Watts Ridiculous With That

It’s hard to keep up with Tony Watts’s site. Maybe once in a while he posts something that makes some sense. Who knows?

I noticed a recent posting about Richard Muller, approvingly noting his suggestion that skeptics not be treated with ridicule. I suggest that they need to do one of two things about that – either stop ridiculing their opponents (often undeservingly) or to stop being ridiculous.

But in the most recent “game-changer” at Watts’s, he reposts Alex Rawls masterpiece of incoherence and falls quite solidly in the camp of the transparently ridiculous. The sensible branches of the blogosphere responded (specifically Graham Readfern and Dana Nuccitelli) quickly, and are summarized at Peter Sinclair’s.

To sum up,

  • The leaked IPCC report states that there may be some connection between GCRs and some aspects of the climate system.
  • However, the report is also consistent with the body of scientific literature in stating that research indicates GCRs are not effective at seeding clouds and have very little influence on global temperatures.
  • Solar activity has been nearly flat and slightly decreasing in recent decades, meaning that if GCRs do amplify solar influences on climate, they are amplifying a cooling effect.

The body of peer-reviewed scientific literature is very clear: human greenhouse gas emissionsnot solar activity or galactic cosmic rays, are causing global warming.  The leaked IPCC report is entirely consistent with this conclusion.  In fact, in attempting to argue to the contrary, Rawls has scored an own goal by showing that if anything, GCRs are currently amplifying a solar cooling effect.

Meanwhile, our friend and co-conspirator Paul Baer was featured prominently in discussion of an important meta-issue raised by this matter at Revkin’s:

This is a problem I’ve been thinking about for many years, and in fact I presented a talk at AGU last week on one aspect, the creation of “traceable accounts” of the justification for the probability judgments that are ubiquitous in the reports.

The problem has several different aspects, but at its heart, it really depends on the question of whose opinion counts. At the moment, the process is “managed” by the selection of chapter authors by the IPCC. If you’re a chapter author, your voice will be counted in any discussion of what level of uncertainty to apply to a “finding” in that chapter; if you’re a reviewer, not so much.

There is an alternative, web-based model, in which participation is open – at least at some level – but in which opinions have to be justified, and evaluation is done by weighting opinions. This means, among other things, that different “users” of the results could weight the various opinions differently. But that in fact is what happens already; this would make it more transparent.

The process would separate the development of expert opinion on a particular question (how likely is it really that X?) from the overall assessment process; a single “finding” would be more like a Wikipedia page. It would not replace the IPCC process entirely, but it would offer a great deal more transparency to the subjective probability judgments that are the flashpoint for these debates.



  1. Pingback: About that IPCC cosmic rays game changer… | Planet3.0

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