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The end of the global warming debate

January 4th, 2006

The news that 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded in Australia comes at the end of a year in which, to the extent that facts can settle anything, the debate over human-caused global warming has been settled. Worldwide, 2005 was equal (to within the margin of error of the stats) with 1998 as the warmest year in at least the past millennium.

More significantly, perhaps, 2005 saw the final nail hammered into the arguments climate change contrarians have been pushing for years. The few remaining legitimate sceptics, along with some of the smarter ideological contrarians, have looked at the evidence and conceded the reality of human-caused global warming.

Ten years or so ago, the divergence between satellite and ground-based measurements of temperature was a big problem – the ground based measurements showed warming in line with climate models but the satellites showed a cooling trend. The combination of new data and improved calibration has gradually resolved the discrepancy, in favour of the ground-based measurements and the climate models.

Another set of arguments concerned short-term climate cycles like El Nino. The late John Daly attributed the high temperatures of the late 1990s to the combination of El Nino and solar cycles, and predicted a big drop, bottoming out in 2005 and 2006. Obviously the reverse has happened. Despite the absence of the El Nino or solar effects that contributed to the 1998 record, the long-term warming trend has dominated.

Finally, there’s water vapour. The most credible of the contrarians, Richard Lindzen, has relied primarily on arguments that the feedback from water vapour, which plays a central role in climate models, might actually be zero or even negative. Recent evidence has run strongly against this claim. Lindzen’s related idea of an adaptive iris has been similarly unsuccessful.

Finally, the evidence has mounted up that, with a handful of exceptions, “sceptics” are not, as they claim, fearless seekers after scientific truth, but ideological partisans and paid advocates, presenting dishonest arguments for a predetermined party-line conclusion. Even three years ago, sites like Tech Central Station, and writers like Ross McKitrick were taken seriously by many. Now, anyone with access to Google can discover that they have no credibility. Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science which I plan to review soon, gives chapter and verse and the whole network of thinktanks, politicians and tame scientists who have popularised GW contrarianism, Intelligent Design and so on.

A couple of thoughts on all this.

First, in the course of the debate, a lot of nasty things were said about the IPCC, including some by people who should have known better. Now that it’s clear that the IPCC has been pretty much spot-on in its assessment (and conservative in terms of its caution about reaching definite conclusions), it would be nice to see some apologies.

Second, now that the scientific phase of the debate is over, attention will move to the question of the costs and benefits of mitigation options. There are legitimate issues to be debated here. But having seen the disregard for truth exhibited by anti-environmental think tanks in the first phase of the debate, we shouldn’t give them a free pass in the second. Any analysis on this issue coming out of a think tank that has engaged in global warming contrarianism must be regarded as valueless unless its results have been reproduced independently, after taking account of possible data mining and cherry picking. That disqualifies virtually all the major right-wing think tanks, both here and in the US. Their performance on this and other scientific issues has been a disgrace.

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  1. January 24th, 2006 at 10:55 | #1

    Willis, you have repeatedly made the false claim that Mann has not published his data and methods. He has published them and you have failed to mention any data or method that he has not divulged.

  2. Dogz
    January 24th, 2006 at 11:24 | #2

    Willis, a working definition of evidence might be “any information which reduces uncertainty”. Building a bridge and having it not fall down of course reduces uncertainty to zero. But modeling the bridge with a good model (one which has been independently validated) reduces our uncertainty concerning the structural stability of the bridge, and hence should also be viewed as evidence.

    Physical theories are mathematical models of reality. A computer simulation is also a mathematical model of reality. If you were so inclined, you could formulate the statement “the model predicts that the bridge won’t fall down” as a mathematical theorem, just as you can formulate the existence of W and Z as mathematical theorems. There’s really no fundamental difference – its just a matter of elegance (the bridge theorem is pretty ugly since its statement will need to include all the boundary conditions and the precise composition of the bridge elements).

    Tim Lambert: instead of splitting syntactic hairs, why don’t you just answer Willis’ question: where is the R2 statistic? [I'll be happy with an answer of "it doesn't matter" if you can justify it]

  3. January 24th, 2006 at 11:25 | #3

    JQ

    I am aware of and did Google, for “nuclear energy economics” and found the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency’s report Nuclear Energy and the Kyoto Protocol. Naturally they do not cite Quiggin and Hamilton 1997 nor Hamilton et al 2002 since neither of these even mention nuclear as an option in the context of Kyoto targets.

    Tim Lambert misses the point: Mann and co did not use standard stats to generate their hockey stick from the various scattered tree ring data they used; they also suppressed instrumental data when it did not fit.

    Tim

  4. January 24th, 2006 at 11:30 | #4

    JQ

    Sorry I thought my first citation of the NEA had not reached you. Just tried your suggestion re France+nuclear+ subsidy but nothing emerged. I would be glad to see your assessment of NEA on Kyoto.

  5. January 24th, 2006 at 12:04 | #5

    Dogz, Mann says the r2 statistic doesn’t matter, McIntyre says it’s VERY IMPORTANT. But it’s a result, not data or method. Willis’ claim is wrong and he knows it is wrong.

    Tim Curtin, earlier you denied the existence of the NATURAL greenhouse effect. You really should not write stuff about global warming — you don’t know what you are talking about.

  6. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 12:54 | #6

    Dogz, you say:

    Willis, a working definition of evidence might be “any information which reduces uncertainty�.

    Definitely not, that’s a very bad definition even for a working definition. Uncertainty could be reduced by guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, intuition, and a host of other factors. In fact, lots of people are quite certain what will happen after they die … but that doesn’t mean that the basis of their certainty is therefore “evidence”.

    w.

  7. Dogz
    January 24th, 2006 at 13:44 | #7

    Willis, I was assuming a definition of uncertainty within a rational belief system, which if you accept Cox’s axioms essentially means probability.

    If there is no basis to them, “guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, [and] intuition” will not increase certainty at all within a rational belief system.

  8. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 13:57 | #8

    Tim, first, you keep harping on whether the R2 statistic is a “data or method”, or whether it is a result. I’ve never claimed it was a “data or method”, that’s just a straw man which you have cleverly designed to avoid answering the question. What I said was this:

    1) Mann has not revealed all that he was subpoena’d to reveal. For those who claim he has, I posed a simple question for them to answer, to wit:

    What is the cross-validation R2 statistic for the 15th century MBH98 reconstruction?

    If Mann has revealed all, this question should be easy to answer, and I invited people to answer it.

    Note that I said Mann had not revealed everything, and if he had, you should be able to answer the question I posed.

    Next, a bit of dialog. First, a part of the request from the Barton Committee:

    “7 c. Did you calculate the R2 statistic for the temperature reconstruction, particularly for the 15th Century proxy record calculations and what were the results?”

    Now, since this was one of Bartons direct questions, if Mann had answered all the questions as you have repeatedly claimed, you should have just said what the answer was. Instead, you give me this “it’s not data, it’s not a method” runaround.

    Next, Mann’s reply to question 7 c:

    My colleagues and I did not rely on this statistic in our assessments of “skill� (i.e., the reliability of a statistical model, based on the ability of a statistical model to match data not used in constructing the model) because, in our view, and in the view of other reputable scientists in the field, it is not an adequate measure of “skill.

    Note that:

    a) this R2 statistic was a specifically requested part of what Barton asked for, and

    b) Mann didn’t answer the question at all, just waffled about whether it was important or not, and

    c) He totally avoided the question of whether he had calculated the R2 or not, and most importantly

    d) HE DIDN”T PROVIDE THE R2 THAT HE HAD IN FACT CALCULATED, and thus

    e) as I said at the start, “Mann has not revealed all that he was subpoena’d to reveal.”

    In fact, despite his cleverly worded disclaimer above, his code shows that he did calculate the R2 statistic for each and every step of the reconstruction. Indeed, he reported the R2 statistic for the 1820 step, where it supported his argument, and where he featured the R2 in a graphic. So his answer that “he didn’t rely on this statistic” is clearly not true, he not only relied on it, he featured it prominently in a graphic … but only when it was in his favour.

    He also calculated the R2, but did not report it, for the 15th century step, where it showed that his reconstruction for the 15th century had no skill whatsoever.

    Not only did he not report it, he did not deliver it to Barton when specifically asked to do so, and he didn’t even answer the question asking whether he had calculated it … slimy.

    So. Did Mann provide everything the Barton Committee asked for, as you have repeatedly claimed? Has he come clean about his data and methods, has he been honest and open about his work?

    Unfortunately, he has not … and I suspect, Tim, from your attempts to avoid answering the question and your waffling about “it’s not data, it’s not a method”, that you knew that all along.

    So. Who is lying now? The facts are clear. Mann didn’t answer all of Bartons questions, he has not revealed all, and your fallacious claim that he did is clearly … well … I’ll just call it a tragic mistake, perhaps the dog really did eat your homework, perhaps Mann just forgot that he calculated and then suppressed the R2, perhaps pigs really do have wings …

    -

    w.

    -

    PS — the R2 measures “skill” in the reconstruction, as Mann says. An R2 of 0 means no skill in the reconstruction, and an R2 of 1 indicates a very skillful reconstruction. According to the two most successful attempts to replicate MBH98, those of M&M and of Wahl and Amman, both of them find an R2 for the 15th century step of ~0.02, meaning that Manns 15th century results were bullsh*t … and the code shows that he knew that before he published the paper, and that he tried to conceal that fact by not reporting the R2 statistic.

    In order to avoid falling into the post hoc ergo propter hoc trap, I must put in this disclaimer: The fact that Mann’s 15th century results are statistically meaningless may be totally unconnected to the fact that Mann has never answered the question about the R2 for the 15th century step, even when subpoena’d for the information. It also may have nothing to do with the vitriolic, nasty, abusive nature of Tim’s postings on this subject. You can decide about both those questions for yourselves.

  9. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 14:04 | #9

    Dogz, you say:

    Willis, I was assuming a definition of uncertainty within a rational belief system, which if you accept Cox’s axioms essentially means probability.

    If there is no basis to them, “guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, [and] intuition� will not increase certainty at all within a rational belief system.

    Dang, I love this blog … Cox’s axioms? … I’ll be back when I know what Cox’s axioms might be when they’re at home …

    w.

  10. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 14:40 | #10

    OK. I now know much more than I ever wanted to about Cox’s axioms … so let me return to your statement:

    Willis, I was assuming a definition of uncertainty within a rational belief system, which if you accept Cox’s axioms essentially means probability.

    If there is no basis to them, “guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, [and] intuition� will not increase certainty at all within a rational belief system.

    I only see a few difficulties with your statement. The first is that one man’s “rational belief system” is another man’s wild fantasy. I have friends who are quite rational scientists, but who also believe in an invisible being that no one has ever seen, who can create planets and see everything that is happening anywhere in the universe. I’m not clear on all of the details, but they call this being “Yahweh” or somesuch name, and they insist that their belief in this invisible being is all quite rational and perfectly logical, thank you very much.

    The second is that you say “If there is no basis to them, “guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, [and] intuitionâ€? will not increase certainty at all within a rational belief system.”

    Please don’t tell this to my wife, as her intuition is better than radar … it has absolutely no known basis at all, but man, that sucker is usually spot-on.

    Finally, what about “guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, [and] intuitionâ€? that do have some basis to them, but we don’t know what the basis might be, or how strong it is? They can reduce uncertainty … but does that make them evidence?

    For me, I’m using evidence in the sense of “evidence in a court of law”, or “evidence to prove a scientific theory”. In this case, what I’m talking about is facts. Not theory, not computer models, not guesses or intuition or claims of invisible planet-makers, but facts.

    These, of course, are only provided by observation and experimentation in the real world. That’s why high energy physicists do experiments, in order to prove and confirm their theories. If the theory of the W and Z bosons were not experimentally confirmed, if it were found by experiment not to be true, that theory would be thrown on the scrap heap of history, no matter how compelling the theory was, how many Nobel Prizes it won, or how many computer models had agreed with it. Like they say … you can’t argue with the evidence.

    That’s what I’m calling “evidence”, and you can’t get it from models. In fact, observational evidence is what we use to test computer models, it is what we compare the models to in order to verify that they are accurate, so it clearly cannot be a product of computer models — if it were, we’d be testing the models against their own output, which is absurd.

    w.

  11. Dogz
    January 24th, 2006 at 14:51 | #11

    Willis, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cox%27s_theorem

    Even without the Cox stuff, if you’re looking for a precise definition of evidence you probably should start with rational belief systems otherwise you’re out of the realm of philosophy/logic/mathematics and into the realm of psychology. “guesses, blind faith, religious belief, rumours, hunches, [and] intuitionâ€? are not usually components of a rational belief system.

  12. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 16:19 | #12

    Dogz, by chance, Wikipedia was the first place I looked, and they had a (reasonably) understandable version of Cox’s theorem.

    I do attempt to stick with rational belief systems. Unfortunately, the demarcation lines between the rational and the almost-but-not-quite rational systems are not well signposted … and this, of course, is made infinitely worse by Godel’s theorem, which seems to say that every rational belief system … isn’t.

    It puts me in mind of one of the stories about the seer, Nasruddin. In this story, the King was fed up with all of the irrational belief systems in his city, systems sustained by rumours and lies. So he issued an edict, which was that anyone telling a lie in his city was to be hung immediately. That, he figured, would fix things up so that only rational belief systems remained.

    Nasruddin heard about this edict, and the next morning he went to the city. The guard at the city gate said, “Nasruddin, why have you come to the city?”

    “I’ve come to the city to be hung,” replied Nasruddin with a pleasant smile.

    “That’s a lie!” shouted the Guard, “and for lying, the punishment is that you will immediately be … uh-oh … wait a minute …”

    -

    Godel roolz …

    w.

  13. Dogz
    January 24th, 2006 at 16:34 | #13

    and this, of course, is made infinitely worse by Godel’s theorem, which seems to say that every rational belief system … isn’t

    … complete.

    Not “every rational belief system isn’t rational”. Common fallacy that.

    A system is complete if you can prove every true theorem. A system is consistent if there are no theorems that are both provably true and provably false (so consistency is essentially the same as rationality). Godel’s theorem says roughly that every consistent system (with at least enough power to represent arithmetic) is incomplete. Or, to relate it back to the matter at hand, any sufficiently powerful rational belief system will contain true statements that cannot be proven.

    Maybe we’re onto something: could AGW be unprovable? [joke]

  14. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 17:02 | #14

    What We Don’t Know

    I’ve been discussing our lack of knowledge of the climate system as exemplified by the new ideas about methane being generated by plants.

    Here’s another new finding, which is equally unexpected and equally shocking — ice can form at room temperature.

    -

    Creation of ‘hot ice’ could explain cloud formation puzzle
    By Nic Fleming, Science Correspondent
    (Filed: 21/12/2005)

    Scientists have created ice at room temperature, potentially explaining a mysterious variation in the temperature at which clouds form.

    By exposing water to a weak electric field, they have produced what is being called “hot ice”. The discovery could answer a question that has perplexed atmospheric scientists for years: why the temperature at which water droplets stick to dust and turn to ice to form clouds varies according to whether the dust particles have been through the process before.

    South Korean researchers were surprised that the field needed to create ice at room temperature was only 106 volts per metre, a strength low enough to be found in nature.

    If these “mini icebergs” are hiding in cracks in rocks and clay particles and in crevices in proteins in our bodies, their presence could help explain a number of natural processes.

    Denys Wheatley, a cell biologist at Aberdeen University, said: “Ice at room temperature just should not happen.

    “Water is the crucible of life. Everything else is buzzing around in it. It seems that this most common of liquids in our bodies is one of the least understood.”

    In 2003 a computer simulation carried out by Dutch biophysicists suggested that, by introducing an electric field, it should be possible to impose an orderly structure on the hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water molecules, freezing it at room temperature.

    Eun-Mi Choi and colleagues at Seoul National University created ice at room temperature by trapping a thin layer of water between a metal plate and a thin metal tip. When the tip was moved downwards while a weak electric field was applied, it hit ice at 0.7 nanometres below the plate.

    The research was published in the American journal Physical Review Letters and reported in this week’s New Scientist.

    -

    You can see why I’m an agnostic about climate — we simply don’t know enough about it to make authoritative, definitive statements, much less 100 year predictions. Room temperature ice forming in clouds … anyone care to guess how many climate models include that physical process?

    And can you see why I keep saying that climate models can’t “prove” or provide “evidence” for or “debunk” anything?

    w.

    PS – Regarding our discussion about model outputs not being evidence, an ironic note. This finding was first suggested by computer models. I note that it wasn’t announced, and didn’t make it into the scientific journals, however, until it was demonstrated to be real by evidence from an actual experiment.

  15. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 17:09 | #15

    Dogz, you say:

    A system is consistent if there are no theorems that are both provably true and provably false (so consistency is essentially the same as rationality).

    So a belief in, oh, let’s pick say, ghosts is rational, since a belief that ghosts exist is not both provably true and provably false?

    That doesn’t seem like a very rational a way to define rational … what am I missing here?

    w.

  16. January 24th, 2006 at 17:22 | #16

    JQ

    Have now found some stuff on nuclear energy “subsidies” in France and elsewhere, see below. In the former they appear to be trivial, and France is a major exporter of nuclear electricity. Interesting that because the Greens successfully required phasing out nuclear power in Germany, it apparently subsidises coal power to the tune of EUR4.6 billion a year.

    Following from Google “France nuclear power subsidies”

    France’s nuclear power program has cost some FF 400 billion in 1993 currency, excluding interest during construction. Half of this was self-financed by ElectricitŽ de France, 8% (FF 32 billion) was invested by the state but discounted in 1981, and 42% (FF 168 billion) was financed by commercial loans. In 1988 medium and long-term debt amounted to FF 233 billion, or 1.8 times EdF’s sales revenue. However, by the end of 1998 EdF had reduced this to FF 122 billion, about two thirds of sales revenue (FF 185 billion) and less than three times annual cash flow. Net interest charges had dropped to FF 7.7 billion (4.16% of sales) by 1998.
    The cost of nuclear-generated electricity fell by 7% from 1998 to 2001 and is now about EUR 3 cents/kWh, which is very competitive in Europe.
    From being a net electricity importer through most of the 1970s, France now has steadily growing net exports of electricity, which amounted to 63 billion kWh and EUR 2.6 billion in 1999. France is thus the world’s largest net electricity exporter, and electricity is France’s fourth largest export. (Next door is Italy, without any operating nuclear power plants. It is Europe’s largest importer of electricity, most coming ultimately from France.) The UK has also become a major customer for French electricity.

    End quote

    Tim

  17. Dogz
    January 24th, 2006 at 19:24 | #17

    So a belief in, oh, let’s pick say, ghosts is rational, since a belief that ghosts exist is not both provably true and provably false?

    If ghosts exist they either have measurable physical effects or they do not. If they have measurable physical effects then they’re provably false. If they have no measurable physical effects then they’re not provably true or false, but they’re also not interesting from a scientific perspective.

    You can always add a belief to your existing beliefs that has no influence on the physical world and no interaction with the rest of your beliefs and remain consistent, but parsimony (or occam’s razor) says you should excise those beliefs.

  18. Ian Gould
    January 24th, 2006 at 19:32 | #18

    I need to update my reading on the issue of nuclear electricity costs – it used to be the case that the cost of power from nuclear plants was significantly higher than from coal-fired plants.

    Soem of the recent data I’m seeing suggests that this may no longer be the case. However part of the reason for this is that nuclear generators have either had their debt substnatially written down by the state (as happened in France) or private generators have gone bankrupt and new owners have taken over the plants.

    In both cases, generators have been able to get out of a large chunk of their initial capital cost and sell power at close to the marginal cost of generation.

    It appears that nuclear plant utilisation rates have improved considerably, reducing average generation costs further. However, some of this can be attributed to the increasing average age of reactors – operators have had more time to practice.

    A big new expansion of nuclear power would require plants to cover their full capital cost once again (possibly offset in part by CO2 reduction credits). If it entailed new designs, it would also be likely to result in lower utilisation rates for the first several years – maybe for the first decade.

    This paper is somewhat dated but, for 1999, it shows French power costs were between ca. 50% (for industrial users) and 100% (for residential users) higher than in Australia.

    http://www.treasury.gov.au/documents/195/PDF/round4.pdf

    (That difference between commercial and residential prices also suggests that French consumers are subsidising industrial users.)

  19. Steve Munn
    January 24th, 2006 at 19:54 | #19

    Willis again demonstrates his addiction to hypocrisy and ludicrous assertions. He writes:

    “I’ve been discussing our lack of knowledge of the climate system as exemplified by the new ideas about methane being generated by plants.

    Here’s another new finding, which is equally unexpected and equally shocking — ice can form at room temperature.”

    Willis has again picked a “hot off the presses” paper, even though he has previously falsely accused me of doing the same thing.

    Willis again argues that incomplete knowledge is a reason for doubting AGW and failing to act to mitigate its affects, in spite of the preponderance of evidence in favour of the theory.

    The same argument could be applied to virtually every field of science. For example, gaps in the knowledge of Astronomy can be utilised by Astrologers who think the stars govern our lives; gaps in the knowledge of molecular biology can be utilised by Intelligent Designers who think Evolution is wrong and so on it goes.

    Sadly, quacks have a long history of pointing to gaps in a credible scientific theory to support their own incredulous malarky.

  20. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 19:57 | #20

    OFF TOPIC, skip if you wish:

    Dogz, not sure you understood my point. You say that a system of belief is rational if it “there are no theorems that are both provably true and provably false”

    This seems like a strange definition, because under that definition a belief in ghosts is a rational belief, since ghosts, whether they have measurable physical effects or not, are not both provably true and provably false. Therefore, belief in ghosts, according to your curious definition, is rational.

    Again, what am I missing here? It seems to me that your definition of “rational” is … um … well, not to put too fine a point on it, it seems irrational.

    w.

    PS — you say of Godel’s theorem, “Or, to relate it back to the matter at hand, any sufficiently powerful rational belief system will contain true statements that cannot be proven.”

    This, almost by definition, cannot possibly be the case. What Godel showed was slightly but significantly different, which was that any sufficiently powerful logical system will contain statements whose truth value cannot be determined.

    It is meaningless to say that such a system contains “true statements that cannot be proven” … how would we possibly know that the statements are true if they cannot be proven?

    What Godel said was that there are statements, like Nasruddin saying “I’ve come to town to be hung”, whose truth value simply cannot be determined within the confines of the system. Is Nasruddin telling the truth? Even the King can’t answer that question, because the truth value of Nasruddin’s statement cannot be determined.

    (Curiously, that story, which is a teaching story of the mystical Sufi sects, predates Godel by centuries, and makes exactly the same point as Godel’s famous theorem …)

  21. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 20:49 | #21

    Steve, do you think it might be at least theoretically possible to write one post without a personal attack?

    Because you see, I’m no different than you. I, like you, am just a man trying to make sense out this marvelous, magnificent, and inutterably complex world. Why do you insist on perpetuating your snarky, nasty, petty meanness? Do you think it proves your point in some way?

    Don’t you see that you lose credibility with this insistent hammering on the idea that I’m some kind of bad guy? I’m not a bad guy, I’m just another fool trying to figure all of this out, just like you are. I may be wrong, it wouldn’t surprise me, I have been wrong many times. But I’m not malicious, or evil, or … what’s your latest nastiness, let me read your most recent spiteful post again … oh, I’m not a hypocrite.

    A hypocrite says one thing and believes another. I’m telling you what I believe, Steve, straight out. I’m not deceiving you, saying one thing and believing another. I’m not a tool of the oil interests. In fact, I’m not any of the things you fantasize about me.

    What I am is, I’m your worst nightmare — an honest and dedicated environmentalist who is not convinced by the incessant repetition of your nonsense, a man who goes to the underlying documents and actually reads them and thinks about them, a man who is not intimidated by your unrepentant ugliness and unending personal attacks.

    And where did I accuse you (falsely, you say) of using some “hot-off-the-presses” paper? A search of the thread reveals that you’re the first person to use the term …

    Finally, I don’t understand your claim in your latest screed. I say that our knowledge of the climate, and the underlying physical processes, is not anywhere near complete enough to make 100 year forecasts.

    You counter by saying that gaps in our astronomical knowledge can be used to justify astrology … say what? Who ever did that? Who ever said that because we don’t fully understand the cosmic background microwave radiation, that means that astrology is real? That’s nonsense.

    And more to the point, what on earth does that have to do with whether we have enough understanding of the climate to make 100 year forecasts? Especially when it turns out that we just found out about room temperature ice … what does astrology have to do with room temperature ice, and whether our climate models take that into account?

    Let me explain once again about science, Steve, since it seems I didn’t get through last time. Science works like this:

    When I say “we don’t have enough knowledge to make 100 year forecasts”, if you believe I’m wrong, you should start a sentence with “Yes, we do have enough knowledge to make 100 year forecasts, because …” and then fill in the rest of the sentence with something at least tangentially related to the subject. Some scientific studies would help your case, but failing those, a logical argument that at least touches on the issues would be a big advance.

    I can assure you, your claims about astrology are not related to the subject at hand. Nor are your personal attacks. If you think that we can successfully make 100 year forecasts given our current lack of understanding of the climate, then make your case, bring it on.

    Because attacking me personally and making claims about astrology just makes you look like a fool. At this point, you have people all over the world laughing at your childish antics and your repeated, foolish, mindless personal attacks on someone that you don’t even know.

    Is that what you really want, people laughing at you? Or would you rather start discussing the science for a change? If so, set down the insults, let go of the personal venom, and let’s discuss the issues.

    Or, I suppose, you could just keep up the personal attacks, and continue to make yourself a global laughingstock … the choice is up to you.

    w.

  22. Dogz
    January 24th, 2006 at 20:54 | #22

    OFF TOPIC

    This seems like a strange definition, because under that definition a belief in ghosts is a rational belief, since ghosts, whether they have measurable physical effects or not, are not both provably true and provably false. Therefore, belief in ghosts, according to your curious definition, is rational.

    So for the sake of argument let’s assume that you believe in ghosts, and that on your theory of ghosts they have physical effects. Now you perform some experiments that conclusively prove that ghosts don’t have the physical effects that your ghost theory tells you they must have. At that point you cannot consistently believe that ghosts exist, because in order to do so you must believe that ghosts both have physical effects (from your ghost theory), and that ghosts do not have physical effects (from your experiments). In your belief system the statement “ghosts have physical effects” is both provably true and provably false, so your belief system is inconsistent (or irrational).

    Alternatively, suppose that you believe in ghosts, but on your theory of ghosts they have no physical effects and furthermore your ghost belief does not affect any of your other beliefs (basically equivalent to adding an extra axiom to a logical system that has no interaction with the other axioms). Then by definition within your belief system ghosts exist, and your belief system including your ghost-belief is consistent provided your original ghost-free beliefs are consistent since your ghost-belief does not affect any of your other beliefs. So it is consistent (rational) to believe in ghosts in that way, but since they have no physical effects and no effect on the rest of your beliefs, the ghost-belief is entirely superfulous.

    It is meaningless to say that such a system contains “true statements that cannot be proven� … how would we possibly know that the statements are true if they cannot be proven?

    Well, that goes to the crux of what we mean by truth. In fact, what Godel constructed in proving his famous incompleteness theorem was a theorem (of Peano arithmentic) which referred to itself thus: “this theorem cannot be proven from the axioms of Peano arithmetic” (he did it all very cleverly by devising a numbering scheme for theorems and proofs so that statements such as the above could be converted to statements about numbers and hence theorems of Peano arithmetic).

    So is the theorem itself true? Of course it is: it cannot be proven (provided Peano arithmetic is consistent), and since that is what the theorem states, the theorem is true. That was Godel’s revolution: truth does not equal proof (until Godel mathematicians had pretty much believed that truth = proof, and in fact it was Hilbert who set the task of essentially proving that truth=proof. Godel rained on Hilbert’s parade big-time).

  23. Willis Eschenbach
    January 24th, 2006 at 21:04 | #23

    OFF TOPIC:

    Thanks, Dogz, that makes more sense.

    w.

  24. SJ
    January 24th, 2006 at 21:39 | #24

    Willis Eschenbach Says:

    SJ, I must confess I didn’t understand your post:

    Well duh.

    SJ, you’ll have to explain this to us. Terje was talking about engineering models of a bridge. If one model says that a particular bridge will fall down, and the other says it will stand up, isn’t one right and one wrong?

    And in a larger sense, isn’t this our common experience? If we get two totally different answers to a question, whether or not a computer model is involved, isn’t it usually the case that both answers can’t be right?

    What kind of work are you doing, where all of the answers are right? Dang, I want your job …

    I don’t design bridges, but since you’re so keen on the subject, I can use it as an analogue. Assume for the moment that I am an expert bridge designer:

    I’ve got model A, which considers static loads. It tells me that the bridge will stand.

    I’ve got model B, which considers wind loadings. It tells me that the bridge will fall.

    Which answer is correct? Both of them, given the assumptions of the models.

    But, as an expert bridge designer, I can look “inside” the models, and judge whether the assumptions are realistic. For example, model A might assume that only one car will be on the bridge at a time.

    Non-experts are limited in what they can claim. They are simply not in a position to judge the merits of model A vs model B, and most importantly, do not have any ability whatsoever to judge that both are wrong merely because they differ.

  25. January 24th, 2006 at 23:34 | #25

    Willis, here is what you wrote about me: “Lambert also has refused to take a principled stand on the refusal by Michael Mann to reveal his methods and data even after he (Mann) was served with a subpoena.” At the time I had not participated in the thread for over a week, but you decided to make a deceitful personal attack on me. Mann has published his methods and data (nor was he served with a subpoena for that matter). Since then you have continued your fabrications, now claiming that I “repeatedly claimed” that he answered all the Barton committee’s questions, when I never said anything of the sort.

  26. Willis Eschenbach
    January 25th, 2006 at 04:46 | #26

    SJ, thanks for your explanation. You say:

    Assume for the moment that I am an expert bridge designer:

    I’ve got model A, which considers static loads. It tells me that the bridge will stand.

    I’ve got model B, which considers wind loadings. It tells me that the bridge will fall.

    Which answer is correct? Both of them, given the assumptions of the models.

    I don’t think this is the situation that Terje envisioned, and it certainly is not the situation that I had in mind, so perhaps I wasn’t clear in my description.

    I was assuming a common-sense interpretation of the two-model situation, which was that both models were modeling the same thing. If you postulate that one is modeling loading from cars and one is modeling wind impacts on the bridge, of course they can both be right.

    I doubt, however, that you really thought that was what we meant. I also doubt that was what you meant, because you said

    I regularly use different models of the same thing, and I get different answers from the models.

    Now you are saying that you are using models of different things (wind loading and static loading) and getting different results, which is no surprise at all … but in any case, let me be more specific so there is no misunderstanding.

    You have two models, A and B. Both consider say wind loading, and both are fed with exactly the same parameters. One model says the bridge stands, one says it falls.

    Can both be right? This is the situation I was discussing.

    w.

  27. Willis Eschenbach
    January 25th, 2006 at 05:06 | #27

    Tim, thanks for your posting. I’m sure there is a scientific point in it somewhere, but repeated forays into the somewhat tangled thickets of your verbiage have failed to locate it.

    I note, for example, that in one sentence you say that “Mann has published his methods and data”, and in the next sentence you go on say you never claimed that Mann answered all of Barton’s questions.

    Part of the confusion may lie in the fact that one of Mann’s methods is to hide his results when they don’t support his main thesis, as he did with the 15th century R2 data. That’s why he refused to reveal that he had calculated the R2, because then he would have had to acknowledge that his method was to hide adverse results from public view.

    All the best,

    w.

    PS — You are right, Barton’s committee sent a letter, not a subpoena. Thanks for clearing that up.

  28. Terje Petersen
    January 25th, 2006 at 15:58 | #28

    SJ,

    No, quite simply, you are not qualified to judge. In my work I regularly use different models of the same thing, and I get different answers from the models. All of the answers are “right�, but some are appropriate in context, and some aren’t.

    I think you are taking my comments out of context. If two models are trying to anticipate the effect of the same factors and the two models give widely divergent answers then it is more than fair to say that one or more of the models is wrong. Or to put it another way one or more of the models can not be relied on to give the answer that accords with reality.

    You’ve got an opinion on just about everything.

    Your right, I still have a pulse and a keen interest in the world around me.

    But you don’t seem to actually know anything, even about fields you claim to have earned degrees in.

    So you disagree with the academic experts who decided to award me with a degree (with honors). After more than four years of examinations and course work they decided that I do actually know something. In some areas of final year study (eg Photovoltaics, Electrical Power Systems and Electromagnetic Wave Theory) they even decided to give me high distinctions.

    Hey but what the heck, perhaps I should take your advise that UNSW knows nothing about engineering and I’ll just shred my clearly worthless degree.

  29. Dogz
    January 25th, 2006 at 20:03 | #29

    Looks like we may have finally reached the end of “The end of the global warming debate”.

  30. Ian Gould
    January 25th, 2006 at 20:33 | #30

    I was hoping it’d make it to post #666.

  31. SJ
    January 25th, 2006 at 22:54 | #31

    Willis Eschenbach Says:

    I don’t think this is the situation that Terje envisioned, and it certainly is not the situation that I had in mind, so perhaps I wasn’t clear in my description.

    I was assuming a common-sense interpretation of the two-model situation, which was that both models were modeling the same thing. If you postulate that one is modeling loading from cars and one is modeling wind impacts on the bridge, of course they can both be right.

    I doubt, however, that you really thought that was what we meant. I also doubt that was what you meant, because you said

    I regularly use different models of the same thing, and I get different answers from the models.

    Now you are saying that you are using models of different things (wind loading and static loading) and getting different results, which is no surprise at all

    Your appeal to “common sense” is kinda funny.

    I also was assuming that you were using a definition like that. Hence I gave an example using two different models of the same thing, in this case, a bridge, in which one model predicted that it would stand, and the other predicted it would fall. That was the original question, if you recall.

    I explained the difference between the two models, at which point you exclaim “Aha! They’re not different models of the same thing (i.e. a bridge), they’re models of different things (i.e. different effects on the bridge).”

    Your quibble is a useless semantic one.

    Let’s say we play along with your latest hypothetical.

    … but in any case, let me be more specific so there is no misunderstanding.

    You have two models, A and B. Both consider say wind loading, and both are fed with exactly the same parameters. One model says the bridge stands, one says it falls.

    Can both be right? This is the situation I was discussing.

    See, there has to be a difference between the models, otherwise they wouldn’t be different models. As soon as I point out what that difference is, e.g., that model A assumes that short term effects from peak wind speed is the dominant factor, while model B assumes that longer term effects caused by gust-induced metal fatigue is the dominant factor, you do the “Aha!” thing again.

    Complete waste of time, and a demonstration that non-experts are not in a position to judge the relative merits of models.

    Terje: I wasn’t claiming that didn’t have a degree, rather that you show no evidence here of having learned anything whilst doing it.

  32. SJ
    January 25th, 2006 at 23:52 | #32

    I wasn’t claiming that [you] didn’t have a degree…

  33. Terje Petersen
    January 26th, 2006 at 06:07 | #33

    SJ,

    Your insult is personal in nature but otherwise pointless. I think you should simply apologise.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  34. Willis Eschenbach
    January 27th, 2006 at 08:43 | #34

    SJ, here’s my point, although it’s been so long, I don’t even remember why it is important.

    One model says a bridge will stand.

    Another model says a bridge will fall.

    In the real world, either the bridge stands, or the bridge falls.

    Terje and I say that both models can’t be right. If the bridge stands, one model is wrong, and if it falls, the other model is wrong.

    You seem to think that both models can be right … a curious claim indeed.

    I suspect the confusion lies in what we are calling “right”. Terje and I are using the common sense view of whether a model is “right”, that is, are the predictions of the models correct. You seem to be using another sense of “right”, that is, are the models doing the calculations correctly.

    You give an example of one model that says a bridge will fall based on weight, and another that says a bridge will stand, based on wind loading. You say that both models are correct.

    However, in the real world, we are not interested in just what calculations were involved. We want to know something much simpler and more direct — will the bridge stand or fall? That’s why we made the model, after all, to tell us if the bridge will fall or not.

    Let’s say it falls. In that case, the model that predicted that it would fall is correct, and the model that predicted it would stand is incorrect, regardless of their calculations. Which is what Terje said, that both can’t be right.

    It is worth noting in this regard that a model can do every calculation perfectly and still give an incorrect result. This situation is so common that it has a special acronym in the computer world, “GIGO”. This stands for “garbage in, garbage out”, and refers to the situation where a model, although doing the calculations correctly, has been fed incorrect information (or is correctly calculating the wrong formulas, or is looking at wind when the relevant variable is weight) and thus the results are wrong despite the fact that the calculations are right.

    w.

    PS — I have to say, your unwarranted personal attack on Terje and his education is altogether too typical of AGW supporters. You never even met the man, and you think that you are qualified to judge his education … this unwarranted arrogance is only matched by your refusal to apologize when called to task for such churlishly unpleasant, impolite behaviour.

    Take a look at just this one thread on just this one blog, and you will find a depressingly large number of such nasty personal attacks. Note that in almost every case they were made by AGW supporters, not by the rest of us AGW skeptics and agnostics.

    What are you boys so nervous about, that you feel you have to attack us personally? And from a purely tactical point of view, haven’t you noticed that this type of unpleasant and unjustified accusation actually weakens your case?

    PPS — Whenever anyone says that “non-experts” are not qualified to judge something, I reach to make sure I still have my wallet. Your claims, that only specially qualified “experts” can tell if a model has succeeded or failed, and that through some mysterious un-named process, you have been chosen as one of the elect cadre of “experts” who can make that decision, is a) hilarious on the face of it, and b) typical of anyone who, like you, does not want their findings examined or challenged. In fact, “experts” often make mistakes in their field of expertise that would put a “non-expert” to shame … and in a reasonable number of cases, these mistakes have been discovered by “non-experts.”

    A case in point is the M&M debunking of the work of the dendrochronologists Mann, Bradley, and Hughes. For a while, people kept saying what you are saying here, that only “experts” in paleodendrochronology were qualified to judge the MBH98 work, and because M&M were not experts in paleodendrochronology, they should be ignored. In the end, however, the “experts” were proved to be wrong, and the “non-experts” were right …

    Or consider the history of the tectonic plate theory, where all the “experts” said that the continental plates couldn’t move … in fact, your “experts” theory is right up there with the “consensus” idea of science, both of which are non-starters in the real world of science.

    In science, whether one is an “expert” or not is meaningless. Was Einstein an “expert”? No way, he was a Patent clerk. What matters in science is neither Einstein’s level of expertise nor his level of education. It is whether his theory was right or wrong, which is an entirely different matter.

  35. Willis Eschenbach
    January 27th, 2006 at 08:53 | #35

    SJ, immediately after posting (above) my comments on your ‘leave it to the experts, the non-experts don’t know enough to judge’ idea, I found the following on the web, regarding a proposed bill in Utah to let the Utah Legislature pick the State Senators:

    Utah Senate President John Valentine said SB156, which would allow legislators to pick Senate candidates, as long as the political parties agreed, has nothing to do with sitting Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett.

    It’s an effort to bolster the power of state leaders, who are more equipped to crack down on unfunded programs foisted upon the states by the U.S. Congress, he said.

    “We know more than voters do,” Valentine said. “They don’t get the chance to hear all that we do.” The legislation would also allow lawmakers to “direct” senators by making requests.

    To me, the interesting part of this was their reasoning as to why the bill should be passed — “We know more than the voters do,” Valentine said.

    Does this sound familiar?

    w.

  36. Terje Petersen
    January 27th, 2006 at 11:58 | #36

    In fact, “experts� often make mistakes in their field of expertise that would put a “non-expert� to shame … and in a reasonable number of cases, these mistakes have been discovered by “non-experts.�

    When I studied photovoltaics at University I learnt this lesson first hand. I ended up coming second in the year for that subject. I was feeling quite competetive and worked very hard to come first. I missed out because despite having worked through all the trial problems and understanding the material completely, I made a judgment error in terms of working with an “expert”.

    For one of the photovoltaics questions in the final exam the correct working was quite complex but I had the process down pat. I knew how to solve that problem even though the working was rather long.

    In the week before the final exam the Maths guru in our year (he latter won the university medal in Mathematics and is now a Maths professor) showed me a really quick shortcut. I was so enthused by his stature, the simplicity of the maths and the accuracy of the answer that I adopted this new method without enough questioning about the fundamentals. It would buy me at least ten minutes in the exam. As it turns out that one question cost me the top position for the year, because even though the maths was correct and the answer was correct the solution was not. The mathematics was based on a false assumption. So I got zero for that question even though I had plenty of time (and the ability) to solve the problem the correct way.

    The Maths guru and I fronted the lecturer after the exam only to be shown that the maths was fine but the subtle physical assumption that it was based on was rubbish. In hindsight it was obvious.

    Now its okay because later I married the women who came first and in so doing I managed to keep all that photovoltaics expertise in house. And when she won the substantial cash prize (the photovoltaics division gets so many grants it has to give it away in student prizes) I got to have a very nice evening on the town.

    So I learnt two things that are relevant to this discussion.

    1. Don’t take expert opinion at face value. Even experts get things wrong.
    2. Even a model that gets the right answer may not be a good model. As they say a broken clock is correct at least twice a day.

    I have been careful in this discussion to say that when one model gets the right answer and one gets the wrong answer then you know that at least one of your models is inaccurate. It could be that both are flawed even though one got the correct answer. It is possible to have a model that accurately predicts that a bridge can withstand a 100km per hour wind and for that model to actually be deeply flawed in its assumptions. In fact the latter model is clearly more dangereous because it creates a false optimism.

    I assume that we should be continuing this climate discussion at the new thread that John Quiggin has created:-

    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2006/01/24/yet-more-nonsense-on-global-warming/

  37. January 27th, 2006 at 21:56 | #37

    Willis, what I have against you is that you are dishonest. For example, you said that I “repeatedly claimed� that Mann answered all the Barton committee’s questions, when I never said anything of the sort.

  38. Willis Eschenbach
    January 27th, 2006 at 22:42 | #38

    Tim, what you said was “I have never said that Mann does not need to show his data and methods. It’s just that he has revealed them, contrary to your claim,” and “Mann has released the data and methods and he has answered his critics.”

    This, to me, meant you were saying that Mann had answered the Barton committees questions about his data and methods. Obviously, to you it meant something completely different.

    Since he hasn’t answered the Barton questions, how is it that you are claiming that he has released all his data and methods? Surely a question such as “Did you calculate the R2 statistic for the 15th century step?” is a question about his methods.

    w.

  39. SJ
    January 27th, 2006 at 23:18 | #39

    Terje, I find your latest post frankly bizarre.

    The “expert” you whine about having trusted was actually a student in your own year.

    You say that this taught you to distrust “experts”. I would say that if anything, it should have taught you to distrust your own judgement.

    Yet here we still have you, day after day, parroting US Libertarian Party nonsense in almost every available thread. Less government. Lower taxes. Fixes everything. Gold standard. Blah blah blah. Sounds to me like you’ve swallowed some more bullsh*t from a self proclaimed expert who in reality knows no more than you do.

    Go over to Brad DeLong’s place or Brad Setser’s place and post your theories about the gold standard.

    Come back and tell us what happened.

  40. Ian Gould
    January 28th, 2006 at 08:01 | #40

    You know SJ, we’re in agreement on a lot of issues but I’m really beginning to dislike your propensity for personal attacks on people.

    (I’ve doen similar things in the past but there’s no-one more self-righteous than the reformed drunkard.)

  41. Terje Petersen
    January 28th, 2006 at 08:07 | #41

    You say that this taught you to distrust “experts�. I would say that if anything, it should have taught you to distrust your own judgement.

    It taught me to be cautious in trusting advise given by perceived expert. So now I generally question things until I am satisfied with the reasoning. I am not so quick to judgement. However some such as yourself obviously seem to look apon questions as a form of judgement.

    I suspect that whatever I say you are just going to throw it back in my face with more insults and little more. So good day to you. May you have a long and prospereous life.

  42. January 28th, 2006 at 13:50 | #42

    Willis, here, again, is your smear of me: “Lambert also has refused to take a principled stand on the refusal by Michael Mann to reveal his methods and data even after he (Mann) was served with a subpoena …”

    Mann has published his data and methods. Other scientists such as von Storch don’t seem to have had any trouble following his methods. To the extent that Barton’s r2 question is a question about his methods, Mann has answered: he says that r2 is the wrong measure and his reconstruction uses RE.

    Argue, if you will, that his methods are incorrect and he should have used r2 instead, but it is dishonest to claim that he hasn’t revealed his methods.

  43. jquiggin
    January 28th, 2006 at 15:55 | #43

    I don’t think the personal disputes are getting us far here, nor is the attempt to criticise Mann. Unless there’s something new to raise, we might declare the innings closed at 643.

  44. Graeme Bird says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 17:02 | #44

    Well there is something new!

    There is glaciation.

    And I imagine it would be hard to BEAT AND EXPLANATION out of a dumb-left-winger to explain why they take THEIR global warming position, in defiance of the overwhelming reality of what we know about glaciation and the Milankovitch cycles.

    You couldn’t help out here couldja jq?

  45. Terje Petersen
    January 29th, 2006 at 20:41 | #45

    I doubt you could beat an explaination for just about anything out of a dumb left winger. Just as you would have difficulty beating an explaination for anything out of a dumb right winger. The point being that dumb people have a hard time with explainations regardless of their political orientation.

  46. Graeme Bird says:
    January 29th, 2006 at 21:11 | #46

    The point being that once the abuse doesn’t take they are likely to run for cover.

  47. Simonjm
    January 30th, 2006 at 07:59 | #47

    Hmm nice one Willis using an example what would be the abuse of representative democracy to try to point score against the authority of scientific knowledge from those qualified in the sciences using the scientific method.

    I’ll pass that one on to the other biased scientific recalcitrants like the creationists, those that discount the germ theory of disease and others that want to go against mainstream science to use in their armory.

    Certainly novel I’d never had thought to compare the scientific method and scientists with representative democracy and senators, any more gems?

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