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Alec Rawls responds to Steven Sherwood: “The professor is inverting the scientific method”

Posted By Joanne Nova On December 16, 2012 @ 11:41 pm In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

The IPCC are now adding citations of critics (so they can’t be accused of ignoring them completely), but they bury the importance of those studies under glorious graphic art, ponderous bureacrat-speak, and contradictory conclusions.

When skeptics point out that the IPCC admit (in a hidden draft) that the solar magnetic effect could change the climate on Earth, the so-called Professors of Science hit back — but not with evidence from the atmosphere, but with evidence from other paragraphs in a committee report. It’s argument from authority, it’s a logical fallacy that no Professor of Science should ever make. Just because other parts of a biased committee report continue to deny the evidence does not neutralize the real evidence.

Alec Rawls pulls him up. Sherwood calls us deniers, but the IPCC still denies solar-magnetic effects that have been known for 200 years. This anti-science response is no surprise from Sherwood, who once changed the colour of “zero” to red to make it match the color the models were supposed to find. (Since when was red the color of no-warming? Sure you can do it, but it is deceptive.) That effort still remains one of the most egregious peer reviewed distortions of science I have ever seen.  — Jo


Professor Steven Sherwood inverts the scientific method: he is an exact definitional anti-scientist

Guest Post by Alec Rawls

I leaked the Second Order Draft of the next IPCC report, and, not surprisingly, am being attacked. In an interview with ABC on Friday Steve Sherwood tried to denigrate my key point:

He says the idea that the chapter he authored confirms a greater role for solar and other cosmic rays in global warming is “ridiculous”.

“I’m sure you could go and read those paragraphs yourself and the summary of it and see that we conclude exactly the opposite – that this cosmic ray effect that the paragraph is discussing appears to be negligible,” he told PM.

Set aside the impression Sherwood gives by saying he “authored” the chapter (he was one of fifteen lead authors along with thirty other contributing authors and editors), his response flies directly in the face of the change that was made from the First Order Draft.

My submitted comments on the First Order Draft of AR5 accused the IPCC of committing what in statistics is called “omitted variable fraud.” As I titled my post on the subject: “Vast evidence for solar climate driver rates one oblique sentence in AR5.”

How vast is the evidence? Dozens of studies have found between a .4 and .7 degree of correlation between solar activity and various climate indices going back many thousands of years, meaning that solar activity “explains” in the statistical sense something like half of all past temperature change (citations at the link above).

Solar activity was at “grand maximum” levels from 1920 to 2000 (Usoskin 2007). Might this explain a substantial part of the unexceptional warming of the 20th century? Note also that, with the sun having since dropped into a state of profound quiescence, the solar-warming theory can also explain the lack of 21st century warming while the CO2-warming theory cannot.

Now take a look the radiative forcing table from any one of the IPCC reports, where the explanatory variables that get included in the IPCC computer models are laid  out. You will see that the only solar forcing effect listed is “solar irradiance.” In AR5 this table is on page 8-39.

IPCC, Asessment report 5, forcings

There is not even a category for solar magnetic forcings. The IPCC denies that it could affect the climate.

Total solar irradiance, or TSI, is also known as “the solar constant.” When solar activity ramps up and down from throwing wild solar flares to sleeping like a baby, TSI hardly varies a whit. That’s where the name comes from. While solar activity varies tremendously, solar irradiance remains almost constant.

This slight change in the solar radiation that shines on our planet is known to be too small an energy difference to explain any substantial change in temperature. In particular, it can’t begin to account for anything near to half of all past temperature change. It can’t begin to account for the large solar effect on climate that is evidenced in the geologic record.

Implication: some other solar effect besides TSI must also be at work. One of the solar variables that does vary when solar activity ramps up and down, like solar wind pressure, must be having some effect on climate, and this is certainly plausible. We in-effect live inside of the sun’s extended corona. When the solar wind is blasting the earth’s immediate external environment is rather different than when the solar wind is down, and even if we don’t know the mechanism, we have powerful evidence that some solar effect other than the slight variation in TSI is driving global temperature.

This is what the IPCC admits in the Second Order Draft of AR5, which now includes the sentence in bold below (page 7-43, lines 1-4, emphasis added):

Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.

Sherwood’s response is to consider only one possible mechanism of solar amplification. He looks at the evidence for Henrik Svensmark’s proposed GCR-cloud mechanism and judges that the forcing effect from this particular mechanism would be small, then concludes that a greater role for the sun in global warming is “ridiculous.”

Methinks Sherwood should read the added sentence again. It says that the evidence implies the existence of “an amplifying mechanism.” Presenting an argument against a particular possible mechanism does not in any way counter the report’s new admission that some such mechanism must be at work. (Guess he didn’t author that sentence eh? Since he doesn’t even know what it says.)

Sherwood is trying to use theory—his dissatisfaction with a particular theory of how solar amplification might work—to dismiss the evidence that some mechanism of solar amplification must be at work. The bad professor is inverting the scientific method, which requires that evidence always trump theory. If evidence gives way to theory it is not science. It is anti-science. It is the exact opposite of science.

The new sentence was added specifically to avoid the criticism that the authors were inverting the scientific method

My submitted comments on the First Order Draft ripped the authors up and down for inverting the scientific method. They were all doing what Sherwood is doing now. Here is the same passage from the FOD. It lacks the added sentence, but otherwise is almost identical (FOD page 7-50, lines 50-53):

“Many empirical relationships or correlations have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system, such as SSTs in the Pacific Ocean (Meehl et al., 2009), some reconstruction of past climate (Kirkby, 2007) or tree rings (Dengel et al., 2009). We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol- and cloud-properties.”

The first sentence here, citing unspecified “empirical relationships” between cosmogenic isotopes (a proxy for solar activity) and “some aspects of the climate system” is the only reference in the entire report to the massive evidence for a solar driver of climate. Not a word about the magnitude of the correlations found, nothing about how these correlations are much too strong to possibly be explained by the slight variance in solar irradiance alone, and almost nothing (“many”) about the sheer volume of studies that have found these correlations. And that’s it: one oblique sentence, then the report jumps immediately to looking at the evidence for one proposed mechanism by which solar amplification might be occurring.

The evidence for that particular mechanism is judged (very prematurely) to indicate a weak effect, and this becomes the implicit rationale for the failure of the IPCC’s computer models to include any solar variable but TSI. Readers of the FOD have no idea about the mountain of evidence for some solar driver of climate that is stronger than TSI because the report never mentions it. A couple of the citations that were included mention it (in particular, Kirkby 2007, which is a survey paper), but the report itself never mentions it, and the report then goes on to ignore this evidence entirely. The enhanced solar forcing effect for which there is so much evidence is completely left out of all subsequent analyses.

In other words, the inversion of the scientific method is total. In the FOD, the authors used their dissatisfaction with the GCR-cloud theory as an excuse for completely excluding the vast evidence that some mechanism of enhanced solar forcing is at work. Theory was allowed to completely obliterate and remove a whole mountain of evidence. “Pure definitional anti-science,” I charged.

At least one of the co-authors seems to have decided that this was a bridge too far and added the sentence acknowledging the evidence that some mechanism of solar amplification must be at work. The added sentence declares in-effect, “no, we are not inverting the scientific method.” They are no longer using their dissatisfaction with a particular theory of how enhanced solar forcing might work as a ruse to pretend that the evidence for some such mechanism does not exist.

So good for them. In the sea of IPCC dishonesty there is a glimmer of honesty, but it doesn’t go very far. The SOD still goes on to judge that there is little evidence for the GCR-cloud mechanism and it still proceeds as if the possibility of enhanced solar forcing has been dispensed with. The only solar effect that is taken into account is still TSI as the report claims a high level of certainty that human influences dominate solar influences, and it still uses this garbage-in claim to arrive at their garbage-out conclusion that observed warming must be almost entirely due to the human release of CO2.

One of the reason I decided to release the SOD was because I knew that once the Steven Sherwoods at the IPCC realized how the added sentence undercut the whole report they would yank it back out, and my submitted comments insured that they would indeed realize how the added sentence undercut the whole report. Now sure enough, as soon as I make the added sentence public Steven Sherwood publicly reverts to the FOD position, trying to pretend that his argument against one proposed mechanism of solar amplification means that we can safely ignore the overwhelming evidence that some such mechanism is at work.

We’ll find out in a year or so whether his co-authors are willing to go along with this definitional anti-science. Evidently there is at least some division. With Sherwood speaking up for the FOD position, any co-authors who prefer the new position should feel free to speak up as well. Come on real scientists, throw this blowhard under the bus!

In any case, it is good to have all of them stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can invert the scientific method and be exact definitional anti-scientists like Steven Sherwood, or they can admit that no one can have any confidence in the results of computer models where the only solar forcing is TSI, not after they have admitted strong evidence for some mechanism of solar forcing beyond TSI.

That admission is a game changer, however much Sherwood wants to deny it. He piles on with more of the same at the ridiculous “DeSmog Blog” (as if CO2 is “smog”), and is quoted front and center by the even more ridiculous Andrew Sullivan. Sherwood has become the go-to guy for the anti-science left.


Bond et al. 2001, “Persistent Solar Influence on North Atlantic Climate During the Holocene,” Science.

Di Rita, 2011, “A possible solar pacemaker for Holocene fluctuations of a salt-marsh in southern Italy,” Quaternary International.

Neff et al. 2001, “Strong coherence between solar variability and the monsoon in Oman between 9 and 6 kyr ago,” Nature.

Ogurtsov et al, 2010, “Variations in tree ring stable isotope records from northern Finland and their possible connection to solar activity,” JASTP.

Raspopov et al, 2011, “Variations in climate parameters at time intervals from hundreds to tens of millions of years in the past and its relation to solar activity,” JASTP.

Shaviv and Veizer, 2003, “Celestial driver of Phanerozoic climate?” GSA Today.

Solheim et al. 2011, “The long sunspot cycle 23 predicts a significant temperature decrease in cycle 24,” submitted astro-ph.

Tan et al, 2011, “Climate patterns in north central China during the last 1800 yr and their possible driving force,” Clim. Past.

Usoskin et. al. 2005, “Solar Activity Over the Last 1150 years: does it Correlate with Climate?” Proc. 13th Cool Stars Workshop.

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