I’m back…sort of

I’m back from my conference, and – I have to say – I thoroughly enjoyed being away, not blogging and not Twittering (well, not much). One problem is that I enjoyed it so much, I really want to try and avoid getting back, too much, into the online climate debate. I have made a few comments elsewhere, but mostly I just read other sites, and their comments, and then decide that staying away is probably best. Some of it is just bizarre nonsense and I have real trouble understanding how people can associate with such sites and such rhetoric. I know some people take some kind of enjoyment, or satisfaction, from the kind of exchanges you can have on climate blogs, but I don’t really. I just find it a bit frustrating and annoying. I’m not even claiming that my site is any better (although I’d really like to think that it’s better than some).

The other problem is that the conference was very interesting and I even managed to have a disagreement with another group who I thought were misrepresenting my work. They then seemed to get rather upset that I pointed this out. It almost felt like the climate debate, with them quoting various things from papers and me pointing out that what those papers were saying wasn’t what they thought they were saying. The other similarity is that some who work on this think we understand it well enough, and others seem to think that because we don’t understand it fully, maybe we don’t understand it at all. An illustration that science is a human endeavour after all. It did, however, make me realise that I need to go and finish some things that I thought weren’t necessary anymore. So, I’ve spent the last couple of days getting some of my codes to run again, and it’s been fun.

So, my plan – if I can stick to it – is to write less and try to avoid much of the online climate debate. Okay, I now I’ve said this kind of thing before, but I mean it this time 🙂 A problem I have, is that I still don’t know how best to do this. This is just a blog, and I’m trying not to take it too seriously. One advantage of actually getting stuck into the online climate debate, is that it is typically so silly that it is hard to take things too seriously. Trying to remain outside then runs the risk of taking things too seriously. Okay, I know it’s a serious topic, so I just mean myself and this blog, not the topic in general.

Anyway, if you want to delve into the more recent controversies, you can always read some of Tamino’s recent posts about extreme events.

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125 Responses to I’m back…sort of

  1. Jim Hunt says:

    It’s a tough job Anders, but somebody’s gotta do it! I currently contemplating yet another campaigning web site provisionally entitled “The Great Ecomodernist Con”, but there are only so many hours in a day one can devote to “debating with deniers”.

  2. Willard says:

    I think one of the problem with ClimateBall is that nobody takes it seriously enough until it gets really silly.

    ***

    Blogging has the power to change how to do serious stuff like writing papers and doing science.

    Someday it will, after we take ClimateBall seriously.

  3. Joshua says:

    It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.

  4. Joshua says:

    OK. This is actually in a book.

    :”The saying “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” is from Ancient Rome. The only rule during wrestling matches was no eye gouging. Everything else was allowed, but the only way to be disqualified was to poke someone’s eyes out.

    So I doubt the veracity and the name of the book is “The Book of Useless Information,” but it does kind of capture the nature of online and Twitter exchange.

  5. Blogging has the power to change how to do serious stuff like writing papers and doing science.

    Someday it will, after we take ClimateBall seriously.

    I agree. Understanding ClimateBall and the different moves does actually help – I think – to construct arguments in a more substantive way. That, however, doesn’t change that my overall impression of the online climate debate is that it’s silly.

  6. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:
    In order to reduce the time you spend on crafting OPs, you could repost press releases about major new reports issued by organizations with a brief intro. For example,,,

    Global Commission Finds Economic Growth Can Close the Emissions Gap, WRI, July 6, 2015

    A discussion of this new report would be interesting, productive, and lively.

  7. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    That, however, doesn’t change that my overall impression of the online climate debate is that it’s silly.

    It’s up to you and and and Rachel to control the slliness of discourse on this website. If you were to find one or two more volunteers like Rachel, you could delegate your moderation duties to them.

  8. Jim Hunt says:

    John,

    This should please you? A new venue for Ecomodernist ClimateBall players everywhere:

    http://www.GreatEcomodernistCon.info/

    As soon as I get WordPress uploaded and configured at least! Are there any noble volunteers in the house who might like an editor account?

  9. Global Commission Finds Economic Growth Can Close the Emissions Gap, WRI, July 6, 2015

    A discussion of this new report would be interesting, productive, and lively.

    That’s a good one.

    Most of the developed economies of the world have declining emissions already.
    The conversion to information/service based economies, the efficiency imparted by economic growth and the declining birth rates of advanced economies seem to make the difference.

  10. anoilman says:

    Turbulent Eddie: Most economies took their biggest emissions dump in 2008 with a global economic melt down. The next biggest emissions ‘dump’ is a major error. We’ve been using more natural gas with emissions calculations predating the fracking revolution by a healthy 10 years.

    Natural gas emissions, are currently the same or higher than coal, so no savings there;
    http://www.acsf.cornell.edu/Assets/ACSF/docs/attachments/Howarth-EtAl-2011.pdf

    But I am happy to see more use of Wind and Solar.

  11. The problem is with hack climate scientists such as Curry, Lindzen, Gray, Tsonis, Carter, Webster, and Salby along with amateur clowns such as Tisdale, [Tallbloke], and Watts driving the research and popular opinion in a topic such as ENSO/El Nino.

    It turns out that the ENSO dynamics are much simpler than we were lead to believe. You really have to look at the groundbreaking research we are doing at the Azimuth Project on ENSO in modeling the ocean/atmosphere behavior
    http://forum.azimuthproject.org/discussion/comment/14739/#Comment_14739

    Climate science is actually fun, not the boring routine that Curry keeps on claiming it has become.

  12. [Dear Web,

    You are “Web” or related variations. AT is “AT” or related variations. Tallbloke is “Tallbloke” or variations thereof.

    Comprende?

    Thank you for your concerns. -W]

  13. Magma says:

    But just think of the advantages those now-sharpened debating elbows can give you.

    1. ATTP presents talk on non-climate subject.
    2. Audience member raises poorly thought-out objection to minor point.
    3. Jet-lagged ATTP accidentally replies using ClimateBall settings.
    4. Sobbing questioner helped out of room by colleagues.
    5. Rest of audience sits back, quietly impressed.

  14. Jim Hunt says:

    BTI bashers of the world unite:

    http://GreatEcomodernistCon.info/blog/

    Constructive (and substantive!) criticism welcome. Articles and comments are even more welcome!

  15. This is a plot of the LHS vs the RHS of the SOI sloshing differential wave equation

    SOI”(t) + k SOI(t) = F(t)

    where F(t) is the forcing function, mainly comprised of the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO) with a regular 2.33 year period, along with known periodic angular momentum changes such as the Chandler wobble.

    The LHS is essentially data driven, while the RHS is the proposed forcing model. If the two sides match, you have a solution to ENSO that can extend forward in time.

    This blog has something to do with physics, right?

  16. Rob Nicholls says:

    Magma’s comment cracked me up.

    Hope you find a balance that you’re happy with, ATTP.
    Thanks for all the time and effort you’ve put into posting stuff up until now, and for gathering some really good commenters, who have made me think more about a lot of things.

  17. BBD says:

    Turbulent E

    Most of the developed economies of the world have declining emissions already.

    Because they have exported their filthy manufacturing industry to developing economies which will be driving emissions ever-upwards as they develop over the next several decades.

    Please stop the invisible-hands-make-it-alright garbage. It is an insult to the collective intelligence of the thread.

    * * *

    Rob Nicholls

    + 1 to both parts of your comment 😉

  18. “Natural gas emissions, are currently the same or higher than coal, so no savings there;
    http://www.acsf.cornell.edu/Assets/ACSF/docs/attachments/Howarth-EtAl-2011.pdf

    This is not serious science.

    You’ll have to wait to see why… forthcoming..

  19. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says “Some of it is just bizarre nonsense and I have real trouble understanding how people can associate with such sites and such rhetoric.”

    I concur that it is probably impossible to fully “grok” why people attend to various blogs because you’d have to think and feel the same way, and if you did, you would already be a subscriber to the same sorts of things. No doubt some of those people to whom you refer wonder why you choose this and have no more hope of understanding your choices than you have of understanding theirs especially where less interest exists in exploring such things.

    One of my goals is finding the “binding rule” that motivates seemingly irrational behavior. I believe sometimes what seems to be irrational behavior is actually rational but in response to stimuli about which you either have no knowledge or weigh less in your decision calculation.

    Rudeness: Persistently rude behavior suggests emotional hurt that nevertheless wants resolution and so inserts itself into any conversation to hurt others. Exploring this thing, somewhat like a Lorenz Attractor, is an interesting hobby — you won’t see the “thing” but arguments will swirl around it revealing the nature of the Attractor making it possible, sometimes, to neutralize it. An example is my conversation on Bickmore’s blog with “Wow”.

    Liberty: Socialists fear the very thing libertarians love the most — freedom or liberty. If your experience, your culture, is that of weak or non-existent parenting, unreliable uncles and cousins, you may well see the government as your “family”. Conversely, if you have a strong family culture and reliable kin, government becomes rival to what you already have. In my opinion, on a larger scale this is the same kind of thing happening to the United Kingdom “family” — Scotland sees London not as family but as rival (or so it seems from here).

    Climate science is a young science. It is not settled but that does not stop politicians from using this young science for their own purposes. Most of the commentary at WUWT or Steven Goddard (IMO) is opposed to socialism, not climate science per se. Is there a way to deal with climate change that does not involve socialism? Probably not; hence its attractiveness to the leading socialists of the world — and the corresponding opposition to it by libertarians (or rival political theories).

    Fear: NOI, the Nation of Islam, believes in or declares the existence of a huge (two miles across) spaceship or flying saucer filled with Zionist Jews and they are terrified of it. That it cannot be shown to exist is proof of its cloaking technology and sinister intentions. It is the same sort of thing as “Goldstein” in George Orwell’s “1984”. Its actual existence is irrelevant; it is a focal point, a Judas Goat, on which your discomfort and pains can be blamed.

    “I know some people take some kind of enjoyment, or satisfaction, from the kind of exchanges you can have on climate blogs”

    Essentially all blogs have the same kinds of arguments. The details vary but the motivations tend to be the same and I believe you even have the same mix of personality types — an “alpha”, an “omega” and various other roles will naturally arise; with empty roles being eventually filled by suitable persons.

    It is hardly any different at a pub (Public House), club, or Boy Scout Patrol. Someone loudmouth will do most of the talking, someone else most of the listening. A few others will speak up at disruptive moments for the entertainment value thereof.

    “I’m not even claiming that my site is any better (although I’d really like to think that it’s better than some).”

    I believe your site is better than many for my purposes. I value it for the occasional serious discussion of mathematics and physics at a “lay” level and sometimes above my level giving me incentive to learn more.

  20. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher: Thanks for saying that’s bad with no explanation. (I have to say that I all too often see that kind of response from the other crowd that I don’t like.)

    Current emissions scenarios are based on old school fracking (vertical only wells) which had long productive lifespans, and had their natural gas used exclusively in power plants. That is strictly and solely where the Natural Gas = .5 Coal definitions comes from.

    I look forward to see what you have.

  21. ATTP, have fun doing science and doing something useful. This is a great place and I would miss it, but if you are not having fun, you should probably not do this thinking that it is important. There is so much information out there; people who are honestly interested can find reliable information.

    We should not overestimate the importance of blogs. It is not for nothing that most of the bribes of the fossil fuel companies go to politicians. That determines to a large part their votes and amendments to get loopholes in. And the opinion of their politicians influences conservative voters, people who will not invest days into trying to understand the topic, but orient themselves by looking at their leaders. Only pennies go to blogs, even less to alternative real research.

    Follow the money. It illustrates what these companies see as important.

    1. ATTP presents talk on non-climate subject.
    2. Audience member raises poorly thought-out objection to minor point.
    3. Jet-lagged ATTP accidentally replies using ClimateBall settings.

    4. ATTP hurts himself by getting less feedback in future. Science is hindered by less open communication.
    5. Audience not impressed at all and would like to hear the arguments and the interesting problems.

    A poorly thought-out comment is something else as someone making an effort to fool himself and overconfidently sprouting the worst kind of nonsense. A poorly thought-out comment of a good willing person is fine, no one is without error.

    It is a pity one is forced to play climate ball by a political movement with no interested in science. Taking this dysfunctional culture into science would be a big mistake.

  22. It is a pity one is forced to play climate ball by a political movement with no interested in science. Taking this dysfunctional culture into science would be a big mistake.

    Actually, my interpretation of the basics of ClimateBall is “think before you say something”. Not a bad idea in any scenario, really.

  23. Liberty: Socialists fear the very thing libertarians love the most — freedom or liberty.

    Freedom is what “socialists” love the most, it is why they oppose libertarians in their efforts to install a new feudal society. It is why they fight for a society where everyone can be free and not just the elite. A society in which the skills of everyone can be developed and which will in the end be richer because of it, especially in modern societies where many skilled people are needed.

    Before you hate socialists so much, maybe you should first try to understand them.

  24. Magma says:

    @ Victor… my comment was tongue-in-cheek, naturally.

  25. BBD says:

    @ Victor

    What ATTP said – and Magma – ClimateBall isn’t Rollerball… 😉

  26. As a famous climateball player once said: if so many people protest, I must be right.

    But seriously, the tone in the climate “debate” is not suited for science. And then I do not even speak of the level of expertise and argumentation. We should keep this nonsense separated from science as well as we can.

    Thinking more than zero steps ahead never hurts. But a harsh response is not a good idea within science (the culture within physics seems harsher than within climate science, that is one reason I moved and I feel physics could progress faster with a friendlier culture, where people try to help each other rather than show off how smart they are, to use a bit of a caricature and definitely not talking about single people already do this well.)

    A harsher response may be necessary in the public debate because many people seem not not to notice how strong the arguments are without fireworks.

    I find it hard as blogger to find the right tone between these two very different cultures.

  27. But seriously, the tone in the climate “debate” is not suited for science.

    Oh, I agree. That’s certainly not what I was suggesting. I do think, though, that some aspects of playing ClimateBall do transfer. Not the tone, but the awareness.

    the culture within physics seems harsher than within climate science

    It varies, even within physics.

    A harsher response may be necessary in the public debate because many people seem not not to notice how strong the arguments are without fireworks.

    I find it hard as blogger to find the right tone between these two very different cultures.

    You’re not alone.

  28. Victor,
    One essential difference is that in the science we try to build on the best, but in blogging we often argue against some very far from the best.

    Building on bad opponents leads nowhere.

  29. Pekka,
    Yes, that’s a good point and maybe one reason my interest in engaging in this is diminishing. There’s only so many times you can have the same discussion with others who are presenting extremely poor scientific arguments, before it just becomes tedious and boring.

  30. “Steven Mosher: Thanks for saying that’s bad with no explanation. (I have to say that I all too often see that kind of response from the other crowd that I don’t like.)

    Current emissions scenarios are based on old school fracking (vertical only wells) which had long productive lifespans, and had their natural gas used exclusively in power plants. That is strictly and solely where the Natural Gas = .5 Coal definitions comes from.

    I look forward to see what you have.

    #######################

    you should be able to read his abstract and see the most glaring shortcoming. its right there.

    But I will just lay it out for you methodologically.

    The variables you need to consider.

    1. The global warming potential of C02 versus methane.
    2. The leakage rate.
    3. The efficiency of various choices in power generation.
    4. The time scale involved.

    You can of course cherry pick a data point by making selections in all of those parameters.

    or you can generate the entire solution space given the range of acceptable values for all those parameters.

    When you look at ranges of values for these parameters and generate the entire space.. you can see for example… how selecting one or two values generates a desired answer.

  31. Magma says:

    Pekka: “Building on bad opponents leads nowhere.”

    This is very true, in all fields of science. The problem is that the debate on climate has long since spilled over into the general media and into public policy, and what works with scientists arguing in good faith with each other, however pointedly, may fail against unscrupulous opponents interested only in pushing an agenda and buying time.

    I don’t claim to know whether more aggressive tactics work, or work sometimes, or are counterproductive, but I would argue that researchers engaging in public debate should evaluate a flexible range of approaches, as well as possess endless patience, time, and a very thick skin.

  32. The more scientists will do science while playing ClimateBall, the more other players (auditors, denizens, brokers, etc.) will learn to play the Science Game. People learn by doing what they see others do.

    It’s not what scientists say that matter, it’s what they show for themselves.

  33. harrytwinotter says:

    I do not take the climate change “debate” seriously.

    Do a bunch of conspiracy-fueled internet warriors really believe they know science better than a bunch of climate scientists? Two chances buckleys and none. I do not find much difference between the climate change deniers and other groups such as Flat Earthers, ChemTrail fans and Electric Universe fans.

    In three years of looking I have only found one genuine climate change skeptic. By genuine I mean they were skeptical about the science (and had evidence), and did not rely on climate change denier talking points and cherry-picking.

  34. Harry Twinotter said:


    Do a bunch of conspiracy-fueled internet warriors really believe they know science better than a bunch of climate scientists?

    In my case, yes and no. For the ENSO/ElNino modeling I referenced above, I simply took the wave equation models that the brightest of the climate scientists & ocean hydrologists have theorized, and then tried solving them with rather obvious forcing functions.

    Why haven’t these same scientists themselves followed through on their own models? You tell me. I tried it and it is remarkably easy to obtain correlation coefficients above 0.9 for a seemingly chaotic waveform.

    That is why my answer is a yes and no. I wouldn’t have tried this without being able to stand on their shoulders, but if I hadn’t tried it, who would have?

    And I am not a skeptic, but someone who is infuriated by the not-so-bright climate scientists (who I listed above in a separate comment) that only serve to confuse and distort the science.

  35. Marco says:

    “Is there a way to deal with climate change that does not involve socialism? Probably not; hence its attractiveness to the leading socialists of the world — and the corresponding opposition to it by libertarians (or rival political theories).”

    Michael 2 knows there is such a thing as libertarian socialism, yes?

    The problem with using terms like “socialism” and “libertarianism” is that they are very, very broad terms and, as I illustrate above, terms that even overlap. What you mean is that dealing with climate change will likely have to involve some government intervention (“OMG! Socialism!”), which is vehemently opposed by free-market libertarians. However, it would in principle also be opposed by libertarian socialists, but they’ll argue that if you are their kind of socialist, you need no government to take action. After all, if the impacts of AGW are dire, individuals should take action to prevent their behavior negatively impacting others.

  36. ATTP, the one thing I hope you continue to do here is write informative blog posts that highlight new results in peer-reviewed climate science. That you have been doing this on a regular basis and doing so as well as you have, writing mathematically oriented posts and comments from such a formally mathematically well-educated standpoint but still in a way that is accessible to mathematically oriented laypeople, makes this blog one of the best climate science blogs in the world.

    If I may say so: Even if the frequency of your blog posts in general goes down, I think there is still room for an increase in the frequency of the type of blog post that highlights some new peer-reviewed results in climate science, especially these new results that get the denialists in a tizzy (see Marotzke and Forster (2015) and Steinman, Mann, and Miller (2015) as examples) or these new results the denialists tout. Either way, this might be a marker for a peer-reviewed result to write about – the more they hate it, the more it might be another killer against denial, and the more they like it, the more it might need a refutation or the more it might be yet another “own goal” that could be shown to be so. (Yes, one admittedly selfish reason that it’s good to do this type of post and even increase its frequency here is that when the science is attacked, it gives an opportunity to those of us who comment to show how the denialists’ claims are false, even if those who make the claims against the science never actually make those claims here. Some of us who comment here don’t and won’t comment at blogs that are hostile to mainstream science.)

    Although some other climate science blogs not hostile to mainstream science do highlight new research every so often, not only is it still not enough for some people (without such a service, most people will never hear of important new results), it usually is only in the style of a reporter reporting the news rather than in a style of a much more in-depth analysis and explanation of what the research is actually saying, a style in which only someone formally well-educated enough in a mathematical science can write. So please be on the lookout for such results to write about.

  37. dikranmarsupial says:

    I understand this entirely. ClimateBall is pretty tedious after a while (especially as any attempt just to discuss the science is inevitably interpreted as just more ClimateBall) and gets in the way of discussing interesting science. It is worthwhile learning how to present science to a hostile audience, but there comes a point where the cost of the lesson is too high to be worth it anymore and it is better to concentrate on something more productive.

    Do keep the blog going though, it is one of the best, perhaps look at the physics of things other than the climate (your own research is a fascinating topic!).

  38. Willard wrote

    The more scientists will do science while playing ClimateBall, the more other players (auditors, denizens, brokers, etc.) will learn to play the Science Game. People learn by doing what they see others do.

    It’s not what scientists say that matter, it’s what they show for themselves.

    That’s exactly, what I had in mind.

    Scientists can add value to the discussion, when they concentrate on presenting scientific understanding as well as they can and choosing the subjects of discussion based on how the knowledge helps in getting the correct overall picture of the state of science.

    Concentrating on debunking allows for the other side to control the direction and the style of the discussion. A stupid statement is an easy target for a blog post, but that does not lead to progress.

  39. dikranmarsupial says:

    Pekka wrote “A stupid statement is an easy target for a blog post, but that does not lead to progress.”

    Indeed, but the fact that refuting an obviously incorrect argument does not lead to progress is very much the problem with the “debate”, and potentially not debunking incorrect arguments may lead to regression (rather than merely a lack of progress) if it means that others accept incorrect arguments for lack of explanation of the error. Both approaches have their place and not all blogs (or scientists) need have the same balance between the two approaches.

  40. Indeed, but the fact that refuting an obviously incorrect argument does not lead to progress is very much the problem with the “debate”, and potentially not debunking incorrect arguments may lead to regression

    It’s even worse than this, IMO. Look at Tamino’s posts. There are two well-qualified people (Sardeshmukh and Mass) making claims that seem obviously wrong/mis-guided. One suggesting that increasing the mean and standard deviation does not lead to an increase in probability of extreme heatwaves and the other suggesting that the more extreme the event the smaller the anthropogenic contribution. The latter may even be true, but largely irrelevant. We aren’t interested in what fraction of an extreme event is anthropogenic, we’re interested in how anthropogenic influences change the probability of such an event taking place.

    However, from what I’ve seen, neither have come back to actually explain themselves further, or to acknowledge that either they’ve made a mistake, or been misunderstood. That’s more frustrating – in my view – than unqualified bloggers writing nonsense.

  41. aTTP,

    I have seen the same issue at Tamino’s, but I see the problem totally differently. In my thinking the problem is that the theoretically derived large relative changes in the frequency of extreme heat waves (defined in a suitable way) is used as a misleading argument and Mass has argued correctly against that approach.

  42. Pekka,

    theoretically derived large relative changes in the frequency of extreme heat waves (defined in a suitable way) is used as a misleading argument and Mass has argued correctly against that approach.

    What? That isn’t – from what I’ve seen – what he said. Unless he’s been misquoted, he said

    the more extreme the weather anomaly, the less likely it is to be caused by human-induced (anthropogenic) global warming.

    He seems to be arguing that the more extreme an event, the larger the natural variability contribution to that event. Technically, that may even be a reasonable thing to say, but seems to entirely miss the point that what is of interest is how increasing anthropogenic forcings changes the frequency of such events, not how much of an event can be attributed to anthropogenic influences.

    So, where is he correctly illustrating that it has been used as a misleading argument? From what I can see, he is essentially answering a completely different question as an attempt to address this, which seems, IMO, misleading in itself.

  43. aTTP,

    There have been several discussions, which are related, but emphasize different points. My previous comment was about another of those points.

    All these disagreements are based on the different ways a multidimensional distribution is projected or transformed to an one-dimensional argument. That makes many different arguments technically true, while they look superficially contradictory. All the approaches are, in a sense, arbitrary, and it becomes a matter of taste to tell, which represents the reality better and which worse, or which is misleading, and which is not.

  44. Pekka,
    That doesn’t really answer my question. Forgetting whether something is misleading or not, what Mass said appears to have nothing to do with whether or not increasing anthropogenic forcings will increase the frequency of extreme events. People should be able to lay out their analysis in a way that makes clear what question they’re answering and how what they’re doing relates to what others have done.

    However, I don’t even really see that what he’s done makes a great deal of sense. It’s obvious that if we consider any type of event over a sufficiently long time interval, we can create a distribution that tells us the probability of an event of a particular magnitude taking place (within some small magnitude interval, of course). Unless the system is very strange, we would expect events further from the mean to be less likely than events closer to the mean. That, however, doesn’t mean that events further from the mean are more influenced by natural variability than events closer to the mean. They’re all influenced by variability. If we do something to change the mean (and maybe even the distribution itself) then we will see a change in the probability of events of a particular magnitude. That’s what would seem to be of interest, IMO at least.

  45. dikranmarsupial says:

    The argument that the most extreme events are those to which AGW contributed the least (proportionately) seems reasonable, but I don’t think that is a particularly useful way of looking at it. Generally the costs of dealing with extremes are likely to be non-linear, up to some threshold, our civilization is organized such that such extremes are well accommodated and don’t really cause a problem. However, very extreme events (e.g. flooding) tend to cause big problems. While anthropogenic climate change may contribute relatively little to extreme extremes, the additional contribution has a big effect on the losses as without that contribution it would have been a less extreme extreme. They key question is the *excess* loss caused by anthropogenic climate change.

    I suspect the problem is that the most informative way of looking at this is a probabilistic view that estimates the proportion of the range of losses that may be attributed to anthropogenic climate change over the course of a period of time. However this is not very appealing for a public discussion of the issues as most people have difficulty with probabilistic reasoning but have little problem thinking about individual extreme events. Also from a media point of view, individual extreme events are much more “newsworthy” than statistical analyses.

  46. If we do something to change the mean (and maybe even the distribution itself) then we will see a change in the probability of events of a particular magnitude.

    Sardeshmukh has shown that it’s possible to fool a professor of climate science into advertising his claims that increasing the mean and standard deviation somehow wouldn’t increase the probability of events above a fixed temperature threshold. Why should scientists even bother trying to explain the most basic concepts, when supposedly qualified experts pop up with contrarian gibberish in a neverending game of whack-the-mole?

    I know for a fact that not everyone at CIRES or CU Boulder is that blinkered, even if my recent “conversation” with Dr. Pielke Sr. makes it hard to remember that.

    Regarding other comments, it’s tedious and boring to keep explaining that climate science is older than plate tectonics, quantum physics, and special relativity. The foundations of our understanding of the greenhouse effect as laid by Fourier and Tyndall even predate Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    The NAS recently said: “… Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. …”

    Also, dealing with climate change doesn’t have to involve socialism, unless littering fines are “socialism”. I’ve repeatedly noted that a revenue-neutral carbon fee (i.e. a littering fine which is returned to all citizens) would reduce emissions and improve the economy. Did President Reagan’s economics adviser endorse socialism?

  47. aTTP,

    The basic argument of Mass seems to be that warming has constant effect at any time and variability dominates, when the total effect is much larger, and variability dominates the more strongly the more extreme the event is.

    His formulation is not totally accurate, but that applies to all simplified statements.

  48. dikranmarsupial says:

    Pekka, as I pointed out, that doesn’t mean that the anthropogenic contribution to the losses resulting from the extremes are constant, and that is what really matters.

  49. Pekka,
    Yes, that’s roughly how I understand it. I just don’t see how it really relates to AGW. It will always be the case that the most extreme events vary the most from the mean. Saying that the most extreme events are dominated by variability tells us nothing about how the probability of those extreme events changes under changing anthropogenic influences. Also, as Dikran is pointing out, the small anthropogenic contribution could have a large effect.

  50. Dikranmarsupial,
    The two statements are of different strength. Thus answers to the two questions go in the opposite direction.

    What really matters, is a further question, and I don’t think that either of the two answers is very informative by itself.

    I would say that the whole discussion is in the realm of ClimateBall rather than informative discussion of scientific knowledge. On the other hand it may be educating to ponder, what are the virtues and weaknesses of each pair of question and answer, but that requires that the points made by the opponent are analyzed openly rather than dismissed. Some climate sites may allow for that, some do not. (Here such discussion is mostly allowed, but not that common anyway.)

  51. dikranmarsupial says:

    Pekka “The two statements are of different strength. Thus answers to the two questions go in the opposite direction.”

    sorry, I don’t know what you mean by that.

    “What really matters, is a further question,”

    From a societal perspective, the impacts (losses) from the extremes are what really matters, if there is no impact, there is no need for society to take any action to avoid them. From a scientific perspective, it depends on the hypothesis under discussion, and it is best to be clear on the question before discussing the answers (where possible). I don’t think any view is a-priori the right one, but the probabilistic view is probably the most informative on average.

    Extreme events are normally caused by a conjunction of influences all pulling in the same direction, rather than partially cancelling (which is what happens most of the time). While the AGW component may be proportionally small, the same is true for all of the individual components giving rise to natural variation, so the same argument could be made about them as well. Extremes are to a large extent the results of coincidence, but a systematic change in some component makes coincidences more likely, and so can have a large cumulative effect.

    There is nothing wrong with pointing out that the proportional contribution of anthropogenic influences on extremes may be relatively small, but as far as I can see, that doesn’t mean that other views are misleading.

  52. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    Look at Tamino’s posts. There are two well-qualified people (Sardeshmukh and Mass) making claims that seem obviously wrong/mis-guided. One suggesting that increasing the mean and standard deviation does not lead to an increase in probability of extreme heatwaves

    The interesting thing is the difference between Tamino’s and Curry’s approach to the same paper.

    Both invoke rhetoric, but only one arithmetic.

  53. The argument of Curry can also be formulated mathematically. I don’t think that her conclusions are strictly wrong, but that requires going beyond of what I consider plausible.

  54. verytallguy says:

    Pekka,

    The argument of Curry can also be formulated mathematically.

    Indeed. It can be. But it wasn’t. That was my point.


  55. Extreme events are normally caused by a conjunction of influences all pulling in the same direction, rather than partially cancelling (which is what happens most of the time).

    Amazing how many ways one can dance around the issue. The phenomena known as ENSO is precisely the behavior that is leading to these occasional climate extremes. Above, I plotted the model of how these extremes pseudo-periodically oscillate over the last 130+ years and should point out they have everything to do with accumulated forcing (i.e. conjunction of influences) applied to a resonant standing-wave mode in the equatorial Pacific.

    When you have a statistical argument and a physics argument to describe a situation, you ALWAYS select the physics argument first over the statistical argument. Unless it is statistical mechanics of course, in which case physics wins anyways 🙂

  56. Indeed. It can be. But it wasn’t. That was my point.

    Exactly!

  57. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher: Or you could read the other side of that data, and that the industry is actually quietly trying to fix these problems. The UN is trying address these exact and specific problems, and has been trying to work with oil companies globally to solve them. The industry is putting up a private satellite to track this down.

    All of this, you claim is being done stupidly because of cherry picked data? I think you’re not looking closely at this.

    The EIA uses different GWP factors for methane than the IPCC and even Ingraffea. A higher GWP was relatively new when Ingraffea published. Do you think that the EIA under reporting GWP by 20% is insignificant? (FYI… I ignore the 20 year time frame.)

    I have told you about leaks before, and that doesn’t seem to stick. Umm… The industry has no clue where natural gas leaks in cities. No clue. Your gas meters are wildly inaccurate, so are the expensive digital ones big consumers use. (There are many papers in this field that do not back your position.) Field emissions near extraction, and repeatedly showing up 4-5 times higher than Ingraffea’s estimates.

    As much as you want to say Ingraffea cherry picked, you do know that the industry didn’t complain about that at all. You’d think they would, if they are in the know, right? Their biggest complaint was that he looked at all points of consumption, and not just power plants (which is where coal is burned).

    You can convince me that in looking at shale plays and fracking, he’s cherry picked that. But I’d like to point out that all your natural gas is done this way now, and he’s really pointing out that this brand new practice in fracking renders natural gas ruinous. Specifically, wells in shale plays see an ever declining well life span, which dramatically increase the effective emissions caused by completions. (So the industry partnered up with EDF to study a brand new practice called Green Completions. As far as I know, the EPA hasn’t implemented Green Completions regulations yet. They did all that despite the fact that you claim its cherry picked. Hmmm…) On more thing about well life span… Ingraffea used bigger numbers than we’re getting out of the shale plays. Wells have a much shorter lifespan now.

  58. dikranmarsupial concisely says:


    https://edge.org/response-detail/25484

    I assume that was directed at me. You know — I don’t listen to appeals from authority.

    The overwhelming evidence is that the ENSO variation is centered around an equatorial dipole in the equatorial Pacific waters. A dipole is also known as a standing wave and is one of the SIMPLEST natural phenomena that we know about, and that we can model straightforwardly. It essentially only requires an undamped second order differential equation. To untangle the response to the standing wave conditions, all it takes is to apply a forcing from KNOWN sources of varying momentum transfer. The biggie is the almost clockwork (but jittery) 2.33 year period in the reversal of atmospheric winds, known as the QBO. There is also the 6.46 year period in the Chandler wobble angular momentum variation; as well as the long-term semi-diurnal and diurnal tides, which have well known long-term beat periods. Putting these together and we find that all the peaks+valleys match up.

    Just look at the fit. I about cried when I saw that. My entire career has involved studying cycles — modeled by the wave equation, Schrödinger equation, etc — and know when something clicks in place. In this case, I wrote it up and submitted a paper to Physical Review Letters, but it got rejected. The paper ain’t going anywhere else, because that’s where I drew the line.

    Sometimes the complex looking phenomenon is indeed simple, and the parsimony of the evidence is what needs to be disproven by folks such as the two Gavins 🙂

  59. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I assume that was directed at me. You know — I don’t listen to appeals from authority.”

    It isn’t an appeal to authority, the article makes a reasoned point and makes it well, it is one of the better essays in the collection. I don’t want to get into this sort if dismissive argument, I’d rather discuss science, so I’ll leave it at that.

  60. What people may be forgetting is that in physics, perturbations are relatively simple to model. The fact that ENSO may be but a perturbation on the overall steady-state picture is anathema to those that think such a “big” phenomena has to be more than that. In physics, everything scales –including perturbations.

    The essential physics is wrapped up in the slight density differences between the ocean water above and below the thermocline. These slight differences are very sensitive to momentum transfers, and just like a lava wave machine, a slight periodic forcing will get it in motion.

    The bottom-line is that if I hadn’t fit to the data, then I could have just as easily come up with a theory that would predict the Pacific ocean sloshing, simply based on the known slight variations in the earth’s angular momentum over time. Your job is to prove that this is not happening. This is more geophysics than the climate science view of nature.

    This sloshing should happen, if it isn’t why not? OMG, if you look at the data, it is happening!
    #WHUT the ?

  61. Michael 2 says:

    WHT says “and know when something clicks in place.”

    Agreed. Your explanations on Azimuth Forum are comprehensible and more than merely interesting.

  62. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says “From what I can see, he is essentially answering a completely different question as an attempt to address this”

    Likely so. The question may be “How much can humans do to reduce extreme events?” if they are going to happen anyway. Quantifying the human part of events gives a hint as to the range of impact or reduction of impact that is theoretically possible.

  63. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that global warming will only affect the mean temperatures. Naturally also the variability around the mean and thus the extremes will change.

    It is hard to say how much the variability will change (and it depends on the phenomenon under study, on the averaging time scale and the averaging spatial scale and on the climate/location). To claim that variability will not change is, however, simply wrong.

  64. Willard says:

    > I’d rather discuss science […]

    There’s an ambiguity in that claim. It could convey the willingness to talk about science, or it could trigger a conversation closure unless what is discussed are scientific matters. Only the second kind of topic is scientific, and the confusion between the two leads to scientism.

    For instance, in his Edge response, Gavin talks about science, but not in a scientific manner. Gavin’s point (i.e. there are no simple answers in science) is not scientific. It’s still interesting, as it hints at sociology, communication, metaphysics, etc. However, it’s not science, as in “empirical science”.

    Compare MikeS’ “substance” move with the “I’d rather discuss science” move. Better yet, cf.:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/bringingclosure

    ClimateBall is a model for this kind of interaction. ClimateBall is a game because it contains interactions. Notice the only interactions AT reported from his conference.

  65. Victor,
    It’s obvious that an increased GHE will have some influence on every aspect of climate, but it’s also natural to think that the primary change is that in the temperatures, and that changes in variability are not large as long as the temperature has not changed much.

    Primary effects do, however, include the regional differences in warming and increased absolute humidity. Such changes might have significant first order influence on the variability, but even so I would consider it likely that changes in variability are mostly second order.

  66. izen says:

    The global mean surface temperature is a metric derived from local changes in variability. Few surface records show a total shift in all measurements, the warming predominates in certain parts of the record, less pronounced in others.
    It is not that global warming average alters the variability, it is that the increased variability has shifted the mean.

  67. Michael 2 says:

    Marco says “Michael 2 knows there is such a thing as libertarian socialism, yes?”

    Yes. Libertarians can choose anything. The most libertarian society I have experienced is Icelandic which is also strongly socialist. Public education is all the way through university. Medical care is free for all. Taxes are correspondingly astronomical but overall it works out to about the same actual spending power since citizens do not have personal college debt or medical bills.

    It works in Iceland because (IMO) they have shared ethics and culture and preserve individual liberty everywhere except the big expenses. A bit too much liberty actually since they were then vulnerable to “snakes in Eden”, figuratively speaking; in this case the banks.

    Science fiction writer Poul Anderson wrote “Freedom is having a cage larger than you want to fly in.” Libertarians recognize that cages always exist.

    “Bad socialism” is where you are telling me the size of my cage and what I can do in it. “Good socialism” is where we cooperate to design cages that maximize freedom, recognizing that people are not cast from the same mold and some people need different kinds of freedom and perhaps we can all have more freedom by letting us make our own choices where such choices are not “rival”.

    “What you mean is that dealing with climate change will likely have to involve some government intervention”

    That is correct and does not require “anthropogenic”. The climate is changing; has always changed and is likely to continue changing. Societies will have to respond in some ways. Obvious examples in the United States includes flood control projects and water canals. Libertarians are likely to emphasize “adaptation” simply because it does not require assumption of culpability, that somehow a thing is “my fault” when maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. Just build the canal and never mind whose fault it is! You are much more likely to get broad based support for such projects.

    “…which is vehemently opposed by free-market libertarians.”

    I wonder if “free market” is a unique property of libertarian or more properly an aspect of anarchists and narcissists whose traits overlap somewhat that of libertarians. Naturally the degree of government involvement forms a continuum and it seems in the United States to be drifting toward totalitarianism where entrepreneurs and professionals are merely agents of the state; told what they can and cannot do down to the finest detail (see the 50 books of Consolidated Federal Regulations or CFR).

    Were I to become a professional photographer I would find myself bound by many rules; no longer free to choose what or whom to photograph.

    “However, it would in principle also be opposed by libertarian socialists, but they’ll argue that if you are their kind of socialist, you need no government to take action.”

    That seems unlikely. A libertarian socialist is still a socialist; but is choosing the greater good rather than being compelled to it by force or by constraint of choice; in those areas where government is the best actor for the desired action. Obviously the libertarian socialist will weigh things differently than a totalitarian socialist. The libertarian encourages LED illumination but if you really want to burn your incandescent lamps, well then you can pay ten times what I’m paying for light. The totalitarian socialist will not only specify the kind of light you use, but “society” will effectively own the factories that make lamps such that only one choice exists.

    “After all, if the impacts of AGW are dire, individuals should take action to prevent their behavior negatively impacting others.”

    That will be true in any circumstance and libertarians are likely to take initiative, as I have, not waiting for government to solve MY problems.

  68. Michael 2 says:

    Consolidated Federal Regulations or CFR

    should be “combined federal regulations”. I found it very depressing. I can sort of see the need for specifying that if you use the words “Ice Cream” on a package that it must contain from X to Y percent of fat or you’ll be fined by the government; what is depressing is that people cannot simply be honest and even more depressing to know that these rules constrain only honest people anyway. There is absolutely no hope that any human being could know and obey even a tiny fraction of all these laws and regulations and that’s in a nation that proclaims itself “free”.

    In Iceland a millenia ago a law-speaker would recite the laws — all of them — once each year at Thingvellir. Most matters were simply not the problem of the state. Work out your own differences; which they did over several hundred years of civil wars.

  69. “Steven Mosher: Or you could read the other side of that data, and that the industry is actually quietly trying to fix these problems. The UN is trying address these exact and specific problems, and has been trying to work with oil companies globally to solve them. The industry is putting up a private satellite to track this down.

    All of this, you claim is being done stupidly because of cherry picked data? I think you’re not looking closely at this.”

    WRONG.

    I am not making the claim you claim I am making.

    Lets test your acumen.

    Spot the ANALYST CHOICE that the paper you cited makes.

    its right in the abstract.

    That CHOICE is arbitrary. The final answer will change as you change that choice.

    yes industry is working on the problem. Canada is showing the way. My point is something entirely different. namely you can get different answers by looking at the range of leakage rates.
    There is substantial uncertainty and specific problems ( super emitters DUH )
    And to look atthe problem correctly you have to look across the range of uncertainty. Again DUH AND DUH.

  70. Gingerbaker says:

    This is the 2nd or 3rd time in recent memory that you have expressed your dissatisfaction with arguing about climate science, ATTP. Besides giving you heartache, ClimateBall is also a waste of time – and how long have you been at this to such dismay? Five years? A decade?

    Why not do something truly constructive and redirect your gentle persuasion and mathematics skills to the next phase of the AGW problem – figuring out the most intelligent, egalitarian, and expedient way to design, build, and deploy the new renewable energy system that will save us all?

  71. John Hartz says:

    We sure do spend a lot of time on ATTP’s comment threads examing our collective navels. Once a year ought to be sufficient.

  72. anoilman says:

    Steven Mosher: I’m not sure why you want to attack a paper that is shown to be correct time and again. And all without a single source or follow on citation. Pure bravado.

    I mentioned Green Completions, and you skipped over that entirely. Why? If it solves a problem that you claim was just a cherry picked result… it would be silly for the industry to say it. Right? It would be equally silly for the industry to be pointing at all the other parts of the industry that are A) not measured, and B) leaky. Right?

    The minimum numbers quoted by Ingraffea are all low. I tend to look at the bottom end of the risk for this. (’cause people might argue over the high ones) But the implication since publishing, is that the minimums emissions are much higher.

    Did you even bother to read the industry paid for papers that back up Ingraffea? (What’s curious about this paper, and isn’t obvious, is that its a measurement of Green Completions, not completions. Never mind the fact that they clearly claim that the equipment violates regulations.)
    http://www.pnas.org/content/110/44/17768.abstract

    And you completely, blindly willfully ignore the obvious fact that methane has a higher global warming factor which the EIA and frankly many governments are conveniently ignoring.

    EIA uses 23, Ingraffea (30? at time of writting), IPCC 28. So… fugitive emissions are 20% higher on that simple fact alone. No cherry picking is required to back that up.

  73. “Compared to
    coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice
    as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.”

    wrong

    http://static.berkeleyearth.org/memos/climate-impacts-of-coal-and-natural-gas.pdf

  74. anoilman says:

    Wow. No wonder you didn’t open with that document. Can you tell me what journal accepted it? Or is it just a PR piece?

    I see more, and better referencing in Ingraffea than Berkley Earth’s;
    http://www.acsf.cornell.edu/Assets/ACSF/docs/attachments/Howarth-EtAl-2011.pdf

    I’d say Berkley Earth’s report has more cherry picking, and has taken the industry stance to the exclusion of reality. Can you even tell me what number the Berkley Earth report is talking about in Ingraffea’s paper since Ingraffea isn’t only discussing electricity. It discusses ALL consumption. Please… tell what number its trying to argue over. Its clearly and obviously not anything to do with figure 1;

    Is there a particular reason why Berkley Earth chooses to ignore home use of natural gas? (and obviously all things related)

    I mean its not like I have an electric power plant in my house. Do you have an electricity generator in your home that runs on natural gas? Does anyone? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? UK, Canada, the US, and especially California all burn natural gas for heat in the home. City pipes leak big time!

    What about LNG? There’s 8% more emissions there alone. Compressors don’t run on fairy dust you know.

    Did you know that in a lawsuit when you have no argument, that you simply fill your docs with BS. Its harder for the judge to look through, and easier to confuse him. I wonder what actual GWP Berkley’s paper comes out to. But I love the recap of all the old graphs for methane life times, with zero effort to quantify it. I mean… its like a blast from the past.

  75. it’s also natural to think that the primary change is that in the temperatures, and that changes in variability are not large as long as the temperature has not changed much.

    Natural? Do you mean common sense? You mean you feel the change is small? That is not an argument I had expected from you.

    How important changes in the variability are also depends on how extreme the extremes are.

  76. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Steve – you say wrong, but the reference you provide says nothing about shale gas. The word shale appears 4 times – 3 of them in references. Did you mean to cite something else as a response?

  77. anoilman says:

    Kevin O’Neill: That citation excludes use of natural gas in the home. i.e. what we do in the rest of the world.

  78. Wavelet scalogram of ENSO

  79. Victor,
    I agree that changes in variability have an essential influence on extreme events. The question is, how strongly increased GHGs affect variability. Determining variability is more difficult to determine from empirical data and statistical uncertainties tend to be large unless some strong model constraints are used. Such constraints, in turn, lead to the risk of systematic errors.

    The paper of Della-Marta et al looks interesting, but I should look at it carefully, before I say more on that. It may, indeed, tell on a statistically significant change in variability in a part of Western Europe, but that alone cannot tell much on the causal link to warming.

  80. Determining variability is more difficult to determine from empirical data and statistical uncertainties tend to be large unless some strong model constraints are used. Such constraints, in turn, lead to the risk of systematic errors.

    Yes, it is hard. That is why I refrained from positive statements and only pointed out that assuming it is not important is an enormous leap of faith, especially when it come to the most extreme extremes, the really damaging ones.

    We know that for reasonable scenarios homogenization improves trend estimates for mean temperatures, but we do not know well by how much. The situation is even worse when it comes to daily data and you have to take non-climatic changes (inhomogeneities) in the variability around the mean and in the extremes into account. I am writing a review paper on that. Removing such non-climatic changes, like Della-Marta does, is very hard, while the physics suggests that the non-climatic changes in the tails are stronger than the changes in the mean. Thus I take studies on changes in extremes based on daily station measurements with quite a bit of salt, but I would never claim that changes in variability are not important, just very hard to study.

    (The uncertainty monster is not your friend.)

  81. Victor,

    The point that I tried to make in my first comment was that physicist’s intuition tells to me that a moderate change in average temperature does not lead to a large change in the width or shape of the temperature distribution. More precisely I expect that the change in standard deviation is only a rather small fraction of the change in the average temperature. Other physicists or atmospheric scientists may have a differing view on that, but that’s, what my intuition tells.

    I think that the following is familiar to you, but I add something on the difficulty of estimating variability parameters.

    We are considering data represented by large number of time series T[it], where i is the index of the time series and t is the time, and what we wish to find out are the parameters that describe variability in individual time series. To estimate the parameters of the variability we must estimate the “true mean” of T[it] for each t. Lets ca.. that Tm[it]. If we knew the true mean we could calculate the moments of

    T[it]-Tm[it]

    from the data.

    Because we are studying data where the true mean depends on both i and t we must use a model that extracts the estimate of the true mean from the data.

    Doing the analysis for each i separately requires strong smoothness assumptions on the time series. Such assumptions may be could enough for day-to-day variability, but worse for more extended periods. Even individual heat waves may be so long that problems ensue.

    Another common alternative is to assume that the time series that correspond to different i have some properties in common. That adds statistics to the determination of the common parameters, but that adds unavoidably also potential systematic errors due to inaccuracies of the assumptions that have been made. More specifically using mean temperatures over some reference period as one variable in the model tends to lead to a spurious increase in the variance for other time periods.

    Some statistical methods may avoid doing explicitly the steps I describe above, but I do think that similar problems apply also to every such method.

  82. John Hartz says:

    Michael2:

    There is absolutely no hope that any human being could know and obey even a tiny fraction of all these laws and regulations and that’s in a nation that proclaims itself “free”.

    Talk about phoney-baloney exageration! Come on, you can do better than that.

    The ice cream maker should have a good understaning of the federal and state regulations that apply to his business. You and I do not need do so unless ice cream making is our personal hobby/passion.

    Likewise the ie cream maker does not need a good understanding of the federal and state regulations that apply to the making of concrete.

  83. John says:

    OMG!! A Sharkcano!

  84. anoilman says:

    Michael 2: Frequently laws were created because a law maker, industry official, worker, or consumer had a concern.

    For a good understanding of the origins of a lot of American labor regulations you can just look up the history of the events that lead up to it. For instance, this is why you don’t have sweat shop factories in the US. The follow on movement eventually went into politics, and spread regulations state side, then federally through FDR;
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fire

    The concern with your beliefs and views are glaringly obvious. You choose to willfully ignore what it was like before regulation. You’d like to return to time and world that was appalling and awful.

  85. John says:

    Sorry, that last comment was directed at Turbulent Eddie, who posted an article about sharks swimming around an active volcano. Probably should have mentioned that.

  86. (The uncertainty monster is not your friend.)

    I agree on that as well, increased uncertainty adds to the risk.

    When we include, however, also the consequences of policy decisions, it’s not any more easy to tell, how that affects the policy relevant conclusions.

    We have more reason to act on general level, but any specific decision may have less justification. When we have uncertainties from all sides, we are less likely to succeed in reducing the risks, whatever we choose.

  87. Michael 2 said on July 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm, in reply to ATTP,

    “ATTP says “From what I can see, he is essentially answering a completely different question as an attempt to address this”

    Likely so. The question may be “How much can humans do to reduce extreme events?” if they are going to happen anyway. Quantifying the human part of events gives a hint as to the range of impact or reduction of impact that is theoretically possible.”

    What is this …”if they are going to happen anyway” about? For probability in terms of set theory, any event (which is a subset of the sample space) on which we can have a nontrivial talk about probabilities is going to be a nonempty subset of a nonempty sample space, in which case it’s always true to some nonzero degree that said event is “going to happen anyway”. It seems it seems to me that there is some subtext here that might need to be addressed – and address it I shall:

    To do so, since this is about some claim by Cliff Mass, let’s first see what Cliff actually said:

    “…the more extreme the weather anomaly, the less likely it is to be caused by human-induced (anthropogenic) global warming”.

    Now let’s change some words to address the general idea of what seems to actually have been said in all the above, first with respect to what Cliff said:

    The more extreme the stroke, the less likely it is to be caused by high blood pressure that is getting worse over time from a lifelong, very high salt diet. The more extreme the heart attack, the less likely it is to be caused by blockage in the coronary arteries that is getting worse over time from a lifelong, very high hydrogenated oil diet. The more extreme the lung cancer, the less likely it is to be caused by the onslaught of carcinogens that has been getting worse over time from a lifelong, very high amount of daily smoking. Does any of this make sense? Even if it were to make sense given some technical definition in probability theory somewhere that I doubt even exists (I’ve not heard of it – ATTP address this point in a certain way also, found below), it would be utterly irrelevant and useless, since what matters is the probability/frequency of such extreme events of a given magnitude and what would raise or lower their probabilities/frequencies of the given magnitude. (It should be clear to all that what we can do to lower them for the population is to lower the mean blood pressure, lower the mean coronary artery blockage, and lower the mean onslaught from carcinogens, respectively). Why is it that the probability/frequency of such extreme events of a given magnitude is what matters? It’s simple. Such extreme events are such that we would want to avoid them in the first place.

    The use of the clause “if they are going to happen anyway” sounds suspiciously like a precursor to the type of Frank-Luntz-like “argument” that could be put forth by those who practice denialism with respect to mainstream climate science, along the line of something perhaps like this: We might as well dump into our bodies as much salt and hydrogenated oils into our bodies year after year and we might as well smoke all we want year after year since, hey, strokes or heart attacks or lung cancer are going to happen anyway, respectively. To be used against mainstream climate science: We might as well dump all the greenhouse gases into our atmosphere we want year after year, since, hey, extreme heat events are going to happen anyway. It seems to me that with respect to what has been said recently in the blogosphere world of the mainstream climate science denialist, this is already happening.

    As for “Quantifying the human part of events gives a hint as to the range of impact or reduction of impact that is theoretically possible.” This is false. It does not give a hint, since “quantifying the human part of events” is irrelevant to “the range of impact or reduction of impact that is theoretically possible” even if “quantifying the human part of events” were possible. “The range of impact or reduction of impact that is theoretically possible” relates to the probability/frequency of the event, specifically what can be done to change the probability/frequency of the event, not what fraction of the event is caused by what, since by its very nature as an extreme event in terms of magnitude, the event itself is something we would want to avoid or at least lower its probability/frequency. And we all should know that we can globally lower the probability/frequency of extreme heat events of a given magnitude by lowering the global temperature mean. Even Cliff Mass agrees with this, since he agrees – and this is verified below – that raising the global temperature mean raises the probability/frequency of extreme heat events of a given magnitude.

    Is it possible to attribute a fraction of an event to a particular cause? Not unless we first *define* such a thing in a rigorous mathematical way, and I know of no such thing at the present. (If there is one, I’d like to know about it – with a citation of the probability theory textbook and page number that gives said definition.) ATTP seems to agree that there isn’t one. In the thread under “Uncritical Mass” at Open Mind, ATTP said in the comment
    https://tamino.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/uncritical-mass/#comment-88946
    on July 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm,

    “Cliff,

    Firstly, I would argue that we can’t actually do what you seem to trying to do. We can’t attribute a natural and anthropogenic component to an individual event. What we can do is consider whether the likelihood/probably of certain events has changed due to anthropogenic influences.”

    And more to the point of impacts – that it’s probabilities/frequencies of extreme heat events of a given magnitude that matter and what we can do to change them, in this thread ATTP said on July 10, 2015 at 9:43 am,

    “We aren’t interested in what fraction of an extreme event is anthropogenic, we’re interested in how anthropogenic influences change the probability of such an event taking place.”

    Also, ATTP said on July 10, 2015 at 10:39 am,

    “If we do something to change the mean (and maybe even the distribution itself) then we will see a change in the probability of events of a particular magnitude.”

    Back at Open Mind, under “Why SO hot?”, Tony Noerpel said in the comment
    https://tamino.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/why-so-hot/#comment-89004
    on July 10, 2015 at 10:58 am,

    “If a 3 sigma event is 17 times more likely in a warmer world and Mass and Tamino and everybody else agrees with that, then isn’t it true that if we now experience 17 extreme events 16 never would have happened without human-caused climate change? One of them would have happened anyway but then which one? My guess is that without human-caused climate change, the weather would have been completely different. None of the 17 would have happened and instead some entirely different extreme event would have happened which didn’t. The butterfly effect, no?”

    And Tamino replied,

    “[Response: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.]”

  88. If we believe that the distributions are normal, then any change in the average affects very much the probability of exceeding some fixed limit far from the average. Under these assumption even little warming affects by a large relative factor the likelihood of very extreme events. This is, however, just the way of formulating the outcome that I consider to be highly misleading.

    The main reason for considering the formulation misleading is that we can correctly describe the same change by noting that the extremes that are equally likely than before are just a little warmer than they were before. This second formulation is correct and tells that the change is not large when the change in the average is not large. (Here I assume that the shape of the distribution is fixed.)

    Another problem is that the first formulation refers to the ratio of two small probabilities meaning that the change in absolute probabilities is small while the relative change is large.

    Furthermore the estimated relative change in probability is so large due to the properties of normal distribution, but the tails may well be fatter (I think that they are likely to be fatter). The relative change is much smaller for fat tails (but the absolute change may be larger).

    =====

    Taking all the above into account it’s true that overall warming has almost certainly contributed to all extremes defined referring to some fixed threshold. Thus saying that AGW is less likely to have a role, when the extreme is really extreme is false as a literal statement. As Dikran pointed out, the expected absolute contribution from AGW goes up with increasing extremity, the only thing that goes down is the expected relative share of AGW from the overall effect. Mass was referring to this measure, although used different words. (He confirmed that in a later comment.)

    How strongly he should be condemned from such an inaccuracy or from using such a measure?

    My view is that not strongly, but others seem to disagree.

  89. How strongly he should be condemned from such an inaccuracy or from using such a measure?

    I don’t think it’s really about condemning him. It would be better – IMO – if he had expressed himself in a way that was less easily misunderstood.

  90. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of severe weather events…

    China typhoon: Chan-hom hits coast of Zhejiang province, BBC News, July 11, 2015

  91. John Hartz says:

    More scary news about the impacts of climate change…

    Climate change is threatening the survival of bumblebees, significantly reducing the habitats in which they can survive, researchers say. by Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent, BBC News, July 9, 2015

  92. More scary news about the impacts of climate change…

    Climate change is threatening the survival of bumblebees, significantly reducing the habitats in which they can survive, researchers say. by Matt McGrath, Environment correspondent, BBC News, July 9, 2015

    Well, they’re still frantically collecting pollen in great numbers from the Vitex tree in my backyard,
    send ’em over to my place.

  93. Peka,

    “Taking all the above into account it’s true that overall warming has almost certainly contributed to all extremes defined referring to some fixed threshold.”

    In the US, most statewide record high temperature records are 50 to 100 years ( or more ) old.
    Even with the background global warming, these records have not been exceeded.
    Now, it’s somewhat simplistic to think of records in this way, because the conditions under which record high temperatures occur are exceptional and rare. But that very fact, that dynamic conditions create these extremes, indicates the context – natural variation exceeds global warming.
    Not, perhaps, for averages, but evidently so for extremes.

    But there are other possibilities. Recently, Climate Etc, linked to this interview with the highly estimable Sukyro Manabe. I was recently reading this paper, and though it was a very simple model, Manabe concluded:

    The reduction of the meridional temperature gradient appears to reduce not only the eddy kinetic energy, but also the variance of temperature in the lower model troposphere.

    Somehow, we got from this conclusion of less extreme weather and less extreme temperatures to the IPCC meme of more extreme weather and more extreme temperatures, and perhaps the older conclusions are correct.

  94. Turbulent Eddie,

    In the US, most statewide record high temperature records are 50 to 100 years ( or more ) old.
    Even with the background global warming, these records have not been exceeded.
    Now, it’s somewhat simplistic to think of records in this way, because the conditions under which record high temperatures occur are exceptional and rare.

    Those observations support by assertion that the tails of the temperature distribution are fat. Without fat tails those observations contradict other things that we (I and many others) consider likely.

    Such fat tails (if indeed true) make also the estimation of the variability very difficult. With such fat tails it’s almost certainly impossible to tell, whether variability has increased or decreased.

  95. TE,
    I wrote a response to one of your comments on Judith’s blog pointing out that you talk a lot of nonsense sometimes. I deleted it on the basis of it not being a very nice thing to say and because I’m starting to lose interest in pointing out when people talk nonsense. I somewhat regret that.

  96. It was this one in case you were wondering.

  97. Very good.
    I was wondering, and would have imagined it was one of the more opinionated replies.

    Invective probably wouldn’t make you or I feel any better, but,
    I’m certainly not beyond bias or error, so if you see a correction,
    fire away, for other’s benefit if not mine.
    Although, as you may note, no many seem to reply to my observations anyway.

  98. BTW, Manabe referred to something we’ve exchanged ideas about when he said
    (in response to whether the slowdown of warming for the last 15 years surprised him):

    “It did not. In my opinion, it is a manifestation of natural, unforced fluctuations of the global mean surface temperature with inter-annual, decadal and millennial timescale.”

  99. TE,
    How can this be reasonable?

    but there’s pretty good evidence that we are observing CO2 forcing at rates less than the RCP2.6:

    RCP2.6 peaks at 3W/m^2 by 2050 and then drops to 2.6W/m^2 by 2100. Current estimates are that anthropogenic forcings are 2.3W/m^2. Therefore 3W/m^2 by 2050 implies a rate of increase of around 0.02W/m^2/yr. The current rate is about 0.04W/m^2/yr, from your own figure in that comment you posted. So, how can we be increasing anthropogenic forcings at a rate slower than an RCP2.6 pathway? As I understand it, most regard an RCP2.6 pathway as now virtually impossible as it would require negative emissions beyond 2080.

  100. “It did not. In my opinion, it is a manifestation of natural, unforced fluctuations of the global mean surface temperature with inter-annual, decadal and millennial timescale.”

    Sure, seems reasonable to me, although he may be being a bit generous when he claims it wasn’t a surprise.

  101. The other thing that interests me is the 1980 paper by Manabe (Peka thread), because I was just reading it two weeks ago. It is a very simple model 3D ( not even global, one sector land, one sector ocean ).

    Never-the-less, the conclusion about a CO2 increased atmosphere:
    “The reduction of the meridional temperature gradient appears to reduce not only the eddy kinetic energy, but also the variance of temperature in the lower model troposphere.”

    Really does make the case for less extreme weather and less extreme temperatures.

    How did we get from there to the current ideas about more extreme weather and more extreme temperatures?

  102. BBD says:

    Summer heatwaves, drought, flooding (speeding up of the hydrological cycle; coastal inundation from storm surges increases as sea levels rise, etc.

  103. If you go here: http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~mmalte/rcps/index.htm#Download,

    you can download the RF for the various RCP scenarios, including the RCP3 ( which is the 2.6 ).

    The NOAA GHG index is at: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi.html

    The RCP Total GHG forcing is in column 5.

    RCP2.6 2014 2.9594693
    RCP2.6 2000 2.4875666
    RCP2.6 diff= 0.4719

    NOAA 2014 2.936
    NOAA 2000 2.468
    NOAA diff= 0.4680

    So, for the period from 2000 through 2014
    ( which is just the period I plotted over the IPCC graphic before finding the raw forcing data ),
    observed GHG increases are indeed less than the RCP2.6 scenario.

    Now, I calculated the numbers for 2009 ( the year the RCP forcing was published ) and 2014 and the observed rate exceeds the RCP2.6, so in that regard, you have a point.
    But then again, 2009 was the depth of the great recession.

    And certainly, the Sato graphic indicates emissions lower than the B1 scenario to date.

    So we watch. And it will be interesting.
    The CO2 Now graphic:

    indicates the last year CO2 increased at 1.65 ppm clip, short of the 2.3ppm RCP2.6 rate.

    But the El Nino appears to be brewing, and the 97/98 event incurred a large spike of CO2.

  104. I retract my comment about Sardeshmukh in light of Tamino’s recent surprising admission. It still seems extremely implausible that increasing the mean and standard deviation somehow wouldn’t increase the probability of events above a fixed temperature threshold. If true, that seems to imply a bizarre change in the shape of the distribution which isn’t being captured by the first two statistical moments: mean and variance. It seems odd that 3rd order effects could consistently dominate 1st and 2nd order effects.

  105. DS,
    I don’t think that need to worry about the validity of your reasoning, but perhaps Sardeshmukh has said something else than you thought.

  106. Perhaps, but I’m just looking at Sardeshmukh’s maps, which ATTP linked at the top. Those maps seem to show that increasing the mean and standard deviation somehow wouldn’t increase the probability of events above a fixed temperature threshold.

    I just asked at Tamino’s if I misunderstood the situation, and he responded: I think you’ve got it. But in a global sample, the chances of finding at least a few locations with such unexpected behavior is much greater than for a single location. I’ve emphasized that often enough; I should have heeded my own advice.

  107. In some other parts of his presentation he mentions explicitly the possibility of diminishing variance according to his slides presented by Judith Curry in her post.

  108. Well, I haven’t had much positive to say about Tamino, but I will say:
    1. there is nothing to be ashamed of for making an error, and
    2. it does take strength and certain integrity to acknowledge an error publicly
    hat tip to Tamino.

  109. @DS,
    Yes, I’ve also commented there and saw your comment. So, it seems that it’s simply a case of in a large enough sample there will be some locations where you can increase the mean and standard deviation without increasing the probability of events about some fixed threshold. Seems plausible, I guess. Would be keen to get more detail about this.

  110. TE,
    Agreed. There should be no shame in making an error an then acknowledging it.

  111. Pekka,

    In some other parts of his presentation he mentions explicitly the possibility of diminishing variance according to his slides presented by Judith Curry in her post.

    Well, yes, but this particular situation was – I think – one where the mean increased by almost one standard deviation and the standard deviation also increased. It’s not unreasonable, then, to assume that the probability of some well-defined extreme event would also increase. It would seem to have to have been some quite remarkable change in the distribution for this not to be the case.

  112. ATTP: I don’t think it’s really about condemning him. It would be better – IMO – if he had expressed himself in a way that was less easily misunderstood.

    How dare you stifle his right to free speech. /sarc.

  113. Pekka, being trained as a physicist myself, I would like to state that your intuition as a physicist working on low dimensional problems may well be wrong for high-dimensional problems with variability on all spatial and temporal scales such as the climate system.

    Pekka: To estimate the parameters of the variability we must estimate the “true mean” of T[it] for each t. Lets ca.. that Tm[it]. If we knew the true mean we could calculate the moments of T[it]-Tm[it] from the data.

    That is another thing that makes changes in extremes a wicked problem. When the mean and the variability change in time, it is very hard to estimate how likely extreme events are. In the past we could just look at past observations. Observations in a very broad sense: European cities are likely located at relatively beneficial locations. That has helped them flourish over the centuries or millennia.

    The main point, I again must raise, however, is that just because it is hard to study changes in variability does not mean that they are not important. It only means that they are hard to study.

    Pekka: I agree on that as well, increased uncertainty adds to the risk. … We have more reason to act on general level, but any specific decision may have less justification.

    The added risk is the justification, not?

    It may be that a large part of the population does not understand that more uncertainty is bad and even wrongly thinks it is a reason to delay the solution. But I would not call this irrationality of human behaviour a “justification”.

    Pekka: If we believe that the distributions are normal, then any change in the average affects very much the probability of exceeding some fixed limit far from the average. Under these assumption even little warming affects by a large relative factor the likelihood of very extreme events. This is, however, just the way of formulating the outcome that I consider to be highly misleading.

    The main reason for considering the formulation misleading is that we can correctly describe the same change by noting that the extremes that are equally likely than before are just a little warmer than they were before. This second formulation is correct and tells that the change is not large when the change in the average is not large. (Here I assume that the shape of the distribution is fixed.)

    I would argue that both formulations are right and that the question which one is appropriate depends on the problem at hand. For threshold problems (height of a dike, strength of a bridge, design of a road, morbidity or mortality due to heat stroke) the probability of this threshold is important.

    If heat only gives a little discomfort, it may be appropriate to think that the change in the mean will only add a little more discomfort. IF bad weather halt the production, a little bit worse weather may just halt it a bit longer. The your “second formulation” would fit.

    (And do not forget the variability. 😉 The European heat wave of 2003 cannot be explained by just a change in mean of the normal distribution. Either we have fat tails or the variability has increased, for example due to drier soils; the spring before was rather dry. I hope the uncertainty monster can tell me if that is the new normal. )

  114. Turbulent Eddy: In the US, most statewide record high temperature records are 50 to 100 years ( or more ) old.

    Do you have a source? And why should we only care about the USA? I am sure this is not the case in Germany. We just had the highest temperature ever measured at any station.

    Turbulent Eddy: but also the variance of temperature in the lower model troposphere.

    Which variance? Spatially, temporally between which upper and lower scales?

    Could you may first read our last three discussions on changes in variability on this blog to avoid typing everything again and again? Where I explained that the meridional temperature gradient will become less (and also the seasonal and daily variability), but that there is much more to it.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/the-power-of-data/#comment-4933
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/atmospheric-heat-engine/#comment-46590
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/the-length-of-the-pause/#comment-30508

  115. Victor,
    I try to make my point on risk and decisions clearer.

    More uncertainty adds to the utility significance of the risk due to risk aversion. That makes it more important to react.

    Having alternatives with uncertain outcomes reduces the justification to choose any such alternative, because the expectation value of the net value of the decision is reduced.

    If nothing better is available, these two factors may cancel or either one of the uncertainties may have the larger influence on rational decision-making.

  116. anoilman says:

    Just tell them coal is clean and everything will be OK. 🙂

  117. russellseitz says:

    …and Then There’s Physics says:
    July 9, 2015 at 2:16 pm
    …. Understanding ClimateBall and the different moves does actually help – I think – to construct arguments in a more substantive way. That, however, doesn’t change that my overall impression of the online climate debate is that it’s silly.

    Slap me with a fish , he’s on to something. Trouble is its true of how PR folk frame the science as well.

  118. John Hartz says:

    Is Tony Aboott an Ecomodernist?

    A directive banning the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) from investing in existing wind technology will also apply to small-scale solar projects, a move that will effectively throttle the industry, the Australian Solar Council said.

    The federal government on Sunday confirmed that the $10bn CEFC will no longer invest in wind power, instead focussing on “emerging technologies”.

    “It is our policy to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation because we think that if the projects stack up economically, there’s no reason why they can’t be supported in the usual way,” Abbott told reporters in Darwin. “But while the CEFC exists, what we believe it should be doing is investing in new and emerging technologies – certainly not existing windfarms.

    “This is a government which supports renewables, but obviously we want to support renewables at the same time as reducing the upward pressure on power prices,” the prime minister said. “We want to keep power prices as low as possible, consistent with a strong renewables sector.”

    Abbott government extends renewable energy investment ban to solar power by Shalailah Medhora, The Guardian, July 12, 2015

  119. VV:

    Turbulent Eddy: but also the variance of temperature in the lower model troposphere.

    Which variance? Spatially, temporally between which upper and lower scales?

    Manabe found that more of the energy balance took place by way of latent heat transfer and less took place by way of sensible heat transfer in a CO2 enhanced ( and subsequently humidified ) world.

    There is a pretty good analog with continental climates which are cold and dry in the winter and warm and humid in the summer. The variance from average is greater during the cold and dry winters and less during the warm and humid summers:

    Some places are exceptions because the circulation makes winters more humid than summers.

    So it seems there are a lot of factors
    * higher heat capacity of more humid air
    * greater energy transfer, without raising temperature with more humid air
    * reduced low extremes ( water vapor GHG ) and reduced high extremes ( increased heat capacity, more likely cloud cover during afternoon ) with more humid air
    * reduced temperature gradients means less sensible -or- latent heat needs to be transported to balance, and smaller gradients means smaller variance of the advected air masses
    *

  120. BBD says:

    TE

    If your commentary is any more than non-stop denial that the consequences of unmitigated AGW are likely to be severe then I am missing something.

    If you really do believe that you alone are right and the rest of the expert community has fallen prey to alarmist delusions, then perhaps you might want to consider how likely you are to be the lone voice of sanity in a world gone mad. Then consider the converse.

  121. I will just note for the reader that Turbulent Eddy pretended to answer my question, but did not. Instead wrote a lot of new gibberish. Not a very productive way of discussing if the aim were to get to a join understanding of the changes in the climate system.

  122. dikranmarsupial says:

    Dikran Marsupial wrote (especially as any attempt just to discuss the science is inevitably interpreted as just more ClimateBall)

    Willard wrote “Compare MikeS’ “substance” move with the “I’d rather discuss science” move.”

    It isn’t a “move” as I don’t want to play ClimateBall, which I find rather dull. I have no duty as a scientist to indulge rudeness or to argue with people that substitute rhetoric for scientific discussion. I discuss science because I find it interesting, and if someone demonstrates that they are not interested in discussing the science, just winning the argument, then I can find better uses of my time.

    For reference, I would suggest that there are two ways of determining whether it a “ClimateBall” move or a genuine disinterest in rhetoric. First you can see whether their “opponent” was sticking to the science already. Second, you can see if they are willing to go back to the discussion if their “opponent” drops the rudeness and rhetoric.

    Sadly, I don’t think this sort of thing is peculiar to the online debate on climate change, there is unlikely to be any shortage of keyboard warriors on the WWW any time soon. ATTP’s original motto was a good one, it would be a good thing if we were a bit more civil (without the expectation it can be maintained 100% of the time under provocation). The best way I have found to remain (relatively) civil myself, is not to bother with people that rely on rhetoric or who are just out for a bit of “ClimateCraic”.

  123. Jim Hunt says:

    I’m back…sort of.

    I’ve been forced to take a break from all my “BTI bashing” thanks to the antics of the once Great Britain’s current Inglorious Government. As a consequence of their surreptitious secondary budget I have been forced to email all 7 of my M(E)Ps expressing my displeasure. Here’s a copy of the “open letter” I sent to them via my “professional” blog:

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2015/07/an-open-letter-to-mel-stride-george-osborne-david-cameron-et-al/

    and here’s the accompanying YouTube video:

    Are [HM Treasury/BIS] deliberately setting out to destroy investment in the “Energy Efficiency” and “Renewable Energy” industries in South West England in general, and in your constituency in particular, or do they simply have no idea what they are doing?

    Are there any UK citizens in the house who are also in a (virtual) letter writing mood?

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