Newspaper Blogs

October 29, 2003

GLOBAL WARMING, COOLING, NO WARMING....Just a quick update on that global warming chart that supposedly got shot to pieces by a couple of amateurs ("M&M") who discovered errors in the raw data: the original authors say that M&M screwed up their data. Somebody — it's not entirely clear who — exported the original raw data to Excel but somehow exported 159 columns of data into a 112-column spreadsheet. M&M failed to compare the spreadsheet to the original data and thus produced a "correction" that was riddled with errors.

David Appell has the story here and here.

There may be more to come on this, but so far it looks like the score is Experts 1, Amateurs 0.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 29, 2003 02:32 PM | TrackBack


so far it looks like the score is Experts 1, Amateurs 0.


Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 02:50 PM | PERMALINK

Any bets on how many years it will take before NRO or other hack journalists stop citing this erroneous study as proof of alleged phoniness of global warming?

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 29, 2003 02:53 PM | PERMALINK

Still doesn''t settle the "Our experts can beat up your experts" question I suppose. Where's Christie Whitman when you need her, I have a cow fart graph I need vetting.


Posted by: fouro at October 29, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

DMBeaster - the over/under is 4 years, and I'm betting over.

Posted by: lefty skeptic at October 29, 2003 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

But someone once heard a friend of a friend on the subway that the commie fasco-qaeda librulz are liars. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, despite that you refuse to back up your wild assertions.

So let's split the difference and say "it's too complicated" and they're both right. I mean, who are you going to believe anyway, corrupted lifetime liberal academics with an obvious agenda, or some disinterested citizen with no background in the field to bias them? Hm? Hm?

Am I right? Am I right?

Posted by: squiddy at October 29, 2003 02:57 PM | PERMALINK

So, if a professor of economics is an "amateur" unqualified to comment on the science of global warming, can we assume that other econ professors will also be considered "amateurs" when commenting on topics of interest to political scientists and historians too?

Just wondering, here...

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at October 29, 2003 03:08 PM | PERMALINK

Lets see now, what would be farther afield for an economist? Fiscal policy, government policy, history, or.....................climatology?

Heh. It's too complicated for me, so I'll just say that it's all the same.


Posted by: Barry at October 29, 2003 03:10 PM | PERMALINK

Does this sort of thing happen a lot? I mean, if you spend that much time on something, it would seem smart to check the numbers first to see if they are right.
Just out of curiosity, how are scientific journal articles checked for accuracy? I know there aren't teams of scientists checking every cite like law articles, but is there anything similar?

Posted by: Reg at October 29, 2003 03:12 PM | PERMALINK

Professionals would have contacted the original team before going to press.

Posted by: Stoffel at October 29, 2003 03:15 PM | PERMALINK

'screwed up' or 'mendacicized'?

As earlier this year another paper written by non-paleoclimatologists did the same thing, I think it's hardly 'screwed up' in the 'oops: my bad' sense.


Posted by: Dano at October 29, 2003 03:17 PM | PERMALINK


Scientific articles undergo a peer review process, where the manuscript is sent to 2 or more relevant experts who read the article and weigh its scientific value. Based on the judgments of the reviewers, the editor makes the final decision on publishing. That is the mot typical model, anyway. I have no idea what E&E does, but Nature is famous for being tough to publish in.

Most reviewers have only a few weeks with which to review an article. Due to that time restriction (imposed by the journals, to move things along), it is generally not possible to check every aspect of the authors' work (like redo calculations a la M&M's paper). The depth to which work is checked is dependent on the reviewers themselves. A common scenario is, if something looks fishy, they'll call the authors on it and ask for more info. But there will always be a core of trust that the authors are intellectually and scientifically honest.

Based on the abstracts at the website, and the fact that I can't find it in university libraries, E&E is a hack journal and M&M's decision to go there is very telling. Like I said before, the appropriate way to do this sort of fact-checking is thru the original journal, which was Nature.

Posted by: Timothy at October 29, 2003 03:31 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry guys, but you are way behind the curve. A study from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics released in March, also debunked what many have called the "hockey stick" curve showing 20th century temperatures as extremely high. Here is a link to the press release

Posted by: TR Farmer at October 29, 2003 03:34 PM | PERMALINK

DMBeaster - the over/under is 4 years, and I'm betting over.

I'll put $2 on the over.

Make that $3.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 03:35 PM | PERMALINK

Scroll down to the bottom of that press release and read....

The study - funded by NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the American Petroleum Institute

Hmmm....and they're planning to publish in E&E as well, not a peer-refereed journal.....

Posted by: sagesource at October 29, 2003 03:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sagesource beat me to it.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 03:41 PM | PERMALINK

So what do you have against NASA, NOAA, and the Air Force and the journal Climate Research

Posted by: TR Farmer at October 29, 2003 03:46 PM | PERMALINK

Also Harvard, that bastion of conservative politics

Posted by: TR Farmer at October 29, 2003 03:47 PM | PERMALINK

Hehe, hehe. He said "mendacicized" Heheh.


Posted by: fouro at October 29, 2003 03:51 PM | PERMALINK

Not necessarily anything.... though government departments are always suspect of complying with the wishes of their masters. But it turns out the so-called "study" appears to be on the level of anecdotal gossip, and the authors are deeply in the pockets of The Usual Suspects.

The principal target of the paper was Michael Mann of the University of Virginia, whose compilation of thousands of proxy indicators led to the conclusion that the past two decades have been unusually warm.
Mann said the Soon study does not even attempt to reconstruct global average temperatures, but simply highlights anecdotal evidence of isolated trends. Soon acknowledged that his research does not provide a comprehensive picture.

Link to the article that came from, with a lot of information about the background of the authors of this study, here.

Getting a little bit more difficult to just plain lie in the age of the Internet, Farmer.....

Posted by: sagesource at October 29, 2003 03:52 PM | PERMALINK

There's also something known as common sense. Any substantial, world-wide warming would have melted a lot of ice and raised sea levels. I don't recall seeing any evidence that happened.

What we have here with this "study" is a few high-placed whores cherry-picking a few hundred sources to "disprove" research that relies on thousands of sources. It takes the eye of faith, or a pocketful of cash, to belive that crap.

Posted by: sagesource at October 29, 2003 03:56 PM | PERMALINK

A right wing crank from TechCentralStation has an op-ed at USAToday talking up this M&M 'paper'.

He flatly states: "Mann never made his data available online — nor did many of the earlier researchers whose data Mann relied upon for his research. That by itself raises questions about the U.N. climate-change panel's scientific process."

This turns out not to be the case, since Mann's data is available at

Posted by: Jon H at October 29, 2003 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

Also Harvard, that bastion of conservative politics

Didn't Harvard turn out both Grover Norquist and George Bush? Didn't some students at the Harvard Crimson uncover some kind of discreet financial bailout for one of Bush's companies a few years back? Yeah, some liberal bastion ya got there.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 03:57 PM | PERMALINK

The summing-up from the Seattle PI article referenced above:

The research was underwritten by the American Petroleum Institute, the trade association of the world's largest oil companies.
Two of the five authors are scientists who have been linked to the coal industry and have received support from the ExxonMobil Foundation.
Two others, who are affiliated with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, also have the title of "senior scientists" with a Washington-based organization supported by conservative foundations and ExxonMobil Corp.
The organization, the George T. Marshall Institute, is headed by William O'Keefe, a former executive of the American Petroleum Institute.

You can apologize and repent any time, Farmer.

Posted by: sagesource at October 29, 2003 04:01 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a link to the table of contents for the relevant Climate Research issue (click on my name to go there). The Soon and Baliunas article is at the top. Full-text PDF version only available to subscribers (if you are at a university, you can probably get it). Speaking as an atmospheric scientist (but not a climatologist - I study thunderstorms), Climate Research is a respected journal - published in Germany (though in English), it is widely available at universities and not an advocacy journal like E&E.

Posted by: Timothy at October 29, 2003 04:16 PM | PERMALINK

Even if one were to believe the conclusions of the Harvard study (which I don't), it still doesn't prove that everything is hunky-dory.

The scientists claim that the current period of warming is not without precedent (who ever said it was and how is that relevant to the argument?); that there was a warming period in the Middle Ages that was greater (our current warming cycle is not over yet, how can the authors possibly compare its severity to a previous period?); and that earlier warming period was followed by a "mini ice age" (so couldn't one safely assume that our warming period--whatever its severity--will also be followed by an ice age? This is good news?)

Granted, I did not gleen this from the study itself, just the press release. But considering that the press release should function as a PR document highlighting the strengths of their argument, I can't see the point of looking much further into the study.

Posted by: danno at October 29, 2003 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry - I send you to the wrong page, on that page click on 2003, Volume 23, No. 2, or 23(2)

Posted by: Timothy at October 29, 2003 04:18 PM | PERMALINK

No apologies or repentance. Who's lying on the Internet? - I hope you didn't mean me.

I hadn't seen the P-I article but it's interesting that the attacks on that study seem to be focused on motives rather than on data. I'd much rather see discussion that starts with a refutation of data rather one that begins with a recitation of funding sources. That's a much more powerful argument. And real data is real data no matter who paid for it. Then we can talk about interpretations all day long.

Climate Research is peer-reviewed by the way, which seemed to mean a lot to some earlier in this thread.

As one who works with paleoclimate data a lot, though I don't generate it, I'm interested as to why there is a focus on the last 1000 years. All you have to do is change the time scale and see that there is much more variability, both cooler and warmer, in the last say 10,000 than Mann atributes to the 20th century in his chart.

Posted by: TR Farmer at October 29, 2003 04:31 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for the link, Timothy

Posted by: TR Farmer at October 29, 2003 04:56 PM | PERMALINK

TR Farmer:

Did you miss the part in the article sited by sagesource that said:

"Mann said the Soon study does not even attempt to reconstruct global average temperatures, but simply highlights anecdotal evidence of isolated trends. Soon acknowledged that his research does not provide a comprehensive picture."

Sagesource even included that part in his post! I don't see how that is an attack on motives or funding sources.

Posted by: danno at October 29, 2003 04:58 PM | PERMALINK

We don't care.... Europeans, Muslims, Russians, Chinese, Indians, Africans, Asians, Catholics, we told you to sign the KYOTO agreements, your gvt did not sign it, then we will make your gvt pay.
We are asking you gently to hand us over Bush to be delivred to the International Criminal Court because he guilty until found innocent. If you can't guys do that, we will make him fall down really soon by any means, because we live in a just world and international laws are the same for everybody else.
God bless you.
We will have our revenge

Posted by: Frenchy at October 29, 2003 05:01 PM | PERMALINK

I repeat it: we want Bush to be handed over the International Criminal Court to decide if the is a criminal against the american people or not.
He is for sure a criminal against Humanity.
We expect the american people to deliver him to us. No harm is needed, we need him. If ever you fail we will do it ourself with international laws after 2004.
Thank you for being a democratic country, long live to the Republic, long life to the USA without a hidden agenda

Posted by: Frenchy at October 29, 2003 05:11 PM | PERMALINK

An unsolicited review of global warming science issue.

Paleoclimatology has established a long history of very radical climate changes over the last many thousands of years. The evidence is that natural fluctuations in warm/cold temperatures are large over time. Also, that the fluctuations occur frequently in a fairly random manner, which the exception of the huge time periodicity related to ice age theory (but these are swings measured in 10s of thousands of years -- not a period of centuries or even decades).

There is no clear scientific explanation for these wide swings in temperatures over short period of time (a few hundred or thousand years). There are many theories, and many are plausible. What makes it really complicated is that there are probably many competing trends that work against or reinforce each other, as the case may be.

It seems clear that without regard to greenhouse gasses, there has been a natural warming trend in place over last 200 years. There is also good evidence that the warming trend may be accelerating, but that is harder to say with certainty. However, the warming trend of the last century is less than the extremes that have been observed by paleoclimatology when there were no potential human impacts. In other words, the mere fact of a warming trend over last 100 years cannot prove human causes for global warming. It is consistent with it, but it also resembles large swings that pre-date human affects. I do not think that anyone has found a clear way to differentiate natural warming and human caused warming.

The theory that human activity is creating global warming is based on sound science, but the proof is difficult to detect from atmospheric observations. In other words, the science is not nearly as clear as with chloroflurocarbons and the ozone layer.

Best argument for policies reducing greenhouse gasses is that we are playing with fire, and the risk is that warming trends are likely to be self-reinforcing resulting in massive changes in a very short time. Also likely to be ugly consequences that are irreversible over the short run. But what is the appropriate amount to reduce, and what is the cost-benefit analysis of various alternative reduction levels when so much is unceratin as to the exact causal link?

Unfortunately, the mantra that we "must keep studying it" is also a cover for inaction. It looks like we'll have to have proof of a real disaster to get consensus on this one.

Posted by: DMBeaster at October 29, 2003 05:15 PM | PERMALINK

I will just point out to Farmer that the journal, CLimate Research, in which the B&S paper you so proudly cite was published, blew up as a result. Five editors have resigned in protest over the fact that the paper was published in their journal - including the managing editor. Even the journal owner Harvard, B&S were ripped in the Harvard Crimson as well. Check it out, and catch up to the curve, Farmer.

Posted by: Jim at October 29, 2003 05:29 PM | PERMALINK

Experts are elitists. I'm a professional amateur who has a personal relationship with climatology.
We're getting uniforms soon.

Then, watch it!

Posted by: John Thullen at October 29, 2003 05:31 PM | PERMALINK

- reposting - I will just point out to Farmer that the journal, - CLimate Research, in which the B&S paper you so proudly cite was published, blew up as a result. Five editors have resigned in protest over the fact that the paper was published in their journal - including the managing editor. Even the journal owner would not defend the paper. Speaking of Harvard, B&S were ripped in the Harvard Crimson as well. Check it out, and catch up to the curve, Farmer.

Posted by: Jim at October 29, 2003 05:32 PM | PERMALINK

Hey sagesource.

The sea level situation would only occur for melting to ice above mean sea level. Melting of sea ice would actually decrease mean sea level, get it? douche bag? Richard Cranium?

JMHO, but, you stupid neocons are total idiots, as opposed to those who are not idiots but just stupid.

Posted by: dog_the_wag at October 29, 2003 05:39 PM | PERMALINK

>So, if a professor of economics is an "amateur" unqualified to comment on the science of global warming,

Kevin didn't effing say they were unqualified and you know it. He clearly gave them the benefit of the doubt in his original post. Then the experts showed up (and apparently we didn't even need climate pros, we just needed the people who wrote "Excel For Dummies") and whupped butt. Deal with it.

Or just go stalk Krugman, deep down you know you want to. Troll.

Posted by: doesn't matter at October 29, 2003 05:47 PM | PERMALINK

I had not heard about that Climate Research flap, Jim. Interesting ... I'm withholding judgment on the article until I've read it carefully, but I will say that articles that are truly skeptical global warming are pretty rare in the respected literature these days. There's a reason for that, and it isn't politics.

Posted by: Timothy at October 29, 2003 05:53 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a link to a WSJ news article on the Climate Research flap. Gotta love Google ...
PDF version of Wall Street Journal article

Posted by: Timothy at October 29, 2003 06:02 PM | PERMALINK

DMBeaster, thank you for a non-hysterical approach to the topic, which is quite different from the yelping nonsense that one usually reads from all sides of the debate. Yes, it usually takes real proof of negative effects before people will form a consensus regarding forcing involuntary change. That's just how people are. It is better, then, to forthrightly acknowledge the relatively paltry level of science on the topic, and get busy rectifying that situation, rather than pretending that the science is more advanced than it is, which simply breeds mistrust. Not everyone is disingenuous on the topic, and there is a considerable percentage of the population that has an open mind on the topic, and can be convinced either way if a competent, empirically-based, effort is made.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 29, 2003 06:05 PM | PERMALINK

Timothy - here is a link to the Harvard Crimson article - just for fun

Posted by: Jim at October 29, 2003 06:13 PM | PERMALINK

Best argument for policies reducing greenhouse gasses is that we are playing with fire, and the risk is that warming trends are likely to be self-reinforcing resulting in massive changes in a very short time.

Best argument for reducing greenhouse gasses is that most of these gasses are the result of burning fossil fuels, a dependency on which has sent untold billions of American's dollars to an area of the world that breeds terrorism financed off the money, which we in turn have to spend more money fighting.

Imagine a world where we don't send a % of our GNP to the Middle East. Imagine a world where not only are we self sufficient for our energy requirements but we export state of the art alternative energy technology.

Ceasing the emissions of greenhouse producing gasses as relates to global warming should just be a bonus.

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 06:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, it usually takes real proof of negative effects before people will form a consensus regarding forcing involuntary change.

In my argument, 9/11 was the real proof of a negative effect that had a chance to form a consensus regarding forcing involuntary change. Instead we blew it.

How many dollars did you send to Saudi Arabia today?

Posted by: Thumb at October 29, 2003 06:23 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen, you're just no fun. You're absolutely correct and logical, but no fun.

Here's the deal. When Limbaugh et al. stop looking out the window at snow and declaring "global warming" and "climate change" to be merely Stalinist liberal fantasies, then Stalinist liberal fantasist wack jobs like me will shut up.

Look, this whole thing, like everything a long time ago, became an Irish bar fight. Just when you've thrown a great punch, and then picked the poor guy up and replaced his hat and bought him a drink, here comes another punch your way from somebody else you weren't talking to.

I forget who started it. But I hope your logic and reason win the day, regardless of the outcome.

In the meantime, duck.

Posted by: John Thullen at October 29, 2003 06:25 PM | PERMALINK

M&M == John Lott

Posted by: Hacticus at October 29, 2003 07:39 PM | PERMALINK

I think one of the most telling things about that Harvard study was that, at least in the press release, it only said that global warmth was greater in the past, sometime during 950-1150. It didn't say anything about global warming having been greater. Of course, if you've got 200 years of natural warming, it can produce more "warmth" than 50+ years of artificial warming, and still not have been as severe. So even the claim that they did (not) prove is irrelevant.

dog_the_wag: Re-read sagesource's post. He was talking about past, 10th-12th century warming cited in the Harvard study, not claiming there isn't anything like that going on today.

Posted by: John at October 29, 2003 08:52 PM | PERMALINK

FWIW, the authors (I'm sorry, "amateurs") have a response to Mann's piece here as a Word doc. I did a straight PDF export from OpenOffice Writer and put that here in case you don't have anything that can read Word documents.

And, a correction upthread: it's apparent that McIntyre and McKitrick did correspond with Mann during their work on the paper, unless you believe they fabricated the correspondence in the above document.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at October 29, 2003 09:01 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just that there's experts vs. amatuers--the experts have been at work for, in some cases, decades, and a *massive* amount of evidence and argument has been accumulated. At this point, no single critique is enough to refute the conclusions. I refer everyone to my standard rant on this at:

Or you can just go to the IPCC's web site and marvel at the extent of the work.

Posted by: randwolf at October 29, 2003 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and I forgot to mention: Anyone using Excel for "serious scientific studies" with more math in them than, say, presenting totals columns & rows, deserves whatever kind of a thrashing their paper gets.

Posted by: John at October 30, 2003 01:31 AM | PERMALINK

Will Allen:
It is better, then, to forthrightly acknowledge the relatively paltry level of science on the topic, and get busy rectifying that situation, rather than pretending that the science is more advanced than it is, which simply breeds mistrust.
Actually, the science is already pretty advanced, not "relatively paltry." Do you have any evidence to the contrary?

there is a considerable percentage of the population that has an open mind on the topic, and can be convinced either way if a competent, empirically-based, effort is made.
It's my impression that not many people care about this very much, but among those who do, they are already fairly well-convinced. Anecdotally, I've seen this in my own family. My father was a skeptic, but my brother and sister (environmental scientist and geologist, respectively) pretty much convinced him. BTW, two of the three people in that equation are conservatives.

Posted by: Keith at October 30, 2003 02:46 AM | PERMALINK

Mann's reconstruction is just one of at least 7. They all look pretty much the same (you can see them all here: ). They're all independent. They all use different techniques. Have they all goofed?

The only other possibility, absurd as it may seem, is that a mining exec and a economist, working out of their field, fail to even be able to put the data together correctly. Hmmm...

Posted by: TomR at October 30, 2003 02:51 AM | PERMALINK

Sea level _is_ rising. Glaciers _are_ melting.

The change in mean sea level can be checked with a diligent enough search on Google for (US) government-funded measurements. It's not very fast but a steady trend.

As for glaciers, anecdotal evidence I'm afraid, but many of them in the Alps are disappearing much faster than at any time in the last few decades, and there has been a reduction in Polar ice (which is a reasonable indicator of sea temperature, although melting ice at the North Pole doesn't lead to sea level change).

Posted by: Thomas Dent at October 30, 2003 04:06 AM | PERMALINK

Time for this physics student's 2 cents.

Dog_the_wag: quantum physics and buoyancy being what they are, sea ice and and equivalent mass of sea water do not occupy the same volume, but the difference in volume is the part of the iceberg above water. Thus sea ice melting will not affect sea level.

John: while it once was true that Excel was once only good for plots, it's utility for data anaylsis now depends on the size of the data set. at least in physics, the analysis package chosen seems to depend on research area, philosophy about using Microsoft products, educational history, etc. I understand that the limits for the size Excel can handle now rivals that of packages like middling version numbers of Matlab and IDL, and VB for Excel allows script creation. Plus, it beats writing in Fortran!

TomR: there is another explanation as well. If all seven analyses were done in Excel, or each truncated the data set somehow, basically if each introduced some systematic error, then this is certainly possible. The same goes for the original study, but I have no idea if this explanation applies to any of the eight other than the Excel snafu.

Posted by: Aramis Martinez at October 30, 2003 04:43 AM | PERMALINK

They used different methodologies and different datasets (or, rather, different samples of the available data, according to the theory they were testing/implementing). I doubt they used Excel! If they had, and if it had introduced a systematic bias, it would have influenced the output in different ways (since the data aggregation methodologies were different).

But the point is that it was M&M who used Excel - not the professionals. Whichever way you cook the data, it comes out looking pretty much the same (unless you’re M&M, of course).

Posted by: TomR at October 30, 2003 04:55 AM | PERMALINK


there should be a comma after "no" in the title. The title is confusing without one--it looks like it's saying that there is "no warming"

Posted by: raj at October 30, 2003 06:15 AM | PERMALINK

Experts 1, Industry Hacks, 0

JaneGalt? Awfully quiet over there...

DMBeaster, you said it best.

Posted by: praktike at October 30, 2003 06:31 AM | PERMALINK

Jane Galt? Ooohhh, let me try!

Well, if you went to Chicago, and had professors who will probably get Mobel Prizes, you'd know that the market will only let global warming happen if it's more efficient than prevent it. It's simple economics, perhaps you liberals should take Econ 101!

Also, one of my (soon to win a Nobel Prize) professors said that he saw a debate on global warming, and the whole crowd of Evul Librul PC 'climatologists' (read: Greens) broke down sobbing after one withering stare from an economist!

And you can believe me, because, after being a financial wizard, a computer expert, a journalist and a diplomat, I'm now working as a professional climatologist (for by the free-market think tank 'Patriotic Americans for a Market-Efficient Climate')!

It's an open secret in the field of climatology that those few climatologists who believe in global warming have lost all respect of the better climatologists (such as those employed by the coal industry)!

Posted by: Barry at October 30, 2003 07:40 AM | PERMALINK

This is only a brief taste of the fund and program cutting. Google to your heart's content.

US climate research funds cut Republicans have pushed a bill through the House of Representatives which threatens to reduce funding for global warming research. The bill, which authorises funding for the major civilian science agencies, would cut US$138 million from the Environmental Protection Agency's research and development budget. NASA's "Mission to Planet Earth", which is concerned with climatic change research, would lose 25 per cent of its US$432 million budget. Critics, like Stewart Hudson of the National Wildlife Federation, say that the Republicans are ideologically opposed to global warming research.
SOURCES INCLUDE: New Scientist 21 October

Posted by: chris at October 30, 2003 08:30 AM | PERMALINK

I have a friend who's very, very deep into atmospheric physics relating to albedo and greenhouse effects. He's a hard-headed, skeptical and scientifically brilliant, far smarter than me -that's not necessarily saying much- and he says:
1) There isn't any rock-solid evidence of anthropogenic global warming.
2) If we keep dumping CO2 into the atmosphere, we'll get the rock solid evidence sooner or later, and we'll be screwed.
3) There's rock solid proof that the oceans are buffering world CO2 concentration (that is, absorbing CO2).
4) We don't understand global climate for shit.
5) There's a LOT of evidence of massive short term climate shifts in the past 50k-100k years from the Greenland ice sheet.
6) There's enormous political pressure in the atmospheric physics community to keep what he calls the Global Warming Gravy Train running. Not to the point of lying, but when the data is ambiguous and Rorshock-like(sp?) and the funding comes from peer-reviewed committees, the political pressures are quite real.
7) We MUST get off of fossil fuel.
8) And it won't happen anytime soon, because the only real alternative to fossil fuels (that is, generating gigawatts of power) is nuclear, which can be done (see France) but nobody wants it.
9)The only other way to reduce fossil fuel expenditure is to massively increase conservation, and the only way to do that is to double or treble the cost of oil, which is political suicide. Any "patch" measures, like MPG requirements, he rejects as infinitetesimally helpful but woefully inadequate.

He's the kind of guy who can refute any argument you make ten different ways to Thursday off the top of his head, and he's really, really depressing to talk to.
Just wanted to share.

Posted by: rhinoman at October 30, 2003 08:49 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the problem is that the amount of warming we've seen so far is quite small, in the scheme of things. We need to see lots more warming before we can be really sure that we've screwed things up.

Posted by: TomR at October 30, 2003 09:06 AM | PERMALINK

Tom R. How will we know "we" really screwed things up?
Who screwed things up a thousand years ago?
And where were the catastrophes then that this iteration is supposed to bring, whenever?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 30, 2003 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Well, what I'm told is that we could have massive global warming, or global cooling for that matter, that would have nothing to do with our influence on the atmosphere. This is because it's been happening for the last 100 thousand years. And we don't know why.
But, they do know that if we dump enough CO2 into the atmosphere, it will have an effect. How much is required, and what effect that will be, noone knows. The "playing with fire" idea is a good way to put it.

Also, the "catastrophic" effects are catastrophic to us, not the earth or ecosystem in general. Having sea level go up 10 feet won't destroy the earth - it's happened before - but it will be economically devistating to mankind.

Posted by: rhinoman at October 30, 2003 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I slept with both of the "amateurs" and each is the best I've ever had.

How dare anyone who hasn't been under one or both of them say that they don't give good data?

I saw stars.

Every time.

Posted by: MaryRosh at October 30, 2003 01:14 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Keith, since the models developed so far cannot yet explain past climatic changes, much less have any predictive utility, I would describe the current state of science on this matter as paltry. You are free to differ, of course.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 30, 2003 02:37 PM | PERMALINK

TR Farmer: "So what do you have against [...] and the journal Climate Research", "Climate Research is peer-reviewed by the way..."

Strange, at LSU they are not subscribed to "Climate Review" (or "Energy and Environment"). I cannot find them listed on "Web of Science" too. Which speaks bad for their recognition. I cannot find even their impact factors :-(.

Posted by: GB at October 30, 2003 04:36 PM | PERMALINK

"...the original authors say that M&M screwed up their data."

Not so. The original authors say that they sent M&M corrupted data.

Well, turns out the M&M noticed that, pointed out the corruption AND reconstructed the data.

Posted by: Get your facts straight at October 30, 2003 04:50 PM | PERMALINK

God these Professional Denialists are are SUCH bozos.

Posted by: asd at October 30, 2003 05:09 PM | PERMALINK

Just what are your own credentials, that you are competent to sit in judgement of what science is paltry, and what is not? In fact, just how familiar are you with this topic -- have you read enough of the literature to know which past climatic changes can and cannot be explained, and do you have enough scientific training that I should trust your judgement of the explanations?

Seismic modeling cannot yet predict earthquakes, and there are plenty of past earthquakes for which single causes cannot with absolute confidence be determined. Does this mean that the level of science in seismology is "paltry"?

Weather forecasting cannot yet predict weather a week in advance, and there are plenty of past events that cannot with absolute confidence be determined. Does this mean that the level of science in meteorology is "paltry"?

For that matter, economists cannot confidently predict future trends, lawyers cannot confidently predict jury decisions or future interpretations of the constitution, and neither athletes nor sports analysts can confidently predict the outcome of contests like Wimbledon, the World Series, or the World Cup, nor what successful strategies will be. By your reasoning, the level of technical sophistication in economics, law, and sports must then be judged "paltry," right?

Posted by: Keith at October 30, 2003 06:02 PM | PERMALINK

Having read Mann's correspondence and McIntyre and McKitrick's response, Mann comes across like a panicked fraud.

M&M have the goods on him both in terms of the data (they were never given an Excel spreadsheet as he claims) its integrity (they built their own database from public sources) and their correspondence with Mann (which they have and it conflicts with his published response in numerous ways).

The correspondence is devastating to Mann's position.

My bet is amateurs 1, this expert 0.

Posted by: JK at October 30, 2003 06:57 PM | PERMALINK

JK appears to be a PR hack.

Will Allen: the NASA GISS model can hindcast.

Of course, if you can see into the future, you can judge a model's predictive utility. However, I suspect you cannot so I will refrain from asking you how you know models have no predictive utility, apart from this phrase appearing on some web sites.


Posted by: Dano at October 30, 2003 07:19 PM | PERMALINK

Rhino man. I was referring to the human race when I spoke of catastrophes.
Frankly, if it doesn't happen to us, I consider it dramatic, no matter what it is.
So tell me about the devastation that happened during the Medieval Warm Period, or the Roman Warm Period. I don't suppose you'd like to take a crack at all the bad things that happened during the Holocene Maximum. Possibly you deplore the spread of agriculture.
I am aware that various recent excursions into the cold end of things have been difficult (which means devastating to a good many).
But warming?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at October 30, 2003 09:10 PM | PERMALINK

Y'all should google the ice age research. Turns out the experts say we are in the middle of the current ice age, and we can expect it to get cooler soon. Just for fun, I decided to correlate the start of the current ice age with the ages of the "Great Year" (not silly, since ice ages may be caused by variations in the amount of solar radiation hitting earth, which might vary over the 26,000 Great Year period). Turns out the glaciers started advancing in the Age of Aquarius, which will return in a couple of hundred years.
As for reducing CO2 production, there is reason to be optimistic. If women all over the world continue to gain social power at the same rate that they have been, they will voluntarily limit family size to below replacement, and human population will peak in next century and start to fall. Thus, human produced CO2 will also drop. Just in time for the glaciers to start advancing. Already, population in the northernmost parts of the planet (Europe, Russia) is dropping. Which means fewer people displaced by advancing ice sheets.

Posted by: Chris Vail at October 30, 2003 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

Precisely, Keith. In contrast, the science of, say, metalurgy, is not, for the most part, paltry, for the outcomes of metalurgical events can be, in comparison with meteorological events, be predicted with great accuracy. As someone else, who believed that reducing CO2 levels was important, wrote above, we really don't know much about the processes that produce climate change.

To Dano:

Let me rephrase; to date, it has not yet been shown that any climate model has predictive utility. Now, if you want to choose one, we can pick a year in the future to check whther it is accurate. I haven't read of the NASA model, but I would be interested as to what it's level of hindcasting accuracy is.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 30, 2003 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

You have a very, very odd method of determining which sciences are "paltry." You yourself are not, I take it, a practicing scientist. For that matter, you must judge most of human knowledge to be paltry, which calls into question your use of the word itself.

Posted by: Keith at October 31, 2003 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

Richard Aubrey wrote:


The famine of 1030-1033?

"Moreover, about the same time, a most mighty famine raged for five years throughout the Roman world, so that no region could be heard of which was not hunger stricken for lack of bread, and many of the people were starved to death. In those days also, in many regions, the terrible famine compelled men to make their food not only of unclean beasts and creeping things, but even of men's, women's, and children's flesh, without regard even of kindred; for so fierce waxed this hunger that grown-up sons devoured their mothers, and mothers, forgetting their maternal love ate their babes."

(OK so Glaber is prone to exaggeration, but independent research shows that it was a really nasty famine).


Barbarian invasions and the collapse of an empire, leading to a 500-year 'dark age'???

Posted by: TomR at October 31, 2003 01:03 AM | PERMALINK

Keith, it merely is a relative comparison between fields of knowledge. When processes are very well understood, then theories can be developed that have predictive utility. When processes are less well understood, then predictive utility is absent, and I would label such a state of knowledge "paltry" in comparison. If it is important to you that the word is withdrawn, fine.

Posted by: Will Allen at October 31, 2003 07:55 AM | PERMALINK

On Past Temperatures and Anomalous late-20th Century Warmth

Mann, M.E., Ammann, C.M., Bradley, R.S., Briffa, K.R., Crowley, T.J., Jones, P.D., Oppenheimer, M.,
Osborn, T.J., Overpeck, J.T., Rutherford, S., Trenberth, K.E., Wigley, T.M.L. (author affiliations at end)

Posted by: a at October 31, 2003 08:06 AM | PERMALINK

By your definition, law, economics, sports, and virtually all other fields of learning are then "paltry," is that right? For example, I know a lot about Japanese history, and a lot about baseball, but my predictive ability in those two fields is virtually nill. Objectively, I know more than most other people about those fields. The conclusion must be that our knowledge of baseball and Japanese history is paltry... or is there perhaps some other way to evaluate the fields? And what of metallurgical processes that are not so well understood??

Posted by: Keith at November 1, 2003 05:32 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, Keith, Japanese history and baseball are not scientific endeavors, so they lack the need to have predictive utility, in the same manner as do weather forcasting or metallurgy. Most people would consider economics to be far less developed, and daresay, paltry, compared to many scientfic endeavors. Yes, those metallurgical processes which are not well understood are paltry in terms of our knowledge, compared to those processes which are very well understood. You seem to be somewhat concerned about this, and like I said, if you find the word "paltry" bothersome, consider it withdrawn.

Posted by: Will Allen at November 1, 2003 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Withdrawn it is. If all we're left with is the assertion that environmental science does not have as much predictive utility as we would like, then I have no disagreement with that.

Posted by: Keith at November 1, 2003 06:31 PM | PERMALINK

It seems only fair that the actual response of the "amatuers" be given at least the respect of a reading, yet no-one here seems to have done so:

They have provided their correspondence with Mann and at no time did he mention additional time series nor did the original paper. They pointed out the problems they were finding with the data and were attempting to correct by substituting data from the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology. Eventually Mann told them he would not respond to any more inquiries. Several of Mann's contentions/accusations are demonstrated to be false (for instance, that they did not attempt to correct their data set - they did until he told them to leave him alone). and now he says they could have gotten the data from a website neither he nor his assistant ever mentioned before and which was not mentioned in the original paper. They also point out that Mann's response is inapposite because hey *substituted World Data Center for Paleoclimatology data for the data he says was "screwed up."

Now, it is entirely possible that there was an innocent mistake made somewhere along the way (by one side or the other) and, therefore, that M&M's correction is indeed ir-relevant. That happens in science as with everything else. But, as the correspondence provided by M&M makes abundantly clear, Mann is engaging in some very shady behaviour in his response to their critique. In a few instances, his statements are patently false. So who deserves the benefit of the doubt?

Posted by: Dodd at November 13, 2003 04:07 PM | PERMALINK

1. Mann's MBH98 FTP site is there, but where on his web site are links to it? Plenty of links in his Articles page, but those on the FTP server go to a different directory. If wandering is how the data should be found, how does one know if the other directories are relevant?

2. Great, the data is there. How many of you are processing it? Mann's web page has links to his MBH98 paper. Or did you already find someone else's reports of confirmation?

3. Yes, M&M did not use Excel. They used "R". Use your favorite tools when you do it and show your work.

4. "Mann said the Soon study does not even attempt to reconstruct global average temperatures, but simply highlights anecdotal evidence of isolated trends. Soon acknowledged that his research does not provide a comprehensive picture."

Misleading topic. Read the Soon paper. Of course he did not estimate global temperatures. He states he is only checking how widespread some climate events were, so he only needed to check the patterns within each study. If you want to know if yesterday was colder than the previous day in Montreal, Paris, Rome, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo you don't need global temps you only compare the temperature of each city over those two days.

Posted by: SEWilco at November 16, 2003 06:07 PM | PERMALINK

JUst to clean up on the Excel thing, I use it all the time. I also use Matlab. Excel happens to do some things much more easily than Matlab, and it gives nicer plots that are easier to paste into documents. As I said, I use Excel every day to do some kinds of data analyses on small sets of data. Provided the data doesn't exceed 32kx256, there's a whole lot you can do with Excel.

And, of course, the conclusion that they used Excel to analyze, if drawn exclusively from the fact that some of their end products were in Excel spreadsheet format, is fallacy embodied.

So, the whole Excel point is both fallacious and irrelevant. Next argument, please?

Posted by: Slartibartfast at November 17, 2003 06:09 AM | PERMALINK

I have been a stranger in a strange land.

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Posted by: Shirley at February 20, 2004 07:02 PM | PERMALINK

=v= On the web, at least, the amateurs are having their say. Google searches for "global warming" or "climate change" and/or Mann mostly turn up a bunch of websites for "wise use" groups (phony enviro fronts for, e.g., the oil industry), purporting that the MBH study is now "debunked." Google's page ranking is based on the number of links, which makes it oblivious to peer review, but susceptible to being "Googlebombed" from the blogosphere, or even just by a series of websites all pointing to each other.

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