Dialog On Nature

Reficcug 0.2 released the ACTUAL transcript of the Chatham ruled negotiations between the Hartwell Brokering Ship (HBS) and a Throng of Tepid Physicists (TTP).

HBS: You created a conceptual mess – please leave the AGW problem to us.

TTP: Recommend you stop excluding practitioners of the hard sciences. Besides, please beware that teh stoopid modulz contain both hard and soft bits and that Nature bats last.

HBS: This is the captain of an Hartwell Brokering ship. Come back without the attitude of knowing better than others, or go home to your barracks and deliver the field to otters.

TTP: It’s not up to you to exclude anyone and, to repeat, Nature bats last.

HBS: THIS IS THE HARTWELL BROKERING SHIP, THE MOST WICKED IN THE LONG TRADITION OF WICKEDNESS. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE AUDITORS, THE LOMBORG COLLECTIVE, AND MR. UNCERTAIN T. I DEMAND THAT YOU LEAVE US THE FIELD PEACEFULLY, OR OTHERWISE AN ARMY OF CONCERNED CITIZENS WILL RAISE CONCERNS ABOUT YOUR SCIENCE.

TTP: Mr. T’s our own designated hitter. Citizens are already on our island, and Nature (who bats last) could not care less for quarrels over scientific divisions of labor submitted to Nature (the journal). In the voice of Harrison Ford:

 

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94 Responses to Dialog On Nature

  1. Steven Mosher says:

    ” scientific divisions of labor”

    cool example. Guy with only a Bsc Hons figures it out.

    can we now dispense with other attempts to demarcate?

  2. At best, only until the wheels fall off … after which demarcation should make a great CYA strategy.

  3. Speaking of Nic Lewis’ latest at Dr. Curry’s, he’s trying to tell me that I cannot compare abrupt 4xCO2 equilibrium temperatures to abrupt 2xCO2 equilibrium temperatures even after he supplied me with the conversion factor to do it (2.13). Be that as it may, according to his seemingly contradictory argument it’s not possible to compare percentage of total change …

    … to absolute change:

    Having done so against his advice anyway, I can see why he wouldn’t *want* me to make such a comparison. My response to him is here.

    Am I missing something so fundamental that it would materially change my result?

  4. Brandon,
    Amazingly, Nic appears to think he is capable of estimating quantities that have totals in the thousands of trillions of dollars, accurate to a fraction of a trillion. Impressive.

  5. Anders,

    Indeed, IAMs have so many free parameters that one can get pretty much any answer one wants out of them. I’m amenable to his point that temperature response curves should be amongst the more robust of the assumptions, but what fries me is that he seems to have played fast and loose with what the bounds of those estimates are … assuming of course my second plot holds water.

    What really bakes my noodle is that he gives no consider to the ramifications of underpricing carbon. It seems to me that if he were truly concerned with finding the “true optimal” SCC, he wouldn’t routinely confirm the biases of deny/demean/diminish/delay denizens.

  6. Brandon,

    fries me is that he seems to have played fast and loose with what the bounds of those estimates are … assuming of course my second plot holds water.

    Well, yes, he seems to have been rather selective. Although one could argue that the response curves should be amongst the more robust of the assumptions, one could also argue that a slight difference in response curves is equivalent to a slightly different discount rate, which we don’t really know anyway.

    What really bakes my noodle is that he gives no consider to the ramifications of underpricing carbon.

    I agree. I have asked Nic before if he has considered the implications of so strongly defending his arguments for lower climate sensitivity (and, now, lower SCC). It’s one thing to do work that suggests it might be lower. It’s another to actively argue that your work is right, others are wrong, and that policy should be defined in terms of your results, without taking into consideration the factors that might indicate that you’re not as correct as you might think.

  7. I should probably add that if I look at Nic’s analysis, it really seems to be suggesting carbon taxes in the 10s of dollars per MtCO2 now, rising steadily $50 per MtCO2 by 2050. It’s not exactly the same as the best estimates from DICE, but seems close enough. It seems that once again Nic has done some really detailed work to try and argue that others are wrong, while really illustrating that it’s pretty hard to get a result that is wildly inconsistent.

  8. Willard says:

    Roger Jones for the win:

    Reiner,

    I think the time for this argument was a couple of decades ago when Steve Rayner first made it. It now seems not so relevant – much of this has been worked out. There is no longer any framing around rational scientific solutions to stabilise climate – instead it’s a messy bottom-up approach based on a range of metrics including carbon budgets, temperature limits (as a proxy for intolerable impacts), country pledges and so on.

    And if it’s a wicked problem (as we argued in Chapter 2, WGII – Hi Hans!) then you don’t throw out one group because their job is done, which it isn’t. The main task for the science now is to characterise risk, then there is the job of negotiating that with perceived risk, political risk and so on. There is a job of work in making those risks tractable in management terms, which involves working through a range of perspectives. You can’t do without social scientists, but nor can you do without negotiators, practitioners and a whole bunch of people not involved in academia. You may as well tell all academics to get out of the room (or back to barracks!) because the thinking has been done – now to the doing.

    On that basis, the correspondence to Nurture seems one-dimensional and passe. After all, it has spawned much of the arguing past each other up-thread.

    Oh, and on the two definitions of climate change – the negotiators have decided they are dealing with the whole of climate as advised by the IPCC, and recognised by the negotiators themselves

  9. Willard says:

    It is getting better and better. Right after mentioning that AT was using sophistry, Reiner claims:

    We know from your [AT’s] comments that you think CC is a physical science problem.

    Indeed, how else can we interpret AT’s:

    – “there is nothing stopping those interested, from studying what they think we should understand better”

    – “anyone who undertakes research has a role to play in informing the public and policy makers”

    – “we’re all part of it whether you like it, or not”

    – “I’m not the one arguing for the exclusion of others”

    – “Information from one group could be complementary to that presented by another”

    Or worse:

    It’s neither entirely a social problem or entirely a science problem; it seems to me that it is both?

    That shows beyond doubt that from AT’s comments, we can justifiably infer that he believes CC is a physical science problem.

    ***

    I asked him if he really denies that there’s a physical aspect to what he referred earlier as “the CC issue.”

    With constructionnists, one never knows.

    Stay tuned.

  10. Willard,

    I’m only just getting up to speed on the row over at Hans’, so this comment may be retreading covered ground. I thought Reiner’s essay fails most badly here:

    Ozone layer protection is a tame problem: it has a stopping rule. We know at which point we have succeeded and there is a list of agreed-upon solutions. Returning to pre-industrial levels of chlorine loading of the atmosphere was the obvious target in ozone policy, and the success can be measured against this baseline. Ceasing production of ozone-depleting substances and finding suitable alternatives globally is the only tool needed in this effort.

    Climate was misconstrued as a tame problem, but it is not. Climate change does not have a stopping rule. We do not know when we have succeeded solving the problem, because we do not have an agreed metric. Various indicators have been suggested to measure and monitor progress, or to establish success criteria: CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, remaining carbon budgets, global average warming of surface temperatures, or heat content in the oceans. The time frames for these targets vary by decades, and the definition of a safe limit to climate warming depends on whom you ask10. Nevertheless, the numerical modelling efforts in the climate science community display the hallmarks of accuracy and reliability. Policymakers are easily impressed by this number wizardry. As a result, it seems only natural to ask climate scientists for policy advice when it comes to practical solutions. But climate scientists do not have the appropriate expertise.

    I see the “there’s no broad agreement on x” frequently, often from the very same crowd railing against Teh Consensus. Like so many manufactroversies, I think the wickedness of the climate change problem is being overblown. It should be mutually agreeable that if climate *change* is a problem, stopping the *change* is a good candidate for a minimally acceptable solution. Not everyone need agree with that, just the majority of decision-makers. Plenty of climate scientists say we should be doing this immediately if not sooner, which I think is absolutely relevant policy advice for them to be giving. And on that note, since climate change won’t stop on a dime even if we did manage to bring emissions to near zero tomorrow, we probably don’t want to send the hard science types back to the barracks any time soon: who better to monitor how the (hypothetical) policy implementations are affecting the system? They won’t all give the same advice, but so what?

    Eli put his finger on it in his comment about the two Freds. It’s like Hans and Reiner don’t see into whose hands they’re playing here.

  11. PS, the final two sentences in the block I quoted from Reiner’s essay really needs to be bolded. If that ain’t dogwhistling to the Integrity™ brigade, I don’t know what is.

  12. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    And it seems to matter not at all that the ozone ‘issue’ was ‘wicked’ before it was ‘tame’.

    We know from Reiner’s comments that people who think that CC is a physical science problem are the enemy of progress on the “the CC issue”.

    The issue is not CC, it’s the “issue” that’s the issue…

    This from HVS:

    We need to learn how natural scientists are conditioned by their cultural bagage. These insights will have an influence in the decision processes, I expect. What i see is natural scientists areguing publicly as natural scientists, not as Mister Smith, that this and that political decision must be taken – with the authority of physicists or ecologists. That is what I mean with “back to the barracks” – study your clouds and eddies in the barracks, where wou do it anyway, and when you leave the barracks, then come without uniform and medals of superior ability to decide rightly.

    That’s just beautiful.
    ‘Do your thing, you physical scientists – but never let anyone see you in that arrogant lab-coat.’

    And no cultural baggage there!

  13. Willard says:

    > It should be mutually agreeable that if climate *change* is a problem, stopping the *change* is a good candidate for a minimally acceptable solution.

    Indeed, BrandonG. Once we understand science as giving us constraints, as Hans agreed as common ground, there’s no amount of framing that can help us bypass elementary conditions to test if a problem is being addressed or not. The next step would be to convince Hans that this common ground should be enough to see that Reiner’s insistence on the idea that “the CC issue” has no stopping rule is a red herring.

    Speaking of which, here’s Rittel & Webber’s Dillemma paper:

    http://www.cc.gatech.edu/fac/ellendo/rittel/rittel-dilemma.pdf

    Their first condition, i.e. there is no definitive formulation of wicked problems, helped me block Hans and Reiner’s constant requests for terminology clarification. If we take wickedness seriously, definitions are made up as we go along. In that sense, complex issues like AGW can indeed be seen as wicked (hint: apply the first condition to wickedness itself), even if “complex” should be enough to convey the idea that we should not expect an analytical solution to it.

    The second condition, i.e. there is no stopping rule to wicked problems, may caricature problem solving. Take their example of Chess composition. We know when we have solved a Chess problem when we have worked out a complete solution, but this solution is seldom exhaustive, unless we’re speaking of a Chess engine solving it. We induce that it’s solved based on our experience as Chess solvers.

    However, solving Chess problems is not the same thing as playing a game of Chess. The game of Chess can be seen as wicked, insofar as finding a move has no stopping rule either. Most of the time, we play a move that feels right, because we don’t see any immediate refutation, or under time pressure. Playing a game of Chess is therefore a resource management problem where satisficing plays an important role.

    (There are resource constraints in Chess solving competitions too, but let’s not digress.)

    The same applies to most of mathematics – we don’t accept infinite proofs that nobody understands yet. Computation theory goes even further by calculating the complexity of problems in number of steps to find a solution or in the space that it should in principle require.

    Now, if a game involving 32 figurines on a 64 squares board is wicked, then just about every problem is. More importantly, teh stoopid modulz, for all their demerit, prove by their existence alone that nobody expect to solve climate problems analytically.

    A more interesting wickedness seems to be coming from Reiner’s defensive moves.

  14. Roger Jones says:

    Thanks Willard 🙂

  15. Roger Jones says:

    Willard,
    framing can help elucidate particular perspectives, but not a whole issue as complex as climate change – so people need to declare their domain, but as a rule they don’t. Or assume their argument has greater tractability than it does (which I think is Reiner’s problem). Hans – bless his heart – is a physical scientist warning the rest of the world against the shortcomings of the physical scientist. There is more than a touch of irony there.
    There was one rule that Rittel and Webber had that climate change does not obey and I think in this, R&W were wrong because this comes up all the time. They said: Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly.
    This assumes the problem is not a long-range one.
    Their original paper was written before a fuller understanding of complex systems had been teased out. No original formulation ever survives scrutiny but their original argument is pretty good and what they were arguing against, rational determinism, was bang on the money.
    I am peeved by both the Hartwell school and the Breakthrough school because they could both bring insights to bear, but seem to be more interested in emphasising why they are right and everyone else is wrong.

  16. Willard,

    hint: apply the first condition to wickedness itself

    A good hint. The entire comparison to the Montreal Protocol reads like a wicked case of special bleating. A semi-related recursive proof:

    Peter Lang | August 17, 2016 at 7:04 am

    Carbon pricing will not succeed. This explains why: http://anglejournal.com/article/2015-11-why-carbon-pricing-will-not-succeed/

    We need to get over the ‘command and control’ type approach. It’s been failing for 25 years. Surely that’s enough to recognise its the wrong approach.

    This is particularly disingenuous; Peter hails from the “warming is good/CO2 is plant food” school of thought, so he’s declaring by fiat that we need a better *proposed* solution to a problem which doesn’t even exist.

    However, solving Chess problems is not the same thing as playing a game of Chess. […] Playing a game of Chess is therefore a resource management problem where satisficing plays an important role.

    From the Wiki link: Consequently, [Herbert A. Simon] observed in his Nobel Prize speech that “decision makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world. Neither approach, in general, dominates the other, and both have continued to co-exist in the world of management science.”

    In this domain at least it’s not a peaceful co-existence. “Everyone” knows that if a solution can’t be shown to be optimal, it’s not rational and shouldn’t be made. Neveryoumind the fact that a non-solution is a decision.

    More importantly, teh stoopid modulz, for all their demerit, prove by their existence alone that nobody expect to solve climate problems analytically.

    Ah. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do so. I think it’s true that objectivists typically don’t like fuzzy logics except for when the almighty free markets use them.

    A more interesting wickedness seems to be coming from Reiner’s defensive moves.

    He seems to be arguing that there’s no possible solution. Is he going through the Contrarian Matrix in the reverse direction?

  17. Roger,

    I am peeved by both the Hartwell school and the Breakthrough school because they could both bring insights to bear, but seem to be more interested in emphasising why they are right and everyone else is wrong.

    Exactly. In the case of this discussion, despite regularly agreeing that it is more than just scientific, but that it really should be both, Reiner continues to assert that I think it is purely scientific and continues to say things that suggest that the scientific evidence should/can play no role. Despite this, it’s apparently us physicists who think we know everything.

  18. JCH says:

    RN Jones – found your latest on Google Scholar last night… very readable and I like it.

  19. Physics: “It’s another to actively argue that your work is right, others are wrong, and that policy should be defined in terms of your results, without taking into consideration the factors that might indicate that you’re not as correct as you might think.

    It is amazing how overconfident the fans of the uncertainty monster are.

    They would never write this tweet:

  20. Steven Mosher says:

    shoot the engineers

  21. Anders,

    I have asked Nic before if he has considered the implications of so strongly defending his arguments for lower climate sensitivity (and, now, lower SCC). It’s one thing to do work that suggests it might be lower.

    Something I didn’t appreciate fully until I ran my own numbers is that he applied an ECS of 2.99 (same as in DICE) to the response curves from the Boucher & Reddy and Bernsten & Fuglestvedt models. So he’s effectively arguing, “Even if ECS is higher than I think it really is, IAMs produce too high an SCC”. In his essay, he even explicitly mentioned that the point of the piece was NOT to challenge ECS estimates. Kind of clever until one checks under the bonnet and notes that the DICE curve falls well within the range of an AOGCM ensemble.

    One good thing that has come of all this is that I’ve come to more fully appreciate that models cannot be judged by their ECS.

    Discount rates is one of the knobs I was thinking of when I mentioned the myriad of tunable free parameters. Impossible to anticipate beforehand, and if my sense is correct, contentious to determine after the fact. Wicked in the sense that carbon price IAMs are not a classic business cycle linear programming optimization case where the model can be iteratively improved on a quarterly/annual basis.

    None of which is to say there isn’t something worth looking at here. If this were a … normal … academic exercise, Nic might have dropped Nordhaus a line to solicit comment before publishing firm conclusions. I for one would have been interested in the response. Who knows, it might have been receptive.

  22. afeman says:

    The Nature bats last link goes somewhere screwy.

  23. izen says:

    @-“A stable atmospheric CO2 concentration following RCP4.5 or RCP6.0 scenario emissions this century, without requiring a zero or negative level of emissions thereafter, seems likely to be possible if ECS and TCR are fairly low. ”

    I do not understand this claim, can anyone with better climate science insight determine what it might mean or if it is credible?
    A stable atmospheric CO2 concentration with this century at RCP6.0 ? At what level ?!

  24. afeman,
    I thought it worked fine yesterday. Might have to wait for Willard to fix it.

  25. izen,
    Where does that come from?

  26. As noted earlier, Reiner Grundmann said:

    “Ozone layer protection is a tame problem: it has a stopping rule. We know at which point we have succeeded and there is a list of agreed-upon solutions.”

    Even if this was true, we would surely need a lot of science to monitor if projections were going as expected, and how fast, and to continually test if [plot spoiler] unexpected side effects emerged from proposed solutions, or indeed if better solutions might provide an enhanced resolution?

    This is illustrated nicely in a 15 minute talk by an expert in the field at NASA …
    “A Story of Ozone: Earth’s Natural Sunscreen”, Dr Paul Newman, 6th April 2015,
    http://go.nasa.gov/2aVReBy

    It has been a long and far from trivial journey from Montreal in 1987. Multiple meetings of the parties to the Montreal Protocol have been needed to progressively tighten regulations and enable replacements, involving scientists, engineers, diplomats, and who knows who 🙂 (maybe the odd economist, and surely room for a sociologist or two. The UK diplomats probably read Classics, who knows?).

    Certainly not a linear path to avoiding what would have been the pretty scary “world avoided” in 2065 discussed by Dr Newman (if the world had listened to ‘the Merchants of Doubt’ or Delay or Obfuscation), rather than the scientists.

    One amusing quote by Dr Newman, is when he pointed out his seated figure in a photo at the back of a huge conference theatre:

    “Even though we bring them all the information they always put as at the back of the meeting”

    By 2015 at least, NASA hadn’t definitively determined that the ozone hole is recovering (“we are scientists, so cannot say that yet”), although the indications are (suggestively) good.

    But the end is a trivial problem to define, according to RG. Back to pre-CFC levels right. Is that like back to 280 ppm? Trivially stated, but obscuring a host of complexities. Complex journeys can lead to simple outcomes, so simply stated outcomes do not mean simple journeys. Is that simple enough for you?

    Well, the HFC’s and other replacements for ozone-depleting chlorine based chemicals are actually very powerful greenhouse gases, and we might overshot the recovery point and end up with “too much ozone”. Ooops. Not so simple outcome.

    I guess atmospheric chemistry and physics don’t fit neatly into boxes defined by those not skilled in these disciplines.

    So, I have a question: What happens when an allegedly wicked problem (AGW) becomes coupled with an allegedly trivial one (Ozone hole)?

    One things for surem we might need those guys at the back of the hall for a while longer. Shall we say … for as long as the Englightment survives the combined forces of ignorance and the chattering classes?

  27. Steven Mosher says:

    “Even if this was true, we would surely need a lot of science to monitor if projections were going as expected, and how fast, and to continually test if [plot spoiler] unexpected side effects emerged from proposed solutions, or indeed if better solutions might provide an enhanced resolution?”

    No monitoring is accounting and engineering

    This is pretty Simple

    Climate science as Physics ( recall that we Appeal to our grounding in PHYSICS) has ALREADY
    told us everything it can tell us and needs to tell us.

    1. Its told us how much co2 will warm the planet
    2. Its told us a limit for for temperature increase (2C)
    3. Its given us a carbon Budget

    That is all it can do and all it needs to do.
    They could, if they choose, go back their barracks.,

    Now surely physicists are welcome to stand around the board and kibitz about the rest of the game down to checkmate, BUT their work of setting the constraints on solutions is done, finished, over. They set the time limits of the game and rules for how pieces move.. they have
    constrained the solutions… Thanks..

    yes yes, they can stand there and remind us about the rules of game…But their work is
    largely done unless they have something more interesting to say about carbon budgets or ECS..

  28. Willard says:

    Thanks!

    Here’s the proper link:

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2011/06/sustained-growth-is-impossible.html?showComment=1308536358400#c7941444212421179352

    Don’t know why a “de” got injected after the “.com” – perhaps my VPN.

  29. Willard says:

    > shoot the engineers

    Wait before they calibrate your camera first.

    ***

    Thanks for all the comments. I’ve been a bit distracted at Judy’s, and I need to call it quits for the day.

    I’ll reply tomorrow.

  30. Steven Mosher says:

    Thanks!

    Here’s the proper link:

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2011/06/sustained-growth-is-impossible.html?showComment=1308536358400#c7941444212421179352

    Don’t know why a “de” got injected after the “.com” – perhaps my VPN.

    Actually see Guy McPherson for nature bats last

  31. Pingback: Katie Mack, Brian Cox and Eric Idle | …and Then There's Physics

  32. You mean monitoring of gas concentrations is done by accountants and engineers!? Maybe you have a rather limited definition for the word monitoring. In any case, as we move forward, we don’t know what pathways we will exactly follow. We know that AGW is true; we’ve known for quite a while. But we don’t close down the science (even if some would like to); climate scientists continue to run models for at least 4 reasons I can think of (1) the models keep getting better as computing power improves, etc. (2) they are getting more granular, enabling regional and attribution studies, (3) we must do different ‘what if’ scenarios to help inform options or highlight risks and (4) the actual outcomes followed give us feedback on how the models are performing. I call that science, which then informs policy. ‘Monitoring’ is not a bad shorthand for at least some of that.

  33. BBD says:

    It seems to me that all we have is (as Eli observes) some who want a bigger slice of the pie and appear to regard it as a Malthusian pie, and some who want climate scientists to shut up and go away!.

    The accidental synergy between opportunists and deniers is having its moment. Hopefully it will be brief.

  34. Steven Mosher says: “Climate science as Physics ( recall that we Appeal to our grounding in PHYSICS) has ALREADY told us everything it can tell us and needs to tell us.
    1. Its told us how much co2 will warm the planet
    2. Its told us a limit for for temperature increase (2C)

    This limit is not pure science. If it would be very easy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, I am sure another trade off would have been made. As a Dutch citizen I would suggest a 0°C limit.

    3. Its given us a carbon Budget

    You forgot adaptation, which need local information, not just the global mean temperature. Likely more important than how the temperature will rise is how the hydrological cycle will change. With greeting from Louisiana and the UK.

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    “f (1) the models keep getting better as computing power improves, etc. (2) they are getting more granular, enabling regional and attribution studies, (3) we must do different ‘what if’ scenarios to help inform options or highlight risks and (4) the actual outcomes followed give us feedback on how the models are performing. I call that science, which then informs policy. ‘Monitoring’ is not a bad shorthand for at least some of that.

    attribution? the physics has already spoken. Its man.
    . What ifs? we already know the risks, thats how we got 2C. the physics has spoken, stay
    below 2C
    Model performance? They already set the limit, right or wrong is just second guessing,
    we need to act before nature bats last.

    None of that will change ECS
    None of that will change a carbon budget
    Regional studies may help you refine local adaptation

    The big science is done. finished. The constraints for the rest of the game have been laid out.
    As Willard argues this is what science can do. and its done it.

    time to stop polishing the bowling ball

  36. Eli Rabett says:

    As Eli points out there is a simple stopping rule for CO2, reduce atmospheric concentrations to 290-300 ppm. Also a yield sign, reduce atmospheric concentrations to 350 ppm.

    Grundmann is incoherent and nonconsilient even when he tries.

  37. Eli,
    Even “stop emitting GHGs into the atmosphere” would be a stopping rule.

  38. Andy Skuce says:

    Contrary to Steven Mosher, I’d say that the work of the climate scientists is far from done. For example, when I asked, a couple of years ago, a couple of up-and-coming young climate modellers what problems they would be working on in twenty years’ time they immediately answered “Geoengineering”, which rather shocked this old fogey, but that’s what young people are for.

    Of course, geoengineering is the Mother Of All Wicked Problems, with all kinds of moral, social, political and even military complications. I can only hope that Social Scientists are busy getting stuck into it instead of whingeing about how the physical scientists are stealing all of the policy attention.

  39. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Mosher:

    Now surely physicists are welcome to stand around the board and kibitz about the rest of the game down to checkmate, BUT their work of setting the constraints on solutions is done, finished, over. They set the time limits of the game and rules for how pieces move.. they have
    constrained the solutions… Thanks..

    That is a very shallow view of the future of physical science.

    Reminiscent of Albert Michelson, in 1894:

    … it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established … An eminent physicist remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.

    He was wrong.

    In 1898, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) predicted that only 400 years supply of atmospheric oxygen remained on the planet, due to the rate of burning combustibles.
    He was wrong.

    Frankly, it’s pure hubris to assume that kibitzing is all that’s left for physical scientists.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in our philosophy.
    – Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

  40. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Andy Skuce:

    For example, when I asked, a couple of years ago, a couple of up-and-coming young climate modellers what problems they would be working on in twenty years’ time they immediately answered “Geoengineering”, which rather shocked this old fogey, but that’s what young people are for.

    Maybe young folks are not shocked by geoengineering because they have spent their entire lives on a planet that’s already been subjected to geoengineering. The fact that we don’t usually call anthropogenic climate change “geoengineering” is beside the point.

  41. Andy,

    For example, when I asked, a couple of years ago, a couple of up-and-coming young climate modellers what problems they would be working on in twenty years’ time they immediately answered “Geoengineering”

    And if people think climate models aren’t good enough now, they certainly aren’t good enough for geo-engineering.

  42. izen says:

    @-ATTP
    “Where does that come from?”

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/08/15/abnormal-climate-response-of-the-dice-iam-a-trillion-dollar-error/#comment-804425

    @-BBD
    “The accidental synergy between opportunists and deniers is having its moment. Hopefully it will be brief.”

    Accidental ?
    Opposition invariably attracts rentiers who would be superfluous in support of a position.

  43. izen,
    I think he’s referring to this post where he decided that those working on the carbon cycle were wrong. So, Nic is doing the triple whammy:

    1. Climate sensitivity is low.

    2. The airborne fraction will remain constant.

    3. IAMs over-estimate the SCC.

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    Good argument Rev
    The Physical scientists should stick around because they might be wrong?

    About what exactly?

    1. That C02 is a GHG?
    2. That ECS is around 3C?
    3. That we have a carbon budget?

    Ya, sure there are refinements and marginal improvements to these conditions.. but
    seriously the physical community gets to make its collective input, its considered judgement
    every 5-7 years..

    Now yes they can stand around the board and kibitz, but it might be more beneficial for folks
    to step away and focus on the next big input.

    And look what happens when guys shoot their mouths off without building a consensus..
    we get folks claiming all the ice will be gone in 2013,2014, etc.

  45. BBD says:

    Steven

    Now yes they can stand around the board and kibitz, but it might be more beneficial for folks
    to step away and focus on the next big input.

    Make way! Make way for thinly-veiled contrarianism!

    And look what happens when guys shoot their mouths off without building a consensus..
    we get folks claiming all the ice will be gone in 2013,2014, etc.

    Dogwhistle or foghorn?

    You choose 🙂

  46. And look what happens when guys shoot their mouths off without building a consensus..we get folks claiming all the ice will be gone in 2013,2014, etc.

    Crap argument, Steven. How far do you want to push it? All the way to novel results published in refereed primary literature?

  47. Mosher writes: “And look what happens when guys shoot their mouths off without building a consensus.. we get folks claiming all the ice will be gone in 2013,2014, etc.”

    Maslowski is the scientist that made the ice-free by 2016 +/- 3 years claim. And this was based on *volume* and he defined ‘ice-free’ as an 80% reduction in summer volume from the pre-2000 baseline period. By his metric we fell just shy in 2012. Are you willing to bet against his prediction?

    Of course it’s easier to mock than understand.

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    ‘Maslowski is the scientist that made the ice-free by 2016 +/- 3 years claim. And this was based on *volume* and he defined ‘ice-free’ as an 80% reduction in summer volume from the pre-2000 baseline period. By his metric we fell just shy in 2012. Are you willing to bet against his prediction?”

    You missed the point.

    The point is this. I actually think the physical scientists do best when they get their heads together and write WG1.

    Now I get that some folks want to make pronouncements and predictions outside of this process..
    but.. I’d suggest that in some cases it might not be advisable.. especially in areas where the ability to predict has been elusive…

    And it wasnt him…I was referring to.

  49. Steven Mosher says:

    “Crap argument, Steven. How far do you want to push it? All the way to novel results published in refereed primary literature?

    really is it a crap argument when people push the Nic Lewis results?

    I’m really arguing for the success of the Wg1 approach..

    Now of course I am not suggesting muzzling people… freedom and all that jazz

    But speaking with one voice does have a certain power..

    So Nic Publishes his Novel result.. Wouldnt the right thing to say be this

    “This is just one paper, and after the rest of the community has a chance to test it and probe,
    we cant form a unified opinion. wait for Ar6 and we will speak with one voice on this”

    na… promote the hell out of it..

  50. Steven Mosher says:

    “Dogwhistle or foghorn?

    no trap for my Nic Lewis argument… this is fun

  51. Steven Mosher says:

    errata
    ‘“This is just one paper, and after the rest of the community has a chance to test it and probe,
    we can form a unified opinion. wait for Ar6 and we will speak with one voice on this”

    See simple…

    Just respect the process.. every 5-7 years the physical science guys get to make their big input to the policy sausage making.. in between… back to the barracks

    That way… random one off stuff doesnt derail the train

  52. Steven Mosher,

    really is it a crap argument when people push the Nic Lewis results?

    Not necessarily. His conclusions *could* be more or less correct.

    So Nic Publishes his Novel result.. Wouldnt the right thing to say be this

    “This is just one paper, and after the rest of the community has a chance to test it and probe,
    we cant form a unified opinion. wait for Ar6 and we will speak with one voice on this”

    No, I don’t think so. I think an important element of science is open exchange of ideas and debate.

    Just respect the process.. every 5-7 years the physical science guys get to make their big input to the policy sausage making.. in between… back to the barracks

    That way… random one off stuff doesnt derail the train

    This poll is a bit dated …

    … but it looks to me that the majority of public hearts and minds have already been won here in the US. Perhaps there are some social scientists reading along who could do some more work along those lines.

  53. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    The Physical scientists should stick around because they might be wrong?

    Because shit happens, man.
    Shit that we haven’t even thought of yet, shit that we may very well wish to understand better as time passes.


    About what exactly?
    1. That C02 is a GHG?
    2. That ECS is around 3C?
    3. That we have a carbon budget?

    You really think that’s all we’re going to need from climate science. OK, then.

    Since we’re all done doing science, why don’t you take the opportunity to pop over to Louisiana and hand out books on economics and sociology, or maybe visit a polar research station and lecture the folks there on optimal communication strategies. Kindly take Prof Tol with you.

  54. Willard says:

    OK. I’m back and have a minute.

    1. @Moshpit:

    I’ve added http://guymcpherson.com/ to the “last” in “nature bats last.” My source to MT’s needs to remain because that’s where I got it. The post is also based on a Canadian joke, and MT’s a Canuck. Eh.

    2. @Roger Jones:

    Notwithstanding the possibility that the very idea of a conceptual scheme may be dubious, I have no problem with framing. We frame all the things all the time. My main criticism concerns Reiner’s appeal to the Wicked framing. Look at his counterfactual:

    If social scientists had been involved significantly and from the beginning, this crucial error in categorizing climate change might have been avoided.

    This has very little empirical support. We can dispute Reiner’s CFC story. As you yourself reminded him, WGII already includes some wickedness. I asked him if he had any evidence for the framing he has in mind – crickets.

    All this reinforces my point that he and the Breakthrough Boys only pay lip service to a wicked framing. The many ways they present it shows they never took it very seriously. All the documents I’ve read from them present it as a way to kickstart their main selling points, which has nothing to do with, and that can’t follow from it anyway, because wicked problem.

    Thank you for your historical perspective on Rittel and Webber. I must admit that to me, systems theory may need to be taken more seriously than they do. To take another example, the condition “wicked problems have no stopping rule” falters on the observation that stopping rules must not come from the problems themselves: if Chess engines needed the game’s stopping rules to stop analyzing, they’d never finish a game.

    3. @BG

    I’m not a fan of Simon, but his idea of satisficing was brilliant. Most of the times, all we need is a good, sound move. A move that does the job. A move that is good enough. This goes against what Roger Jones called “rational determinism.”

    If we’d need a wicked framework as soon as we need to satisfice, just about everything would be wicked, including Chess and ClimateBall ™.

  55. VeryRev: bullseye, thanks.

    Willard: fwiw, The Nature Is Speaking series from Conservation International is moving/powerful. How does one persuade people to look at them and think about what they say, in a manner of speaking, shut up and listen.

  56. Steven Mosher says:

    “You really think that’s all we’re going to need from climate science. OK, then.

    Since we’re all done doing science, why don’t you take the opportunity to pop over to Louisiana”

    Looks like Donald covered for me

  57. Steven Mosher says:

    “No, I don’t think so. I think an important element of science is open exchange of ideas and debate.”

    Brandon,

    if you cant tell I am playing with the ideas.

    On one hand we have the notion of consensus, we appeal to the AR process.
    We appeal to this process of consensus building, of forming a considered expert opinion.

    On the other hand, we have these situations where individual scientists talk about
    “the science” outside this process,they speak for themselves.

    Consider: Wadhams and Lewis

    I see a tension here, a friction. Its subtle

  58. Marco says:

    “might have been avoided.”

    Whenever I see the use of the word “might” in a scientific piece, I translate it as “probably not, but we got to come up with *something* to create a story or make the reviewers happy”.

  59. Whenever I see the use of the word “might” in a scientific piece, I translate it as “may” because scientists are overly conservative. That was the snarky version. In practise it can mean both and the reader is allowed to use his judgement.

  60. Russell says:

    I can’t speak for nature.
    Neither can anyone who writes scripts for Harrison Ford.

  61. Willard says:

    Yet humans can give many human voices to Nature.
    In this case, it helps voice our understanding that we really are on our own.

  62. Russell says:

    I can but speak as a science adviser to an author of words Ford was once paid to utter, and it sure wasn’t Poseidon.

    The producers face more than a femtorisk of copping an oscar for this ripping bit of climate porn

  63. Steven Mosher,

    Consider: Wadhams and Lewis

    Some people actually seem to approve of Nic’s work. 🙂

    I see a tension here, a friction. Its subtle

    I guess I’m still missing it through the open partisan warfare. What I see is a double-bind:

    1) Put a muzzle on advocates like Hansen and route everything through the IPCC: science by committee.

    2) Ditch the IPCC and let everyone duke it out in journals, press releases and blogs: lose a clearinghouse of information and synthesis for policymakers and interested citizens.

    I’m particularly brittle about the topic because so many Denizens complain about being silenced on the one hand, but have no compunction declaring by fiat what publicly-funded scientists can or cannot say on their own time.

  64. Russell,

    I thought this was just another of your parodies until I clicked on the PNAS link and saw that it was an actual paper. I’m not sure it tells us anything useful, but I did think the problem was well-stated:

    Conventional risk assessment approaches rely on the ability to accurately estimate the probability and consequences of events that may occur in the future (26⇓⇓–29). These estimates rely on historical events and an understanding of the systems characterizing the risk. In the case of femtorisks, as the examples noted above reveal, historical experience and an understanding of the systems are lacking. Risk assessment has thus failed to provide decision-makers with the means to manage some of the most difficult challenges facing public and private sector governance.

  65. Steven Mosher says:

    “I guess I’m still missing it through the open partisan warfare. What I see is a double-bind:”

    that is the word I was searching for.

    Let’s say.. on the one hand we say… Listen to the consensus, the considered judgement
    let the papers stew a while and face the tribunal for a few years.

    On the other hand if somebody says or publishes something a bit “out there”
    you are faced with a choice

    Example: you read an alarming paper.. how often do you say… lets withhold judgement for
    the next IPCC get together..

    Example, you read a conservative paper.. how often do you say… avoid the one paper syndrome.

    My sense is you have a much more consistent messaging if you preface all you responses to new work with the caveat.. this looks interesting, lets see how things play out the next AR

  66. -1=e^iπ says:

    @ Brandon –

    “Discount rates is one of the knobs I was thinking of when I mentioned the myriad of tunable free parameters.”

    With respect to DICE, I believe it slightly overly discounts, at least if one wants to be consistent with the Ramsey equation, although the values used are reasonable. Another thing it doesn’t do is adequately deal with uncertainty. From memory, the uncertainty on climate sensitivity alone increases the SCC of the DICE model by a factor of about 3.

    @ Mosher –

    “2. Its told us a limit for for temperature increase (2C)”

    Maybe I misunderstand the context of this comment, but the scientific method doesn’t tell us what to do. That is something it cannot do. It doesn’t tell me I shouldn’t shoot myself in the head with a gun and it doesn’t tell us what temperature the planet should be.

    The justification for the 2C target is really poor/non-existent and the results of integrated assessment models suggest that a 3C target would be preferable to a 2C target.

  67. Consistent messaging would be nice, I just don’t see it as being realistic. As well, I see inconsistency — at least initially — as a feature of the scientific process, not a bug. Vis a vis discussions elsewhere, sometimes the unicorn exists. We wouldn’t want to unnecessarily micromanage them into further hiding.

    I do understand what you’re getting at, and perhaps for those who are less familiar with the issues and/or who don’t have strong opinions, more caveats attached to novel or otherwise “out there” findings would play better. I see the issue more through the eyes of a blog warrior, and what I understand by my experiences is that pretty much nothing “works”. What guides me is that there are some arguments I like having less than others, and the “scripted narrative” one really gets on my t!ts.

  68. -1,

    The justification for the 2C target is really poor/non-existent and the results of integrated assessment models suggest that a 3C target would be preferable to a 2C target.

    My understanding is that the 2C target was partly motivated by the scientific evidence that this may be the level of warming beyond which we may pass tipping points that mean some large changes are essentially irreverisible. Since IAMs cannot consider the impact of tipping points (since they’re inherently linear) I do not think one can really use output from an IAM to say that one level of warming is preferable to another – i.e., you can’t make a judgement. You could maybe say “assuming we don’t cross any tipping points and that the linear assumptions are valid, 3C is a preferable target”.

  69. dikranmarsupial says:

    -1 “It doesn’t tell me I shouldn’t shoot myself in the head with a gun and it doesn’t tell us what temperature the planet should be.”

    There should be a point where common sense ought to kick in. If we ask the scientist for a limit on the amount of warming that we can see without severe adverse consequences (presumably what constituted “severe adverse consequences” was agreed) and they tell us 2 degrees, then they have told us what to do, which is to keep warming at 2C or below. When human beings communicate, they don’t typically explicitly state every possible piece of information, they assume the listener has some common sense and some common background knowledge with which to fill the gaps. Part of the “what should we do” is in the question as well as in the answer (for instance “for whom/what should the planets temperature be?”.

    “It doesn’t tell me I shouldn’t shoot myself in the head with a gun”

    If you were to tell a scientists that you don’t want to die and ask “should I shoot myself in the head with a gun”, then the scientist can tell you what (not) to do based on the science, but saying “no, don’t shoot yourself in the head with a gun, you will most likely die because [scientific explanation/data]”.

  70. verytallguy says:

    Knutti in Nature on the 2C target:

    “…Ultimately, the 2 °C target is a political consensus that takes into account what policymakers at that time considered to be both realistically achievable and tolerable”…

    …Aggregated globally, most changes in the physical climate system are unlikely to be strongly nonlinear below a warming of 4 °C, but the impacts and risks probably are…

    …In our view, the current 2 °C UNFCCC target is a compromise between what is deemed possible and desirable, rather than a “planetary boundary”20, 21 that clearly separates a ‘safe’ from a ‘dangerous’ world…

    …The IPCC frames the discussion in terms of risk, and finds high risks associated with warming above 2 °C…

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v9/n1/full/ngeo2595.html#ref6

    Actual text from UN

    1. Decides that Parties will urgently work towards the deep reduction in global
    greenhouse gas emissions required to hold the increase in global average temperature below
    2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to attain a global peaking of global greenhouse gas
    emissions as soon as possible, consistent with science and as documented in the Fourth
    Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reaffirming that the
    time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries;

    http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2012/cop18/eng/08a01.pdf

    Perhaps if minus guy would like to be taken seriously, a citation for the results of integrated assessment models suggest that a 3C target would be preferable to a 2C target. could be provided?

  71. vtg,
    Thanks, that’s interesting, in particular this

    …Aggregated globally, most changes in the physical climate system are unlikely to be strongly nonlinear below a warming of 4 °C, but the impacts and risks probably are…

    Can IAMs incorporate this? My understanding is that they’re essentially linear perturbation models, and so really can’t handle non-linearities.

  72. Okay, having thought for a second, maybe the damage function can be non-linear?

  73. verytallguy says:

    I’d speculate that damage function is highly non-linear; 2m sea level rise is much, much worse than 1m, for instance.

    I am surprised that changes in physical climate system are expected linear below 4C; my recollection is that the Greenland ice sheet is toast at about 2C, for instance, and I’d expect that to be very nonlinear. But maybe “aggregated globally” averages that sort of thing out.

    But alas, I have nothing other than amateur speculation to offer on the subject.

  74. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP: ‘My understanding is that the 2C target was partly motivated by the scientific evidence that this may be the level of warming beyond which we may pass tipping points that mean some large changes are essentially irreverisible.’

    The 2-degree target is and always was political rather than scientific – it’s about selling climate change to policymakers and the public. If anything tying it to tipping points appeared in the kosher scientific literature it was long after politicians and activists had adopted the target. (A think tank – SEI – did publish a report in 1990 saying that the risk of non-linear responses was expected to increase rapidly beyond 2C of warming but that part of the report, by two junior ecologists, was talking exclusively about damage to ecosystems rather than to ice sheets and wotnot and, more importantly, they also said that non-linear ecological responses might occur beyond 1C – so it was thin scientific support for a 1C-to-avoid-tipping-points target, not 2C).

    *

    I see that vtg has beaten me to it re the 2C target and tipping points. He goes on to quote Knutti saying that that IPCC finds high risks associated with warming above 2 degrees, which it perhaps does, but the Knutti article makes clear that there’s nothing special about 2 degrees in this regard either.

    Vtg ends by asking for proof that 3C would be a better target than 2C, IAM-wise. Fair enough given the statement he was responding to but also irrelevant: 2C almost certainly isn’t achievable, so what’s the point in having it as a target? (Let alone 1.5C.) 3C wins, even if it is just another nice round number picked out of a hat, for the simple reason that it’s possible.

  75. The 2-degree target is and always was political rather than scientific – it’s about selling climate change to policymakers and the public.

    Asserting this doesn’t make it true. Clearly it has a significant political element and it clearly isn’t a boundary between “good” and “bad”, but that doesn’t mean that there is no scientific justification for that being a target.

  76. -1=e^iπ says:

    @Dikran –

    “There should be a point where common sense ought to kick in. If we ask the scientist for a limit on the amount of warming that we can see without severe adverse consequences (presumably what constituted “severe adverse consequences” was agreed) and they tell us 2 degrees, then they have told us what to do, which is to keep warming at 2C or below.”

    If we ask climate economists to determine a socially optimal path of CO2 emissions, and that socially optimal path goes above 2 C of warming, then why does it make sense to limit global warming to 2 C of warming? It doesn’t.

    Have these scientists included the impact of energy prices, the effect of the CO2 fertilization effect, the estimates of the economic impact of warming, the effects of sea level rise, the effect of ocean acidification, estimates of population growth, the sensitivity of the earth’s climate to CO2, etc. in their methodology to come up with the 2 C target? Have they performed a cost benefit analysis or constructed an integrated assessment model to do this? Has Michael Mann? Has Gavin Schmidt? Has James Hansen? No.

    The impact of mitigation on energy prices, the effect of the CO2 fertilization effect, the sensitivity of the earth’s climate to CO2, etc. all of these factors matter and should be taken into account when determining the best path of CO2 emissions. Integrated assessment models can and overall do take these things into account. And the results suggest that a 2C target is not optimal. But taxing CO2 at a starting rate of about $20 per metric ton of CO2 is.

  77. -1=e^iπ says:

    @ Dikran –

    Humans evolved primarily in small tribes of about 30 people, not tribes of 10 billion people. When it comes to the well being of billions of people over centuries, ‘common sense’ and ‘intuition’ are not reliable because they did not evolve to deal with these moral scenarios.

  78. -1=e^iπ says:

    [Dear -1,

    Please don’t use this thread to peddle in your usual concerns. They are easily recognizeable, and when they come in Very Long Comments, they become obnoxious. You don’t need a thousand words to argue that for you, economical constraints top physical ones.

    If you also chill, that’d be great.

    W]

  79. Willard says:

    > [T]he scientific method doesn’t tell us what to do. That is something it cannot do. It doesn’t tell me I shouldn’t shoot myself in the head with a gun and it doesn’t tell us what temperature the planet should be.

    Science can tell you the plausible consequences of shooting yourself in the head. If you justify shooting yourself in the head with the belief that science does not exclude the possibility that you survive, you can’t claim that your action is based on the best evidence you have.

    Science can tell us what the temperature may be if we dump CO2 in the atmosphere like there’s no tomorrow. The whole point of that post is to remind people of the realistic constraints science can establish, It’s more about 4-5C limit than the 2C objective: we seek 2C to minimize the risks of getting to 4-5C. We could have another objective, but one that would go against what science tells us may not be rational.

  80. dikranmarsupial says:

    I wonder why nobody requires science to prove that shooting yourself in the head would certainly be fatal before pointing the gun somewhere other than their head? Rather more extreme than the case of putting carbon into the atmosphere, but at least it shows there is a threshold where common sense eventually kicks in and we stop pedantic quibbling about what science can and can’t do. ;o)

  81. -1=e^iπ says:

    [No more playing the ref, -1. -W]

  82. dikranmarsupial says:

    -1 “intuition” is a straw man, I didn’t use that word and neither did anyone else, it happens to have connotations of subjectivity that “common sense” doesn’t. The thing about the size of social groups is also a straw man. I was discussing the way that human beings don’t need to explicitly mention every relevant factor in posing questions, and use common sense and common background to fill in the gaps. In a scientific context, the cultural dependence of this is pretty limited, and as it happened I spelled it out explicitly just to make sure there was no misunderstanding. I’ll spell it out again, just to be clear.

    If politics asks science “what is the threshold of warming that we should not exceed?” then science will have a good idea of what parameters politics has in mind (because that is what the IPCC reports are for, to address the concerns of politics). So science thinks, well politics would like us to avoid a tipping point, and we can avoid those by keeping warming below 2C, so science says “warming should be kept below 2C”. Now in stating this, both science and politics know perfectly well this is science telling politics to take the steps required to keep temperatures below 2C. Politics is perfectly happy with this as politics knows that the implicit purpose of the question was to ask for a recommendation of what do do, based on their shared background information formed by previous dialogs between the two.

    Now of course you can say that science can’t tell us what to do, and being pedantic you would be right, if it were not for the fact that politics poses questions to science in such a way that the answer is a recommendation on a course of action (or at least a general direction). There is a lot of information behind the question that provides the context for the answer, which shouldn’t be ignored.

    The funny thing about common sense is that it is apparently rather uncommon. ;o)

  83. dikranmarsupial says:

    “If we ask climate economists to determine a socially optimal path of CO2 emissions, and that socially optimal path goes above 2 C of warming, then why does it make sense to limit global warming to 2 C of warming? It doesn’t.”

    rephrasing the question to avoid the fact that this was already taken into account, doesn’t mean it isn’t a straw man. I wrote:

    “If we ask the scientist for a limit on the amount of warming that we can see without severe adverse consequences”

    Common sense suggests that “without severe adverse consequences” takes in information of the social costs/impacts/benefits. I’m sorry, but this is just pedantry AFAICS.

    “Have these scientists included the impact of energy prices”

    No scientists are banned by law from reading any document other than WG1 ;o)

  84. dikranmarsupial says:

    As I have often said, Mike Hulmes’ book “why we disagree about climate” is well worth a read on this sort of thing. In an ideal world we could perhaps have politicians that take advice from scientists, economists, cultural representatives etc. separately and synthesize a sensible course of action from the separate strands of background knowledge. But unfortunately this is unlikely to be the case as the sources of information are not entirely independent, but have significant interactions. One thing the could do though is to formulate questions for science or economics that use all of the available information to set the context, so that the course of action can be dictated by a the answer to a question that e.g. science can answer (e.g. what is the maximum threshold for GMSTs that we should keep below). Science alone can’t tell us what to do, but it can tell us the optimal strategy given sufficient context (personally I would view statistical decision theory as much part of science as it is economics).

  85. Roger Jones says:

    ATTP, the 2-degree target was political, first proposed in Germany by the WGBU, the adopted by the Germans (about 97, I think), the EU and became the working target for COP over time. Due to the framing of the UNFCCC, the first efforts were about the stabilisation of CO2. They were informed by stabilisation scenarios produced for the simple climate model MAGICC. In the mid 90s for the IPCC SAR, work with the economic IAMS then were suggesting 650 or 550 ppm was achievable but now lower, suggesting 3 to 4 degrees. 450 ppm was seen as desirable but largely unattainable, mainly because replacing the fossil fuel economy was seen as a massive hit to the economy (they could not simulate innovation very well and were modelling economies that contained a constant structure).

    Then the models improved and a volume of papers showed that 450 ppm did not crash the economy and might be quite inexpensive. (I remember in Australia in 2005, less than 550 ppm crashed Australia’s economic model – we were involved in a project that modelled 550 ppm because of that). Around that time the emphasis swung from CO2 stabilisation to temperature – the 2 degrees target, roughly considered to be equivalent to about 450 CO2 eq.

    There was no compelling argument for any specific dangerous threshold at the time – the mid 2000s. An earlier effort to get a technical report on dangerous climate change had been turned down by the IPCC – I was a signatory on the submission led by mad Russian Yuri. Colleagues and I built some damage curves from multiple studies in 2006, where we showed damage curves for coral reefs, Greenland ice-sheet loss, Atlantic recirculation and terrestrial species loss as a function of global warming. No-one took any notice of this because it came out at the same time as Stern, but we also did a report for Australia that logged impacts at 1C, 2C, 3C, 4C using whatever evidence we could get our hands on. This became the model for reporting in the Australasian chapter in the Fourth Assessment Report (that also drew on an earlier paper that I wrote in 2004 that added adaptive capacity as a function of risk – the so-called rainbow diagram that built on the earlier 2001 IPCC burning embers put together by Joel Smith and colleagues). This reporting model evolved to become the one that is now the core of working group II impacts reporting in the Fifth Assessment Report.

    Post Paris, some developing countries began to lobby hard for 1.5C, because it was apparent that 2C screwed coral reefs, had a good chance of losing much of Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was beginning to look shaky. On the negative side, in the late 2000s, the numbers were coming out of the China boom (some of the first collations by the Institute I work at now) and it was clear that the stabilisation scenarios were busted and overshoot was the go. This was front and centre in the meetings on the new scenario process that began at that time. The Germans again, based on the 2C limit, lobbied hard in those meetings for a 2.6 RCP instead of 3.0 (Watts per metre squared in 2100). This caused great angst, because the representative pathways were supposed to be in the literature and it wasn’t certain that a target that low could be achieved. Anyhow, it got pushed through and some rapid work was done with the IAMs to get a credible scientifically-based scenario for this. Now the 2.6 pathway is indispensable.

    So the commitment of the COP now is really pushing people to see what can be done with 1.5 degrees. The impacts work has improved a lot and the nonlinearity of impacts at even quite modest warming is becoming more apparent. Experienced impacts are also feeding into that. The next challenge is to see what we can do with overshoot, innovation and transformation and how much of the overshoot the earth system can absorb if we ramp back down the other way as quickly as possible. The moral of this story is that what is perceived as achievable, has changed rapidly in the past two decades. Who’s to say it can’t go further?

    I had no intention of writing this much when I started but it unfolds a glimpse of fascinating relationships between policy and science, the role of models in making scenarios manifest and the limits of perceived attainability – what people think is possible. It’s also quite clear from this how much of a driver policy has been and how important it is to be able to scientifically represent (including economic modelling) a target or outcome so that policy can actually be considered as implementable and that there is a sound evidence base for that.

    It describes a process of changing possibilities over time – or at least as they are perceived. The economy is in massive transition at the current moment – but so is the biosphere. Policy has driven much of the science, but then when the science reaches a point indicated by policy – advocates and policymakers go for the next stretch goal. Research is trying to anticipate these evolving needs all the time, so they can be addressed in a timely fashion.

    This just shows the ridiculousness of the claims from the Hartwell Brokering Ship and the TTP (though not the ATTP).

    Sorry for the acronyms. Also, the contributions that I made to this I am enormously proud of but the documents that informed these contributions have hardly been cited, showing that citations are not everything. Some are still only reports, not having had time to get them into the refereed literature. Much of what feeds into these processes is not openly visible. I could list dozens of people – maybe hundreds – involved in the above narrative who have made substantial contributions, so it’s not just about me.

  86. Willard says:

    > This just shows the ridiculousness of the claims from the Hartwell Brokering Ship and the TTP

    Which TTP claim is ridiculous, again?

  87. Roger,
    Thanks, that’s quite a history. So, it seems initially an entirely political goal. However, even from what you’re saying, it does sound like one can construct a scientific argument for why 2C might be a target worth aiming for (rather than, for example, 3C).

    This just shows the ridiculousness of the claims from the Hartwell Brokering Ship and the TTP (though not the ATTP).

    I think the TTP is meant to represent me, but maybe I’ve missed the point.

    Also, the contributions that I made to this I am enormously proud of but the documents that informed these contributions have hardly been cited, showing that citations are not everything.

    Indeed.

  88. Willard says:

    > I think the TTP is meant to represent me[.]

    It’s meant to represent good ol’ Realism, AT. The dialog adapts an old joke where the United States Navy’s vulgar display of power is countered by the fact that islands don’t move as easily as ships. My point was to illustrate the idea that the ought/is claptrap can be countered by the simple observation that science can indicate constraints grounded in reality more than our mere perception of it.

    While there are still disputes between Realists-with-a-big-R and realists-with-a-little-r, both can agree that Nature bats last.

  89. My point was to illustrate the idea that the ought/is claptrap can be countered by the simple observation that science can indicate constraints grounded in reality more than our mere perception of it.

    Gotcha, thanks.

  90. Willard says:

    Perhaps I should add that my Nature (who bats last) could not care less for quarrels over scientific divisions of labor submitted to Nature (the journal), alludes to this thesis:

    Putnam, along with Saul Kripke, Keith Donnellan, and others, contributed to what is known as the causal theory of reference. In particular, Putnam maintained in The Meaning of “Meaning” that the objects referred to by natural kind terms—such as tiger, water, and tree—are the principal elements of the meaning of such terms. There is a linguistic division of labor, analogous to Adam Smith’s economic division of labor, according to which such terms have their references fixed by the “experts” in the particular field of science to which the terms belong. So, for example, the reference of the term “lion” is fixed by the community of zoologists, the reference of the term “elm tree” is fixed by the community of botanists, and the reference of the term “table salt” is fixed as “NaCl” by chemists. These referents are considered rigid designators in the Kripkean sense and are disseminated outward to the linguistic community.

    Reiner’s remarks are quite mundane, at least until he goes a bridge too far.

  91. Roger Jones says:

    Here is the first report from 1995
    http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/sondergutachten/sn1995/wbgu_sn1995_engl.pdf

    It’s clearly normative, but informed by science, as it has been all along.

  92. Yes, thanks Roger.

    From the report:

    2.3. The key conclusions of the scenario

    The special benefit of the inverse analytical approach is that climate is not seen as a problem of prediction, but as one of control: the future of the global environment depends to a significant extent on the CO2 emission profile E(t) of the next centuries, and this profile can be chosen, within certain limits, by humankind.

    Shout that from the rooftops.

  93. Pingback: Freedom Fighters | …and Then There's Physics

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