March Open Thread

Anything goes. Moderation is light. Suggested topic:

Pielke and Holdren and Hoerling and Romm, oh my! Resolved: Holdren is not blameless for this mess. Opinions?


  1. [Via Susan Anderson, reposted from the increasingly-ill-named February Open Thread -mt]

    I’m niggling away at the Pielke-Holdren kerfuffle and will open the budget by extracting a comment I worked out for DotEarth when Revkin did his all too predictable waffle in support of his friend and favorite hedgers, in this case Martin Hoerling. Sadly, if one can get outside one’s circle of literate (both science and English) colleagues, one can see that the potential for misinterpretation is considerable. I have a history with Andy Revkin’s DotEarth, which is prone to provide fuel for sloppy thinking about weather and climate, as well as a hangout for the worst kind of clever-looking phony skeptic arguments.

    What I’m looking for most is any suggestions about straightforward ways to describe the single weather event attribution problem without getting into the thickets of explanation which will always favor those who do not wish to embrace the complexity of the problem. Trenberth provided us with the useful response that there is an element of climate disruption due to global warming (to be precise, the accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, which I believe needs to be stated more often, though it runs counter to my request for simplicity) in all weather now.

    There is an appalling lack of understanding and an lack of curiosity in most critiques of scientific analysis of climate. To begin with, it is important to remember that climate is weather over space and time, space being the whole planet and its atmosphere, and time being several decades at the least. Basic physics, more simply stated the actual physical properties of how things work, indicates that an accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases is warming the planet, resulting in an increase in energy and water vapor and particularly in an increase of extremes.

    Obvious? Yes, so it is curious that there is a cadre interested in distracting from the point whenever it comes up.

    But what is even more odd is that Andy Revkin, who has followed climate for decades, is all too willing to create a false balance by seeking out experts who emphasize the disconnection between single weather events and causation, while ignoring the bigger picture. Martin Hoerling is one of those “experts” and services this misleading conclusion for a dedicated audience.

    Andy, like Pielke, prefers to separate the two parts of the whole. Pielke (Jr.) wants the second half of the paragraph in a footnote so it won’t be noticed. Andy doesn’t want to see that there is an element of greenhouse warming in all weather now, while handpicking … “single events” to support his … ideas.

    Both are errors of omission, not of commission, and they are equally deceptive and wrong.

    So few of us seem able to embrace the idea that most people will hear “no event” when they are told “no single event” but I think we must understand that this is not necessarily a sign of either stupidity or politics, but a reflection of what might be a lack of interest in the midst of a life filled with things that appear to be more urgent. I believe there is nothing more urgent than climate, but I cannot enforce my belief on others.

    PS - And there’s another tricky word all too prone to misunderstanding: belief!

  2. I am not a huge fan of Roger Pielke Jr.'s; I think he can be seriously wrong sometimes, and I think sometimes he puts his own interests ahead of the public interest.

    But he isn't reliably wrong like some people are.

    Also, I appreciate his tendency to deal with the topic at hand rather than ad hominem. At least in my experience he doesn't hold grudges or let personal feelings interfere with his discussion. And it's in that spirit that I'd like to take on this sticky conversation.

    While I don't think recent congressional testimony was helpful, I can't help but see his point that Holdren's response to it was both inappropriate and unconvincing. I wish Holdren had found firmer ground for his response.

    It also seems that there is a genuine rift in the climatological community about how to discuss the relationship between severe events and anthropogenic climate change. As always, I would recommend that society base its actions on IPCC WG I. It is also the case that, like it or not, WG I's position is closer to Pielke's position than to Holdren's.

    I don't particularly think that those of us (I include myself) who think there is a climate change footprint in severe events already need to shut up about it. But neither do I think we should pretend that our position is scientific consensus.

    The epistemic issues here are subtle and this is hard to work out in public. I think that the Pielke/Hoerling position is statistically naive, and the upshot is probably wrong. Explaining this in plain language is an interesting challenge. It may not be especially easy winning the scientific debate, either.

    Meanwhile it is important not to base defense of a strong climate on the as-yet hard-to-prove emergence of a change in specific classes of severe events at specific locations. That's hardly the only reason for concern.

    And on this point Roger has a point. Why select unfavorable ground for your battles? The answer, of course, is the press's obsession with disasters, and the politician's hunger for press. Perhaps we should do something other than capitulate to it.

  3. You and I appear to have read different source materials. I don't think RPJr's response deals with the original material (the actual things that were said, and accusations that were made) at all. He just seems to be flinging around defense and accusation, which is hardly what I would call lacking in ad hominem, in fact quite the reverse.

    However, if we disagree about that, and I will try to find time to reread the material, we do agree on this, which was my basic query:

    "Explaining this in plain language is an interesting challenge."

    The idea that somehow correctly framing the issues and defining answers is going to convince a broad enough spectrum of public opinion seems unlikely to me. Obsessing over the likes of RPJr.'s defensiveness when caught out in something closely resembling twisting of meaning is as you note not going anywhere. People's opinions have hardened and they will hear what they wish to hear, not what is actually said.

    I still think our best chance is to get people to notice the sheer quality and quantity of weirdness that is dominating world weather these days, and how costly it is to deal with each of these emergencies after they occur. Personally, as a dedicated weather observer, I'd say things are quite different from the days when I felt I could pretend not to notice what was happening (the 70s, 80s, and to some extent the 90s). At the personal least, I would note that high water apogee storm tides are now close enough to my front door to be a matter for concern. This has been a slow process, but it is gaining momentum. Sensible people are looking at problems like mine everywhere. Noting how bad it is after the acceleration has gained yet more momentum is not going to work.

  4. The trouble is not about perception, it is about demonstration. Perception is notoriously unreliable, and for everyone like you who perceives disruption there is someone else who perceives nothing unusual going on.

    The statistics are marginal which makes for interesting math, but the stakes are so high that sometimes being merely intellectually interested in the puzzle seems inadequate. Yet that is where the work happens.

    I have a lot more to say about this whole tangle; I hope I will get to do that soon... One can be oddly reassured in an ironic way that the period when the statistics are ambiguous is likely to end fairly soon.

  5. Ironic indeed. You will have heard about Martin Hoerling's Op Ed in today's Sunday NYTimes:

    I'd quibble that a proper collation of world weather information over the last few decades would make the trends quite clear, but agree on the local level that's material for honest disagreement.

    Jeff Masters at Wunderground and his colleagues do a pretty good job of collecting these materials. Of course, my personal take is also influenced by the spectacular degradation of tree stock in New Jersey as well, with the runaway train from Irene through the October snowstorm through Sandy and the recent spate of ice storms. Even day I see new trees down on my short route to the nursing home. It's a mite hard to ignore. Of course, only anecdotal, as you point out.

  6. The trends which are clear and those which aren't are listed in IPCC AR5 WG I, and that's the problem; drought in the US is not among them, which is Roger's point.

    Rather than pointing out that Roger is focusing on a narrow issue, Holdren doubled down on it, and now a goodly section of the climate defense community is about to join him. I think this is a bad move.

    As for ecological damage, that is another story. That's not just climate of course. But it would be interesting to see a global survey, especially of forests. I imagine it would be shocking. Does such a thing exist?

  7. Hello Michael,

    While I agree with a fair bit of what you say about Pielke Jnr, I do find some of your assertions off the mark. One has to be very careful with Pielke and keep your eye on the pea. You also have to follow up and check everything he claims that others have said and then also place those comments in full context-- not the context Pielke claims. You also need to check for text that he chooses to ignore. For example, when he quoted your above comment on his blog, he conveniently excluded the first paragraph, which changes the flavour of your post and your honest opinion of him.

    This started when Holdren made specific reference to drought over the western USA. Pielke likes to look at the Contiguous USA as a whole and that works very nicely at hiding the drought problems in the west. It has long been known for drought, that one cannot and should not average metrics over huge areas because while one region is experiencing a drought, another region close by may be experiencing a pluvial, and by averaging you lose valuable information. Yet, Pielke insists on doing this over and over again.

    Also, drought east of the Mississippi is not a contentious issue really. There is pretty compelling evidence and consensus that drought and heat in the west are on the increase. However, Pielke has tried to re-frame the argument around drought over the entire USA showing no increase (a straw man) as well as claiming that all extremes show no increase. In this way he has managed to deflect attention away from his attempts to "hide" information in his testimony that does not agree with his personal position/narrative.

    Ironically, if one is speaking globally or over the contiguous USA Pielke is claiming the obvious, while hiding the fact that some areas have been experiencing increased drying (western USA, Mediterranean, southern Africa) and are expected to continue to do so. So while Pielke wants people to believe that increasing drought in some regions is not an issue, it certainly has been and the odds are fairly high that the problem will only get worse for some.

    Roger has gone so far as to claim in his recent TNR essay that climate change does not increase extremes, and that "...our research, and that of others, suggests that assuming that these projections are accurate, it will be many decades, perhaps longer, before the signal of human-caused climate change can be detected."

    Those claims are just flat out wrong, and so obviously wrong that I don't even feel compelled to offer evidence to the contrary.

    Of much less importance is your observation that Pielke does not engage in ad hominem or hold grudges. My observation has been very different. He routinely goes out of his way to slander, mock or denigrate those who challenge him or hold view at odds with his. Peruse his blog and his twitter feed. Examples being his dealings Grinsted, Holland, Romm and Holdren. As for Romm, Pielke most definitely holds a grudge.

    Don't underestimate his ability to misinform and mislead.

  8. This link works better:

    Forests cover 31 percent of total land area
    The world’s total forest area is just over 4 billion hectares, which corresponds to an
    average of 0.6 ha per capita (Figure 1). The five most forest-rich countries (the Russian
    Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China) account for more
    than half of the total forest area. Ten countries or areas have no forest at all and an
    additional 54 have forest on less than 10 percent of their total land area (Figure 2).

    The rate of deforestation shows signs of decreasing, but is still alarmingly high
    Deforestation – mainly the conversion of tropical forest to agricultural land – shows
    signs of decreasing in several countries but continues at a high rate in others (Boxes
    1–3). Around 13 million hectares of forest were converted to other uses or lost through
    natural causes each year in the last decade compared with 16 million hectares per year
    in the 1990s. Both Brazil and Indonesia, which had the highest net loss of forest in the
    1990s, have significantly reduced their rate of loss, while in Australia, severe drought and
    forest fires have exacerbated the loss of forest since 2000.

    Large-scale planting of trees is significantly reducing the net loss of forest area globally.
    Afforestation and natural expansion of forests in some countries and regions have
    reduced the net loss of forest area significantly at the global level (Figure 4). The net
    change in forest area in the period 2000–2010 is estimated at -5.2 million hectares per
    year (an area about the size of Costa Rica), down from -8.3 million hectares per year in
    the period 1990–2000.

    South America and Africa continue to have the largest net loss of forest At a regional level, South America suffered the largest net loss of forests between 2000 and 2010 – about 4.0 million hectares per year – followed by Africa, which lost 3.4 million hectares annually (Figure 5). Oceania also reported a net loss of forest (about
    700 000 ha per year over the period 2000–2010), mainly due to large losses of forests in Australia, where severe drought and forest fires have exacerbated the loss of forest since 2000. The area of forest in North and Central America was estimated as almost the same in 2010 as in 2000. The forest area in Europe continued to expand, although at a slower rate (700 000 ha per year) than in the 1990s (900 000 ha per year). Asia, which had a net
    loss of forest of some 600 000 ha annually in the 1990s, reported a net gain of forest of more than 2.2 million hectares per year in the period 2000–2010, primarily due to the large-scale afforestation reported by China and despite continued high rates of net loss in many countries in South and Southeast Asia.

  9. I think that the Pielke/Hoerling position is statistically naive, and the upshot is probably wrong.

    If I understand what you're suggesting here, then this is also my main issue with what Pielke Jr presents. It's normally a very simplistic, frequentist type approach to an individual type of event, either chosen to be quite specifically regional or chosen to be even rarer than the actual climatic event itself (flooding instead of precipitation, cyclone landfall rather than cyclones overall, damage or cost, ...). So, he's probably almost always correct when he claims that what he's presented is factually correct and he may well present it honestly, if not as clearly as some might like, but what some will take from what he says is not necessarily what most would regard as a reasonable interpretation of the current situation.

    Something I have wondered (and maybe you know more about this than I do) is why noone has ever done a more Bayesian type of analysis. For example, how likely is it that what we've experience overall in the recent past could simply be natural variability. We may not be able to attribute anthropogenic influences to a single event or a single type of event, but could we establish whether or not the patterns we're seeing are likely to have anthropogenic influences? Maybe this has been done, or maybe it's still to difficult to actually do for the more extreme - and hence rarer - events.

  10. "A global survey of forests. Does such a thing exist?" No. But, if it did, would it be shocking? I doubt it. First, the data would show that humans have been manipulating forests for tens of thousands of years. Teasing out relatively recent greenhouse gas effects from the myriad of other human-caused influences would be tough. Second, when it comes to forest ecology, e.g., species range and species diversity, change is the only constant. Some of that change is unrelated to climate. For example, during the 20th century, eastern North America lost its most common tree species, the American chestnut, from a fungus introduced from Asia.

    Or look at the history of Douglas-fir, the iconic conifer in my home state of Oregon. About 15 million years ago, western Oregon's mountains were spruce/cedar forests, not the Douglas-fir/western hemlock they are today. While the lowlands, e.g., Willamette Valley, were hickory/oak/beech -- wholly unlike the oak grassland savanna that greeted Oregon Trail pioneers.

    The Pleistocene saw huge shifts in Douglas-fir distribution as ice ages (4 or so) expanded and waned. It was not until after the retreat of the glaciers that Douglas-fir established itself widely throughout the Pacific Northwest. During the glacial periods, D-fir was only sparsely scattered in small ice-free regions. Post-glacial warming starting about 10,000 years ago allowed D-fir to expand to its current range, with fire (mostly ignited by people) also playing a role as it selected for the thick-barked D-fir over competing species.

    Since the middle of the 20th century, there have been no shifts in Oregon's tree species' ranges that can be pinned with any confidence on climate change. The areal extant of forests has been shrinking in Oregon, but due to continued human conversion of forests to residences, not climate change.

  11. I'm with Tamino:

    and Rabett, from his comment at Hoerling's Op Ed.

    Dr. Hoerling increasingly retreats to answering questions that no one has asked and not answering the ones that have. In this context it is worthwhile repeating the points that Dr. Holdren, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy raised in his reply to questions put by Senator Sessions and motivated by testimony of Dr. Roger Peilke Jr, also of Boulder. In discussing the situation in CA and the US SW, Holdren points out

    1. In a warming world, a larger fraction of total precipitation falls in downpours, which means a larger fraction is lost to storm runoff (as opposed to being absorbed in soil).

    The recent storm that dumped 2-6" of rain across Southern CA fits the bill

    2. In mountain regions that are warming, as most are, a larger fraction of precipitation falls as rain rather than as snow, which means lower stream flows in spring and summer.

    3. What snowpack there is melts earlier in a warming world, further reducing flows later in the year.

    A detailed discussion of these two effects and their observation in the US West can be found at

    4. Where temperatures are higher, losses of water from soil and reservoirs due to evaporation are likewise higher than they would otherwise be.

    Given that there has been significant warming in CA, this is obvious, even to Dr Hoerling, though he quibbles. The data may be limited but the physics is clear.

    As to RPJr.'s tactics, I continue to be surprised that you defend them. But no doubt we will have to agree to disagree (well, you will of course do as you please, but it will not change what was said and done with the complicity of Senator Sessions), as I agree with many of your other colleagues who know a great deal more than I do.

  12. Okay, I mean, whether he dislikes you or not will not affect the tone or methodology of his discourse. I appreciate that about him.

    Don't get me wrong here. I think there's ample cause for concern that things have taken a turn for the worse in the last few years; arguably there was a breakpoint in 1998 or possibly 2005. But for the reasons you point out and many others, there are many directions one may look where the concerns are not borne out. The numbers and the perceptions may not agree. Are our perceptions (that things are stranger than usual globally) valid? I think so, but it's not reasonable to say that this is proven. People like Pielke and Hoerling take it to the point where it sounds like they are saying it's disproven, but that is far from true as well.

    The trouble is that things may well get strange faster than we can either understand the details or get meaningful statistics on them. We have a very good handle on the holocene near-equilibrium but the anthropocene problem is much harder. We don't really know what's coming. All we know for sure is that we will see things we haven't seen before. For instance, is the cold winter in the eastern US a harbinger of the future or a relic of the past? Anyone who claims to know is blowing smoke.

    How to discuss this publicly is tricky as hell, but to take the "case closed" position that Holdren did opens you to valid criticism.

    Pielke is carving out turf for himself, and by its nature its turf the press loves. That it is misleading is a side effect. He's not doing us any favors, but I don't think he is lying or actively trying to mislead. He really buys into what he is saying and many other intelligent people do too.

    To them we sound unreasonable because The Truth Lies Somewhere Between The Two Extremes is axiomatic for them. That perception that we are unreasonable is a problem and I don't think glossing over it helps. And in general it's really the best starting position to approach any controversy. Openness to the possibility that one side is right and one is wrong opens you to the risk of drastic error. Strategically, hewing to the middle is a safe position for someone who is cozy with the establishment. The trouble arises when one side is drastically wrong.

    It's even worse if they are willfully drastically wrong. If one side is woefully dishonest, they can manipulate the middle.

    As I have often said, the way to convince a compulsively centrist jury that an innocent man is guilty of murder is to accuse him of two murders.

    In a way, Roger may be more victim than perp.

  13. "Maybe this has been done, or maybe it’s still to difficult to actually do for the more extreme – and hence rarer – events."

    I think this is roughly right. The point of entry into the attribution literature is of course AR5.

  14. Forest area is not really a good measure of ecological health. Biodiversity is a better indicator. The vast areas of Ashe juniper in central Texas, known locally as "cedar", count as forest expansion, and from the point of view of the carbon budget, they are. But from the point of view of ecological health they are a disaster. Very few other species can thrive in cedar brush.

  15. Hoerling the new Curry? What is this guy doing all day? Looking for how to prove total incompetence or total corruption? What detail to overlook next?

    What I’m looking for most is any suggestions about straightforward ways to describe the single weather event attribution problem

    Hansen's climate dice (from his 1988 Senate testimony).

    According to the deniers, you can never prove that the dice are loaded. After a few 3-sigma throws of the dice this gets ridiculous, yet the deniers are right within a narrow (and increasingly ridicu-lousy) concept of causation.

    Hansen gives a perfect short presentation in this PBS video: (2012)

    Note his play with the Gaussian bell curve. This is for "advanced" audiences who got the loaded dice thing and want to know more. This is not just technical stuff. Here we see why a small shift of the average can en-tail a huge shift in the probabilities of extreme events. It's in the shifting tail of the bell curve.

  16. This is right, but every time there is a disaster, the people affected want to know "was this global warming?" Talk of dice or of baseball players on steroids doesn't make the press. The question is whether to then take it further, as arguably Holdren did. There are many ways to defend Holdren (see the Tamino piece linked by Susan) but whatever you say about it he pretty much eschewed statistics.

  17. If people/press desperately need simplistic either-or logic, my answer would be this:

    Your latest weather disaster is either caused by extraordinarily bad luck or it is caused by climate change.

    (Hmm, could sound a bit more ridiculous for my taste. Methinks it meanwhile is time for scientists to treat some folks/questions/views with explicit arrogance, ridicule, and contempt.)

  18. I do not think climate change has been the prime mover in forest health as yet.

    Surely by now it has an impact. Civilization responds to extremes but ecologies respond to trends and variances. There's some debate about variance but nobody is arguing about a trend in the means anymore.

    But there are lots of other anthropogenic disruptors of forests. Separating them out will not be easy. (See the infamous "divergence issue" in the tree ring community for a salient reminder.)

    There is no forest that will be able to escape the increasingly rapid shift of climate zones. Climate stress on forests may or may not still be slight but it will eventually dominate.

    My question is not about biomass of forests (which is so far helping us by increasing) but about ecological health. I suspect we must give up the notion of wilderness altogether and create ersatz forests for the foreseeable future. Arguably outside a few very sparsely populated areas we are doing this already.

  19. "I do not think climate change has been the prime mover in forest health as yet."

    Huh? Glad to see others have taken this up. I don't have time for it just now but believe this is just wrong and will look for evidence if I have time in the next few days. Of course, the woods of New Jersey are a rather spectacular mess from the last few years of climate abuse, and there may be other locations where the problem is not so obvious. There are other kinds of forest rape such as the cutting down of the Amazon and Far Eastern rainforest that are criminal in another way, and move to the other side of the chicken-egg equation.

    Martin Gisser, no I don't think Hoerling is in the same league with Curry. I said so in my comment on his article, that there was not much to disagree with there though I took issue with where he went with it. It's the delicate imbalance of opinion and fact that allows distortion. As for reacting, on the whole I think we all need to react more, but I'd agree about tempering that reaction in a way that communicates rather than closing down communication. The vilification of Holdren is imnhso inexcusable.

  20. Which Oregon bark beetle species are you interested in? There are several, e.g., western pine beetle, mountain pine beetle, fir engraver, and Douglas-fir beetle, among others. No generalization can be made about their population status and trends. Much less any general attribution to causes for such changes.

  21. The bark beetle population explosion is mostly an effect of climate change (mild winters kill less, some now reproduce twice per year).

    There is of course also an element of bad forestry practice (monoculture, wrong tree species in wrong place) plus a natural ecologic job of bark beetles. But all in all, climate warming has a huge catastrophic effect on U.S and Canadian forestry. (We also have it here in Bavaria, where foresters accept that the spruce plantations of old have no chance of survival.)

    Ceterum censeo: Make energy and Terra Preta out of the dying forests.

  22. This brings up the vexed problem of an interconnected biota. Bringing up ground level ozone (a genuine issue with recorded increases in asthma as well) as a red herring feels like special pleading to me. Anything that weakens forest stock of course contributes to degradation, but the big operator as far as I've been able to see is a series of floods, droughts, all sorts extreme weather, and some powerful storms (Irene, "Snowtober" (awful name, but it identifies which storm), Sandy, and a cascade of ice storms. Extreme heat, extreme cold, and what is not mentioned enough, the redefinition of what is "normal". If what was once 5 inches of rain becomes more like 7 or 9, that's a systemic increase. In my book, systemic changes are climate, and of course we always need more data. I don't think needing more data is an excuse to ignore the information we have even if it is speculative to notice a trend.

    I know science likes to break things down into manageable chunks, but in a planetary emergency we can't continue to think we can "control" for what might have been.

  23. That's mostly true (the redefinition of baseline climate seems to be something that professionals will take correctly into account, and it has its purposes), and hence my question.

    Precedent to the recent not-as-big-as-feared-but-still-bad ice storm in Georgia, my correspondent there noted that trees in Georgia have been weakened by a series of unfortunate weather events. I know the trees in Texas are weakened because of the 2011 drought/heat etc.

    So the question is how widespread this sort of damage is compared to a Holocene baseline. Because such events have always happened. The trees may be better at this than Roger Pielke Jr., who seems dedicated to building a career on null results. (In fields other than climate, it is too hard to publish null results, while in climate it is too easy. Odd, that.)

    Again, my position is that we don't know, that our perceptions are unreliable, and that the matter might benefit from careful investigation. My intuition is with you, but I know not to trust my intuition. It's not a matter of reductionism; it's a matter of taking Feynman's Principle into account. The easiest person to fool is yourself. True scientific skepticism is self-directed above all.

  24. yes, that certainly counts.

    Still, what I'd like to see is a global survey with an effort at a uniform methodology. Unfortunately I can't fund it.

    Regardless, I await WG II; I hope they do a better job than they did in AR4.

  25. Hello Michael,

    Thank you for your response. You say "....whether he dislikes you or not will not affect the tone or methodology of his discourse." I do agree that Roger is usually polite, but if he doesn't like someone or is presented with inconvenient facts he often becomes vindictive-- again, spend some time reading his blog and his Twitter feed.

    "Are our perceptions (that things are stranger than usual globally) valid? I think so, but it’s not reasonable to say that this is proven."
    Michael, the energy imbalance that results in the observed incidence of high temperature extremes and melting of land ice, for example, is not a perception. The Clausius-Claperyon relation that explains the observed increase in heavy precipitation events is very real and is not a perception. "Perception" comes in when one starts pondering individual events, but one has to remember the anthropogenic contribution is not necessarily binary. The data are increasingly pointing to a picture of a very different climate, now already. Unfortunately one cannot "prove" anything in science, but one can obfuscate, hype uncertainty and misinform. Enter people like Pielke and Curry.

    "People like Pielke and Hoerling take it to the point where it sounds like they are saying it’s disproven, but that is far from true as well.

    "That it is misleading is a side effect. He’s not doing us any favors, but I don’t think he is lying or actively trying to mislead. He really buys into what he is saying and many other intelligent people do too."
    Again, I agree. Look at Lindzen, incredibly smart and intelligent individual, but he is also smart enough to be his own worst enemy when it comes to misleading himself. Maybe Hanlon's razor applies to Pielke.

    "In a way, Roger may be more victim than perp."
    If anything, Roger is a victim of his own gross bias, narcissism, and an inflated sense of self importance. It may play out well for him to play the victim card in the short run, but in the long run it will probably backfire.

    You make some interesting points Michael and they are worth keeping in mind. IMO, when it comes to the physics, there just is no middle ground, only a dark space inhabited by cranks and Dunning-Krugers.

    Perhaps the best strategy when dealing with extremes is something Peter Gleick said recently about the CA drought:
    "But before commenting, let’s make sure we understand what question is actually being asked, what question should be asked, and what question is actually being answered."

    Because of we don't, dismissives like Pielke come bounding along. Also, people should not expect answers about attribution while an event is unfolding of just finished, unraveling the details takes time.

  26. I do wish Feynman was around to put all the people who claim his authority in their place. Not a bad point, but I'm still bothered by your misconstruction of the original materials (Holdren, Sessions, and Pielke) which convey a different impression from yours to most of us. Scientific training should make us wary of what people say about what they said and what it means, particularly with a master of the craft of misrepresentation like the Pielke-Revkin crew and their massive fan base.

  27. no I don’t think Hoerling is in the same league with Curry

    I'm not so sure anymore. I googled a little and now I know why I faintly remembered his name: A name to be forgotten, like Curry's. He is a "global warming effect denier". He hasn't learned anything about drought since his 2012 gaffe:
    Oh yeah, and Frankenstorm Sandy also had no connection to global warming:

    Nothing new under the sun. Trenberth on a Hoerling report 2013 (link above):

    But it is quite incomplete in many respects, and it asks the wrong questions. Then it does not provide very useful answers to the questions that are asked.

  28. I looked at it, and it is important to note that it is not an attribution claim. It simply asserts an extended warm drought like those to be expected in the region in the future.

    As is so often, the needle may be slightly tilted toward an anthropogenic cause, but it still leaves plenty of room for weaseling for those inclined to do so.

    Again, we need to look at larger metastudies to get a solid answer. And again, there are lots of other stressors on the forests.

  29. I looked at it, and it is important to note that it is not an attribution claim. It simply asserts an extended warm drought like those to be expected in the region in the future.

    ???! (So, as global warming type droughts are expected for the future, they can't happen today? And the tree die just because they die?)
    Look at Fig. 1 in Breshears et al.

    Our results are notable in documenting rapid, regional-scale mortality of a dominant tree species in response to subcontinental drought accompanied by anomalously high temperatures.
    Most of the patchy mortality in the 1950s was associated with trees >100 years old, whereas nearly complete tree mortality across many size and age classes was observed in response to the recent drought
    The cessation of drought conditions may be insufficient for reestablishment of P. edulis and associated plant species, as documented for landscape response of Pinus ponderosa after the 1950s drought (5). Such rapid shifts in vegetation may represent abrupt, rapid, and persistent shifts in not only ecotones, but also in dominant vegetation cover and associated ecosystem process

    Note the article is from 2005. A revisit would be very worthwhile. Joe Romm writes in 2009:

    But before you get the permanent desertification, you get warm-weather droughts, the “global-change-type drought,” and that is the future of extreme weather this century.

  30. MG, yes. He also disputed causation in the Russian heat wave. We were talking about the way Hoerling sounds so plausible but politicizes his views and these illustrate the problem:

    Hoerling on the Moscow heat wave of 2010:
    "NOAA scientist: natural phenomenon principal cause; no link found to global warming"

    Revkin praising his analysis:

  31. Susan, thanks for the links(hmm, no thanks 🙂 for distracting me from important work )

    A pattern emerges: Selective vision, subtly distorted logic, jumping at non-conclusions (I leave it for a less impatient/overworked psycho-logics-analyst to flesh out the details more precisely). We can throw Hoerling in the same bin as Curry. A candidate for the Golden Horseshoe (or better: the Golden Horse Blinders).

    It goes like this: The Russian heat wave 2010 was caused by a blocking pattern (albeit an extraordinary black swan type one (but we don't care, as these are future climate model predictions (and now is today, not tomorrow))). Blocking patterns are natural. Therefore, no connection to global warming. We actively overlook the Pakistan catastrophe 2010 etc., Arctic sea ice loss, etc. (Just as we might actively look at global averages to not look at details).

    (Perhaps this is easier to ridicule today, 2014, after quite a row of jet stream anomalies, and with Jennifer Francis' work, and the Sewall-Sloan prediction.)

  32. "I don’t have time for it just now but believe this is just wrong and will look for evidence."

    How about, "I'm not familiar with the evidence just yet, but I will explore it and see where it leads me."

    Block that intuition!

  33. It is possible that one has seen evidence that one cannot easily cite. I have been in that position many times.

    The most awkward one was my claim that "you can't explain paleoclimate without reference to CO2-driven changes in the greenhouse effect". This is so fundamental in the paleoclimate community that there is no publication that makes the assertion, and I got into trouble on it during one of my last flirtations with usenet if I recall correctly.

    A few years later, fortunately, there was Richard Alley's wonderful AGU presentation on the "biggest control knob" which is compelling. But still, nothing I know of that you could cite as a formal claim to that effect in a peer reviewed publication.

    That said, in general I agree that mistrusting intuition is something we have to practice if we ask the "climate skeptics" to practice it too.

  34. Plus which there is nothing duller than a person who knows he is right. I think you're correct that the writer meant to explore the evidence supporting a previously earned opinion -- she can say -- but it was an unintentional example, perhaps, of the Sentence First -- Verdict After sort of thinking that pervades so much of the discourse on this complex issue. E.g., There's obviously no evidence that we're causing any warming -- now let me go find some supporting evidence for that lack of evidence. Or, We are obviously responsible for all these unprecedented droughts and storms -- I'll get back to you on just why that is. Intuition can find you looking around at the huge, chaotic system and concluding: CO2? Meh. And it can lead you, sweltering in some city, to think: Good God, what are we doing to ourselves? Intuition is valuable, yes, but hardly trustworthy.

    As to placing quotation marks around the term: climate skeptics, I get it that you are being euphemistic, but I'm certainly a climate skeptic, as I hope all worthwhile climate scientists are, too.

  35. I don't like the D-word even a little bit. Kind of like The Redskins: why use any term that's guaranteed to offend especially when there are alternatives? Even a whiff of a reference to the Holocaust, intended or otherwise, is enough to render it inoperable to me, but I recognize it's a minority opinion and that that the ship has sailed anyway.

  36. Well, I have never believed the climate (or biology) use of "denialism" was intended as a Godwin violation. It's simply that they are both instances of the same thing, i.e., policy-driven evidence-making, as Holocaust denial.

    The explicit association and umbrage-taking is, in fact, a denier trick. But it worked, and now irritates many people to whom it was never intended to refer, so I try to avoid it, except in cases like this one, where I am referring to the small group of dedicated agents provocateurs rather than to their legions of victims.

    Scare quotes around "skeptic" seems good enough for short writing in comment sections and the like.

  37. Actually, it was Pulitzer-winner Ellen Goodman who famously wrote in 2007: "I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global-warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future." I have no idea if she eventually came to regret the hyperbole, but it's what caught my eye at the time, and I hardly needed anyone to trick me into noticing it. I can no longer recall who took her to task for it, but it gave aid and comfort to her enemies, I thought at the time and still do.

  38. That's a clear Godwin violation, no doubt, and therefore a mistake. But the word "denialist" was first cast about on the usenet group sci.environment in the 90s in the climate context. (The first reference I can find is admittedly from a rather unpleasant strident leftist who styled himself "Vendicar Dicarian" at the time, if I've spelled it correctly. I've spotted his inimitable style associated with other noms de plume since.)

    I don't know if "Dicarian" coined it. I am pretty sure there was no perception of a connection to Nazism at the time. One spoke of "Holocaust denial" but not of "Holocaust denialism". As a direct descendant of a Nazi Holocaust victim myself, I don't take Nazi references lightly, though I admit to laughing very hard at the Monty Python "Hilter" sketch. Anyway, I was using the word for a decade or so before I saw anyone pointing out the semantic resonance.

  39. Never knew any of that history, and thanks. I had thought "denialist" was an adjustment to "denier". I did know, however, about Mr. Hilter -- no denying or denialing how funny that was.

  40. Walter Manny, you're quite right, that was irritating and somewhat wrong of me:

    "I don’t have time for it just now but believe this is just wrong and will look for evidence."

    Particularly since the "time for it" part disappeared and the evidence was not forthcoming. I have been collected my kind of evidence (global weather news) for a few decades, particularly since about 2004, and was irritated at the assertion that forest health has not been affected by heat-trapping greenhouse gas accumulation and it's manifold consequences. I was also irked at being lumped in with Gail whose observations on the way ground-level ozone affects our biota is interesting but only one part of the interlocking exploitation and abuse and unwillingness to act in concert that is driving us ever closer to clarity about this mess.

    My status at P3 is not quite just a commenter, but as a commenter I sometimes find that other people will step in with the evidence. In this case, mt's nuanced presentation looks to me like he requires science and evidence to be reality based but he shares a variety of observations that we all make that are not necessarily arguable.

  41. On another topic, a reference to agnotology stolen from a RealClimate comment:

    Cultural production of ignorance provides rich field for study
    By Michael Hiltzik, LA Times, March 9 2014

    [blockquote}Robert Proctor doesn’t think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don’t know can hurt you. And that there’s more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense.

    Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world’s leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It’s a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities.

    The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson’s files, “Doubt is our product.” Big Tobacco’s method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo’s author wrote, but to establish a “controversy.”
    It’s also echoed by vaccination opponents, who continue to use a single dishonest and thoroughly discredited British paper to sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations, and by climate change deniers.

  42. Proctor edited Oreskes and Conway's chapter in his agnotology book: An interesting take from science historians, to be sure, though I didn't think they made a particularly compelling case that climate change is the victim of the cold war -- a bit of a stretch, long on conspiracy theory. My non-expert read of the history of science is that the debate is evidently not over -- else why would we be debating, year after year -- and that the truth lies neither with the so-called warmists and deniers, nor in the middle some place, but in future discoveries by scientists not wedded to either "side". There are simply way too many unanswered questions, much though our egos would like them to be answered with certainty while we're still alive. In the meantime, applying the precautionary principle through alternative and/or nuclear energy seems like a reasonable way to go, the safe bet, provided it allows those who truly need traditional power plant energy to use it. That and preparing any geo-engineering that may become necessary for adaptation.

  43. Walter:

    My non-expert read of the history of science is that the debate is evidently not over — else why would we be debating, year after year — and that the truth lies neither with the so-called warmists and deniers, nor in the middle some place, but in future discoveries by scientists not wedded to either “side”. There are simply way too many unanswered questions, much though our egos would like them to be answered with certainty while we’re still alive.

    I'm curious as to what questions you regard as unanswered. Conveniently for this discussion, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the U.K. Royal Society have just jointly published a booklet titled Climate Change: Evidence and Consequences. I hope our host won't object to my quoting the "Summary" page of the booklet in its entirety, as it comprises nine factual statements I'd like your reaction to:

    GREENHOUSE GASES such as carbon dioxide (CO2) absorb heat (infrared radiation) emitted from Earth’s surface. Increases in the atmospheric concentrations of these gases cause Earth to warm by trapping more of this heat. Human activities—especially the burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution—have increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations by about 40%, with more than half the increase occurring since 1970. Since 1900, the global average surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F). This has been accompanied by warming of the ocean, a rise in sea level, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and many other associated climate effects. Much of this warming has occurred in the last four decades. Detailed analyses have shown that the warming during this period is mainly a result of the increased concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Continued emissions of these gases will cause further climate change, including substantial increases in global average surface temperature and important changes in regional climate. The magnitude and timing of these changes will depend on many factors, and slowdowns and accelerations in warming lasting a decade or more will continue to occur. However, long-term climate change over many decades will depend mainly on the total amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human activities.

    Do you regard any of those statements as unwarranted? I gather you've been, and perhaps still are, a high-school Mathematics teacher. How would you discuss the booklet with your students?

  44. I've used the same online identity for six years, and have had enough hate directed at me that I'd be a fool to reveal my legal name. While "Mal Adapted" is in some ways more appropriate to who I am than the name I was born with, I no more own it than you do "Walter Manny". Regardless, you can be sure that as Mal Adapted, I accept all responsibility for Mal's comments here. We can positively identify each other in this forum by our respective names, and I see no reason not to engage under them.

    I didn't ask for your reaction to the joint NAS/RS booklet just for my benefit, because I presume the others here are curious about your position as well. You are known as a climate contrarian, but I've not seen a developed argument from you. I'm sure you're capable of it, and I know you don't want to be unfairly labeled. You referred to "unanswered questions", and as it happens the body of the booklet is in the form of 20 questions, with answers that represent the distilled expertise of two of the world's most respected scientific bodies. I thought you should have a chance to tell us if those are questions you still think are unanswered.

    However, if no-one else indicates any interest, I'm quite willing to drop it.

  45. Walter Manny, ah, now I see. It doesn't matter than there is scads of evidence. Your game is to distract distract distract. Any small quibble will do to discredit vast crores of information. Wasting people's time may feel like a game to you, but our climate is not a game.

    Come back in 15 years, and tell me you still believe what you're selling then. Meanwhile, get some curiosity and try to figure out what over 97% of scientists in relevant disciplines are talking about. Otherwise, your claim to skepticism is seriously tarnished. Sounds more like denial (dictionary definition) to me. Of course, if another word was used, there would be another quotable quibble that made it impossible to use perfectly understandable words to describe a perfectly obvious condition - a lack of interest in anything that fails to fit a world view.

  46. Walter this is naive. An obvious nom de plume is every bit as reliable as a plausible-sounding name on the internet. How do we know that you are really somebody called Walter Manny, and why should we care? Anyway, that's not a concern we have here - we avoid argument ad hominem anyway. Please take this concern elsewhere.

  47. I'm with Mal-Adapted, and would be interested in hearing Walt's response to the questions..After the stealthy and insidious series of comments leading up to the final admission of 'scepticism'...

  48. Michael, this is extraordinary. Mal Adapted clearly cared about who I was, and went so far as to inquire about how I teach. When I have been naive is when I have risen to this sort of bait, so I don't do it any more. If that's grounds for dismissal, so be it.

    And, Susan, please, calm down. I don't even know what you're responding to in what I have written, and it's just us three or four chickens here, anyway. I have been interested in this stuff for well over a decade, and my reading takes me to where it takes me, and my take is continually changing. I am not a scientist, and I am in no way an expert -- I'm a mere EE teaching calculus, and so a dilettante as you are. Where that leaves me is with the science such as I am able to understand it. The history of science, scientific consensus in particular, tells me to avoid replacing that science with appeals to 97%, etc. Remember the "aether"? So I come to a site that appears, blessedly, to be other than the usual echo chamber, a site whose moderator is willing to raise a distasteful question such as, "Hmm, does Pielke, Jr. actually have a point?"

    I am still hopeful that I'm right about this site, that it's different, and I'll stay tuned for at least a little while longer. But I do not want to upset anyone, I admire your zeal in advocacy, Susan, even if I'm unable to share it, and I'll scurry along if that's what Michael and you wish.

  49. Steve, I'm reluctant to respond to you given that your back appears to be up. There was nothing stealthy or insidious in anything that I wrote here, and I'm not "admitting" to anything any more than you might admit to what you believe is true. That it appears we disagree is fine with me, but is it all right with you? In any event, I'm waiting to see if a comment I put in this morning passes muster. If I'm allowed to continue, I'd be happy to discuss the joint statement from the academies. Mostly about the 10th question, as you might imagine.

  50. Once again, Walter declines to explain just what he's skeptical of, and why. Left to draw my own conclusions, I'll go ahead and label him a denier. Reviewing his history in the blogosphere, he seems to fit the PSY4 category in John Mashey's taxonomy most closely: "Ego/pride: in skepticism in general and of scientists in particular", although it's doubtless more complicated than that. He's demonstrated the Dunning-Kruger effect previously, but there are recent indications he's trying to overcome that. He's disdainful of what he calls "orthodoxy," not understanding that scientific consensus usually emerges when the evidence supporting the consensus view is persuasive. His training in Mathematics may give him unrealistic expectations for scientific proof. He appears to be sensitive about his credentials, and can be pugnacious when he feels he's been dissed; likely he's not been subjected to scientific peer-review, and doesn't realize that unsparing criticism is part of the scientific process.

    Of course I could be totally off-base about all of that. I guess we'll never know, since he's unwilling to explain himself.

  51. Quite right, Walter, caught again. mt counsels against ad hominem. However, your remarks are all too predictably off center from the main conclusions of proper climate science. I posted this elsewhere, but if you will pay attention and not respond to this with dismissal, I'll have a bit more respect.

    (Sadly, there is one (only one) obvious error: Monckton is a Lord, even if he's not in the House of Lords, as he claims, and the rest of it depends on the higher estimates of climate forcings, but as the world turns, I've seen no evidence things are going the other way.)

  52. Unless I missed something, Mal only asked you, politely, to be specific about a teaching position that you yourself mentioned.

    Now at this point I think Mal is close to over the top and if am close to chopping anything in this discussion it is his/her last.

    Some people cannot understand that there is still room for honest skepticism.

    I welcome engagement from honest and competent skeptics because I believe the evidence can win them over. There is nobody as useful in this discussion as a convert.

    I think it is true that the scientific case is no longer open, but that doesn't mean anyone unconvinced of that is being dishonest or malign. To treat the matter in that way makes enemies out of people who ought to be allies.

    That is not to say there are no malign forces in the climate debate, using science as a lawyer would, as a proxy for politics. Some of these malign characters do pretend to be honest and competent skeptics. This friction in the discourse is deliberate, and honest skeptics need to understand that.

    But those of us defending the consensus needn't fall in the trap if we tread carefully.

    I am open to the prospect that Walter really is trying to engage and open to being flexible on which points he addresses in what order. That may change if Walter really emerges as a troll, under the "constructive engagement" clause. So far I just see the tiresome resentments that political actors have stirred up getting in the way of a useful conversation.

    Constructive engagement doesn't mean agreement. It means mutual respect.

    That all said, "Mal" is welcome to use whatever name he/she likes here, and if "Walter" doesn't like that, too bad.

    Meanwhile, both are welcome to their respective opinions, and are requested to treat each other as cousins having a polite argument at Grandma's Thanksgiving dinner; seethe inside all you want, but pretend to like each other anyway. That's all I ask.

  53. Michael, to clarify, I did not bring up the subject of my teaching.

    Susan, I'm afraid do not find the video compelling, though I suppose I would enjoy it more if I shared your strong convictions. Moncton, to me, is an idiotic straw horse, and the starring climate scientist I believe overstates his case. And the idea that if you're not focused on climate you're goofing around, is a bit silly. There are some serious people in the world focused on what they believe to be more pressing problems.

    To Steve's followup and Michael's request for clarification, I refer to the 10th question in The United States National Academies of Science and the United Kingdom Royal Society joint report: "Climate Change Evidence and Causes". I'll try to do more justice to this tomorrow, but I'm short on time. Suffice to say that I found it surprising that the joint report was more definitive (in my view) than the latest report from the IPCC itself. And I thought the 10th question-and-answer write-up came up short, that it's a a more serious concern than the report implies that the models and temperature record appear to have diverged of late during the so-called hiatus. Feel free to get ahead of me on this. Gotta run.

  54. MT:

    Now at this point I think Mal is close to over the top and if am close to chopping anything in this discussion it is his/her last.

    Michael, your blog, your rules, but would you mind explaining how I was "close to over the top"? Was it my use of "denier"? Was it my use of John Mashey's classification of reasons for anti-science? Was it my reference to Walter's blogosphere history?

    Some people cannot understand that there is still room for honest skepticism.

    I accept responsibility for Mal Adapted's online behavior since 2008; I feel Walter Manny can be held responsible for his. His comments here and elsewhere over time make clear that his skepticism is informed not by his command of the evidence and of the scientific method as it is practiced by actual scientists, but by his disdain for "orthodoxy" and his resentment at being told he doesn't know what he's talking about. I don't believe it's malign, but I do say it's not honest.

    BTW, I won't give my real name, but I will acknowledge being male.

  55. Actually, WordPress looks to be sending me an email address which appears to contain a real name. But your secret is safe with me.

    I am unfamiliar with Walter Manny. If he starts going round in circles he will be boreholed. If he's been talking like this for years the prognosis is not good. But I won't take your word for it.

    The Grandma's table rule nevertheless applies. Whether my sympathies are with you or not, what we want here is to create a space where intelligent conversation emerges. One way to do this is to judge each individual contribution on its own merits. But another factor is whether the contribution advances the possibility of learning on the part of all participants, active or passive. Bearing grudges, however justified, from other venues violates the "pretend to like the other guy for the sake of argument" rule.

    If Walter is as incorrigible as you suggest I figure he'll be boreholed soon enough. No need to go there yourself, I reckon.

  56. An EE teaching calculus can certainly profit by studying Ray Pierrehumbert's "Principles of Planetary Climate". My degrees are in Engg., EE and Engg. Sci. & Maths. Even so I had to study through Chapter 6 twice and then Chapters 1 & 6 a third time. It ain't easy but well worth the enjoyable effort.

  57. The video does actually represent a point of view common among young climate scientists, and every assertion he made was defensible. I think it is likely that the interviewer picked some of the more alarming bits, but that is actually legitimate given the purposes of the video.

    I agree with her conclusion that the world would be a better place if every capable person took a little more time to look into this matter. Indeed, it's precisely that observation that motivates my efforts online.

    I agree with her subject that extremely serious consequences can't be excluded. I think he may have the opinion that Kevin Anderson (the British one, not the river guy in Austin) is a bit over the top - I share that belief. But on how bad it could get by when, very very bad before very long seems fair.

    I can defend the 10th point of “Climate Change Evidence and Causes”; we have already addressed the topic here in brief. The problem now is hardly a lack of explanation. Indeed we have too many explanations. If they are all true we are in for a very wild ride.

    Quoting the last: " the “slowdown” or “hiatus” has also had a number of alternative explanations. Decreased solar activity. Increased volcanic activity. A prevalence of cool-phase El Nino oscillations. Increase in aerosol loading from rapid and dirty Chinese industrial expansion. Heat export to deeper ocean layers.

    To be sure, we are somewhat at risk of post hoc reasoning here. If there had been no sign of a “hiatus”, it is likely that less effort would have gone into explaining it! But all of these explanations appear individually to be sound, and with the possible exception of the last, likely to be reversed at any time. What that would mean is that in reality the underlying rate of warming is still accelerating. Ouch."

    Finally, we have not yet taken note here of Shindell '14 "Inhomogeneous forcing and transient climate sensitivity" which makes a very strong case not only for the unexpected aerosol loading from China being the culprit for the divergence, but also, unfortunately, for the case that a rather high sensitivity is a logical consequence of that explanation.

  58. I know my pseudonymity is safe with you, Michael, but I have no such assurances with Walter

    But another factor is whether the contribution advances the possibility of learning on the part of all participants, active or passive.

    The NAS/RS booklet has the important questions about AGW covered, and I hoped Walter could explain just what questions he thinks are still unanswered to his satisfaction. Perhaps he's discovered a truly marvellous proof that contradicts the consensus on one or more of those questions. If so, we should all know about it. If only he'd tell us!

  59. However, actually the 4C by mid-century the young scientist mentions is too high.

    It's defensible as a commitment rather than a realized amount. We will probably not get to 2 C by mid-century, but we already have committed to 2 C just about now. Similarly we could be committed to 4C (absent geo-engineering or a major flaw in the science) by mid-century but will not see it for a while after that.

  60. Agree 4 C mid century too high, and Kevin Anderson perhaps a mite extreme as well. Glad you liked the charming and direct presentation, even the almost posh voice was pleasant rather than offputting to me. OTOH, in Australia it must feel like the sky is falling, it's been so gol-darned hot, not to mention the fires and all.

    I'm surprised you don't believe the deeper ocean is storing heat; can you recommend a resource at my not-quite "idiot" level for that?

  61. Finally getting a round tuit. First of all, it bears repeating, as if it’s not already obvious, that I am no expert, and I realize the odds favor my being mistaken in my thinking. I’m also in favor of non-petro. energy regardless, for precautionary as well as geopolitical reasons, and I occupy a tiny personal carbon footprint. If I used to worry about backlash, that what I perceived to be the overselling of CAGW could have some bad consequences, I don’t any more. Nevertheless, it’s what I think based on the conflict of ideas surrounding this complex issue. I accept that the CO2 molecules in the atmosphere have a warming effect – I don’t know who doesn’t – and it’s evident that human beings have had an impact on the climate. The recent hiatus, though, has raised obvious questions about anthro. forcings vs. natural variability. I was beaten figuratively about my amateur head and shoulders a while back when I asked about a ten-year pause, told alternately that there wasn’t one and that even if there was, it was too short to be significant. The talk then was about warming returning with a vengeance, and soon. Fair enough. Now the talk is about where the heat is hiding, so to speak, and there are many theories, one or more of which may prove to be true, and we’re still not at a 20-year pause (that I believe the majority of models predict would be quire unlikely). But Question 10 in the joint report refers to a short-term slowdown that does not invalidate our understanding, and small cooling influences that are thought likely to be responsible. Mealy-mouthed relative to such high confidence levels overall? I think it is. It’s timely, then, that the APS is reconsidering its own statement on climate, and I’m currently slogging through the transcript of its recent workshop to that end:

    Will be interesting to see how that turns out.

  62. I think you misunderstood me. I am saying it is very likely that all the other effects, to the extent they are real, will reverse, causing a short term bounceback, while the deep ocean will continue to store heat, contributing to slowing the whole business down (without lowering the equilibrium sensitivity).

  63. No doubt that some enthusiasts were too glib about this, agreed.

    I still am inclined to think that Q10 in the report you cited is defensible as written. And as for what the hiatus means for the long term trajectory, a "return with a vengeance" still looks likely enough, and may come all too soon if the increasingly likely large El Nino event for late this year pans out.

    "Mealy-mouthed relative to such high confidence levels overall? I think it is." Well, "does not invalidate our understanding" certainly is true. What would you have them say?

    As for APS, there is some worry that the committee is driven to some extent by people whose interests are other than physics. I'm hopeful that Rosner at least can keep it on track - I've met him and he is a decent fellow who has a good enough grasp on climate physics.

  64. What's your take on the chair, Koonin, who was probing away up until lunch (as far as I've gotten). Former undersecretary for Obama, CalTech/MIT guy is all I've read outside the transcript.

  65. Sorry, passed over your first question -- my expectation given the confidence level overall was that I'd read, "bolsters our understanding," or something to that effect. Santer, for one, seems to be quite confident about the small-knives aerosols.

  66. Pingback: Experts, “plebs” and hope. – A Few Things Ill Considered

  67. To be sure, we are somewhat at risk of post hoc reasoning here. If there had been no sign of a “hiatus”, it is likely that less effort would have gone into explaining it! But all of these explanations appear individually to be sound

    Hmm, "post-hoc reasoning" is part of the process of understanding the system, I think. The models have always represented current understanding, and are expected to incorporate new findings as they develop. The sheaf of explanations for the apparent slight slowdown of surface warming since 1998, relative to the previous two decades, all help to reduce "noise" by assigning explicit mechanisms to previously-unexplained variation. It is climate science becoming more robust.

  68. Now that's an interesting question. How long can the deep (or deeper) ocean continue to store heat and slow things down? At what point does it become a problem rather than an asset?

    Changing the subject slightly, there's this:

    "We are close to eating bait fish and jelly fish as big fish numbers plummet"

    Overfishing Facts

    Since 1950, one in four of the world’s fisheries has collapsed due to overfishing.

    77 percent of the world's marine fish stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited, depleted or slowly recovering.

    The cod fishery off Newfoundland, Canada collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. Twenty years later, the fishery has yet to recover.

    Scientists estimate that 90% of the world’s large fish have been removed from our oceans, including many tuna, sharks, halibut, grouper, and other top level predators which help maintain an ecological balance.

    Of the 3.5 million fishing vessels worldwide, only 1.7 percent are classified as large-scale, industrial vessels, yet these vessels take almost 60 percent of the global fish catch.

    Tuna purse seine vessels using Fish Aggregating Devices entangle and kill a million sharks a year in the Indian Ocean alone.

    Every year, the world's fishing fleet receives roughly $30 billion in government subsidies. Most of the subsidies are given to the large-scale, industrial sector of the fishing industry.

    Industrial fishing fleets kill and discard about 27 million tons of fish on average each year. That means that one-quarter of the annual marine fish catch is thrown overboard dead. For every kilo of shrimp landed, over 10 kilos of tropical marine life is caught and dies.

    Bottom trawling, a fishing method which involves dragging giant nets and chains across the seafloor, damages fragile corals and sponges which provide habitat for fish and creates scars on the ocean bottom which can even be visible from space.

    Globally more than US$20 billion is lost to pirate fishing each year, much of which involves European or Asian vessels. The United Nations estimates that Somalia loses US $300 million a year to the pirates; Guinea loses US $100 million.

    The Patagonian toothfish (often sold as Chilean sea bass) fisheries around Crozet, Prince Edward and Marion Islands were fished to commercial extinction in just two years.

    Commercial fishing boats also kill tens of thousands of albatrosses and hundreds of thousands of other seabirds, mostly by longline fishing. Considering that albatrosses can live 50+ years, and take over 5 years to reach breeding age, this is an unsustainable loss of a truly impressive species.

  69. As for APS, there is some worry that the committee is driven to some extent by people whose interests are other than physics.

    The worry may be on account of what happened the last time the APS formed a committee for that purpose. The brouhaha that ensued culminated with the high-profile resignation of Hal Lewis from the APS. Arthur Smith's summary of the Lewis affair is illuminating. So is John Mashey's analysis of the attempts by a tiny minority of APS members to persuade the society to reverse its 2007 statement supporting the scientific consensus on AGW.

    As it happened, the committee formed to review the petition performed admirably, and on its recommendation the APS Council overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. One trusts that scientific integrity will prevail this time around, too.

  70. With the edit, it's hard to know where the 4C comes from, but Anderson quotes the IEA for it (I vaguely recall this being reported, but don't know what it's based on):

  71. Yeah, I saw that and had forgotten it. I don't think it's reassuring that Anderson starts his lecture by quoting an economist on a matter of climate physics.

    I believe a 4 C commitment by mid-century is plausible, but a realized 4 C is somewhere between quite unlikely and implausible, and it appears that this distinction got scrambled along the way from IPCC to Birol to Anderson.

    It's exactly this confusion that got me inclined to somewhat discount Anderson.

  72. I was going to write about the possibility of Birol quote mainly being used for effect than being the foundation of his whole argument, when it reminded me that I'd seen that film before and the paper it's based on. A quick search and I found this:

    Which has this:

    Note, the edition and papers are from 2010 and his talk is from 2012. It is mainly based on his paper in this edition, but he is probably using Betts et al as his basis for 4C (using A1F1 which he mentions in his talk). I remember the Betts et al paper being discussed, but it's four years ago now, so can't recall if it's still considered a valid result.

    I'll have to dig out AR5 and have a look.

  73. As I say, I don't know what the validity of this paper is, but it offers a possibility of a 4C world by 2060-70. I guess that just about clips mid-century.

    From the Betts et al paper:

    "This paper presents simulations of climate change with an ensemble of GCMs driven by the A1FI scenario, and also assesses the implications of carbon-cycle feedbacks for the climate-change projections. Using these GCM projections along with simple climate-model projections, including uncertainties in carbon-cycle feedbacks, and also comparing against other model projections from the IPCC, our best estimate is that the A1FI emissions scenario would lead to a warming of 4°C relative to pre-industrial during the 2070s. If carbon-cycle feedbacks are stronger, which appears less likely but still credible, then 4°C warming could be reached by the early 2060s in projections that are consistent with the IPCC’s ‘likely range’."

    See also figures 7 & 8. I'd have to watch the video again, but Anderson was talking about probabilities of hitting various temperatures, IIRC. In his paper which just, I think, discusses 2C, that is the case.

    Anderson knows many of the people from the Hadley Centre and others, so I expect he would have discussed this paper (and more) with them. They may not agree with him on the likelihoods of some pathways, though.

  74. Sorry, nabbing something from a different thread. MT: "It happens that I am pro-CCS". Oh OK. You may have noticed I rambled massively about my CCS/EOR worries recently - would be interested in your thoughts / whether you think I'm just plain wrong / in what way. I'm hoping I am but I'm also very suspicious, cf. (apols to own blog link) recent IEA work on EOR's role in increasing proven oil reserves (potential to double them) and CO2's role in EOR (thus I think you have to consider to what extent CCS minus EOR is going to viable / whether actually it's a just a bit too bloody convenient for existing oil interests).

    I suppose the meta-argument here (cf. Lou Grinzo asking the same question about fusion): how do we judge investment risk in particular technologies given the current stakes? What are the factors? Lock-in / existing interests / potential payoff / whether it's possible to assess whether 3rd gen tech is going to be actually viable etc.

    The other question I think is important that a lot of current tech questions avoid: if none of them can do what needs doing, are we prepared to consider hammering spigots into carbon sources? The implicit working assumption is "we ARE going to burn this. How can we burn it safely?" But what if it can't be burned safely? That question needs an answer.

  75. Lou Grinzo cites New Yorker article, perhaps after I pulled out bits for Tamino, which is a very interesting read. I got in a mess at Tamino's, with my sloppiness, as people seemed to think I was advocating for it and against something, whereas my real interest was in the complexity and mess involved, and the all-too-human tendency to cover up problems that should not be covered up (witness: O rings, Challenger disaster). However, it contains this passage, and I join my query to mt with Dan's about this. I know those of us without direct expertise (small or large) have to rely on others' work, but I've never seen any evidence that CCS is a workable solution on the scale that is necessary.

    Now scale, that's an interesting subject ...

    "Some people propose sequestering the CO2 from coal deep into the earth, but, I mean, do you want to live over land with high-pressure CO2 underneath it? And the energy and expense to capture and transport that CO2 to a suitable site, and then to press it down—my God, you would have pipelines across the country. And, in two or three centuries, you wouldn’t have enough sites to do it. It is like renewables: the problem is scale."

  76. This is a very difficult and essential topic: there's simply no way to pre-empt technological progress, but it's obviously where the solutions need to come from. I say that without meaning to imply "technology will save us" - hence arguing we still need options that involve simple wind-down/shut-down of carbon output, if it comes to that. But we *need* to transition to a net-zero carbon economy in the not-too-distant future.

    The most important lesson I took from Jane Jacobs' work (esp. the economy of cities): all development is accident fed by intention. Pretty much nothing comes out as planned, but the process produces things - particularly, unexpected combinations of things with completely unforeseen uses - we'd never have thought of (and, Jacobs persuasively shows, it's the engine of cities and its bringing together of dense production networks that's most essential to that).

    So that chastens me as regards CCS: we can't predict with certainty that an economically viable way of burying the stuff won't emerge. But I'm looking at all the government/IEA statements saying "CCS is essential if we are to meet the challenge of climate change whilst maintaining security of energy supplies"... and then at figures for CO2 EOR. And then thinking well, that changes the co2 output of transport not one iota.

    I can't see how anyone can be stating that "CCS is essential" to our decarbonising plans, any more than it can be said about fusion. That's just waaay too narrow a risk portfolio given the stakes. And the people pushing most strongly for it, let's not forget, are many of the same responsible for the worst kinds of climate denial and FUD.

  77. technological progress, but it's obviously where the solutions need to come from.

    Why? "Obviously" any technological progress in history (e.g. agriculture) was just another turning of the vicious cycle: Saving the stupid from collapse so they could continue multiply more mess, until right before hitting the wall something new got invented.

    Now things are a bit different: The wall we face is the entire planet. Not just a devastated local ecosystem that could be escaped (to the West), slaughtering the neighboring tribes, grabbing their resources to feed into new technology. No new coal. No new steam engine. No new land. Genocide and resource grabbing is no longer an option.

    For a change, it seems we should try some new (or remember some old) mental technology. (That's actually the classic excuse of market cornucopians.) And on this way perhaps find some old ways of simpler living. Why not fix the carbon cycle by trying some good old stone age tech based on photosynthesis? CCS has been implemented very successfully in the Amazon, feeding many millions sustainably before they died of Spanish flu ca. 1492. You can still find their gardens. But to see them you need to forget about what your stupid garden looks like.

  78. Our problems are problems of success. As individuals, we like to live a long time and have descendants. This success has led to our problem; we have trapped ourselves.

    A plan which does not feed ten billion is not a plan. A plan which does not lift four billion out of poverty is not a plan. A plan that is based on retreat from technology is not going to cope with the success of the past which allowed us to overpopulate.

    For the most part, we will not forget how to do things anyway (unless there is a bad crash). If we have forgotten how to sequester carbon agriculturally that is an important counterexample. Lost technology is not non-technology, though. Also the rediscovery of that technique is a result of increased technical skills.

    19th century romanticism is culturally interesting but not helpful.

  79. My "plan" is indeed to put some billions into "poverty". Carbon negative poverty, that is, plus some luxury from civilization like contraceptives (or surgical sterilization), occasional internet access or medicinal help from the poor rich folk who have to stay put in the city. Poverty when perceived right isn't that bad. It can be quite liberating, for you got less material stuff to worry about. Forget the economy, just plant potatoes and trees and feed your horse. It can be fun, and part of "my" "plan" (which is ridiculously self-evident) is that it should be fun. Of course it's not easy. It needs talent and determination. It will turn out to be a quite sophisticated art that needs rediscovery of some old technology and the unlearning of some other.

    This is the only conceiveable carbon sequestration machine.

    It is not an either/or plan. Most billions need to stay stuck in metropolis, e.g. those who don't have the talent and determination. (They may have fun there, too, and visit the poor for recreation or inspiration or fresh food.) So there need to be two sides in symbiosis with mutual exchange and division of labor, progressing into the future like an electromagnetic wave, or like the left plus right hemispheres of the brain. First task is to forget the either/or of either poverty or development.

    The only difference to previous pre-collapse civilizations is that we have contraceptives and the internet.

  80. CO2 should be pretty secure; the potential reservoirs are usually pretty deep. I wouldn't worry about living above them. As for pipelines, the world is already saturated with the things, so I don't really see how that's anything other than an economics problem. CO2 pipelines would be easier to route than electricity transmission lines.

    Scale: rough estimate of US reservoir capacity is around 500 years at current rates. I think that estimate is generous. Majority of that capacity is along the Gulf Coast.

    I support ITER as an interesting (and probably worthy) science project, but even if it works it's still nowhere near useful for energy generation. I doubt there will be a commercial fusion reactor in the next 50 years. As a general principle, I believe our energy R&D should be many times what it is now. For example, I really wish we were also throwing money at new fission technologies. There's a whole spectrum of good ideas out there ranging from better uranium burners to more speculative thorium and fast reactor technologies.

  81. admin:

    Our problems are problems of success. As individuals, we like to live a long time and have descendants. This success has led to our problem; we have trapped ourselves.

    As individuals and as a species, we are the products of adaptation by natural selection. That is a game in which the only reward for winning is to stay in the game. I'd like to live a long time, simply out of curiosity. I will escape the trap set by evolution, though, because I've chosen not to have descendants. The buck stops here.

  82. Thanks, Dan, for this:

    "all development is accident fed by intention. Pretty much nothing comes out as planned, but the process produces things - particularly, unexpected combinations of things with completely unforeseen uses"

    Words to live/gnaw on ...

    And thanks to AA for the responses as well.

  83. This is a side question. I am experiencing an eerie silence of the birds at my parents' former house in New Jersey (caregiving/caretaking responsibilities along with home in Boston, if you wanted to know - you didn't? fine ...). This is a place that has always been kept beautifully natural, with edges of fields all over the place, a bit of a natural paradise, inasmuch as such is possible.

    Is anyone else noticing either a shortage or a severe shortage of bird life? If anything symbolizes hard times a-coming, this does, to me. But I realize it may be a toxic local anomaly of some kind - weather here tends a bit cold and stark for the area, being on a ridge top.

  84. I think it is unquestionably true that any Rip Van Winkle who had been asleep for a century would be astonished and horrified by the rarity of songbirds these days almost anywhere. This is well known to, um, birdologists (the word escapes me).

    On the other hand, the late spring in eastern North America is also a factor to take into account. Wait a few weeks before asking your local, um, birdologists.

  85. Y'all need to take a look at this compendium of insults offered to all and sundry, and then pulleeease stop defending Pielke Jr. If you know anything or support anyone about climate science, you'll be on his hit list.

  86. A concise, clear summary of what we can tell of how British Columbia's carbon tax is working, 6 years on, from Sightline:
    (Where is the Planet3.0 for policy, or is Planet3.0 the Planet3.0 for policy, and if so, how do we carve out a space for this aspect of the site to grow?)

  87. Michael, re your question way above about the paleoclimatological assessment of the dominant role of CO2, that was being postulated in papers from over 20 years ago, had firmed up by about 10 years ago (key paper), and at this point almost all of the then-apparent discontinuities have been cleaned up. See this search page for much, much more. I realize I pay more attention to this topic than most, but even so I'm surprised you weren't aware of this extensive work.

  88. CCS again! Excellent article at the wire (via Daily Climate): lots to get ones teeth into. Can I post to "beyond P3?" My favourite quotes:

    "Our society will live and die by our consumption of coal."

    CCS = "China’s - and possibly the planet’s - single most consequential effort to fight climate change."

    "In any case, outsiders should be grateful that China is weighing in, says Fatih Birol, chief economist for the IEA. Somebody needs to figure out how to capture and store carbon dioxide on a massive scale before it’s too late."

    "I don’t know of any other technology which is so critical for the health of the planet and at the same time for which we have almost no appetite," Birol says. "The only place it seems to be increasing is China."

    "Environmentalists charge that CCS is not much more than energy vaporware, a fantasy concocted by coal companies to greenwash an inherently dirty industry. Energy analysts put it differently. CCS is a real technology, but `it’s real in the same way that stem cell medicine is real,' Maggie Koerth-Baker wrote in Before the Lights Go Out, a fine recent study of the electric grid. `It’s a concept car, not the minivan in your neighbor’s driveway.' "

    "Common estimates are that this kind of CCS will eat up 20 to 30 percent of a power plant’s output. Given that typical coal plants can translate only 50 percent of the energy in coal into electricity, deploying CCS means that power plants will consume 40 to 60 percent more of the black stuff. Mitigating the environmental costs of digging up and burning coal thus means digging up and burning even more coal."

    New to me: what we all call EROEI, industry folk call (or the inverse of it) "parasitics".

    Chu: "The parasitics right now are impossible. We need something where we’re not doubling the cost of the electricity. From what I know, I don't see any show-stoppers - nothing insurmountable."

  89. Basic arithmetic error. "Common estimates are that this kind of CCS will eat up 20 to 30 percent of a power plant’s output. Given that typical coal plants can translate only 50 percent of the energy in coal into electricity, deploying CCS means that power plants will consume 40 to 60 percent more of the black stuff. "

    To get the same amount of end user energy after installing equipment that uses 20% to 30% of the output of the plant for CCS, you need to burn 100%*(1/.02) to 100%*(1/0.3) more coal or about 25% to 43% more, not 40% to 60% more. Not that this isn't significant but, come on, you don't multiply 20% and 30% by two because the plant is 50% efficient.

  90. Alternative Futures – Choosing a Thriving or Endangered Future
    We have a choice. We can choose to stay on the current path of an endangered future. Or we can choose the path to a much better future. Given that we humans need to survive and want to thrive forever, the choice should be a surviving and thriving future.
    Alternative Future Scenarios. While there are many future scenarios, the focus here is on four: current, partial survive, partial thrive and full thrive. [See figure, “Alternative Futures for Human and Earth’s Surviving and Thriving”.] “Full Thrive Scenario” best fits our needs and wants but is the most challenging to achieve.
    • Current Scenario - We continue our current path. As a result, 1) surviving and thriving are low and 2) surviving ends relatively soon. Compared to what we should be, too much of our world will be performing poorly or badly, poor (financially), poorly nourished, poorly housed, poorly protected (exposures, crime), poorly educated, physically/mentally ill, poorly growing/developing, not doing well “physically”, living within poor or bad habitat, excessively vulnerable, unstable and destructive climate, and not sustainable.
    • Survive Scenario – We change to “survive” path. As a result, 1) thriving is low and 2) surviving is extended beyond current path. Compared to what we should be, too much of our world will continue to be performing poorly or badly, poor (financially), poorly nourished, poorly housed, poorly protected (exposures, crime), poorly educated, physically/mentally ill, poorly growing/developing, not doing well “physically”, living within poor or bad habitat, excessively vulnerable, unstable and destructive climate, and not sustainable.
    • Partial Thrive Scenario – We change to a “partial thrive” path. As a result, 1) there is more thriving and 2) surviving is extended beyond current path. Compared to our current path, more are performing well, well-off (financially), well nourished, well housed, well protected (exposures, crime), well educated, physically and mentally well (people), growing/developing well, living within good habitat, physically well (Earth, plants, animals, environment), not vulnerable, producing personal and public goods, living within a stable, positive climate, and sustained.
    • Full Thrive Scenario – We change to a “full thrive” path. As a result, 1) thriving is high and 2) surviving and thriving are extended substantially beyond current path and may continue at least as long as a habitable Earth lasts. All will be performing well, well-off (financially), well nourished, well housed, well protected (exposures, crime), well educated, physically and mentally well (people), growing/developing well, living within good habitat, physically well (Earth, plants, animals, environment), not vulnerable, producing personal and public goods, living within a stable, positive climate, and sustained.
    To truly have this future, we need to have it for you and everybody’s family and friends and every community and every country and every part of and our entire world.
    For the Full Thrive Scenario, all of us together must energize and empower people to build a thriving future for all. All of us together is necessary due to 1) the scope (all), 2) the level (surviving and thriving), and 3) the duration (forever).
    When successful, we and all future generations achieve the thriving future for all forever, to the maximum extent possible. At this time in human history when we want to thrive, when we need to survive, when our future is most endangered, and when we are most capable, all of us together can and must build, achieve and sustain this future for all forever. This is the Thrive! Endeavor.
    Gary “Chris” Christopherson, Founder, Thrive!

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