"It is the unhappy fate of the scientist today that he must play the role of Cassandra in the body politic, sending his fellow men to bed with nightmares in the hope to be heard in time."

- Arthur von Hippel, in "The Molecular Designing of Materials" (h/t @upbeatprof)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Newsweek: Sun not relevant to climate

Newsweek asks the following question and alleges that "the sun" is the right answer.

I was at first going to blame this on the lack of clarity of the phrase "global warming", an old hobby horse of mine, but I actually can't think of any meaningful sense in which there is a correct answer provided.

23. Which of the following does NOT contribute to global warming?

Greater output from the sun

SUVs, or Sport Utility Vehicles

Rice paddies

Don’t know/Refused


David Duff said...

You point us at Wikipedia, not a source upon which I would bet the deeds of the house! However, I was struck by this part of a sentence from it:

"minor contributions from solar variability and other factors".

By coincidence, I was reading Anthony Watts today who has a post entitled: "A landmark paper on earth's climate link to the sun". You may read his review of it here:


and he also provides a direct link to the paper itself which, unlike the papers of some climatologists, provides enough information so that the writers' results can be replicated.

It really is worth reading, especially to a scientist like yourself.

Michael Tobis said...

1) Wikipedia in this case as in general provides links to the primary source of information.

2) Just because the sun contributes to global warming doesn't make its contribution important. The fact that Newsweek is wrong doesn't make you right.

3a) The sunspot nonsense is known to be nonsense.

3b) a South African civil engineering magazine does not constitute peer review on matters of climate,

3c) Any paper which chooses to write "We believe that our combined studies have made a major contribution to the advancement of international science in this field" probably hasn't. I'd welcome a counterexample.

3d) Any paper which says "our findings are reproducible by anyone with sufficient knowledge in this fields" is wasting its ink and my patience on tautologies.

4) Your incapacity to read the primary literature does not invalidate it any more than your puppy's incapacity to read it does. See 3d above.

5) Our field would be much more transparent if it were adequately funded to explain its results. At present the vast majority of outreach funds are going to people who argue against the consensus. At present we are barely able to fund adequate communication and documentation among ourselves. I don't deny that this is a problem.

David Duff said...

1) Fair enough.

2) I can't speak for Newsweek, I never read it. But trying to calculate *exactly* how much of a contribution the sun *does* make is surely a worthy enterprise for anyone struggling to understand global temperatures.

3a) Who has *proven* it?

3b) It did not claim to be peer-reviewed. It was published so that anyone and his uncle could review it any way they wish, unlike so many of the AGW scientists(!) who refuse to hand over their sources. Also, I would not be too hasty, if I were you, in sneering at peer-review procedures given the published re-action of the IPCC teams to *their* peer review!

3c) Well, we shall have to wait and see, over time, just how important it is.

3d) You would not waste much ink trying to reproduce Jones et al for the simple reason that he refuses to release the data upon which he based his conclusions and which you appear to have swallowed whole!

4) My incapacities, as you call them, are freely admitted. What about you? Go on, I'll show you mine if you show me yours!

5) You mean it takes money to press a key or two on a computer and transmit your data to the world? Er, 'E' for Effort, I think, Mr. Tobis!

Michael Tobis said...

I freely admit my own limitations which are legion.

I am not the one suggesting that because I don't understand something, I have sufficient cause to disbelieve it.

Science proceeds ultimately in a network of trust both internal and external. Since in this case more people are being paid more money to destroy that trust, at least externally, than to reinforce it, the trust has eroded.

Whether this result, this decay of trust of which David Duff is an exemplar, is justified is one question. Whether it should be a legitimate function of a publicly funded applied science to defend itself is another.

As matters stand, the opponents of science are much better funded and trained at their polemical mission than the proponents. That's a very serious problem.

Nobody seems to question that it is the right of those outside a field (with an apparent proviso that the field is not economics) to call it into question.

On another matter David raises, I am sympathetic with those who say we should be more transparent. However, we are subject to a competitive model for funding and promotion. This argues for a 'trade secret' mentality.

I recommend that openness be mandated by law. I for one would prefer it. I hope our field is not unfairly singled out in this regard as it has been in others.

I am pleased to see this support for open source computing emerging in conservative opinion, and hope they will argue similarly for a complete open source tool chain in all publicly funded operations.