JoNova

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The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

The New Yorker has such an interesting article it’s already generating discussion here, so it deserves a thread of it’s own. It describes a true modern paradox, namely that so many good studies can show interesting “significant” results, yet very few of these turn out to be genuine repeatable findings, and frustrated researchers struggle to get similar results, and it’s almost as if, the harder they try, the worse it gets. Many researchers across disparate fields are noticing an odd trend that the effect they thought was so solid, appears to mysteriously “wear off” as the years and the repeat trials go on.

It’s a sober warning to all of us to search hard for the truth hidden behind variables we are not even able to name yet, let alone measure, and to be ever vigilant about variables we can name, like “publishing bias” and “selective reporting”.

Annals of Science
The Truth Wears Off

Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

by Jonah Lehrer December 13, 2010

These are quick quotes from a 5 page article. It’s well written, and worth reading in full.

But now all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings have started to look increasingly uncertain. It’s as if our facts were losing their truth: claims that have been enshrined in textbooks are suddenly unprovable. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology. In the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only antipsychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants: Davis has a forthcoming analysis demonstrating that the efficacy of antidepressants has gone down as much as threefold in recent decades.

It’s becoming known as the decline effect.

Jennions, similarly, argues that the decline effect is largely a product of publication bias, or the tendency of scientists and scientific journals to prefer positive data over null results, which is what happens when no effect is found. The bias was first identified by the statistician Theodore Sterling, in 1959, after he noticed that ninety-seven per cent of all published psychological studies with statistically significant data found the effect they were looking for. A “significant” result is defined as any data point that would be produced by chance less than five per cent of the time. This ubiquitous test was invented in 1922 by the English mathematician Ronald Fisher, who picked five per cent as the boundary line, somewhat arbitrarily, because it made pencil and slide-rule calculations easier. Sterling saw that if ninety-seven per cent of psychology studies were proving their hypotheses, either psychologists were extraordinarily lucky or they published only the outcomes of successful experiments. In recent years, publication bias has mostly been seen as a problem for clinical trials, since pharmaceutical companies are less interested in publishing results that aren’t favorable. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that publication bias also produces major distortions in fields without large corporate incentives, such as psychology and ecology.

Could it be selective reporting?

[Palmer] noticed that the distribution of results with smaller sample sizes wasn’t random at all but instead skewed heavily toward positive results. Palmer has since documented a similar problem in several other contested subject areas. “Once I realized that selective reporting is everywhere in science, I got quite depressed,” Palmer told me. “As a researcher, you’re always aware that there might be some nonrandom patterns, but I had no idea how widespread it is.” In a recent review article, Palmer summarized the impact of selective reporting on his field: “We cannot escape the troubling conclusion that some—perhaps many—cherished generalities are at best exaggerated in their biological significance and at worst a collective illusion nurtured by strong a-priori beliefs often repeated.”

The Ioannidis studyWhy most published Research Findings are False” was a major eye opener into the flaws of peer reviewed papers.

John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University, argues that such distortions are a serious issue in biomedical research. “These exaggerations are why the decline has become so common,” he says. “It’d be really great if the initial studies gave us an accurate summary of things. But they don’t. And so what happens is we waste a lot of money treating millions of patients and doing lots of follow-up studies on other themes based on results that are misleading.” In 2005, Ioannidis published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at the forty-nine most cited clinical-research studies in three major medical journals. Forty-five of these studies reported positive results, suggesting that the intervention being tested was effective. Because most of these studies were randomized controlled trials—the “gold standard” of medical evidence—they tended to have a significant impact on clinical practice, and led to the spread of treatments such as hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women and daily low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Nevertheless, the data Ioannidis found were disturbing: of the thirty-four claims that had been subject to replication, forty-one per cent had either been directly contradicted or had their effect sizes significantly downgraded.

According to Ioannidis, the main problem is that too many researchers engage in what he calls “significance chasing,” or finding ways to interpret the data so that it passes the statistical test of significance—the ninety-five-per-cent boundary invented by Ronald Fisher.

This would seem to be the obvious, why-didn’t-we-do-it-ten-years-ago idea:

In a forthcoming paper, Schooler recommends the establishment of an open-source database, in which researchers are required to outline their planned investigations and document all their results.

I found this study quite gripping:

John Crabbe, a neuroscientist at the Oregon Health and Science University, conducted an experiment that showed how unknowable chance events can skew tests of replicability. He performed a series of experiments on mouse behavior in three different science labs: in Albany, New York; Edmonton, Alberta; and Portland, Oregon. Before he conducted the experiments, he tried to standardize every variable he could think of. The same strains of mice were used in each lab, shipped on the same day from the same supplier. The animals were raised in the same kind of enclosure, with the same brand of sawdust bedding. They had been exposed to the same amount of incandescent light, were living with the same number of littermates, and were fed the exact same type of chow pellets. When the mice were handled, it was with the same kind of surgical glove, and when they were tested it was on the same equipment, at the same time in the morning.

The premise of this test of replicability, of course, is that each of the labs should have generated the same pattern of results. “If any set of experiments should have passed the test, it should have been ours,” Crabbe says. “But that’s not the way it turned out.”

Under seemingly identical conditions, mice were injected with cocaine: In Portland the mice moved an average of an extra 600 cm a day; In Albany, 700 cm extra; in Edmonton, 5,000 cm extra.

The disturbing implication of the Crabbe study is that a lot of extraordinary scientific data are nothing but noise. The hyperactivity of those coked-up Edmonton mice wasn’t an interesting new fact—it was a meaningless outlier, a by-product of invisible variables we don’t understand.

Read the whole article

Roy Spencer is also getting with the theme:

Why Most Published Research Findings are False

January 3rd, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Those aren’t my words — it’s the title of a 2005 article, brought to my attention by Cal Beisner, which uses probability theory to “prove” that “…most claimed research findings are false”. While the article comes from the medical research field, it is sufficiently general that some of what it discusses can be applied to global warming research as well.

Biased funding sets up a problem before anyone even gets to biased reporting or selective publishing:

Twice I have testified in congress that unbiased funding on the subject of the causes of warming would be much closer to a reality if 50% of that money was devoted to finding natural reasons for climate change. Currently, that kind of research is almost non-existent.

Thanks to Pat for pointing me at the New Yorker article, and Jaymez for the Roy Spencer post.

UPDATE:

David Burgess points out a good article on statistical significance: Odds Are It’s Wrong.

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92 comments to The Truth Wears Off: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

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    Grover

    it’s the “Pithdown” effect


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    It is findings such as these, which are well known in science and in statistical circles in particular, that add to the gross irresponsibility of that handful of scientists who gave so much credence to the primitive models of the atmosphere which they had programmed to illustrate their hypotheses about CO2. The fact that their statements were seized upon by sundry powerful political activists such as Maurice Strong and Albert Gore and amplified into a global panic is not entirely their fault, but if they had been more responsible adults, they would have worked to rein in the further excesses done in their name. I have just posted more on this here: http://climatelessons.blogspot.com/2011/01/poisoning-childrens-minds-with-climate.html


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    Morley Sutter

    Jo:
    Would not the results of repeated observations follow a curve of normal distribution? This means that any single reported series will lie along that curve. Suppose some drug is being studied to see whether it lowers blood pressure; each study can be viewed as an independent point on that curve. If the drug has zero effect, some studies should show that it could lower blood pressure while other studies should show that blood pressure was increased by the drug. If the drug truly lowered blood pressure by a particular amount, the lowering produced by all studies should be normally distributed.
    The result is that any single study is an inadequate sample and replication is all important. Results from observational studies in which there is no intervention also would be normally distributed. Therefore a single experimental study should never be considered as gospel.


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    Adam Gallon

    The phenonema of “non-positive” trials not being published is well known, as is the phenonema of a drug being launched amidst a blaze of publicity, only to be quietly withdrawn some time down the road, as side effects that were either previously un-noticed during the clinical trials, or noticed but ignored come to head!


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    Greg

    So with study “A” there is a bias… the researchers have a result that they’re looking for, or their superiors want them to find, so they tend to find it. Right?

    Is the reverse also true? Study B tries to duplicate A, but the researchers feel A has flaws. Will they have a bias that tends to produce contrary results? The Doctor in charge of study C, also trying to duplicate A, had a bad working relationship with those in charge of A (or B.) Will that bias her study?

    How do we reliably decide that mouse hyperactivity is actually important, and not just in the minds of the researchers?


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    Steve Koch

    You do a fantastic job and this post is no exception. Keep up the great work!

    Roy is dead right that more funding needs to be allocated to understanding how the climate systems work WRT natural causes. At least half of the total climate research money should be diverted from climate research to weather research because weather predictions can be proven true or false.


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    janama

    OT – interesting interview with Tim Flannery on last Saturday’s Science Show.

    http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2011/01/ssw_20110101_1205.mp3


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  • #
    val majkus

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/
    RSS data: 2010 not the warmest year in satellite record, but a close second
    Posted on January 3, 2011 by Anthony Watts
    The RSS data for Dec 2010 is out and available here, and I’m second in publishing it. The honor for being first goes to Lucia at the Blackboard here.


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    Svend Ferdinandsen

    I have resently seen the same article and found a plausable explanation of the detoriation.
    Imagine hundred scientists that work on the same subject. Only those few who finds something remarkable will publish. So that is a good explanation of “beginners luck”.
    It need not to be by purpose or because of funding, that you only see these experiments that gave the result. Ofcause later on it will be hard to repeat the experiments, but that could be detected earlier, if all the other scientist that did not found anything was consulted. Think about it: Would or could you publish results that showed nothing?


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    Lionell Griffith

    Just as in fortune telling, if enough people do enough experiments about enough things, they WILL find something that passes one or more statistical tests of significance. All that means is that the statistics was working with noisy data.

    When you have to resort to sensitive statistical tests, it means that your signal to noise ratio is very low. In such cases it is very difficult to to impossible to distinguish the real signal from all the noise. The wishes of the observer almost always has a greater effect on the interpretation of the results than the object of the experiment.

    In statistics there are errors of the first and second kind. The first kind is not finding a thing as significant when it actually is. The second kind is finding a thing as significant when it actually isn’t. In ANY statistical test there is a non-zero probability of either error.

    The bottom line is determining what is real is really hard to do. Really good science at the edge of noise is even harder to do. Peer review, credentials, and membership in professional societies provide no margin of safety.


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  • #
    David Burgess

    On a similar theme. I think the following is worth a read.

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/57091/title/Odds_Are,_Its_Wrong


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    Jannes Kleintje

    This phenomenon is widely known. In the eighties / early nineties science moved away from proper observation and properly setting up scientific experiences. It adopted what has become known as “The Gold Standard” with so called peer review. Since then science could be manipulated by any lobby, group or individual to generate evidence that would support their own ideas and views. It is not just the climate science that has been destroyed this way. Any scientific field suffers from this same disease, making it almost impossible to trust currently generated scientific outcomes in any field. One can only be very vigilant and hope to be able to separate the proper science from the junk.


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    Jennifer Hubbard

    It starts early. As an undergraduate I did a standard physiology experiment designed to show that the tiny aquatic life-form planaria become more excited and move about more when exposed to bright light. These were the expected findings.

    However, personal observations revealed only a slight change in activity level when the light conditions changed, before the planaria resumed background (?) activity. My report of these findings, with included mathematical equations, was trashed by the Teaching Assistant, who of course wanted to see only the expected results. This is one of the reasons I got out of biology.

    I really appreciated this article.


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    Neville

    This may be a little bit O/T, but shows that what we are told isn’t necessarily the case. Interesting stuff from csiro on rainfall, runoff in mdbasin 1895 to 2006.
    You’ll notice on page 2 that the moving average over the first 50 years ( 1895 to 1945) is well below the moving average of the next 50 years. ( 1945 to 1995)

    If you draw a line from the high point for rainfall moving average say 1912 across the graph it is below the low point moving average around 1967, just proves that over the 100+ years rainfall was much higher over the 50 years (1945 to 1995) compared to 1895 to 1945.

    Same goes for runoff, draw a line for the high point around 1917 through the graph and it is well below the low point around 1965- 67.
    Again we can show that the 50 years 1945 to 1995 had much higher runoff than 1895 to 1945.

    Surely someone can highlight this discrepancy in the mainstream media? I know the 2001 to 2009 years have been a problem but the rainfall, runoff has been much higher during the later 50 years of the last century than the earlier 50 years .But what do you think?

    Just to finish, we’ve been told repeatably by Rudd, Wong ,Gillard etc , that the MDB is in a mess but the 1895 to 2009 long term history doesn’t show this.

    The much heavier rainfall years of course exactly coincided with the cool phase PDO ( 1945 to 1976)aided by a number of negative IOD’s as well.

    http://www.mssanz.org.au/modsim09/G6/potter.pdf


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    [...] 4. Jo Nova on The Truth Wears Off: Is There Something Wrong With Scientific Method? [...]


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    Neville

    To add to above this poster best illustrates the IPO/ PDO and shows el nino and la ninas over a 100+ years.

    http://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/products/pdf/AustraliasVariableRainfall_LowRes.pdf


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    Louis Hissink

    There isn’t anything wrong with the scientific method but there is something wrong with science per se – the misapplication of the scientific method.

    We do not use statistics to decide whether a test is positive or negative in mineral exploration – the geophysical/geochemical interpretation is either wrong or correct. We never state to the Stock Exchange that our drill holes hit mineralisation at the 95% confidence level and thus we are confident that at the 95% level of signficance that the mineralisation is economic. Mineral exploration is the purest use of the scientific method, I might add.

    The problems reported in the New Yorker article don’t happen in this area of science – which is why I suggest that it might be indicative of pseudo or cargo-cult science.

    Statistics is more akin to technologically expressed debate and used to prove something true, except that in science we know we can never prove a theory, only disprove it. Look at the language used by many scientists – this experiment proves the theory correct.

    This topic was lead article in AIG News of March 2007 http://www.aig.org.au


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    Svend Ferdinandsen

    I couldn help commenting Louis Hissink:except that in science we know we can never prove a theory, only disprove it.
    Remember it depends on the theory. “Mobile phone radiation is harmfull”. You will never be able to disprove that, or “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction”.

    Whatever you try, someone can say you have not tried enough or looked the right places.
    I feel the climate debate is more or less in the same deadlock.
    Any suggestions to make a shift to a more balanced battleground?


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    cohenite

    This is an important article and shows how the scientific method has been corrupted by AGW.

    Basically science proceeds on correlations being subject to hypothesis and verification by experimentation. If the hypothesis is that in a correlation between A and B, that A causes B, then the experiment will involve making A and then observing whether B happens. If B does happen has the hypthesis been proved; it has but its certainty is nil until the cause and effect is produced again in another experiment which replicates the first.

    The degree of certainty is based on the success of the experiments which replicate the first. If 100 experiments replicate then that hypothesis is on its way to becoming a scientific law or theory. The issue can be complicated when the hypothesis claims absolutes like when A happens B always is caused; for instance if the hypothesis is all offspring of swans are black and a white one is found then Richard Feynman’s scientific maxim comes into play; that maxim says:

    “The exception proves that the rule is wrong. That is the principle of science. If there is an exception to any rule, and if it can be proved by observation, that rule is wrong.”

    A white swan disproves the first hypothesis but not necessarily a supplementary one such as most swans are black; but that corrollary too has its limitations; if the known population of swans is 51% non-white then that corrollary also bites the dust.

    So with AGW. The IAC has audited the standards of certainty of the IPCC and found them wanting; an analysis of the IAC’s findings in this regard are found here:

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/29880.html

    But the scientific method used by AGW is worse than this. A replicable cause and effect connection between the 2 variables, in this case CO2 and manmade global warming [AGW], must have a correlation. But, as the 20thC shows there is no first instance correlation between CO2 and the indice of AGW, temperature, and CO2, with most of the 20thC temperature movements in the opposite direction to CO2 movements. AGW has attempted to deal with this by using aerosols to explain the cooling between 1940-1976 and the presence of lags in the system. That is, it tries to explain away the statistical failure by invoking further physical reasons which complicate the statistical A&B causal connection.

    This in itself is a legitimate part of the scientific method; there are plenty of meaningless statistical correlations which have no scientific validity because there is no physical connection between the variables; so alternatively it is legitimate to attempt to explain away the absence of a statistical correlation between CO2 and temperature by the action of further physical variables. But none of these hypothesised physical interventions to a primary statistical correlation between CO2 and temperature have withstood Feynman’s maxim. For instance aerosols continued to increase after temperatures increased in 1976; and there were hemispherical differences in aerosol levels and temperature, and aerososl can have a warming as well as a cooling effect; and the lags of the system have been defeated by declines in OHC and the ERB.

    So the hypothesis of AGW has no primary statistical correlation and the physical reasons to explain that primary lack are in themselves failures by the Feynman maxim.

    Ergo, AGW is a failed hypothesis.


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    handjive

    There might be something wrong with the scientific method in ‘settled climate science’ but, the solution appears to be not with proven scientific evidence.

    Green Groups Try to Sex Up Climate Change, Spiegel Online 3/1/2011

    The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere keeps going up and up, but public interest in climate change is sinking. Environmentalists are trying to come up with new ways to make the issue sexy.
    The theft of e-mails from the University of East Anglia had badly damaged the image of climate research shortly before the summit.

    SPIEGEL ONLINE presents an overview of their ideas: Naked Bodies and a New Messiah

    The search for a new messiah: Al Gore, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his film that jolted viewers out of their climate complacency, seemed to be successfully fulfilling this role for a while, but he has since all but disappeared from the public eye.

    The most pressing question in ‘settled’ climate science?. Who could replace the Goracle?

    The Terminator is in between gigs. Maybe it’s possible….
    “Film star turned California governor prepares to leave office and become a global champion in war against climate change”.

    But don’t expect to see Schwarzenegger touring an Al Gore-style scientific slideshow. The governator’s version of environmental leadership hinges on avoiding mention of the words climate change or greenhouse gas emissions, which he thinks are a turn-off for some people. “People get stuck and fall in love with their slogans and with their little agendas,” he said. “You’ve got to make it hip. You’ve got to make it sexy to be part of this movement.”

    Yes. He’s Back! He’s sexy! He’s Arnold Schwarzenegger: my future as a green activist


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    papertiger

    This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology.

    There’s not much room between the two. You’d have a hard time sliding a sheet of paper between those two.

    “…across all of the pseudo sciences,” – he should have said.


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    papertiger

    Re:#14

    Arnie must be highly leveraged in the carbon futures.


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    Sean Peake

    Jo, I wonder if John Crabbe’s experiment was the same one that was reported in The Onion some months back.


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    handjive

    Further light reading about The Terminator and his war on climate change:

    Arnold Schwarzenegger Quotes
    The World According to Arnold Schwarzenegger

    On the environment- “Don’t worry about that”.


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    Bulldust

    A corollorary of the argument of the OP is that if you measure/test enough variables within a sample set you will find a few 5%rs. The fact that they are “statistically significant” does not necessary make them significant findings … it may just be a result of sampling.

    For example, assume there is a factory which locals reckon is spewing some sort of pollution, and you have a town of a few hundred nearby. If you measure enough health-related aspects of a sample of the neighbouring town’s population the chances are you will find a few siginificant 5%rs … i.e. apparent health impacts (either good or bad). This does not necessarily mean the health effects were caused by the factory pollution, but it does highlight something that should be examined in more detail.

    Given the political sensitivity of such a situation the chances are the factory owners will settle out of court before any causative relationship is proven.


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    val majkus

    Neville @ 14 – interesting comment; why don’t you post it on Jen Marohasy’s blog; she has an interest in the MDB
    http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/


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    wendy

    Subject: Coca Cola

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/stop_the_warming_ban_coke/

    (I)f carbon dioxide is so “bad” for the planet then how much is released each day when you pull the ring pull on a can of Coca-Cola? … One 375ml can of Coca Cola contains 1.4 litres of Carbon Dioxide…
    Coca-Cola doesn’t seem to publish figures on how much coke is sold, but it does make the claim on its website that there are “1.2 billion servings of Coke a day”….
    1,200,000,000 servings x 1.4 litres of carbon dioxide = 1,680,000,000 litres of carbon dioxide
    If 50 grams of carbon dioxide = 25.46 litres (that adds up to) 3,299 tonnes a day
    [Original entry has been corrected by J.]…
    I started to wonder where all this carbon dioxide comes from that is used to carbonate all the Coke, Pepsi and other beverages we consume each day… Now this may come as a surprise to most people that we are operating carbon dioxide purification plants here in Australia to supply our need for carbon dioxide.
    If you doubt that such plants exist then look at :-

    http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/27394/caroline_seo.pdf…

    My motivation for pursuing this carbon dioxide trail is partly due to my scepticism of a lot of the global warming claims and my annoyance of people who preach to me about saving the planet and tell me I should install solar panels, plant trees, drive a smaller car and what ever else they can think of to reduce my carbon footprint. I am sure a lot of these people drink Coca-Cola and think that Coke is “cool”.


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    Another thing about the statistical tests of significance, they ASSUME a frequency distribution. It takes at least 50,000 independent experiments to establish a minimally acceptable frequency distribution. As a consequence, it is almost never actually measured. So at the root of it all is the wonderful and impressive “significance” and “confidence” statements are ALL founded on nothing but “it is assumed.”

    The wonderful 90% confidence level by the IPCC that man produced CO2 is causing or will cause a runaway (global warming (climate change (climate disruption))) is nothing but a wish. It is based upon an unexamined assumption without the possibility of even a minimal demonstration of likelihood let alone proof. Yet we are asked to believe we must abandon modern technological civilization and return to a stone age life style with the UN controlling the globe because of the wish.

    Statistical methods are quite useful but they must be vary carefully used. They area fuzzy arrows that can point to that final binary (black and white or yes/no) test of existence of effect. Without that final test, you are just guessing. You are making a bet based upon an assumption that is without foundation in measured fact.

    90% isn’t even close. 95% is slightly better than a wish. 99.5% is a strong hint but just a hint. The ONLY thing that really counts is a well controlled experiment that gives the following results: if A exists then ALWAYS B. If A does not exist then NEVER B. Everything else is a shadowy amorphous shape in a more or less dense fog.


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    Louis Hissink

    Svend Ferdinandsen: @ #18

    “Mobile phone radiation is harmfull”, or “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction” are not scientific theories but statements or beliefs.

    A scientific theory is proposed to explain a natural phenomenon using extant previously verified facts.

    So applying the scientific method to those two statements is a misuse of the method.

    Further AGW has never been a scientific theory since it has not yet been observed to require a theory for it. Rather it is a prophesy expressed in scientese.

    The problem is due to the fact we have too many “scientists”, and most are more accurately described as technicians than scientists.

    Predicting the weather has always been a priestly function and I suspect that in the case of CAGW the priesthood usurped the scientific method to revitalise their hold the people. In fact one could think about the idea that scientists are the new priesthood, predicting the future by whatever means they are familiar with.


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    davidc

    The problems with the 5% significance level used to be well-recognised in the hard sciences before they were infiltrated by statistics: that you are happy to be wrong 5% of the time.

    The truth would wear off less often if the generally significance level was reduced to 1% or better 0.1%. If worldwide there are 20 groups doing a particular sort of study it is no surprise if one group finds an effect at the 5% level when there is in fact no effect. But that would happen much less often with a 1% level and even less with 0.1%.

    The New Yorker acknowledges that the publication effect is a partial explanation but that doesn’t work when there is no paper published. In fact it does, in a modified form. Experiments in which not much happens are quickly forgotten and not discussed with others. But with a dramatic result it will at least be remembered by the experimenter and probably discussed. So there is a much greater likelihood that the process will move downward from a dramatic result than upward from an insignificant one (because there is no incentive to do the follow-up in the latter case.

    So nothing wrong with the scientific method (spoilsport).


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    Macolm Hill

    The breast cancer research version of the PR assessment is along the same lines.

    You would have to be stark raving mad to backrupt economies on the basis of a evaluation system and processes that are so demonstrably flawed and shonky…
    with so much vested interest involved.

    You know that this is the case, when the only apparant defence put up is that it has seemingly served us well over the years with all the scientific advances that have been made…with no account being made of the fact that most advances have been made in spite of PR..and the cost that the PR process imposes

    Those people who lodge patents dont need a PR document to establish the basis of their invention …and most REAL advances have come from Patents and by the dam hard work by individuals and companies who take real risks involving even having their homes on the line.

    http://breast-cancer-research.com/content/12/S4/S13


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    LevelGaze

    janama @7

    Thanks for the Flannery link, I listened to the broadcast. You have to hand it to old Tim, he’s well-presented to the point of being almost plausible. But it’s still pure drivel.


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    wendy

    Subject: OBAMA DECLARES CO2 A POLLUTANT

    Jan. 2 (EIRNS)–As of today, carbon dioxide has joined cyanide and arsenic on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of dangerous pollutants.
    In the 19th century, after chemists had established that carbon dioxide is the essential nutrient allowing green plants to produce oxygen by photosynthesis, CO2 became known as the “gas of life.” Without it, the life-giving exchange between green plants and oxygen-breathing organisms would be broken. But last May, the Obama Administration, having declared life a danger to the public health, found the gas of life to be a pollutant.
    Opponents have already noted that the EPA ruling was a blatant and unconstitutional effort to bypass Congress, which voted down Obama’s Cap and Trade legislation last summer. The Administration had simply used the Executive power to justify what it could not win in Congress, just as it did with the defeated Section 1233 of the healthcare bill modeled on Hitler’s Tiergarten 4 directive mandating euthanasia.
    Today, Michigan Republican Fred Upton, who will become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, vowed to fight the EPA ruling. “We wil not allow the administration to regulate what they have been unable to legislate,” he has declared.
    The EPA ruling, which goes into effect Jan. 2, is already having a chilling effect on the construction of new power plants, as utilities are unable to know what measures they might have to implement to control the output of carbon dioxide, the principal byproduct of burning coal, natural gas, and oil. Thanks to the EPA, and challenges by environmental groups, not a single new coal-fired power plant has been started in the United States for two straight years. Next to nuclear, which is the principal target of the genocidal population reduction policy known as environmentalism, coal is the most efficient means of electricity generation.

    =============

    I want to know how this will effect all producers of carbonated beverages, e.g. coca cola, schweppes, pepsi, breweries, etc.
    Without the CO2 pollutant (?) added will they all have to be consumed flat ?


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    Neville

    Val I’ve emailed this info to Jennifer, but I haven’t contributed to a blog post yet on this particularly.


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  • #

    Hi all! Interesting blog, I’ve added it to my bloglist.

    In my opinion this is a result of the so called postmodernism. Long time postmodernism seems not to get into the “hard” sciences but is this still the truth? I am not quite sure. The main difference is that in modern times until let’s say the 70′s, scientists had an agenda and this agenda was the truth. Of course every scientist had his own conception of the world and there were some key points he maybe would not research against but it seems to be that the truth came first for the majority of scientists. Nowadays there are more scientists who are thinking in a postmodern way.

    Their agenda is not idealism, their agenda is solipsism. If you believe in a “greener world”, you will positively research in this field in the knowledge that this may be not correct in a scientifical, ethical way but you’ll do it for a greener world. The new god is green. This open society will soon be closed.

    The main point is to get over postmodernism. That is my opinion.

    Cheers,
    W.v.B.


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    janama

    LevelGaze: @33

    It’s amazing that this is a presentation of the ABC’s leading Science Program, The Science Show.

    Hippies shouldn’t be allowed onto that program, yet they are.


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    manalive

    “…most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations…”

    That’s all there is, a statement which hardly qualifies as an hypothesis that can be tested.

    The ‘IPCC science’ cognoscenti like to baffle the lay public with arcane concepts (radiative forcing, climate sensitivity etc.), but the only way that the effect of monotonic rising CO2 forcing can be identified is by a constant rise in the global atmospheric temperature (after all that’s what its all about) over a maximum period of say, a decade — that takes care of the internal fluctuations in the system and any old fool can read a simply graph, even me.

    On that basis, the AGW ‘hypothesis’ fails.

    It’s preposterous that the IPCC was set up to demonstrate how climate change was mainly human induced rather than whether it was of any concern at all.
    It’s preposterous that IPCC reports have been devoted to observations which are indistinguishable from natural occurrences which have happened for eons and computer projections which have the presumed CO2 forcing built in rather than proving the fundamental assumption.
    It’s preposterous that the two long-term instrumental temperature records have been in the custody of CAGW enthusiasts Hansen and Jones/Wigley, all of whom have been CAGW enthusiasts before there was any significant post-war warming evident.
    It’s preposterous that this could appear in any reputable scientific document.
    It’s preposterous that politicians (with a few exceptions) have, through stupidity laziness and/or cowardice, accepted the AGW doctrine without demur.
    It’s preposterous that an ALP government could be considering introducing a regressive ‘carbon tax’ or any other fiscal mechanism, which will disadvantage all Australians, the less well off most of all.


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    John Brookes

    Some time ago on this blog, in response to people arguing about whether the temperature had stopped going up or not, I said that we’d have to wait 30 years to be sure. I also suggested that we act now, because it seems likely that it is warming, and we are causing it.

    At the time, people had a go at me about the 30 year time frame. But in the light of the New Yorker’s story, I now realise that the 30 year qualification must have just been my intuitive guess as to how long it takes before you can be sure that things really are what they seem to be.

    Of course I still think that we should act on the information we have at the moment, and relax later if it all turns out to be a load of hot air.

    There is one more point, and that is, whether AGW is a real problem or not, the problem for you guys won’t go away. In the face of AGW or some other environmental problem, there will be a need for more and more international cooperation in future. At some point there are going to be binding rules which (shock horror) even the USA and China will have to obey. Yes, the era of human expansion (at least in a material sense) will end and be replaced by a sustainable future. Either that, or civilisation will collapse.


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    Macolm Hill

    If anyone wants examples of progress being hindered by the establishment refusing to accept the newer methods yielded clear life saving benefits, one need only start with the story of Ignaz Semmelweis.Google it your selves there is plenty of material.

    His approach to cleanliness in preventing purpurea in women about to give birth saved thousands of lifes back in the 1850′s.

    Unfortunately the medical establishment, and so called learned societies didnt share his enthusiasm, nor believed his evidence and it took decades before it was accepted …in the meantime thousands of women died.

    And there are oodles of examples to follow on from Semmelweiss, as all the papers that document the deficiences in PR attest to.

    Why the scientific establishment still refuses to see the obvious, regarding the inadeuquacies and unacceptable poor management practices invovled in Peer Review as currently practiced just beggars belief.

    …as the author of the breast cancer document says there is only one reason

    VESTED INTEREST.


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    John Brookes

    Yes, Malcolm Hill@40, the world is full of people who don’t accept the truth, often for reasons of self interest. But in the case of AGW, is it the scientific establishment refusing to recognise the obvious truth that AGW is bunk, or is it the skeptics refusing to believe that they may have to modify their behaviour to combat AGW? Its not hard to make the argument either way.


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    John Brookes

    manalive@38:

    That’s all there is, a statement which hardly qualifies as an hypothesis that can be tested.

    That is one of the core skeptic tactics. We have a situation where the scientific method can’t be used. You can’t set up experiments of different earths prepared in different ways. So all the AGW proponents can say is that they think its highly likely that AGW is happening. But the skeptics demand an impossiblity, scientific proof.


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    cohenite

    “But the skeptics demand an impossiblity, scientific proof.”

    Unmitigated garbage; AGW tells us that AGW was proved by Arrhenius in a classic laboratory experiment; it wasn’t; AGW makes predictions about macro and micro climate and weather events and is continually wrong to the extent of a ‘success’ rate far less than coin toss; AGW tells us that it can be validated by hindcasting; it has failed dismally at this.

    By any and all standards of reasonable proof AGW has failed; all it has left is authority, concensus and paranoia; and what Mr Brookes demonstrates continually: a condescending, moral superiority.


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    Joe Lalonde

    “If it ain’t got math it ain’t science” is too stiff in formulas that cannot expand to changes in data.
    Many areas in science use pure mathematics to try to explain a changing system. This fails over time.

    All those models should be having self imploding trying to go too broad on weather that is regional.


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    John Brookes

    cohenite@43:

    AGW has one main prediction – that the surface of the planet gets warmer because there is more CO2 in the atmosphere. It is based on the absorption spectra of CO2, H2O and some others.

    The prediction of warming is consistently correct, provided you take a long enough time scale. That doesn’t prove it will keep on this way. I don’t regard AGW as proved, but I do think it is much more likely than any of the alternative hypotheses around. E.G. “It is just natural variation”, or “Its not getting warmer”, or “Its some really long periodical cycle”, or “CO2 follows rather than leads”, etc etc.

    The only alternative hypothesis which seems reasonable is that the CO2 greenhouse effect is real, but the feedbacks are not enough for it to be a problem.

    But as I say, I’m not sure. Are you sure cohenite? Have you some compelling reason to believe that an AGW predicted temperature increase of 2 – 4.5 degrees celsius will not happen if CO2 is doubled?

    BTW, you accuse me of “condescending moral superiority”. Thank you! I wasn’t sure that I was getting the tone quite right…..


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    David

    My fundamental query – which I repeat ‘ad nauseam’ when blogging or trying to shift the unshiftable opinions in government – is this.
    Why is the UN body called the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate CHANGE..?? If not pursuing a preconception, why not Climate RESEARCH..? Surely it proves that they require their preconception (that man-made CO2 causes global warming) to be proven by ‘science’..?
    The funding route also tips the scales. ‘I wish to reseach the activity of squirrels’. Sorry mate – no money. ‘I wish to research the effect of Climate Change on squirrels’. How much do you want..?
    Couple all of this to politicians’ natural hunger for tax monies to fund themselves (primarily) and their grandiose schemes (secondarily) – and you have the perfect storm of self-fulfilling prophecy…


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    AGW has one main prediction – that the surface of the planet gets warmer because there is more CO2 in the atmosphere. It is based on the absorption spectra of CO2, H2O and some others.

    John Brookes, will you ever admit that this “one prediction” causes only 1.2 degrees at most of the 3.5 degree predictions? (Hansen 1984).

    There are a whole lot of other predictions and assumptions in the “feedbacks” that turn this 1.2 degrees into a (theoretical) 3 or 4 degree crisis. Can you split the problem into two parts and admit that while the first part is based on spectroscopy (and some modeling estimates) the second part is a speculative guess?

    POST NOTE: OK, I see by reading the rest of your comment that you do acknowledge the feedbacks (sort of). What does “Main” prediction mean if CO2′s spectroscopic predictions are only a minor part of the warming? The feedbacks make or break this, and yet you toss in the possibility they might not as they seem, as if it’s an “extra”.

    If the feedbacks are negative, the 1.2 degrees becomes 0.5 degrees. You still want to rearrange the entire global economy and infrastructure just in case the models assumptions “might be right”?

    The second part (feedbacks) has essentially been shown to be wrong, multiple ways: by past climate records, and the non-existent fingerprint.


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    Baa Humbug

    John Brookes: #39
    January 4th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Hi John. As usual, you post some thought provoking comments. e.g.

    Of course I still think that we should act on the information we have at the moment, and relax later if it all turns out to be a load of hot air

    .
    Little over a year ago, Germany, that model green nation, teamed up with Spain and convinced the EU to allow it to extend the end of their coal mining industry subsidies from 2014 to 2018. This was the 3rd time they got an extension.
    Why did they do that? Because of the numbers of jobs and amount of money involved makes it so difficult to wind-up industries.

    I’m not so sure it would be easy to wind up the many industries along with their subsidies that AGW has spawned already. Imagine how large these industries will be if “we act now”.
    Also, I can’t see too many governments giving up (carbon)taxes nor do I see an easy wind up to what will become multi billion/trillion dollar ETS systems.

    Would you kindly give me an outline of how you perceive these sorts of wind-ups would proceed in the real world.

    Also you say…

    At some point there are going to be binding rules which (shock horror) even the USA and China will have to obey.

    I’m doubtful that China especially and to a lesser extent the BRIC nations will obey any international rules that they don’t wish to.
    The reason why I’m doubtful is that China, whilst they were still economically relatively weak, didn’t obey anything they didn’t want to (same for Russia) why would they “obey” when they will inevitably be the most powerful nation?
    Would you explain what gives you confidence in this regard.

    thnx


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    wilbert

    I like this.

    2011 Prediction: Media Hits New “Warming” Low By Chris Horner
    “Expect the media to run with this. And in response I will show you pictures of, say, the World Trade Center collapsing. Why? Because that is their logic: show you something and say it is evidence that you did it. Example, invoked by a mindless fellow panelist on a tv show last week:

    Man-made global warming is causing Mt. Kilimanjaro’s glacier to recede.

    How do you know?

    Mt. Kilimanjaro’s glacier is receding.

    Oh. OK.

    The CIA brought the World Trade Center down.

    How do you know?

    The World Trade Center came down. ”
    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/political-climate/2011_prediction_media_hits_new_warming_low/


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    grayman

    JO, like you said a very good read. Which brings me to the mantra science and acedamia, “publish or perish”. In the studys cited in the story, of the minds of animals or humans, i am sure you are going to get the findings that seem to plaque them because no 2 people or animals are alike ,in mind or body because no 2 react the same way to the same stimuli. As in the studys done on AGW, the systems are to chaotic to ever be sure of anything that we puny humans can think of. Such as the more exteme weather meme, look in the recorded historys of these areas and you will see the same things happening over time, such as floods, cyclones, heatwaves and the like, can they be predicted to happen, yes, can anyone say when the next heatwave in Russia or flood in Pakistan will happen, no, as with predicting weather, not until it is 3 to 5 days away, maybe more or less. CO2 has been proven to cause some warming this is varified by expermetation, BUT in a closed system and our world is not a closed system it is a moving mass of air with all its different chemicals never in syinc with each other to say this one chemical is the problem. As far as i know the mona loua site is the one being used for CO2 measuring for the globe is there one in Australia if so what are its measurements. Climate is regional, Aus. and the US are about the same size and they have the same climates in different regions just like other continents, desert,montains,forest,tropical and others you get the gist of it. So IMHO saying global climate is BUNK. Has the global average temp risen and lowered yes it is seen in trends from 10,20, 30 and up cycles. John brookes has the climate really changed where you live, i live in Austin Texas,for 40 years, yes we have the seasons HOT in summer and decent in winter with artic blast that come down and freeze your buns off and back to decent. Yes some summers are warmer than others same with winters, but NO the climate has NOT really changed,still pretty much the same! Natural varibilty is the only correlation that i can see being the so called cause. This world does not orbit the sun in a perfect circle and does not always tilt exactly 23 degrees. When a big enough meterorite hits earth will it turn the world , say the north and south poles become the equator, could happen and probrably has in its 4.5 billion yrs. If one hits at night could it shove the earth closer to the sun or daytime shove it away from the sun! these are just a few questions of varibles that could be. Examples of things that we here ask you to think about instead of CO2 is the problem and we must act know. The temps have not moved enough IMO to act and there are to many problems in this world that need to be adressed first before we kill the global economy, Wehave already IMO helped the worlds economy by outsourcing our jobs every where else.


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    Baa Humbug

    Regards climate sensitivity without feedbacks, I’ll concede Wiki as correct ONLY for the purpose of this discussion.

    CO2 climate sensitivity has a component directly due to radiative forcing by CO2 (or any other change in Earth’s radiative balance), and a further contribution arising from feedbacks, positive and negative. “Without any feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 (which amounts to a forcing of 3.7 W/m2) would result in 1°C global warming, which is easy to calculate and is undisputed. The remaining uncertainty is due entirely to feedbacks in the system, namely, the water vapor feedback, the ice-albedo feedback, the cloud feedback, and the lapse rate feedback”

    If the above didn’t meet the “settled science” I’m sure what’s his name the gate keeper would have changed it. (William Connolly was it?)


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    BobC

    John Brookes:
    January 5th, 2011 at 12:31 am

    cohenite@43:

    AGW has one main prediction – that the surface of the planet gets warmer because there is more CO2 in the atmosphere. It is based on the absorption spectra of CO2, H2O and some others.

    Don’t be coy, John.

    The direct calculation of the effect of doubling CO2 shows an energy increase of 3.7 W/m^2 at the ground (Although this calculation is being criticized as too high, due to unphysical assumptions in the derivation, such as assuming an infinitely thick atmosphere, we will take it as the current best estimate). NOAA’s estimate of total greenhouse effect — 35 deg C for 150 W/m^2 — implies a climate sensitivity of 0.233 deg C/W/m^2, or 0.86 deg C per CO2 doubling.

    Measured CO2 concentration has been increasing at ~0.5%/year, a rate maintained since detailed measurements began 50 years ago, leading to a doubling every 140 years.

    The theory therefore implies that we will observe a temperature increase due to the measured rate of CO2 atmospheric concentrate increase of less than 1 deg C in 140 years.

    Actual measurements of the climate system’s response to energy input changes indicate that actual sensitivity may be closer to 0.1 deg/W/m^2. or ~0.4 deg C per CO2 doubling — due to currently poorly understood negative feedbacks in the system.

    None of this implies any crisis whatsoever.

    Have you some compelling reason to believe that an AGW predicted temperature increase of 2 – 4.5 degrees celsius will not happen if CO2 is doubled?

    You just got it: The current theory of CO2 radiative effects, as backed up by the current measurement of CO2 concentrations imply less than a 1 deg C increase over 140 years.

    As you well know (which is why I accused you of being coy), the hypotheses that are being used to attempt to totally change the world are:

    1) Assumed (but never observed) positive feedbacks amplify climate sensitivity to scary values of 2 to 3 deg C/W/m^2. Why the marginal sensitivity should be 10x larger than NOAA’s estimate is explained by “positive feedbacks”. Why these presumed feedbacks only start acting now is not explained.

    2) Because of these assumed positive feedbacks, we are approaching one or more “tipping points” where runaway effects will occur, hence drastic action must be taken now. This contradicts all the paleontological evidence that the Earth’s climate system is dominated by strong negative feedbacks (i.e., it has a strong tendency to return to mean after excursions).

    3) The current increase of CO2 is attributed to human use of fossil fuels, in direct contradiction of the clear empirical evidence that the carbon cycle has a short lifetime that would prevent human influence of more than 4-5% of the current atmospheric buildup.

    The prediction of warming is consistently correct,

    Which doesn’t verify any of the above hypotheses. A better hypothesis is that, since we are coming out of one of the coldest periods in the last 10,000 years, warming is to be expected from a system dominated by negative feedback.

    The only alternative hypothesis which seems reasonable is that the CO2 greenhouse effect is real, but the feedbacks are not enough for it to be a problem.

    This is, in fact, the only hypothesis that doesn’t contradict the current data.

    BTW, you accuse me of “condescending moral superiority”. Thank you! I wasn’t sure that I was getting the tone quite right…..

    I would give you the choice between intellectual laziness or intellectual malfeasance.


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    Joe Lalonde

    Jo,

    In the past, has temperatures ever been a factor in the billions of years?
    No. Except Ice Ages.


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    Baa Humbug

    I really try very hard not to make light of pronouncements by the warmers such as my friend John Brookes. But alas, fate doesn’t allow it.

    Just as we’re talking about acting now and unwinding later (see #39 #48) I come across the following research reported on by the New York Times via EUReferendum

    Finding the Fingerprints of Climate Change in Storm Damage — a Very Long Detective Story

    Hurricanes could become more prevalent with climate change, but the economic pain they deliver might not be recognized as man-made for 260 years.
    That means smashed homes and ruined roads may not be attributable to greenhouse gases for centuries, according to new research that suggests climate policies like adaptation should be designed without financial evidence of climate-enhanced windstorms.

    The results indicate that future hurricane damages won’t produce a tangible “climate signal” for at least 120 years, and perhaps not for 550 years.

    So there we go. We pay extra premiums NOW, even though there is NO EVIDENCE that we should, and per chance that AGW turns out not to be true by the years 2130 to 2560, we can unwind it all.

    Hey John, maybe they’ll offer you a refund? Actually not YOU but your errrr great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandchildren is it?

    Do you think they’ll include accrued interest?

    Even though I’m making light of this, it actually upsets me to no end that these alarmist scumbags treat us as fools.
    Does it upset you as well John, being treated like a fool?


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    Mark D.

    No Baa, he likes being treated like a fool. That is why he is still found here….


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    wendy

    The republicans in the United States will destroy the Global Warming FRAUD when they hold their inquiry this year.
    There will come a point where Climate Scientists will be faced with admitting the truth or joining Hansen and Jones in either Prison for fraud or scientific oblivion.
    NASA has now come out and declared climate Sensitivity for Co2 is actually down around 1.5
    The IPCC claimed 5-6/
    Lindzen was actually right.


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    wendy

    [snip wendy, I'm grateful John Posts here... c'mon.]


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    Ray Hibbard

    It’s a bit funny, when I was working in the lab I was always happy with a negative result. It meant that I had one less gremlin to chase down. I could then focus on the remaining possibilities.


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    John Brookes #39

    Your desire to “do something” is not born out by best practices. indeed, while we may agree (for the sake of argument) that the patient is “sick”, until we know what the malady is and what is causing it – arbitrarily hacking at the limbs and organs probably will not help the patient and may very well kill him.

    It is best to determine what is happening and the why before attempting to fix what may or may not be broken. That is why trying to stop global warming (or man made to use the more correct term that is seldom used) may be more harmful than good. if indeed we are headed into an LIA, then stopping the warming effect will have negative effects on the population (and thus the patient) while doing nothing of any good.


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    Louis Hissink

    Looks like John Brookes is another one of those millennial doomsters – happens when one’s perspective as a cave dweller is to rely on the interplay of shadows from activity outside the cave and thinking it’s reality.


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    BobC

    John Brookes:
    January 4th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    That is one of the core skeptic tactics. We have a situation where the scientific method can’t be used. You can’t set up experiments of different earths prepared in different ways. So all the AGW proponents can say is that they think its highly likely that AGW is happening. But the skeptics demand an impossiblity, scientific proof.

    1) It is up to the people who demand a global authority to suppress freedom and wealth to prove that it needs to be done. If you can’t understand this, then I think you should deed all your assets to me in case I might be able to invest them better than you — it might be true; You can’t take a chance!

    2) It is easily possible to sufficiently prove the AGW hypothesis is right (or at least right enough to justify action). Let’s just test the alarmist’s own claims that they can predict climate. Unfortunately for them (and you), this has been done and the AGW hypothesis has shown no predictive skill (see here and here) that is better than chance.

    The Warmist’s claims have been tested and they fail. The proof that the CAGW hypothesis is false (that you claim is an impossibility) has been supplied. The attempts to proove that CAGW is true hasn’t gotten beyond unsupported blatant assertions (such as your own).

    Obviously, this has nothing to do with logic or reason for you. Perhaps you should reflect on your motivations — they are completely baffling to me.


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    Joe Born

    As was perhaps the intended implication of the reference above to “cargo-cult science,” Richard Feynman observed in a physics context something similar to what Lehrer’s NewYorker article refers to as the “Decline Effect.” In his widely cited Cal Tech commencement address, he noted that values in other researchers’ subsequent work crept only gradually away from the erroneous elementary-charge value at which, because he used an incorrect viscosity value in interpreting his experimental results, Millikan had initially arrived.


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    John Brookes

    Jo@47:

    My position is essentially the same as yours. The feedbacks are what need sorting out.

    I thought the large temperature changes between ice ages and warm periods for relatively small changes in solar insolation meant that feedback must be positive. Is there a well argued easily understandable explanation of why this isn’t so somewhere?

    Anyway, I’ll stick to my predictably conservative approach – time will tell.


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    BobC

    John Brookes:
    January 5th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Anyway, I’ll stick to my predictably conservative approach – time will tell.

    If that’s your attitude, you’re going to have to stop listening to your “experts”. According to them, anything that can happen (e.g.: Winters in England get warmer; Winters in England get colder) is evidence that their AGW hypothesis is right.

    Time may talk to them, but they aren’t going to hear anything.


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    Louis Hissink

    This is worth repeating –

    “We have a situation where the scientific method can’t be used” – John Brooks quoted in #61

    That makes (CAGW) absolutely not a scientific theory and science, therefore, as nothing at all to do with it.

    Own goal I think it’s termed.


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    John Brookes

    Louis Hissink@65:

    Don’t be stupid. A great many things can’t be proved, but we still act on them. Not everyone who smokes tobacco gets cancer, but in the face of incomplete knowledge, you’d still be a damn fool to smoke.

    There are many, many things which are too complex for nice simple reductionist science to go anywhere near describing them adequately. In the case of AGW, its not proved, but the indications are its on the right track.


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    John,

    I thought the large temperature changes between ice ages and warm periods for relatively small changes in solar insolation meant that feedback must be positive. Is there a well argued easily understandable explanation of why this isn’t so somewhere?

    http://joannenova.com.au/2010/12/where-is-the-positive-feedback-not-in-the-icecores/

    Yes, I know it’s not peer reviewed, but if it’s wrong, I’m keen to hear why. If you can point to any peer papers where someone has published calculations related to amplification or climate sensitivity in ice cores, I’m interested. Ones that are based on old data are not as compelling as new ones, and ones that calculate it based on very cold temperatures are also not convincing. Feedbacks at current temps could be very different from feedbacks in cold times.


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    BobC

    John Brookes is refusing to respond to my critiques (which is his right) — probably because he doesn’t have any rational response and prefers to maintain his illusions.

    However, he does bring up an interesting point:

    John Brookes:
    January 5th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    I thought the large temperature changes between ice ages and warm periods for relatively small changes in solar insolation meant that feedback must be positive.

    If one looks at the paleontological temperature record for the last 400K+ years (link to Vostok ice core), one sees evidence of a bistable, chaotic system; i.e., there are two temperature states that the Earth alternately maintains:

    State 1): About 1-2 deg warmer than today — the Earth spends ~ 10% of it’s time in this state.

    State 2): About 7-8 deg colder than today — the Earth spends ~ 90% of it’s time in this state.

    In each state, there is clear evidence of strong negative feedback — excursions from the mean temperature of the state always result in a return to the mean — except at the transition points between states.

    This looks like a chaotic system with two strange attractors. The orbit around each attractor can seem stable until a situation occurs where a very small effect can switch the orbit to the other attractor. Systems like this are not predictable, since they are very sensitive to initial conditions, and it is impossible to know the state at any time accurately enough for a model (even if exact) to track it more than a short distance into the future.

    Here is a visual simulation of a similar chaotic system with two attractors (satellite orbiting a double planet). Run examples 3 and 4, which have initial conditions such that the satellite quasi-periodically shifts from one planet to the other. If this simulation were run on a computer with a slightly different precision, you would soon get a completely different orbital history.

    While the last 400K years seems like it is holding to a 100K year period, most of the last 3 million years showed closer to a 40K year cycle length. We do not know why the cycle length was 40K years; We do not know why it switched to ~100K years; We do not know when (or if) it will switch back; We do not know when the next attractor shift will occur; And, if we had a model the included all of the physics involved, we still could not predict this system due to the impossibility of knowing any initial state exactly — any error would eventually magnify until the model diverged completely from the reality.

    Yet, despite all that we don’t know, AGW alarmists pretend to know (even though they can’t produce any evidence of predictive skill) that the Earth is about to soar through temperatures higher than any in the last 3 million years. These people have about as much credibility as the nut on the corner with a sign saying “The world is about to end”, and should have as much influence.

    There is a lot of evidence that the climate system is chaotic, and that chaotic systems can’t be predicted. Anyone who claims to be able to predict a chaotic system must show some evidence of it.

    Claiming that anything that may happen (or not happen) proves that they are right doesn’t cut it. If you will believe something that inane, there is nothing that you can’t believe — perhaps you would like to buy my sure-fire stock prediction system? :-)


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    BobC

    Also, looking at the graphics from my post #68, you can clearly see that there is absolutely nothing unprecedented about the current warming. Similar, and much larger, warming (and cooling) periods have occurred frequently in the last 10,000 years.

    Thus the warmists claim that current warming is unprecedented is either ignorant or a deliberate lie.


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    BobC

    Here is a graph (NOAA Greenland ice core temperatures) that shows clearly that there is absolutely nothing unprecedented about the current warming recovery from the LIA.

    If climate “scientists” were using the scientific method, they wouldn’t pretend data like this didn’t exist — they would address it directly and let it inform their theories.


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    John Brookes

    Thanks for the reference Jo. I’d read it before but not really tried that hard to follow Frank Lansner’s logic. You said:

    http://joannenova.com.au/2010/12/where-is-the-positive-feedback-not-in-the-icecores/

    Yes, I know it’s not peer reviewed, but if it’s wrong, I’m keen to hear why. If you can point to any peer papers where someone has published calculations related to amplification or climate sensitivity in ice cores, I’m interested. Ones that are based on old data are not as compelling as new ones, and ones that calculate it based on very cold temperatures are also not convincing. Feedbacks at current temps could be very different from feedbacks in cold times.

    Frank points out that global temperature changes as large as we have seen in the last 100 years are not uncommon in interglacial warm periods. He then argues that almost none of these were transformed into 3 degree plus temperature rises by feedbacks. Therefore feedbacks in a warm period are small or negative. A problem with Frank’s analysis is that there is no way for him or us to know what caused these temperature rises in the past. Maybe a change in climate forcing which would on its own cause a temperature rise of 0.3 degrees was magnified by feedbacks to 0.9 degrees. All we see is a rise of 0.9 degrees, so we can’t tell anything about the feedbacks involved. Was it a 2 degree forcing reduced to 0.9 degrees by negative feedback, or a 0.2 degree forcing magnified to 0.9 degrees by strong positive feedback? Frank also argues that past history indicates that there are no prolonged temperature rises in interglacials, that they tend to reverse. Maybe that is the case if no one is pumping billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, but I think it would be fair to say that it might be different if you do.

    Also thanks BobC for your contribution above. I agree with you about the bi-stable chaotic system – it certainly looks as though once a threshold is crossed, there is a sudden transition. At least it seems to have been like that for the last 3 million years or so. But what determines how hot it gets in each interglacial?

    It is interesting to note that the last couple of interglacials were a few degrees warmer than this one, and that this may have been due to a stronger combination of Milankovitch components. The extra forcing from the components is small, but it seems to have produced a couple of extra degrees of warming in past interglacials. Maybe this would be a better start to estimating climate sensitivity?

    Anyway, it as always remains too complicated for me. If we had any choice over Milankovitch cycles, they too would be the focus of much debate – as to why they don’t explain things as well as they should.


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    Baa Humbug

    John Brookes: #71
    January 6th, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    that’s a good post John, I enjoyed reading it. h/t


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    Baa Humbug

    Actually John, the Milankovitch cycles would explain almost all of our greater climate cycles but very few have tackled it in any great detail and less still have been able to explain it.

    In fact, many in the current climate blogosphere mention the Milankovitch cycles, they know they exist but have no idea what causes these cycles.

    Do you?


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    John Brookes

    Baa@73:

    In fact, many in the current climate blogosphere mention the Milankovitch cycles, they know they exist but have no idea what causes these cycles.

    Do you?

    I’ve got a rough idea, but I relied on others to have the knowledge and do the calculations:-)

    The wikipedia entry was interesting, and mentioned the problems with trying to explain all past climate by Milankovitch cycles – particularly why we moved from 40k year cycles to 100k year cycles.


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    Mervyn Sullivan

    Question: Is there something wrong with the scientific method?

    Answer: No… there’s only something wrong with those who have forgotten it exists, or prefer to dismiss it… whichever way, demonstrating they are obviously not true scientists.


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    BobC

    John Brookes @ 71:

    Frank also argues that past history indicates that there are no prolonged temperature rises in interglacials, that they tend to reverse. Maybe that is the case if no one is pumping billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, but I think it would be fair to say that it might be different if you do.

    It would be fair to hypothesize that: However, you can (and should) subject that hypothesis to test. This can (and has) been done in multiple ways, and the evidence is that Human-produced CO2 is a very minor component to the current rise in atmospheric concentration, hence the current spike in CO2 concentration is a natural phenomena (which won’t be well tracked in future ice cores, as they perform a long-term averaging). Some of this evidence is:

    1) Actual measurement (not modeling) of CO2 atmospheric lifetimes (5 – 8 years) plus direct measurement of the system’s impulse response (C-14 bomb spike), and the estimated relative reservoir capacities of the atmosphere vs. terrestrial and oceanic sinks (1:50) all show that only a few (2-3) percent of Human-produced CO2 can remain in the atmosphere long term (> 30 years). At the current rate of production, we could (all else remaining fixed!) double CO2 atmospheric concentration in ~ 2000 -> 4000 years.

    2) Actual measurement of atmospheric CO2 concentration for the last 50 years (link) shows ~ 0.42%/year growth, nearly constant over the entire measurement time. This leads to a doubling of concentration in 165 years. The clear yearly cycles show the atmospheric concentration responds rapidly to changes in the source/sink rates, yet the data shows virtually no effect due to the enormous increase (3X) of Human-produced CO2 over the same period (link)– nor does it detectably respond to the changes due to economic downturns.

    Actually, you can see a rate increase (from 0.35% -> 0.49%) over the 50 year period. If we assume that ALL of this is due to Human influence (and not, say, to the PDO, which would directly effect Pacific ocean outgasing and hence the Manua Loa data), then you can calculate the limiting effect of Humanity:
    CO2 without Human influence: 315.364*1.0035^51.66 = 377.75 ppm
    CO2 with (assumed maximum) Human influence: 389.35 ppm
    Maximum Human fraction: (389.35-377.75)/389.35 = 0.03 , or 3% of total CO2 in the atmosphere.

    This also represents the limits of our ability to reduce CO2 concentration — too small to have any detectable effect, even if you assume the large feedbacks championed by the IPCC.

    So, the hypothesis (that Human influence via CO2 emissions) can have a significant effect on the natural variation fails.


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    [...] Jo Nova ponders whether there is something wrong with the scientific method. [...]


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    John Brookes

    BobC@76:

    It seems that in your 1st point you are confusing the length of time an individual molecule of CO2 is likely to stay in the atmosphere with the length of time it will take for an increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to return to some previous equilibrium position. In the case of radioactive carbon, a rapid increase in its atmospheric concentration was caused by nuclear testing. A radioactive CO2 molecule in the atmosphere could (for example) dissolve in the sea (for the purpose of this argument, I’ll use “sea” or “ocean” to mean all non-atmospheric stores of CO2). The sea can also give up CO2 to the atmosphere – but the chance that it gives up a radioactive CO2 molecule is very small, because the concentration of radioactive CO2 in the sea is much smaller than in the atmosphere. So you essentially get one way traffic of radioactive CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean. And this is a great method to look at the rate at which CO2 molecules move between the atmosphere and the ocean. But this does not tell you the rate at which an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere will dissipate. The concentrations in the atmosphere and the sea were presumably very close to equilibrium before we started pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, so that the rates at which CO2 entered and left the ocean were the same, at least over the annual cycle which shows up in the Mauna Loa data. So when we increase the atmospheric CO2 concentration, we are increasing the rate at which atmospheric CO2 moves to the oceans, while the rate at which oceanic CO2 moves to the oceans presumably doesn’t change much (unless the oceans warm, which would increase this). So unlike the radioactive CO2 case when we were simply measuring the rate at which CO2 entered the oceans, we now need to look at the difference between the rate at which it enters and leaves the oceans. Clearly this difference will be a lot smaller, so the time taken to return to equilibrium will be a lot longer.

    If you get this bit wrong, then your other points seem less likely to be correct, and its time for me to buy a cake to go with a coffee……..


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    David Burgess

    I am justing posting here so that JB does not have the last word. I have a theory that he seeks the last posting on each topic.


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    John Brookes

    Jo, any chance you could make posts editable to the author? Above I meant to say “rate at which oceanic CO2 moves to the atmosphere”.

    Also, while I’m making suggestions, how about making the link settings to that links automatically open in a new tab?


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    John Brookes

    What a preposterous statement David Burgess! I demand statistics!

    The only time I ever get the last word is if I go back to some long dead topic and sneakily post something….


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    David

    Jo – just a nod to the subject of accepted orthodoxy and assumed outcomes, I would mention just one word..
    Cricket……

    (Sorry..! Couldn’t resist….)


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    BobC

    John Brookes: @ 78:

    I’m not the one confused here. Let me try to address your points:

    The sea can also give up CO2 to the atmosphere – but the chance that it gives up a radioactive CO2 molecule is very small, because the concentration of radioactive CO2 in the sea is much smaller than in the atmosphere. So you essentially get one way traffic of radioactive CO2 from the atmosphere to the ocean.

    And you would be right, if C14 CO2 had never existed in the atmosphere before bomb testing began. Surely, however, you have heard of “Carbon-14 Dating”? There is a nearly constant background level of C14 in the atmosphere (created by cosmic rays) and an equivalent concentration in the seas — they have been in equilibrium for, at least, millions of years. (This is why carbon 14 dating also works on sea life.) Take another look at the graph I linked to — the C14 background level is marked by a horizontal blue line.

    Hence, the atmosphere and sea were essentially in equilibrium before Humans perturbed it by injecting C14 into the atmosphere via nuclear bombs. The C14 bomb spike graph, therefore, is a nearly perfect measurement of the impulse response (injection, then return to equilibrium) of the CO2 atmosphere-sea system. (Using your terminology of “sea” to represent all CO2 sinks other than the atmosphere.)

    And this is a great method to look at the rate at which CO2 molecules move between the atmosphere and the ocean. But this does not tell you the rate at which an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere will dissipate.

    The only other information you would need would be the relative reservoir sizes (air and sea). If the CO2 reservoir in the sea is 50 times larger than the reservoir size in the air, then it takes 50 times as much CO2 to raise the concentration in the sea by a given amount as in the air. The flows from each reservoir are proportional to the concentration in that reservoir, so the flows equalize when the concentrations are equal, and that happens when 2% of the CO2 is left in the air. The rate at which this happens is determined by the proportionality constant, which is given by the measured impulse decay rate. This would be true, even if NO C14 were in the sea to begin with. The fact that C14 IS in equilibrium in the air and sea (almost — there is some unbalance due to the fact that C14 is made in the atmosphere and decays with a 5,000 year half life) also allows you to estimate the reservoir ratios.

    If you get this bit wrong, then your other points seem less likely to be correct, and its time for me to buy a cake to go with a coffee…….

    Might I suggest you improve you knowledge by going to your local college library instead (mine has a coffee and cake shop inside — very convenient!) and looking at a freshman chemistry book. Check out the section on “equilibrium reactions”. They are well understood — your talking in circles about them doesn’t change the facts (even though it might convince you).


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    BobC

    John Brookes:
    January 7th, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Also, while I’m making suggestions, how about making the link settings to that links automatically open in a new tab?

    If you’re on a Windows machine, use the right mouse button over the link, then select “Open link in new tab”.

    If you’re on a Mac — you have my condolences :-)

    (I think there is something about using the “Open Apple” key and mouse button simultaneously? …)


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    BobC – Most Apples now have dual button mice (or the owners can buy a 2 button mouse), and the right button will bring up a context menu. Or as you suggest – Command-Click (the Apple Button).


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    John Brookes

    Oh dear, I didn’t look at Bob’s graph closely enough, and now have egg on my face. The worst thing is that without an obvious argument, there is nothing for it but to do it mathematically, which is hard work.

    So Bob, if the enthusiasm hits I’ll have a go at the maths and see if we can find out why two groups of people are coming to such remarkably different conclusions about human contributions to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Cheers,
    John


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    Does anyone know if glaciologist J.P. Stephenson’s work has been confirmed?

    His name is included on the co2science.org list, and part way thru the video below he is shown at his site in Greenland. He claims to be measuring temperature directly (via a very accurate thermometer) lowered into a recent borehole and reading ice temperature at various levels, and obtaining data over a 120,000 period. Being from an entirely different world I was not aware of this measurement technique, and it strikes me as much more reliable than what can be deduced from proxy data. Also his results seem to perfectly confirm the MWP, plus temperatures in earlier periods, and continue right on up to the late 1800s where, he says, it dovetails perfectly with regular temperature atmospheric temperature readings.

    Here’s the (youtube) video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr5O1HsTVgA&feature=player_detailpage


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    Werner Bussman

    Jo, in my view the most important aspect in Jonah Lehrer’s article is its relativism regarding the reproducibility of some (maybe many) results from the life-sciences and physical sciences like e.g. physics and chemistry. This is especially important since climate science as a branch of the geological sciences has well established theories and findings, just the ones so often used to demonstrate the fallacies behind many of the assertions in the AGW hypothesis.
    But if one looks hard at the article, it implies – starting with the subtitle – the scientific method itself is at fault. This is demonstrated by many examples where results cannot be replicated in the life-sciences. In the final paragraphs some alleged conflicts in findings regarding the theory of gravity are taken to demonstrate that this kind defects extends to the physical sciences as well. And so Jonah Lehrer comes to claim:” Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.”
    Nevertheless, we all know that, while not to many scientist replicate the initial studies on gravity these days, even Newton´s classical equations do work extremely well in most circumstances, and the million-fold replication of findings from physics with the use of technology to me seems “proof” enough. When the experiments are done right, we don’t have to believe. And, no, the truth doesn’t wear off!


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    Bobc

    John Brookes:
    January 11th, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Oh dear, I didn’t look at Bob’s graph closely enough, and now have egg on my face. The worst thing is that without an obvious argument, there is nothing for it but to do it mathematically, which is hard work.

    So Bob, if the enthusiasm hits I’ll have a go at the maths and see if we can find out why two groups of people are coming to such remarkably different conclusions about human contributions to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Cheers,
    John

    Learning is never a bad idea. Might I suggest you also look up some linear system theory? The relevant points are:

    1) Assume a system is given input A and produces response B — then is given input C and produces response D. If this is a linear system it will, when given input A+C, respond with output B+D. (This also holds for scaling: If 2A is input, 2B will be output & etc.)

    2) Any input can be decomposed into a (possibly infinite) sum of impulses. The output, therefore, will be the sum of the responses to each impulse in the input sum.

    3) Hence, everything you can know (about the input/output response) of a linear system is given by its response to a single impulse (the Impulse Response Function).

    The system we are concerned with is the atmosphere-sea CO2 equilibrium system (where, I’m using “sea” the way you did, to represent every CO2 sink other than the atmosphere).

    What we want to know is how the system responds to a forcing involving injecting CO2 into the atmosphere to disturb the equilibrium. We want, specifically, to find out how long it takes to re-establish equilibrium, and how much of the injected CO2 remains in the atmosphere.

    Assuming that this is a linear system, we have found the answers by measuring the C14 bomb spike “Impulse Response Function”. The answers are:
    a) The system returns to equilibrium exponentially with a half-life of ~8 years.
    b) The data is ongoing (still measuring the tail of the IRF), but current data limit the remaining fraction of CO2 to < 5%.

    Currently, the data are perfectly explained by assuming a linear system whereby the flow of CO2 out of each reservoir is proportional to the concentration of CO2 in that reservoir. Longer measurement may show that there are multiple half-lifes involved (i.e., a "long tail" may not follow the same exponential curve as the immediate data). There is, therefore, room for some (possibly nonlinear) models that diverge from a perfectly linear system.

    The size of the residual concentration, however, is constrained by current data to less than 5% of the input (and this constraint continues to drop as we continue measuring). Hence, a model that proclaims that 35% of the CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for 100s of years is falsified.


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    Bobc

    Currently, the data are perfectly explained by assuming a linear system whereby the flow of CO2 out of each reservoir is proportional to the concentration of CO2 in that reservoir.

    I should also add: …and the “sea” reservoir is at least 20 times larger than the atmospheric reservoir.


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    BobC

    Werner Bussman:
    January 18th, 2011 at 3:59 am

    And so Jonah Lehrer comes to claim:” Just because an idea is true doesn’t mean it can be proved. And just because an idea can be proved doesn’t mean it’s true. When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.”

    To some extent, we all have to choose what to believe. What Lehrer fails to grasp, however, is that we all also must have criteria that we use to make this choice.

    Werner and I, I believe, would choose to believe those things that have a strong replication history. We would want to be able to count on our beliefs being (almost always) confirmed.

    Jonah Lehrer, probably, falls in that vast crowd of “Progressives” who choose to believe those things that make them feel good; or feel morally superior to the rest of us concerned with mere consequences.

    Fortunately for us, these people are rarely involved in, say, designing transport aircraft — where the consequences for being wrong can be large.

    Unfortunately, however, way too many of them are attracted to politics — where the opportunity for them to create great mischief is high.


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