Sunday Walk Around The Climate Park

I find it refreshing to take a tour around the weblogs I link to at the right of this page. Sadly, the only day I have enough time to do so in a relaxed manner is Sunday.

Ivan Vladimirov Walk In The Park

One of the reasons it’s relaxing is that so many bloggers have their own ‘schtick,’ issues they return to frequently and on which they have opinions so fixed that most regular readers could write their posts for them.

One of the reasons it’s refreshing is that some bloggers are always looking at a fresh side of the many-faceted climate issue and bringing new insights and data to the scrum.

I want to highlight the recent posts of Roger Pielke Jr., someone who raises the hackles of many in the climate activist community. They will say they don’t like him because he’s not a climate scientist (he’s a social scientist focused on policy responses to all sorts of resource issues). But in fact they can’t abide Roger because he brings inconvenient facts to discussions that activists seem to wish were dominated by emotion and prepared messaging. He, along with scientist Chris Landsea, have almost managed to turn the tide against the corporate multinational that environmentalists have learned to love, Munich Re.

Munich Re has for years published slanted statistics claiming that everything is getting worser and worserer and that everybody needs to load up on insurance products. And some activists sure do like that worser and worserer stuff.

Anyway, Roger has a series of excellent posts up on his weblog written in the past week or so. Faith-based Science Policy looks at the somewhat magical chain whereby funding of research is ‘guaranteed’ to produce social benefits. As someone who is a strong believer in research funded by the public sector (I like the Internet), it’s a refreshing challenge to my decades-old preconceptions.

Probably more to my taste is his post Science Is The Shortcut, which starts off critiquing recent work by Naomi Oreskes and Michael Oppenheimer (both of whom really need serious critiques, if not criticism), but quickly veers into an interesting look at the accuracy of climate science findings. (It now has been around long enough to start evaluating predictions–just where are those gazillion climate refugees hiding?)

Pielke has several other interesting posts up–and what I find most intriguing is that he is blogging more frequently than he normally does. I wonder what’s up with him?

If you want to understand a bit more about the relative positions of the different political approaches to climate change, it might be instructive to read not just the posts but the comments sections regarding the recent publication of Zeke Hausfather et al that helps clarify the effects of the Urban Heat Island on our understanding of temperature moves.

It is covered on the staunchly consensus website Real Climate here, on the Lukewarmer site The Blackboard here, and on skeptical website Watts Up With That here. If you’re feeling supremely ambitious you can even read the actual paper, available here.

What I find interesting is that in the past, political differences between the various discussants would often give the impression that they were discussing different documents entirely. When new papers came out on things like sea level rise, or impacts on the environment like the spread of malaria, it really was like there was a wall that had been erected between the two camps and that bloggers from one side would look for any strand of support for their side and the others would look for anything that could be used to attack it.

Perhaps because Hausfather has been a thorough gentleman in all his travels through the blogosphere, that doesn’t seem to be happening here.

Closer to home, this blog has hosted a discussion between Matt Ridley and myself on one of the posts evaluating the ten tests he wrote about in an essay on what he would need to support climate policies.

The post is here and the discussion starts in the comments section here.

33 responses to “Sunday Walk Around The Climate Park

  1. Tom,

    Thanks for linking to the discussion at Lucia’s. A startlingly productive discussion.

    But I confess that I’m still unconvinced about UHI. I can’t follow the details of the homogenization procedures used. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine an algorithm that could pick up regional “creep” in temps. I’m also inclined to think that the urban/rural distinction isn’t a very good one. We know, for example, that, in the depression, farmers pressed more and more land into production as crop prices fell – that might bias rural temperatures upward too.

    • Hi Jimmy

      The key point is the lack of effect of bias. Even if Hausfather et al is wrong, even if Real Climate is wrong, even if you accept a large value for UHI, it doesn’t extend to a large enough area to impact what we think we know about global rises in temperature. I happen to find Hausfather persuasive–your mileage may differ. But even if farmers change their tillage in accordance with economics or policy, there is no UHI in the ocean, deserts or forest. None at all in Antarctica or the Arctic. UHI is important in the climate discussion, don’t get me wrong. But not about the existence of temperature rises, nor their overall magnitude.

      • “But even if farmers change their tillage in accordance with economics or policy, there is no UHI in the ocean, deserts or forest. None at all in Antarctica or the Arctic. ”

        Well, oui. But the conversion of grassland to farmland still could increase the apparent temperature of rural sites. It could create creep in the rural temps that are used for comparison to urban areas, therby masking UHI.

        I dunno. I wouldn’t look to land use issues to drive away much of the rise in temperature – 5%?. But the more you think about it, the more complex doing something seemingly simple like measuring temperature becomes. I’m not confident that these myriad complexities can be algorithmed to zippo. My suspicion is that humans don’t do much to bias temperature downward.

        You know, not long ago I balanced my investment accounts and came up a penny short. I went back through the last month carefully. I found two much larger offsetting errors. Just a thought!

      • You have a point, I’m pretty sure, in that a lot of what I’ve read (or had crammed down my throat by Steve Mosher) suggests that the first actions we take in changing a local environment have some of the strongest effects. But in the end, most of it is swamped by the fact that so small an area of the world’s surface is actually affected.

  2. “But the conversion of grassland to farmland still could increase the apparent temperature of rural sites. It could create creep in the rural temps that are used for comparison to urban areas, therby masking UHI.”
    “My suspicion is that humans don’t do much to bias temperature downward.” You’re absolutely right there.

    • Actually I should add that clear cutting does raise albedo and has a cooling effect. But it also decreases heat capacity per area. There are a few latitudes where the net effect of clear cutting has a small cooling effect. There were a few articles exaggerating it a few years ago.

  3. “But in the end, most of it is swamped by the fact that so small an area of the world’s surface is actually affected.” I never bought this argument. If you include black carbon on ice, we have changed the albedo and/or heat capcity of most of the land surface.
    In addition, can you think of any human activity that decreases the rate of horizontal change of albedo or heat capacity. We are increasing the scale of turbulence increasing the “measured” temperature at night.

    • Oh, Marty–sigh–making me think on a Sunday… Would you characterize black soot in the same way as UHI? You’re obviously right about it being a large scale effect… and we done done it…

  4. “But in fact they can’t abide Roger because he brings inconvenient facts to discussions that activists seem to wish were dominated by emotion and prepared messaging.”

    Pretty much exactly backwards. By treating ‘science communication’ as a political matter, Pielke Jr is in fact seeking to MAKE it “dominated by emotion and prepared messaging”… rather than examination of the facts.

    My problem with Pielke Jr has always been my opinion that science should not HAVE ‘public relations’ people. Science should speak for itself… not be slanted to serve a political purpose.

    • That’s really rank, CBD. Pielke is a scientist with peer-reviewed papers published in journals and appearing in the IPCC reports. You just don’t like what he writes. But that’s no reason to slam him. He’s just on the other side from you. Why can’t you just accept that and deal with it? Not everybody is on your side. I’m not on your side. That doesn’t make your opponents unprincipled, idiots, paid shills for one industry or another. We’re just your opponents on this issue.

  5. Fascinating.

    I look at what I wrote… and then I look at how you describe it… and am amazed by the complete lack of any correlation at all.

    “unprincipled”? Nope, didn’t say it.
    “idiots”? Nope, didn’t say it.
    “paid shills”? Nope, didn’t say it.

    Roger Pielke junior is a professional science communicator. Indeed, I doubt he would have the least objection to that description of his career. However, IMO seeking to ‘explain’ science inherently places the personal views of the communicator before the science. This problem has always existed for professional scientists who also seek to communicate (e.g. Sagan or Hansen), but is much larger in the case of someone like Pielke who is far more of a ‘communicator’ than a ‘scientist’.

    • CBD, Pielke is a scientist. He writes papers that are published in the peer reviewed literature. He is also a commentator on public policy. In that order.

      So is James Hansen. So is Gavin Schmidt. So was Carl Sagan, at least for the first half of his career.

      I think Pielke and Hansen do a very good job of keeping the two separate. And I think it’s completely accurate to say that “he brings inconvenient facts to discussions that activists seem to wish were dominated by emotion and prepared messaging.” And I think it’s completely inaccurate to say that he’s a ‘public relations person.’

  6. Tom, no. No way. CBDunkerson is right on here.

    Pielke Junior is disliked for a number of entirely legitimate reasons. For one, he likes to play climate scientist when he is not. He thinks political considerations motivate pretty much everybody over and above getting the science right. He likes to get under peoples’ skins and take pot shots at them. Try to pin him down on his mistakes and obfuscations and he will play every game in the book to dodge you and distract the few who might be reading.

    To me, he deserves no respect whatsoever for his outrageous attacks on Stefan Rahmstorf’s work on extreme events in PNAS a couple of years back. It was 100% clear to those of us who understood the statistics involved, that Pielke did NOT understand the statistical issues involved, and yet in his ignorance, he repeatedly and publically accused Stefan of cherry picking data to achieve a pre-determined result. In all honesty, Stefan should have sued him, but it’s not worth the hassle and time. Until he admits he was wrong and apologizes to Rahmstorf publically, I have no respect for him whatsoever.

    He is prima facie evidence of why hostility exists between climate scientists and so called “skeptics”. Go ahead and accuse us of dishonesty and ignorance, “skeptics” when you yourselves don’t even understand the issues (like Bob here for example) and see how well it’s received by some of us.

    • Hi Jim

      I remember that episode and I was surprised by his behavior. My criticisms of Pielke are much softer–I’ve met him and I like a lot of what he has contributed. He’s ambitious and I believe he has identified his Iron Law and his work on hurricanes etc. as his easiest path to recognition.

      He was (I think) wrong in regards to the episode with Rahmstorf. And I don’t think he ever apologized, which I think is regrettable. I do think, however, he has moderated his behavior since then. Which is the best anyone ever gets in this game from either side of the fence.

      It’s easy for me to say I’m wrong and I’m sorry–I don’t have enough skin in the game. I’m not a scientist and I’m not a major league blogger (although I have hopes…). For the bigger operators, getting caught in a major error is really bad news–look at how tough I’m being on Peter Gleick as just one example. I’m not going to apologize for it, but I am aware that the elephantine memories in the blogosphere make it more difficult to correct one’s self than if people were more ready to live and let live.

    • Jim, I heard you’re interested in volcanic cycles. Go to http://www.ncgt.org/newsletter.php Click on Issues, click on issue 60, scroll down to page 38.

  7. ‘He is prima facie evidence of why hostility exists between climate scientists and so called “skeptics”.’

    RPJ’s economic arguments are very strong. His work on extreme events is also solid.

    I see no reason to believe that RPJ is responsible for the bad blood between Real Climate and skeptics. So far, what I’ve seen from RC on the attitude front is so bad that I don’t bother to visit, let alone comment. RC’s work is destructive to it’s own message.

    Dunkerson’s claim that RPJ is politicizing the debate is false. Wasn’t it the Father of Real Climate that called for the prosecution of oil company execs for “crimes against humanity”? That’s not politicization? Kyoto? Rio? That’s not politicization? Greenpeace and EDF, etc, participating in IPCC? That’s not politicization? Trying to get people fired for contrary views? That’s not politicization?

    There’s a long way to go in the struggle to depoliticize science. It’s just starting. Count on it.

  8. Jim Bouldin, you say ” Go ahead and accuse us of dishonesty and ignorance, “skeptics” when you yourselves don’t even understand the issues (like Bob here for example) and see how well it’s received by some of us”.

    You sir no nothing of me. So the next time you climb down from your tree fort and accuse skeptics of less than state-of-the art stats you better look in your own house. For Tom’s sake we shall not talk about Mann, Schmidt, Steig, Karoly, Gergis, the Bunny (how long shall we go on?). At least their work was worthy of being audited. Grow up Botany Boy.

  9. I have yet to see much of anything here but ad hominem against RPJ. It is clearly a kill the messenger attitude. Shut down the debate. Only selected messengers are worthy of even being read. And the selectors of those golden messengers shall be????

    He was an author in the IPCC SREX, correct? Somebody must have check his qualifications. Given the unfortunate results of SREX for those circulating the extreme events meme, my guess is he won’t be invited back.

    This is one of the great things about the Internet. There are now side passages around the official channels, which can help to prevent political corruption of a message. Clearly there is plenty of disinformation as well, but overall letting people judge for themselves is a better system.

    Climate science is not completely trusted for a number of entirely legitimate reasons. I, for one, don’t find the title of climate scientist to be a badge of earned honor at this point in time. Show the work. Show the data. Address your critics instead of dismissing them.

    • Hi Tom,

      Did you follow the long exchange he had with Rahmstorf? He actually was wrong and he actually didn’t admit it.

      Now to keep that in perspective it was a long exchange on several weblogs with bunches of people butting in and getting all fiery. I don’t think it should be blown out of proportion.

      And he is qualified and able. And he has done good work. And if that’s the only time he screwed up, well his track record is better than mine.

      • I didn’t follow this particular whizzing match very closely. After being lectured for a decade on weather is not equal to climate, I really find this specific event attribution to be pretty boring, and almost impossible to prove in the light of long term trends showing little to no correlation.

        I’m dubious of anyone stating they have done this, and there are far worse examples such as Sandy attribution in light of the hurricane trends.

        I accept RPJ may have got his facts wrong, but I’m not taking any position here. RPJ has been outspoken on many issues, so getting one wrong won’t be particularly surprising in the grand scheme.

        The reaction you get to disagreeing with a pro-AGW paper is part of the problem. The message is clear to everyone, step off the reservation and you will be removed from the tribe. It’s not conducive to good science.

      • I agree entirely, Tom. I can’t say strongly enough how much Roger’s work has helped the tenor and status of the overall climate conversation. And I’m happy to differ with commenters from either side of the fence if needed. Jim Boulding was never going to like Roger, given his approach and willingness to stand right back up to people like Gavin. I think Jim has a lot of good to contribute, but I’m happy to disagree with him on the overall merits of Roger Pielke.

        To put Roger’s work in perspective, since the early days of Prometheus to his eponymous blog, I cannot think of another specific issue where I came away thinking he had made an error–and at that, the error was more attribution of intent than math. In baseball terms, I’m desperately hoping to be in the running for Rookie of the Year–Roger’s more MVP material and is destined for HOF status. I’m going to be blogging about that fairly soon–rating the bloggers. I started that as a guest poster over at The Air Vent some years back and I want to continue.

  10. Interesting to see Jim Bouldin, who I’ve never met, explaining why he dislikes me so. On Rahmstorf, I will accept that Jim, Stefan and I have different views — that happens in science. However, I’ll stick by my critique, see it here:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/11/anatomy-of-cherry-pick.html

    I’d love to hear what part of my critique deserves legal action;-) Perhaps NOAA should be sued also for challenging Rahmstorf’s analysis much as I did?

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/csi/events/2010/russianheatwave/warming_detection.html

    Thanks!

  11. Jim Bouldin’s deep-seated animosity apparently can be traced to the exchange we had in comments 56-76 on this thread:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2011/10/games-climate-scientists-play.html

    Can’t say I really see anything worthy of Hatfield vs. McCoy there, but such is climate science;-)

  12. To change the subject and get back to something else mentioned in the original article. Naomi Oreskes has written a number of books on the history of science, in particular on the “plate tectonics revolution” and on the emergence of CAGW theory. I have had a front row seat for both and my memory has nothing in common with the histories that she has written in both cases. So I have to ask, what is her goal in life?
    There is one obvious falsehood in Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth that I don’t believe that anyone else picked up on. Al tells the story of a classmate who points out to his science teacher that since the coast lines of S America and Africa fit together that they must have been together at one time and “drifted” apart. Al reports that his teacher ridiculed the idea.
    Come on all ready. Al Gore is my age. Look at back issues of Scientific American. They were shoving plate tectonics down our throats all through the 60’s.

    • marty,
      Gore had so many fibs to tell…imagine what got left on the cutting room floor.
      An extrended version/director’s cut of AIT would be some real story telling, lol.

    • Seems pretty reasonable to me. When Gore was growing up, plate tectonics were just being accepted. Given that Gore’s teachers were probably educated 10-30 years before plate tectonics came on the scene, it’s completely reasonable that they were stubborn on the subject. People do tend to do that, and moreso the older they get.

      My wife’s step-father has heart problems because of rheumatic fever that he caught as a child, in the late ’50s. The fever nearly killed him. There was no good reason for this – rheumatic fever was completely treatable with antibiotics in the late ’50s – but their doctor was an old country doctor, who no doubt got his license not long after the turn of the century, and he didn’t believe in newfangled antibiotics (which were almost 15 years old at this point).

      So, yeah, new ideas can take a while to catch hold.

      • Gore did not go to a 3rd rate school in a podunk. I did. I was well aware of continental drift theory by then.
        In the 1890’s, Yarkovsky pointed out the similarities of the coastlines with a sophistication that there was a slightly better fit if the globe was shrunk. Continental drift was in the popular literature in the 50’s.
        I attended some of the conferences where PT was debated. The debate was not between “statists and mobilists” as Oreskes describes. It was between mantel convection and theories where the fundamental constants change slightly over time.
        There is this mythology that new ideas in the sciences have to struggle and amass huge piles of data to be accepted. The opposite is true. Read Rowlands, a Revolution to Far. Carey’s, Earth , Universe, and Cosmos, Marmet’s Newton versus Einstein, or anything by John Chappelle. ACGW became the dominant paradigm with damn little data behind it. Then new data is interpreted to “fit” the new theory.
        I have never seen science self correct on any of the big issues during my lifetime.

      • Right – but even if PT was accepted by 90-95% of professors in Gore’s time, it’s not so implausible that he’d have a classmate who had a teacher that didn’t accept it.

        You can see the same, today, with AGW. Take Richard Lindzen, a professor at MIT, who has serious reservations about the IPCC numbers for climate sensitivity. He’s an esteemed professor at a good school, but he’s solidly in the minority. Meanwhile, Scientific American has been shoving AGW down your throats all through this last decade.
        So even today, when the “science is settled”, we know that a student going to a good school can hear some substantial doubts about AGW from a professor. If that can happen today with AGW, then it’s not unreasonable to say that it could have happened 50 years ago with Plate Tectonics.

        In any case, I just find it interesting that you call Gore’s anecdote “an obvious falsehood”. I tend to require a pretty high standard of proof before calling someone a liar; it’s a pretty big accusation and should only be made with some sense of gravitas, I think.
        I might accuse someone of being sloppy, ignorant, or maybe even lazy – but a liar? More inflammatory, and in my experience, much less likely to be true.

  13. Tom (Fuller)-

    Could you clarify something for me? What was it you think that RPjr got wrong?

    I’ve now been to, and read through, the links RPjr provided, as well as the original RC discusion. Not being a statistician, I didn’t go to the original paper. Still, I think I get the gist of the arguments.

    The only thing I can find that I would quibble with is RPjr’s initial use of the loaded phrase ‘cherry-picking’. That seems to have been taken as a personal affront which put no one at RC in any mood to do other than seek further offence. I’d have used ‘confirmation bias’ myself, as being indicative of possible passive, not active, error.

    I also can’t see that RPjr got any complete answers to his questions (with first Rahmsdorf and then Bouldin stomping off in high dudgeon).

    Again, not a statistician, but if you lay out RPjr’s error I would appreciate it.

  14. Tom,
    It is interesting that you attempt to equate Pielke Jr. and Hansen as positive examples of science in the public square.
    Hansen had to make bail this past week while making false claims about Keystone. And his over-the-top claims about genocide, war crimes trials and end-of-the-world hype are not really comprable with either Pielke, now are they?
    But kudos for getting the AGW extremists to vent some spleen regarding Pielke, jr. It is entertaining, in a macabre sort of way.

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