"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Favoring Curry

Amidst all the peculiar efforts to redefine statistical reasoning, we find this comment by Judith Curry:

actually climate research was a pretty quiet field until the late 1980′s. At this point, the alarm was sounded and some influential scientists brought this issue to the international policy table, and we ended up with the UNFCCC and the IPCC. By stating that the science demanded a certain policy (stabilization of greenhouse gases to prevent dangerous climate change), postnormal climate science was born. Consider an alternative universe where the scientists provided a range of scenarios to consider and included natural climate variability in the mix, and recommended that suite of policy options be developed to help reduce societal vulnerability to future climate change, both of the natural and anthropogenic variety. In this alternative world, I don’t think things would have become so polarized and one can even envision the IPCC assessment topics and strategy as being different.

This hypothetical asserts facts that are not, to my knowledge, supported.

1) Did IPCC ever "demand" a particular policy? Where? In listing policies, did it fail to mention reducing societal vulnerability? Where?

2) Did IPCC ever fail to consider alternative scenarios? In what sense? Which working group failed to do so at what juncture?

3) Did IPCC fail to "include natural variability in the mix"?

While I am not an unalloyed enthusiast of IPCC, I find these claims unsupported at best. It would be interesting to see evidence for and against these claims, particularly within the assessment reports.

Update: Judith responds at her blog thus:
Michael, you misinterpret what I said. Read the history of the UNFCCC, for which the IPCC is charged to provide information for. I did not say the IPCC demanded specific policies, but rather individual scientists did claim that the science demanded emissions reductions, which gave birth to the UNFCCC and the precautionary principle on dangerous climate change. The IPCC has given inadequate attention to solar variability and its uncertainties and it has WAY discounted the impact of the major multi-decadal and longer ocean oscillations on interpreting the 20th century temperature record.
I am not sure what to do with this. It still seems like unsupported assertions to me.


dhogaza said...

"Consider an alternative universe where the scientists provided a range of scenarios to consider..."

Hansen, arguably the biggest boogie man of them all, provide three scenarios in his 1989 work and even labeled them scenarios A,B and C for easy reading.

"and included natural climate variability in the mix..."

She must know she's being dishonest with this statement. I refuse to believe that she honestly thinks that climate scientists have at any point in time been unaware of natural climate variability.


Antiquated Tory said...

If a long string of commenters starts criticizing JC, is that a "Curry feast?"

Utterly OT, but the author of Climatopolis has an essay at VOX. Thought some of you might be interested. No need for me to post a link in the bunny den if I've posted here, right?

David B. Benson said...

Gone emeritus I tell you.

Antiquated Tory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Consider an alternative universe where the scientists provided a range of scenarios to consider and included natural climate variability in the mix, and recommended that suite of policy options be developed to help reduce societal vulnerability to future climate change, both of the natural and anthropogenic variety. In this alternative world, I don’t think things would have become so polarized and one can even envision the IPCC assessment topics and strategy as being different."

That is so sweet... Interesting if the "auditers" will lap it up: "yeah, only if" and then JC can say - well they mostly actually did just that.

David B. Benson said...

MT --- Shouldn't the title be Flavoring Curry?

Or am I on the wrong blog again?

dhogaza said...

Well, cool, she's got a tobacco-causes-cancer denialist posting there (apparently it's the additives, smoking organic unadulterated tobacco hasn't been proven dangerous to the poster).

She's drawing the best of the blog science crowd, that's for sure.

Reading her responses to people is telling. She's repeating various typical denialist canards - IPCC underestimates solar variability, the effect of ocean temperature oscillations, etc etc.

Brian said...

Curry may be unintentionally repeating a flavor of the denialist line that climate change science is just politics harnessed to an end. The history of climate change science precedes the late 1980s by a century, and there was a general uptick in interest in the 70's and 80's.

It didn't suddenly come out of nowhere as a tool the left created to beat up rich countries.

More info:


Steve Bloom said...

Judy's cycle stuff is very, very reminiscent of "god in the gaps" arguments from evolution deniers. AFAIK there is no credible claim that the recent and continuing warming is anything but driven primarily by anthropogenic GHGs. Re the solar stuff, oddly the solar physicists seem to think the IPCC got it right. Judy's probably really referring to the likes of Svensmark, but of course wouldn't actually be able to defend that hypothesis in the face of the tsunami of damning criticism. By not getting specific, she avoids those pesky details.

Steve Bloom said...

Yep, dhog, it's (my personal favorite) "Curry with the fringe on tap." But there I go being mean again. :)

David B. Benson said...

Steve Bloom --- Which bistro serves that, again?

Unknown said...

What use is there in wondering what the world might have been like? In this alternate reality, would Curry still uncritically defend rubbish like Montford?

It's naive in the extreme to think that the polarization began with scientists presenting findings, and raising the alarm if the implications were true. Industry paid scientists still would have framed it as the nothing to worry about option, or the it's natural. And the media still would have gone with the two extremes...that's what they do.

I have a hard time imagining that the trajectory of the media would have changed much, based on what a few scientists said back in the 80's...

Steve Bloom said...

It's more in the way of transportation to the bistro, David.

DirkD said...

Lets see, now:

1) Giving general statements that are unsupported by fact, which mt pointed out;

2) Flippant use of loaded terms like "post-normal science" and "dangerous climate change"

3) Lots of weasel words: "some influential scientists"..."individual scientists did claim"..."most citizen scientists"

4) Vague references to the specific without being specific - "Read the history" or "read Montford/BH/HSI"

5) Liberal use of the "you misinterpret me" defense despite being purposely obtuse.

6) Frequent application of qualifiers such as "to the best of my knowledge" etc. as her get-out-of-jail card when her flaws are pointed out.

Doesn't this remind you of anyone?

dhogaza said...

"Curry may be unintentionally repeating a flavor of the denialist line that climate change science is just politics harnessed to an end."


"With regards to mention of postnormal science, I think it is a very interesting and useful piece of sociological research. There is no question that science is a value laden process. However, the problem occurs when biases (advertent or inadvertent) overwhelm science because of value, which has been happening in the climate debate."

It's easy to read between the words here ... Curry is never so obvious as when she's trying to be subtle.

Tony Lee said...

There's just too much vagueness in JC's posts. Who exactly is ignoring natural effects on the climate? I thought that was one of the major tasks of the IPCC: to separate out human from natural causes.

On another note - still with the curry puns? Really? I'm sure she's never heard any of them before.

Michael Tobis said...

last one, I promise

Marco said...

Michael, there is a very consistent pattern emerging in Judith Curry's behavior: vague, unquantified statements. Substantiating her claims is not her current mode-of-action. In fact, as we have seen on realclimate and collide-a-scape, her mode-of-action usually is to point to OTHERS making that claim. Just look at the pattern around her criticism of paleoclimatology: pointing to McIntyre and Montford, and openly stating she can't be arsed herself to check the claims (well, she states it slightly different than that...). And when you keep on asking her to substantiate, she'll be howling she's been treated so badly.

Oale said...

One could say to solar worshippers like Mr. Curry that no G2V type star has exhibited the type of variations required their fantasies to be correct. In the future, I'm thinking of pointing to www.thesun.co.uk/ on threads this comes up so the readers can have more accurate info. Alternately, I might say it could be www.thesun.co.uk/ which causes the GW, and it should be abolished.

Sorry for this outburst but I think they're gaming www.thesun.co.uk/ be a freaking G-type variable which hasn't been observed in the 100000 issues seen in the skies (there are two you know)

Anonymous said...

"postnormal climate science"

I keep seeing "postnormal science" popping up. What is it with these people and epistomological relativism?

Anonymous said...

MT my suggestion, give it the attention it warrants, none.

Steve Easterbrook said...

Well, I don't know if this is really what's going on, but she's behaving very much like a number of second-rate academics I know in my own field. They continually get papers rejected from the top venues, and get their work rubbished in the review process, but are completely unable to acknowledge their own flaws as researchers. So they bleat on about tribalism and in-crowds, and then usually wander off and find some other community with lower standards of scholarship, and get a huge ego-boost from their sudden acceptance at such venues. Only in her case, she wandered out of scientific communities altogether and into blog-science. Her phrase "most amateur scientists" is very revealing - no other climate scientist I've met cares two hoots what non-scientists think about how earth systems work.

Michael Tobis said...

Glacier, I wrote an excellent long reply to your suggestion which Blogger ate. I have to get off this miserable platform! And I'm very concerned that Google's quality control is getting worse and not better.

In short, though, there is the question of preaching to the choir.

In pure science, you simply ignore the people who are wrong. There is little consequence for doing so.

In public debate, you cannot do so. The consequences of letting nonsense go largely unanswered is, well, obvious all around us. Especially in Pakistan at the moment.

It is the places where people who don't get it congregate where we have to be.

Michael Tobis said...

Steve, she can't possibly carry such a grudge on her own behalf, but she does seem to be doing so on McIntyre's behalf. I have even seen her spare a kind word for the [[self-edit]] charming Patrick Michaels.

Lou Grinzo said...

Steve: Perhaps we've found a mirror image of the Peter Principle (people rise to the level of their incompetence). In this one, people sink to their level of professional comfort.

Personally, I find Curry's approach to these exchanges extremely frustrating. If someone with no scientific training argued that way, it would be annoying but at least somewhat understandable. For someone in Curry's position to do it is baffling.

Anna Haynes said...

Andrew Dodds had some questions but Dr. Curry may have overlooked them.

And AFAIK Mr. Tom Fuller doesn't appear to have answered these (link)

Anna Haynes said...

Curry & Webster's business.
In that first image, what's the "Normalized Index" a measure of?

Michael Tobis said...

Looks like the SOI (El Nino metric) normalized to unit variance.

Anonymous said...

Judith Curry has by now replied to the question on rejected papers. Interesting thread.

It's interesting to compare her assertion "Some people were getting their papers rejected because they disagreed with the IPCC."
to her defense
"Just because at this point in time I have not assembled documentation for publication, should we pretend that the possibility of this problem does not exist?"

pough said...


Sometimes the best defense is to pretend both you and your opponent have said something quite different. With a response like that I can't help but wonder if Curry is angling toward a career in politics.

Hank Roberts said...

> individual scientists did
> claim that the science
> demanded emissions reductions

Reminds me of a slight improvement of a famous Dylan line:

"the pump don't work because" the epidemiologist* "took the handle."


Of course scientists point out trouble and how to fix it.

Good grief.

guthrie said...

I've just skimmed the latest thread at Curry's about recent challenges to the credibility of climate science. As you might expect, the number of posts supportive of the IPCC and majority of scientists etc numbers around 2 or 3, the rest are anti-AGW. A lot of them seem honestly confused. Some are hardcore anti-scientists and anti-greenies, another poster dislikes modern science because it has been so corrupted by money from gvts and corporations, which is partially correct but totally ignores the correcting feedbacks in science itself and the evidence available.

None of the keyboard warriors have effectively addressed the lack of evidence for actual real wrongdoings revealed in the stolen e-mails, and all too many evince a conspiratorial approach to reality, ie the scientists are faking it all for the money, yes, all of them.

As a way for Dr Curry to find out what one particular area of opinion thinks, it is a great success. As an actual substantive discussion about the place of climate science in society, not so much. Those of us who actually pay attention to the science and scientists and the IPCC are best off boycotting such threads since they are nearly as bad as newspaper comments sections, and countering every misdirection, lie, misunderstanding and bit of confusion would require a large team of volunteers. Dr CUrry's reaction and changing viewpoints will be interesting to observe over time.

And the visual verification box isn't loading, blogger really need to get their act together.

Michael Tobis said...

I agree, Guthrie. The latest thread makes classifying Curry easy. She's firmly in the McIntryre camp and is trying to provide some respectability for that stance.

There is nothing useful to add, given the way she phrased the question, and no likelihood that she;ll get any audience other than McIntyre's.

It's just a little more salt in our wounds. It's really very baffling, but Curry is not just trying to find a middle ground.

She really wants somebody to say "uncle" on behalf of the climate science community, but who it would be and how they would do that and what they would confess to remain totally unclear.

chek said...

Poor ol' Judith.
After all the build up, Peiser's GWPF inquiry into the 'climategate' inquiries by Montford sank without a trace.

I suspect she was expecting great things from the Benny-Hill Report too, when to everybody else it was quite obviously a joke.