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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 11/ 8/2010

Scientists launch climate science counterattacks

By Andrew Freedman

* Sun & wind: Full Forecast | Average date of 1st D.C. snow? *

After a year of dramatic setbacks, from stolen personal emails that were used to smear climate science researchers, to last week's midterm elections that ushered a large number of climate science skeptics into power, many climate scientists have had enough -- and they're about to take action by going on the offensive in a major way.

According to the Chicago Tribune, around 700 climate scientists will take part in an initiative led by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) to speak out about climate science findings by engaging with the media. A separate and far more confrontational effort will involve climate scientists engaging in debates with climate science skeptics, and making appearances before seemingly hostile audiences, such as conservative talk radio.

The AGU's media engagement effort, according to the Guardian is expected to last two to three months and is a follow-up to a similar one conducted last year in advance of the Copenhagen climate change conference.

The AGU is a prominent scientific society comprised of nearly 60,000 members, including experts in multiple climate science-related disciplines from geology to paleoclimatology. It is not a political lobbying group -- although this initiative could be viewed by some as an anti-Republican effort. Details of the AGU-sponsored initiative are set to be revealed today, the Tribune reported.

In a move that is separate from the AGU's, more than three dozen climate experts are forming a climate change "rapid response team" to counter skeptic spin, according to the Tribune and Guardian. High-profile names such as Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, have signed onto this initiative.

From what's been discussed so far, it's not clear whether communications experts and social scientists, who could train scientists to interact with the media and connect with audiences, have been enlisted in either effort, or if they will be limited to climate scientists.

Regardless, the news signals that many climate scientists no longer believe that abstaining from direct debates with climate skeptics is a sound strategy in a time of increasingly vitriolic and distracting attacks upon their work, ranging from "cyber-bullying" to physical threats against individual researchers, and the fishing expedition by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli into the possible misuse of state grant money by a prominent climate science researcher.

As Scott Mandia, a professor at Suffolk County Community College in New York and co-leader of the rapid response team, told the Tribune:

"This group feels strongly that science and politics can't be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists."
"We are taking the fight to them because we are ... tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed."

The concepts behind both of these initiatives have been kicking around for years, as scientists have been repeatedly frustrated by how quickly the 24-hour news cycle can introduce, elevate and perpetuate scientific myths and distortions. Entire websites have been created to counter skeptic arguments, the most prominent and detailed of which is Skepticalscience, which has even developed a neat iPhone App (the skeptics have one too).

Contributing to the urgency of climate communication campaigns such as these is a midterm election that brought in a new crop of House freshmen, 50 percent of whom do not believe in the key scientific findings regarding the causes and potential consequences of climate change, according to one widely-cited report. Incoming Republican chairmen of committees with jurisdiction over science and energy matters have already indicated their intention to investigate climate science research and scuttle efforts by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

There is, however, a risk that shouting back at climate skeptics, be it on talk radio or Capitol Hill, will make the situation even worse. Although there remains a lot of confusion about climate science, a majority of Americans already accept manmade climate change as a reality, and support the need to develop a clean energy economy and adapt to ongoing climate change. So more arguments would be distracting, and present a bigger downside for scientists by casting core climate science findings -- like carbon dioxide's role in adjusting the planet's thermostat -- as being in scientific dispute.

Indeed, the skeptics are already relishing the chance to debate mainstream scientists. Anthony Watts, a retired television meteorologist and climate skeptic blogger, wrote last night, "Well it looks like I and many of my associates be traveling more. When these guys come to your town, demand some equal time to present the skeptic side of the story."

(I find it rather odd for Watts to imply that the "skeptic side" isn't being told, considering his website draws more eyeballs than most mainstream climate science sites.)

Climate scientists aren't just in need of a tougher and more nimble response mechanism, but also a smarter offensive strategy. If the AGU-led media engagement effort is to succeed, it must take advantage of knowledge gained through the social sciences, such as psychology, regarding how people process information about long-term, diffuse risks such as climate change. The AGU would also be wise to take advantage of new media technology to communicate about climate change and its impacts at the local and regional levels.

Such a campaign could speak to individuals in the middle of the political spectrum, or so-called "swing voters." Perhaps the AGU-led effort aims to do this, or it may intend to work closely with other groups that are doing such work. Regardless, it should stick to communicating about climate science, and leave the political fights to advocacy groups, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council and others.

Communications scholar Matthew Nisbet offered some thought-provoking ideas for designing a "post-partisan" climate communications effort through new media over on his BigThink blog last week, and others like Keith Kloor at Collide-a-Scape, Andy Revkin at DotEarth, and David Roberts at Grist have been exploring what the most productive next steps may be.

I'll be exploring this topic in future posts, and would like to hear your ideas about how scientists should go about communicating their findings to the public. Does the AGU project or the independent "rapid response team" sound like the best approaches to you? How can climate scientists ensure their voices are heard amidst the partisan bickering on Capitol Hill, cable news and talk radio?

The views expressed here are the author's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang.

By Andrew Freedman  | November 8, 2010; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Science  
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Comments

Might as well try & get in here ahead of Mr. Q....evidence does suggest that climate is warming, and it's not due to an increase in solar luminosity.

That said, further eruptions of Mt. Merapi in Indonesia might serve to mask the warming effect. The earlier eruptions don't seem to have put enough sulfur oxides into the stratosphere but the eruption isn't finished yet. Mt. Merapi has a reputation for prolonged eruptive phases, and this eruption isn't over yet; it could go on for days or weeks.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | November 8, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

I think Watts was referring to the "mainstream" media which regularly tells a single point of view, namely CAGW or Catastrophic AGW, meaning we need to drop everything and tackle this problem. On the plus side, the climate posts from Jason on this blog are more even handed. I prefer his writing style on these stories to yours, Andrew.

The best approach for the climate scientists is to admit that the Catastrophic AGW claims are based on models which are based on assumptions like constant relative humidity. But weather controls humidity, not a textbook theory. For example, it is warmer today than yesterday. But there is a lower RH due to the weather pattern. There are other more basic assumptions like the distribution of convection that greatly impact the model prediction by controlling upper tropospheric water vapor.

The bottom line is that there is a strong likelihood that changes in weather in a world slightly warmer from increased CO2 will offset some of that warming, not add to it. That may manifest as stronger and/or more frequent storms. Indeed some CAGW advocates already make that claim (I believe somewhat spuriously). But if true, it means that climate sensitivity is lowered and Greenland will not warm by 20C or whatever wildly high number the models generate to melt the ice in a few centuries.

Posted by: eric654 | November 8, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Well, I sure hope the AGU initiative injects some sense into the national discourse (or lack thereof) on this. I do fear the appearance of the "politicization of scientists" that the "skeptics" (a term I regularly put in quotes as many of them know darn well what the science is and have other reasons for mouthing "doubts") could twist this into. The sad thing is that most scientists would rather do anything but launch into a career in public education/PR. But they know what they know, and as human beings I imagine it's mighty hard to just sit still while we are flushing humankind's future well-being down the drain.

The survey of incoming House members is sobering. On the other side of the ledger, one small ray of hope was the defeat of Ken Buck in the Colorado senate race. The man actually called James Inhofe (R-Texaco) a "hero" for having the "courage" to call climate change a hoax. This was in the waning days of the campaign, and I like to think that in a close race the independents in Colorado just couldn't stomach such idiocy, even in a Republican wave year. But I may be grasping at straws, as Buck also put out some other gaffes late in the race. But Coloradans presumably have an environmental awareness, so maybe it played a role.

All we can do is keep talking to people, keep encouraging them to visit their public library and spend a few minutes leafing through Science and Nature and seeing where scientists are on this. On the bright side, I think most people now know what the score is, they just put the economy at a higher level of urgency and just don't want to deal with this yet. Maybe it will all work out yet for this questionable species.

Posted by: B2O2 | November 8, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Eric: Jason doesn't write opinionated climate blog posts for this site. He summarizes and links out to interesting developments in the climate science literature and the blogosphere, often including many climate skeptics in the blogosphere.

Your praise for the "evenhandedness" in his writing, and criticism of the mainstream media's treatment of climate science, seems to indicate to me that you think climate science should be covered more like a standard political story, where for every Democratic view there should be an equal number of opposite views from Republicans.

The problem with this is that the notion of 'journalistic balance' falls flat on its face with science reporting, since the point/counterpoint approach often gives the false impression of major debates in the scientific community where none exist, and fails to get across the real knowns and unknowns in climate science.

Posted by: afreedma | November 8, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The climate models represent our best understanding of weather and climate expressed in mathematics. They are the most complete way to see how changes in greenhouse gases or other changes would affect the climate. There are many uncertainties, but they could underestimate the response to carbon dioxide and other anthropogenic forcings as easily as they could overestimate the response.

The sad truth is we cannot state that catastrophic global warming will definitely occur and we cannot state that it will definitely not occur. We don't know. That should not stop us from taking some reasonable precautions.

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 8, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I do believe (just as I believe the law of gravity) that global warming is occurring, that it is primarily caused by man, and that it will continue. What I don't know is whether or when it will become catastrophic.

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 8, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

@eric654

Andrew is right to make the distinction between my pieces (updates on climate science news and voices) and his (commentary). Also, my climate science contributions have been very limited compared to Andrew's impressive and extensive body of work.

I look forward to doing some more climate science round-up type posts while Andrew continues to do his commentaries. I think there is room for both.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | November 8, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, I can think of many examples where one-sided reporting created a false impression of consensus and, when the true uncertainties and (in some cases) poor scientific practice was made known, media credibility took a hit and science was tarnished in the process.

One of the most famous is Mann's 1998 hockey stick. If you haven't read Montford's book, then you should. The stick had a number of elementary mistakes that should have been uncovered and fixed by 2000 or so, but instead the media and the CAGW players, including the journal Nature, stonewalled, doubled down, refused to archive and release data, etc. Then they attacked the messengers like Steve McIntyre and censored them. That was a huge missed opportunity around 2004-5.

By not having knowledgeable critics in the science (including IPCC) review process and in the ensuing media coverage, the science loses in the long run. Another example is the steady drumbeat of chicken little stories without balance or perspective. There is practically no bad thing from acne to zebra mussels that hasn't been blamed on global warming when in fact most of those things have other obvious causes.

The bottom line is that credibility comes from knowing what is science and what is speculation or exaggeration. This can only be done with a critical independent review both in science and in the media.

Posted by: eric654 | November 8, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Eric, I agree that there is no shortage of examples of shoddy climate reporting, including overhyping the risks of climate change. But that does not mean that more false balance will lead to better coverage and a more informed public.

Posted by: afreedma | November 8, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Anytime politicians get involved in something outside their realm of expertise, it only makes things a bigger mess. Why politics is involved in this debate is beyond me. Last time I checked, I didn't think mother nature had any politicial affiliation. Non believers r labeled Right Wing Nuts, while believers r called Bleeding Heart Liberals. Some people spend more time labeling people than actually studying whats going on. TIME TO TAKE THE POLITICS OUT OF THE EQUATION.
I think there is enough proof that GW is taking place, only the cause & rateof warming can be debated. Man made, natural cycle, short term or long term trend or a combo of both man & natural influences.
I guess a 100 yrs from now we'll know who was right.

Posted by: VaTechBob | November 8, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Mann's work was investigated by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. I know two of the members; I have more trust in their scientific knowledge and ability and in their character than I have in my own. That is hardly stonewalling. They found he could have used better methods and he did not have enough data before 1600 to be confident of his results, but they did not find that using different methods would have substantially changed his results.

I believe many people since have produced similar curves to Mann's. It is not at all clear to me that his basic results have been disproved.

There were unfair attacks both by defenders of Michael Mann and by critics of his work. Personally, I find the criticism of both him and the IPCC to be quite out of proportion and very unfair.

Mann's work has been thoroughly debated and examined repeatedly in the scientific
arena. It has been subjected to repeated thorough reviews.

Perhaps it is time for a critical independent review of the ideas of those critical of the idea of anthropogenic global warming.

By the way, it is important for both sides to realize that one can be simply wrong without being dishonest.

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 8, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Right Andrew and I can point out many examples where the "right wing media" has endorsed any number of far-out scientific ideas which, at the very least, should have been balanced with a mainstream physicist.

The science of AGW rests on some very solid theory, e.g. CO2 absorbing and radiating heat and opposing views are very much out of the mainstream (although they exist). But catastrophic AGW, especially the idea that Greenland will melt significantly in a few centuries, is not well supported and requires a balance or broader view. Another CAGW claim is that today's warming is unusual or unusually rapid, also not strongly supported and requires balance.

Posted by: eric654 | November 8, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I am confident that global warming is primarily caused by man, but exactly how much of it is man-made (whether two-thirds or ninety percent) I'm unsure of. I am also not sure how much is due to carbon dioxide and how much to methane and other greenhouse gases, to carbon soot, and to land use and urbanization. Carbon dioxide is probably the leading cause.

My impression is that the warming since 1979 is unusual in terms of the past few centuries.

It is even more difficult to say what the regional effects of global warming will be, which is much more important the global mean temperature.

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 8, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

@VaTechBob, I don't think we'll need to wait 100 years. The evidence is overwhelming and the weather anomolies are growing ever more striking (c.f. this summer's heat wave in Russia, not to mention our own toasty summer, the shrinking Arctic ice pack, Greenland ice shield, shrinking glaciers throughout the world, etc. the ecological upheaval in the northern hardwood and conifer forests, etc.).

What we haven't yet seen are the truly dire economic and social consequences of GW, but this may happen incrementally (and therefore make it easy to rationalize away) than as a "big bang".

Withal, it's only a matter of time before Miami becomes the new New Orleans and New Orleans becomes the Atlantis of North America.

Sabal palm trees lining Pennslyvania Avenue (assuming downtown D.C. is not underwater)? It's only a matter of time...

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | November 8, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister, you should get the book. The NAS panel compared Mann's HS to Briffa and Osborn who used much of the same data. The period before 1600 is all that matters since 1600 is in the depths of the Little Ice Age. The panel used the same misleading grafting of instrument record onto the proxy record. The panel had no statisticians (Briffa and Mann presented their statistics but were not trained in it). The panel failed to follow up on outright falsehoods by Mann (that he calculated R2 which failed but told the panel that he didn't calculate it). The list is pretty long and the panel got very little right.

The science is slowly being corrected, as it should, with McShane and Wyner and more to come. It's pretty clear why it has taken this long: stonewalling by the authors, poor scientific review, and inadequate investigations like the NAS panel.

Posted by: eric654 | November 8, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

While I welcome the aims of the climate science counter attacks, for all intents and purposes it’s an exercise in wheel spinning. There is absolutely nothing that can be brought to bear, science or otherwise no matter how the arguments are framed, which will change the views of the closed-minded dogma of deniers. It should be possible (but not necessarily so) to sway the views of the “silent majority” to the side of realism from indifference and/or ambivalence about the relevant issues.

Even if successful, given the current state of politics in the U.S., it appears virtually impossible for there to be an “adult conversation” amongst politicos that would result in a consensus for some meaningful policy to address the possible, if not likely, consequences of continued global warming.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | November 8, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

From what I've seen, other scientists have gotten very similar results to Mann's for the last 1000 years.

I recently read that one review panel had two statisticians on it. One found that Mann's method exaggerated the present warming and should have been a field hockey stick rather than an ice hockey stick. The other found nothing substantial wrong with Mann's work.

It takes time for scientific argument to play out sometimes.

It also seems to me that some critics of Michael Mann are determined to find him wrong and will never accept any other findings.

There is a tendency for the physical sciences to do their own statistical analysis without much consultation of statisticians. I wonder how much consultation is required.

It is curious that so much attention has been paid to Mann's work.

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 8, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Two members of the NAS panel investigating Michael Mann's work were Gerry North and John M. Wallace. Gerry North has devoted much of his career to statistics. John Wallace has pioneered the use of eofs in atmospheric science. One does not need a degree in a field to know a lot about it.

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 8, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

The attention to Mann's work comes from the astonishment that it could have been corrected in 2005 or earlier, but has not. Get the book, read it and if you think it isn't factual, go to Montford's blog ("Bishop Hill") and ask him.

Posted by: eric654 | November 8, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Eric: Models have not assumed constant relative humidity for quite a while - they calculate it endogenously based on physical principles. See Soden and Held (2006) (http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/bjs0601.pdf) especially the paragraph regarding how they compared the AR4 model relative humidity to the assumption of constant relative humidity and found that models yield results that are close to but slightly less than the constant relative humidity assumption.

Of course, even if climate models don't impose constant relative humidity, that doesn't mean they get it right: as you note, they don't explicitly model small-scale processes for example. However, experimental comparisons that I'm aware of suggest that models are pretty close: see Dessler's work at http://geotest.tamu.edu/userfiles/216/dessler09.pdf and http://geotest.tamu.edu/userfiles/216/dessler09b.pdf.

-Marcus

Posted by: marcusmarcus | November 8, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Meg6 | November 8, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Meg6 | November 8, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, what is your source for this statement: "a majority of Americans already accept manmade climate change as a reality" The Yale poll you linked in a previous article said 50% and a recent Rasmussen poll is running at 39%. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/environment_energy/energy_update

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 8, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

MattRogers: I think you have a good point that there are a number of conflicting polls out there. An article that supports Andrew's statement is http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/opinion/09krosnick.html?_r=2&ref=opinion&pagewanted=all

I'll also point out that Rasmussen has not done so well with regards to its recent election polling - some of the underlying issues would probably extrapolate to its other polling operations: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/

Posted by: marcusmarcus | November 8, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Marcus Marcus, the survey cited in the NYT article references that a majority believes the planet is warming, which is different than belief in "man-made climate change".

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 8, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Marcus, my statement that they assume constant RH in the models was a gross oversimplification. But the essence of the models is to assume humidity (or more properly water vapor pressure) as a function of temperature. For example, see eq 5.36 here http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~dargan/papers/thesis.pdf As you pointed out, small scale processes, along with all small scale effects (e.g. the DCA hot spot) are all averaged into single, universal parameters.

So while I was not correct about the constant RH assumption being a model input (except for the most trivial of physics based models), the evaporation, condensation, and convection are all ultimately parameterized to the same effect, namely that those are what dictate the model results such as sensitivity.

Posted by: eric654 | November 8, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

If the AGU and others end up getting into discussions that resemble the comments in this blog, it will lead everyone to tune out in 5 seconds. Plus we have to deal with the hypocrites who advocate corn ethanol as a "solution" and those who demand government subsidies (our taxes) for their "green" programs. Regardless of the scientific merits, the American people are rightfully skeptical because many players (on both sides) clearly have their own self-serving agendas. It's probably better to focus on the real-world economic and national security benefits of diversifying our energy resources.

Posted by: chernobill1 | November 8, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

NYTimes article also said

"And 75 percent of respondents said that human behavior was substantially responsible for any warming that has occurred."

Posted by: marcusmarcus | November 8, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

CLASSIC... Mr Freedman a proponent of AGW makes a statement which is proved 100% false by Matt Rogers... then Mr Freedman
goes Silent.

IRONY with a capital I... It is wonderful to see how the AGW folks which love to argue that Most If not ALL of the " deniers" are

1) Morons
2) robots under the control or Rush or Beck
3) or are just Plain Ignorant.

Then along comes Mr Freedman and asserts something asserts that can be proved false in a matter of 5 minutes... and Mr Freedman doesnt bother to check?

ohhh bad move Andy! Say... have you ever worked for Nancy Pelosi ?

Posted by: wxrisk | November 8, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

An EXCELLENT post, wxrisk.....perhaps the best one of this thread so far. You hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | November 8, 2010 11:28 PM | Report abuse

There are several points here I want to make. As a rule I have gone out of my way to NOT get involved in the AGW climate debate. I have been in the private side and fairly well know for over 10+ years now and I have have never really issued a formal statement on the AGW debate.

There is a reason for this. As rule I try not to offer a Professional opinion about something I am NOT a professional/ expert in. Sure I have MY opinions about a great many things but since I am NOT a climatologist... my view has been to kind of site back and watch and learn. Truth be known LONG before the AGW debate got started meteorologists and climatologists have had this long running generally friendly battle between themselves. My view is that all climatologists started off as wanna Meteorologists but it turned out that for some reason or another these folks had no forecast skill of any kind. Since they still love weather but cant forecast.... hello climatology.

I have followed this debate for a long time and on this blog I think Mr Freedman's posts are TYPICAL of the AGW crowd. His posts / views are arrogant to the Nth degree and close minded. NOT in the same way as the JB and Limbaugh's views on AGW are... but closed minded nonetheless .

For example Mr Freedman's reaction to Mr Watts comments. While it is true that recently the AGW skeptics/ deniers have been getting way too Much press.... it was NOT that way for a LONG period of time. Mr Freedman seems to forget that only 2 or 3 years ago Dr Heidi Cullen OPENLY asked the AMS to de-certify ANY Meteorologist that did not accept either HER point of view on AGW or the AMS pint of view on AGW.

I would LOVE to hear how Mr Freedman and Steve T can explain to me how THAT sort of attitude is NOT the height of arrogance and totalitarian group think. Galileo must of been turning over in his grave .

That being said the AGU' global warming offensive is going to fail Badly. Sort of like the British under General Haig at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

In other words it is going to be a a friggin nightmare for the AGU. Recent issues from my 2 favorite Magazines.... THE SKEPTIC and the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER show why this new approach by AGU will fail.

http://www.skeptic.com/the_magazine/archives/vol15n04.html
http://www.csicop.org/si/show/disinformation_about_global_warming

The AGW folks are losing their fight because they think the issue has to do with the fact that JB or the late John Coleman has been in the media way too much. Or that Ffx news is way too powerful . Or there is all sorts of secret money coming in from the energy industry - my own mother believes THAT one.

** This comment was edited for clarity **

Posted by: wxrisk | November 9, 2010 12:30 AM | Report abuse

Fundamentally the AGW folks are losing the battle for 2 reasons. First they are running away from the very nature science. Second they dont understand the difference in mind sets between AGW/ Science vs conservative / Deniers Mindsets.

Science is SUPPOSE to change. Science is suppose to get things WRONG... then more research is done and we figure out what went got wrong... and we come up with new ideas and new theories.

In my lifetime I can recall reading books about the great crater in Arizona that formed because a volcano blew its top. We
all now know that it was a small meteorite which struck AZ 10,000 year ago. But that was not the original idea.

When I was a kid growing up I was told that dinosaurs were stupid cold-blooded creatures with no social structure of any kind. We now know that to be a completely wrong.

In AGW some of the early ideas have turned out to be a bit off or not entirely accurate. The Mann hockey stick is a classic case of this. Instead of admitting that some small aspects to his original work was porrly done AGW proponents have latched onto Mann's concept as if there was a last lifeboat available as the Titanic .

Another example of this is the early IPCC reports. The recent leveling off of the global warming is probably due to the persistent -PDO and or Maunder Minimum . But these were not included -- to the best of my knowledge- in the early
IPCC reports which forcecasted continuous warming across the globe through the first decade of the 21st century.

It does not mean that the the theory an idea behind AGW is wrong. But because the AGW proponents have run away from the very nature of science... this is allowing the the conservatives / Deniers to shape the debate.

Conservativism by its very definition is not a friend/ supporter of Science and this is a especially true of Neo cons and religious conservatism. Conservatism does NOT value change and new ideas. Science is a dynamic but because does not offer any moral values or choices Conservativism views Science as a threat.

Thus by denying the very nature of Science the AGW proponents allow the conservatives and the Deniers to jump on the the some forecast or a prediction or an assumption as proof that the the AGW folks are "wrong again".

This is a battle of conservatives and especially religious and neo-cons Love to fight and it is a battle that the AGW proponents cannot possibly win.

A particularly great example of this was a recent story that featured professor Mojib Latif from the Leibniz institute in Germany. This professor is a LEADING climate modeler and scientist for the IPCC. In Janu of 2010 he said that we are not going to see amy more significant global warming possibly over next 10 because of -NAO or -PDO or sunspot Minimumn activity.

Posted by: wxrisk | November 9, 2010 12:36 AM | Report abuse

AGW proponents jumped on the what they saw of as the Media's mishandling of what professor was saying. What AGW proponents are missing or overlooking it is how the sorts of statements appear to the general public who is trying to decide which side is correct. Nothing about what Prof Katib said should have any the impact on AGW. But since the general public as a rule is science the ignorant anyway-- especially here in the USA -- his statement seems to be a contradiction to the IPCC assertions and the AGQ ruling Paradigm.


This is the aspect of the debate that the AGW proponents must begin to deal with. That mean that now they have to recognizie that sometimes they are wrong. That sometimes the theories have to be changes as new data comes in. But in doing so this would meam that some of the IPCC forecasts and climatologists might look bad.

Science is NOT about saving face.
Science is not about keeping Honor.
As long as the AGW folks are worried about IMAG instead of getting folks to see that science is suppose to change they will lose the debate.

Posted by: wxrisk | November 9, 2010 12:39 AM | Report abuse

Marcusmarcus, if you click through the NYT article to the actual survey, you will see that only 30% said that humans were responsible for climate change. An additional 45% took the compromise choice of humans and natural variability being equally responsible. Hence, the 75% and the generous NYT "substantial" description.

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 9, 2010 6:44 AM | Report abuse

This latest initiative by the AGW crowd would seem to be a response to several recent peer reviewed studies that run counter to their opinions.
A recent review of Royal Society data used as a foundation for a lot of AGW theory has shown that math errors led to the duration of CO2 in the atmosphere being exaggerated by 1000 times. The RS concluded that CO2 duration was 10000+ years whereas their data actually showed it was only 10-12 years.
Recent studies also lend more credence to the theory that CO2 levels are actually a trailing indicator of global warming, IE: CO2 levels rise as a result of increased temperatures.
There have also been studies that have shown that solar activity is the driving force of climate and that greenhouse theory doesn't hold water.
The fact is that there is no consensus on AGW in spite of proponents insistence that there is. And since the subject has become so politicized and both sides seem to have a less than honorable agenda, it's doubtful there will ever be any agreement.

Posted by: gravitysucks | November 9, 2010 7:22 AM | Report abuse

AGU backs down and blames faulty reporting: http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2010/2010-37.shtml

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 9, 2010 7:32 AM | Report abuse

gravitysucks, I believe there is a lot of room for agreement. Lots of ccientists recognize and promote the value of nuclear power. Dedicated scientists do not ask for lifestyle changes or make lifestyle judgments or otherwise delve into politics. Don't listen to the green fringe bloggers who say that America is the worst polluter in the world.

We certainly can do better in a lot of areas. Reduce wasted energy (like our farm policies). Promote local production Why should anyone buy foods like canned goods from China? That makes no sense at all and just spurs them to build more coal fired electric plants. Support basic research into alternatives (rather than command and control of energy against the common sense of the market). Once the CAGW promoters lose that anti-corporate fringe element, they will do just fine with the majority of Americans.

Posted by: eric654 | November 9, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Matt, that article ties in with my view, but the AGU has to go further than just staying away from policy (and politics and lifestyle judgments). They also need to accurately report on the uncertainties, they need to refrain from alarmist rhetoric with little scientific backing, dump political advocates like Chris Mooney from their blog and replace them with unbiased journalists.

Posted by: eric654 | November 9, 2010 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, one cannot offer even an ounce of healthy skepticism regarding a 2050 or 2090(!) "projection" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/05/AR2010110507305.html without being derided as deniers.

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 9, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

@wxrisk

You say "Mr Freedman seems to forget that only 2 or 3 years ago Dr Hedi Cullen OPENLY asked the AMS to decertify ANY Meteorologist that did not accept either HER point of view on AGW or the AMS pint of view on AGW."

This is not entirely accurate. This is what Dr. Cullen said:

"If a meteorologist has an American Meteorological Society Seal of Approval which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming.... If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn’t agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It’s like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise.... It’s not a political statement... it’s just an incorrect statement."

Cullen was simply advocating broadcast meteorologists be educated on the issue and be able to speak to the science to earn their seal. Unfortunately, some of the same folks on the right you criticize took her quote out of context, and spun it - and popular perception (including yours) became that she was calling for decertification for not accepting a certain point of view.

Here's a link documenting the whole episode:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Weather_Channel#Controversies_and_criticism

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | November 9, 2010 8:15 AM | Report abuse

That article states "When it comes to climate change, conservatives are doing none of this. Instead, they are recklessly betting the farm on a single, best-case scenario: That the scientific consensus about global warming will turn out to be wrong."

That misrepresents the conservative position which is to expand the economy to cope with uncertainties in climate and elsewhere. Look at the results from two earthquakes of the same magnitude in Haiti and New Zealand. Which country valued business and productive capacity? Which economy had savings that they could dip into in a crisis?

Instead the authors in the article want us to blow all our money now on alternatives that don't substantially save energy or reduce CO2. Furthermore, what they propose is merely a symbolic, political act, because it will merely move our CO2 production overseas. That is not in the least a conservative value.

At least the authors didn't call conservatives ignoramuses, just "irresponsible" for wanting to protect the private economy from the whims of the EPA.

Posted by: eric654 | November 9, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

What angers me is the claim "Global warming is a hoax". To me, the evidence is extremely clear that the earth is warming. There are uncertainties in exactly how much, but there are multiple data of different fields that clearly show that. The statement also accuses people who say global warming is occurring of deliberate falsehood. I see no evidence of that. Some individuals may have hyped global warming, claiming that it is responsible for nearly every bad trend. Unfortunately, that is what is done in our society. Watched TV news lately? What I saw in climategate also was a lot of hype, taking remarks out of context and wildly spinning them to make the speaker as evil as possible. Science need to rise above that on both sides.

I also find it impossible to believe that people like Richard Lindzen and Bill Gray are not sincere, although I strongly disagree with them.

There is a need to state uncertainties. Unfortunately, the uncertainties include the possibility that the models underestimate the effects of global warming. My impression is that there is a better chance of catastrophic global warming than of my house burning down. Should I sue my mortgage company for the "hoax" of making me buy fire insurance or accept it as a reasonable precaution?

When people call global warming a hoax, they're "walking on the fighting side of me".

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 9, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

Marcus Marucs.... please get your head out of Nate silver's ass. Nate silver is a Joke and fraud PROVEN many times.

First Rasmussen in the 2010 election got the House and senate picks ups almost Exactly right. Some of its indivudal Polling was Off -- which is BOUND to happen. But Ras ALONE call for only 6 GOP picks in the senate.

Prof larry Sabato of VA called for +8 or +9 with a shot of 10 GOP senate gains. So did Charlie cook ...Stu Rothenberg... and Hart Tetter.

Moroever less than week before the election Nate Silver in his NY times blog called for only 39 GOP gains in the house... and 3 GOP gains in nthe Senate.

Then each as the election got closer Nate Silver issued a NEW predction each day.

If you think this is bad you should see what the Mr Silver forecasted in the UK election. There he predicted 3 days before the election a HUGE increase in the 3rd party... Nick Clegg/ the Lid-dems party getting 120 seats.

In fact Mr Clegg and the Lib- dems lost 8 seats!

Posted by: wxrisk | November 9, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Dadmeister, there's simple response to "hoax" which is the best measurements that we can make: http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_Oct_10.gif Note that Roy Spencer who maintains that website writes articles with a very conservative viewpoint, so cannot be accused of any type of hoax.

There's a legitimate argument about how much of the warming is natural, but it doesn't really matter. The only thing that matters is how much warming will occur with future CO2 emissions. As you said above, that is unknown and you would like to take "reasonable precautions". Now we just need to figure out what is reasonable and I'm sure we can find much to agree on.

Posted by: eric654 | November 9, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Jason
Your quote of Dr Cullen's outrageous assertions is 100% correct. Your interpretation of her words is NOT.

Take her sentences apart and look at them separately.

DR Cullen said "Clearly, the AMS doesn’t agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns."

OK... on that Point Dr Cullen is 100% correct. But then she went on to say this

"If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change,
(this is a code for AGW...) then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval. "

AMS certification be it with Media or CCM is the LIFEBLOOD of many private mets. In effect Dr Cullen is arguing that they should suffer some sort of economic impact because some mets may not have they same view as she does or the AMS does with respect to AGW.

Again she is entitled to her views but Please for the love of GOD can someone tell me how that perspective can be viewed as Open or progressive?

Posted by: wxrisk | November 9, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Roy Spencer's site is derived from satellite measurements. Satellite data has its own problems--how you convert from radiation which is what the satellite sees to temperatures, biases and trends in the data, and changes when new satellites go up and old ones stop providing data. Satellite data is extremely useful and essential because of its global coverage, but I am not sure I consider them the best measurements.

Learning to use satellite data to improve numerical weather prediction in the Northern Hemisphere took 20 years, although it had a much more immediate impact in the Southern Hemisphere where conventional data was much more scarce.

Give me a good radiosonde any day ;)

Posted by: Dadmeister | November 9, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

@wxrisk

re: "If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval." -- it is your interpretation that "the fundamental science of climate change" is "code for AGW". You're reading between the lines - and you may be right but unless we could get Cullen to further explain herself when she wrote this, we'll never know for sure. My interpretation was that she probably meant that broadcast mets - to get certification- should understand basic climate science and be able to speak to the major findings of the assessment literature (like IPCC, the National Academies, US Global Change Research Program, etc) irrespective of what they personally "believe." In any event, here's the full link to her blog post: http://www.weather.com/blog/weather/8_11392.html

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | November 9, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Matt, thanks for linking the Post article by Bracken Hendricks on conservatives not being very conservative with respect to anthropogenic global warming. I thought it was an excellent article. The 2090 projection is not an invention out of thin air. It came from multiple reports in the mainstream scientific literature. As the article stated, that high projection is for 'business as usual' human carbon emissions. If we can control emissions, the projections are not so dire. There are several lines of evidence backing up those projections, and they have been endorsed by the various scientific organizations.

Uncertainty in the projections only make the situation worse. That's because the physics of the greenhouse gas-temperature feedback work to bound the climate sensitivity at the low end but not so much at the high end. That is, there is a small but not negligible chance that climate could be significantly warmer than projected for 2090. We must consider such risks in planning action.

The main point of the article is that if conservatives are true to fiscal prudence and small government, they should endorse action that reduces the vulnerability of our country's vital infrastructure coming from climate disruption. Both conservatives and liberals should look to the long-term defense of the nation.

By the way, there is no mention of deniers in the article. Are you talking about the comments? I didn't bother to read them, but I would bet the comments are crawling with ignorant science denialists. That's been my experience before with Post opinion articles. I would love to be proved wrong.

Posted by: imback | November 10, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

imback, I believe conservatives should conserve resources. Obviously using less fossil fuel in all aspects should be at the top of any conservative list. But close behind is that we should not squander resources on projects that do not save much, if any, fossil fuels. Further, we should not put the government in charge of the energy market since that will inevitably lead to inefficiencies, shortages and rationing.

California already went that route in 2001 and ended up with Schwarzenegger, who became worse than Davis by his promotion of CAGW. Back then they blamed their brownouts on greedy power producers out of state instead of the reality that energy requires a market signal or it won't get produced. Now they just voted to repeat that experiment, except this time they are blaming greedy out-of-state power producers for warming the planet and decreeing that power will magically come from sources that don't exist.

Luckily for us, their coming failure will be a lesson that we can all learn from without the economic damage. The best and least government will come from discarding the CAGW notion and letting the free market provide the energy we need.

Posted by: eric654 | November 10, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

As for 2090, the weather will provide the upper bound. Many CAGW advocates claim it is already happening, stronger and more frequent storms which means low sensitivity and little warming above the 1C or so from CO2. The lower bound is determined by the solar influences which are completely unpredictable. We need to be prepared for both warming and cooling possibilities, but also other environmental disasters, both natural and manmade. If not, then we can hardly call ourselves conservative.

Posted by: eric654 | November 10, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Thanks imback. I'm a meteorologist and we spend a lot of time on verification issues, because ours is not an exact science. So when I see the global temperature struggling to even stay at par or above the year 2000 constant concentration level of the IPCC 2007 AR4 projections (only three years ago), I can't help but question an 80-year forecast.

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 10, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Matt, I think you are misconstruing what the projection for 2090 is for. It's for the *climate* 80 years hence, not for that particular year's temperature. Think of it as a forecast for a 30-year average ending in 2090 as compared to the 30-year average ending in 2010. There's no question our 30-year global mean temperature has been monotonically increasing even though there has been year to year variability.

Posted by: imback | November 10, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

"There's no question our 30-year global mean temperature has been monotonically increasing..." But the article down-scaled it to the U.S. alone. Many U.S. cities reported the 1970s as the coldest decade of the last century. And that Dust Bowl forecast for California to Kansas? NOAA reports that the U.S. is getting wetter, not drier over the past century. http://climvis.ncdc.noaa.gov/tmp/graph-Nov1106:24:595743103027.gif

Posted by: MattRogers1 | November 11, 2010 6:26 AM | Report abuse

Matt, you are absolutely right about downscaling. The offending sentence in the article you cited reads: "With temperature increases in this range, studies predict a permanent drought throughout the Southwest, much like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but this time stretching from Kansas to California." That statement should have been couched in probabilistic language. I would be willing to predict that the original studies he cites likely did couch their conclusions in probabilistic language. (I carefully couched my meta-prediction about the studies in probabilistic language as well.:)

Downscaling always introduces uncertainty. Consider the CWG winter outlook (by the other Matt R). The persistence of the large-scale La Nina over the next few months is fairly certain, but the downscaling of the outlook to DC is fraught with uncertainty. I thought Matt Ross reflected this uncertainty very well in his CWG outlook as a whole. Of course, the outlook could be unfairly cherry-picked for quotes ("five or six accumulating snowfall events") without the accompanying probabilistic language.

Nevertheless, I stand by my original point on climate policy. Uncertainty of downscaling is a terrible excuse for inaction. Remember that uncertainty cuts both ways, and the local conditions could just as easily be worse than projected. Why gamble with our grandchildren’s future?

Posted by: imback | November 11, 2010 8:49 AM | Report abuse

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