## We might not be certain, but…..

Bret Stephens, the newly appointed Op-Ed writer for the New York Times, has released his first column to much criticism. It’s a rather strawman-laden column in which he essentially argues that it’s okay to doubt climate science, and/or climate policy, because some people are too certain.

Credit: Armour (2017)

Rather than commenting on what Stephens’ article says, I thought I would – instead – point out what I think the key issue is. The figure on the right shows some recent estimates for equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS). The ECS is essentially an indicator of how sensitive our climate is to external perturbations, which is often quantified in terms of the resulting change in global average surface temperature.

So, what does this figure tell us? Well, it tells us that there is a range for climate sensitivity from possibly quite low (< 2K) to what most would agree is very high (> 6K). What will largely determine how much we warm is how much we emit (mostly CO2). So, even if we manage to limit our total emissions, we could still warm substantially if climate sensitivity turns out to be high. Similarly, we have the potential to emit enough to produce substantial warming even if climate sensitivity is low.

There’s another factor that is often not discussed; the sensitivity of the carbon cycle itself. At the moment, the oceans and biosphere have taken up just over 50% of our emissions. We don’t expect this to continue and would expect a smaller fraction to be taken up by the natural sinks if we continue to increase our emissions. There is, however, some uncertainty and we could end with a larger increase in atmospheric CO2, for a given emission pathway, than expected. Therefore, we could still see a substantial amount of warming even if we manage to limit our emissions and climate sensitivity is low.

Of course, it could all work the other way; we could be lucky and climate sensitivity could turn out to be low and the natural sinks could continue to take up a significant fraction of our emissions. However, none of this changes that we could see substantial warming and, consequently, substantial changes to our climate. These changes will include surface warming, changes to precipitation, and changes to extreme weather events. This is on top of other factors like sea level rise, and ocean acidification. There is another factor that is also important to recognise; these changes are probably irreversible on human timescales.

What I’m trying to get at is that even if we aren’t certain as to exactly what will happen, we are certain that there is a possibility (and not a negligible one) that we could see substantial, and probably irreversible, changes to our climate if we simply continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere. We are also not certain of the impact of these changes, but there is a clear possibility of them being severe and negative. Being dismissive of this possibility is what most people regard as now largely unacceptable, especially coming from someone who has been hired by a newspaper claiming that Truth: It’s more important now than ever.

None of the above, however, tells us what we should do, or how we should do it. There are valid debates to be had about the various policy options and also about the various technological solutions (some of which include continuing to use fossil fuels). However, such discussions are difficult if they involve people who think there isn’t really anything to discuss, because everything could be fine. The possibility of everything being fine doesn’t somehow negate the possibility of it being severe and negative, especially as the outcome will depend on what we chose to do. The irony (as I may have mentioned before) is the more that we dismiss the possibility of it being dangerous, the more we are likely to emit, and the greater the probability of it ending up being dangerous.

This entry was posted in advocacy, Climate change, Climate sensitivity, ClimateBall, Global warming, Policy, Science, Severe Events, The scientific method and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

### 144 Responses to We might not be certain, but…..

‘The irony (as I may have mentioned before) is the more that we dismiss the possibility of it being dangerous, the more we are likely to emit’

A statement without evidence. How much we emit depends on GDP and the CO2 efficiency of GDP (the rate of increase in this efficiency could also be called the rate of decarbonization).

The data is clear. Before the climate movement started (pick any year), decarbonization was running between 1 and 2 % a year. Since the climate movement started, it’s averaged less than 1% a year. The best one could say is all the climate policies implemented since the 1990s have achieved nothing.

Unless one wants to make the case that they’ve slowed emissions by slowing down economic growth.

2. Alberto,
I suspect that most would argue that there isn’t much of a trend in your data. All I was really suggesting is that the total amount we emit is likely to depend on whether or not we think there is a reason to reduce emissions. It’s possible, I guess, that we could end up emitting less if we ignore the need to reduce emissions, than if we actually try to reduce emissions, but this seems a bit unlikely.

3. Oh, and the figure appears to be from a WUWT post, so I wouldn’t give it too much credence.

The GDP data is from the World Bank and emissions data from BP. It’s simply the increase in GDP vs increase in emissions.
http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/excel/energy-economics/statistical-review-2016/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2016-workbook.xlsx
http://databank.worldbank.org/data/reports.aspx?source=2&series=NY.GDP.MKTP.KD.ZG&country=AUT
I agree that we will not emit less if we don’t implement policies than if we do. We’ll emit the same. But the point of the policies and the ‘concern’ is to emit less than we otherwise would, not the same.

5. Alberto,
You seem to be changing what I said. I didn’t say anything about policies. All I’m suggesting is that if we completely ignore the risks associated with emitting CO2 into the atmosphere we will probably end up emitting more than if we consider that there are indeed risks associated with emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. The possibility that current policies have been ineffective (which I suspect is not actually the case) does not mean that there are no policies that could be effective.

6. Alberto, it would also be nice if you labelled your axes.

7. If those strawman people would exist who are certain they know what will happen, in a logical world these would be the people that argue for the least climate action. Climate change worries me because of the huge uncertainty, the risk is posed to civilization.

Imagine Judith Curry is right and we have a 5% chance that the climate sensitivity is above 10°C. That by itself would be a reason for a WWII style mobilization to stop global warming. Fortunately, she isn’t and provided no evidence for her uncertainty monster dance.

If only we knew for certain what will happen.

Uncertainty also means much higher adaptation costs. The last few years a region in the UK was hit three times by a rain amount that is expected to happen every 1000 years. Was that climate change? Will that be something that happens every 10 to 50 years now? Should we strengthen the costly protections? Larger dams, higher dikes, larger planned flooding areas? Or was it just bad luck? Do we not have to do anything? Was it a freak coincidence in a region where the chance of extreme rain is decreasing? Should we actually prepared for a higher likelihood of droughts?

If only we knew for certain what will happen.

8. jsam says:

Labelling axes is a typically alarmist bourgeois neoliberal request.

/sarc

9. While I will not engage at the Grey Lady, since then I would be helping them out, and I won’t do that (we cancelled because of Stephens), I do have some notes about the Armour 2017 figure.

First, most discussions of ECS seem to limit themselves to $\text{ECS}_{2x\text{CO}_{2}}$. They do no go back to the original definition, a ratio of two partial derivatives, and they do not acknowledge how nonlinear that can be. They are, essentially, saying it’s okay to do a Taylor linearization about the present day climate state, including temperature, but assuming water vapor, etc, and their assessment assumes that’s okay.

Second, chunkiness of the Armour figure suggests that the number of points contributing to it is a multiple of 21, with it being pretty likely that the multiple is one or two. Even granted the linearization of ECS at the present, that really is not a lot of findings, and the logical repsonse to not knowing much is to throw a bunch of money at the involved science and find out a good deal more. If there’s a big hit on expenditures one way or another, it’s sensible to do a lot of that as quickly as possible rather than waiting around for more evidence to collect by itself.

But granted the nonlinearity of ECS, and setting aside for the moment the important comments Eli has recently made to which I have not yet had a change to respond, The situation really deserves a great deal more investment in models, findings, and data, because, as a statistician, I’d say there’s little justification that the estimates for ECS thus derived are representative out of sample, notably, in a regime where climate state differs appreciably from what it is now. So, whatever the number of observations contributing to the Armour 2017 histogram or density, the nonlinearity of the problem suggests squaring or cubing their number, and also exploring the sensitivity to other factors, like underestimating the coupling between temperature and atmospheric humidity.

10. hypergeometric,
I’m slightly confused about your comment. One of the key points in Armour et al. (2017) is that the response is probably non-linear and, hence, the linear assumption used in basic energy balance estimates is probably incorrect. Also, the curves in the figure are two ways to correct basic energy balance estimates that take this potential non-linearity into account (one of which also includes the possible dependence on ECS itself). The vertical bars are just there to show how this adjustment produces an energy balance estimate that is more consistent with estimates from climate models.

11. John Hartz says:

An then there’s the Scott Pruitt solution — eliminate the availability of the data used to make scientific computations about how the Earth’s climate system functions…

EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades by Chris Mooney & Juliet Eilperin, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Apr 29, 2017

Trump and his allies and minions are rapidly transforming the US into an authoritarian state paterned after Putin’s Russia. This madness must be brought to a screeching halt!

12. John Hartz says:

Hot off the press…

Yesterday, New York Times subscribers were treated to an email alert announcing the first opinion column from Bret Stephens, who they hired away from the Wall Street Journal. Like all Journal opinion columnists who write about climate change, Stephens has said a lot of things on the subject that could charitably be described as ignorant and wrong. Thus many Times subscribers voiced bewilderment and concern about his hiring, to which the paper’s public editor issued a rather offensive response.

Justifying the critics, here’s how the paper announced Stephens’ first opinion column in an email alert (usually reserved for important breaking news):

TOP STORIES
“In his debut as a Times Op-Ed columnist, Bret Stephens says reasonable people can be skeptical about the dangers of climate change”

NY Times hired a hippie puncher to give climate obstructionists cover by Dana Nuccitelli, Climate Consensus – the 97%, Guardian, Apr 29, 2017

13. Roger Jones says:
14. Roger,
Thanks, missed that one.

15. John Hartz says:

Brian Kan chimes in as well…

It was the push notification that launched a thousand angry screen captures. Bret Stephens decided to use his inaugural New York Times column to talk about two topics designed for the maximum amount of scorn and hate clicks: Hillary Clinton and climate change.

Mission accomplished.

The piece was surely meant to provoke, and it does but not in the triggered snowflake sense.

It’s provocative because it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of climate change and uses a hackneyed collection of straw men and cherry picked (sorry not sorry) quotes and numbers to support a caricatured view of climate science and advocates, all couched in a veneer of faux rationality that unravels the minute you tug on any of the threads poking out. These are a few of the most egregious examples.

Some thoughts on Bret Stephens’ misleading climate take by Brian L Kahn, Medium, Apr 29, 2017

16. John Hartz says:

ATTP: BTW, you and Brian Kahn use the same graphic.

17. The piece want meant to provoke, who cares about accuracy, that is overrated.

18. David B. Benson says:

By looking at the Wikipedia page on Pliocene climate one sees that during the mid-Pliocene with carbon dioxide levels of about 400 ppm the sea stand was about 25 meters higher than now and the global temperature was 2+ °C higher than now. So as ocean circulation has not changed appreciably in the last 4 million years if carbon dioxide levels remain at least 400 ppm we have high confidence that the other conditions will obtain at equilibrium.

Note that staying around 400 ppm requires immediately halving carbon dioxide emissions.

This required no estimate of Charney ECS but I suppose could be used to estimate yet another climate sensitivity, if there were any point in doing so. I rather think that it is a robust conclusion about future climate which deserves to be better known.

19. Can I make a John Hartz?

20. Steven Mosher says:

Social science would predict folks would cancel their subscriptions. Cognitive dissonance is tough on the weak minded.

21. John Hartz says:

Victor: You just did — I think. 🙂

22. Oh, yes, what a huge amount of cognitive dissonance that heap of bullshit produced in my little snowflake mind. Oh, the suffering. Oh, the agony.

Why don’t you apply for the job of conservative pundit? Pissing of greenies would be your main job, but at least you would get the science right.

23. Eli Rabett says:

A few disjointed points.

First, cancelling subscriptions is a valid response. Republicans fear the wing nuts, Democrats despise environmentalists. The issue is to teach the NYTimes, PBS, etc to fear their readers. Trumpskies are not their readers and never will be.

While cancellation of many subscriptions will be noted, a more effective tactic is for the go to quotes, Mann, Rahmstorf, etc to tell the NYTimes reporters that there is absolutely no point in giving good stories to the sponsors of Bret Stephens.

Third, as the idiot tracker has pointed out the future does not stop in 2100 and looking out to 2200 there are fearsome things that will happen even with low carbon sensitivity, like millions of heat deaths.

Fourth, the link to Rabett Run is munged http://rabett.blogspot.com/2017/04/the-data-lies-crisis-in-observational.html

24. John Hartz says:

I cannot but help wonder how much advertising revenue the New York Times receives from say, Koch Industries? ExxonMobil?

25. MarkR says:

Hypergeometric,

The bars come from the CMIP5 climate models using simulations in which atmospheric CO2 is quadrupled and then they run for 150 years. You check how their temperatures change with the global heat imbalance for these 150 years and then see where that trend suggests you’ll reach equilibrium.

The lines are a PDF of estimates based on global temperature change so far along with an estimate of the nonlinearity in feedbacks which is derived from a model.

26. Szilard says:

ATTP: Actually, I think yr post is an excellent example of what the guy seems to be advocating – a measured overview, acknowledging the uncertainties, and taking into account their impact.

Maybe I’m being deaf to dog-whistles or something.

27. Steven Mosher says:

ATTP: Actually, I think yr post is an excellent example of what the guy seems to be advocating – a measured overview, acknowledging the uncertainties, and taking into account their impact.

Maybe I’m being deaf to dog-whistles or something.

#//////////////

I agree. Of course Stephens gets some things wrong. What I find interesting is the utter lack of proportional response.
One hilarious thing I found was guys using Grey literature to argue that Stephens didn’t appreciate what we do know. You can’t make this up.

There are a few things or moments in the debate that I think reasonabLe people would like a do over on.

Phrases like the debate is over. The science is settled. You’re a denier. ..probably not good choices unless you were certain that you would always have political power. Ponder that.

At one point we all came to the realization that the opposition to the science was political. And in full knowledge of that proceeded to poke those folks in the eye…knowing the risk that they could have political power over science and us.

Here’s my plan… I know these conservative’s could come to power. ..Heck that’s more likely than rcp8.5…so my plan is to call them deplorable. .deniers. ..sociopaths
Declare the debate over…and on the odd chance they come to power.. well. ..some body will have an adaptation plan.

28. Steven Mosher says:

29. verytallguy says:

Wot da Rabett said

the future does not stop in 2100 and looking out to 2200 there are fearsome things that will happen even with low carbon sensitivity, like millions of heat deaths.

’tis a favourite rhetorical trick of La Curry and others:

Claim something makes little difference to 21st century climate whilst ignoring the fact that it makes a *huge* difference to the rate of change at 2100.

If challenged, make some vague generalisation about how far off 2100 is and we can’t even predict next year.

30. Phrases like the debate is over. The science is settled. You’re a denier. ..probably not good choices unless you were certain that you would always have political power. Ponder that.

Except this seems to be arguing that politicians and activists should be a bit more circumspect, which might be nice, but seems a bit unrealistic. It’s the nature of politics/activism to not only be certain, but to also target those you disagree with. It’s not as if those who are suggesting this are somehow leading by example.

31. John Randall says:

Stephens talks about “overweening scientism” and says that “history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.” The current prevalence of climate-change denialism in Washington is overweening and the near-term future of U.S. climate policy appears to be a case of scientific errors married to political power.

32. Steven Mosher says:

:xcept this seems to be arguing that politicians and activists should be a bit more circumspect, which might be nice, but seems a bit unrealistic.”

For them yes. For us, maybe not. I’d have to say there are plenty of British scientists who were circumspect. .I think Hawkins and betts.

Hindsight is 20/20 of course. . Question now is how to address Stephens. Is he movable? Dunno. Some conservatives are I suspect.

33. I’d have to say there are plenty of British scientists who were circumspect. .I think Hawkins and betts.

Indeed, and I would argue there are many scientists who are circumspect. My point was more that one should maybe be careful to define who you’re referring to. If scientists; many are already circumspect, at least in the sense of not being absolutely certain. If activists/politicians; being certain is the nature of the game, so expecting otherwise is maybe a bit naive. However, if people think that it would be better if we were all a little more circumspect then maybe lead by example, rather than expecting others to start.

Question now is how to address Stephens. Is he movable? Dunno. Some conservatives are I suspect.

I don’t know if Stephens is movable, but I fully expect to see more and more conservatives moving as it becomes clear that not doing so is akin to denying reality.

34. Steven Mosher says:

Why don’t you apply for the job of cons
ervative pundit?”

Did some communication work for Climate friendly conservative. He lost. But giving up really isn’t an option now is it? Number one question is how to make a friendly space for conservatives in the effort. Take the march for example.

35. Number one question is how to make a friendly space for conservatives in the effort.

I agree, but I do think that we mustn’t forget that people should take personal responsibility for the views they hold. I think there are two sides to this; I think science should be inclusive, and so we should ideally avoid behaving in a way that makes some feel excuded (well, apart from those who are actively opposing our current scientific understanding). On the other hand, those who might feel excluded also have a responsibility for trying to get involved themselves. At some point you do have to stop blaming others for why you think things aren’t as they should be.

36. Steven Mosher says:

I don’t know if Stephens is movable, but I fully expect to see more and more conservatives moving as it becomes clear that not doing so is akin to denying reality.
#########

Too bad they don’t live on the coast. Wet feet can be convincing.

37. John Hartz says:

Steve Mosher: You wrote:

Number one question is how to make a friendly space for conservatives in the effort. Take the march for example.

Which march are you referring to? How do march organizers “make a friendly space for conservatives”?

38. John Hartz says:

Speaking of yesterday’s People’s Climate Marches in the US, I did a quick scan of the websites of the major broadcast news outlets and discovered that they continue to be obsessed with their coverage of all things Trump to the exclusion of other events such as the Marches. Trumps ability to commandeer broadcast news media attention plays right into his hands in his quest to transform the US into an authoritarian state.

39. Steven Mosher says:

If you’re not convincing people with the 2100 projection…switching to 2300 is less of the same.

Funny.. using current fertility numbers the un projects a population of 134 trillion in 2300. Errr.. they threw out that assumption. . But the final range was something like 2.5 billion to 34 billion.

I dunno. Seems to me we are destined to a combination of
1. Mitigation. 2.adaptation. 3. Innovation. Obviously a technocratic approach would seek to optimize the allocation of resources to apply to each response. Pragmatically if you’re losing the fight on mitigation it would make sense to fight for more adaptation and innovation until the political winds re orient. Unless you are so wedded to your mix of the three that you will only support your preferred mix and insist on your way or nothing.

40. Willard says:

The last March, JH, and by focusing on their values: Freedom and GRRROWTH.

***

> Question now is how to address Stephens. Is he moveable?

Don’t bet your farm on it. His wallet depends on being a contrarian. His contrarianism his second hand. It’s teh Koonin’s stunt without the synthetic expertise.

Just be thankful for his concerns and be done with it.

41. Steven Mosher says:

:Which march are you referring to? How do march organizers “make a friendly space for conservatives”? ”

How did they make a friendly space for traditionaly excluded groups.. who led the parade? They had no trouble going out of their way to accommodate anti nuke factions. ..and had no trouble making space for marginalized folks. Was there room for a Republican ? I dunno.

42. Joshua says:

Nothing changes in the climate wars:

This sentence from Stephens’ article is the perfect example:

Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions.

In an article where we find the unassailable thesis – that ignoring uncertainties is unscientific – we also find a blatant ignoring of uncertainties.

In an article where we find the unassailable thesis – that the climate wars is complicated by the tendency of those who are ideologically oriented to leverage science to question those of opposing ideological orientation – – we also find a blatant leveraging of science to question those of opposing ideological orientation.

But I have been observing what is basically the exact same rhetorical stance ever since I started observing the climate wars.

I will say that it is somewhat painful for me to watch the hand-wringing about the NY Times deciding to publish Stephens arguments. To some extent his being hired is disturbing because it reflects that the landscape of the climate wars has changed; but we know that already. Trump is president and Pruitt heads the EPA, for god’s sake. The NY Times hiring a “skeptic” to write editorials won’t have a meaningful impact one way or another. The horse done already bolted the stable.

IMO, we’ve known for quite a while that policies that would make a truly significant change in the trajectory of ACO2 emissions will only come when there is very little ambiguity that the current trajectory affects people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. Until then, IMO, what we will have is PAU (politics as usual).

43. Joshua says:

=={ How did they make a friendly space for traditionaly excluded groups.. who led the parade?}==

What difference would it have made if they had? In my opinion, none. IMO, First, they could never have accommodated enough excluded groups. That is a bottomless bucket – there’s always another “excluded group” as the audit (of which group is excluded) never ends. “Conservatives” will always find more excluded groups because that is their goal – to find excluded groups; and so they will find them as a matter of definition.

Second, even if they could have met that un-obtainable goal, it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway, IMO. But maybe I’m wrong. So what evidence do you have that the counterfactual you suggest would have altered outcomes in some meaningful way? Perhaps a historical precedent whereby making explicit attempts to include those ideologically opposed into a political movement made a meaningful difference in outcomes? Of course, it’s problematic to assume that the dynamics of one political movement would play out similarly in a different context, but at least it would be a start towards making your argument anything other than projection and anecdotal.

44. Willard says:

> Was there room for a Republican? I dunno.

I would bet there was room for Jim Hansen, Kerry Emanuel or Richard Alley. Even Judy’s husband could have tagged along. Or Judy herself, like Roy, like Senior and Junior, and every other ClimateBall players who pretend not to deny anything.

The main problem is that science means progress, and progress is anathema to antiquated ideological fundamentalism. Science truly conspires to liberalize the world. It’s more than a bias.

Like Dubya, teh Donald too shall pass.

45. angech says:

Victor Venema says: April 29, 2017 at 8:13 pm
“Imagine Judith Curry is right and we have a 5% chance that the climate sensitivity is above 10°C.” JC as high as that?
“If only we knew for certain what will happen” true.
“The last few years a region in the UK was hit three times by a rain amount that is expected to happen every 1000 years. Was that climate change? Will that be something that happens every 10 to 50 years now? Or was it just bad luck? Do we not have to do anything? Was it a freak coincidence in a region where the chance of extreme rain is decreasing? Should we actually prepared for a higher likelihood of droughts? If only we knew for certain what will happen.”

They had a lot of rain.
Was that climate change? Definitely.
Or was it just bad luck? Definitely.
The odds of it happening once are 100%.
The odds of it happening a second time are still 100%.
Had to happen some time in the next 1000 years and it did.
The third time is quite suspicious [bad luck].
Other factors do come into play and that is the assessment of 1 in a 1000 year events. We do not have a credible multi thousand year event calendar for any area on the earth and they may have to upgrade their criterion as they certainly have got it wrong. Perhaps severe rain amounts vary by a greater frequency and range than we expect.
As you know though there are millions of regions on the earth and many different climate change events that can occur so a 1 in a thousand event is a pretty common, possibly daily event over the world somewhere every day.

46. Joshua says:

=={ Just be thankful for his concerns and be done with it. }==

Indeed.

Of course, we could focus on making the snowflakes feel better by including them. Perhaps more politically correct language, you know calling them skeptics rather than calling them “deniers” would cheer them up a bit?

Even if we can’t address climate change, it would make scheduling a Kumbaya sing-along a whole hell of a lot easier.

I never read any of Stephens WSJ columns, so he doesn’t have a history with me. I read his first NYT column, and it strikes me as mostly lukewarmerism ala Judy Curry:

while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities.

As if “modest” meant “no cause for alarm”, and “probabilities” were somehow less real than “accepted facts”, or as if the difference between 95% and 100% probability were meaningful on the ground. Stephens appears to be yet another professional communicator to whom the practice and culture of modern science are alien.

His remark about what the public knows vs. what working climate scientists know did catch my attention:

The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

I don’t know who he has in mind for AGW mitigation “boosters” who unscrupulously claimed the authority of science; there may be some but I don’t pay attention to them. I am, OTOH, aware of some AGW mitigation “skeptics” who unscrupulously claim the authority of science. IMO they are a principal reason the US still doesn’t have a coherent national AGW-mitigation policy, 29 years after Jim Hansen’s first appearance before Congress.

Since I first encountered AGW denial, my own arguments have focused on what working climate scientists know. On comment threads for NYT articles about climate change, I tell DK-afflicted deniers who cite WUWT or the Daily Fail that they’d get a much clearer picture if they got their information about climate science from the refereed literature of climate science, rather than alt-right bloggers and tabloid media. I can’t deny my efforts have achieved less than stellar results.

In his debut as an NYT columnist, professional disinformer Stephens offers only the routine argumentum ad ignorantiam and tu quoque to justify his mistrust of science. Yet market demand for his product remains high, while reason and scruples languish on the shelf. It’s no mystery why the NYT hired him.

48. Joshua says:

What we need to do is make the climate wars a safe space for “skeptics.” Perhaps if the marchers had carried “trigger warning” signs Stephens would have been happier?

49. Willard says:

Safe spaces, safe spaces everywhere. That’s what science marches need.

50. Willard says:

Ninjaed!

51. Mal,

while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable

This is, in fact, disputable, since the Northern Hemisphere has warmed by about 1.5C since 1880.

52. John Hartz says:

Very interesting news via Joe Romm…

Times’ news staff trashes column on Twitter, while top scientist says paper is “willingly abetting climate change denialism.”

The NY Times promised to fact check their new climate denier columnist — they lied by Joe Romm, Think Progress, Apr 29, 2017

53. Joshua says:

=={ The odds of it happening once are 100%.}==

What? The odds of a 1,000 year rain happening one in the last few years in the UK is 100%?

=={ The odds of it happening a second time are still 100%. }==

The odds of a 1,000 year rain happening two times in the last few years in the UK in the last few years is 100%?

=={ Had to happen some time in the next 1000 years and it did. }==

?? Had to happen? Why did a 1,000 year rain have to happen over any given period of 1,000 years?

Bear in mind, you are dealing with to someone whose knowledge of statistics is extremely limited, but I’m hoping you could provide a simple explanation your thinking.

54. Joshua,
I don’t get what angech is suggesting, so decided to ignore it.

55. Joshua says:

Anders –

I often can’t come close to parsing what angech is saying, let alone understand the reasoning behind what he said. (Although I’m a descriptivist, I do rely on grammatical and syntax conventions to some extent).

But this time at least it seemed to me like I could understanding what he was saying so I thought I’d ask about the reasoning behind it.

56. John Hartz says:

Mosher wrote:

They had no trouble going out of their way to accommodate anti nuke factions…

The most significant “anti-nuke faction” in the US has been and continues to be those Wall Street investors who concluded after Three-Mile Island that the catastrophic risks associated with nuclear power plants were too great to justify investing private capital to construct more of them.

57. Steven Mosher, hard to solve that after the Cold War the interests of political and science no longer align. Science as one of the checks on government power is important for the population, but unfortunately the donors determine what politicians do.

Vox: A Cold War theory for why scientists and the government have become so estranged
Many climate scientists believe that if they can just get people to grasp the science of global warming, support for climate action will inevitably follow. But the history of the Cold War suggests that the reverse is closer to the mark — the politics needs to shift first, and then support for science will follow.
http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/4/26/15373436/science-march-cold-war

58. OPatrick says:

Number one question is how to make a friendly space for conservatives in the effort.

Seems to me that any conservative who stands up for science gets disproportional coverage and respect. Most people are desperate to welcome their input, but not necessarily at the cost of false balance. Not criticising Trump for his stance, so as to appease those conservatives, would be false balance.

59. Willard says:

Doc’s point is that there’s a reading whereby attribution is trivial. Split the Earth in an infinity of regions and ask: what are the odds that a unique future event happens in one of its regions by luck. The probability that the unique event eventually happens converges toward 100%.The chances it happens at a specific spot and not elsewhere is almost 0%.

Doc’s, teh Koonin’s and Stephens’ trick exploit common sense. To parry them, you need to appeal to common sense the same way they do. The hard part is to preserve scientist soundness. Vaughan Pratt was the best at this kind of ClimateBall game.

Doc’s point falters as soon as we realize that, unlike his own argument, attribution studies aren’t self sealing. Andy Lacis responded well to teh Koonin’s appeal to small numbers. To rebut Stephens at the same level of rhetoric effectiveness, one needs to show why 1C matters a bit more than his minimization suggests.

60. Eli Rabett says:

What we do now determines what will happen in2300. So Steve, what is your prediction for the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps in 2300 and what effect will that have on sea level and civilization? Just askin

How did they make a friendly space for traditionaly excluded groups.. who led the parade? They had no trouble going out of their way to accommodate anti nuke factions. ..and had no trouble making space for marginalized folks. Was there room for a Republican ? I dunno.

I dunno about other M4Ses, but all you had to do to join the one in Santa Fe was show up. Even if you were a Republican.

(Although I’m a descriptivist, I do rely on grammatical and syntax conventions to some extent).

Tone, Joshua! ;^)

63. John Hartz says:

Another example of the purging of the climate change from the websites of federal agencies by the Alt-Right Trump Regome…

The Interior Department Just Quietly Scrubbed Its Climate Change Page by Sarah Emerson, Motherboard, Apr 27, 2017

Bret Stephens:How do these purges contribute to a “resaoned conversation” about climate change?

64. John Hartz says:

Willard: Why do you refer to angech as “doc”?

65. Eli Rabett says:

Allow Eli to quote from Richard Gardiner (the Bunny’s favorite philosopher on this subject, sorry Willard)

. . . the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.

Perhaps the worst mistake that those of us who know that action is needed today is allowing the moral cretins like Bret Stephens and others populating the various right wing support system to whine for the poors that they care not about except as cudgels to beat environmentalists with.

66. John Hartz says:

OPatrick: Well said..

ATTP:

while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable

This is, in fact, disputable, since the Northern Hemisphere has warmed by about 1.5C since 1880.

YMMV, but I think that’s pretty unscrupulous of Stephens.

68. Willard: Why do you refer to angech as “doc”?

Because (and I think this is public knowledge) angech is a doctor.

69. John Hartz says:

ATTP: Thanks. I thought that might be the case.

That’s a pretty interesting article for an American to read in the Graun. A highlight:

Many Republicans were put off the climate issue by former vice-president turned activist Al Gore, according to [Republican co-chair the Climate Solutions Caucus Carlos] Curbelo. The warming temperature of the planet has rarely ever been seen as an urgent issue by the party and the forceful campaigning by Gore and green groups was met with Republican hostility, almost as a reflex.

“Al Gore did all that without a Republican partner, so we got to a state of affairs where Republicans automatically oppose anything to do with the environment,” Curbelo said. “I don’t really blame Al Gore for that but there’s a lesson there. We need a proper, sober discussion on this issue.”

It’s nice of Republican Curbelo not to really blame Democrat Al Gore for the GOP’s reflexive instransigence, right after he blamed Gore for just that. There’s a lesson there, all right.

71. Susan Anderson says:

I think that’s backwards. Gore was targeted because of the success of AIT. It was a widespread deliberate effort. Same with Mike Mann, Pachauri, SkepticalScience, and no doubt others that don’t come to mind. You could trace the campaign by its effects, because suddenly hundreds of unaccustomed voices would swarm.

Whenever he was wrote or had impact, it would be posted on The Drudge Report (Breitbart precursor/collaborator) and hundreds to thousands of comments would swamp the location. Many of these were illiterate, and they often featured “manbearpig”.

72. BBD says:

“Al Gore did all that without a Republican partner, so we got to a state of affairs where Republicans automatically oppose anything to do with the environment,” Curbelo said. “I don’t really blame Al Gore for that but there’s a lesson there.

While I laud Curbelo’s efforts I am sincerely sick of the blame-anyone-but-us meme coming from the right. Why *should* Gore be censured for not having a Republican partner in his efforts? The fault is theirs, not his. Some of Steven’s stuff upthread rankled a bit too. Why *should* it be incumbent on everyone else to ‘make space’ for Republican intransigence and denialism?

But somehow it’s all being twisted round to being the fault of everybody but those who are causing the problem.

73. From the “You Just Can’t Beat a Double-Bind” department:

74. russellseitz says:

When Joe Romm complains

“The 0.85°C is not “modest.” It is roughly the same as the entire variation the Earth experienced during the several thousand years of stableclimate that enabled the development of modern civilization, global agriculture, and a world that could sustain a vast population.”
It is incumbent upon him, not the facile editorialist he condemns to mention and explain how and why , in the IPCC’s words:

“The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C [FN2] over the period 1880 to 2012…”

saw the advance in civilization and science that occured , paceUNEP's Southern concerns,, largely in the Northern hemisphere, where the warming was ~ 1.5 °C , manifest scientific & civilzational growth in global agriculture ample to support a population 8 times as vast as when that linear temperature trend began. The phrase ‘Limits to Growth’ progressives made famous at the dawn of global systems modeling turned into an object of economic satire half a dozen Presidents ago,and it may take as many more to debug the vastly more complex models of climate with which science now struggles.

The foucus on CO2 distracts us from the prospect of the Anthropocene hosting what it already has- the growing technological capacity to locally identify and solve the disarities in radiative equilibrium from all sources that add up to the potential to overcome climate change from CO2 faster than it inflicts human harm – and to aim at limiting population growth as the perultimate cause of ecological degradation by displacement.

One can't have too many peer reviewed estimates of CO2 doubling sensitivity, but while adding more ought to be heristic in its effect on uncertainty, the proliferation of such work also reflects funding, and repetition of older approaches may lend credence to the center of the range without proportionately contributing to the convergence of doubling sensitivity on a single value modelers upon which we all can rely.

75. Russell,
I tried to correct your html italics, but may have messed it up.

76. John Hartz says:

Another critique of Bret Stevens’ Op-ed by a fellow journalist…

NYT: Climate change impact is happening now. NYT: Eh, maybe not that big a deal., Opinion by Erik Wemple, Washington Post, Apr 28, 2017

77. angech says:

Joshua says: April 30, 2017 at 1:39 pm
=={ The odds of it happening once are 100%.}==
What? The odds of a 1,000 year rain happening one in the last few years in the UK is 100%?”
The odds of it happening per year in the preceding 1000 years are 0.1% per year.
Once it happens, in any year, the odds of it happening in that year are 100%.
?? Had to happen? Why did a 1,000 year rain have to happen [a second time] over any given period of 1,000 years?
Again the odds of a second event in the next 1000 years were 0.1% per year, and yes it did happen again so 100%.
A little read of the Hitchhikers Guide Infinity drive explains this paradox.
While the chances are remote they will happen at some stage given enough time. The point is the circumstances actually did happen thus that particular probability is now 1 [100%].

“Bear in mind, you are dealing with to someone whose knowledge of statistics is extremely limited, but I’m hoping you could provide a simple explanation your thinking.”
I doubt that your knowledge of statistics is limited given your interest in the topic of CC over this number of years. Statistics is funny stuff and is often misused by both sides when it should not be.

See Willard’s excellent summation April 30, 2017 at 2:42 pm
“”Doc’s point is that there’s a reading whereby attribution is trivial. Split the Earth in an infinity of regions and ask: what are the odds that a unique future event happens in one of its regions by luck. The probability that the unique event eventually happens converges toward 100%.The chances it happens at a specific spot and not elsewhere is almost 0%.”
However he called it a trick, when the trick is the reverse, ascribing random rare events to causation, see Taleb “Fooled by Randomness”

78. ATTP, you were correctly pointing out I was partly incorrect, and certainly incomplete. Kudos to you, and apologies, and to the readers.

I hadn’t read Armour 2017. I have now. I did read ATTP’s assessment and, yes, it does mention Armour deals with nonlinearity. And, yes, it does mention that the histogram is from CMIP runs, but I interpreted it differently than it should have been interpreted. I have not read Richardson, and probably won’t. I also assumed that the Armour figure was something Stephens was using in his “criticism of excessive certainty” but have gone back and seen that there is another parse to this post which is consistent with Stephens not mentioning Armour at all.

I also have not read Stephens, and perhaps I should before commenting, but I won’t.

The point I tried to make was essentially that uncertainty and ignorance in a place where a decision ought to be made and when the consequences could be enormous is not the place to claim “It’s okay to remain ignorant.” Essentially, this is enshrining the “Do nothing until someone proves you have to do so” which might work for some common decisions, but taking a big ship into an iceberg-strewn sea because it hasn’t hit anything yet hardly seems prudent.

I also am not convinced, commenting with respect for Armour, that the adjustment for nonlinearity they attempt helps the argument much, and ATTP hinted at that in his previous post (beginning “… A few additional points. We don’t know that these adjustments are correct. However, we do have a situation where there is a mismatch between different climate sensitivity estimates …”). In the public discussion of climate change, highlighting these kinds of papers tends, I think, to convince people there’s more arbitrariness to this process than is correct. After all, there have been similar papers published by Meraner, Mauritsen, and Voigt, as well as Caballero and Huber, the latter focussing upon nonlinearity in ECS and having a good introduction. These emphasize Pierrehumbert’s comment “Here there (may) be dragons”, and, as of 2013,

…there have already been great strides in understanding the magnitude and pattern of warmth in hothouse climates, which have helped resolve some earlier modeling paradoxes, but much remains to be done. In particular, narrowing the broad error bars on past atmospheric CO2 is crucial to relating these climates to what is going on at present.

More recently there is the published work of Friedrich, Timmermann, Tigchelaar, Timm, and Ganopolski.

Consider Pierrehumbert’s equation (3.14) for temperature sensitivity (specifically mean surface temperature) with respect to some parameter, $\Lambda$, where $\Lambda$ might be, as Pierrehumbert suggests, albedo, or CO2 concentration, or the solar constant:

$\frac{dT}{d\Lambda} = -\frac{\frac{\partial{}G}{\partial{}\Lambda}}{\frac{\partial{}G}{\partial{}T}}$

Here $G$ is the top-of-atmosphere flux, and $\text{OLR}$ is outgoing longwave radiation at the surface (*). This is pretty standard, even if it is very general, much more general than, say, Armour’s equations (1)-(3). From a statistical perspective what’s striking about the above is that if

$\frac{\partial{}G}{\partial{}\Lambda}$

and

$\frac{\partial{}G}{\partial{}T}$

are each interpreted to be random variables worthy of estimation by whatever means, then that implies $\frac{dT}{d\Lambda}$ is a random variable which is drawn from a ratio distribution. And should the Highest Density Probability Interval for $\frac{\partial{}G}{\partial{}T}$ include zero, whatever the physical reason, the distribution of $\frac{dT}{d\Lambda}$ is pretty meaningless. A good physical imagination offers any number of ways this could happen, but Professor Pierrehumbert’s discussions in Section 3.4 of his book describes the possible (mathematical) range, irrespective of the geophysical details. And because what we are about is $\delta{}T$ as a function of all relevant $\Lambda$, that being a total differential, the excessive variability in any one such $\Lambda$ will dominate that of the rest. Note extreme variability is not our friend, no matter what vision of a cultural or economic future we might have.

If ECS is going to continue to be used as the basis of argument and policy, it seems to need to be made far more robust than it is. That’s the point of my argument for much more additional work. If we are to keep this troubled concept in the planning stables, we desperately need to understand the bounds on its applicability. Armour is a start, but Armour simply says there might be problems when we already know there are problems from theory. What we need are constraints. Otherwise, ECS is a “nice to have if the world were a different place.” But then we don’t really have it, except knowing that there could be “dragons” out there.

I think there are much better arguments, and there are much better problems to chase. For instance, here is the definitive plot from Fyfe, Gillett, and Zwiers:

I have noted (**; Section 7) that what’s wrong with this presentation is not that that the Highest Density Probability Interval for the climate models fails to overlap the observational mean and cloud, it’s that there is such a big difference between the observational variance and that of the model ensemble. The specifics of the discrepancy seen as a t-test based upon a difference in means led to the later explanation by Cowtan and Way and then a rebuttal by Fyfe and Gillett. I say, rather, that the reason for the discrepancy is deep, having to do more with the difference in variances (***), and probably not something we can expect most public or most policymakers to understand, at least without understanding something like Leonard Smith’s Chaos: A Very Short Introduction. The climate ensemble simulates all possible futures, and Earth takes one future at a time. I have read all around this in the literature, and there seems to be a confusion about what internal variability means. Yes, there’s unexplained internal variability, but there’s a lot of evidence for stochastic variability even if all the phenomena in internal variability were deeply understood. That’s important, because it makes what Bret Stephens and others like Judith Curry want to do a fundamentally flawed project. This stochastic variability on top of everything could be enough to send us all over some kind of potential cliff, even if emissions were managed to some precalculated minimax loss-versus-economic benefit point.

Here’s a rhetorical question when dealing with the public and policymakers: Why not go back to simple conservation of energy arguments, and point out that radiative forcing from CO2 is indisputable? The excess energy from forcing is going to go somewhere, and where it’s gone in the past may not be where it continues to go, ditto CO2 itself. Sure, this frustrates people who want a cost put on the phenomenon. But making up a cost is arguably worse than saying “We don’t have one.” Will the latter produce inaction? Possibly. But that’s what’s happening now, and people are trying to produce cost estimates.

Oh, and indeed, there are but 21 single socks in the Broman climate collection, per Armour’s count of the number of GCMs used reported at the top right of the second page of their article.

Other work on climate sensitivity is reported by Held and Winton (assuming the NOAA site continues to be maintained), and at Isaac Held’s blog.

(*) See Professor Ray Pierrehumbert’s book for the intimate portrait of Earth as a planet, in the manner of Arnold Ross, with associated and very fine Python code.

(**) WARNING: Not peer-reviewed.

(***) Were the observational variance to be appreciably larger, the conclusion of a statistical test would be that the difference in means was less significant.

79. Willard says:

Drops mic.

80. “Why *should* it be incumbent on everyone else to ‘make space’ for Republican intransigence and denialism?”

Not my argument. My argument is that you dont make space for conservatives who agree with you on FRICKING 95% of what you believe.

You want it your way. 100% your way. No room for any discussion. No room for any criticism or even open questions.

But your approach is working just fine, carry on. It’s not the planet is at stake or anything

81. There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything. But opening the discussion willl open to loss of integrity and self-respect. There is NO COMPROMISE on the requirement of demanding ZERO emissions. It’s not like we can cut it 80% and be fine. Sorry those are the facts.

And the wealthy will find out soon enough, when ramifications of climate disruption will steal their wealth AND hit them with a bill of going to ZERO emissions, AND hit them with a bill of extracting CO2 from atmosphere via clear air capture which will be 10x, perhaps 100x per unit of what it cost to put it there.

Have a great future folks!

“Better living through chemistry.”

82. “What we do now determines what will happen in2300. So Steve, what is your prediction for the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps in 2300 and what effect will that have on sea level and civilization? Just askin”

I would not predict. I would plan. Plan for it 70 meters of SLR. it will suck for liberals on the coast.
I live on top of a mountain.

83. “There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything. ”

closing it has worked wonders.

Hey grandad did you try everything within your power to prevent this?
Yes laddy, I even called people names! and cancelled my subscription. I wore pins!
How’d that work?
Not every well, they took over the government!
Hmm, seems like your ability to predict what people would do was less skillful than climate science.
Shut up and paddle we are almost home.

84. OPatrick says:

‘Hey grandad, did you try everything within your power to prevent this?’

‘Yes less, I bent over backwards to engage with people who were intent on watering down our actions because they didn’t like the implications of what the overwhelming body of evidence was pointing to.’

‘How’d that work?’

‘Not very well, the government carried on doing far less than it needed to, but at least they didn’t feel so much pressure to change, because their inaction fell within the reasonable window of debate.’

85. angech says:

JCH extent v ENSO. The tension is palpable. Fingers xxxed.

86. “There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything. But opening the discussion willl open to loss of integrity and self-respect. ”

No evidence?

hmm… Joe romm opened a discusssion. Accomplished nothing. right.

https://theintercept.com/2017/04/28/how-a-professional-climate-change-denier-discovered-the-lies-and-decided-to-fight-for-science/

“JT: If you talk about the need to transform civilization and to engage in the functional equivalent of World War III, you may as well just forget it. To most conservatives, that’s just nails on a chalkboard. Or if you say, you’re corrupted and a shill and ignorant. That’s no way to convince anybody of anything. What are the chances they’re going to say, Gee, you’re right? All that does is entrench someone in their own position.

SL: So what does work?

JT: In our business, talking to Republican and conservative elites, talking about the science in a dispassionate, reasonable, non-screedy, calm, careful way is powerful, because a lot of these people have no idea that a lot of the things they’re trafficking in are either the sheerest nonsense or utterly disingenuous.

I also make the conservative case for climate change. We don’t call people conservative when they put all their chips on one number of a roulette wheel. That’s not conservative. It’s pretty frigging crazy. It’s dangerous, risky. Conservatives think this way about foreign policy. We know that if North Korea has a nuclear weapon, they’re probably not going to use it. But we don’t act as if that’s a certainty. We hedge our bets. Climate change is like that. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Given that fact, shouldn’t we hedge?

SL: I frequently hear about Republican lawmakers who don’t believe their own climate denials. Do you know many people who are in that camp?

JT: I have talked to many of them in confidence. There are between 40 and 50 in the House and maybe 10 to 12 in the Senate. They’re all looking for a way out of the denialist penitentiary they’ve been put into by the Tea Party. But they’re not sure what the Republican response ought to look like exactly and when the political window is going to open.

SL: When do you think these Republicans will come out about their concern about climate change?

JT: The wall of denial in the GOP looks awful frightening from afar but it is crumbling. And it can change quickly. People forget that it was only a decade ago that the party had a climate platform that could have been written by Sheldon Whitehouse. And during the last election cycle, Carlos Curbelo, Ryan Costello, and Rob Portman all ran as climate moderates and paid no political price.”

https://niskanencenter.org/blog/staff/director-of-climate-science-2/

87. OPatrick says:

Steven, do you think there is anyone who argues that Joe Romm has lent ‘sceptics’ credibility by being too willing to engage with them?

88. Gosh who do I believe? some guy or actual folks who work changing minds?

I actually watched a mind change.. in real time. so ya it does happen. maybe one could learn from that. Naa. the science of changing minds is way more certain than physics.

Let me tell you how it happened. The paper was finished. And there was a section on the AMO.

Nobody was happy with it. I suggested just dropping it. Nobody liked that.
Folks were focusing on what was unique about what we did. well the record was longer.. back to 1750.
I suggested seeing how it matched up against reconstructions. Nobody like that. shit.

Then I suggested seeing if the volcanic record was somehow reflected in the record. Robert Rohde had a better idea. See if we could explain the record using IPCC forcings… and he produced the fit.
Muller didnt believe it.
So he went off and tried a bunch of different ideas ( solar, etc ect)
Then one day he walked in and said.. “I’m convinced”

Other folks, thought such a simple model wasn’t convincing. Some folks said “this is nothing new”

At no point during this process did anyone engage in name calling.

later he would talk to some prominent conservatives. I dont think he called them names.

It’s a tough job. but hey there is no planet B

89. “Steven, do you think there is anyone who argues that Joe Romm has lent ‘sceptics’ credibility by being too willing to engage with them?”

I think that this claim

““There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything. But opening the discussion willl open to loss of integrity and self-respect. ”

is wrong.

Its as wrong as the pig headed skeptics who claim there is no evidence of global warming.

That’s what I think. As for the existence or non existence of particular people making particular arguments. Not very interesting.

90. OPatrick says:

I actually have no idea what you are arguing for (or, perhaps more accurately, against).

You seem to be summing up a range of responses with the ‘name-calling’ meme. How is this in any sense equivalent to cancelling a subscription, based on reasoned arguments, in protest at the hiring of someone who deliberately spreads misinformation?

You give Joe Romm as an example of someone who has changed minds, but he has done so by being consistent and accurate in the language he uses, both about the science and the responses to that science. I suspect you would call much of what he does ‘name-calling’ (e.g.).

91. OPatrick says:

I think that this claim

““There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything. But opening the discussion willl open to loss of integrity and self-respect. ”

is wrong.

But you seem to be taking that comment out of context (the context of the subject of this thread). Do you believe that giving Bret Stephens a platform for misinformation in a credible newspaper is a good way to open up the discussion? No-one is arguing against having any discussion, they are arguing against opening discussion at any cost.

92. Willard says:

> Joe romm opened a discusssion.

JoeR simply dared JerryT to read harder:

SL: What was your turning point?

JT: It started in the early 2000s. I was one of the climate skeptics who do battle on TV and I was doing a show with Joe Romm. On air, I said that, back in 1988, when climate scientist James Hansen testified in front of the Senate, he predicted we’d see a tremendous amount of warming. I argued it’d been more than a decade and we could now see by looking at the temperature record that he wasn’t accurate. After we got done with the program and were back in green room, getting the makeup taken off, Joe said to me, “Did you even read that testimony you’ve just talked about?” And when I told him it had been a while, he said “I’m daring you to go back and double check this.” He told me that some of Hansen’s projections were spot on. So I went back to my office and I re-read Hanson’s testimony. And Joe was correct. So I then I talked to the climate skeptics who had made this argument to me, and it turns out they had done so with full knowledge they were being misleading.

One could argue that the discussions JerryT had with his fellow contrarians provided the moral incentive – it confirmed he truly was into the gaslighting business.

***

> Gosh who do I believe?

That wasn’t the question, Mosh.

You’re gaslighting OP to peddle your stuff.

It’s good stuff, but it’s still gaslighting.

That kind of trick is more toxic for a discussion than most name calling.

One could argue that the discussions JerryT had with his fellow contrarians provided the moral incentive – it confirmed he truly was into the gaslighting business.

Just because the costs and the benefits are more or less going to be a wash, he said, that doesn’t mean that the losers in climate change are just going to have to suck it up so Exxon and Koch Industries can make a good chunk of money.

Apparently Taylor is a class-conscious Libertarian! For him at least, “liberty” doesn’t mean freedom for capitalists to privatize the benefits of economic development by socializing the costs.

I’m afraid there’s a contradiction there, or at least a slippery slope argument.

94. John Hartz says:

Steven Mosher: You wrote:

Not my argument. My argument is that you dont make space for conservatives who agree with you on FRICKING 95% of what you believe.

ATTP has made space for you, angech, Michael2 abd other conservatives on this site.

Where have you been barred entry?

95. BBD says:

Steven Mosher

Not my argument. My argument is that you dont make space for conservatives who agree with you on FRICKING 95% of what you believe.

You are confusing me with someone else. Or just making shit up – it’s hard to tell.

You want it your way. 100% your way. No room for any discussion. No room for any criticism or even open questions.

Rubbish. But no more JAQing off please.

But your approach is working just fine, carry on. It’s not the planet is at stake or anything

There you go again, blaming everyone else for the hideous mess the right has created. Do you even realise you are doing it?

96. OPatrick says:

It’s good stuff, but it’s still gaslighting.

Given that gaslighting appears to involve making targets “question their own … sanity”, I have to confess that I feel you are more guilty of gaslighting than Steven, with that sentence. I’m not saying this for effect, it’s a genuine question: I’ve seen plenty from Steven recently that deserves attention, but not on this thread, unless I’m missing something, so which bits are the good parts?

97. Willard says:

> Where have you been barred entry?

Judy’s, Tony’s, just to name a few contrarian sites. His nick is not “Moshpit” for nothing. Your implicit accusation thus backfires.

Turning threads into a rehearsal of Eyes Wide Shut’s Masked Ball scene is unbecoming. The auditors did that to scientists all the time. This practice has to stop.

BBD, I unequivocally endorse your rejoinder to Mr. Mosher except for this:

There you go again, blaming everyone else for the hideous mess the right has created. Do you even realise you are doing it?

Do you, BBD, realize what you doing? You are blaming ‘the right’ for the hideous mess that all human beings with economic agency helped create. Attributing agency only to ‘the right’ is not only incorrect, it’s counter-productive if one’s goal in commenting is to bring AGW to a halt sooner rather than later.

Not that I’m saying anyone is here with that goal; certainly not moi! Mr. Mosher may be, however, by the evidence. If so, I for one am amused, alarmed and flattered ;^).

99. Willard says:

> unless I’m missing something, so which bits are the good parts?

The part where RichardM’s Damascus moment has been peddled in the thread to counter Hyper’s hyperboles that:

There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything. But opening the discussion willl open to loss of integrity and self-respect.

Of course we can find evidence where discussions work, and of course discussing with contrarians don’t lose you any integrity and self-respect. I’m a living proof of both.

Nevertheless, it’s not discussions that led RichardM to change his mind. It’s quasi-experiments. He built the less stoopid model of temperatures he could and tested all the things. The best explanation was AGW.

A similar thing happened to JerryT, according to his own testimony: he read harder. He found out that JimH made lots of sense, possibly more now that he had a few ClimateBall years under his belt. Sure, JoeR told him off the air to read harder. But notice the modality: he dared him. Daring contrarians oftentimes works better than just discussing with them. If even JoeR can dare contrarians and it works, I duly submit that challenging contrarians is the way to go.

All this has very little to do with BretS’ case. The whole idea of discussing with an op-ed writer is bonkers. An editorialist isn’t there to discuss. He’s there to voice his opinion, be it his own, contrarians’ or anyone’s else. He writes, people read. Some may respond, but by writing to an audience, most probably another. Basic rhetoric.

Do you believe that giving Bret Stephens a platform for misinformation in a credible newspaper is a good way to open up the discussion?

This question has been answered by AT this way:

[S]uch discussions are difficult if they involve people who think there isn’t really anything to discuss, because everything could be fine. The possibility of everything being fine doesn’t somehow negate the possibility of it being severe and negative, especially as the outcome will depend on what we chose to do. The irony (as I may have mentioned before) is the more that we dismiss the possibility of it being dangerous, the more we are likely to emit, and the greater the probability of it ending up being dangerous.

So here’s what we have. Allowing contrarians to do their homework. Daring contrarians to read harder. I also mentioned earlier that we miss an effective way to show why 1C matters a bit more than BretS’ minimization suggests. We certainly need more ways to show AGW in action (so to speak) that we need more discussions about discussions.

As for my remark about gaslighting, it was meant to be taken figuratively, say as a gentle reminder not to lose sight of the topic of the thread. I am quite confident Mosh’s only being playful, even if Hyper’s uprightness may have ticked him off.

100. Joshua says:

Steven –

=={ No evidence? }==

In response to the assertion that there is no evidence, you provide evidence of an unrepresentative sampling, seemingly (to me at least) to imply that it is representative. I don’t see how someone like Muller should be considered a representative sampling, nor how someone like Taylor would be.

Not to defend outrage over Stephens editorial, or to say that cancelling NYTimes subscriptions will change the trajectory of climate change policy development, or to argue that name-calling has a net positive impact…. but neither does referencing unrepresentative (anecotal) sampling provide particularly useful insight into the mechanics of how the general public or even conservatives in general formulate or change their opinions about climate change.

=={ No evidence?

hmm… Joe romm opened a discusssion. Accomplished nothing. right. }==

It’s particularly interesting that you highlight a “skeptic’s” discussion with Romm as an object lesson on how to change “conservatives” minds about climate change – given that he’s often considered representative of exactly how not to communicate with “conservatives” about climate change.

Perhaps what’s instructive about the Romm/Taylor situation is not what Romm did, but what Taylor did?

101. hypergeometric says: “If ECS is going to continue to be used as the basis of argument and policy, it seems to need to be made far more robust than it is.”

If the only evidence were ECS estimate from Energy Balance Models based on a signal with a low signal to noise ratio and a concurrent change in aerosols, you would be right. Fortunately we have many other ECS estimates and evidence.

Click to access WG1AR5_Chapter12_FINAL.pdf

102. Joshua says:

The problem for “realists” is that they “lose” if they talk about uncertainty and they “lose” if they don’t.

There is a panel discussion on NPR every morning here in the Catskills (a large chunk of New England, actually). They were discussing the Stephens’ editorial this morning, and it was interesting that even though today’s panel was all lefty, there was pretty much a consensus that the NYTimes was justified in publishing the editorial. The one particularly interesting comment, IMO, was when one panelist characterized Stephens’ argument as being that “Climate Change a matter of probabilities” and then asked whether it really is a matter of probabilities. The problem for “realists”, IMO, is that may feel that there is no effective way to answer that question, but at same time, saying that the question shouldn’t be asked is not a better option (unless people see that the impact of ACO2 unambiguously impacts their lives significantly on a daily basis).

103. Willard says:

À propos of nothing, an Iowa farm cartoonist has been fired for this cartoon:

What we need is more discussions with Monsanto.

104. We have directly observed empirical evidence of a surface temperature response of about 1.7C per doubling of CO2. let’s not wander too far away from what is observed to what is imagined.

105. We have directly observed empirical evidence of a surface temperature response of about 1.7C per doubling of CO2. let’s not wander too far away from what is observed to what is imagined.

Let’s also not overplay the strength of these observationsally-based estimates.

106. verytallguy says:

We have directly observed empirical evidence of a surface temperature response of about 1.7C per doubling of CO2.

Again, no, we have a model which is fitted to observations and gives this as a central estimate with considerable uncertainty.

107. BBD says:

Beaten to the punch, again … 🙂

108. I should probably hve made clearer in the post that I wasn’t arguing that the ECS should necessarily be directly policy relevant, simply that it is an indicator of how sensitive our climate is to external perturbations. It could be very sensitive, in which case the change could be large even if we manage to constrain our total emissions. On the other hand, we could emit enough the the change could still be large even if climate sensitivity is low. However, we could end up being lucky, and either the changes will end up being small and/or benign. The latter, however, does not change that there is a possibility that the changes could be large and severely negative and being rather dismissive of this is probably not conducive to reasonable discussion as to what we might want to do, given this possibility.

109. Windchaser says:

We have directly observed empirical evidence of a surface temperature response of about 1.7C per doubling of CO2.

needs:

–> A model deriving global surface temperatures from the data we have.
–> A model for other forcings or variations, and their effects on climate during this time.
–> A model describing the relationship between observed warming thus far and equilibrium warming, including things like the rate of ocean heat uptake.

You cannot get from “thermometers show X warming” to “the equilibrium sensitivity is 1.7C/doubling” without these intermediary steps.

Note that most of the “empirical” models still give estimates centered around 3.0 C. But the uncertainties are high, because estimates of things like aerosol forcing are also high.

110. Joshua says:

If you use a model to derive global temps from a collection of discrete data points, is that being imaginative?

111. Huh. The figures in my reply to ATTP did not make it. I have placed the complete comment here.

Thanks to @MarkR and @Victor Venema for the clarifications and especially to VV for the really nice ECS figure from AR5.

As far as “hyperbole” goes, I have been and continue to be deeply entrenched in trying to move Massachusetts to zero Carbon emissions, by, say, 2050 or 2060. Even among progressives is is a really really hard slog, not primarily because of the Usual Suspects, although they do not help, but because people simply do not want to change how they are used to living. And the environmental organizations don’t want to take that on headfirst, for fear they will lose political influence. Turning the electrical grid to complete zero emissions looks feasible, but the only suggestion on transport is electrifying it. And there has been no serious plan made for how to have people who continue to insist upon rebuilding homes in high risk areas or their municipalities to bear more of the risk and cost. You may say I am engaging in “hyperbole,” but want I see “on the ground” is that people, even here, are collectively saying “Let’s wait and see what’ll happen.” Sure, that’s not surprising, but there’s only so much one can do.

I and Claire continue, by example, by pushing residential solar as a revolutionary power source, and by advocating for means whereby low income, multifamily, and people of color can take advantage of this, in addition to us relatively rich white folks in the suburbs.

Meanwhile, I’m getting more and more interested in Broecker and Lackner’s approach.

112. Windchaser says:

If you use a model to derive global temps from a collection of discrete data points, is that being imaginative?

The only reason I even mention it is because of papers like Cowtan and Way (2014) which show that under-measuring in the Arctic biases our global estimates too low.

113. Willard says:

> You may say I am engaging in “hyperbole,” but want I see “on the ground” is that people, even here, are collectively saying “Let’s wait and see what’ll happen.”

I’m not saying you may be engaging in hyperbole, Hyper. I am saying that you are. The whole “self-respect” slant is more than suboptimal. It’s just silly.

And because of these hyperboles I spent an hour today defusing the peddling that ensued. It was fun and I own what I do, but still. Concerns about communication are not the most challenging ones to meet.

Besides, how much do you charge per hour for your consulting? Don’t answer the last question. It was meant to show how Masked Ball scenes can sometimes start innocuously.

114. Willard says:

> I and Claire continue, by example, by pushing residential solar as a revolutionary power source, and by advocating for means whereby low income, multifamily, and people of color can take advantage of this, in addition to us relatively rich white folks in the suburbs.

Those who are leading by example should always talk about their own journey, I believe. People identify to people, not ideas. That’s why journalists crave for that kind of thing. Compare and contrast:

[H1] There is no evidence opening the discussion will accomplish anything.

[H2] I and Claire continue, by example, by pushing residential solar as a revolutionary power source, and by advocating for means whereby low income, multifamily, and people of color can take advantage of this, in addition to us relatively rich white folks in the suburbs. Even among progressives is is a really really hard slog, not primarily because of the Usual Suspects, although they do not help, but because people simply do not want to change how they are used to living.

My first ClimateBall reflex when reading H1 is to try to prove you wrong.

My first ClimateBall reflex when reading H2 is to try to help you. Since I’m more into the rhetoric of things, I’d try to help you with your framing. Minimizing your own journey would make me look like a jerk, so even if I was a contrarian I would not dare to do that.

Incidentally, Moshpit did H1 by doing something like H2. It was thus a slam dunk. The only problem is that H1 was just a hook.

We all know that convincing people is hard. We all know that it’s possible. Everybody wants to rule the world.

115. @Willard, there is no discussion implied in [H2]. In fact, it isn’t until people see themselves making money until they take the proposal seriously. In fact, sometimes not even then, on principle, because they think they are somehow “giving into the lefties.” Indeed, in Westwood, where we live, there are bylaws and building codes which exist entirely to discourage people putting up sizeable zero Carbon energy sources on their own personal property. Yet, people and builders and real estate people complain about (even) the (weak) enforcement of the Wetlands Protection Act (of Massachusetts).

I am no longer trying to convince anyone. I am trying to encourage a state of affairs where they will lose their shirts and possibly their jobs if they don’t play along.

116. @Willard, I should say that Hermann Scheer, in his books, documented that at the start of the German Energiewende the biggest opposition was not, in fact, the existing utilities or energy structures, it was local laws in rich German states opposing local people erecting solar panels and the like. It took a federal act there which made these illegal to allow energiewende to go forward, and even then it wasn’t and isn’t smooth.

117. Willard says:

> there is no discussion implied in [H2].

It’s the other way around – good discussions often come with some storytelling:

It follows from holding one’s views. You tell the otter why or how you came to the conclusions you reached. He does the same. You don’t argue over facts – you simply share your mutual experiences. After that it’s easier to find common ground, to work around worldviews, to offer rewards, etc.

It’s better not to try to convince people. Even teh Donald seldom does that. The best you can expect is to nudge them where they already want to go.

118. Eli Rabett says:

Well, hippie bashing is alive and well at Mosher’s but with 70 m sea level rise those noted liberal bastions of Houston and Baton Rouge as well as the South Carolina lowlands and more are in trouble. OTOH, Boulder is high and dry.

with 70 m sea level rise those noted liberal bastions of Houston and Baton Rouge as well as the South Carolina lowlands and more are in trouble.

Even before that, according to this article: Rapid attribution of the August 2016 flood-inducing extreme precipitation in south Louisiana to climate change.

OTOH, Boulder is high and dry.

High but not dry. Trenberth thinks the atmospheric-river-fed flooding that struck the Front Range in September 2013 should be partially attributed to AGW.

120. Vinny Burgoo says:

Philip Toynbee on how to convince governing elites that drastic action is necessary to prevent global catastrophe predicted by top scientists and economists to occur within the next 20 to 50 years if things don’t change:

My own view, for what it is worth, is that it is only by the most drastically egalitarian measures that we can hope to improve our future. But I would at once point out that this judgment may be suspect, in that I have always been a theoretical egalitarian. The last thing that any doomsman should do is to use this hideous situation as an excuse for propagating his own political opinions. I know many Conservatives who are as concerned as I am about the future of the human race, but who would be most unwilling to believe that egalitarian measures are the best way of dealing with it.

But what we can, perhaps, agree upon – throughout the whole political spectrum – is that the kind of measures the Government must take will, at least initially, be thoroughly unpopular with the electorate. [And onwards to a defence of undemocratic ‘gross paternalism’, its ‘sole alternative being gross authoritarianism at a later stage’; then stuff about decent ‘doomsmen’ being dissed for opposing ‘the god Growth’, how gadgets don’t make us happy, and how the Common Market ‘is largely irrelevant to our survival prospects’.]

— The Observer, 4th June, 1972.

121. > The best you can expect is to nudge them where they already want to go.

How one nudges recalcitrant policymakers where they already want to go would be the question of the age then, W. Perhaps it’s time for me to end my streak as a registered independent all these years and sign up as a Republican. (What if it sticks? Eeek.)

Failing that, get filthy stinking rich and grease palms. Though I think that’s already been tried.

Patience and hope … BAU … it is then.

122. Willard says:

> How one nudges recalcitrant policymakers

I’ve heard good things about written letters. Here’s a bag of tricks:

https://www.ted.com/playlists/197/talks_to_restore_your_faith_in

Bear in mind that these tricks don’t imply “discussion” – speaking truth to power seldom starts conversations the way journos an hipsters talk about starting conversations.

Also note that we’re already under BAU trajectory. Things are getting done as we wait for Godot in this ClimateBall joint. By chance nobody who’s willing to do things is dragged down by our “discussions”.

Did I ever tell you that we switched our central heating from oil to gas a few years ago? We were into profit the year after we switched, and we halved our footprint. I blame Gnomes.

123. And we switched off oil to essentially zero Carbon emitting electric air source heat pumps for both house heating and cooling and hot water. Our bills are remarkably less, esp given our 10 kW solar array.

Explosive methane is a highly questionable win, given fugitive emissions and high impact feeder netwoeks.

124. Willard says:

> [W]e switched off oil to essentially zero Carbon emitting electric air source heat pumps for both house heating and cooling and hot water.

We checked for this solution too. Electricity generators were thrice the price, and contractors were uncertain it would heat our whole building. In our case, gas was the best win we had. Its price is also regulated.

The next big step is to install a white or green roof. I’m not sure about installing solar panels – I hate going up alone, so it means I get to bother a friend each and every year. Problem is our electricity is the cheapest in the world.

Speaking of which, Hydro-Québec has started installing public charging stations. So another big step should be to switch to an electric car.

***

That kind of exchange is perfect for you, Hyper. For ninjas like me, they’re a bit too *personal*. To each his own.

125. John Hartz says:

In my opinion, Jonathan Chaitt has penned one of the best critiques of Stpehen’s first NY Times Op-ed (the topic of ATTP’s OP)…

What If Climate Scientists Are Guessing Wrong? by Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 1, 2017

I understand that a goodly number of folk are upset by the phrase “scientists are guessing wron” in the headline. Some even refuse to read Chait’s article because of this phrase.

My response is twofold:

First, headlines are written to grab the reader’s attention, not necessarily to inform. Futhermore, in many instances, headlines are written by someone other than the author of an article.

Second, the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” seems to be passe.

126. JH,
I do think Chait’s article is pretty good, but I do think the title is unfortunate (although unfortunate titles is rather common).

127. > I’ve heard good things about written letters.

Specifically, *handwritten* letters. How interesting. I’ve also heard that phone calls work better. Many theories.

> Also note that we’re already under BAU trajectory.

Yes, and I’ll re-remind myself to patience and hope, particularly for better election outcomes here in the US.

***

I’d be a good candidate for solar save for a roof facing the wrong way, and the neighbor’s trees blocking teh good afternoon sunlight. My local utility provider has this program by which I can choose to purchase solar energy from utility-scale installations on their grid for a premium. I can do more than I haven’t.

But being cranky is so much fun. Thanks for the nudge, W.

128. Y’need to have a look at community solar. The poster child is SonnenCommunity, but we have several options here in Massachusetts, including one whose business model is focused upon providing benefits to multifamily/low income via others having solar on their roofs.

129. John Hartz says: “I understand that a goodly number of folk are upset by the phrase “scientists are guessing wrong” in the headline. Some even refuse to read Chait’s article because of this phrase.”

One should not blame the author for a bad headline, but it is fine to blame the newspaper. Many more people see the headline than read the article. Thus a bad headline is very destructive. A deceptive headline is definitely a reason for me not to spread an article.

130. John Hartz says:

Victor: Given the high quality of Chait’s article, I believe it should be shared widely despite the poorly written headline. I also suspect that whoever wrrote the headline has been taken to the proverbial woodshed for a good thrashing.

131. Okay, John Hartz, tweeted it like this:

132. John Hartz says:

Victor: Good job. Perhaps I should get a Twitter account?

133. Willard says:

I rather like Chait’s title. It reminded me of this;

I also liked this BretS’ best of:

134. Willard says:

Willard:

I rather like Chait’s title. It reminded me of this;

My initial reaction to the headline was it was a troll; from a magazine editor’s PoV it’s click bait, I suppose.

After a second’s thought, I came up with the same cartoon you did.

136. Joshua says:

That’s quite a list.

No wonder Judith is such a fangirl of Brad…. Who better to step up and lead the charge against science-“activism” than someone who has made his living writing commentary on political issues? Surely, reading that list of his opinions should make it clear that he is the ideal choice to reach across the political divide to help her achieve the goal of “de-politicizing” climate science?

137. Joshua,
Did you mean Brad, or Bret?

138. Joshua says:
139. By the way, given the renewables subdiscussion above, I thought the group might be interested in this RFQ just let by the Commonwealth through their MassCEC: Community Microgrids Program.

140. John Hartz says:

Articles about the Stephens hire just keep popping up…

Soft Climate Denial at The New York Times, Observation by Robert Proctor &, Steve Lyons, Scientific Amercian, May 8, 2017

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.