So just who does climate science?

Once someone begins to comment on climate change in the media (television, radio, newspapers, etc.) and establishes a public profile, it is only a matter of time before questions are asked about whether they are qualified to express an informed opinion. So, who is? A very readable and detailed exposition on the nature of scientific investigation as it relates to climate science has been written by John Mashey and posted over at Deltoid and should be read as part of this post. It explains what/who is credible, and on what basis this judgement can be made. Read it! Generally, people who are working for an organisation which conducts primary research on climate science and publishes this work in peer-reviewed scientific journals should be listened to.

There will be diverse opinions among this group – that is the nature of science – but provided their arguments are bound up in evidence and have survived rigorous pre-publication scrutiny and review, then they have to be considered a valid viewpoint (though not the final word – I’ll blog on ‘proof’ at some point). So, here is an incomplete list of what I consider to be the core scientific disciplines which have been primarily responsible for developing our current understanding of climate change and its implications. Atmospheric and Physical Sciences: Climatology, Meteorology, Atmospheric dynamics, Atmospheric physics, Atmospheric chemistry, Solar physics, Historical climatology Earth Sciences: Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geology, Soil Science, Oceanography, Glaciology, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction Biological Sciences: Ecology, Synthetic biology, Biochemistry, Global change biology, Biogeography, Ecophysiology, Ecological genetics Mathematics, Statistics and Computational analysis: Applied mathematics, Mathematical modelling, Computer science, Numerical modelling, Bayesian inference, Mathematical statistics, Time series analysis

Quite a diverse field and I’ve not listed many sub-disciplines. I’ve also not considered the humanities and social sciences, nor economics, nor engineering – all of which contribute greatly to our understanding of the broader issues – especially with respect to the impacts of climate change and our ability (or not) to manage and mitigate it. But this list is sufficient to underscore an important point. Our current scientific understanding of global warming and climate change impacts are not the domain of one, quirky field called ‘climate science’. In fact, it doesn’t even exist as a discrete field of science. Indeed the leading peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change is explicitly multidisciplinary in its mandate – after all, that is the nature of the problem. So to end this piece, what is my qualification to comment on this amorphous endeavour known as climate science? (I raise this because this issue has been used by some to argue that I shouldn’t be speaking on these matters, or that I shouldn’t hold the Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change). Well, my undergraduate degree focused on biology, geology and computer science. I also did multiple units in chemistry, physics and statistics. My honours research degree was in palaeoenvironmental reconstruction (using palynology and micropalaeontology to infer changes in environmental conditions over the 10,000 year period of the Holocene). My Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) was on the validation of stochastic numerical models using real-world environmental data. Since my PhD I have published regularly in top peer-reviewed journals and publishing houses, with first author papers in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Quaternary Science Reviews, PLoS, Global Change Biology, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and books by Cambridge University Press and Wiley-Blackwell Science.

My scientific papers have covered a diverse array of fields, including stochastic numerical modelling, Earth systems science, palaeoclimatic reconstruction, information theory, Bayesian statistics and meta-analysis, time series analysis, ensemble model averaging, extinction models, ecological genetics, population dynamics and the synergies among drivers of global change. See here for a selection of my papers, and here for a complete listing of my 130+ peer-reviewed publications. I hold a Professorship in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide and am Director of the multidisciplinary Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability. I have also won a number of prestigious scientific awards from leading scientific and academic authorities. So I feel quite qualified enough, and will now continue with my regular blogging.

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63 Comments

  1. Below are two quotations, one from William Ruddiman – a prominent US climate and paleoclimate scientist, the other from Clive Hamilton:

    “Until the past year or two, I kept a wary eye on both sides of the global warming debate. I discredited the disinformation coming from both extremes of the issue and tried to weigh the solid evidence and form my own opinions. Very recently, however, I have become aware that this dispassionate detachment may be too idealistic. The debate has taken a surprisingly ugly turn. … I told [journalists] that the global warming issue was a hornet’s nest, and I didn’t intend to stick my hand into such a nasty mess. I also said that I was willing to predict how … the two extremes would probably react. … Both of these predictions came true: reports on my hypothesis appeared in both industrial and environmental newsletters, each making use of it for their own ends. … my name had somehow been added as a recipient of several [contrarian] newsletters … These newsletters opened a window on a different side of science, a parallel universe of which I had been only partly aware. The content of these newsletters purports to be scientific, but actually has more in common with hardball politics. One technique is instant commentaries against any new scientific results that appear to bolster the case for global warming. … A related technique is to cite published papers that address the same subject but come to conclusions more favorable to the industry view. In the cases where I know the science reasonably well, these papers do not match the rigor of the originals. … This alternative universe is really quite amazing. … But this alternative universe is new and worrisome; in the name of uncovering the truth, it delivers an endless stream of one-sided propaganda. …

    William Ruddiman (Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum (2005)

    “Usually, lay people are loath to enter into debates involving complex scientific questions for fear of exposing themselves to ridicule. Yet the wisdom of humility seems to evaporate when it comes to global warming and any number of people with no qualifications in atmospheric physics, climate modelling or related disciplines feel the urge to lend their opinions to the debate.” Clive Hamilton, New Matilda 19 May, 2008

  2. Barry, it is indeed a most incomplete list that exposes a glaringly obvious monumental anthropocentric bias. From the very first posting i have ever made on climate years ago is this constructive point. “One of the glaring oversights with these high priests of humans causing global warming is an assumption that our largest plasma discharge formation the sun doesn’t do anything and that it is just perfect, regular and constant. Just how terribly wrong can one really get to be unable to see outside the earth’s troposphere?”

    All i can say is if we open our eyes and mind a bit we would understand that the universe is just full of material constituents that PUSH each other ….. it’s a universe full of pushers. The over-riding question here relates to what drives changes creating derivatives. Just what are the biggest pushers and what becomes a derivative or product of the process? Most science groups you mention in your article about yourself cannot see outside the troposphere and hence see only the product. The biggest pusher in our part of the world is good old sunnyboy and various cosmic processes.

    My question, Barry, is why solar and astro physicists are not top of the list when it comes to understanding our climate. Secondly, why you have somehow completely been blinded to this essential science?

  3. Quite right Keiran, it was an oversight on my behalf to leave out Solar Physics, and I have added it to the list. Fortunately, the IPCC did not leave them out – solar changes are fully incorporated in our understanding of climate change.

    A good link to this point, by Australian solar physicist Professor Paul Cally, is here:

    http://www.aussmc.org/Coming_Ice_Age.php

    To cite:
    We tend to think of the Sun as a constant, but it is certainly not that! Solar activity varies hugely on the approximately 11-year sunspot cycle, but the strength of these cycles itself changes over the centuries. The gradual increase in solar activity through the first six decades of the 20th century is thought to have contributed up to 30% to global warming. Carbon 14 studies reveal that the Sun spent only around 10% of the last 11,400 years at such high activity levels as in the last 70 years, and very rarely for such an extended period. Conversely, the famous Maunder minimum (1645—1715) saw sunspots almost disappear from the solar surface, and coincided with the Little Ice Age in Europe and North America, when even the Thames in London regularly froze over. But it is important to realise that in the second half of the 20th century, CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere took over as the dominant driver of global warming. It is unlikely that even a repeat of the Maunder minimum (which will certainly happen someday) would reverse this anthropogenic effect, let alone produce a little ice age, until greenhouse gases are reduced significantly. In any case, month-to-month or even year-to-year variations in solar activity have little effect on the Earth’s climate. Only variations over several successive sunspot cycles can influence climate, though even then the exact mechanisms are not clear.

    Also, British solar physicists, Lochwood and Frolich, recently published a detailed analysis on the solar-climate links:

    http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/h844264320314105

    To cite:
    There is considerable evidence for solar influence on the Earth’s pre-industrial climate and the Sun may well have been a factor in post-industrial climate change in the first half of the last century. Here we show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.

  4. The role of solar insolation / orbital forcing in climate change:

    Note the conclusion at the end of the two Summaries by solar scientists – Solanki et al. 2002 and 2004:

    Solar variability and climate change: is there a link?
    Harold Jeffreys Lecture A@G 2002

    Conclusions: “After 1980, however, the Earth’s temperature exhibits a remarkably steep rise, while the Sun’s irradiance displays at the most a weak secular trend. Hence the Sun cannot be the dominant source of this latest temperature increase, with manmade greenhouse gases being the likely dominant alternative.”

    Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years
    S. K. Solanki1, I. G. Usoskin2, B. Kromer3, M. Schussler1 & J. Beer4
    NATURE |VOL 431 | 28 OCTOBER 2004 |www.nature.com/nature

    Abstract: “Direct observations of sunspot numbers are available for the past four centuries1,2, but longer time series are required, for example, for the identification of a possible solar influence on climate and for testing models of the solar dynamo. Here we report a reconstruction of the sunspot number covering the past 11,400 years, based on dendro-chronologically dated radiocarbon concentrations. We combine physics-based models for each of the processes connecting the radiocarbon concentration with sunspot number. According to our reconstruction, the level of solar activity during the past 70 years is exceptional, and the previous period of equally high activity occurred more than 8,000 years ago.We find that during the past 11,400 years the Sun spent only of the order of 10% of the time at a similarly high level of magnetic activity and almost all of the earlier high-activity
    periods were shorter than the present episode. Although the rarity of the current episode of high average sunspot numbers may indicate that the Sun has contributed to the unusual climate
    change during the twentieth century, we point out that solar variability is unlikely to have been the dominant cause of the strong warming during the past three decades.”

  5. Barry it would be interesting to see how narrower the list would become if you were jsut looking at the issue of the actual warming, not the implications. EG a biologist may well have done years of wonderful peer-reviewed stuff on the effects of various temperature scenarios on say the ecosystems of South West Australia, recongnised biodiversity hotspot, but would that actually make them qualified to comment on climate change in terms of the current pseudo-debate on the nuts and bolts of what are global temperatures up to.

    p.s. where is “Transport Planner with too much time on his hands?” I gotta get me on that list!

  6. Since the IPCC selectively only looks at solar irradiance on selectively short timelines/data and ignores other essential solar “pulses”, it represents one very good reason to study the aa index of geomagnetic activity which has doubled and been in an uptrend for over 100 years. Only a halfwit would ignore this fact. The last thirty years of this index seems to indicate signs of instability or what one may call the shakes. This could mean a turning point after a rather long very active period. The present extended solar minimum could be confirmation …. we can only speculate but it is not going unnoticed by many leading scientists.

    When attempting to understand solar influences on earth’s climate, remember that sunnyboy interacts with our planet in a wide variety of complex ways and almost certainly that all these factors are influencing our lovely planet, even though we don’t fully understand how. e.g. It is not only the cyclic warming and cooling of the sun, but others that we have little understanding of like changes with cosmic rays, changes in the solar spectrum towards greater ultra-violet radiation when compared with visible or infra-red light … also there would be other unknown possibilities.

    Quite frankly, it just seems for many people it is this piddling anthropocentric mindset that rules everything whether they know it or deliberately ignore it. Does it occur to anyone that poor old sunnyboy is, to use the current parlance, guilty and the sinner but hasn’t been put on trial yet? Cripes what’s the world coming to?

  7. So the solar physicists that Andrew and I just cited are half-wits are they Keiran? Very scientific a rebuttal. For those readers who are actually interested in the scientific facts rather than Keiran’s continual sniping contrarianism, I suggest you read here for an excellent layman-level summary of the issue:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm

    http://cce.890m.com/?page_id=19

    And for further details:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/acrim-pmod-sun-getting-hotter.htm

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-cycles-global-warming.htm

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/cosmic-rays-and-global-warming.htm

  8. Glikson quotes:1. Conclusions: “After 1980, however, the Earth’s temperature exhibits a remarkably steep rise, while the Sun’s irradiance displays at the most a weak secular trend. Hence the Sun cannot be the dominant source of this latest temperature increase, with manmade greenhouse gases being the likely dominant alternative.”
    2. “According to our reconstruction, the level of solar activity during the past 70 years is exceptional, and the previous period of equally high activity occurred more than 8,000 years ago.We find that during the past 11,400 years the Sun spent only of the order of 10% of the time at a similarly high level of magnetic activity and almost all of the earlier high-activity
    periods were shorter than the present episode. Although the rarity [!!] of the current episode of high average sunspot numbers may indicate that the Sun has contributed to the unusual climate
    change during the twentieth century, we point out that solar variability is unlikely to have been the dominant cause of the strong warming during the past three decades.”

    So does this mean the sunspots shown below unless censored have nothing to with the cold August in Adelaide and Sydney, which therefore must of course be entirely due to the all time high CO2 levels at Mauna Loa? Apologies for sarcasm, but Glikson’s second quote beggars belief. Truly, this Blog and Jennifer’s are on diffferent planets.

    1997 5.7 7.6 8.7 15.5 18.5 12.7 10.4 24.4 51.3 22.8 39.0 41.2
    1998 31.9 40.3 54.8 53.4 56.3 70.7 66.6 92.2 92.9 55.5 74.0 81.9
    1999 62.0 66.3 68.8 63.7 106.4 137.7 113.5 93.7 71.5 116.7 133.2 84.6
    2000 90.1 112.9 138.5 125.5 121.6 124.9 170.1 130.5 109.7 99.4 106.8 104.4

    2001 95.6 80.6 113.5 107.7 96.6 134.0 81.8 106.4 150.7 125.5 106.5 132.2
    2002 114.1 107.4 98.4 120.7 120.8 88.3 99.6 116.4 109.6 97.5 95.5 80.8
    2003 79.7 46.0 61.1 60.0 54.6 77.4 83.3 72.7 48.7 65.5 67.3 46.5
    2004 37.3 45.8 49.1 39.3 41.5 43.2 51.1 40.9 27.7 48.0 43.5 17.9
    2005 31.3 29.2 24.5 24.2 42.7 39.3 40.1 36.4 21.9 8.7 18.0 41.1
    2006 15.3 4.9 10.6 30.2 22.3 13.9 12.2 12.9 14.4 10.5 21.4 13.6
    2007 16.8 10.7 4.5 3.4 11.7 12.1 9.7 6.0 2.4 0.9 1.7 10.1
    2008 3.4 2.1 9.3 2.9 2.9 3.1 0.5

  9. Tim, I can alleviate your stress about the failing sun and a resulting ice age should this lock in. Should the sun remain bottomed out at the current solar minimum, Maunder or Dalton like, it would take a mere 7 years of additional CO2 to offset the cooling effect. The difference between the peak and trough of the solar cycle is about 0.1C according to the latest estimates – and of course the total solar irradiance is not trending and the hottest La Nina on record (2007-2008) is also occurring at a time when the warming from solar variability is at it’s minimum – which we are in right now.

    http://www.physorg.com/news129483836.html

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/solar_variability.html

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20071210_GISTEMP.pdf

    But based on your record of consistent contrarianism in the face of any argument or evidence, which challenges even Keiran for sheer bloody minded persistence, I suspect you’ll wave your magic hand and deftly ignore this inconvenient factoid too.

  10. Barry: Thanks for the compliments. You said: “Should the sun remain bottomed out at the current solar minimum, Maunder or Dalton like, it would take a mere 7 years of additional CO2 to offset the cooling effect.” Why has the CO2 that has been building up CUMULATIVELY and continuously since 1958 not already offset the present short-term low sunspots’ cooling effect, when it is supposedly so much stronger? On an historical note, the full data set (NOAA) shows low sunspots like we have had the last year or so when Napoleon was in Moscow in 1812, and again when Hitler’s army was at Stalingrad in 1942 and on retreat to 1945. Let’s hope McCain and NATO don’t try something similar this year!

  11. It has Tim – this is the hottest decade on record, sunspots or lack thereof notwithstanding. Of course natural variability dominates temperatures on the year-to-year timescale, with cumulative CO2 and its associated feedbacks being a strong long-term forcing effect affecting climate trends.

    But of course you know this Tim, as it has been explained a zillion times in various blogs I know you’ve posted at, so I can only assume you are trolling. Honest sceptical questions are welcomed here and will be answered, consistent feigned ignorance of the type you’ve pushed over the last month, just gets tiresome.

    […and my suspicion was confirmed!]

  12. re: #6 MattB

    Since “biologist” covers a huge space, many would be irrelevant to climate issues, while those with any of the appropriate mixes of background would be very relevant. Over at that Deltoid post that Barry so kindly mentioned, one of my references was:

    [SCH2002] Stephen Schneider & Terry Root, ed Wildlife Responses to Climate Change – North American Case Studies, 2002 (D). Some people worry incessantly about whether surface stations are perfect or not. Birds, insects, plants, animals, trees don’t read thermometers, but they were already moving poleward, or uphill, if they could.

    Stephen and (his wife) Terry are both Professors of Biology at Stanford, although have other appointments as well, and Stephen got there via a non-Biology route. [Stanford is hyper-interdisciplinary, which as Barry says, is cruical.]

    These are fine climate scientists, certainly with expertise far above mine. The right sorts of biologists have to know plenty of the relevant statistics, data analysis, sometimes agriculture, etc.

    Biologists notice when species move North, and farmers notice when it gets harder to grow existing crops (that need cold) or are able to grow new ones (that need it warmer) …

    As far as I know:

    a) Butterflies don’t read thermometers. The book above (Chapter 1) describes a butterfly species that “advanced its northern range ~700 kilometers in 35 years” up through the Pacific Northwest.

    b) Sugar maple trees don’t read thermometers but:
    Google: sugar maple global warming new england

    (and Vermont/New Hampshire don’t have a lot of Urban Heat Island; sugar maples need some cold weather, hence on their way to Quebec)

    c) Grapes don’t read thermometers either, but in the last few decades it has warmed just enough for the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia to have become a thriving wine area, and some wines are actually getting decent [spoken as Northern Californian, i.e., Napa and Sonoma aren’t that far away.]

    Google: okanagan vineyards global warming

    We’re up there a few times/year to ski at Big White, coincidentally a place to which Aussies throng to ski, complaining that it’s worth it to fly that way to get a few weeks of reliable snow! Of course, the pine beetles aren’t welcome up there.

    Personally, I think the the biosciences evidence for AGW is among the most compelling: you could forget about surface stations, satellites, UHI effects, melting-ice, etc, etc …

    and still, plants, animals, fish, and insects slowly move poleward or uphill, if they can, and through relatively sparse areas where UHI isn’t.

  13. Yes John I agree… but still there is very little in that to counter the suggestion that the earth has cooled since 1998, or that the warming is not anthropogenic…
    I guess what I was suggesting is a differentiation of experts who can tell us if the climate is changing, as opposed to experts who can tell us WHY.

    For example… those sugar maples don’t tell us if it is CO2 or Solar Cosmic wigets.

  14. Barry: you are right, the average temp (GISS, not the most reliable source) from 1998 to 2007 was 0.223 oC higher than in 1988 to 1997, while those decades’ average CO2 @ Mauna Loa went up by 17.65 ppm, or 4.93%. The implied sensitivity is delta T/delta C, or 0.012367 oC per 1 ppm. Multiply that by 357 to get the increased temp from a doubling of the average CO2 in 1988-1997 to 715.88 ppm, and we obtain a temperature increase from that doubling of 4.52 oC. When do you expect we will reach 715 ppm with or without Kyoto2? Sincerely, if this calculation is wrong, please explain why (my sources are Wiki and Barton Paul Levenson for the calculation, and CDIAC and GISS for the CO2 and temps).

  15. About MattB’s subthread: You can push your argument further if
    you like. Why listen to climate scientists? They just measure
    and model stuff, perhaps the only people who should be
    listened to are the mathematicians who may, if the omens are
    favourable, just be able to distinguish a signal from the noise!

    The truth of course is that all the top people are amazingly multiskilled across a range of areas. On the other hand a newspaper
    editor a while back asked me to remove “standard deviation” from
    an article because, in their words “I’m the most numerate person
    in the office and I don’t know what this is, so our readers won’t”.

    So we have people disputing Barry’s blog credentials because he
    doesn’t own his own weather balloon while our media editors
    are deeply ignorant (NB. I didn’t say stupid, just ignorant, there’s
    a huge difference) on technical issues and are controlling the
    national mindset.

  16. “Birds, insects, plants, animals, trees don’t read thermometers, but they were already moving poleward, or uphill, if they could.”

    John,
    Have you checked to see if they’ve gone back south with the cold weather?

    All that proves is that species can cope with temperature variations.
    I’ve witnessed the reverse happening in Australia this year with the record cold winter.
    They’re a bit like the polar bears; more under threat from over population than AGW.

  17. I get tired of the likes of MattB who harp on that the earth has cooled since 1998 and Tim who is more interested in dancing angels than in researching the topic. Perhaps they could move over to Graeme Birds blog where they would feel right at home.

    It seems to me that too much debating emphasis is being placed on surface atmospheric temperatures. The key driver of short term changes changes in average mean surface atmospheric temperatures are ocean surface water temperatures and THC.

    The current La Nina event is driven by colder than average ocean surface water. A pass in high school physics is enough to understand that the transfer of heat from (and cooling) the atmosphere to the ocean increases when surface water temperatures are lower and that the total global energy is increasing faster than during El Nino events when average surface water temperatures are higher. High ocean surface temperatures result in ocean heat transferring to the atmosphere, some of which is radiated to space slowing the heating of the earth in total.

    Ninety percent of the energy trapped by AGW gases is being absorbed by the oceans. Regardless of fluctuations in surface atmospheric temperatures the oceans are slowly and relentlessly warming. Tim and Matt should be very thankful that there is a vast store of water in the oceans and that to heat 1m3 of water by 1 degree requires over 1000 times the energy than that required to heat 1m3 of surface atmosphere. If it was not for the oceanic heat sink the changes predicted for 2050 would be upon us.

    A good site Barry, and interesting posts. Keep them coming – any chance of some on the oceanographic aspects.

  18. Tim, the main issue I have with your calculation is that it doesn’t include the logarithmic relationship of additional CO2 and ignores the lag effect of warming in the pipeline (time taken to heat oceans and for them to start giving up heat, threshold effect of melting ice, time for albedo feedbacks to play out), which is estimated to be a further 0.6 – 2C, depending on the estimate of climate sensitivity. So such a calculation doesn’t really mean much at all.

    As to the question of will be get to 715ppm? Yes on current Platinum Age emissions pathway, and perhaps under a strict emissions reduction (it really all depends on carbon cycle feedbacks), no under a massive transformation (what is needed).

  19. Barry: I’ve just heard you on PM on ABC Radio (18.55pm on September 1st) saying that geo-engineering solutions may be needed to solve global warming.

    Readers of this blog: Read the ABC’s transcript when it comes out (no link available yet) and tell me whether this wasn’t a grab to scare people about science and cast doubt about consensus in the scientific community and imply that the white-coated scientists in the AGW camp were a bunch of Strangeloves. Barry, you’ve fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.

    Barry, Geo-engineering is about as useful and fanciful as your outer space science fiction fantasies (see Fermi paradox exchanges on your site with John Mashey, starting 28 Aug) and certainly more dangerous. Sure, if you want to conduct an SF conversation with John Mashey (great bloke) do it via email, but don’t make your website a joke.

    Why don’t you just come back to earth (where we live) and model the Al Gore or David Mills challenges that societies like the US and Australia could re-tool their outmoded manufacturing regions to start producing things needed for a post-carbon economy, eg things like solar farm gizmos or wind turbines or electric cars or heat pumps or a combination of these? Why do you find it so difficult imagining a future where industry superfunds put up the necessary capital to build some solar farms out Mildura and Port Pirie way?

    Get real Barry.

    Paul Hodgson

  20. Paul, I suggest you read my post from early August on geoengineering:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2008/08/07/geoengineering-damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-dont/

    My view is that some form of geoengineering will probably be necessary, but unless some efficient means of free-air carbon capture can be developed (e.g. via genetically engineered microalgae), such projects will be doomed to failure unless done in combination with large scale carbon reductions. It is very definitely not one or the other. And I happen to be a huge supporter of large-scale renewable energy, e.g.

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2008/08/15/australia-can-be-a-clean-energy-superpower/

    So I think you protest too much.

    As to my conversation on Fermi’s paradox and what I choose to post on my website, I say this: if it is not of interest to you, or if it’s contents offends your sensibilities, then I suggest you simply avert your eyes and don’t read it. No one is forcing you to read everything on this blog – pick and choose what suits, or go elsewhere if it is all unpalatable. Your choice.

    It is certainly not meant to be all things to all people – it is an expression of climate science and climate policy as I see it. Same goes for my media interviews – it’s my (informed) opinion.

    It’s funny how you can get painted black or white by non-greenhouse theorists, or the antithesis viewpoint. Me, I’m a realist. Whatever is necessary to get us out of this situation.

  21. MontyA, based on MattB’s earlier posts, I think you’ll find he’s simply playing devil’s advocate here.

    Geoff’s answer is as good as any I could offer. No-one can have a specialist knowledge of all the disciplines I’ve listed in my post above. But most top scientists are familiar with a broad range of fields, and are certainly competent data analysts and modellers. The principles underpinning warming, for instance, overlap with many of my primary research interests – stochastic modelling, methods for partitioning systems variance into process error, white noise, autocorrelations etc., time series analysis, multimodel averaging, Bayesian inference etc. A biologist studying hotspots would have not precisely the same specialisations as me (no two scientists are alike) but would likely have a similarly broad skill set and have deeper insights into some issues than me, and shallower ones in other areas.

    MontyA, as to your last point on oceans, climate and the 1998 meme, I had indeed planned to blog on that matter soon.

  22. MontyA: You said “The current La Nina event is driven by colder [sic]than average ocean surface water” and “Regardless of fluctuations in surface atmospheric [which? surface or atmospheric? you can’t have both!] temperatures the oceans are slowly and relentlessly warming [sic]”. [deleted pointless ad hom]

    Barry: my calculation EXACTLY exemplifies the logarithmic affect [wrong, it doesn’t]. Do read my Garnaut paper that I sent you for a full account.

    [Deleted stuff that has already been covered ad infinitum in another thread – one wonders why Tim never listens to what people say to him and just repeats the same questions? Oh, and as James said, where is that Nature submission Tim?]

  23. JohnM, most country people as well as biologists notice when species move and adapt to perhaps warmer places as you say but it doesn’t say much at all about the cause of the warming. Where i live when ants start to appear and get active in numbers it is a sure sign of rain. There are plenty of examples of this type of behaviour. If we are concerned about purposeful behaviour then we need to understand that all living organisms do not respond to stimuli but rather behave to control input variables. It is not the stimulus-response model here because behaviour is the control of perceptions.

    Whilst most species can maintain their connected control of perception not so with most humans especially those with the worship mindset. These unfortunates can easily be disconnected and end up as damaged goods preferring the easy belief in belief to the harder exacto opposite of the belief from evidence.

    Now this disconnection is not some harmless nonsense because it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own selfrighteousness. Dangerous because it gives people false courage to do harm. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others. It is particularly dangerous because so many people have all bought into this weird respect without evidence.

    i.e. No matter how aesthetically pleasing something is, or how prestigious its supporters are, or how many billions of dollars a certain industry has bet on it….. it will always come down to ….. does the theory over-ride the evidence?

  24. Dear Barry

    I have to confess you disappoint me. I had thought your Blog would allow open debate, but after constant censoring of my own contributions, I have to ask why you don’t simply write my comments as you think they should be rather than as they are. That way you will achieve the nirvana of Deltoid, where 99% of comments are mutual backslapping of each other by Dana, Chris O’Neill et al et al.

    It is also disappointing as I spent much of my life fostering young economists in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea (e.g. the present Acting President of Zambia is an old comrade of mine from happy days in Addis in 1961). Are you really omniscient? All hail if you are!

    I pity your students (if any) as you are insolent beyond belief to anybody whose views you disagree with. So why do you bother with your Blog? Just write what you think I should say rather than post what I do.

    I asked you to explain why my logarithmic calculations are wrong. You did not and I can only assume you cannot. Mere censorship al la Goebbels will not do in the long run. And believe me, deleting this from your Blog will not expunge it from the record. I will then post it elsewhere.

    [Tim – do you wonder why I’m forced, at time cost to me, to moderate you and almost no one else? Pointless repetition of discredited arguments – many already patiently answered here, gets old pretty fast. I’ve never not let one of your posts through, but I reserve the right to remove stuff that you know has been covered before yet pretend that it is all new again, and point out to the casual reader that you, more than any other poster on this blog by an order of magnitude, play this useless tennis match game. I strongly suggest that this is not the blog for you, as others on this thread have also implied. Happy hunting for a place that will adore your contrarianism, for that is what it is. With that, I cut my losses with you, Tim – good bye]

  25. Oh, and as we say farewell to Tim Curtain here at Brave New Climate, let us remind ourselves of his antics over at Deltoid that led him to be banned there, too.

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2007/04/plonk.php

    Quoth:
    Tim Curtin aka Tam O’Shanter, Roger Champion, Arthur T Wall, Tony Wall, Reality Check. WHY: Trolling, Trolling, Sockpuppetry, Morphing. COMMENTS: Accused me [Tim Lambert] of disemvowelling everyone who disagreed with me, even though he knew this was untrue.

    Sound familiar?

  26. Not so much devils advocate Barry, but you are on the right track. What I am trying to do is find the arguments that debunk the core skeptic arguments, not ones that fuel them. I’ve spent 15 years arguing against sceptics as a student, with mates, and now as a sustinability professional (no not an academic). It used to be easy because people who sprouted crap were skeptics, and “we” we a minority. But today all the people who don;t know the science = well great they believe and they vote accordingly, but do they know why???

    I can just wait for the office chit chat that this new hurricane in the states is proof of global warming! no it is just a weather event! but then gossip turns in to journalism, and journalists write rubbish, and then the skeptics have a noew tool to wave around…

    AS I say this is a great blog and a superb resource, and I think Barry’s decision to take on the blogosphere is quite risky and courageous… but I think as a resource to debunk skeptics the key is to stay focussed on the core messages, and avoiding soft “proof” about polar bears and extinctions… because the key is are people causing warming, not what are the consequences of warming…

    Am I making sense? I have to say that the fact that my comments, as someone whose entire career is based upon practical reduction of CO2 emissions (as a transport planner, environmental officer and hopefully soon as a sustainable urban designer) can be brushed off as though I’m a skeptic… well it shows that sometimes there is not a lot of tolerance for a bit of honest questioning…

    To me this is such a crucial time in the whole debate, esp in Australia – fer Chrissakes it actually seems we’ve won! If we get complacent the Bolts and the rest will find a weakness and pounce and set things back years if not decades. Am I just ranting now?? maybe:)

    MAtt:)

  27. Keiran:

    If we are concerned about purposeful behaviour then we need to understand that all living organisms do not respond to stimuli but rather behave to control input variables. It is not the stimulus-response model here because behaviour is the control of perceptions.

    Gawd, in two sentences, and with a lick of semantic slipperiness, with you have just collapsed much of neurobiology, psychology and ethology, to name a few.

    Really, Keiran, you must be a genius unappreciated and beyond compare. Please share with us your educational and world experiences that have led you to be able to contradict the experts in so many widely differing disciplines of science.

    Nota bene, you might need to unclasp your fingers and secure the ties of your truibhs before typing.

  28. On the roots of contrarian/denial, among other:

    (A) Denial is a powerful human need, allowing survival on the individual scale despite the odds, including in nature (how peaceful the zebra looks grazing a few yards from the lions) — but when it translates to mass denial it becomes a dangerous attitude.
    (B) The emerged reality of dangerous climate change constitutes the ultimate evidence for what the environmentalist have been saying all along: IT WILL COST THE EARTH. It therefore triggers violent ideological objection on the part of “economic “rationalists” and those who place material gain ahead of nature or social justice.
    (C) Many people still confuse the climate for the weather.
    (D) Many or most feel it’s just such a diabolical global issue they feel powerless to resist, living in despair
    (E) Some feel “Homo Sapiens” has CC coming to it, either because it “sinned” against a god or against nature (Gaia). When they look at the carnage of wars, injustices around the world, the obscenity of propaganda and advertising etc, some people think CC may not be such a bad thing … Some just think humans should move on to other planets.
    (F) A few bath in the “glory” (and in some instances the money) of a vested interests-supported denial industry, with huge exposure in media owned by vested interests which has already delayed attempts at mitigation by nearly 20 years, possibly a fatal delay.

    Nothing in nature can continue to grow open ended, including exponential population explosion of a species or of an economy.

    The irony is that those most of those effected by climate change, the billions of poor people, can only focus their attention on WHERE THE NEXT MEAL IS COMING FROM. It is the relatively more affluent people who have the information and the time to worry about the future.

    And then there are others, unfortunately too few, who feel they have an ethical duty to alert people to what is happening, so that at least they know the facts …

  29. In case anyone didn’t get Tim’s blithering about logarithms:

    Tim writes:
    “The implied sensitivity is delta T/delta C, or 0.012367 oC per 1 ppm. Multiply that by 357 to get the increased temp from a doubling of the average CO2 in 1988-1997 to 715.88 ppm, and we obtain a temperature increase from that doubling of 4.52 oC.”

    This is a linear projection. Tim is assuming that the temperature will increase linearly with increased CO2. This is NOT a logarithmic projection. In the real world case (what Barry is trying to point out) temperature forcing by CO2 increases linearly with the _logarithm_ of CO2 in the atmosphere. Tim’s calculation also neglects the positive feedback effects of e.g. water vapour, albedo decline, or permafrost melting, which are not captured by a simple linear projection. The projection is a) not logarithmic, despite Tim’s assertions and b) useless.

    Snark: I have to wonder what economic advice from this man may have done to Lesotho, Zimbabwe, PNG, etc.

  30. BernardJ you are clearly saying that you cannot recognise a control process when you see one. Cripes, i worked this out when i was a very young boy. lol

    Let me say it again and if you’re really upset about this, I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.
    i.e.
    Behaviour from a one celled organism to a complex organism is purposeful and a means of controlling perceptions.

  31. Keiran, I hate to break it to you, but as a practicing/academic psychologist, you’re talking through your hat. Pick up a comparative psychology/ethology textbook. Oh, and you seem to have missed the reminder that stratospheric cooling was predicted to result from increasing greenhouse gasses, and then was found, exactly the opposite to predictions if solar or other, non-greenhouse mechanisms are at play.
    Nice blog, Barry.

  32. Stewart, you too are clearly saying that you cannot recognise a control process when you see one. Then you go on to say that you cannot read a chart like at …

    Barry has never responded to these charts either but likes to dismiss the issue by regarding my requests as some silly “sniping” exercise.

    My comment is that many people seem to allow themselves to become drastically misled and it is only when we start thinking of control that the true picture emerges ….. along with the true achievement of human potential.

    If i can recommend an appropriate read then try “The Lance Armstrong Story”.

  33. Keiran.

    Behaviour from a one celled organism to a complex organism is purposeful and a means of controlling perceptions.

    Truly, this is a revolutionary insight. I am particularly impressed that you know better than practicing experts in this area of science.

    Can you either supply the references to work that has determined this, or your own investigations that show this to be true?

    If this is your own novel work, you might even be in line for a Nobel.

    By the way, did you remember to take note of my last piece of advice to you? I am wondering if this in fact might be related to the actual control process that you worked out as a young boy.

  34. re: #16 mattB
    Sorry, I posted a reply earlier, but it seems to have gotten lost.

    I recommend John Cook’s Skeptical Science as a fine resource. (It’s the last one on Barry’s blogroll).

    See #11 [1998], “It hasn’t warmed since 1998″ for that one
    and #26 [manco2], #27 [lowco2], #43 [co2sus], and #30 [empirical], I think for the CO2.

    This resource is very useful when dealing with an article that sprays long-debunked arguments. It takes way more effort to throw up dumb (but plausible-sounding) arguments than it does to carefully explain them. An example is that website itself: it lists 53 arguments, but each has substantial webpage to properly debunk. I’ve seen OpEds, or letters-to-editor manage to get 10-15 of those one-liners crammed in.

    When writing word-count-constrained replies, you cannot explain each one. It’s much easier to list the codes/numbers, which also makes the point to rational observers that the same old arguments get cycled and recycled ad infinitum. This is akin to what Barry is doing.

    For amusement, it’s a little akin to an old article in the Journal of Irreproducible Results, that computed the amount of money to be saved by getting rid of most slides that presented data, claiming that one only needed a handful of standard slides, which with rotations or reflections covered all the cases. At that point, one can simply number the cases, and give the numbers.

    People have proposed numbering jokes as well, so that someone can just say “joke 15″ and everybody laughs.

  35. BernardJ, do you understand the meaning of the word … control? What is your understanding of a control system? Do you see yourself as a control system and if so are you in control or is someone/or group controlling you and to what degree? If i may indulge in my early formative childhood experiences without boring everyone but my apologies all the same.
    i.e.
    When I walked out of Sunday school as an eight year old it took some time to rationalise this god thing that had established some control though guilt, reward and punishment. As a reasonably sensitive child I basically needed to create some degree of self discipline, self understanding and self responsibility? I also felt if there was a loving god that “he” would understand. Because, there was no school of humanism in this country town I spent most of my free time with mates enjoying the hills, creeks and bush. So my ideas probably grew from observable natural abstractions and not from someone else’s supernatural abstractions.

    As this young boy i was, for some reason, particularly sensitive to the concept of control … like was i in control of myself or was something/someone controlling me? It became pretty apparent that if i wanted to be good at anything i needed to control to the best of my ability all these perceptions of a world full of pushers. Being in control of your own life is regarded as good however being out of control is a sign of mental illness and control is only considered bad when other people try to control you. Because it is a world full of pushers our unique individuality not only pushes but in the process gets shaped to what we care about because our perceptions have a circular causality that loops back onto itself.

    Years later i started reading a great deal more about behaviour from the so called experts. e.g. B. F. Skinner proposed the stimulus-response model of behaviour and someone else proposed the cognitive science model, and on it goes. These people did not make real sense because i felt that my behaviour was neither just caused by stimuli in the environment nor was it blind execution of internal plans. I found that what i was doing was comparing inputs with desired inputs, and using the difference to drive output or behaviour.

    Anyway, many years later i came across the work of William T. Powers who seemed to be speaking the same language. People here, if interested, can google him for some interesting reading on the subject. If anyone deserves a Nobel then he is indeed worthy as both a humble and brilliant scientist.

    For myself it embodies most of my strong beliefs ….. in proper open participatory democracy, in an education based on educe meaning to bring out talents, in reason, free inquiry, dignity and evolution as this process occurring at all times with respect to each electron, atom, cell, organ, organism, species, ecosystem, planet, and galaxy. It also develops our framework of perspectives as a means of diversifying away from the superiority of an “order” that masks the contradictions, subverts the degree of provisionality, cloaks the instabilities, blinds us to the fragmentary, and numbs us to the incoherent.

    ps This thread, Barry, certainly raises the issue of who is qualified with some trophy style education as compared to who is actually in control of their behaviour when it comes to some serious issues..

  36. JohnM, i need to congratulate on your design efforts with computer languages, friendly computer operating systems and with the internet. However, i feel you should pause for a moment and take a deep breath before proposing what amounts to the “word” or your “bible” for your new fictional age. Whilst we all may have an appreciation for superb design and a good sense of humour too, i simply say that no one should be accorded the unimaginative high privilege of designing how we should think and behave nor one might add, attempt to design earth’s weather/climate. Why? Well because there are no solutions to be gained with lazy literal rote learners making carbon copies in their mind and arrogantly assuming this is being smart.

  37. Interesting CV but which Uni awarded your initial science degree.

    If it was a world-class university, in a world-class department, it would mean he has met expectations by having an exceptional career.

    If it was a lesser university, it would mean he has exceeded expectations by having an exceptional career.

    Which means there’s only one possible reason you’re asking the question: you want to ignore his exceptional career and focus on the university where he got his undergraduate degree.

    No one cares. We know you’re an evolutionary-biology denying, climate science denying, physics denying, HIV-AIDS denying troll, and not worthy of attention.

  38. Louis Hissink – 39
    Thought you might like to know that I discovered that Prof Brook was given a three year Australian Post-graduate Award, to fund his Phd.As these are very prestigious and competitive and just a few are offered annually, they are only awarded to the creme de la creme of 1st class honours students.Ergo – wherever the original degree was obtained is unimportant in the eyes of the government and the Australian Research Council. That is good enough for me and I would suggest any normal person without an agenda like yours.

  39. BTW the APA goes to the student, not the institution, and as it is highly regarded, no doubt Barry would have had offers, from several universities, to complete his Phd with them.

    Further, how many people, do you suppose, get promoted to full Professor in their early 30’s? Not many!! To be appointed you have to fulfil various academic criteria, which most cannot achieve until later in life. He really has got to you deniers hasn’t he! Keep up the good work Barry!

  40. re: #46 WotWot
    Yes, sorry, it definitely takes less effort to throw up nonsense.
    Thanks.

    You can see an example of using Skeptical Science as reply to David Bellamy : open up all comments, and search for skepticalscience.

    This is an example of a size-constrained reply to a short article that managed to include 12-13 wrong arguments. I once saw an OpEd manage to get ~15 hits.

  41. John Mashey @ 40, there’s an amusing consequence:

    “Joke 930!” (much louder laughter than usual)
    Newcomer asks why the laughter is louder. “Oh, they’ve never heard that one before.”

  42. I Googled Macquarie Uni + rankings + 2008 and found out that Macquarie Uni was placed 7th in Australia ahead of Monash and Adelaide – who, incidentally, are both from the elite Group of 8. Therefore, Macquarie qualifies as one of Australia’s top research unis.
    Also discovered that Macquarie graduates are the highest paid of all Australia’s new graduates. Guess that shuts you up Hissink – and other detractors!

  43. I suppose this should have been part of How to learn about science, but it was already long. The following doesn’t depend on for-pay databases, nor on someone’s CV, nor on what they (or anyone else) says about them.

    GOOGLE SCHOLAR can more useful than arguing about universities, when assessing a researcher whose name is decently Googleable.

    1) Go to Google Scholar.

    2) Put someone’s name in and look at the resulting list, which is sorted by “cited by #” counts.

    3) Play with name until you’re mostly getting the one you want, “JR Mashey” is trivial, “Robert Smith” is impossible, unless you can add differentiating search terms.

    4) Serious people often work with multiple other co-authors, it’s usually more important to be first or second author, although be careful of alphabetized author lists. [We usually did that at Bell Labs.]

    5) Learn the names of important journals. Science, Nature, PNAS are generally important; many others are as well, but may need exploration to figure out. Mainline peer-reviewed journals or major scientific societies are important. Energy&Environment, or Journal Scientific Exploration … not so much. Also:

    Google: impact factor

    of course, GoogleScholar includes many more sources than credible refereed journals, so you have to watch out for tha, and difference between journals and newsletters.

    6) Look at the number of citations, and then click on “Cited by:” to see who cites them and where. Work that is frequently cited (unless it’s a batch of refutations!) by other serious researchers in serious journals … is what makes somebody’s reputation. Of course, important older papers will have had time to collect more citations.

    7) One must always be careful of well-published scientists, at/near retirement, who then:

    a) Start writing about a completely different area.
    b) But in OpEds, newspapers, letters-to-editor, web pages
    c) But not in peer-reviewed journals
    d) Even with a long history of doing serious research

    or even, who have done fine work in the area, but not much recently…
    (i.e., look at the dates, at least a little)

    8) If you haven’t done this before, imagine you’ve never heard of any of these, and see if you can sort out:

    a) Long-established prolific, climate researchers
    b) Strong younger researchers
    c) People not really publishing much peer-reviewed work lately, or ever, or having moved from somewhere else.

    je hansen
    wf ruddiman
    ga schmidt
    si akasofu
    rs lindzen
    b lomborg

    and (assuming one didn’t know):

    bw brook

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