The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Open letter from a Glacier Scientist

Reprinted here with permission:


Dear all,

I was quite disappointed in the tenor of the Washington Post article a couple days ago:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/14/AR2010021404283.html

It's particularly sad for me that I have been quoted in the same article as Sen. Inhofe, the guy who claims that climate change research is a hoax. The article correctly points out the errors and negative fallout, and I guess we need to grin and bear it, again, and again, week after week, month after month, until the media figures out that there's a reality to report on as well. The Post article makes it sound as if the scientific community thinks that the IPCC process needs either scrapping or complete overhauling. This is not the impression I get at all in 99% of the comments I get from scientists; and it for sure isn't my view.

David Farenthold did not misrepresent my views, so that's not my concern. And the article made some useful points. But I just wonder at what point the unfolding story will go toward questions such as:
  • If the Himalayan glaciers won't melt by 2035, when will they melt? At what rates are they melting?
  • Are the actual rates of melting really significant?
  • In what ways are they significant?
  • If the Amazon really is so sensitive to changes in precipitation (notwithstanding the sloppiness of the citations), what--for the public-- are the consequences of this sensitivity?
  • What roles have been played by the media in making the exaggerated claims? (This question is NOT to blame shift. It is just to recognize that media reporting has been wildly inaccurate in many cases, and commonly the reporters must have known it.)
  • What is accurately presented, insofar as we can assess correctness, in the IPCC 4th Assessment?
  • Can we have a public, well-aired synthesis of what is accurate in AR4?
  • How can scientists be better communicators?
  • How can scientists and the media work together to present a more accurate picture of the changing Earth system?
  • How can scientists help the media ferret good information and diagnose misinformation and errors?
  • How can the media better discern and educate the public in what is Hollywood-type hysteria-for-entertainment versus legitimate science-based concern about hazards, disasters, and dangerous trends in the changing Earth system?
  • How can the science-media-public information system avoiding again sinking into the pit where every newly reported hazard or impending Earth change is necessarily a disaster so much better and bigger than the last one that was reported?
  • How can we help the public understand what is real from what is fabrications for entertainment's sake or political gains?
  • What responsibilities do scientists, the media, and politicians have in disseminating accurate scientific information?
  • How can this dissemination be done more accurately?
  • How can the science-journalism-public connections be made in compelling, interesting, and understandable ways while maintaining accuracy and not spinning into a "weapons of mass destruction" type of sequential filtering and oversimplification that results in errant conclusions at odds with the scientific inputs?
  • How can we avoid such a degree of "dumbing down" that reality is no longer adequately portrayed on issues which fundamentally affect us all (whether that's effects of climate change or effects of policy to address or ignore climate change)?
  • How can the media better identify political witch hunts or political conspiratorial leanings and discern the difference from legitimate political criticisms of scientific errors and errant scientists? What responsibilities does the media have in exposing unsubstantiated political claims about global change (regardless of which side the errors fall on)?
AND THE BIGGEST QUESTION OF ALL: IF UNCOVERING OF THESE ERRORS BY SCIENTISTS IS SIMPLY PORTRAYED AS ONE STEP IN UNCOVERING OF SOME BIG HOAX, AS SOME POLITICIANS WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE, AND IS NOT SIMPLY PART OF THE PROCESS OF SCIENTIFIC VALIDATION AND ERROR CORRECTION, AND IF THE 'HOAX' IDEA TAKES ROOT WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC, THUS TOTALLY UNDERMINING ANY EFFORT TO REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS, AND GREENHOUSE GAS/CLIMATE CHANGE SCENARIOS CONSEQUENTLY MOVE TO A LESS UNCERTAIN REALM (TOWARD THE MORE SEVERE SCENARIOS REPRESENTING UNABATED EMISSIONS), HOW WILL PEOPLE AND THE EARTH BE IMPACTED? SO WE SUDDENLY HAVE REDUCED SCIENTIFIC UNCERTAINTY AT LAST, WITH THE MILDER SCENARIOS ELIMINATED. HOW DOES THE PROCESS OF UNCERTAINTY REDUCTION PUSH THE EARTH INCREASINGLY TOWARD TIPPING POINTS THAT NEED NOT BE OUR FATED FUTURE?

I am about as optimistic a spirit as a reporter will find anywhere. I have actually shunned the idea of discrete tipping points in favor of a some vague continuum of changes. But my optimism fades rapidly when I see the uncertainties resolving in this way.

In my view, this unfolding story must go to these types of questions, as well as things like "how did such a stupid error get into the IPCC's 4th Assessment, and what simple little but effective changes can be made to improve the process and products of the IPCC?" In my view, these last two questions have been well answered already, with the proof of the last question's resolution awaiting the Fifth Assessment or preferably in some intermediate assessment version 4.5. The bold reporting will be to deal with what's real, and not endlessly rehash and refine and tweak and probe what is not real, what was error, and what was stupid. Let's look for a change at what's smart. We need that critical journalism, but at this point some actual real information needs to be conveyed to the public. This is the journalists' job. If we as scientists are just so tarnished by some few of us having written some stupid things, so tarnished that nobody trusts scientists, then we might as well go pay the fortune tellers and politicians and all types of seers to tell us what the Earth's future will be; that seems to be what we're doing.

--Jeff Kargel

mt here again...

I wish the uppercase text had gone a tad slower, but consider the hypothetical:

IF UNCOVERING OF THESE ERRORS BY SCIENTISTS IS SIMPLY PORTRAYED AS ONE STEP IN UNCOVERING OF SOME BIG HOAX, AS SOME POLITICIANS WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE, AND IS NOT SIMPLY PART OF THE PROCESS OF SCIENTIFIC VALIDATION AND ERROR CORRECTION, AND IF THE 'HOAX' IDEA TAKES ROOT WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC,

then what?

Essentially our critics are undermining our capacity for self-criticism, and then accusing us of "wagon-circling", defensiveness, etc. How the hell are we supposed to keep ourselves sharp if any disagreement among us is used as proof that we are incompetent or dishonest?

There are a number of occasions where I have written pieces critical of the climate science community, and refrained from posting them. The fact is that whatever we say publicly that has the slightest controversial component is, at this point, guaranteed to be misconstrued. The new feature of the situation is that now, everything we say in private has to be treated as public.

Meanwhile, we are left putting out fires pretty much constantly.

I don't think our more serious critics actually want to damage humanity's capacity for advancing climate science, but if they had set out to do so they could hardly have done a better job.

Thanks to Jeff Kargel for permission to reproduce his interesting letter.

29 comments:

Michael Tobis said...

Administrivia:

Blogger has made formatting this article so it's even approximately readable an incredible waste of time.

If it looks absolutely terrible in your browser please let me know and I'll have another crack at it.

AMac said...

MT, the article looks okay (Firefox on Win XP).

Jeff Kargel, thanks for allowing MT to share your letter. I'm from outside the tent (a Lukewarmer), so I'll be brief, as others will have more suitable comments.

Re: the issues you raise, you might find social scientist Roger Pielke Jr. to be worth engaging. He blogs frequently on many of these points.

Re: "If we as scientists are just so tarnished by some few of us having written some stupid things, so tarnished that nobody trusts scientists..." I see the problem differently. I expect scientists to screw up, because they are human. The strength of Science is in error-correction. It's the seeming failure of correction mechanisms in climate science that's the red flag as to Trust. (For specifics on why I claim this, Google 'AMac Tiljander'.)

Michael Tobis wrote:

> I don't think our more serious critics actually want to damage humanity's capacity for advancing climate science,

Thanks!

> but if they had set out to do so they could hardly have done a better job.

I disagree but won't repeat my reasoning. Prediction: when climatologists collectively show that climate science is coming back into conformity with the norms of 'regular' physical sciences, you'll gain allies.

Michael Tobis said...

AMac, any modest divergence from norms is in response to the (at first entirely unfair) criticisms, not the other way around.

In particular, I think any non-normative behavior in the CRU matter or by Mann's group is traceable to unfair and excessive criticism.

As you point out, individual scientists are human and fallible. Scientists don't enjoy outsiders making accusations of fraud, congressional investigations, and other toppling-the-chessboard tricks.

Your suggestion that climatology is outside the social norms of physical science is, in my opinion, wrong. It is, however, outside the norms of applied science, and this is in my view the crux of the change that needs to be made.

The necessity of the change is not a result of anything unusual within the community. The necessity is due to the inevitable increase in outside interest.

Everyone who wants this change should express a willingness to pay for it. To ask for so much more from the community without giving it the needed resources is futile, and will only cause the end of any significant progress without any gain in public understanding.

King of the Road said...

Michael,

As an outsider looking in, I'd appreciate your elaboration of what you feel are the differences in social norms of applied vs. physical science. This distinction is lost on me.

Thanks,
Rob

Michael Tobis said...

Applied sciences (medicine, some branches of engineering) have very strict regulations and very formal investigatory methods. This is expensive and unpleasant, but necessary, because lives are at stake.

Pure sciences have a much more relaxed structure. The idea that one needs to expect an "audit" is entirely foreign. The output is publications, and how you get there is up to you. It's largely on the honor system, the idea being that there really isn't enough to gain to make it worthwhile to fudge things.

This may be particular to our point in the spacetime continuum. But it seems to me that our most serious critics mostly come from engineering disciplines.

Being an engineer first and foremost myself, I sympathize with the critics' demands. Knowing the scientists in question, I sympathize in turn with their bewilderment.

The state of the art in pure science is informal at every step up to the actual publication, where there are formal hoops to jump through. Everybody in any subdiscipline knows everybody else. The real job of winning people over happens at conferences and meetings over coffees and beer.

Consensus emerges informally. The formal publication merely constitutes recognition of a serious effort. You can't establish the consensus from the literature, though the consensus exists within the literature.

That's not, of course, how medicines are developed or how airplanes are designed.

This can lead to culture clashes.

For instance NASA got too much influence over climate software in the US, producing a heavily engineered layer called ESMF that there's pressure on all earth modeling groups at all time and space scales to adopt. NASA's devleopment style is plodding and bulletproof. This is as it should be, because small bugs can be catastrophic for NASA.

This may be appropriate for weather prediction code, actually, but for science, agility is more important, and ESMF pulls in the wrong direction.

This conflict seems to be at the heart of the critiques from Climate Audit, Air Vent, and whatever you want to call Lucia's place. They expect a large, formal organization and come up against a small group of eccentrics (some of them quite brilliant eccentrics) who feel that any conversation outside the group or its plausible recruits is a waste of time.

The problem is thus a culture clash in which neither side is well equipped to understand the other.

guthrie said...

Or, to summarise the problem, nobody has taken a lead in turning climate science into the equivalent of, say, drug testing. Of course this would cost money, take time, and so on, which very few people seem to comprehend.

As someone who is retraining in a sort of science, i.e. archaeometallurgy/ archaeology of materials, but with a chemistry degree, work experience of ISO 9001 labs (metals analysis) and making up drugs for animal testing, I entirely agree with Michaels comment regarding culture clash.

But we return to the matter of politics. Which is about how the rules of the game are set and how the spoils are distributed.

John F. Pittman said...

MT, thanks to you and Jeff Kargel for the post. I think that you are correct. As has been expressed before, it appears that a lot of critics are from the "boots on ground" engineers and such. One point that may not be obviuos is that there is a reason that the engineers are this way: we will be the ones asked to design and implement, regulate and correct a carbon strategy. That is the position I personally am in. The questions and even the comments are the ones we recieve when new regulations come along. The rule is the more expensive the reg, the more is required. This "more is required" is for the proponents and for the implementation. I think you will find the name used in regulatory discussions for the engineers and the companies they represent illuminating. They are called stakeholders. They have a stake in this process, and with ownership comes responsibility. They expect the same from the climate scientists whether is is a realistic expectation or not. But I would point out the article you linked to where the author had little sympathy with those who do not do. From my perspective that applies to climate science. We are the doers. If you don't like the way we approach the subject, you need to get out here and do the work for us then. Because we are the ones doing the work and will be doing the work if carbon laws are passed. I already am, in case you missed the EPA ruling on GHG em ission reporting. ANd yes, my work is auditable and problems can result in fines or even imprisonment.

Hank Roberts said...

> the equivalent of, say,
> drug testing.

The rigorous, multistage, expensive testing in which anything that's free or inexpensive and easy for anyone to do is ruled out as not worth the cost of testing and qualifying, since it can't be patented and made profitable in the short term.

That's why we see "medicine" and "pharma" instead of "public health" as the answers to so many problems that might better be prevented at the population level rather than treated at the individually billable level.

guthrie said...

Hank - of course, but corporations have to live as well you know...

I was thinking of the actual testing side of things where they have to prove that the drugs are reasonably safe.

As for engineers implementing things to deal with climate change, is it possible for the engineers to just accept what they are told and get on with the building work? After all someone designing a bridge uses the generally accepted data on concrete and steel strength, effects of traffic etc, and produces a design, which then gets built with apprpriate testing of concrete and steel on the way. How much do you have to know about the precise mechanisms of climate change to design a new sea wall, beyond that you have to allow for between 21 and 40cm of sea level rise in the next century?

AMac said...

I'll jump in again.

First, Michael Tobis, since the Simacs episode, you've been making a clear good-faith effort to come to grips with climate-related issues as others see them. Thanks. The "culture clash" between applied and pure science that MT discussed earlier in the thread is important. Perhaps that idea will be picked up and developed by other prominent bloggers and scientists on 'your side' (the Yaysayers?).

Second, we should stipulate that there are bad arguments in favor of every position. The Yaysayers are more vulnerable, because they are the ones with the strong hypothesis (AGW is clear and is accelerating) that demands massive changes in public policy.

That said, one feature of this debate is the general failure of Yaysayers to seek and engage the best arguments of their adversaries. Whatever you say, you won't influence most of those who passionately deny that GW might exist, or might be A, or might be important even if A. However, I observe that there are a fair number of people who are able to evaluate arguments at a fairly high level.

You've lost many of us. We reject the Consensus stance ("The AGW Science is Settled") on the basis of the deficiencies of the Yaysayers' stance.

Steven Schneider is quoted in a Letter in today's WSJ. I'll repeat that quote from 1988 (cite here), because it contains the seeds of the current crisis that is besetting the AGW advocacy movement.

--- begin quote ---

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts.

On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination.

That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

--- end quote ---

The same issue is approached very differently by Steven Mosher in his article Climategate: Not Fraud, But ‘Noble Cause Corruption’. His link to the 3-page PDF "Noble Cause Corruption" where Steve Rothlein discusses this phenomenon in its original law-enforcement context is quite germane to the AGW discussion, as well.

Martin said...

No amount of sound engineering practice is going to eliminate the real uncertainties. All it can eliminate is mistakes and fraud -- not unimportant, but the smaller part of the problem. And of course it creates an appearance of accountability -- again not unimportant politically, but not anything that gets me warmed up. But then, I'm one of those eccentrics.

BTW I don't think that being eccentric is a legitimate ground for being smeared to the brink of suicide.

Steve Bloom said...

AMac: "That said, one feature of this debate is the general failure of Yaysayers to seek and engage the best arguments of their adversaries."

Please list those arguments.

AMac said...

Steve Bloom, I've lurked in some threads at Cruel Mistress and elsewhere where you've played an active role. Based on those, I don't foresee a productive exchange.

You're more active than I on this issue, by far. I'd expect you have a list of Good Arguments that's more comprehensive than mine.

There's also the link in my 5:42am comment to the Steven Mosher piece. That provides some useful context.

John F. Pittman said...

Gutrie asks an insightful question:
""As for engineers implementing things to deal with climate change, is it possible for the engineers to just accept what they are told and get on with the building work? After all someone designing a bridge uses the generally accepted data on concrete and steel strength, effects of traffic etc, and produces a design, which then gets built with apprpriate testing of concrete and steel on the way. How much do you have to know about the precise mechanisms of climate change to design a new sea wall, beyond that you have to allow for between 21 and 40cm of sea level rise in the next century?""
First the comparison of cement and steel needs to be discussed. Take cement, you set the loading say in PSI, this will tell you how thick, how much and size of the rebar, and even how long it needs to cure to start using it. The steel has a standard to meet and an assay can be requested (polite demand). The cement must have a certain angle of repose, crushing strength, and density to meet a certain specification. STeel ahs different but similar specifications and assys are available on request. So the first that should be obviuos is that the specifications do not have the factor of 2 in most applications. For those that do, if it is for twice the height it is generally twice the amount. This is not necessarily true near water where the foundation (consolidated soils) cannot support the proposed structure. At this point the amount of ballast and excavation can end up as the largets cost, not the structure. The over riding concern for an engineer is that one cannot design to a philosophy. It has to be a specification. Next, becuase such items can be expensive, whether by regulation or by company, a discussion will take place about necessity, cost, and utility. Yes, one can force persons to address a problem reeal or otherwise. But it will be discussed, and the engineer or manager in charge will be asked the hard questions that sceptics are asking. Questions get asked all the time where the answer is not liked. That does not stop them from being asked or the requirement that they be answered. One area that the CRU emails indicated that the IPCC and the climate scientists were bulls-eye on, was that the proposals are political. To me it is little wonder that the political has enetered the discussion. By necessity it had to be there from the beginning. A big problem is that it appears that many were unprepared for what that meant. Both political professionals and climate scientists. It is easy to have sympathy for the scientists (for me). Sympathy definetly does not extend to the politicians. There was a UK study that out lined do's and don'ts of convincing the public to support an unwanted issue (actually climate change in this report. The IPCC, Gore, and carbon regulatory proponents, should have known to follow this advice, but didn't. My opinion is that they used the climate scientists as "lightning rods." It appears to have been a poor decision.

guthrie said...

John F Pitman - according to the 'normal' way these things work (hahhahaha) the scientists are supposed to point out the dangers, and after some faffing and umming and ahing the politicans ask for more data, and a few years later the scientists come back to them with it. Eventually the politicans realise something has to be done, and often manage to hit upon the right thing 3rd time lucky.

What else are the scientists supposed to do after they've pointed out the problem, which they did 20 fucking years ago?

But its been delay, delay, delay, because it is a tricky topic requiring some thought and it raises many difficult political issues. However the forces of stupidity are at work the same as the ozone hole:
http://www.wunderground.com/education/ozone_skeptics.asp?MR=1

Also science, as the discipline of finding out how the world works, cannot work to a specification. Of necessity there are leaps of imagination involved, and whilst a specification is necessary for some of the experimental work and calculations, it is part of the process, different from the way a specification is an ur-document for an engineering project.

John F. Pittman said...

gutrie, that is normal for a scientist. But you leave out an important point. When politicians want something done, the doers are the engineers. Where the problem starts is just as the population does not want to hear an unwelcome message, neither do the politicians. For the politicians, uncertainty of result but certainty of huge unpopular costs is a mandate killer. Thus the tendency to over sell. But they are not alone. Engineers do not like uncertainty. Hard to do a budget in shifting sands. It is obvious to me from my POV that the climate scientists do not want to hear that with such uncertainties, that doing nothing makes more sense from the economic veiw. For most engineers, the precautionary principle is veiwed as a rhetorical device that tries to give certainty to a problem defined as uncertain. They will not buy this on the most part. Whereas you may claim that the science has been in for 20 years, I would point out that the uncertainty is the same or about the same as 20 years ago. This also causes suspicion. With all the increases in computing and claimed proof of AGW, why do the uncertainty intervals still indicate a do-nothing policy (for an engineer) is correct? Why when asking for specific information as to the methodology will an engineer be called a denialist? For an engineer to apprise a situation, specific information is needed in place of specs. Science may explain how the world works, but engineeers build the machines and systems that do the work. Before we do the work, we will be asked if it makes sense, and asked to explain why. If we have to waffle due to uncertainty or unanswered questions the likelihood of support is diminishingly small.

Marion Delgado said...

YGBFKM - handicapping humanity's ability to advance climate science is the goal, no doubt about it.

guthrie said...

Jeff Pitman - where do you get the idea that the uncertainties include a do nothing option?

My understanding of the science is that the accuracy has indeed grown over the years, perhaps you have a different opinion.

As for calling people denialists, we don't call engineers denialists for asking for specific information about methodology. We do call them denialists when they ignore the information already given and proceed to make up conspiracy theories and guesses. It seems that the communications link is not properly in place between engineers and scientists, which is rather silly given how much overt acceptance there is of AGW by everyone from the Pentagon to councils, but it seems to be rather tricky to set it up, I don't see why.

Steve Bloom said...

For the record, AMac, the problem with climate "auditing" is that it intentionally avoids the many aspects of the science that are not prone to nitpicking and thus avoids the big picture.

The most important such aspect (IMHO) is deep-time paleoclimate, and in particular the extensive recent results pertaining to warm intervals during the Pliocene and Miocene. The upshot is that we know where global climate will end up if CO2 levels remain high, the only question being how long it will take to get there. That's hard to tell since the pace of the CO2 pulse we are responsible for has no natural analog but, as they used to say in the '60s, "speed kills." Did you know, for example, that even 350 ppm is enough to force a reorganization of the ocean-atmosphere circulation? Think about the implications of that for regional climate.

And we seem to be seeing the early stages of the reorganization in the present, for example in the observed expansion of the tropics and the concomitant poleward shift of the atmospheric circulation, and in the observed acceleration of glaciers in both Greenland and West Antarctica due to encroachment of warm currents. Most worrisome is that the Pine Island/Thwaites outlet glacier in West Antarctica recently has been observed to have already lifted away from its stable grounding point, meaning that its complete loss is probably inevitable. That's a good chunk of near-term sea level rise right there, and it's likely only the start of a much bigger ice loss.

Other than the reorganization itself, the big worries are a couple of effects that wouldn't be a problem but for the speed of climate change: Ocean acidification (which I'm sure you've heard about) and a possible large methane pulse (and resultant extreme warming event) due to a rapid loss of Arctic permafrost and possibly clathrate deposits.

As Ray Pierrehumbert likes to say, reasonable people ought to be quite alarmed by all of this. "Auditing" seems to me to be just a shiny object for those who decided they would prefer to look away before ever having learned what the science has to say.

dhogaza said...

"The same issue is approached very differently by Steven Mosher in his article Climategate: Not Fraud, But ‘Noble Cause Corruption’."

I held my nose and began to read the Mosher piece, in hopes that he wouldn't be *quite* as dishonest as is typical for him.

My hopes were dashed.

Seriously, AMac, if you can't see the bias and downright dishonesty of this piece, then yes, you're right, you and Steve Bloom, or you and just about anyone acquainted what's really been discussed in the CRU e-mails etc, are unlikely to have a productive discussion.

Mosher's writings are another example of the disadvantage honorable people work under when discussing climate science. Honorable people don't lie. Mosher knows this, and takes full advantage, flooding us with an endless stream of them, knowing that some people, like yourself, will accept them as truth because you find it hard to believe that someone would lie so willingly and earnestly in order to misinform you.

You really need to acquire a more finely tuned BS detector ...

John F. Pittman said...

gutrie said "Pitman - where do you get the idea that the uncertainties include a do nothing option?" gutrie in a cost benefit analysis (CBA), items that one can address with certainty take precedence over items that are uncertain. Further, one starts with the items that have the largest benefit to cost ratio. Since you start with the known benefits with known costs then go towards unknown benefits with unknown costs, doing nothing about CO2 has definite and defined benefits. Concentrating on the possibilties of the unknown or uncertain ignores two determing contraints. Known means knonw. Unknown means unknown. That not doing may, and perhaps to you definetly has costs, does not change the uncertainty. It also does not change that doing something has costs and in the case of unknowns doing may cost more than not doing. In the absence of data, avoiding costs will give the best solution of possibilities. This is considered a trivial solution. Not trivial in its effects, but trivial in its proofs. It is intrinsic to a CBA. Our discussion was about what is measureable. In this heirarchy, undetemined uncertain parameters, considerationsare subordinate to known or more certain parameters. This is also a trivial solution to the nature of realistic expections that I posted on.
As far as I can tell neither accuracy or precision has improved substantially over the last twenty years. Since discussion of the reasoning may not meet our hosts wishes, further discussion would necessitate the discussion of positions that our host thinks detract from the science. I have a differnt opinion, but this is his site not mine.
As for your claim that you ( I assume it is true) do not call engineers denialists for requesting information or methodology does not means others do not. In fact, I accepted AGW (climate change) until folks at RC convinced me it was suspect. They did this by doing as I stated. Hard questions to methodology and data led to a branding of denialist. I was admamant for specific reasons. The questions I asked was to solve a similar problem I wanted to solve. I understand, now, why they responded as they did. It does not change how they responded. IMO this should be a lesson for both sides: Wrong assumptions make you an ass. Be careful how you paint an opponent, you may be painting yourself. You state ""It seems that the communications link is not properly in place between engineers and scientists, which is rather silly given how much overt acceptance there is of AGW by everyone from the Pentagon to councils, but it seems to be rather tricky to set it up, I don't see why."" I would point out the first problem is the dichotemy you set up with scientists versus engineers. I know I did too. I did so for a reason. The defintion of an engineer is "a practical scientist." Precautionary Principle, scare tactis, ad homs, all tell an engineer "don't know means don't know." i.e. not practical. This rejection of acceptance is a frequent occurance. The engineers I know call it "where the rubber meets the road." It is the refusal of "name your group" management, academia, climate scientists, denialists to provide data, results, certainties that match the claims that have been made. By the way, most engineers are dye in the wool frequencists. IPCC is Bayesian. Overt acceptance means little to the engineer if you can't back it up with proof. The proof is to the engineeer's specs not others. After all, the engineer is the one responsible for desinging, building, certifying, going to jail over person; not climate scientists nor the overt acceptors. Some don't even want to do FOI, probably one of the least noxiuos rules engineers have to put up with.

steven said...

MT,

"In particular, I think any non-normative behavior in the CRU matter or by Mann's group is traceable to unfair and excessive criticism."

Facts.

in 2002 Jones agreed to shared data with Mcintyre, and did share the data.

MM03 is published as well as the Soon paper.

The mails show Mann's reaction. he wants to start a file on the editor to have him removed. Normative?
On the PUBLICATION OF ONE PAPER? what themails show is the following reaction. prior to the publication of the Soon paper Mann argues that people should follow the Overpeck strategy. "ignore skeptics because they are not in peer review"
When the soon paper hits, one scientist says " well that was a weakness in the overpeck approach"
Then Mann writes about starting a file on the editor and having him removed. Jones comments " we have CRU staff on the editorial board" PRIOR to any unfair criticism of CRU, jones or Mann.

In fact, Briffa nd Osborn ( the mails show) had planned their OWN criticism of mann before MM03.
Much along the same lines.

Dec 2004 MM05 is in review.

Jan 2005. Wigley writes to Jones about FOIA and asks if he will have to share code. Jones mentions that a person is asking him for data. Warwick Hughes.

Jan 2005, Jones writes that if people find out about FOIA he will just delete the data rather than share it.

At this date NO FOIA have been issued. Jones has given data to Mcintyre and has promised it to Hughes

Jan 2005 MM05 is published.

Feb 21 2005. Briffa sends a mail to Jones. The mail consists of editorials criticizing Mann for not sharing data.

Not exactly unfair criticism

Feb 21, 2005 Jones tell Hughes he will not share the data even if the WMO authorizes it because Hughes aim is to find something wrong.


Michael, the "circling of the wagons" happened as a direct result of the tactics that preceeded the criticism. The criticism was not unfair.

Look. Jones was wrong and climate science is still correct.

However, I do have some sympathy for your plight. When I recently tried to argue that jones and mann did not engage in fraud, that message was not well received. FWIW.

guthrie said...

John - a very useful comment on the culture gap, thanks.
However it seems to me that the more narrow focus on CBA for engineers has to give way to the larger picture, which could be summed up with the precautionary principle. Or if you don't like that, how come it is ok to carry on doing something with unknown consequences? I would have thought that an engineering mindset would be interested in dealing with a lack of knowledge, as in "We don't know what the geology under that area is like, so we won't route the road that way, but we do know that this other route has good stable bedrock along most of it".

As for FOI, CRU had fulfilled a number of such requests, I saw a list somewhere. The main problem was that renowned non-scientist Macintyre and his cohorts ketp demanding stuff all at once which would take ages to find and indeed was mostly already available. So to anyone involved it looked exactly like harassment.

On the frequentist vs Bayesian thing, my understanding is that there is a reason for the difference, and that is the bayesian approach suits climate science much better, its a matter of the right tool for the job.

John F. Pittman said...

guthrie, they do not have the data to do frequency. There is but one real expression. This is different say from models for a wing design. The actual climate only runs once. Therefore whereas in the wing one can run multiple real experiments for one model in the X:Y approach, we have for climate a one time run of Y:X. X:Y is not Y:X in this case. Your example of geology supports my case. It is about known. An engineer can be build on the known if it is suitable or can be made suitable. Unknown though means unknown. The Precautionary Pronciple as has been formulated is a hard sell. I think a better approach rather than setting a goal of only 2C rise, it would be a PP of stopping an uncertain xC by implementing y-known technology. Say each nuclear plant would replace m amount of CO2. Set the total CO2 to be reduced, and build enough plants to meet the y that has been selected, such that whether it is 1C or 2C or just .2C, it has discrete and measurable costs. One of the problems facing countries that have signed on to CO2 reduction is that the basis for replacing it has been more difficult than anticipated. The failure of Kyoto, expensive with little if any benefit, the cheating, the export of manufacturing from countries that require emission control to those that do not has done severe environmental damage in some areas. With the current economic turmoil, a job loss proposal will present political problems. That is what is occurring here in the USA.

As one who has asked for data, and kept track of the requests on CA, I think your comment shows a misunderstanding. Data that was given to others was requested. It was claimed that there was a reason for the refusal. Each person took 5 countries and asked were there contracts. Note that not knowing if you have a contract is a problem becuase contracts specify what can or is to be done. As an engineer I have reveiwed numerous proposes, data, contracts, and yes, the information has to be provided. This is one of the reasons so many "boots on ground" are sceptical. It is simply standard business practice. If persons want to propose doing something about CO2, they need to get used to this. Either politicians or others will insist on it, so you might as well provide it. Or refusal will be taken to mean that one really does not want to do what is claimed. People are not going to buy a trillion dollar "pig in a poke." Or at least I hope they don't.

guthrie said...

Well yes, we lack a spare planet to experiment on. Therefore, why do lots of odd things of uncertain outcome to the one planet we do have?
(Why am I reminded of the Ozone hole problem?)

My road building analogy was to point out that if, as you say, we really don't know much about what will happen with all the extra CO2 etc, why try and build a road over the unknown ground, when in fact we know that we can decarbonise and build it over a different route, with more obvious and known problems (Eg nuclear power plants for all requires some proliferation controls).

We must be reading different sources, I've never seen anyone reputable saying that Kyoto was horribly expensive. A failure perhaps, but thats down to the usual power playing politics, since the people with the power think they are outwith the natural world, or will be safely dead by the time things get painful.
And I disagree with you regarding discreet and measurable costs, only cannot really formulate much of an argument beyond we don't know enough about the actual costs and benefits to be able to calculate what is best.



On the information requests, yes, asking a multitude of people to pick 5 countries and bombard them with requests is in fact harassment. In this case it is clear that the engineers were fixated upon something of little relevance, but the problem is that the scientists can't really move into engineering think, partly because CRU was and still is trying to do science, not engineering. At the very least they require more money and more people in order to set things up on a basis more acceptable to the engineers...

John F. Pittman said...

Guthrie Though I don't think I will convince you, taking the problem 5 at a time was not harassment. Rather it showed the false responses that were given about the data and FOI were false. If the problem of meeting had first been addressed it would have not necesstiated the requests.

I like you point about not requiring engineer think from acedemics. However, I would offer more your consideration that what you proposed was what IPCC should have done. They had the budget and the political mandate.

Michael Tobis said...

AMac, I understand you think anyone who actively disagrees with you about Mann is doing something wrong. You have plenty of other venues to make that case. So with regret, since I do value your opinion on other matters, I request you take your Tiljander stuff elsewhere.

I agree with you that Mosher is not a simple case of malice. That said I am still deeply unhappy with his participation in the CRU hysteria and don't see that his recent efforts at moderation even the balance.

Michael Tobis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AMac said...

Michael Tobis,

I'll of course accede to your editorial decisions on what you publish on your blog.

I would like to note that I attempted to respond to Steve Bloom polite, substantive and relevant comment of Feb. 20 12:14pm in a similar manner.

I also answered dhoghaza (Feb. 20 1:26pm), though I suspect that was somewhat superfluous--"Steven" (Feb. 20 11:55pm) appears to be Steven Mosher. If so, they can discuss matters directly.