Some General Thoughts

I have been getting a lot of new readers of late, including a number of commenters who disagree with me fairly strongly.  Welcome.  Here are some general thoughts:

  1. Excepting some ads for Viagra and cell phones, I have never and will never delete a comment on this site.  Folks are welcome to fill up the comment threads with contrary opinions. For those distrustful of the motives of skeptics, may I observe that sites like RealClimate cannot make this claim and routinely flush comments that don’t agree with the local prevailing doctrine, so make of that what you will.
  2. I almost never respond to comments in the comment thread itself.  I like to think about and digest the comments for a while, and then incorporate them or respond to them in later posts.  Trying to respond in real time in comment threads results in flame wars, not reasoned discussion. 
  3. Unlike many skeptics, I accept that atmospheric CO2 produced by man can warm the earth.  The IPCC and most climate scientists believe that the greenhouse gas effect alone may warm the earth about a degree over the rest of this century, an amount that would be a nuisance rather than catastrophic, and likely lost in the random noise of natural variations.
  4. However, I do not believe the earth’s climate is dominated by strong positive feedbacks and tipping points.  It is this feedback hypothesis in climate models that multiplies warming to 3-4-5 degrees or more over the next century.  In climate models, the catastrophe comes from feedback, not greenhouse effects, and I think this is a bad hypothesis.  Believers in catastrophic warming have an interesting problem reconciling Mann’s hockey stick, which points to incredible stability in temperatures, with a hypothesis of very high positive feedback, which should make temperatures skittish and volatile.  I also think that the hypothesis that aerosols are masking substantial amounts of warming is weak, and appears to be more wishful thinking to bail out model builders than solid science (while there is some cooling effect, the area of effect is local and shouldn’t have a substantial effect on global averages).
  5. I think the surface temperature record as embodied in the GISS analysis is a joke.  I cannot respect scientists who eschew obviously superior satellite measurements for the half-assed surface temperature record just because it doesn’t give them the answer they want to here.  The fact that the leader in fighting for surface temeprature measurement over satellites is James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is the ultimate dark irony.  It’s like Bill Gates campaiging for increased abacus use in schools.
  6. I have built models of complex systems for years.  I have been guilty many times of allowing seamingly reasonable assumptions to compound into meaningless results.  Unfortunately and embarassingly, I have also been guilty of tweaking, plugging, and tuning models to better match history in order to build confidence in their future predictions.  I see all too many of these same behaviors amoung climate modellers. 
  • But Warren, when you tweaked your models, did the outcome of your models have the same amount of money and political moment invested in them, as the outcome of IPCC models and James Hansen models?

    These people are gambling the future of the planet on their tweakings.

  • Adirian

    Al Fin, if you’re making an argument for the reliability of their models based on the “amount of money and political moment invested in them,” you’re shooting yourself in the foot. What would happen to James Hansen if he presented evidence AGAINST the political investment? Nevermind the money – political investment mean he and his bosses have staked their careers on a particular result.

    The future of the planet is a distant speck – their immediate unemployment might just figure higher into their wager, particularly since these are individuals who have invested their entire LIVES into their careers.

  • dreamin

    In terms of tweaking models, I think we need a demonstration. Somebody needs to come up with a Global Climate Model that (1) assumes little or no sensitivity to CO2; and (2) matches beautifuly with the historical temperature record. I’m pretty confident I could do this, but I don’t have a lot of uninterrupted time on my hands and I haven’t programmed a computer in years.

    We need this model to counter the warmers’ argument that “if it’s so easy to fudge a climate model, then why hasn’t anyone come up with one that matches history but is insensitive to CO2?”

  • Daniel

    A couple points. If aerosols are masking the warming, then why isn’t there an agreed upon aerosol model used in the global climate models. Instead, all the GCMs get their results to conform to the temperature record by using different aerosol model. That is pretty fishy.

    On the GISS, how ironic is it that the temperature record that most closely matches James Hansen’s predictions in James Hansen’s temperature record. http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/climate_change/001330temperature_trends_1.html That is pretty fishy.

    Lastly, Warren notes that many of the climate alarmists are distrustful of the motives of skeptics. They say that skeptics are climate “deniers” (similar to holocaust deniers), funded by ExxonMobil, etc. But why isn’t there the same scrutiny applied to the motives of the climate alarmists? As noted above, James Hansen’s temperature record most closely matches his predictions (and shows a higher temperature than others). And people at federally-funded climate science institutions have had very close ties to environmental organizations. For example, John Firor was Executive Director of the National Science Foundation sponsored National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) at the same time he was Chairman of the Board of Environmental Defense Fund. Diana Josephson was on NCAR’s Advisory Council at the same time as she was the senior vice president of Environmental Defense. Having influence at NCAR and an environmental activist group isn’t necessarily a problem, but imagine the uproar if the Executive Director of NCAR sat on ExxonMobil’s board.

  • lenf

    5. “hear”, 6. “Seemingly”

  • dreamin

    “But why isn’t there the same scrutiny applied to the motives of the climate alarmists?”

    I totally agree. At a minimum, it seems like concern about AGW would stimulate and sustain climate research funding. And yet I have had warmers deny that there’s any such incentive.

  • TCO

    I respect that you don’t censor, that you do read, and that you choose to avoid disscussion in comments. However, my previous comments stand: that you re an advocate and that you don’t seriously think about and examine things. That your posts tend to be crits of popular media stuff…or that when they are on science, they are innumerate and lack statistical significance.

    Oh…and since you haven’t responded to my points on the Pielke line extensions, I will accept that my points were well made and you had no reponse. Too bad. Was really hoping to “push the thinking” further by having you point something out new. But that’s ok. I don’t need the satisfaction of having you admit a flaw. I’ll just take it as tacit.