The Ghost of Present ClimateBall ™

Good news: Stephen G. McIntyre [0], whom I prefer to call “the Auditor” for obvious reasons, has started to “promote” (in a technical sense [1]) the concept of ClimateBall ™. Better yet, he distorts it by labeling an indefinite group of commenters with it; compare and contrast with what he did so many times to those gyrating in the extended circles of the Kyoto Flames [2]. Yet again, the Auditor celebrates the spirit of ClimateBall ™.

Here’s one instance of distortion where AT (hereafter Anders) is implicated:

From time to time, Anders of the ATTP blog has attempted to understand the dispute, but uncritically accepts ClimateBaller doctrine, as for example, his following comment at Brandon’s:

People, however, clearly interpret the results of MM05 as implying that random red noise typically produces hockey sticks, rather than random red noise sometimes (probably quite rarely) produces hockey sticks.

This is completely untrue. MM05 did not imply that Mannian PCs “typically” produced hockeysticks: it stated it.

While his usage clearly excludes himself from being a ClimateBaller, “paying due diligence” [3] to this excerpt suffices to show that the Auditor channels the ghost of present ClimateBall ™.


Let’s commit some facts.

0th, the Auditor uses “from time to time” without substantiating this marker.

1st, the Auditor fumbles his link under “ATTP blog.”

2nd, the Auditor abbreviates the name [4] of a blog without mentioning it first.

3rd, the Auditor judges Anders’ attempt to understand as being “uncritical”.

4th, the Auditor calls “ClimateBaller doctrine” an unidentified set of beliefs.

5th, the Auditor quotes, as an example, a claim related to the Climate Wars [5].

6th, ClimateBall ™ [6] is independent from any claim in these wars.

7th, this Auditor’s usage of “doctrine” [7] may look like a slur.

8th, the Auditor quotes Anders without citation to the correct editorial [8] at Brandon’s.

9th, Brandon uses that quote in at least two other editorials [9, 10].

10th, Tom Curtis has covered that episode on his blog [11].

11th, the Auditor calls a comment one sentence from Anders’ comment.

12th, the Auditor quoted the last sentence of a long paragraph.

13th, that paragraph reads:

As far as your criticism of MBH98 is concerned, I don’t dispute the issues. It may also be true the using the MBH98 data to produce the red noise is largely irrelevant. It does, however, seem odd – as a physicist – to see people claim to produce independent random red noise, but to do so using the data they’re trying to compare to. Maybe that illustrates my ignorance with respect to what actually happens here, but it still seems a little odd. What seems indisputable, though, is that the 10 hockey sticks presented in MM05 (one of the papers, you probably know which one) were not selected randomly from their sample of 10000. They were chosen to be most hockey-stick like. People, however, clearly interpret the results of MM05 as implying that random red noise typically produces hockey sticks, rather than random red noise sometimes (probably quite rarely) produces hockey sticks.

14th, this paragraph is a part of a long comment, with many more paragraphs.

15th, this comment is followed by other comments by Anders on that thread.

16th, the exchange between Brandon and Anders rejoices the ghost of ClimateBall ™ past.

17th, the sentence we emphasized contradicts the Auditor’s accusation of lack of criticality.

18th, Anders’ comment ends up with a plea that is not in the spirit of ClimateBall ™.

19th, the Auditor’s proposition “this is completely untrue” starts with the pronoun “this”

20th, this “this” could refer to the results of MM05b [12] or how people interpret them.

21st, the Auditor claims that “this” is untrue because “MM05″ stated it.

22th, Brandon ridiculed [13] Anders for conflating MM05a [14] and MM05b; cf. above.

23th, there is one “typically” in MM05b, and it is unrelated to the purported statement.

24th, MM05b does not state that “Mannian PCs “typically” produced hockeysticks.”

25th, even if we could reconcile the Auditor’s misspecification with a paraphrase like “that’s what we said,” to say something does not always mean that we imply it [15].

26th, to be relevant in rebuttal, “that’s what we said” implies what was said in MM05b.

27th, the claim that Anders’ claim is “completely untrue” is untrue.

28th, the Auditor’s neglects that Anders’ claim was about how people interpret this result.

29th, the Auditor’s untrue claim is irrelevant to what claimed Anders.

In that episode alone, the Auditor misrepresents both Anders’s, who tries to stay above ClimateBall ™, and ClimateBall ™ itself. This should be enough to show that the Auditor is one of the fiercest ClimateBall ™ players around. Well played!


Let’s end this note by correcting a belief proffered by one of my favorite ClimateBall ™ players, Brandon, whom I nicknamed Chewbacca [16] for less obvious reasons, unnecessary to recall at the moment:

It’s a term stemming from “Climateball,” a word I believe was invented by the user willard. [...] While I believe the term was originally conceived as a way of referring to people on the skeptical side of the debate, it fits people like Nick Stokes and Michael Mann quite well.

As this very “user,” I will attest not having “originally conceived” ClimateBall ™ “as a way of referring to people on the skeptical side of the debate.” I use contrarian [17] for that. The word ClimateBall ™ refers to the moves played in hurly burlies like the very one, by whatever side there could be, as long as the spirit of present ClimateBall ™ is channeled, just like the Auditor does in our episode.


[0]: (Business Week)

Posted in ClimateBall, Steven McIntyre | Tagged , , | 139 Comments

Lewis and Curry

Nic Lewis and Judith Curry have had a new paper published called The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 forcing and heat uptake estimates. This seems to be pretty much the same as Otto et al. (2013), except with different choices for some of the values of some of the parameters. The basic idea is to determine the Transient Climate Response (TCR) and the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) using observations and models results for the changes in forcings. For example

TCR = \frac{F_{2xCO2} \Delta T}{\Delta F}

ECS = \frac{F_{2xCO2} \Delta T}{\Delta F - \Delta Q},

where F_{2xCO2} is the change in forcing due to a doubling of CO2, \Delta T is the change in temperature, \Delta F is the actual change in radiative forcing, and \Delta Q is the change in system heat uptake rate. This is all done by considering the changes from some base time interval to some final time interval.

The main difference between this paper and Otto et al. seems to be a different estimate for the system heat uptake rate in the final interval and an increase in the system heat uptake rate during the base interval (0.15 Wm-2, rather than 0.08 Wm-2). Otto et al. estimate \Delta Q to be about 0.65 Wm-2 using a base interval of 1860-1879 and a final interval of the early 2000s. Lewis & Curry estimate \Delta Q to be 0.36 Wm-2 using a base interval of 1859-1882 and a final interval of 1995-2011. This, as far as I can tell, is the main reason for the difference between Lewis & Curry and Otto et al. (2013).

The basic result from Lewis & Curry (2014) is illustrated in the table below.

credit : Lewis & Curry (2014)

credit : Lewis & Curry (2014)

Let’s compare this with what is said in the most recent IPCC report

Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence).


The transient climate response is likely in the range of 1.0°C to 2.5°C (high confidence) and extremely unlikely greater than 3°C. {Box 12.2}

So, considering the bold row in the above table, the range is not wildly different to that presented by the IPCC. The top end of the range presented by Lewis & Curry (2014) is clearly lower, but there is still a chance (according to Lewis & Curry) of the ECS being greater than 3o and the TCR being greater than 2oC (although, I think the Lewis & Curry 17-83% range is probably the correct comparison with the IPCC likely range).

What has, of course, drawn attention to this paper is that the best estimate for the ECS is only 1.64oC, right near the bottom of the IPCC likely range. This is being interpreted as suggesting that the ECS is lower than the IPCC suggests. It is, of course, possible that it could be near the bottom of the range (that’s why there’s a range) but I think one should be very careful of interpreting this study as suggesting that it probably is. I’ll try and explain why.

  • Firstly, this is just one paper and so one has to always be wary of single study syndrome (yes, Matt Ridley, I’m thinking of you here).
  • What’s being determined here is actually the effective climate sensitivity, not the equilibrium climate sensitivity. As explained here, the effective sensitivity is really just a measure of the strength of the feedbacks at a particular time and it may vary with forcing history and climate state.
  • The paper uses the HadCRUT4 temperature dataset, but makes no mention of Cowtan & Way (2013). Cowtan & Way consider coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature dataset and illustrate that the lack of coverage in the Arctic probably indicates that we’ve warmed slightly more than the HadCRUT4 dataset indicates.
  • The paper makes no mention of the work of Shindell (2014) or Kummer & Dessler (2014). These two papers point out that inhomogeneities in the aerosol forcing may mean that these energy balance models will underestimate both the TCR and ECS.
  • There is some mention of variability and this may indeed influence the TCR and ECS estimates. Certainly variability could have both reduced or increased the amount of warming, but it can also (on decadal timescales) influence the system heat uptake rate (see, for example, Palmer & McNeall (2014)).

So, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Lewis & Curry (2014), but it does appear to have chosen the lowest possible change in system heat uptake rate, which then gives a low best estimate for the ECS. The range, however, is still quite similar to the IPCC range. Furthermore, this is just a single study and there are a number of things that such simple models really can’t capture, many of which would indicate that these estimates are quite likely to be lower limits, rather than accurate values. There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing such studies and they’re certainly valuable contributions to the literature. Assuming that somehow they prove that climate sensitivity is lower than the IPCC suggests would, in my opinion, be rather misguided.

Posted in Climate change, Climate sensitivity, Global warming, IPCC, Judith Curry, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , | 245 Comments

Curry for dinner

This is a guess post by VTG

Judith Curry has posted a short summary(1) of her recent talk sponsored by the George Marshall Institute, attempting to put the case for adaptation rather than mitigation. In the somewhat tortured semantics of climate policy, adaptation is reducing the impact of climate change by changing infrastructure, land use and other means whereas mitigation is avoiding climate change through reducing emissions.

In my opinion the article is a breathtaking dash through personal hypocrisy, factual inaccuracy and political rhetoric.

To date, Judith Curry has argued strongly and consistently for scientists to avoid advocacy(2). Being sponsored by the George Marshall Institute, with its history of anti-science advocacy is arguably in direct contradiction to this, and the article itself is clear advocacy for not following mitigation policies. Hypocrisy is a strong charge, but is impossible to avoid here.

Worse yet, Prof Curry gets her facts wrong, claiming that global temperatures have not risen since 1998(3). This is untrue; both the surface temperature indexes from NASA and the Met office in fact show a rising trend since 1998. Those familiar with the climate debate will also, of course, recognise 1998 as a famously record-breaking hot year. In using it as her start point, Prof Curry is engaging in egregious cherry picking – using only the data which suits her case. In the context of a piece intended for general public rather than scientific experts, it’s very hard to interpret this as a statement made in good faith. Prof Curry has previously reacted strongly against being labelled a disinformer, but a clearer example of disinformation could not be wished for.

As part of her focus on the easy messaging of the “hiatus”, where surface temperatures have risen less steeply for the last few years, rhetorical tricks follow. Prof Curry claims that CO2 is expected to dominate on decadal timescales, and that there is a vigorous scientific debate on the anthropogenic nature of late 20th century warming. Neither is true. Anthropogenic warming was never claimed to overwhelm natural variation on short timescales, and there is a strong scientific consensus on the anthropogenic source of 20th century warming. Both these false claims are, however, excellent means to give a misleading impression of uncertainty.

For me, though, the worst part of the article is its shortsighted vision and moral bankruptcy. Impacts are waved away as a late 21st century concern and better adapted to regionally. By the late 21st century it will, of course, already be too late to avoid damaging change. And morally, those regions most affected are the same regions least able to adapt, the poorest countries condemned to radical change by actions benefiting the richest countries on earth. This is a shameless call to narrow self-interest.

It’s worth remembering what scale of impacts we’re talking about. Under the “business as usual” no mitigation pathway RCP8.5, global temperatures are forecast to rise between 2.5 to 7.8 degrees from preindustrial (4). Even the midpoint of this range would be genuinely catastrophic; the top end would be a cataclysm for the Earth’s ability to support a human civilisation and current biodiversity.

Professor Curry advocates unwise policy based on false claims and bankrupt morals. Reducing carbon emissions is technically feasible, economically viable and has an unanswerable moral case. World leaders should follow the scientific consensus reported by the scientists of the IPCC in its recent AR5 report, not the isolated few voices sponsored by politically motivated disinformation campaigns.

In summary:



climate scientists should avoid advocacy related to public policy related to climate science research findings.


At the heart of the recent scientific debate on climate change is the ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in global warming – the period since 1998 during which global average surface temperatures have not increased.

- This is simply false. Of the two main surface temperature indices (Hadcrut4, GISS) both show a positive trend 1998-2013. Of the satellite series which measure tropospheric temperature, UAH shows positive and RSS negative
– As well as being false, this is transparent attempt to cherry pick a record-breaking hot year and walk down the up escalator

(4) AR5 WG3 Table SPM1

Posted in advocacy, Climate change, Global warming, Judith Curry | Tagged , , , , , | 144 Comments

Climate economics

I know I’m meant to be having a break (I plan to continue – also VTG has offered to write a post, so this doesn’t get him off the hook :-) ) but I couldn’t resist posting this TED talk by the UK’s leading climate economist. It’s a broadly optimistic talk and discusses how we have the ability to make sensible decisions if we wish to do so. What I liked is that he seems to understand, and discusses, the basics of climate science. Of course, maybe I’m biased as he does say

We couldn’t just turn it off. You can’t make a peace treaty with the planet, you can’t negotiate with the laws of physics,

which is something that many who discuss climate economics appear to fail to acknowledge.

I’m not really wanting to write a lengthy post, but I thought I’d make a broader point. There are some who try to portray themselves as pragmatic realists. This irritates me for a number of reasons. One is simply that this is often framed in a manner that suggests that they understand the realities of the world and know what will work and what won’t, and anyone who disagrees with them has their heads in the clouds and just doesn’t realise that what they’re promoting simply won’t work. What’s particularly galling is when such people gloat when something doesn’t work. It’s a little like someone who says “It won’t work, it won’t work, it won’t work, it won’t work…..see, I told you it wouldn’t work”.

Additionally, as pointed out by the quote above, the physical world doesn’t care about the reality in which we’d like to live. It’s not that I think that everything that these “pragmatic realists” say is necessarily wrong, but if there are factors that could have a major influence on the world in which we live, and which we could choose to do something about if we wished to do so, ignoring these realities just seems remarkably short-sighted.

As I’ve mentioned before, though, I do think that the climate policy aspect of this debate is extremely complex, and is much more difficult than the science itself. I don’t think there are easy solutions or trivial decisions. We do, however, need to be willing to discuss the possible risks and what we should do, given these risks. Burying our heads in the sand, hoping that there won’t be any significant risks associated with climate change, and pretending that – if there are – something magical will happen to save us, is – in my opinion – very definitely not what we should be doing.

Posted in Climate change, Climate sensitivity, ClimateBall, Global warming, Science | Tagged , , , , , | 61 Comments

People’s Climate March

I thought I’d temporarily hijack AndThen’s blog to write a quick guest post about the upcoming people’s climate march.

There are going to be a series of climate marches around the world on the 21st of September which is this Sunday. Every significant social movement in history has involved ordinary people marching on the streets. We need to show our politicians that we want action on this issue for our children and our grandchildren.

A film has been produced as a sort of prelude to this march. It is very good and begins with 1968 footage of the Earth from Apollo 8.

Here’s a quote I liked from the film:

It’s not about a few more droughts and a few more storms, it’s about a catastrophic shift in our fragile biosphere that threatens everything we love

You can find an event near you here:

If there isn’t an event in your area, then organise one!

Posted in Climate change, Global warming | Tagged , , , | 91 Comments

A real Hiatus

For reasons I certainly won’t go into here, I intend to take a break from all of this blogging. I don’t know for how long, but for a few weeks at least, and maybe longer. Before I do, though, I thought I might comment on Judith Curry’s recent post about Criticizing with kindness. It’s another attempt to discuss/criticise the tone of the online climate science debate. As much as I agree that the tone is poor, my personal view is that anyone who thinks this, and would like it to be better, can very easily do something about it : improve their own tone.

As far as I’m concerned, if you think discussions should take place in good faith, just make sure you do so yourself. Be prepared to consider the argument being made by the other person. If they tell you that you’ve misunderstood what they’re saying, consider that you have. Be willing to simply disagree. Consider that at least some of what the other person says may have merit. Don’t just nitpick a minor point in order to undermine what they’re saying. It’s not actually all that difficult. I’m sure we all engage in such discussions on a daily basis. Here’s maybe the crucial point : if you think what the other person says is absurd, just stop. There’s no way you can have a good faith discussion with someone who you think is talking nonsense.

So, I think there are certain things that we can regard – given the evidence we have today – as essentially true. For example

  • The rise in atmospheric CO2 since the mid-1800s is virtually all a consequence of anthropogenic emissions. If you want to know why, you can read this.
  • There have been numerous millenial temperature reconstructions using a variety of different proxies and a variety of different techniques. They almost all produce a hockey stick-like shape and indicate that temperatures today are probably higher than they’ve been for more than a thousand years and the rate at which it has risen is faster than for more than a thousand years. You can read more here.
  • The instrumental temperature record has been replicated/reproduced by numerous different groups. All the different records show that we’ve warmed by more than 0.8 degrees since 1880. Homogenization is a crucial part of generating these temperature records and is not an indicator of data tampering, or because scientists want to show that it’s warming faster than it actually is (e.g., here).
  • Our understanding of climate change is not primarily based on global climate models (GCMs). They provide some evidence for how our climate may change if we continue to increase anthropogenic forcings. Also, claiming that climate models have failed because they didn’t specifically predict the so-called “pause” is like suggesting that you can’t be sure the river will flow downhill because you can’t predict the winner at pooh sticks (H/T Richard Betts).
  • We may not know, precisely, the equilibrium climate sensitivity and the transient climate response, but we do have evidence that provides a range for each of these quantities. Claiming that it will probably be on the low side of these ranges, is simply wrong. The probability distribution tells us the likelihood of each portion of these ranges, and deciding that a particular interval is more likely than this probability distribution suggests, is simply ignoring some (or most) of the evidence.

There are probably more, but the point I’m getting at is that it really isn’t possible to have a good faith discussion with anyone who dispute the points above. There are certainly perfectly valid reasons for discussing the above points, but doing so on a blog (or on Twitter) with someone who disputes them would just seem to be a waste of time. Our current understanding is based on a large amount of published, scientific evidence. It’s highly unlikely that a bunch of non-experts on blogs are going to overturn this understanding. Of course, if someone does some actual research, publishes some papers, and convinces the scientific community that some of the points above are wrong, great. Do it. That’s how science works. I just don’t see the point in having blog discussions with people who are arguing against well-established science, or how such discussions could possibly take place in good faith.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, that’s my view. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone has to agree with the above points; simply that I don’t see the point in arguing with those who don’t. It’s certainly a waste of my time, if not of theirs. Of course, if anyone does disagree with any of the points I’ve made above, they’re welcome to explain why in the comments. However, it will require that they do more than point to a single (or a few) paper that disputes the mainstream view. Similarly, if anyone wants to add to the list, feel free.

As I said at the beginning, I’m going to take a break for a while. I certainly don’t plan to write any posts, but may respond to comments if I get a chance.

Posted in Climate change, Climate sensitivity, ClimateBall, Global warming, Judith Curry, Michael Mann, PAGES 2k, Personal, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 53 Comments


Greg Laden has a good post about Judith Curry’s recent post in which she implies that the Hockey Stick might be fraudulent. I recommend reading Greg’s post, but essentially he points out that it’s perfectly normal to take a large number of different datasets and combine them to try and illustrate something relatively simple. In the case of the Hockey Stick graph, it’s to try and present our global (or Northern Hemisphere in some cases) temperature history over the last millennium.

If you want to know more about the Hockey Stick controversy, you can read Greg’s post. I thought I might just make a broader point. Maybe I’m just odd (yes, yes, okay, I am), but as far as I’m concerned, the important question – when it comes to something like the Hockey Stick – is whether or not what it presents is a reasonable representation of our millenial temperature history. All these claims of fraud, misconduct, etc. just seem to be attempts to undermine a result without actually showing that what it presents is wrong. In fact, I would argue that if a scientific result is based on fraud/misconduct, it should be trivial to show that it’s wrong (i.e., redo the work in a non-fraudulent way and present the correct result, or show that you can’t reproduce the result). It’s certainly my opinion that all these accusations of fraud/misconduct are really just because the Hockey Stick graph presents a result that some find inconvenient.

I mentioned in an earlier comment that I was engaged in a scientific debate with another group who, in my view, are presenting their work in a way that somewhat overplays the significance of what they’re doing. However, what they’ve actually shown is interesting and quite important, but not really for the reasons that they suggest. I do find it quite annoying that they’ve written some papers presenting their results in a way that sounds much more interesting than – in my view – it warrants (their papers are getting more citations than mine :-) ). On the other hand, I’ve managed to write a couple of papers in response and can show that what they’re suggesting is wrong without needing to make any suggestions of scientific misconduct. At the end of the day, we gain understanding even if there are some blips along the way.

It would be much better, in my view, if people were willing to be more careful about what they present and not overplay the significance of their results, but scientific debates are perfectly normal and can, typically, take place without throwing around accusations of fraud and misconduct. There are certainly occasions when it is valid to make an accusation of fraud or misconduct, but this would normally be when someone cannot replicate a result and it becomes clear that the original researchers were fundamentally dishonest in some way. A mistake does not constitute fraud, nor does doing something in a way that others might disagree with.

That’s really all I was going to say. I just still find myself being amazed by what some people seem willing to say. I know that by now I should no longer be amazed by what anyone says, but I still am. I don’t really see how throwing around accusations of fraud and misconduct helps us to gain scientific understanding but, my guess, is that that isn’t the goal of those who do so.

Posted in Climate change, ClimateBall, Global warming, Judith Curry, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 279 Comments