It’ll never work!

The IPCC has released its final synthesis report. I don’t really want to discuss it in detail. Sou already has a post about it and Carbon Brief has a good summary. I thought I might comment, though, on a view that seems to be prevalent amongst people like Richard Tol (who I should probably ignore as his credibility appears to be diminishing rapidly) and Roger Pielke Jr. The view can probably be summed up by a couple of tweets from Roger Pielke Jr.

I engaged briefly in a discussion between Michael Tobis – who appears to be one of the more thoughtful people involved in the climate debate – and Roger Pielke Jr – who, in my view, is not. Michael was trying to get Roger to clarify his position. Needless to say it didn’t go well. Roger accused people of being childish and of Trolling. To be fair, I happen to agree with Roger that much of the online climate debate is indeed very childish. If, however, he thinks he’s some kind of mature influence, then I think he’s sorely mistaken (to be clear, though, I’m certainly not suggesting that I am either).

Roger’s response was essentially to read his books. Apparently, if we did that we’d understand his views. Well, there are a lot of books in the world. I’d certainly like some kind of sense that I’m not going to be wasting my time. All indications, so far, are that I would be.

Acknowledging that maybe Roger’s position is more nuanced that it seems, based on his tweets, it seems rather silly. It’s my understanding that the goal of the IPCC is to inform policy makers and the public, not to influence policy directly. If policy makers and the public are more informed, then they’ve succeeded. If we choose not to do anything, despite this information, it’s not the IPCC’s fault. It’s the fault of our policy makers. Of course, maybe there is indeed a more effective way to communicate this information, but it’s hard to see what it would be. If there are any policy makers who haven’t got what is clearly an extremely simple and clear message, they must be living in a cave somewhere.

Additionally the term apocalyptic seems to be Roger’s own construct. I don’t think it’s an IPCC term. Also what is he actually implying? That the IPCC should adjust it’s message so as to be more effective at influencing policy. Well, that’s not formally their goal. Their goal is simply to inform. What they say should be consistent with the best evidence available. Either there are potentially catastrophic outcomes, and they should say so, or there aren’t, and they shouldn’t. Suggesting that they should choose what they say, so as to have a better chance of influencing policy, sounds like Roger is suggesting that they shouldn’t be entirely honest. If so, this seems absurd.

So, maybe I misunderstand what Roger is getting at, but as it stands he seems to be essentially arguing that IPCC reports have never successfully influenced policy in the past and that therefore they won’t now, and that they should adjust their message so as to be more effective. Well I think that’s just a classic example of shooting the messenger. It’s also consistent with my basic view that as it becomes clearer that we should have acted sooner, people will start to blame climate scientists and the IPCC for not having done more. However, it’s hard to see what else they could have done and how anyone can be confused about the information coming from their reports. The message appears to be absolutely clear. Of course it’s well within our rights to choose not to act, but blaming inaction on the IPCC seems absurd. Maybe if some people spent a bit more time convincing people to consider the information in the IPCC reports, and less time criticising the IPCC, we’d have a better chance of making sensible policy decisions.

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142 Responses to It’ll never work!

  1. I’m more sympathetic to RP’s message, which I think is somewhat like Timmy’s (http://www.timworstall.com/2014/11/02/yawn/): “Yes, we know, can we haz a carbon tax plze?” (you have to ignore his commenters of course; they’re nutters).

    Which is: there really isn’t a great deal new to say (I’ve not read the thing, so I can’t be sure of that, but I’m guessing). So expecting people to do a new thing in response to no new information isn’t very sensible.

    That’s not necessarily a major criticism of the IPCC though: their task is to synthesis this stuff at current staate-of-the-art, and that’s what they’ve done. Whether that’s still a sensible thing to do – in the level of detail they’re doing – is open to question. And the failure of the IPCC to think about that *is* a criticism of them. http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/02/08/the-ipcc-dissolve-it-or-not/ and so on.

  2. Rachel M says:

    It would be nice if people who said “It’s not going to work!” could come up with some constructive suggestions for how we could make it work. One of my pet hates (I probably have a few :)) is when people say “it can’t be done” without even trying or even attempting to find a workaround or alternative solution. This is so defeatist and humanity wouldn’t have accomplished very much if this attitude prevailed. I could rant about this all day but I’ve got work to do.

  3. William,
    Well, except a more reasonable criticism might then be “the IPCC keeps pointing this out, why aren’t we doing something?” I think I just fail to see why the IPCC should be the one adjusting what it’s doing, given that it’s goal is to inform, not influence. It seems to me that if they adopted a strategy that was explicitly aimed at more effectively influencing policy, they’d be criticised for moving outside their mandate.

    Which is: there really isn’t a great deal new to say (I’ve not read the thing, so I can’t be sure of that, but I’m guessing). So expecting people to do a new thing in response to no new information isn’t very sensible.

    I guess that depends on whether or not pointing things out again and again could be effective. It’s not clear to me what else could be said. It’s not as if we should suddenly stop pointing these things out.

    Whether that’s still a sensible thing to do – in the level of detail they’re doing – is open to question. And the failure of the IPCC to think about that *is* a criticism of them.

    Okay, they could choose to do shorter reports more often (or whatever might be better), but I still think that the message is clear. I guess I find it hard to believe that there’s much they can do that would make a difference.

    I guess I’m quite new to all this, but it’s been almost two years of IPCC reports (WGI, WGII, WGIII, synthesis) and so there’s been plenty of media coverage and it’s not as if the message is complicated.

  4. Rachel,

    could come up with some constructive suggestions for how we could make it work

    To be fair to Roger, he seems to be suggesting that this is in his book. Might be nice if he gave some kind of hint as to what it is though.

  5. > I just fail to see why the IPCC should be the one adjusting what it’s doing

    RP Jr isn’t saying it should, at least not based on the quotes you’ve offered. He says:

    > how many journos & activists think that THIS recycled IPCC report will motivate action

    which seems fair enough to me. Are you sure you’re actually reading what RP is writing, rather than what you think he’s writing?

    > I still think that the message is clear

    Yes, it is. So what?

  6. William,
    I’ve just read your Timmy link. I’m not always a fan of his and I’m not convinced that the solution is simply a carbon tax, but I think what he writes is at least a criticism of us for not doing something (rather than of the IPCC) and presents an actual solution.

  7. William,

    Are you sure you’re actually reading what RP is writing, rather than what you think he’s writing?

    That’s why I put both tweets in. His second seems clearly a criticism of what is presented. Could add this one too, I guess

    I’m always open to the possibility that I’m misinterpreting someone. Roger, however, puts little effort into clarifying.

  8. William,
    I will add, though, that Roger’s first tweet alone, could be interpreted as being a criticism of those ignoring the reports, rather than a criticism of the IPCC. Taken together, I find it hard to interpret what Roger is saying as being anything other than a criticism of the IPCC for not finding a more effective way to influence policy. I could be wrong, but I doubt Roger will bother clarifying. He’ll probably send me some kind of snarky tweet suggesting that I shouldn’t criticise him without reading his books first. I don’t think that’s a formal rule, though 🙂

  9. I don’t read his second tweet as a criticism of the IPCC either. And the one you’ve just added above is about climate policy, not the IPCC at all. I really think you’re misreading what he is saying.

  10. William,

    I don’t read his second tweet as a criticism of the IPCC either.

    I really think you’re misreading what he is saying.

    You don’t think the use of the term apocalyptic is meant to criticise how the IPCC has framed it’s message? What about insanity is repeating the same behavior? Doesn’t that refer to the IPCC releasing a new report saying the same thing as before? Are you sure you’re not being a little too generous to Roger?

    It’s always possible that I’m misinterpreting Roger. It’s hard to know sometimes given how he chooses to engage. However, if he chooses to send out what appear to be a bunch of critical tweets on the same day as the release of an IPCC report, and doesn’t make it clear that he’s criticising those for not listening, rather than criticising the report itself, then maybe he should make his views clearer. I’m more than happy to be corrected by Roger if he were to choose to do so (I doubt he will – at best he’ll say “you’re wrong”). If anything, I’d actually be quite keen to see Roger and others who seem to engage in this kind of rhetoric, actually targeting policy makers more directly. If he thinks the message is clear and that we should implement a carbon tax, then it would be quite nice if he actually said so.

  11. Rachel M says:

    William,
    How is this “Apocalyptic warnings in the form of scientific reports” not a criticism of the IPCC?? According to RP, the IPCC reports are not scientific reports at all and they’re also apparently apocalyptic.

    AndThen,
    Perhaps he has provided constructive solutions in his book, but why not tweet about that instead of this “Apocalyptic warnings in the form of scientific reports” which doesn’t really help anyone at all.

  12. > What about insanity is repeating the same behavior?

    That’s certainly criticism of *someone*. But why the IPCC? Why not the journos reporting on it and the pols commissioning and responding to it?

    > then maybe he should make his views clearer

    Could be. Twitter is a crap medium, being so short. Or perhaps he’s being deliberately ambiguous – always good for deniability. VV had a good post about this re Curry – see http://variable-variability.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/interesting-what-interesting-judith.html?showComment=1390687027299#c3790996974953566588

  13. > How is this “Apocalyptic warnings in the form of scientific reports” not a criticism of the IPCC?? According to RP, the IPCC reports are not scientific reports at all and they’re also apparently apocalyptic.

    Don’t understand. Your quote clearly states “…in the form of scientific report” which is either not talking about the IPCC (implausible) or a direct statement that the IPCC reports *are* scientific.

    I agree that calling the IPCC reports apocalyptic would be stupid.

  14. William,

    That’s certainly criticism of *someone*. But why the IPCC? Why not the journos reporting on it and the pols commissioning and responding to it?

    I certainly interpreted his tweets as referring to the reports, rather than to the coverage. I can see some ambiguity. At the end of the day, this is my interpretation. My interpretation could be wrong, but it’s still my interpretation. In case it’s not obvious, my frustration is with those who send out these negative type messages whenever these reports are released.

    In an earlier comment, you said

    > I still think that the message is clear

    Yes, it is. So what?

    The point I would make is that if this is true (the message is clear) then there would seem to be little that the IPCC can do. There goal is to get the message out. They appear to succeed. They could well do shorter reports more often, but – AFAICT – they largely achieve their goal of synthesising the science and presenting a clear picture to policy makers and to the public. The goal now, IMO, is to get people to take notice. Even if my interpretation of Roger’s tweets is wrong, I fail to see how what appears to be negative messaging from someone with the influence that Roger appears to have, acts to make a positive contribution. Of course, he’s not obliged to make a positive contribution, but it might be nice if he tried.

  15. Rachel M says:

    Ok, yes I see. I read it differently at first for some reason.

  16. Rachel M says:

    It would have been clearer had he said “Apocalyptic warnings in a scientific report”. That is a direct statement. Adding the “in the form of” somehow made me misinterpret. Perhaps I’m making assumptions because of the person behind the tweet.

  17. I’ll add this, which I think is in order and probably influenced my interpretation

    Followed by

    and then by

    So, you could read that as Roger responding that Michael Tobis had misinterpreted what he was saying (and hence that I have too). His rather iffy response to the direct question, though, does make it a little unclear.

  18. Michael says:

    So RPJr, of honest broker-ism, thinks the IPCC should do policy advocacy.

    Sounds like someone speaking against their own position, just to have a gripe.

  19. hvw says:

    A pattern:
    1. RPJr writes something that supports one angle of the business-as-usual anti-mitigation lobby script.
    2. People point out that the RPJr’s suggestion is without merit, wrong, and there is evidence to the contrary.
    3. RPJr retorts that, strictly speaking, he didn’t exactly say that and of course also did not mean it. And he is totally correct with this statement.
    4. People subtract what RPJr actually did not say, strictly speaking, and also did not mean to say from what he actually said, and are left with a totally true, yet trivial statement that contributes nothing to the topic at hand.
    5. Formulating that would be too cumbersome, so people give up.

    Variant 3a: RPJr by mistake actually said something that doesn’t stand scrutiny. In that case, instead of admitting it, he’ll point out that his counterpart just is not informed well enough and RPJr’s claims are obviously true for anyone who read X. X never has less than 150 pages and most of the time was written by RPJr.

    Instead of engaging in an exegesis of RPJr’s Twitter comments, we should rather better describe such patterns and come up with names for them.

  20. hvw,
    Yes, that does appear to roughly correspond to what I’ve also observed.

  21. Nick says:

    Roger just wanted to be supercilious. It’s a productivity routine. Now he’s got that out of the way, he can go back do doing something ignorable.

  22. See-also http://blogs.shell.com/climatechange/2014/11/ipcc5ar/

    > probably influenced my interpretation

    Pardon? mt says that RP says that the IPCC should change its tune. RP says that mt is wrong. He further says he has a book praising the IPCC. And that makes you think that RP is criticising the IPCC? That’s weird. Are you really sure you’re reading what RP is writing? I know I’ve said that before, but I’m still not convinced. “What RP writes is hard for me to parse” isn’t an answer.

  23. Nick says:

    I think Pielke needs you to speak for him, William, as he cannot make the best of this Twitter thing

  24. William,
    Well, I put that up that up there for completeness. What does the apocalyptic refer to? I’m also not convinced that someone saying “you’re very wrong” is a rebutal. If he wasn’t criticising the IPCC, he could have just said so. It’s not difficult.

    but I’m still not convinced.

    You don’t really have to be. I didn’t write the post to convince people. I wrote it because it appeared that someone couldn’t be bothered to clarify what they were actually saying and instead accused those asking for clarification of being Trolls. He doesn’t have to clarify and he can clearly ignore me. The truth is, that the interpretation that I’ve expressed here is precisely what my interpretation was after reading – and being partially involved in – the exchange. My interpretation could be wrong, and I can see how if you could interpret it otherwise.

    Let’s also consider Roger’s response to MT. MT is really saying two things. He’s suggesting that Tol and Pielke are arguing that the IPCC should change their tune even if the evidence is competently reported and he is arguing that – if so – they are wrong to suggest that (at least, that’s how I interpret MT’s tweet). What does Roger’s “you’re very wrong” refer to. Does it refer to MT’s assertion with respect to what Tol and Pielke are suggesting, or is Pielke suggesting that MT is wrong to argue that the IPCC shouldn’t change it’s tune even if the evidence is competently reported?

  25. Questioning the value of the way IPCC operates is justified. IPCC is a specific organization that could change it’s way of operating, and it’s plausible that some other way would be better. Saying that the fault is not in the IPCC but in how “we” react is not useful as long as “we” is not specified to be some entity that can make decisions.

    The task of IPCC is to affect others – the “we”. IPCC can succeed in making an effect or fail in that. I tend to think that IPCC is not any more a particularly useful actor. What (physical) climate science can tell is already known fairly well and further development in that can be followed as scientific development is followed in most other fields. Much of the content of WG2 and WG3 remains too dependent on the people who write the chapters. (Take Richard Tol from one side and some of the authors of WG3 from the other side. Comparing costs of mitigation to damages from warming based on these is too far from conclusive, and I don’t expect that the way IPCC works can resolve such problems.)

    Full IPCC reports have become unwieldy to most, while the summaries mix science and political influence by the governmental part of IPCC so much that dismissing them is not difficult, when political will to do that exists.

  26. Pekka,

    Questioning the value of the way IPCC operates is justified. IPCC is a specific organization that could change it’s way of operating, and it’s plausible that some other way would be better. Saying that the fault is not in the IPCC but in how “we” react is not useful as long as “we” is not specified to be some entity that can make decisions.

    I don’t have any specific issue with the IPCC being criticised. Firstly, I was trying to establish if this is indeed what Pielke Jr was doing. It was my interpretation. William seems to think otherwise. Additionally, there is a difference between criticising them because they’re not achieving their goal (informing policy), or criticising them for not achieving something that isn’t actually their remit (directly influencing policy).

    Full IPCC reports have become unwieldy to most, while the summaries mix science and political influence by the governmental part of IPCC so much that dismissing them is not difficult, when political will to do that exists.

    Sure, but that doesn’t mean that the message isn’t clear and simple. It just means that it is possible to dismiss them if people wish to do so. I’m not convinced that this wouldn’t always be true.

  27. ATTP,
    When I consider the value of IPCC, my question is:

    How would the situation be different, if IPCC had stopped by AR4 (or even TAR)?

    or thinking about the future:

    What is the likely effect of AR6?

    The conclusions of AR5 are not really so different from those of AR4. What has been published since the deadline for AR5 makes in addition AR5 already slightly outdated. The Paris climate conference will be a political event. IPCC AR5 will be referred to by many but the same arguments could be made with equal weight without AR5.

    When a new IPCC report is published it will be in news for a day or two, but only those people will pay much attention, who knew most of that already. They look at, how IPCC presents the message, but they keep their previous thoughts about the substance. Pielke Jr criticizes one way of presenting these issues, some people from environmental organizations can be predicted to present opposite views. After a week or so the whole thing has been forgotten by everybody with the possible exception of a few people, who continue to argue on it in various blogs.

  28. Rachel M says:

    “Lesson of experience: Apocalyptic warnings in the form of scientific reports do not alter the trajectory of global energy policy.”

    It’s hard not to interpret this as “the IPCC is wasting their time publishing scientific reports” or “the IPCC is failing” or something along those lines which sounds like criticism of the IPCC to me. And that’s fine too, but it would be more constructive to provide suggestions on how the IPCC could deliver these reports more effectively and/or to provide some support for their efforts. If he agrees with the warnings in the IPCC reports then RP could helping to push for changes in policy to change this trajectory he speaks of.

  29. Pekka,
    All perfectly reasonable points (although you seem to be agreeing that Pielke Jr was criticising the IPCC). My point, though, is that if the IPCC is there to inform policy and if it is perfectly obvious from their reports what the summary of the evidence is suggesting (as I would argue it is), then it’s hard to see what they can do differently. They could certainly do shorter reports more often, but those can be ignored just as easily. So, if their role is simply to inform – as I would argue it should be – it’s not clear what the IPCC can do differently if policy makers choose to ignore what their reports are presenting.

  30. Eli Rabett says:

    Pekka raises a good point, what would have happened if there was no AR5 and the IPCC had stopped at the AR4?

    Simple, cl owns, and Eli uses that word advisedly, would be running through the streets shouting that the climate scientists were wrong, there is not problem and see how right we were, they finally admit it.

    As to why the message has to be repeated, do you see ads on the INTERNET? C’mon Weasel that’s simple

  31. I’m actually uncertain on the direction of the effect giving up IPCC would now have on the UNFCCC process. IPCC is quite careful and conservative in it’s formulation of the full reports. The message that the negotiating governments would effectively get with IPCC absent could deviate quite well towards a stronger message, but that would depend on, how science community would act as a whole in that case.

  32. Rob Nicholls says:

    Pekka said “How would the situation be different, if IPCC had stopped by AR4 (or even TAR)?”

    AGW seems highly likely to be a very serious problem facing our civilisation and so I would think it would be a bit strange if the IPCC stopped bothering with its work.

    As a lay person I find it extremely helpful to have such a robust, and relatively up to date, summary of the science as those produced periodically by the IPCC, even if not much has changed from TAR to AR4 to AR5.

    If the IPCC had done nothing since TAR, those who wish to play down the threats posed by AGW would be able to cite any number of papers published since TAR to try to discredit the findings of TAR and would claim (with some justification) that TAR is increasingly out of date. (I know this happens anyway with 6 or 7 years between Assessment reports, but it would be worse if the reports had stopped with TAR).

    Whether the IPCC should change what it does e.g. to make the policy implications of its findings clearer or to produce smaller reports more often, I don’t know.

  33. Rob Nicholls,

    What I have in mind is not any reduction in climate science or in scientists activity in informing public and decision makers on the results of the science. I just think that IPCC does not add much to that any more. it was important at least until TAR, but less thereafter.

  34. Pekka,

    I just think that IPCC does not add much to that any more. it was important at least until TAR, but less thereafter.

    But the question is why? The information is available. The summaries are quite clear and unambiguous. I’m sure there could be improvement, but any inaction on our part is not because we didn’t have the information available to us.

  35. Magma says:

    Regarding Pielke’s tweets, a 140 character limit or not, such ambiguity on the part of an experienced writer is either careless or deliberate. Bad writing or bad faith: neither option is flattering.

  36. Rob Nicholls says:

    Can I ask a really basic, silly (and probably off-topic) question? Why is there such a focus on temperature rises up to 2100 rather than equilibrium temperature rises? Any pointers to articles about this would be greatly appreciated.

    I noticed that WG3 SPM Table 1 has been reproduced (slightly cut down) in the IPCC AR5 synthesis report. I’m very glad that this table is in there so prominently. However, it puzzles me that this table (like lots of other tables and figures in AR5) focusses on temperature changes up to 2100 rather temperature changes to equilibrium. (I think that quite a lot of work done on temperature changes related to cumulative emissions has a similar focus, as I believe this work often uses TCR as an important parameter rather than ECS?) For many emissions scenarios, the temperature won’t stop rising in 2100. I thought there was an international agreement to limit temperature rises to below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial (and not just to limit the temperature rise *up to 2100* to below 2 degrees C). (Am I wrong?)

    People might inadvertantly think the internationally-agreed goal might be met by scenarios which actually, beyond 2100, will produce more than 2 degrees C of warming. In other words people might get an over-optimistic view from WG3 SPM Table 1 (although I think the figures for warming up to 2100 are themselves pretty alarming).

    I’m sure the answer to my question is something about “policy relevant timescales” , and I would think that 2 degrees of warming over 2 centuries is more dangerous than 2 degrees of warming over 5 or 10 centuries (as ecosystems and human societies have more time to adapt if the warming is slower). However, 5 or 10 centuries is, geologically, still the blink of an eye, and a v short time for ecosystems and species (including ours) to adapt to major changes, and some v serious effects of AGW, such as ice-sheet melting, are likely to happen over several centuries.

  37. Rob Nicholls says:

    Pekka, many thanks for your comment. Do you envisage any particular new vehicle for climate scientists to inform decision makers and the public about the latest science, to replace the IPCC? Or would it be left to existing scientific organisations to do this work? Or would it be down to individual scientists? If it’s down to individuals, how would ordinary people be able to work out who is giving a reasonable and balanced summary of the science, and who is not?

  38. Lurking Reader says:

    Shorter Pielke Jr….

    I have thoughts on this days-old announcement. I will not share them with you. You must purchase my year-old book which discusses my thoughts with regards to this new, days-old information. You are a child and a troll if you ask me how I could have the foresight to comment years in the past on something I myself make clear is not able to be forecasted. Oh, and buy my book.

    He’s not really trying to hide the con-game.

  39. ATTP,
    In general science has it’s own channels for delivering its message, no intergovernmental panel is needed for that. Such a body is to some extent contrary to the principles of science. When a previously rather small field becomes suddenly important, something special may be needed, but given enough time that need will be over and science works best with it’s own practices. Organizations like WMO, UNEP and also UNFCCC have a different role that’s more persistent, but science can inform these bodies also without IPCC.

  40. Marlowe Johnson says:

    ATTP,

    Whenever Roger tells someone to read his book(s), I’m reminded of this post. Roger’s made a career of pissing on the IPCC. One can hardly expect him to change now.

  41. Steve Bloom says:

    hvw nails it:

    “4. People subtract what RPJr actually did not say, strictly speaking, and also did not mean to say from what he actually said, and are left with a totally true, yet trivial statement that contributes nothing to the topic at hand.”

    It’s the Pielke Identity!

    So sure, William now, as some others in the past, can always construct a constructive spin out of what RP Jr. says. The key point is that such an exercise seems always to be needed.. RP Jr. uses words carefully, and in this instance chose “apocalyptic” so as to generate the desired kerfuffle.

    I did read one of RP Jr.’s books, I think still the most recent one, but as he said after it was published it really contained nothing new for anyone who had been paying attention to his blogging. Srsly. Even had that not been the case, the book wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. There’s simply no there there, and as a resident of Oakland I know whereof I speak.

  42. Steve Bloom says:

    The Copenhagen Diagnosis (produced two years post-AR4 for the 2009 Copenhagen COP) is an example of what we’d see if the IPCC disappeared. What it lacked was a formal mechanism for governments to accept the findings.

  43. Bobby says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this commenting in your original post:
    “Maybe if some people spent a bit more time convincing people to consider the information in the IPCC reports, and less time criticising the IPCC, we’d have a better chance of making sensible policy decisions.”

    And Eli’s point hammers the nail in:
    “Pekka raises a good point, what would have happened if there was no AR5 and the IPCC had stopped at the AR4?

    Simple, clowns, and Eli uses that word advisedly, would be running through the streets shouting that the climate scientists were wrong, there is not problem and see how right we were, they finally admit it.”

    Whether or not RPJr “means” to make a reasonable point or not, he’s done a good job of pouring uncertainty and doubt on a new IPCC report at its release. You should judge people by what you would have done – I believe few posters here, if any, would have sent out the tweets he did and used the word “apocalyptic.” Certainly, posters here would have clarified their position, especially to direct questions, so as not to appear to cast doubt on the science in the IPCC report just released (unless of course there was a scientific error in the report).

  44. Willard says:

    > Roger’s response was essentially to read his books.

    The alloy law: an honest broker shall always require more gold for others to read about his iron law.

  45. Rachel M says:

    English is easily misunderstood –

    This is why it’s probably good to clarify what you mean when asked.

  46. Joseph says:

    Although, it may not be much of an influence on the public as a whole, it can be used by policy makers who want action to mitigate climate change as source of information and to justify their positions. It leaves the other side reliant on a few “skeptics” that are in a distinct minority.

  47. John Mashey says:

    SIgh. People *could*:
    1) Look around for fine scientists who participate in IPCC, ask them why they do it and how it works, and what they might want to change or not. That’s easier for some of us than others.

    2) At least read Steven Schneider’s Science as a Contact Sport.

    People also might want to learn how the US Surgeon General reports on tobacco work, especially the first one in 1964, in which half the panel were smokers. There are parallels, but one might ask why they keep doing them, since the 1964 version was already pretty clear. And if it comes to film festival near you before the general release in March, see Merchants of Doubt.

  48. Pekka,

    In general science has it’s own channels for delivering its message, no intergovernmental panel is needed for that.

    The channel sciences uses to communicate with other scientists is publications and conference. To the public is typically the media and outreach. To policy makers, I guess, it is normally science advisors. So, of course, you don’t really need an IPCC. I’m not convinced that the standard model would work for topics as contentious as climate science, though.

    Such a body is to some extent contrary to the principles of science.

    I never quite know what people mean when they say this. The IPCC simply produces a summary of our current understanding. It doesn’t do science. Of course, it can influence the behaviour of scientists, but so does many other things (funding, promotions, getting a job,…) so am not quite sure how relevant this is as a criticism.

  49. Richard Erskine says:

    Imagine how much more abuse would be thrown at the IPCC if they started to provide policy prescriptions, well outside their remit? They could say … Naomi Klein has nailed it (in “This Changes Everything”) but even if they believed it, they wouldn’t.

    But we certainly need her balls!

    The IPCC CAN say that 2/3rds of the current declared reserves of hydrocarbons must stay buried if we are to avoid > 2degC global warming, but they CANNOT say that therefore we need to fix a broken EU carbon market, or push hard for solar, or revisit cold fusion, or stop buying cheap goods made in the Far East which off-shore our carbon to make us feel good … 🙂 …

    Given that deniers make hay with hockey sticks, by cherry picking years to compare, rather than pausing for thought, and accepting the decadel warming presentation of the data, why would we then move to an annual ‘running commentary’ approach to IPCC reporting?

    It does not stop real time streaming of things that are progressive indicators, such as rising sea level, and even making this a media hock (just a thought).

    What is missing is not an effective IPCC … They are doing a fantastic job … But I fear it is those like UNEP who DO have a remit to translate science into policy who are lamentable in their effective communications.

    Given the limited hours in a day, we maybe need to spend less time trying to convince RP Jr. to not use your blog as a marketing vehicle for his books :-), and instead trying to find ways to do what UNEP is failing to do: to help in translating the science into policy options (but not prescriptions).

  50. Richard Erskine says:

    P.S. Do we also wish to ban the wonderful Reviews Of Modern Physics? They are also serial summarisers and synthesisers, how dare they!

    … Isn’t their skill in the sifting, review, judgement, aggregation, analysis, review, … Needed. Particularly on the scale needed here? A process in many ways more challenging than much of the original primary science.

  51. “Such a body is to some extent contrary to the principles of science.”

    I fully agree with Richard Erskine, it is wonderful to have a scientific body with a solid reputation for writing good reviews involving the breath of the scientific community. I know it is not their reason d’etre, but the IPCC reviews are also scientifically very useful. Much more work in put into them as into a typical review and a normal review has a bunch of self-selected authors that is more likely to represent the opinion of a certain network than the opinion of the complete scientific community.

    I wish more sciences had organizations like the IPCC. Especially I would wish to see one for economics. I wonder if they are able to come up with more common ground; it would certainly be more informative as the textbooks of Mankiw. I think you can already see more reviews of this kind popping up, that is great.

  52. Reviews of Modern Physics is a typical and important part of the ways scientific knowledge is disseminated, so are all textbooks.

    The IPCC reports have been quite good (except that they are unnecessarily heavy reading), I’m not complaining about that, but it’s not necessary to prepare and publish such reports every six years or so forever. At some point it’s better to switch to something more appropriate for the new circumstances. I think that the moment has been passed already. All the important information is available also without them. It would be more useful to have more good textbooks as readable as good textbooks are. They need not be officially sanctioned by a governmental panel to do the task. Normal review articles are also highly valuable.

    I do not believe that the situation would get any more confusing without the IPCC reports. I’m not particularly pessimistic about the power of normal channels in providing the essentially the same information that IPCC reports provide. Most of the new scientific results that each new IPCC report presents are of little significance for the policy process. Due to space limitations IPCC reports leave at the same time out many essential things, because the are not new. That’s not good for the readability.

    There’s one more alternative that I consider more useful than the present model for the physical sciences of WG1 (WG2 and WG3 should probably be developed to some other direction). That’s based on maintaining continuously a web based service that presents up-to-date information about climate science publications and results. When a new paper appears it would first be included in a list of new papers if it passes light screening. When enough time has passed since publication to allow for assessment of the paper by the scientific community, it could be included in the set of important papers and its most important results used to update the overview that’s also maintained almost continuously. Maintaining this kind of up-to-date assessed publication database would be a task of comparable magnitude as writing the working group reports, but it would be more flexible and equally up-to-date all the time, not only once in six years. The overall effort could be less as existing text can be used better, and updated only when new scientific results or understanding make necessary.

  53. Rob Nicholls says:

    Pekka: “There’s one more alternative that I consider more useful than the present model for the physical sciences of WG1 (WG2 and WG3 should probably be developed to some other direction). That’s based on maintaining continuously a web based service that presents up-to-date information about climate science publications and results.” I like that idea. (I’m not sure how easy or difficult it would be to get the expert input needed on an ongoing basis to keep such a web-based service up-to-date?)

  54. Steve Bloom says:

    That last paragraph is what I’ve thought since before AR4, Pekka. A good (partial) model is here. Then, SPMs could be produced as needed for the UNFCCC process.

  55. Steve Bloom says:

    Rob, I don’t see why it would have to be any more onerous than being a journal editor. That it wouldn’t be on a forced schedule as the ARs are would probably help.

  56. I wrote something on that idea (and also on what I thought about WG2 and WG3) in 2011

    http://pirila.fi/energy/2011/02/06/the-impossible-task-of-ipcc/

  57. John Mashey says:

    VV: although not international, you might to take a look at US Surgeon General on tobacco:
    a) Huge assessment reports by hordes of authors
    b) Language quite reminiscent of IPCC, i.e., they calibrate confidence levels in each finding.
    c) Science results strongly opposed by political/economic interests, which in this case have managed to maintain ~20% of US adults as smokers, most of whom started as adolescents/young adults *after* the 1964 report.

    BTW, wit hall the Ebola panic, the US does not currently have a Surgeon General, because Obama’s nominee has been blocked for a year by an organization well0-known for its concerns about health, the NRA

  58. Richard Erskine says:

    JM – are you supporting PP by using the Tobacco story as evidence of the ineffectiveness of, shall we call it, a bureaucratic structure? Even accepting that this was ineffective (which I don’t entirely … Non smoking workplaces, lack of advertising, … A progress chipping away has resulted … The policy argument was won and the rest is implementation) my challenge would be … But who would address the issue if not some body with a clear civil authority to sponsor the research to which the scientific ‘authority’ was subordinate? Despite UNFCCC post-dating IPCC, to an extent the latter is the science service for the former (if I understand it correctly) and Governments want their input into both policy and science positions, as we have seen (not always benignly- but it’s the nature of the beast).

    PP – As we have seen with other topics where civil society, Governments and commercial interests clash, such as with the Ozone hole, I am sceptical in assuming science will find its way to inform policy makers through normal scientific processes (such as demonstrating the discovery of the Higgs Boson). As we have seen in the book Merchants of Doubt, well funded interests can seek to obfuscate or deny the science and AGW is not the first time. Sure we could have different mechanisms to help improve the efficiency of the IPCC processes, but would the fundamental role of the IPCC or rebranded vehicle change in the sense of aggregation, summary and synthesis? If ultimately Governments are not the sponsors, who exactly and how is the authority of the SPMs assured and accepted, at least to the satisfaction of the UNFCCC process?

    You ask, does the IPCC just keep going ad infinitum, with its large difficult to digest reports (my synthesis 🙂 )? Well, no, because it can stop when – like with the ozone layer – the policy corner has been turned and then it’s into mplementation mode, because the science role becomes one of monitoring not convincing.

    We are some way from that, it seems, but the next COP may prove the pessimists wrong.

  59. Arthur Smith says:

    I just wanted to note I really like Pekka’s comment above (9:57 pm). Are there good review journals in climate right now? Maybe IPCC can spin one off?

  60. The climate service centers provide all stakeholder, from (local, regional) governments, industry to NGOs and citizen, with the for them relevant information and help in interpretation of our understanding of climate change. This information is continually updated.

    I am not sure whether a database would be so useful. Most stakeholders need interpretation, not just a list with long and tedious articles, that is the real added value of a review. There is already a database with all publications, the Web of Science or Google Scholar. I do not see how a subset of that would help politicians, who do not read the articles themselves anyway, nor how that would help scientists. Either you know the good articles, when it is your field, or you need interpretation, when it is not your field.

    You should ignore mitigation skeptics when in comes to science, but I am also not looking forward to the howls at every paper they like for political reasons: let’s see if the evil criminals of the IPCC will put THIS paper in their database. In a review you can mention (such) papers in their context.

  61. John Mashey, yes the Surgeon General provides a similar role as the IPCC: On more internationally you have the Cochrane reviews. And I think I have seen something similar to the IPCC for fisheries.

    Arthur Smith, good idea. The Cochrane group puts out reviews on a regular basis, which may be easier for them than for climatology, they have more or less separate health problems. Such a model, where you know that the reviews have a high standard and the authors come from the full scientific community may also be useful for the IPCC, either in addition or as replacement of the full reports.

    And you never know, maybe the next report will be more exiting again.

  62. anoilman says:

    I just spent an hour calming my wife down. It seems she’s working with a guy who doesn’t show for meetings, demands answers, and when answers are presented bitches about them. He’ll argue the smallest point ad infinitum. He also never offers a constructive solution and would simply like to tell other people what he will do. Its odd in that he neither talks to his customers or his in house experts.

    Funny how that discussion was an analogy for Pielke, and indeed much of the Global Warming denial community.

    At least my wife’s co-worker can be read the riot act and put in his place. Soon I should think.

    It’s a software guy. I figure he’s been working on his own too long, and has grown curmudgeonly reactive and defensive. Most developers become defensive one way or another to the problems they face. (Shutting down and blocking like this, is not a good sign IMO.) It can be a serious concern when it impacts social interactions, and or project outcomes.

  63. izen says:

    If the IPCC did not exist, we would have to invent it.
    Or something very like it.

    Perhaps something like the Cochrane Reviews would be a good model, but I suspect that there would be a desire to pull all the parts together and do a comprehensive global overview of the whole field every few years.

    Preserving the IPCC as it is because otherwise the opponents of the policy implications of its work would declare its replacement evidence that they were right seems a poor argument. This is a no-win game, denialists already discount the IPCC as a trojan horse for ideological dominance. The more authority and status it has as an independent global source of information, the more easily some dismiss it as a political shill.

    And if something with the status of the IPCC is unable to influence policy after five reports then RJP Snr may have a point about the insanity of repeating what fails to work. If the IPCC information states clearly that 2/3rds of fossil fuel must stay in the ground, but that has no effect on national policy or global governance then it is clearly not capable of influencing policy however authoritative scientifically.

    The fault however is not in the IPCC.

  64. Eli Rabett says:

    The ozone secretariat still exists, still issues reports, it’s just that there is no longer a well financed and political disputation. Settled science it are (well there are some changes from year to year, for example photochemical lifetimes of many molecules have been significantly revised upwards.)

    http://ozone.unep.org/en/assessment_panels.php

  65. Steve Bloom says:

    “RJP Snr may have a point about the insanity of repeating what fails to work.”

    Izen, it’s Jr., not Sr., although come to think of it the former is also an example of repeating something that failed to work.

  66. Mal Adapted says:

    Sigh. ATTP, please delete my previous HTML fail, and I’ll try again:
    Magma:

    Regarding Pielke’s tweets, a 140 character limit or not, such ambiguity on the part of an experienced writer is either careless or deliberate. Bad writing or bad faith: neither option is flattering.

    There’s a third option. If one can’t express oneself clearly in 140 characters, why tweet at all? Plato’s dictum “A wise man speaks when he has something to say; a fool, when he has to say something” may apply.

  67. John Mashey says:

    Richard:
    “JM – are you supporting PP by using the Tobacco story as evidence of the ineffectiveness of, shall we call it, a bureaucratic structure? ”
    No,

    1) These big regular assessment reports end up having similar natures, and in SG case, while the message was clear in 1964, it wasn’t enough then, given the cleverness of the tobacco companies. Half of the 1964 panel were smokers … at the start of the assessment, not at the end. I think Luther Terry was an unsung hero for his political cleverness in setting up the first one, in which the tobacco companies had a veto over the panel membership…
    like the way every government has an effective veto on every sentence in the IPCC SPM.

    After that, smoking rates among *doctors* plummeted (consensus? :-))… but it took longer in the general population and the science and behavioral patterns are moving targets, The latest being e-cigs. I used both 2012 and 2014 SG reports there, to get relevant current data … 50 years after the first one.
    So I’m a big fan of the SG reports, as frustrating as they can be, and sometimes not marketed as well as I think they could be … but I also understand all too well what they are up against.
    We’ve made a lot of progress on tobacco in developed countries in 50 years … but as Naomi Oreskes says, on climate we don’t have 50 years.

    2) One can argue about the structure and timing of IPCC reports,. Over the years, I’ve met and talked to quite a few authors, co-chairs ,etc of IPCC, and they often have ideas for improvement, sometimes constrained by the government buy-in issues. Again, it’s a really good idea. Among other things, it is really good to do a coherent assessment in place of jumping around over individual papers as they come. The process of course is inherently conservative and the SPM in particular is a least common denominator.

    3) You mentioned Merchants of Doubt (good!)… if you have it handy, it might be worth rereading the Acknowledgements.

  68. Richard Erskine says:

    JM – what a lovely acknowledgement it is too, in this important book. Thanks.

  69. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Wotts: Maybe you should change your motto again. It seems that you’re not even trying to be civil anymore. Your piece is about Pielke Jr. You drag me in, based on the unsupported assumption that I would agree with Roger, only to try (but fail) to insult me.

  70. Richard,

    You drag me in, based on the unsupported assumption that I would agree with Roger, only to try (but fail) to insult me.

    It is changed. I don’t claim to succeed (do you have trouble understanding basic words – it certainly seems you do). Plus, my understanding of the word civil is that I avoid saying “Richard Tol is a [Mod : redacted]“. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t say things that make it obvious to my readers that Richard Tol is a [Mod : redacted].

    Additionally, I did put the word seems in the sentence in which your name was included. Including you was partly because of your article that Andrew Dessler was not particularly complimentary about

    Plus, I’d take more notice of you whining about civility, if it wasn’t for you being one of the rudest most unpleasant people I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter. Maybe you should consider being less uncivil yourself. Of course, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with both being rude and then whining when others respond in a similar fashion, but you can’t really expect people to take you seriously when you do. Plus your publication of that referee’s report is ridiculous. The referee is completely correct. Your comment was entirely inappropriate for a academic publication and I’m amazed that you think it might not be.

  71. anoilman says:

    Richard S.J. Tol: When you work with an oil and gas PR firm like the GWPF, you should expect all the benefits it brings. Even if you were the nicest man on the planet, someone would heave a rock at you. Its the price of fame, and you should no better.

    You had a choice, Michael Mann didn’t.

    Perhaps the standards for being among the world’s top 1000 economists aren’t that high.

  72. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Wotts
    Pielke Jr notes that the empirical evidence shows that raising the climate alarm has not lead to emission reduction.

    I note that the empirical evidence shows that the international climate negotiations have not lead to emission reduction.

    There is a difference between “raising the climate alarm” and “international climate negotiations”.

  73. Richard,

    Pielke Jr notes that the empirical evidence shows that raising the climate alarm has not lead to emission reduction.

    So, what? Either what we are being presented is scientifically credible, or it isn’t. Whether or not people choose to take notice is rather irrelevant. This was essentially the point that Michael Tobis was trying to get at. Is what’s being suggested that the message should change so as to be more effective at influencing policy and, if so, how do you do so without presenting something that isn’t consistent with the scientific evidence. Arguing against climate alarm (which is your construct I will add) only makes sense, in my opinion, if there is no reason to be alarmed.

    I note that the empirical evidence shows that the international climate negotiations have not lead to emission reduction.

    Again, so what? Give up? I’m all for changing to make things more effective (while still being honest) but simply pointing out that something has not worked before doesn’t appear particularly useful. This is always true until something works.

    There is a difference between “raising the climate alarm” and “international climate negotiations”.

    Sure, but the common theme (as my post title was trying to indicate) is that It’ll never work. That was – in my opinion – the similarity between what I’ve seen you say and what I’ve seen Roger Pielke Jr say.

    If it makes you feel better, I apologise for making it appear that you and Roger were saying the same thing and accept that what you were saying is not exactly the same as what Roger may have been trying to say (although, there is some dispute about what that actually was). On the other hand, you both appear to spend a great deal of time pointing out that things have never worked in the past, with the apparent implication that it will therefore never work in the future. I fail to see why presenting such a negative message is particularly constructive (unless, of course, your goal isn’t to be constructive). I imagine one could find a correlation between the failure of climate negotiations and articles pointing out that they’re going to fail. Causation might be trickier to prove, but that doesn’t appear to stop people inferring things from such correlations – especially when it comes to the topic of climate change.

  74. That something has not worked in the past does not prove that the same approach will not work in the future, but it surely gives a good reason for thinking, whether the approach should be modified, and how it should be modified.

  75. Pekka,
    Of course. We should always be considering how to improve some process. My cynicism in this particular case, though, is that people seem to focus on how the information is presented (i.e., IPCC reports, for example) when it seems to me that the problem is really just a lack of willingness to make a decision. I don’t see how changing how we present the scientific information will change that, especially as we’re bound by a sense that we have to present this information in a scientifically credible way (as I think we should).

    If there was a willingness to act, it would be easy. If anything, politicians would be focusing on what is alarming. Consider the “War on Terror”, the “War on Drugs”. It’s not as if our policy makers are afraid to use alarming rhetoric when they want to do something. It’s only when they don’t want to do something that they claim that it’s objectionable to frame things in such a negative way.

  76. ATTP,
    I do not believe that the way the actual scientific knowledge is presented is particularly important. My above comments are related to that as that means also that IPCC has now and in the future a very limited influence (it was more important up to TAR). Some people have said that giving up IPCC would send a false signal. I do not believe that that signal would be significant either.

    The main message from climate science is clear enough. Those who reject it do that whether IPCC exists or not. The political fight is not influenced by such details of the scientific knowledge that change continuously.

    What’s the main issue people worry about tends to vary all the time. it’s very difficult to keep an issue that changes as slowly and with as much noise as the climate at the top of the list. IPCC reports cannot do that any more. Quiet skepticism takes over, when it’s questionable, whether anything we observe directly is influenced seriously by that. Trying to raise the attention by strong declarations suffers an inflation and gives the more active skeptics the opportunity to point out examples, where past predictions have failed.

    To succeed on this kind of process it’s important to find approaches that attract more support. That’s likely to require new solutions for what to do, arguing only on the severity of the threats seems to be ineffectual.

    It’s still true that EU has made decisions that are rather strong, but there’s a real risk that what EU does is not spreading elsewhere, and in time even EU would then probably back up as EU has a real influence on climate only, if it gets followers.

  77. guthrie says:

    I entirely agree with ATTP’s comment above (10:41am), it isn’t the science that is the issue, or even precisely how it is presented (Although for once I do agree with Pekka that changing format to a more regular update thingy might be useful), the problem is socio-economic, i.e. politics. Simple as that. At the moment the politicians and related people are sitting in front of their doctor, saying “But I really like doughnuts, you mean I’ll have a heart attack in ten years time if I don’t stop eating them? That’s years away, I’d rather eat them now.”, then going home and eating some more doughnuts.

  78. guthrie says:

    I think Pekka is wrong re. giving up the IPCC and the signals it sends. Denialists and such would make a lot of noise, helping energise their supporters and give more nonsense feedback for the think tanks and presure groups like GWPF.
    Or you could swtich to Pekka’s suggestion, which would at least generate some noise and publicity. However, again, I think it clear that the political discussion is affected by the scientific nuances, as documented on this blog and elsewhere on the internet, thus Pekka is wrong. Politics is a multi-faceted situation, with communications going on and ideas being floated, reinforced or just quietly dumped.

    But, Pekka, in order to avoid us talking round and round the houses, you are going to have to be much much more specific in what you type, or people will think you are like Pielke jr. COmments like: “What’s the main issue people worry about tends to vary all the time.”
    you really must make clear which people you mean. Politicians? Normal people in the street? Activists? Denialist liars? You might know, but I have no idea whatsoever, and if you substitute in the different classes of people, you get a slightly different understanding of what else you have written.

  79. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    Wotts
    Apology accepted.

    I agree with Pekka. Repeated failure should make you reconsider.

    International climate policy has been stuck in the same cycle since 1985: Raise the alarm, call a meeting, agree to agree at a later time.

    A glance at global emissions suggests that it is perhaps time to try something new.

    You may call me a naysayer. You would probably use the same term to describe the little boy in the tale of the emperor and the alleged clothes.

  80. Richard,

    You may call me a naysayer. You would probably use the same term to describe the little boy in the tale of the emperor and the alleged clothes.

    No, I would describe the little boy as being equivalent to the IPCC, the emperor as being equivalent to our policy makers and you as being equivalent to those people telling the little boy to keep quiet.

  81. Joshua says:

    ==> “Pielke Jr notes that the empirical evidence shows that raising the climate alarm has not lead to emission reduction.

    It seems to me that RPJr. and Richard are concerned..

    The purpose of the IPCC is to provide policy-makers with a report on the state of the science. Why should the IPCC be held accountable for the state of policy-development? To the extent there are problems with the science-gathering process, they should be fixed.

    ==> “I agree with Pekka. Repeated failure should make you reconsider.”

    Notice Richard’s selective agreement with what Pekka said.

    I do not believe that the way the actual scientific knowledge is presented is particularly important. …The main message from climate science is clear enough. Those who reject it do that whether IPCC exists or not.

    The focus on alarmism among “skeptics” has always been a rhetorical ploy. Yes, there are some who stress the fat tail risks posed by ACO2 beyond without grounding them in full context. But that isn’t the reason why “skeptics” exist or why policies to address mitigation don’t.

    That would be like saying that because some “skeptics” stress the fat tail risks posed by mitigation policies, that is the reason why scientists say that there is a risk from BAU w/r/t ACO2 emissions.

    The causality is wrong. “Skeptics” don’t object to the IPCC because of the science of the IPCC. “Skeptics” don’t promote alarmist arguments about the economics of mitigation because of the science of the IPCC.

  82. Joshua says:

    RPJr. and Richard are alike in another manner. They are in a position to be a positive influence, but they’re content to throw head fakes. Don’t fall for the head fakes.

  83. Joshua,

    RPJr. and Richard are alike in another manner. They are in a position to be a positive influence, but they’re content to throw head fakes.

    Certainly my impression too. Imagine what kind of influence they could have if they actually presented a more positive argument and encouraged our policy makers to take notice of a report that many others argue is presenting a very clear picture of our best understanding of the scientific evidence.

  84. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    => ” Imagine what kind of influence they could have if …”

    Fear-mongering about fear-mongering is their product. If they didn’t fear-monger about fear-mongering in the first place, they probably wouldn’t have much influence.

    It’s amusing how Richard is so concerned about alarmism as found in scientific reports complete with error bars, confidence intervals, probability density functions, and what not – when his colleagues at GWPF promote this kind of alarmism:

    ‘At the end of the day, someone will have to be held accountable for us committing economic suicide.

    I wonder if Richard discusses the dangers of alarmism with Benny?

  85. Richard Erskine says:

    This Richard (me, myself, RE) is very alarmed at the lack of alarm in some others 🙂

  86. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Here’s an aspect of today’s climate science environment that you may want to explore more fully in a future post.

    Climate depression is for real. Just ask a scientist by Madeleine Thomas, Grist, Oct 28, 2014

  87. Eli Rabett says:

    The problem with Pekka’s solution is that it leaves no one speaking to the policy makers. Whatever the faults of the IPCC and the AR, once every whatever years, the policy makers and their representatives have to deal with the science and because the IPCC reports make the papers, they have to deal with the issue publically

    Now Richard and Roger (both) are right that emissions have not declined globally, but they have in many of the developed countries and at least China is making noises and taking some action about decreasing its emissions. India, with a new government of Richard’s ilk, is going the wrong way.

    Remember Richard is an honorary Pielke.

  88. guthrie says:

    I don’t see why it is the IPCC’s fault that we aren’t doing stuff about climate change more quickly and didn’t start doing stuff properly a decade and more ago. Can someone explain to me why it is their fault and not that of anyone else?

  89. guthrie,
    I don’t really get it either. Having thought about it a bit more, I get the feeling that maybe the general argument being made is that it’s never worked before, so it’s a waste of time now (that might not quite qualify as blaming the IPCC, but it does appear to at least suggest that they’re wasting lots of money). Additionally, there’s the whole apocalyptic/alarmist rhetoric has also failed to work, so ramping that up is also a waste (this would appear to be suggesting that the IPCC is engaging in alarmist rhetoric, rather than simply pointing out that there are some potentially alarming outcomes if we choose to ignore these warnings). I must admit, I find the whole thing rather confusing myself – well, that’s assuming I don’t engage my cynicism, in which case it would appear to be an attempt to delegitimise the message that the IPCC is trying to present, so as to undermine any chance of any sensible policy decisions being made.

  90. Joshua says:

    ==> ” in which case it would appear to be an attempt to delegitimise the message that the IPCC is trying to present, so as to undermine any chance of any sensible policy decisions being made.”

    I know you weren’t entirely serious – but I think that speculation about motivation is unlikely – at least with Roger. It seems to me that Roger, for one, is concerned about the politicization of the science – probably an authentic concern on his part, I would guess. Nor do I think that the politicization science is necessarily an unreasonable concern.

    But that doesn’t mean that Roger’s posturing relative to the IPCC, as someone who is concerned (with italics) about alarmism, is consistent with reducing the harmful influence of politicization. In fact, it seems to me his input is more counterproductive than anything else. Far from helping to de-politicize the science, I think that the outcome of Roger’s input is increased politicization, if anything. And from what I can tell, he’s very resistant to openly examining the logic and outcomes of his input.

    Richard T.? It seems to me that he’s probably also concerned about the politicization of the science, but is even less able to view that issue as anything other than a partisan. Roger seems to at least be aware that the politicization takes place on both “sides” of the discussion. I get the that Richard is so identified with one side of the debate that he’s not even able to see how alarmist his GWPF cronies are.

  91. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s basically the deficit model argument. Of course, the deficit model is trivially wrong since new information does somehow manage to change society. It is certainly true that humans don’t like to change quickly and that limited or distorted exposure to new information drives change poorly compared to getting the information full-bore, which observation I will now dub the Bleedin’ Obvious Model.

    A corollary to the BOM is that anyone using the deficit model is engaged in peddling something else.

  92. Steve Bloom says:

    “authentic concern”

    No.

    “counterproductive”

    Yes.

  93. Joshua says:

    BTW –

    In case Richard Tol is still reading – would you mind passing this link onto Bernie?

    http://disasterretreat.com/

    Bernie might find that useful in preparation for the economic apocalypse.

  94. Doug Bostrom says:

    A glance at global emissions suggests that it is perhaps time to try something new.

    What would that be?

  95. Steve Bloom says:

    Tol clearly has a search thingy set up to notify him whenever he’s mentioned on the web, so using his full name seems guaranteed to come to his notice.

  96. Richard Erskine says:

    Guthrie, you got it wrong, it’s Tyndall’s fault. After all he has had 150 odd years to make his case and what did he do? We know the answer. He died. Try harder.

  97. Steve Bloom says:

    Logivally, Doug, if the deficit model is correct then a low or no-information environment should get us the maximum change. 🙂 (Although I’m quite serious about this being a necessary implication.)

    Of course “something new” can include finding new ways to present information, but as our basic problem is an information deficit (or more to the point a deficit in the information environment) finding new ways won’t help much.

  98. Joshua,

    It seems to me that Roger, for one, is concerned about the politicization of the science – probably an authentic concern on his part, I would guess. Nor do I think that the politicization science is necessarily an unreasonable concern.

    I’m never quite sure what people mean when they talk about the politicization of science. Clearly what we choose to prioritize is a political decision. How much do we give for medical research, space science, climate science, etc. Some major projects will be very politicized (particle colliders, space telescopes) as they cost a lot of money. Clearly there are valid concerns with how such decisions are made.

    Suggesting that scientific results themselves are influenced by politics is another issue altogether, though. Sure, individual results might be influenced by politics/society, but the beauty of the physical sciences is that one can use the fundamental lows to determine if a result is correct or not. Maybe correct is not quite the right term, as we may never know if something is absolutely right, but we can certainly show if something is wrong (i.e., doesn’t conserve energy).

    So, if people want to show concern about the politicization of science it would certainly be good if they clearly defined what they meant and provided some evidence to back up their concerns, or else – as Willard might say – maybe we should just thank them for them 🙂

  99. A glance at global emissions suggests that it is perhaps time to try something new.

    What would that be?

    I’m pretty sure it won’t be economics. Poor Tol. Let me make a wild guess – quantum physics?

  100. Eli Rabett says:

    OK, let Eli be clear, something the Bunny rather enjoys. Roger and Richard share the blame for the lack of progress. Their entire academic life has been dedicated to dumping on the IPCC and its leaders which has provided cover to the politicians who want to do nothing or less than nothing about emission decreases. Having done this for almost twenty years they now blame the IPCC for letting them succeed.

    Roger is a joke, a bad one. What can you say about somebunny who thinks that an Honest Broker when asked to recommend a place to eat would say

    . . you might instead provide your visitor with information on all restaurants in the city, basic information on each (cost, menu, etc.) and let the visitor face the challenge of reducing the scope of choice (i.e., making a decision). Such “honest brokering” could also be strong (e.g., a comprehensive guide to all restaurants in the city) or weak (e.g., a guide to all those within a 5 minutes walk). The defining characteristic of the honest broker is an effort to expand (or at least clarify) the scope of choice for decision making.

    Notice that the “honest broker” is not allowed to say that the food sucks, or that the place was closed for health violations, lest she become the dreaded “Issue Advocate” Pielke’s “honest broker”slams the Yellow Pages down on the counter and leaves.

    Richard, in many ways also slams the Yellow Pages down, refusing to let go of his obviously high estimate of the value of a 1 K warming which distorts the IAM ensemble.

  101. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Most of us live in democracies. Modern representative democracies require politicians get off their collective asses and pass legislation. They are loathe to do this unless it fills either their campaign coffers or otherwise works to keeps them in office.

    In the USA one of our democratic founders wrote, “What is most essential to the integrity of a republic is that its citizens be well and truly informed.” John Adams

    The IPCC through the work of countless scientists has provided the information required, but is the public truly informed? Obviously not. What Adams never envisaged was a coordinated campaign of disinformation, lies, half-truths and distortions. I doubt he also contemplated a news media where “opinions on the shape of the earth differs” seems to be the working paradigm.

    Roger Pielke Jr and Richard Tol both appear to me to do nothing to advance the general public’s accurate concept of the either the science, the need for action, or the cost and consequences of inaction. Instead of fighting those who choose to muddy the waters of information, they work to assist them. It may be that this assistance isn’t intentional, but it sure seems that way.

  102. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “I’m never quite sure what people mean when they talk about the politicization of science.

    Hmmm…

    Actually, that’s a good question. Sometimes when I’m writing a comment a “naysayer” kind of whispers something and I don’t listen to it carefully enough and proceed anyway, and this was one of those times. As I was writing my previous comment, my internal naysayer asked myself that same question you asked, and I tried to appease him/her by throwing in the “necessarily” as in “Nor do I think that the politicization science is necessarily an unreasonable concern.” But that really doesn’t go far enough. I guess I’m not sure either about what people mean by “politicization of the science” (even though I used the term myself) and w/o knowing that, how do I know whether it is necessarily a bad thing to be concerned about it?

    Coincidentally, Judith posted this blurb from Roger’s new book:

    In this vein, I found one of the jacket blurbs from John Michael Wallace: “While Roger Pielke, Jr. and I hold quite different views on the policy implications of climate change, we are in agreement that the public is not well served by the politicization of climate science ….

    So what really is “politicization of the science?” In the case of the IPCC – their summary of the science necessarily has political implications. Does that mean that if the IPCC summarized the science, it is “politcizing” the science?

    I’m guessing that often “politicizing” the science means leveraging science to achieve political aims – but as long as that is done with “integrity,” then is there really anything wrong with that? Maybe for me the important issue boils down to whether or not someone takes a comprehensive approach and as such, places the science in the full context. As an example, when Judith or Roger testify before Congress, they are definitely “politicizing the science.” And I actually have no problem with that per se. The problems come in when Judith does something like, in her testimony, talk about the “pause in global warming” without speaking about the uncertainties in the relationship between surface land temps and overall warming. That, to me, is a kind of “politicizing the science” that is problematic. Similarly, I have often felt that RPJr.’s name-calling, hand-wringing, and insinuations of fraud, corruption, and that scientists were hiding behind the science to pursue self-interest, were all in poor form for someone who is concerned about “politicizing the science.” In the polarized context that exists – his actions, IMO, only further the “politicization,” – and not in any positive sense that I can see.

  103. John Hartz says:

    In his Wonkblog post of today, Why two crucial pages were left out of the latest U.N. climate report, Chris Mooney takes us behind the scenes to document how the IPCC process resolved tensions brtween politics and science in finalizing the Synthesis report.

  104. jsam says:

    It would stand a better chance of working if the funding of denial ceased. One gauntlet, thrown down. Where will Judith, Roger and Richard stand?

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/sep/20/oilandpetrol.business

  105. anoilman says:

    Steve Bloom, “Tol clearly has a search thingy set up to notify him whenever he’s mentioned on the web, so using his full name seems guaranteed to come to his notice.”

    So he’s like the Valdemort of the Internet? Toldemort?

    Hey! Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Time to change my signature on a few dozen web sites!

    Jsam:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/11/03/citizen-interventions-have-cost-canada-s-tar-sands-industry-17b-new-report-shows

  106. John Mashey says:

    It’s called Google Alerts. How do you think hordes descend on some out of the way newspaper that happens to mention the hockey-stick, etc.

  107. Mal Adapted says:

    jsam:

    It would stand a better chance of working if the funding of denial ceased.

    This. The deficit model assumes that if you give people enough information, they’ll call for appropriate action. But it also assumes, implicitly at least, that there’s no disinformation hole that swallows up the information! In practice, the information provided by the IPCC is overmatched by the limitless supply of disinformation produced on behalf of fossil-fuel interests (cite for genuine skeptics). It’s the strategy outlined by Frank Luntz in his 2002 memo to GW Bush:

    Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate…

    The volume and sophistication of bespoke doubt suggests that its funders take the deficit model seriously, and the continued failure of the US to enact a carbon price is strong evidence for the efficacy of the strategy.

    Yeah, we all get tired of hearing about it, but — duh, that’s part of the denier strategy too!

  108. Eli Rabett says:

    Someday my young friend you will learn that context is everything in Pielkeball. They don’t understand nice.

  109. andrew adams says:

    Similarly, I have often felt that RPJr.’s name-calling, hand-wringing, and insinuations of fraud, corruption, and that scientists were hiding behind the science to pursue self-interest, were all in poor form for someone who is concerned about “politicizing the science.” In the polarized context that exists – his actions, IMO, only further the “politicization,” – and not in any positive sense that I can see.

    That’s a bit unfair on Roger – he is just concerned about ethics in video games journalism climate science.

  110. andrew adams says:

    On a more serious note it’s certainly true, as Eli says, that emissions have not been reduced overall, but that doesn’t mean that the IPCC reports have had no effect, because we don’t know what emissions would be if there had been no IPCC.

    Clearly the amount of power produced from renewable sources, although nowhere near enough, is far greater than it was say 20 year ago. There is more than $200bn being invested annually in renewables on a global scale, up from $40bn 10 years ago. The EU has just agreed targets for 2030 for emissions and renewable energy, many individual countries have their own targets for reducing emissions. There is a process in place for reaching an international agreement next year. Would that have happened without the IPCC?

    Now of course, having a target for something does not mean that it will happen, and we don’t know how meaningful any agreement reached in Paris will be. And what has been achieved so far does not get anywhere near where we need to be in order to avoid dangerous climate change. But that doesn’t mean nothing has been achieved, and although more could certainly have been done by now, given the political and practical obstacles there is still a limit to how fast things can realistically move and I see no evidence that the failure to move faster is any fault of the IPCC or those who promote its findings.

  111. guthrie says:

    Tol and Pielke (jr) remind me of the infamous Steve Fuller, who argued for teaching intelligent design in school because, IIRC from the Dover court case, ideas need opportunities to recruit followers and evolution wasn’t letting any potential competitors even exist because it completely rules biology.
    Nonsense of course, but this sort of principled contrarianism is part of what we see with the two R’s. The other parts clearly include hippy bashing, greenie bashing, lust for power and influence, but of course it is possible for people to have multiple reasons for doing something.

  112. OPatrick says:

    I’ve been mulling over a possible comment since early this morning but I see that andrew adams has just made it very clearly. I do wonder where this spare world is, that Roger Pielke Jr has access to, which allows him to know what the trajectory of global energy policy would have been without the IPCC reports.

  113. OPatrick,
    Yes, I agree. Andrew makes a good point. Climate policy has only been a failure if one assesses it with respect to reducing our emissions relative to some point in the past (i.e., they’re emissions are clearly increasing). However, we can’t really say definitively what they would have been without these climate policies (in some sense we can, since presumably renewables have resulted in less emission that if they weren’t being used).

  114. Quiet Waters says:

    “Tol clearly has a search thingy set up to notify him whenever he’s mentioned on the web, so using his full name seems guaranteed to come to his notice.”

    If that’s the case then there’s an opportunity to play a game of “add [Tol’s] name to every blog post/comment/article (not necessarily in a visible way)” and see how long it takes for his search thingy to explode. Richard Tol

  115. johnl says:

    ATTP said:

    ==> “I’m never quite sure what people mean when they talk about the politicization of science. ”

    Exit polling from yesterday’s US election shows this:

  116. My guess would be that in this context, the politicization of science is a code word for the claim that climatologists make exaggerated claims because they are liberals.

    No thank you, we have our own facts, ma’am.

  117. At risk orf repeating my 1990 take on the 1989 IPCC report, Whereas response to O3 depletion is quantitatively Done Deal- the answers converge at least to the first decimal place, determining CO2 doubling sensititvity may become a harder and harder problem as research adds new variables and parameters to already complex and non-linear models.

    After a quarter century, a lot of serious people display varying taste in how they vest belief in the published literature, and amidst universal eyeball rolling , the factor of 3 range in sensitiviry estimates persists.

  118. Steve Bloom says:

    Roll your eyes on over to Earth System Sensitivity, Russell. It’s a cure for myopia.

  119. BBD says:

    Russell Seitz

    It’s difficult to explain paleoclimate behaviour if CO2 is not an efficacious forcing, by which I mean ~3C / 2xCO2. (Hansen & Sato 2012 and Rohling et al. 2012)

  120. anoilman says:

    Is Russel arguing that weather and volcanoes are the climate? That’s must be a new branch of science. What university do theyt each it at?

    If Hawaii exploded and all the earth cooled the year after, he really say global warming ended?

    Perhaps he should look at global temperatures with weather, volcanoes and solar variance removed; (Foster Rahmstorf 2010).
    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/4/044022/pdf/1748-9326_6_4_044022.pdf

    It looks pretty straightforward…

  121. russellseitz says:

    I meant what I said_
    “determining CO2 doubling sensititvity may become a harder and harder problem as research adds new variables and parameters to already complex and non-linear models.”

    After five rounds, the IPCC is still stuck on 3-fold ECS variability.- simplifying the model by dispensing with the complexity of the system doesn’t solve the problem.

  122. Russell,
    I agree that removing complexity doesn’t suddenly make the estimate more reliable – just easier to understand. I’m not sure that the range is such an issue. If we think it is a reasonable representation of the likely range of outcomes, then that provides information for policy.

  123. Excluding complexity, when it’s essential leads to an erroneous model, but including complexity, when it’s not possible to do it correctly, is likely to make the model worse.

    Most robust and reliable results are typically obtained, when the model is the simplest one that agrees the with the known relevant facts essentially as well as the more complex ones do, and that’s built to avoid overfitting.

  124. BBD says:

    Russel Seitz

    If you would please read the references.

  125. Steve Bloom says:

    Conveniently for policy, ECS can’t ever happen in the real world.

  126. russellseitz says:

    BBD:

    It is an edifying paper, but please note Hansen & Sato’s candor on the severity of the ECS problem:

    “Climate sensitivity depends upon climate feedbacks, the many physical processes that
    come into play as climate changes in response to a forcing. Positive (amplifying) feedbacks increase the climate response, while negative (diminishing) feedbacks reduce the response.
    Climate feedbacks are the core of the climate problem.

    Climate feedbacks can be confusing, because, in climate analyses, what is sometimes a climate forcing is other times a climate feedback. As a preface to quantitative evaluation of climate feedbacks and climate sensitivity, we first make a remark about climate models and then briefly summarize Earth’s recent climate history to provide specificity to the concept of climate feedbacks.

    Climate models, based on physical laws that describe the structure and dynamics of the atmosphere and ocean, as well as processes on land, have been developed to simulate climate. Models help us understand climate sensitivity, because we can change processes in the model one-by-one and study their interactions. But if models were our only tool, climate sensitivity would always have large uncertainty. Models are imperfect and we will never be sure that they include all important processes.

  127. BBD says:

    Russell

    From Hansen & Sato (2012):

    The empirical fast-feedback climate sensitivity that we infer from the LGM-Holocene comparison is thus 5°C/6.5 W/m2 ~ ¾ ± ¼ °C per W/m2 or 3 ± 1°C for doubled CO2. The fact that ice sheet and GHG boundary conditions are actually slow climate feedbacks is irrelevant for the purpose of evaluating the fast-feedback climate sensitivity.

    This empirical climate sensitivity incorporates all fast response feedbacks in the real-world climate system, including changes of water vapor, clouds, aerosols, aerosol effects on clouds, and sea ice. In contrast to climate models, which can only approximate the physical processes and may exclude important processes, the empirical result includes all processes that exist in the real world – and the physics is exact.

  128. russellseitz says:

    BBD;

    Your emphasis is misplaced- in the LGM-Holocene comparison , both intervals lasted long enough for deep ocean equilibration by abyssal turnover- a rate limiting process beyond the temporal scope of current GCM’s.

    The forcing “processes that exist in the real world” ( your emphasis ) are physically exact because they unfold on natural time scales– you can’t predict the future by fast forwarding inertially constrained systems.

  129. anoilman says:

    russellseitz: Thanks. I’m naught but a simple engineer. I prefer the easy understanding over the complex reality.

    I get that with a system like this that its not always obvious what the feed backs might be, or evolve into as the system goes out of balance. I like that you point out that the models are used to reflect back to what we understand in the real world further enhancing our (well… your) understanding. 🙂

    Perhaps this is new article material for Anders? Hmm?

  130. BBD says:

    Russell

    Your emphasis is misplaced

    The LGM and late Holocene are quasi-equilibriated climate states. The comparison between the two allows an empirical estimate of E_ff.

    a rate limiting process beyond the temporal scope of current GCM’s.

    Why have you ignored what the paper says and which I quote directly above and will now repeat:

    This empirical climate sensitivity incorporates all fast response feedbacks in the real-world climate system, including changes of water vapor, clouds, aerosols, aerosol effects on clouds, and sea ice. In contrast to climate models, which can only approximate the physical processes and may exclude important processes, the empirical result includes all processes that exist in the real world – and the physics is exact.

    This isn’t about climate models. Do read the reference at some point.

  131. BBD says:

    E_ff should of course be:

    S_ff

  132. BBD says:

    Oilman

    RTFR!

    🙂

  133. BBD,

    What has happened in the history is exactly what the real Earth system has produced. In that sense it’s not approximate. Unfortunately we cannot know exactly nearly everything about those historical states of the Earth system. What has been inferred about that is based on various models and narratives.

    It’s a judgment, whether interpreting the observations about the past is more accurate, comprehensive or reliable than other methods of learning about the properties of the Earth system or about the relevant measures of climate sensitivity. From the IPCC report and other similar sources it’s clear that the views of the well known main stream climate scientists vary greatly on this point.

  134. BBD says:

    Pekka

    The attempt to portray ECS as hugely uncertain is IMO misleading and deliberately so. The two studies linked above provide a clear indication that ECS is very unlikely to be below 2C and is probably somewhere around 3C. That’s all I’m trying to establish here. I’d also add that lowball best estimates like L&C are clearly incompatible with paleoclimate behaviour and so clearly wrong.

  135. BBD says:

    From the IPCC report and other similar sources it’s clear that the views of the well known main stream climate scientists vary greatly on this point.

    Do they really ‘vary greatly’ on the most likely value for ECS? Or are we paying far too much attention to noisy outliers? My strong impression is that well known mainstream climate scientists are in agreement that ECS is probably about 3C.

  136. BBD,

    My comment referred only to the power and accuracy of the paleoclimatic evidence, and in particular to the significance of the fact that real history comes from the real Earth.

  137. troyca says:

    BBD and Pekka,

    Perhaps of interest is the new Annan and Hargreaves (Quaternary Science Reviews) perspective on the LGM, and how GCMs fit within it, which is open source for now:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277379114003679

    Simple calculations in which the global temperature anomaly at the LGM is divided by the total estimated forcing relative to the pre-industrial state have long been used to generate estimates of the equilibrium climate sensitivity. These estimates have remained close to 3 °C throughout changes in estimates of both components (Hansen and Lacis, 1990, Hoffert and Covey, 1992, Annan and Hargreaves, 2006 and Rohling et al., 2012). The most modern estimates for the (negative) forcing of 8 W m−2 (Annan and Hargreaves, 2006 and Jansen et al., 2007) and temperature anomaly of 4 °C (Annan and Hargreaves, 2013) would suggest a figure of just under 2 °C, which is at the lower end of the previous range of values. However, there are substantial uncertainties and perhaps biases associated with this approach. It is not expected that the response of the climate system to large negative and positive forcings will be perfectly linear, even at the global scale. In fact, model simulations show significant (and model-dependent) nonlinearity (Hargreaves et al., 2007).

    Essentially, the “most modern” estimates used in the paper for forcing and temperature change are somewhat different than Hansen and Sato (2012), such that using the HS12 “naive” method would actually result in an approximate sensitivity of only ~1.85K (if using 3.7 W/m^2 for a 2xCO2 forcing). However, as Pekka suggests, you need some sort of model or (implicit) assumption relating the sensitivity in one state to another – in this case, the GCMs used in the Hargreaves study suggest a greater sensitivity in the current (warmer) state (~2.5 K) relative to the LGM:

    When constrained with the proxy-based observation of LGM cooling, this implies an equilibrium sensitivity of around 2.5 °C with a 90% confidence interval of about 0.5–4 °C. However, this result must be considered somewhat provisional, due to the small ensemble size and the previously mentioned uncertainties in forcings and proxy data.

    FWIW, I recently used a simple method to “combine” recent instrumental methods with the distribution from PALAEOSENS:

    http://troyca.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/combining-recent-instrumental-sensitivity-estimates-with-paleo-sensitivity-estimates/

  138. Troy,
    Thanks, I saw that paper a few days ago and had thought to write about it. Just haven’t had a chance. Also saw your post, which I thought looked interesting. Although, if the instrumental estimates are EFS and the paleo estimates are ECS, does that imply that they’re not strictly comparable in the way that you’ve done it (or, maybe, that the instrumental estimates will tend to underestimate ECS and hence your result would also be a slight underestimate – although you seem to hint at something like this in your post anyway).

  139. troyca says:

    Also saw your post, which I thought looked interesting. Although, if the instrumental estimates are EFS and the paleo estimates are ECS, does that imply that they’re not strictly comparable in the way that you’ve done it (or, maybe, that the instrumental estimates will tend to underestimate ECS and hence your result would also be a slight underestimate – although you seem to hint at something like this in your post anyway).

    I don’t know that I would say they are not strictly comparable, as in both cases you ARE trying to estimate ECS for a 2xCO2 scenario (specifically, I think, from 280->560 ppm), but in each case you are making assumptions about how those estimates for one state (whether it be N >> 0, or a climate that looks very different from today) translate to another. What I think it highlights, as Pekka mentions above, is how hard it is to truly make these estimates independent of GCMs.

    Consider if we tossed aside GCMs, and were able to measure perfectly values for deltas in F, N, and T during the instrumental period, such that they yielded an estimate of 1.85 K using the energy balance method. Moreover, suppose we took those LGM numbers from the Annan and Hargreaves paper above, and used the “simple physics” Hansen and Sato (2012) method to estimate 1.85 K, as discussed above We would be pretty confident that ECS was 1.85 K. However, if we looked at GCMs, we might note a couple with an ECS of 2.5 K that were able to simulate those features that gave the appearance of a 1.85K ECS due to non-linearities, and we would (rightfully) be less confident that ECS was 1.85K. So using “simple” methods, apart from GCMs, could be quite misleading.

    On the other hand, if we expect the bulk of these non-linearities to come from evolving regional temperature changes, using GCMs in the above case would pre-suppose that they provided insight into this evolution: E(r) = T(r,t=b)/T_avg_t=b – T(r,t=a)/T_avg_t=a. But as explained in the LGM paper, and from observations, regional temperatures are not something the GCMs do a particularly good job at. So if GCMs aren’t skillful at T(r,t=a)/T_avg_t=a, should we have confidence that they are skillful at E(r)?

    In my paper that I included in that chart, I used the relationship between ECS and EFS in CMIP3 models to generate the expected distribution in this relationship, for lack of a better option. But there was no set agreement on whether ECS > EFS, or vice versa. And there is no “simple physical” reason why ECS should be EFS.

    I guess my point is that translating each “independent” method to ECS can be misleading, if one does not consider the relationship between states. But the only thing it seems like we *could* use right now to inform the state-dependence is GCMs, for which the state-relationship is probably among the weaker aspects, if not totally lacking in skill. So what is one to do? So far the solution has been to mash a bunch of studies together, with some that use GCM-informed estimates and some that use simple-model-informed estimates. Perhaps that is all one can do, and shift the focus to TCR?

  140. BBD says:

    Shifting the emphasis away from EBM outliers might be a start, Troy.

  141. Troy,
    Thanks, I see what you mean (I think). It is probably all that can be done. I’m not sure that I would think that shifting the focus to the TCR is the way to go, unless we think that the delay between doubling CO2 and reaching equilibrium (ECS) is so long that the TCR is all that we should be concerned with. I can see, however, that it is indeed worthwhile to try and understand what the TCR is, though.

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