever the meaning of “continue as before” is).

And it’s all written loud and clear in scientific, peer-reviewed literature. For example:

Jeffrey P. Severinghaus and Edward J. Brook, “Abrupt Climate Change at the End of the Last Glacial Period Inferred from Trapped Air in Polar Ice“, Science, 29 October 1999: Vol. 286. no. 5441, pp. 930 – 934 DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5441.930 (Abstract)

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic ~15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from low latitudes [...] the Greenland Summit warmed 9 ± 3°C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago [...]

Jørgen Peder Steffensen et al., “High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years“, originally published in Science Express on 19 June 2008, Science 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 680 – 684 DOI: 10.1126/science.1157707 (Abstract, free Full Text)

The last two abrupt warmings at the onset of our present warm interglacial period, interrupted by the Younger Dryas cooling event, were investigated at high temporal resolution from the North Greenland Ice Core Project ice core [...] A northern shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone could be the trigger of these abrupt shifts of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes of 2 to 4 kelvin in Greenland moisture source temperature from one year to the next.

Let’s also keep in mind that 8 ice ages and 8 warm ages have happened during the last 800,000 years.

What can we conclude?

  1. Abrupt climatic changes happen quite often
  2. There is a sizable amount of evidence of climate changes more abrupt than anything experienced in recorded human history. In other words, present-day temperature changes are neither special nor unprecedented
  3. All existing species have gone through several rounds of those abrupt climatic changes. ADDENDUM: And since there is no evidence for periodic widespread extinction episodes linked in any way to the changes in climate, we can rest assured that the overwhelming majority of species adapt to cooler and warmer environments
  4. With or without humanity, another climate change is bound to happen. And another. And another. (etc etc)

Hence, there is very little sense in all the cries about global warming being the destroyer of life on Earth, or of any species in particular.

Note that Humanity itself has survived everything that has been thrown at it. If anybody is seriously worried, rather than overcomplicated and resultless negotiations on carbon emissions, they should dedicate all their efforts to mantaining civilization (=adaptation).

And if we take the LIA into account: who can seriously think that present-day humanity has feebler defences than 1650′s?

How to Be Right About the Climate: Always!

(originally published on Nov 17. 2007. The Italian version is here.)

Vincenzo Ferrara, the scientist advising the Italian Environment Minister up to April 2008 on Climate Changes, explains how to become a famous Climatologist in a 1982 article (on the ”Rivista di Meteorologia Aeronautica”, Vol XLII n. 1, Jan-Mar 1982).

The following is an abridged translation:

If you are a climatologist and you want to survive as a climatologist, perhaps even increasing your reputation, all you have to do is provide the exact diagnosis and prognosis that people expect.

To the question “Is the climate changing?“, by all means, never, ever reply “No, everything’s normal“, or “It’s just fakery pumped up by newspapers and on television“: because people would unanimously conclude that you understand nothing about metereology, and nothing about climate.

It would be the end of your career.

The only sensible answer is: “Of course it is changing! It’s a well-known fact, scientifically confirmed and one that none cannot argue against“. You can then launch yourself in forecasting for the next hundred years a climate identical to the current one, amplifying the latest phenomena to extreme consequences.

If it is cold you’ll therefore predict “ice ages“, if it’s warm a “torrid period“, and if there are signs of strong variability “short-term climatic extremes” and more-or-less the same climate in the long term.

You may be wondering, how can a serious climatologist provide impossible, mutually-excluding forecasts without looking silly? Fear not: science will provide all the support needed.

Because climatology has already thought of everything and will supply the right solution in every circumstance, even in the most hopeless cases.

So if it is cold, here’s what you will have to say: “The climate is changing and we are approaching an Ice Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1940, the average temperature of the northern hemisphere has diminished by approximately 0,4°C, probably because of a decrease in atmospheric transparency due to air pollution.

The cooling of the air causes an increase in the extension of glaciers and of snow fields, furthering lowering temperatures with their highly reflecting (high albedo) surfaces. Glaciers therefore increase even more, in a positive feedback that will bring us to a new Ice Age in a hundred years or even less“.

What if it is warm? Then the discourse becomes: “The climate is changing and we are approaching a Torrid Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1850 the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has progressively increased and just in the last twenty years has gone from 315 to 334 parts for million. That means that in 2020 the accumulation of carbon dioxide will have more than doubled, taking into account the continuously increasing energy demands and consumption of fossil fuels.

The increase of carbon dioxide reduces the Earth’s long-wave emissions to space (greenhouse effect) so within half a century the average air temperature will increase by approximately 2 or 3°C; the polar ice will dissolve and a sizeable sea level increase will submerge several coastal cities“.

A climatology joke is in order…

A Hundred Years of Bark Beetles' Feasts

The owner of the Climate Progress blog laments NBC’s forgetfulness in mentioning global warming as the culprit for forest destruction in Colorado by mountain pine beetles.

However, there is something else to ponder:

(a) From the New York Times, 9/25/1998
“[Because of mountain pine beetles] By the year 2000, most of the lodgepole pine in Oregon ”will be dead, whether it is harvested or not’, said Ed Blaydon, a marketing specialist for the four national forests in southeastern Oregon.” (Lodgepole pines are alive and well in Oregon in 2008)

(b) From the New York Times, 6/6/1989
“[in Summit County, Colorado, because of mountain pine beetles] in 1986 [...] green vistas turned rust”

(c) From the New York Times, 12/6/1932
“Director Horace Albright reports that he is greatly worried about the situation in the Yellowstone, where the mountain-pine beetle threatens the destruction of the lodgepole pine, which constitutes 80 per cent of the park’s forests”

(d) From the New York Times, 10/6/1907
“the mountain [pine] beetle refuses anything short of a high altitude. Here it abounds in destructive numbers, especially in the West: and as fast as it travels through those salubrious regions down go vast quantities of pine”

If one had read the article of 101 years ago, one would think we would have no trees left whatsoever by now. It didn’t happen. One worders why.

ps the not-so-mild 2008 winter has not killed as many beetles as expected. perhaps temperature is not that important.

Thomas Jefferson on Climate Change

Found it in Dr Richard Keen’s Global Warming Quiz, via Roger Pielke, Sr.’s Climate Science.

Here’s the full relevant text from Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, query VII (1781):

A change in our climate however is taking place very sensibly. Both heats and colds are become much more moderate within the memory even of the middle-aged. Snows are less frequent and less deep. They do not often lie, below the mountains, more than one, two, or three days, and very rarely a week. They are remembered to have been formerly frequent, deep, and of long continuance. The elderly inform me the earth used to be covered with snow about three months in every year. The rivers, which then seldom failed to freeze over in the course of the winter, scarcely ever do so now. This change has produced an unfortunate fluctuation between heat and cold, in the spring of the year, which is very fatal to fruits. From the year 1741 to 1769, an interval of twenty-eight years, there was no instance of fruit killed by the frost in the neighbourhood of Monticello. An intense cold, produced by constant snows, kept the buds locked up till the sun could obtain, in the spring of the year, so fixed an ascendency as to dissolve those snows, and protect the buds, during their developement, from every danger of returning cold. The accumulated snows of the winter remaining to be dissolved all together in the spring, produced those overflowings of our rivers, so frequent then, and so rare now.

Response to Zombie Blog (Greenfyre’s)

Hello Greenfyre

I certainly support letting everybody perfectly free to use their own definitions. As long as it is clear what they are talking about.

That 1961 New York meeting I have blogged about, was sponsored by the American Metereological Association and The New York Academy of Sciences. That should be enough to consider it an important conference. And it was co-chaired by Rhodes W. Fairbridge, not a minor figure in the last 40/50 years of climatology. Furthermore, it was followed by another meeting in Rome, organized by UNESCO and again with major climatologists in attendance (J. Murray Mitchell, Jr. C. C. Wallén , E. Kraus).

Once again in Rome, they all agreed that the world was cooling. The full proceedings are available and I extracted some interesting snippets.

If scientific experts meet once, and then meet again, and there is general agreement among them that the world is cooling, I’d say most people will agree that THAT is evidence for “global cooling scientific consensus”.

I am just using perfectly common and sensible definitions for “cooling”, “global” and “consensus”.

If instead you decide e.g. that “global cooling” has to mean “predicting future cooling”, feel free to do so: but please do yourself a favor and provide reasons for your choice.

Because of course the more we restrict a definition, the less the chance that anything will fall into that category.

This “restricting the definition until there is nothing left” is after all what Thomas C. Peterson, William M. Connolley, and John Fleck have done in their largely mistitled “The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus”.

Kayaking at 83N, in 1895

More evidence that the so-called Polar Defense Project has likely been more a publicity stunt than a serious attempt at showing the retreat of Arctic sea ice: contrarily to Lewis Pugh’s claim of having gone “further north than anyone has ever kayaked before“, reports of people paddling northwards of Pugh’s 2008 maximum (80° 31′ 26″ N, or more likely 80° 14′ 56″ N) can be as old as 1895.

That’s the year when famous Norse explorer Fridtjof Nansen reached Franz Josef Land going south, after going nearer to the North Pole than anyone before, travelling with Hjalmar Johansen:

The two men started out on March 14, 1895 with three sleds, two kayaks and a bunch of dogs. They reached 86° 14´ N one month later and then turned back, expecting to find land at 83°N. No such luck though, and that’s when the kayaks came handy for it took open water crossings until July 24, when they finally found [Franz Josef Land]

There are even reports of Nansen swimming to get his kayak back…and that would be another non-first in Lewis Pugh’s career.

And why no mention of Lonnie Dupre and Eric pulling and paddling “modified canoes” all the way to the North Pole in July 2006?

In truth, there are companies offering regular kayaking trips to the North of Pugh’s 2008 “achievement”: for example TraveLearn’s “Arctic Adventures” where tourists are brought to Phipps Island, 80° 42´ N .

For as little as $4,600, Lewis Pugh can better his “achievement” next year.

Psychosociological Reasons for AGW Belief

From the BBC, no less, in an article explaining the popularity of catastrophisms of all kind:

[...] cultural historian Paul S Boyer, author of When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture [says]: “It is deeply appealing at a psychological level because the idea of meaninglessness is deeply threatening. Human societies have always tried to create some kind of framework of meaning to give history and our own personal lives some kind of significance.” [...]

thinking about the ways the world might end, or the timing, may be fulfilling a basic human need.  “It comes down to an issue of power,” says Michael Molcher, editor of the magazine The End is Nigh. “What you get during times of particular discontent or war or famine or during general bad times is a rise in apocalyptic preaching and ideas. It is a way for people to control the way their world works. The one thing we can never predict is the time and manner of our own deaths.

Cue ominously dangerous ideas of geoengineering

Was There Less Arctic Ice in 1932?

Arctic Becomes an Island for the first time in human history“…really???

On Dec 5, 1932, The New York Times reports the “feat, accomplished for the first time” of circumnavigation of Franz Josef Land (actually, an Arctic archipelago). The same expedition (led by a Professor N.N. Subkov) was also described in March 1933 in the pages of Nature.

Arctic Map

Arctic Map

(Franz Josef Land is between the North Pole and Novaya Zemlya in the map above)

Notably, in the words of the NYT, that circumnavigation had been “heretofore regarded as impossible“. It actually took just 34 days, from Aug 17. It was warm enough for the “Eva” and “Liv” islands to be recognized as one, joined by “a low stretch of land” and thereby renamed “Evaliv”.

Fast forward to 2008. Cryosphere Today shows two tongues of ice still clinging to Franz Josef Land as of Aug 31.

Prof. Subkov would not have been so lucky this time around.


ADDENDUM: The map of end-Aug 1979 clearly shows that at the time, Prof Subkov’s trip would not have been possible

Arctic Sea Ice 1979 08 30

Arctic Sea Ice 1979 08 30

Ruining the Planet, One Toad At A Time

Cornelia Dean is right in pondering the risks inherent in experimenting with scientific fixes meant to save the planet from global warming but with “environmental effects impossible to predict and impossible to undo” (“Experts ponder the hazards of using technology to save the planet“, IHT, Aug 12, 2008).

Actually, that is not just an issue for the future. There are several examples from the past of enviromental cures that have turned out to be worse than the original problem. One of the biggest, and perhaps the best known, is the story of the introduction of Cane Toads to Australia.

Originary of South America, and imported to Australia in 1935 as a scientific way to control beetles that were destroying sugarcane crops, cane toads are still spreading to this day. They are harming native wildlife, poison household pets, and are unstoppably expanding their range at up to 50 kilometers (30mi) per year.

And of course the cane toads have failed to do anything to the beetles.

There is no need to repeat such a mistake on an even larger scale, by depositing sulphur in the upper atmosphere or dumping iron in the open oceans. It is high time we admit that natural systems are way beyond our control and our best bet is adaptation and the use of simple, clear technology.

Why Climate Change is Unbearably Naked

What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?

Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:

  • Climate models are all based on forcings, something that cannot be measured. The tool has become the cause.
  • Those same models are demonstrably “right” whatever happens, either warming or cooling (once again, as all they show is that forcings are supposed to do)
  • Proponents are fixated on negativities (not just the newsmedia and the Stern Report…I have some interesting findings about a recent book on Climate Change, and I will publish them this week or next)
  • Climate change is improbably comprehensive in its effects, and yet “Attribution”, the ability to pinpoint a particular change as having something to do with Climate Change, is still up in the air
  • The IPCC itself cannot see much evidence for change in 2/3 (two-thirds!) of the planet
  • The “truth” is that temperatures are going up but if one looks at actual measurements, they are continuously adapted and adjusted. Measurement stations are not increasing in the number, and locations are far from perfect.
  • And now of course, on-the-fly upward adjustments of CO2 data appear just as values begin to go “the wrong way”.

I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.

And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).

“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.

But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.

If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.

If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.


TierneyLab mentions a Lancet study according to which “obesity promotes global warming”.

Oops!! I should have done that diet last year!!!

Hopefully though, the paunch police won’t throw me in jail any time soon (you know, we Large People are usually easy to catch…)

A Real Climate of Misunderstanding

What Climate Science?
Are AGW climate scientists and science-prone skeptics talking about the same subject? I thought so, but am not sure of that any longer.

Having read Real Climate (RC)’s “Butterfly” blog and engaged in some commentary about it at that site, and having followed the AGW debate for the last five years, my impression is that:

  • the AGW climate scientists are just doing what they can, after heavily restricting their area of research
  • I and some other fellow science-minded skeptics are simply pointing out to the vast, unexplored regions outside of your average climate modeller’s understanding and computational ability.

Imagine if paleontologists had decided to concentrate on the skulls of Rift Valley hominids, treating with disdain (aka as “noise”) all of a find’s context, including other human bones, remains of other animals, local geography (and climate). And deliberatingly ignoring every other hominid find, anywhere else in the world.

That’d still be science, but within such a very focused line of research quite unlikely to add much knowledge or understanding, apart than about itself.

There Must Be Some…
If such a colossal misunderstanding is indeed in place, that would go a long way in explaining the extraordinary ill feelings surrounding the whole of climate science at the moment (and I am deliberately keeping politics outside of this), with one side treating skepticism itself as a dishonest scandal that should be stamped out of existence once and for all, and the other side dismissing years and years of research as pretty much irrelevant gibberish written by incompetent liars.

No wonder they (we) can’t see each other eye-to-eye…how could two judges agree at a canine show contest, if one of them were only interested in (and had built a whole theory of canine beauty about) the shape of the tails?

Climatology: An Abridged History
The story of how contemporary climatology has ended up like this is illuminating.

At first, basic laboratory experiments gave some indications on how atmospheric constituents could interact with one another, and with the incoming solar radiation. Notable among them, the study of CO2′s “greenhouse effect” by Arrhenius in 1896. But the real world of meteorology (including climate) is somewhat more complex than a lab’s setting.

For example, vast energy exchanges manifest in atmospheric cell circulation, oceanic heat exchanges, and whole climate-affecting cycles currently known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, el Nino/la Nina, etc etc.

With no way of replicating that in controlled laboratory conditions, climatologists opted at one point to computational models of the atmosphere. This was of course possible only and after a minimum of computational power became available.

Computers of course understand only numbers and formulas/commands. In order to get to that, a momentous assumption was made: in an approach curiously reminiscent of the science of aeronautics, climate was taken as the response of the atmosphere to “forcings”, i.e. discernible components pushing and pulling the atmosphere in one or the other direction.

“Climate” is then the resulting overall effect of the action of each forcing, averaged over a certain lentgh of time.

In that context, “forcings” were purely operational, “digitizational” tools, providing some basis for computing the climate. By definition, in fact, forcings cannot be measured: all observations of the actual atmosphere will (obviously!) include the effect of them all. If “forcings” exist or not is therefore irrelevant. For all they were worth, forcings could have been substituted by Fourier analysis, or Principal Component Analysis, or whatever other technical tool that can transform a set of signals (and formulas) of any sort into computer-friendly figures (and procedures).

However, alongside a steady increase in available computational power, there came the a shift in focus, from real (observable) climate to forcings: in a first dichotomy with the real world, models became ways of investigating the (possible) effect of each forcing, instead of forcings being ways of investigating the (possible) evolution of the planet’s climate.

This change is less subtle than it appears. It entails throwing one’s hands up in the air about trying to understand the actual atmosphere, choosing instead to concentrate on known (pre-set) effects of known causes. Models in fact are far from independent from assumptions about forcings: they are made out of them. The effect of each forcing is already written in the code of each model, and model runs will show that effect at work. Even if results could vary for example modifying a model’s representation of geography, there is no way that model will be able to run contrary to its pre-assumed behaviour, for example in the case of increased CO2 concentration.

If I write a computer program that just adds one every time a white objects traverses a camera’s field of view, there is no way my program will ever count down, say to minus 20. And the fact that the counter always increases says nothing about how many white objects there are in the real world. It just shows how the counter works.

Nothing But Parameters
What can you do when all you have are models only useful to investigate what a particular forcing’s effect might be? You are left with playing with the parameters, modifying them to “fit” observations and “plausibility”. This is manifest for example in Hansen et al’s 2007 article, “Climate simulations for 1880–2003 with GISS modelE“, literally saddled with innumerable “estimations”, six of them explicitly “subjective” (little more than guesses, that is) but still able somehow to get published in a peer-reviewed scientific article.

Note that comparison to the real world is but a side issue in that paper. “Observations” (25+ years of averages) are useful to evaluate what the parameters are likely to be, i.e. the relative importance of each forcing. There is nothing important outside of them. In a second dichotomy with the real world, in such a vision of the world everything that is not included in the modelling is “noise”, in other words “irrelevant”.

There is no “going back to the lab” in contemporary mainstream forcings-based climate science, eg to learn anything new after finding unexpected observations, because those are “noise” (sometimes called, “weather”) and thus have to be ignored. And there is no meaningful effort to measure what if anything is going wrong: for example, comparisons between model results and observations are simply visual.

The good thing about this is that there are enormous avenues of research left open to future generations. The downside is that the reality of climate models is, at present, literally set in stone, whatever the real climate is out there.

Can climate models predict anything?
Skeptics and non-skeptics alike seem to agree that models cannot predict (i.e. make predictions that can be falsified, or confirmed, by observations) for timeframes shorter than around 25 years from the time of computation.

In fact, RealClimate seems to be willing to take a quarter of a century, more or less, as the minimum amount of time needed to get “averages” that can be called “climate” rather than mere “weather”. That is a second example of AGW climate scientists pigeonholing themselves: just as anything that cannot be modelled by forcings is “noise”, so anything that doesn’t cancel itself over 25 years is “noise” too.

So we started with “climate science” only to get stuck into “multi-decadal averaging to evaluate parameters to use in estimating the effect of forcings”.

Can anything ever disprove a forcings-based model?
No. Nothing at all ever will. Some AGWers are answering that with improbable claims about Popper being long dead, an eery reply one would expect only from inventors of perpetual-motion machines.

Actually, the prove/disprove question may simply be the wrong question. Models are only tools to investigate the possible effect of each forcing. Hansen et al talk about “using the model for simulations of future climate change”.

The key word there is of course “simulations”.

Models are not a weather-predicting tool (remember, they are about “climate”, not “weather”). And they are not a climate-predicting tool either, even if they are often abused as if they were. In its 2001 report the IPCC itself stated as much, in no uncertain terms: “In climate research and modelling, we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible” (from the IPCC TAR-WG1, 2001).

What models can do is simulate the effect of individual forcings in isolation, something that can never be observed anyway. They also simulate the cumulative effect of forcings, with added uncertainty as interactions must be modelled too. Such a cumulative effect is not necessarily expected to be observable either.

It must be stated that as far as I can remember RC has never claimed anything more. Good for them. Perhaps they could have been clearer before more clear and more often, but things are starting to move in the right direction, of late. As already quoted in a previous blog: “[...] The ensemble mean is monotonically increasing in the absence of large volcanoes, but this is the forced component of climate change, not a single realisation or anything that could happen in the real world. [...]”

And Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the IPCC-TAR report, recently wrote: “In fact there are no predictions by IPCC at all. And there never have been. The IPCC instead proffers ‘what if’ projections of future climate that correspond to certain emissions scenarios.”

Compounded Weaknesses
Don’t get me wrong: on its own, doing an estimation is part-and-parcel of conducting scientific research; computer modelling is a great tool for very complex situation; forcings are a good way to translate a system into a manageable model; and scenarios are the standard way to evaluate risk.

But with regards to forcings-based climate science, all of those combine together compounding their weaknesses rather than their strenghts: estimations are often subjective, computer models are used to study forcings rather than climate, forcings are taken as “real” even if they cannot be measured, and scenarios are interrogated not for current sensitivities but as forecasts.

They have become the basis for a large Intergovernmental organization, tens of international meetings, the collective action of thousands of people, one Oscar and one Nobel Peace Prize, all in the name of what every knowledgeable person knows it is impossible to predict.

What Kind of Science is Climate Science?
Restricted to “the computation of scenarios (the ‘what-ifs’ projections)”, climate modelling is a science (the “science of climate forcings”, in fact). And RealClimate is as good as it gets. The same applies to much of contemporary AGW scientific journalism and publications, including Scientific American, American Scientist, New Scientist, Nature, Science. And the BBC.

Just try, next time you read their reports, to imagine a world view (a “climate narrative“) where climatology, the most uncertain of exact sciences, is applied science, a policy-making tool where only forcings count and, among the forcings, only those of anthropogenic origin are relevant (as there is little to make policies about, for non-anthropogenic forcings).

That is too narrow a view to be useful for risk management, let alone to bring science forward. It may lead to worries wasting time worrying about possible future stronger hurricanes, rather than about certain concentrating on preventi present-day catastrophical levee failure for present-day storms.

Time to Expand the “Climate Narrative”
Models have been the cradle of climatology, Tsiolkovsky would have said, but we cannot live in the cradle forever. It is time to expand the “climate narrative”, by getting climate science of the models-forcings-scenarios hole.

Because “real” climate is much, much more than RealClimate.

The Eskimo Word for Robin

Contrary to what reported by the BBC World Service and Sen John McCain by way of Andrew Revkin on The New York Times, there is a word for “robin” in several Eskimo (Inuit) languages.

For the record:

Alaskan Eskimo: Shab’wak
Mackenzie Eskimo: Kre-ku-ak’tu-yok
Nunamiut Eskimo: Koyapigaktoruk

You can read more about how another cute (and ill-founded) global warming scare story bites the dust on the World Climate Report.

XIX Century's AGW Believers

Again from “Indian Summer: A Myth And A Fact, Too; What The Weather Men Have To Say About The Mild Period Of The Autumn“, by Charles Fitzhugh Talman, The New York Times Magazine, November 5, 1933

[...] Other writers of a few generations ago sought to explain the discordance between the Indian Summer tradition and the Autumn weather actually observed in their own times as one of the manifestations of a changing climate. Belief in the decadence of the “old-fashioned Winter” was then entertained even more widely than it is today, and it was natural to assume that there had been an equally conspicuous change in the character of the Autumns. Both of the supposed changes were usually attributed to the clearing and settlement of the country [...]

Pseudoscientific Elements in Climate Change Research

Pseudoscientific elements in climate change research” by Arthur Rosch – published by the Science and Public Policy Institute, Feb 16, 2008


Alarming statements from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concerning global warming are being challenged by a considerable number of scientists from different disciplines with a variety of arguments. The disputes comprise the collection and interpretation of data, the validation of hypotheses and climate models, the use of those models for scientific decision making, and the quality of the scientific discourse on these matters.

Many of the critical scientists are not directly involved in climate research. This brings into focus the weight to be given to views of experts relative to that of non-experts when the use of the scientific method is discussed in general, and a critique on the use of the peer review system in scientific journals that is supposed to safeguard the quality of science.

The concern of some climatologists and scientists from other disciplines is that the supposed dangerous warming seems to be exaggerated.

The possible causes of exaggerated conclusions are investigated. It is concluded that the general practice of parameterization of computer models in climate change research shows an element of pseudo science because it leads to self-confirmation of input hypotheses (dogmas) and insufficient challenge of theories.

The theory of the enhanced greenhouse effect of increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere – the very basis for alarming messages concerning future climate change – is itself largely a modelling concept. It is suggested, that for the sake of the progress of science, this theory requires reinvestigation.

Aristotle's Climate Model

Greek philosopher Aristotle may have written the first treatise on Meteorology, around 350BC. He postulated the existence of five geographical zones: Frigid (one North, one South) by the poles, Torrid (North and South of the Equator) and Temperate (one North, one South) in-between the relative Frigid and Torrid zones.

Remarkably, that subdivision still holds. One of Aristotle’s ideas has not survived the test of time though: contrary to his thoughts, the Torrid Zone is not devoid of life and especially of human life due to excessive warmth.

And so we can say that Aristotle was totally wrong. Or was he?

Let’s perform some quick computations using modern readings and the world as known by ancient Greeks.


Consider Alexandria and Aswan, in Egypt, the cities used by Eratosthenes of Cyrene to measure the accurately measure the size of the Earth (around a century after Aristotle’s time).

From the BBC Weather website, temperature statistics for both cities can be computed

Alexandria (31 degrees North):
Average monthly Min: 17.3C
Average monthly Max: 24.9C
Average yearly: 21.1C

Aswan (24 deg N):
Average monthly Min: 19.1C
Average monthly Max: 34.25C
Average yearly: 26.7C

Now, since we know there are 7 degrees of latitude between the two cities, we can compute at what rates temperatures increase going south from Alexandria to Aswan:

Temperature increase by degree of Latitude:
Average monthly Min: 0.26C/deg
Average monthly Max: 1.33C/deg
Average yearly: 0.798C/deg

What is the expected temperature at the Equator (Latitude: zero, thus 24 degrees south of Aswan), assuming those rates don’t vary (i.e. temperature trends can be modelled in linearly)?

Equator (zero deg):
Expected Average monthly Min: 25.5C
Expected Average monthly Max: 66.3C
Expected Average yearly: 45.85C

Look at those temperatures…if those were true, truly the Equator would be more or less uninhabitable.

Therefore: Aristotle’s idea of a “Torrid Zone” was not a philosophical fantasy, but a reasonably estimation compatible with what was known during ancient times.


Of course we know the actual values are different. For example:

Kinshasa (4 deg N):
Average monthly Min: 20.7C
Average monthly Max: 30.4C
Average yearly: 25.5C

That makes Aristotle’s Climate Model wrong of an amount between 5C and 36C.


So what are the lessons to take home?

(1) Climate models that appear perfectly reasonable today can be shown to be very, very wrong tomorrow

(2) Extending a trend means just making an estimation that can be way off reality, especially if the trend is presumed linear

(3) Temperature is NOT everything. Actual climate depends on a lot of other things.

At the Equator, like everywhere else on the planet.