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Keepitsimple

A Rational Look at the "Settled Science"

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Dr. Steven Koonin was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama's first term and is currently director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. His previous positions include professor of theoretical physics and provost at Caltech, as well as chief scientist of BP, where his work focused on renewable and low-carbon energy technologies.

Here is an excerpt from the summary of Dr. Koonin's writing for the Wall Street Journal.......there is a lot of good, rational, additional information and I'd encourage reading it in it's entirety. Perhaps it will serve as a catalyst to begin a more open-minded debate......

.......Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.

• The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

• The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that "hot spot" has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.

• Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.

• A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today's best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.

These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not "minor" issues to be "cleaned up" by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.

Yet a public official reading only the IPCC's "Summary for Policy Makers" would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that "climate science is settled."

While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem.

We can and should take steps to make climate projections more useful over time. An international commitment to a sustained global climate observation system would generate an ever-lengthening record of more precise observations. And increasingly powerful computers can allow a better understanding of the uncertainties in our models, finer model grids and more sophisticated descriptions of the processes that occur within them. The science is urgent, since we could be caught flat-footed if our understanding does not improve more rapidly than the climate itself changes.

A transparent rigor would also be a welcome development, especially given the momentous political and policy decisions at stake. That could be supported by regular, independent, "red team" reviews to stress-test and challenge the projections by focusing on their deficiencies and uncertainties; that would certainly be the best practice of the scientific method. But because the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences.

Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is "settled" (or is a "hoax") demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.

Society's choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.

But climate strategies beyond such "no regrets" efforts carry costs, risks and questions of effectiveness, so nonscientific factors inevitably enter the decision. These include our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity.

Individuals and countries can legitimately disagree about these matters, so the discussion should not be about "believing" or "denying" the science. Despite the statements of numerous scientific societies, the scientific community cannot claim any special expertise in addressing issues related to humanity's deepest goals and values. The political and diplomatic spheres are best suited to debating and resolving such questions, and misrepresenting the current state of climate science does nothing to advance that effort.

Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.

Link: http://online.wsj.com/articles/climate-science-is-not-settled-1411143565

Edited by Keepitsimple

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We can and should take steps to make climate projections more useful over time.

In the meantime we should be applying the precautionary principle and I think it should be very very rigorously applied. If the virtual inaction taken to date is the starting benchmark then I think we have a long way to go before we can even say we're nearing rigorous.

In addition, I'm wary of the fact this scientist is not a climatologist, he worked for BP and that the call for a more reasoned debate is coming from that side of the debate that has employed the most unreasonable arguments in a manner that's been ridiculously acrimonious.

The credibility gap here is enormous to say the least. I think I'd need to see the vast vast majority of climate scientists and experts worldwide agreeing with this scientist and in pretty short order to conclude we don't need to be alarmed at the utter nonchalance and near total lack of action we've seen to date based on what we do know.

Of course I welcome a reasonable discussion. For me I think the greatest threat to our species and planet that has been uncovered to date in all this is that we couldn't agree or reason our way out of a wet paper bag if our lives depended on it.

Edited by eyeball

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We don't need perfect knowledge to take action.

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/certainties-uncertainties-and-choices-with-global-warming/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

There will not be "reasonable discussion" on this forum about climate change. There are simply too many people here who are completely dishonest about it.

You will notice in the article that I posted that Dr. Koonin himself seems to disagree with the headline at the top of his editorial. That's spin by the Wall Street Journal.

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IANAS but this strikes me as an odd complaint:

The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.

Is there some reason why we should see these two very different parts of the planet respond in similar ways?

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There will not be "reasonable discussion" on this forum about climate change. There are simply too many people here who are completely dishonest about it.

You will notice in the article that I posted that Dr. Koonin himself seems to disagree with the headline at the top of his editorial. That's spin by the Wall Street Journal.

That's a good point - which you have ably demonstrated. Here's what the "nine scientists" said as a rebuttal to Dr. Koonin.....now tell me who is being dishonest - and in doing so, these nine scientists have openly admitted that's precisely what they mean - Climate Change is caused by burning fossil fuels - period.

In his editorial Dr. Koonin states in categorical terms that climate is changing, and that burning fossil fuels is the cause. We highlight that when climate scientists say the science is “settled,” that is precisely what we mean – no more and no less.

Now - here's what Dr. Koonin actually said:

The crucial scientific question for policy isn't whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades.

There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.

.....and you wonder why we can't have reasonable discussions?

Edited by Keepitsimple

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I don't wonder, not judging by the mindset you and your ilk bring to the discussion in the other running thread on this topic. Reasonableness is just not possible. The science on that is definitely settled.

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Is there some reason why we should see these two very different parts of the planet respond in similar ways?

CO2 increases temps - that's it. If ice in antarctica is increasing despite warmer temps then that is evidence that there is more at work than CO2 and our understanding of the climate is a lot less than claimed. Edited by TimG

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There will not be "reasonable discussion" on this forum about climate change. There are simply too many people here who are completely dishonest about it.

I find it very frustrating that so many alarmists claim that 'science supports their pet policies' when they really know nothing about what the science actually says. The op is excellent summary of the state of scientific knowledge that alarmists should read but I doubt many will because they refuse to consider ideas that disrupt their preconceived notions.

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In the meantime we should be applying the precautionary principle and I think it should be very very rigorously applied.

If you really believed that you would insist that we build as many nuclear plants as possible because they provide plentiful CO2 free energy. But I am guessing you have a bunch of excuses that would exclude nuclear from mix and thereby expose yourself as a shameless hypocrite.

Bottom line: if CO2 emissions are really a crisis that requires drastic action then we gotta build nukes.

If you don't want to build nukes then you are saying that CO2 emissions are NOT a crisis that requires drastic action.

Edited by TimG

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In the meantime we should be applying the precautionary principle and I think it should be very very rigorously applied.

Eyeball, I claim that I have figured out your name and address from your IP address and using my super awesome hacking skills. Furthermore, I am evil immoral person who will not hesitate to kill you. Put $100 in an envelope and leave it outside your front door at midnight tonight or I will murder you in your sleep.

So you have two options: Leave the envelope or not leave the envelope. I could be lying, but I might also be telling the truth; you are uncertain. If you leave the envelope, the worst that will happen is you lose $100. If you do not leave the envelope, you may lose your life.

Why not apply the precautionary principle and just give me the $100?

I'll be waiting for my $100. As you are a true believer in the precautionary principle, your life should be safe. :)

In addition, I'm wary of the fact this scientist is not a climatologist, he worked for BP and that the call for a more reasoned debate is coming from that side of the debate that has employed the most unreasonable arguments in a manner that's been ridiculously acrimonious.

Ad hominem fallacy.

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CO2 increases temps - that's it. If ice in antarctica is increasing despite warmer temps then that is evidence that there is more at work than CO2 and our understanding of the climate is a lot less than claimed.

First of all the guys a physicist not a climatologist. The antarctic ice has already been explained in another thread: warmer temps=increased precip. less salt content of ocean surface water. Less salt =higher freezing temp=more ice, albeit very thin ice, which will tend to disappear as temps further warm

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CO2 increases temps - that's it. If ice in antarctica is increasing despite warmer temps then that is evidence that there is more at work than CO2 and our understanding of the climate is a lot less than claimed.

This strikes me as a whole bunch of horseshit.

There's more to warming overall than CO2, no one has ever said otherwise. It is not necessarily evidence that AGW is not real. But sure, yeah, let's do fuck all because we can't predict with complete precision what will happen.

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Eyeball, I claim that I have figured out your name and address from your IP address and using my super awesome hacking skills. Furthermore, I am evil immoral person who will not hesitate to kill you. Put $100 in an envelope and leave it outside your front door at midnight tonight or I will murder you in your sleep.

So you have two options: Leave the envelope or not leave the envelope. I could be lying, but I might also be telling the truth; you are uncertain. If you leave the envelope, the worst that will happen is you lose $100. If you do not leave the envelope, you may lose your life.

Why not apply the precautionary principle and just give me the $100?

I'll be waiting for my $100. As you are a true believer in the precautionary principle, your life should be safe. :)

Ad hominem fallacy.

That has to be the stupidest analogy I've ever read. The precautionary principle has nothing to do with extortion... :rolleyes:

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But sure, yeah, let's do fuck all because we can't predict with complete precision what will happen.

Well we know what won't work: pretty much any brain dead policy promoted by climate alarmists. I would more willing to support action if someone presented a concrete set of achievable objectives and credible plan to achieve them. Edited by TimG

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Well we know what won't work: pretty much any brain dead policy promoted by climate alarmists. I would more willing to support action if someone presented a concrete set of achievable objectives and credible plan to achieve them.

Who are these "climate alarmists"?

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If you really believed that you would insist that we build as many nuclear plants as possible because they provide plentiful CO2 free energy. But I am guessing you have a bunch of excuses that would exclude nuclear from mix and thereby expose yourself as a shameless hypocrite.

Bottom line: if CO2 emissions are really a crisis that requires drastic action then we gotta build nukes.

If you don't want to build nukes then you are saying that CO2 emissions are NOT a crisis that requires drastic action.

I'd be more than happy to build nuclear plants once we have a very very rigorous monitoring and auditing process by which the things that governments and politicians say can be verified and validated.

I my experience this is something that CC deniers also appear to be dead set against.

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That has to be the stupidest analogy I've ever read. The precautionary principle has nothing to do with extortion... :rolleyes:

It's a perfectly valid comparison. The precautionary principle is BS because it doesn't take into account the probability of different outcomes. I was merely giving an example to make it easier for others to understand the absurdity of the precautionary principle.

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It's a perfectly valid comparison. The precautionary principle is BS because it doesn't take into account the probability of different outcomes. I was merely giving an example to make it easier for others to understand the absurdity of the precautionary principle.

You were giving an absurd example of comparing giving in to extortion versus the precautionary principle, which you clearly don't even understand, since it does take into account probabilities of outcomes, if they are known. If the probability of an outcome is zero (or negligible), clearly the precautionary principle does not apply!

It's not about gut feelings, it's about the best scientific information. I can suggest some reading material, if you'd like.

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Well we know what won't work: pretty much any brain dead policy promoted by climate alarmists. I would more willing to support action if someone presented a concrete set of achievable objectives and credible plan to achieve them.

So why not present some?

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So why not present some?

What do you think I was doing in the other thread on targets? I suggested that governments should look at specific industries and identify plausible technologies that could be deployed to reduce emissions. Targets could then be set to encourage the adoption within that industry. You rejected the entire premise. Edited by TimG

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You were giving an absurd example of comparing giving in to extortion versus the precautionary principle, which you clearly don't even understand, since it does take into account probabilities of outcomes, if they are known. If the probability of an outcome is zero (or negligible), clearly the precautionary principle does not apply!

You want a comparable scenario that can't be viewed as extortion? Fine.

I claim that there is a magical demon monkey and this magical demon monkey will eat you in your sleep tonight unless you burn a $100 note as a sacrifice to the monkey god. You can't know that there isn't a magical demon monkey, and maybe there is a monkey god. You don't know for certain that they do not exist. Therefore, the probability of this outcome is non-zero. Therefore, by the precautionary principle, you should burn $100 to the monkey god tonight.

The fact that you don't see how absurd the precautionary principle is simply a result of your own cognitive dissonance. The fact that you are pretending that the precautionary principle 'doesn't apply in the extortionary case because the probability is low' is more evidence of this. The precautionary principle doesn't care about the probability of outcomes, which is why it is a dumb principle. Alarmists want to use the precautionary principle to justify their absurd climate mitigation policies without having to sufficiently justify those policies by looking at the evidence and making an informed decision.

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What do you think I was doing in the other thread on targets? I suggested that governments should look at specific industries and identify plausible technologies that could be deployed to reduce emissions. Targets could then be set to encourage the adoption within that industry. You rejected the entire premise.

I didn't reject anything but either it is an issue or it isn't. If it is, those who don't like the approaches being presented should present some of their own. I'm talking specifics not generalities. I agree that some of the present targets probably aren't realistic and we should be thinking more about slowing the process down to buy time rather than stopping it, but that's still no reason not to get started. After all, when it hits the fan we will all be standing in front of it.

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You can't know that there isn't a magical demon monkey, and maybe there is a monkey god. You don't know for certain that they do not exist. Therefore, the probability of this outcome is non-zero. Therefore, by the precautionary principle, you should burn $100 to the monkey god tonight.

Of course you can know enough to say it doesn't exist by simply weighing the probabilities and improbabilities involved in such an unreasonably stupid premise.

Would you for one second put up with this sort of argument if it was presented to you? BS you would and you and everyone else here knows it.

How would you treat the precautionary approach in this scenario? You're a layman like the vast vast majority of us when it comes to cancer and 10 doctors have examined you thoroughly and 8 say you need surgery immediately to save your life from it, 1 says you can afford to wait a year and the last guy rolls on the floor laughing his ass off and says you have nothing at all to worry about.

Edited by eyeball

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I didn't reject anything but either it is an issue or it isn't. If it is, those who don't like the approaches being presented should present some of their own. I'm talking specifics not generalities. I agree that some of the present targets probably aren't realistic and we should be thinking more about slowing the process down to buy time rather than stopping it, but that's still no reason not to get started. After all, when it hits the fan we will all be standing in front of it.

That's exactly what Dr. Koonin was proposing in the article I posted - which you seem to have been arguing against.....yet now it seems we are reading the same book - and maybe even closing in on the same chapter.

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That's exactly what Dr. Koonin was proposing in the article I posted - which you seem to have been arguing against.....yet now it seems we are reading the same book - and maybe even closing in on the same chapter.

Show me where I have argued against a more pragmatic approach.

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