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)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Getting them Nodding

I admit, I once spent a couple of weeks of my youth as a salesman for a shoddy product. It took me a couple of weeks to realize that that was what I was doing. There are people who sell products who are doing a service; people who have complex product lines and customers with complex needs. Then there are people who can sell freezers to penguins.

A knack for selling a product to someone who doesn't really need or want it is a bankable skill. There are tricks of the trade, and being on the whole a hopelessly honest person, I wasn't around long enough to learn too many of them. One, though, is the technique of establishing rapport by saying a lot of things that are hard to disagree with, all the while smiling and nodding. When you get to deliver your payload, your victim already thinks of you as agreeable and plainspoken.

FIRST EXAMPLE

One recent example was in a pice by David Evans in the Canadian magazine Financial Post,
entitled "Climate Models Go Cold". After playing the "used to believe" card, Evans states a number of things that are unobjectionable:
Let's be perfectly clear. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and other things being equal, the more carbon dioxide in the air, the warmer the planet. Every bit of carbon dioxide that we emit warms the planet. But the issue is not whether carbon dioxide warms the planet, but how much.

Most scientists, on both sides, also agree on how much a given increase in the level of carbon dioxide raises the planet's temperature, if just the extra carbon dioxide is considered. These calculations come from laboratory experiments; the basic physics have been well known for a century.

The disagreement comes about what happens next.

The planet reacts to that extra carbon dioxide, which changes everything. Most critically, the extra warmth causes more water to evaporate from the oceans. But does the water hang around and increase the height of moist air in the atmosphere, or does it simply create more clouds and rain?
Perfectly reasonable so far. Then things start going a bit screwy:
Back in 1980, when the carbon dioxide theory started, no one knew. The alarmists guessed that it would increase the height of moist air around the planet, which would warm the planet even further, because the moist air is also a greenhouse gas.
"The carbon dioxide theory"? "Started in 1980"? "Alarmists"? "Guessed"?

By the time we are done we are reading crap like this:
Even if we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide tomorrow, completely shut up shop and went back to the Stone Age, according to the official government climate models it would be cooler in 2050 by about 0.015 degrees. But their models exaggerate 10-fold -in fact our sacrifices would make the planet in 2050 a mere 0.0015 degrees cooler!
Since the author is Australian, he is inheriting a trick common among Australian denialists of measuring the impact of Australian emissions on global temperatures. Since only one of every 350 people is Australian, and since impacts accumulate over time, 0.015 degree is something substantial. And of course the factor of ten is based on all sorts of discredited nonsense.

SECOND EXAMPLE

Of course, we have come to expect this sort of thing from the Financial Post. But we now have a new, prominent figure on the scene, snake charmer Richard Muller, who is trying to position himself as a sensible centrist. Here we are left scratching our heads, delighted that he set the congressional committee straight (in contrast to the ludicrous testimony of Scott Armstrong) about the temperature record, and yet uncomfortable with his past dalliance with denialist memes. His post-testimony NPR interview shows that he has not changed his spots. It is very much in the good salesman bad product mold.

But the public discussion tends to be not on the key science, but on the spectacular things that the exaggerators tend to say or the deniers deny, things like are the Himalayas going to melt? Or what's happening with hurricanes? Are they increasing? These things are - the conclusions of the scientists on those things are actually quite mild and quite soft and equivocal.

The issues that there is strong agreement on is that we have seen global warming over the past 100 years. ...

Yes, yes. It's us. People call me a skeptic, because I drew attention to many of the exaggerations that in - is in former Vice President Al Gore's movie. But I think a scientist has to recognize when there are exaggerations and settle down on what is solidly known. Temperature has been rising over the last 100 years. That's pretty clear. How much is due to varying solar activity and how much due to humans is a scientific issue that we're trying to address.

This is a strong start. "Quite mild and soft and equivocal" can be seen as spin, but it is important and valuable to emphasize that the exact impact of climate disruption is not well known. Of course, unless there is more to the BEST effort than has been let on, solar attribution is not remotely part of what they tell us, in their supposedly open way, that they are up to.

There's also this:
Well, I think what's happened is that many scientists have gotten so concerned about global warming, correctly concerned I mean they look at it and they draw a conclusion, and then they're worried that the public has not been concerned, and so they become advocates. And at that point, it's unfortunate, I feel that they're not trusting the public. They're not presenting the science to the public. They're presenting only that aspect to the science that will convince the public. That's not the way science works. And because they don't trust the public, in the end the public doesn't trust them. And the saddest thing from this, I think, is a loss of credibility of scientists because so many of them have become advocates.
I think there is something at least to think about here. Muller is being the anti-Olson here. Some people say simplify and emotionalize, others say, stick to the science and let others draw conclusions. In the end I am convinced by Eli's position: scientists cannot and will not form a mass movement by their nature. Different people will approach what amounts to Schneider's conundrum in different ways. As the divide between what's reasonable and what is occurring continues to widen, at least in some people's estimation, some behaviors outside the social boundaries of ordinary scientific practice at some point become defensible. But Muller's point is one that shouldn't be glossed over.

But he says other things that most of us would find indefensible. He celebrates Tony Watts:
So for example, if you're near a building, it may be warmer, but the rise in temperature from year to year does not appear to be any more than it is for sites that are out on the countryside. That's very important. And it couldn't have been done if Anthony Watts had not gathered that data. I regard him as a hero in this business.
Er, Watts is a hero for investigating a non-issue and making a cause celebre out of it?
I think that Climategate is a very unfortunate thing that happened, that the scientists who were involved in that, from what I've read, didn't trust the public, didn't even trust the scientific public. They were not showing the discordant data. That's something that - as a scientist I was trained you always have to show the negative data, the data that disagrees with you, and then make the case that your case is stronger. And they were hiding the data, and a whole discussion of suppressing publications, I thought, was really unfortunate. It was not at a high point for science

And I really get even more upset when some other people say, oh, science is just a human activity. This is the way it happens. You have to recognize, these are people. No, no, no, no. These are not scientific standards. You don't hide the data. You don't play with the peer review system. We don't do that at Berkeley.
Well of course not. The entire point is that they didn't. They didn't hide data. They certainly didn't pervert the peer review system (beyond its obvious problems); indeed they were keeping dreadfully incompetent work out.

I won't get into why Muller's work is really scientifically beside the point. I'll get back to that later. For now, it's important to understand that Muller's point in saying these things is explicitly political, in exactly the way he criticizes others.

Muller is not being interviewed on NPR; he is delivering what is essentially a prepared speech. You can see this in the way he repeats himself at the end of Neil Conan's second question and the beginning of the third:
there is strong agreement on is that we have seen global warming over the past 100 years. An issue, though, that isn't really settled yet is how much of that is due to humans? And that's a subject that really can use more investigation.
...
Temperature has been rising over the last 100 years. That's pretty clear. How much is due to varying solar activity and how much due to humans is a scientific issue that we're trying to address.
We are seeing a carefully prepared, precisely calibrated spin, exactly what we are being criticized for. Muller is saying and doing some useful things and some very dangerous and destructive things precisely because he is calibrating a position in the middle. If anything, he's following Judith Curry's path, a bit more carefully and more cleverly, but lacking the credential.

It's reasonably clear that he knows relatively little about climate science, and that he is making it difficult for himself to draw upon those who know more.

Muller has done some good, and apparently sees it necessary to do some harm to balance it out. That isn't science either. It's as political as anything he criticizes.

FORTUNE COOKIE

Beware the fellow with the snake oil. The salesman with a bad product will say wise and congenial things to you before he starts to lie to you.

63 comments:

Grypo Saurus said...

"Prof. MULLER: Well, I think one of the things we're trying to do at Berkeley Earth is determine how urgent it is. The global warming attributed by the IPCC, the big U.N. Council that makes this consensus report, attributes about half a degree, half a degree Celsius of warming to humans. But is it .4? Is it .3? If so, we have a lot more time. Is it .6 or.7? If so, we're in a big rush. "

Good post. I'm more interested in the above statements, as I can see this having a lasting effect on people. He's basing how much time have without modeling out real cause or differentiating between low sensitivity to CO2 or just temperature masking by aerosols -- which will be overwhelmed eventually. This study also has nothing to do with how each degree and added energy effects the Earth and systems. I would hope that people understand that this is just one study, of one measurable effect, not the new benchmark to provide the best policy decisions. But it seems that he is setting it up that way with his last answer. And he's said this before.

wottsupwiththat.com said...

David Evans' slippery remarks were made at an anti-tax rally in his home town of Perth, Australia. But his admission that CO2 increases have any warming effect whatsoever may jeopardize future dinner party invitations.

Dana said...

His inflation of the uncertainty regarding recent global warming attribution is disturbing to me. I don't see how BEST can address this question. It's also a question that seems well outside of Muller's expertise, and yet as MT notes, he commented on the subject twice. And solar effects? Really? Come on, Muller.

A good comparison to Curry too, MT. I describe her as an "uncertainty inflator", and that's exactly the direction Muller is moving as well.

EliRabett said...

You need to analyze these things using the rhetoric of rejection. The first is obviously a futility argument holding that attempts at transformation will be unavailing and will simply fail to make a dent, the second combines futility with a jeopardy argument argues that the cost of the proposed change is too high compared to the harm expected and endangers some previous valued accomplishment.

Both attempt to shift the Overton window (another images introduced to climate blogging by Eli) to the rejectionist side

Eli explains it all

steven said...

The temperature record is not climate SCIENCE. It's history.

The disciplines required to do the job correctly are:

1. Database construction
2. Records management.
3. Metrology
4. Time series and spatial Statistics.
5. Software engineering

And yes I would add a climate specialist to the team. Somebody who has read Oke, Geiger, preferably somebody who had done work in the field.

But its more history than science.
More statistics than physics

My hope would be that others can take Muller's data and methods, add some expertise from the climate side of things and do some interesting work. None of this work will change the fact that C02 causes warming. But it will be interesting work.

Marion Delgado said...

I don't like BEST for the same reason I didn't like the surface stations project. The hypothesis being tested was a huge complex of conspiracy-think.

Paul Daniel Ash said...

What is Muller selling, though, and what's his price? Is it influence with the new Congressional majority? Consulting work? 15 minutes of fame? I'm not suggesting anyone here is capable of mind-reading him, but it's a puzzle to me.

Most of the reason I "waste my beautiful mind" on the blogs is trying to figure out just what motivates the lukewarmer/it's not-a-big-deal-but-if-it-is-we-can-adapt activist. I can understand not thinking it's a big deal, but I don't get how one goes from there to starting a blog, testifying before Congress, or herding cats "to to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record in a rigorous manner."

I can get my head around what motivates the pseudo-skeptic: cultural issues, a sincere opinion that malfeasance is going on, an economic stake in the matter, what have you. Harder for me to understand is someone who gets up every day and makes "It's Probably Not Going To Be All That Bad" their battle-cry.

steven said...

"I don't like BEST for the same reason I didn't like the surface stations project. The hypothesis being tested was a huge complex of conspiracy-think."

The hypothesis being tested was one posed by Peterson in his paper on UHI. Peterson noted this "mystery"

"The research presented here attempts to unravel the mystery of how a global temperature time series created partly from urban in situ stations could show no con-
tamination from urban warming."

Peterson gets the importance of the microsite problem:

"Microscale siting characteristics can produce biases in the temperature measurements. Assessing these characteristics can be both extremely difficult, given the
level of available metadata, and is part of the essential rural/urban question this analysis seeks to address."

Peterson, came up with theory. A theory repeated by Hansen, Jones and Parker:

"Therefore, if a station is located within a park, it would be expected to report cooler temperatures than the industrial sections experience. But do the urban meteorological observing stations tend to be
located in parks or gardens? The official National Weather Service guidelines for non airport stations state that an observing shelter should be ‘‘no closer that four
times the height of any obstruction (tree, fence, building,
etc.)’’ and ‘‘it should be at least 100 feet from any paved
or concrete surface’’ ...
If a station meets these guidelines or even if any attempt
to come close to these guidelines was made, it is clear that a station would be far more likely to be located in a park cool island than an industrial hot spot."

And further there are issues with rural sites:

"Therefore, among the huge expanses of open farmland,
most of the long-term observing sites are now surrounded by trees ..
Although the growing trees’ IR effect may have some similarities to that of an urban canyon, the shade and
evapotranspiration that the trees provide are also likely
to introduce a cool bias during the day. The potential, nearly worldwide, artificial impact on observed temperatures caused by tree growth near observing sites
deserves to be thoroughly researched and quantified if
possible."

And:

"Once biases caused by differences in elevation, latitude, time of observation, instrumentation, and nonstandard siting were adjusted out of the data, contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization over the contiguous United States could be found in the existing in situ temperature observation network.
It is postulated that the reason for this is due to micro and local-scale impacts dominating over the mesoscale urban heat island. Industrial sections of towns may well be significantly warmer than rural sites, but urban meteorological observations are more likely to be made
within park cool islands than industrial regions. "

The accepted wisdom was that urban should be warmer than rural. He did not find this. He POSTULATED a reason for this:
Urban sites were well sited within what can be called "cool parks"

He noted that rural sites were not pristine and that investigating them would be useful.

The cool park theory has been repeated but never been tested. To test it means you have to survey sites. The same thing with rural sites and the tree shading problem. site surveys.

Now, to be sure the people doing the site survey's had conspiritorial ideas. But, the data has been collected. What that data SHOWS is a different question. I think it will show that the siting issue doesnt cause any huge biases, but it MAY impact the variance of the data. Peterson also suggests this.

The questions surfacestations asked was this. Are urban sites actually located in cool parks, Are rural sites pristine?

Cont..

steven said...

Cont

The photographs indicate that Peterson's theory isnt standing on the best ground. The question is: Even if petersons theory of cool parks is wrong, do siting issues REALLY matter?

The Surfaces stations folk went at the question with the idea that they do matter I think those issues dont matter, AND ITS GOOD to find out that they dont matter much. leaves us with a mystery, which is fine.

EliRabett said...

Eli's favorite weather station

steven said...

Eli, that's a good one.

When Zeke and I visited Muller, I told him not to expect to find any big bias from microsite ( given what dr. LeRoy's associate told me and given Menne's work) But I did think it might be interesting to look at the relative noise in good sites versus bad sites. It would make sense to me that the effect would be highly dependent on weather details ( sun, rain, clouds,wind) and could go in both directions.. I'm afraid what ever is found will end up as a political football, for a while at least

Steve said...

Evans is, apparently, married to prominent Australian "skeptic" blogger Jo Nova, and as noted in detail at Watching the Deniers last year, they've been flying the kite for "unsubstantiated rumours" that climate change is actually a conspiracy for the old banking families (the Rothschilds for example!) using their gold reserves to back a new asset backed currency when the current fiat currencies collapse.

Yet this couple seem to be widely read in skeptic and conservative circles, and Evans has had articles in Australia's national daily paper.

It's pretty pathetic.

Link for the Nova/Evans financial conspiracies stuff:

http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/jo-nova-is-about-to-reveal-an-even-bigger-conspiracy/

Christopher said...

No, Mosher, the BEST results will be utterly tedious because they will not be novel. Muller's quite conscious misunderstanding of the importance of the surface record demonstrates that he knows this. The guy's a fraud.

GS, Dana and PDA, what we have here is Muller setting himself up as the arbiter of what is valid in climate science, which he will be happy to address for suitable compensation, one piece at a time, dragged out for as long as possible. In short, it's a cynical, destructive scam.

Michael, IMHO your finding something of value in Muller's comments is just another example of your bendiung over backwards to be nice. The problem, as you bloody well know since you've written about it at such length, is that the message the public gets, even from scientists (although made worse by media filtering, to be fair), is that things aren't nearly as bad as they in fact are. Muller was making the opposite point, which is the entirety of the data would make things seem more benign than presented. The guy's a complete sleazeball.

Steve Bloom said...

Oddly, Blogger has decided that I'm now named Christopher. If it says I'm still Christopher, I'm really Steve Bloom.

Paul Daniel Ash said...

what we have here is Muller setting himself up as the arbiter of what is valid in climate science

Ah. "Climatology II," in other words.

Grand.

Steve Bloom said...

Curried climatology, one might say, with a side order of Koch. Or is that Koched-up climatology with a side order of Curry? Whatever.

Lars Karlsson said...

Steve B,

I would say it is Kocher.

Marion Delgado said...

Steve:

All I know is, my checks come from George Soros (for posting on the internets). That the ultimate source of my payoff is the Rothschild banking family is pure speculation at this point!

steven said...

Steve Bloom.

"No, Mosher, the BEST results will be utterly tedious because they will not be novel. Muller's quite conscious misunderstanding of the importance of the surface record demonstrates that he knows this. The guy's a fraud. "

Personally I think Novelty is overated. Or rather, I agree with Peterson about such a study being worthwhile, so your argument is with peterson and not with me. It wasnt my idea that such a study would be worthwhile it was Peterson's. And I agree the results will be tedious. I happen to like tedious things. Its a thing of beauty. That's not to say I don't enjoy Novelty. Sometime novelty, say decentered PCA, is enjoyable. That said, their study will have a novel method for surface temp studies. An approach which is actually based in textbook, cook book, tried and true statistical methods. That will be be novel.

So, you say its tedious, I like tedious. You say its not novel, I tell you that yes applying standard methods for a simple problem is not standard in this field. Instead, we had to endure years of trying to explain the CAM method and the RSM. And in the end what you will see is that the standard method has the benefit of being able to carry forward the uncertainty due to adjustments. So the standard method will do a more robust job than the novel methods. cause the novel methods were just new, not better.

steven said...

Paul Ash,

I dont see Muller setting himself up as an arbitor at all.

1. the statistical method is basic and simple. tried and tested. Our very own Nick stokes has a similar method.

2. He is releasing code and data. That's means he gives up his power. the only way to hold power over a result is to hold back that data or the code.

Everything else is just theatre and positioning. fun to watch.

Steve Bloom said...

Notice, PDA, how Mosher pretends not to understand the point.

Peterson recommended that a study like the BEST one be done, Mosher? Not that I can see. Indeed, I read Peterson's paper as a prediction that the BEST methodology couldn't be fruitful (in the sense of discovering anything new of importance).

The Watts photos might have been interesting if they showed T anomalies to be significantly affected by siting issues, but they don't. Of course the fact that no such thing can be shown, i.e. the data can be and has been successfully processed to account for the entire (largely undifferentiable) mix of inhomgeneities, is itself a meaningful, albeit redundant, datum.

I do notice that in contrast to being concerned about UHI, Peterson says something that really does need study is the possible cooling bias resulting from tree growth. Oddly, Muller doesn't seem to be looking at that.

Anyway, Mosher, it's all too obvious that you and Muller and Curry and the Kochs would like climate scientists to engage in as much wheel-spinning as possible, so next time please try telling me something I don't know.

Lazar said...

it appears that the BEST dataset approximately doubles the number of reporting stations back to around 1890, if this adds say 10-15 years usable data onto paleo reconstructions... for split calibration/verification that is gold dust

and what Mosher says... independent replication using different methods is precisely the thing we criticize the 'auditors' for *not* doing!... now we criticize 'them' for doing it?

Lazar said...

** I'm thinking more of local/small area reconstructions and proxy studies where variance balloons around 1900 and sampling density is low

Lazar said...

a tricky PR calculus question... will the 'auditors' nitpick BEST?... whatcha think? place your bets now!...

EliRabett said...

Lazar, as, Eli thinks Drew Shindell? asked about ten years ago, which is more accurate, climate models or observational data from the 19th century? It is not very likely that statistical analysis can rescue the really bad early data.

Of course, you are also asking how many times you have to beat the same mole to death.

Steve Bloom said...

Lazar, I suppose doing pointless replication correctly and then claiming that the next step must be the scientifically shaky one, requiring yet more replication, lather, rinse, repeat, is better in some sense than just sniping without doing the replication, but I think not usefully. Note that what they have in common is keeping the ball in the air for denialists.

Lazar said...

Eli,

"Of course, you are also asking how many times you have to beat the same mole to death."

true; is that a bad question?... as Steve Bloom writes...

"I read Peterson's paper as a prediction that the BEST methodology couldn't be fruitful"

they're testing a prediction...

***unless*** the outcome is a foregone conclusion... unless we are willing to bet the house that the BEST project will add no new knowledge of worthwhile value that has implications for future research (including treatment of uncertainties, improved data coverage etc.)... and I do not view an a priori proclamation expressed with such certainty as defensible... and I don't see anyone even making such claims... let alone substantially defending them... [cont]

Lazar said...

***then*** I would and do view opposition to the project as somewhat extreme... would you bet the burrow?... see where you write "not very likely"... that ain't enough for me to think this project shouldn't happen... and it's even strange raising such concerns at this late stage in the game... [cont]

Lazar said...

as far as opposition to *the project* is based on *questionable* public statements by *one* member... an important member for sure... but still just one on a team with talent... who may not (I would guess not) be majorly responsible for research design and conduct... I do not think such objections are serious objections as far as the project goes... do you?... Muller is not "the project"... his statements are not "the project"... [cont]

Lazar said...

ok... I'm going to sit back and open a bag of popcorn... let'em have at it... if they add new knowledge... great... if they confirm previous beliefs... with an *alleged* skeptic on board to boot.. great... I think judgment of the project is premature... and it makes us look rash... even if criticisms of the project turn out to be correct... we still look rash... dismissing it out of hand at this point... I think if I was joe public looking at this dispute... I would think we have a huge chip on our shoulder... and maybe we do... and maybe for good reason... I don't think joe public likes science with chips...

Michael Tobis said...

Lazar, supposing they were wildly successful, having the maximum plausible effect. What would that be?

Right now Muller is going on about trends in minima vs trends in maxima; this is something like a noisy third difference. Why would you expect observations that were not designed to extract trends to be able to pick up something like that?

The centennial record is at the boundary between the unforced and the forced climate; it is a short record and the component forcings are hard to separate out.

I am not opposed to looking at it, and I think the technique, if I understand it correctly, may be a slight improvement. But why any of it is seen as important outside of a political context escapes me.

Lazar said...

Michael,

I do not have the knowledge to claim what the maximum plausible effect is. I would not *expect*... any such thing.

A digression... I'm not sure what "important" means... I doubt it will be earth-shaking... but then much isn't... but that's ok... and we have different definitions.

You're wondering why it is being seen as *important*. I'm wondering why it is being *dismissed*. This...

"I am not opposed to looking at it, and I think the technique, if I understand it correctly, may be a slight improvement."

... sits somewhere between... I'll go along with that statement. A slight improvement is an improvement still.

I'm happy that you are "not opposed to looking at it". It's the "opposed to looking at it" which is puzzling me... on the other hand, if you *were* opposed to looking at it... perhaps you could better explain the reasoning to me...

Lazar said...

Steve Bloom,

"doing pointless replication correctly and then claiming that the next step must be the scientifically shaky one, requiring yet more replication, lather, rinse, repeat, [...] keeping the ball in the air for denialists."

How long is that ball gonna stay in the air?...
Skeptics confirm climate science
again!
again!!
again!!!
the press lose interest, the public lose interest, the skeptics lose interest, the funding dries up... and the public are left with an impression that climate science is even more sound than it actually is :-)

I think the 'auditors' play a PR game just right in avoiding this... [cont]

Lazar said...

But we have a fundamental disagreement whether the BEST team and project is on the deny/delay side... I don't think it is... I don't even think Muller is... I think Muller is sometimes misinformed... I think there is insufficient evidence to reject 'misinformed' in favor of the salesman hypothesis depicted by Michael... but then I don't mind looking like a fool. YMMV.

Steve Bloom said...

Lazar, IMHO it's the height of naivete for you to dismiss the (proven) effectiveness of the denial propaganda machine. We'll see how enthusiastic you are about the next such project.

Maybe you're right that after several more such efforts people will have had enough. Presumably you think we have the time to fart around to that extent. How I wish you were right.

BTW, I said "predicted" because the only thing that's really different about the Muller project (the sampling) was examined years ago and found to be needless. Maybe you could explain the scientific basis for thinking otherwise.

Re which side the project is on, I think that's clear enough from the many false statements Muller has made about climate science. It's as if you think damage can't be done unless the formal results throw into question something significant in the science. Possibly you should re-read Muller's Congressional testimony.

Steve Bloom said...

Re Muller being "sometimes misinformed," you don't think he's been corrected on those points but continues to repeat them anyway? Ignoring for the moment things like the attack on Gore, his comments about attribution and sensitivity are clearly made despite his knowing they're wrong. Liar or fabulist, you choose.

EliRabett said...

Lazar, as a scientific issue it is about resources. Is this a high priority thing to do, e.g. a group naive about the nature of the data claiming that they are going to "do the best job".

Frankly any expert panel would not even bother rating such a proposal, so those of us with some experience of these things look for a hidden agenda and find a world class self promoter going around telling porgies.

Lazar said...

Steve,

"it's the height of naivete for you to dismiss the (proven) effectiveness of the denial propaganda machine"

I'm not... my statement is about the possible future efficacy of a certain type of action... which you are claiming is part of "the denial propaganda machine"... I disagree with the certainty of your claim... I also disagree with your generalization of my statement to the *past* effectiveness of *different* actions...

"Presumably you think we have the time to fart around to that extent"

I believe that as far as the timing of action is concerned... stuff like BEST is irrelevant

"It's as if you think damage can't be done unless the formal results throw into question something significant in the science."

Nope... I'm questioning the equation of the BEST project with some public statements issued by one member...[cont]

Lazar said...

"his comments about attribution and sensitivity are clearly made despite his knowing they're wrong"

Proving beyond reasonable doubt that an individual has knowingly issued falsehoods is usually a tall order... can you quote Muller's exact words... *and* provide strong evidence that prior to issuing them he received information which unequivocally refutes their content... *and* that it is reasonable to assume he understood...?

Lazar said...

Eli,

"as a scientific issue it is about resources. Is this a high priority thing to do"

Could the funding have been spent on a project which is more likely to produce greater utility for the scientific community?... sure...

*Would* it have...?
I think, for some of the funding, it's not a zero sum game.

As a general statement about resource allocation I can go along with it. As a reason to dismiss BEST, it's not, the resources are allocated and spent, it's crying over spilt milk.

"a group naive about the nature of the data"

I'm not sure what "naive" means here... I don't know what your evidence for "naive" is... I wouldn't want to bet any carrots that "naive" applies to Rhode and Brillinger... no thanks :-)

Lazar said...

... I'm not even sure that "naive" can work as a criticism... scientists become established by moving beyond naive... they publish... the latest "naive" recruits read and build upon that work... PhD projects get funding... outsiders bring new toolkits... and when the problem is time series analysis... I wouldn't want to bet the house on Jones in a cage match with Brillinger... would you?

Steve Bloom said...

So the Koch funding isn't prima facie evidence of denialist propaganda? Seriously?

Re Muller's veracity, he's been telling porkies for years and admits that he's gotten flack for it. Flack in what form, do you suppose?

Anyway, note that you've been reduced to lawyering in his behalf. Why should the legal standard for guilt apply? How about some proof that Muller's absurd claims actually have some basis in scientific reality?

Brillinger v. Jones? Why not Brillinger v. Hansen or Brillinger v. Peterson? And what has Brillinger discovered that would even be a point of debate?

Steve Bloom said...

Oh yeah, go back and read the very first comment in this thread, then try to characterize the quoted statement as something other than uninformed bloviation.

Grypo Saurus said...

Lazar,

I think there are some issues here that we can all kind-of agree on. I don't think anyone really cares that someone is doing a new temperature record. We seem to agree that the resources are likely better someplace else, but there's a lot of waste in science, so this doesn't matter to me. But if you look at what Bloom is saying, especially his "spinning wheels" comment, there's something to think about there. And the same to what Eli is saying. Now go look at Keith Kloor's thread regarding Muller and how he says, "sweet spot" of the debate. If this is where the environmental media is going to focus it's attention, then, yes, we will be spinning our wheels, and going over the same ground, in the media and public eye, as real science takes place that really tells us the risk we face. If KK and the rest of the mainstream media only focus on this imaginary center (while the mainstream media ignores it) then the person being focused on is very important. In this instance, Muller is using Climategate to get the public interested in his study. Even further and worse, he is setting up his study a new benchmark for policy decisions, when his study is just one measurement of one aspect human influence on the planetary systems. So if the public hears " But is it .4? Is it .3? If so, we have a lot more time" (which he has said now on at least 2 occasions, perhaps 3) and then his study says, "it's .4!", all he's done is create a new center, and filled it with false hope based on something his study in no way is set up to do. I find this a dangerous thought process. I just don't know how he justifies it. It's lukewarm fantasy. Would you agree on my logic?

Lazar said...

Steve,

"So the Koch funding isn't prima facie evidence of denialist propaganda? Seriously?"

Seriously. Like Michael's receipt of oil money isn't. A comment I wrote at Eli's...

"In addition to $150,000 from the Koch foundation, they received $188,587 from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and $100,000 from Bill Gates' "Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research". What do I make of that? Nothing, unless it can be shown or hinted that funding has influenced results... and the results ain't even out yet! Do the Koch brothers hope BEST will show substantially less global warming? Very probably. So what. Take their money and run. Use it to produce good science. That's what I'd want to do." [cont]

Lazar said...

"Re Muller's veracity, he's been telling porkies for years"

You're reiterating your claim... not substantiating it as I asked...

"note that you've been reduced to lawyering in his behalf"

I represent myself only... I'm also more worried about my side than Muller's ability to defend himself...

"Why should the legal standard for guilt apply?"

If you want to argue that you need a lower burden of evidence for 'proof'... you are free to do so... if you want to argue that there *is* reasonable doubt over Muller being a bad actor... you are free to do so... but you are not... and I will not accept a lower burden of proof... when it comes to questions of integrity... I like charity and erring on the side of innocence... [cont]

Lazar said...

"How about some proof that Muller's absurd claims actually have some basis in scientific reality?"

Irrelevant. I have made no statements regarding the alleged absurdity or not of unspecified claims made by Muller. I'm not going to find your pony.

"Why not Brillinger v. Hansen or Brillinger v. Peterson?"

Why not indeed. They're smart guys.

"And what has Brillinger discovered that would even be a point of debate?"

I don't think that question is meaningful. If you want to argue that Brillinger brings nothing to the table for a time series analysis problem... it's like arguing YL Yung wouldn't bring anything to a radiative transfer problem... I won't argue... just sit back somewhat amazed... [cont]

Lazar said...

"go back and read the very first comment in this thread, then try to characterize the quoted statement as something other than uninformed bloviation"

Why should I do that? I have argued on several occasions that Muller is sometimes misinformed or uninformed.

Lazar said...

Steve,

"Why should the legal standard for guilt apply?"

it is the terminology used to describe a level of evidence that is unique to law... not the level of evidence itself... we can describe it using p-values if you would prefer...

Steve Bloom said...

Nicely put, GS. Muller's prying at the Overton Window.

Just to note, and likely it's clear to you but what you wrote was ambiguous on this point, the current study can't address anything related to attribution, so when Muller refers to it he's talking about his hoped-for next grant. I wouldn't be surprised if he asked for the funds to develop his own model -- that could keep the ball in the air for years.

Lazar said...

Grypo,

There are a number of issues there...

a) something Keith said about Muller
b) that a) represents a likely future focus of environmental media
c) that b) will have a large effect on public opinion, and
d) that c) is Muller's intention

... I can only give my opinion...

a)

Keith said...

"Muller says enough stuff that is sure to make both Romm and Watts fume, and as you all know, that’s the sweet spot in this debate"

"stuff"...

Keith might be referring to a position on science.

Or maybe Keith means that Muller winds up partisans on both sides.

I don't know.

b)

I don't know.

c)

I think that is unlikely.

Lazar said...

d)

Muller's intention with regard to...

"he is setting up his study a new benchmark for policy decisions, when his study is just one measurement of one aspect human influence on the planetary systems. So if the public hears " But is it .4? Is it .3? If so, we have a lot more time" (which he has said now on at least 2 occasions, perhaps 3) and then his study says, "it's .4!", all he's done is create a new center, and filled it with false hope based on something his study in no way is set up to do."
[cont]

Steve Bloom said...

In which Muller is nailed to the wall for claiming that Ralph Cicerone was critical of AIT, and that Gore admitted to (non-existent) errors. It's a truly amazing story. AFAIK Muller has yet to aplogize to either Gore or Cicerone.

Lazar said...

1) Possibly Muller is playing the delay game.

2) William Connolley seems to think, Muller is "clueless" on some issues and puffing the importance of the research for the usual non-political reasons.

I think both hypotheses are plausible.

My position is that there is insufficient evidence to reject either one. My first concern is that some on my side are calling 1) a certainty. Second, that we are equating the BEST project, results, team members and all with select public statements made by Muller. Third, that a priori claims are made and expressed with certainty, that BEST will add no new knowledge of any value for future research.

Grypo Saurus said...

Lazar,

a)
Keith says it's the sweet spot of the "debate". I really hope Keith doesn't think that the science is the middle of Romm and Watts.

Keith also says that "Berkeley physicist Richard Muller is turning out to be one of the most interesting and controversial new players in the climate arena. It’s still early in the year, but it’s looking like he’ll be the Judith Curry of 2011."

I forgot to link it.

b)
Yes, the focus of the environmental is up for question; I'm saying that as a for instance, based on how Curry was given significant coverage last year.

c)
We'll see. These manufactured controversies always seem to find their way into the public's because the media is convinced we badly want to know what scientists have to say about a policy debate in which he is not even an expert in the field. See Freeman Dyson.


d)
Muller's intension
I imagine your response was lost the 'blogspot' ether. But I'll just expound on it anyway. I'm not really interested in his intention. I doubt it is dubious. It's questionable, but I have no evidence, even if his words point to an odd direction. I'm more concerned about the results of his words and what effect that has on the public debate. That gets back to c) to which I can only point to recent history as a guide. I can't predict what the result of him repeating false information on the radio or at Congress or in you tube videos, but I'm sure it won't be helpful. But I don't want to hurt his reputation anyway, SkS et al. will deal with his falsehoods, but we should also acknowledge he has a good record within his field and is affiliated with a great university.

Lazar said...

Grypo,

I have no disagreement with your comments. I agree on the basis of your points made in the first comment, that Muller overstated the science and policy implications of BEST, and my d) floating around the ether largely echoes your d). Our divergence is in focus... you appear more concerned with the relation of the public to Muller's words... I'm more concerned with how our side respond to Muller and BEST. But we meet where you emphasize caution and not reaching in confidence beyond what the evidence will support. I am grateful for your calm and thoughtful response.

dhogaza said...

"But we have a fundamental disagreement whether the BEST team and project is on the deny/delay side... I don't think it is..."

Oh, it very much is. The *premise* of the BEST project is that climate scientists have done a sub-standard job using biased sources intentionally filtered to show a temperature trend which is either exaggerated or non-existent.

Remember Muller stating that he was surprised that their work did not appear to support the premise?

He hasn't argued that the premise was non-existent.

That's the meme - climate scientists can't be trusted due to their being incompetent, dishonest, or both.

This works in support of denialism/delayism.

The intention here is to grab control of the science as it exists as part of the political process. Take it out of the hands of mainstream climate scientists.

It may be a year before we see the work done, and papers submitted to publication. So for a year we'll be treated to at best statements that "well, it appears that maybe climate scientists working on this *one thing* aren't dishonest and incompetent - hey, we're surprised they aren't, really! - but you'll have to wait until we're done before you can judge whether or not they are or not".

Thus far, Muller has served to foster doubt about one part of the science that *is* settled.

I can see the next possible step ... "oh, we need to develop our own set of models because NASA GISS is full of politically-driven dishonest incompetent nincompoops ... we'll be back to you with our scratch-built model, in 10 years. Until then ... we'd be surprised if NASA GISS Model E has more skill than Houdini's widow with a ouiji board"

This ain't hard. Mosher gets it, he's part of it.

EliRabett said...

Eli is rather fond of the Wikipedia definition of naive:

----------------
Naïve is a French loanword (adjective, form of naïf) indicating having or showing a lack of experience, understanding or sophistication; in early use, it meant natural or innocent, and did not connote ineptitude. . .

In the sciences, and technical professions, it is used to refer to a lack of experience with a specific stimulus (e.g., an image, a drug, a method for solving math problems) and does not carry broader negative connotations about the individual.
--------------------

Which kind of leaves you with the choice about Muller, that he is either naive or scum. Eli reports, you decide.

steven said...

Sorry Dehog, but I'm on the record from my first appearance on the web in 2007 at RC that the GCMs are the best tools we have for understanding future climate. I'm on the record at CA showing people how to download ModelE results and generally praising its fidelity. I'm on the record noting some of the improvements gavin has made in the documentation. I'm on the record extolling the virtues of MITs model and their approach of including software developers. Im on the record arguing that the IPCC should use the best of breed models. On the record saying that the models and the data as it stands gives us enough cause for action. NOW.

None of those positions on the SCIENCE and on the Need for ACTION, is inconsistent with my views on open data and open source and on best practices. Global warming is true. we should act now. AND hiding data and code is a short sighted tactic. Hiding the decline and other silly chartsmanship games are bad tactics. And I want my tean to STOP employing bad tactics. We've got the science on our side, there is no need for us to compromise our dedication to transparency or our dedication to the highest quality science.

steven said...

In my discussion with Muller I raised the following issue. First off the land record is only 30% of the total record so it has very little leverage in the overall number. Second,existing research puts the number for UHI somewhere between .05C (Jones) and ~.3C McKittrick. I'd be surprised to see anything more than .1C-.15C out of BEST, which amounts to mousenuts. Still I think the work is worthwhile, primarily to put the record on the best statistical footing we know rather than continuing to accept the inferior methods of GISS and CRU. That engineering quality refinement does not change the answer so I can only speculate about the reasons people have for rejecting out of hand a superior method. Some people make this speculation easier than others.

I do'nt think Muller is correct that a change in the surface record of the magnitude he suggests is correct, However, that is the kind of sensitivity analysis that an engineer would do. to wit: How accurate does our meausrement have to be to drive the policy. Can we be off by .1C?, .2C, .3C.. How robust are our findings with regard to the observational data. This is not something you guess at. This is something you test.

Let me give you a very apt example. In the discussion of "hide the decline" I noted that one thing that had not been investigated was the accuracy of the temperature record for that region. I also noted that there were precedents in the peer reviewed literature ( Rob wilson's work) for this. That is, when Wilson found discrepencies between rings and temps he took the rational step of double checking the temps. And, he created his own temperature series for the region in question. This improved his study. Now, the same proceedure has been taken by Esper WRT the trees where briffa found a divergence and he notes that there is substantial uncertainty in the temperature record and large adjustments.

So rather than accepting the observations as givens, these scientists understood that sometimes the data isnt as good as we thought. So they have a second look. From a global temperature record what one wants to do ( as an engineer) is to study the effect of changing the observation data, that is, how do our answers depend upon the accuracy of that data? That's an objective question. There are also other metrics that may be impacted by minor changes, namely metrics about climate extremes. I dont think Muller is correct, however, a properly done study of the sensitivity to observational data quality should settle the matter. Do we have such a study? not that I have seen.

Steve Bloom said...

Gee, Mosher, that would all be quite credible-sounding if I didn't know the history of all of this.

steven said...

Steve Bloom.

I doubt you know the entire history of anything much less this.

adelady said...

Grypo
"He's basing how much time have without modeling out real cause or differentiating between low sensitivity to CO2 or just temperature masking by aerosols ..."

And this boring all-been-done-before project gets Muller the attention he seems to think he deserves. While Hansen and co produce real, hard work on effects of aerosols.

Deja vu all over again. Science versus 'auditing'.