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APS reconsiders its position on climate — Scientific storm on the way?

Everything about associations and committees is so paralyzingly slow. But nearly four and a half years after 160 members bitterly complained about the American Physical Society (APS) statement on climate change, they are finally revisiting it, and there are very promising signs. They’ve appointed Richard Lindzen, John Christie, and Judith Curry, all either longstanding skeptics or sympathetic to skeptical arguments. That’s three of six. (Though I stress that I will remain skeptical until the new statement comes out. One other member, Ben Santer, has a record of rewriting conclusions of much larger committees, and other shenanigans*.)

In 2007, the APS improbably stepped out of the world of physics and into the world of policy and proclaimed:

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.

If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

In 2009, when 160 members of the APS protested, the council “overwhelmingly” voted to reject their proposal. (See how these things work? There are 47,000 members, of which 160 people took the effort and time to publicly protest, and then a council of what, six people, gets to use the word “overwhelming” as if it means something.)  They also wrote: “APS adheres to rigorous scientific standards in developing its statements. The Society is always open to review of its statements when significant numbers of its members request it to do so.” It’s all about the PR isn’t it? It’s about the importance of seeming to be transparent and open, when the reality is the APS statement of 2007 was profoundly unscientific, misleading, and against the wishes of many of the members, yet even in 2014, the statement still stands.

Prominent scientists like Nobel Prize winning Ivar Gievar and long standing Professor Hal Lewis resigned in disgust. The IPCC was exposed again and again as having poor quality control, an unscientific attitude, using magazine articles as references, and allowing activists to help review their work. One of their leading scientists was caught saying he used “tricks” to “hide declines” and other scientists were caught saying they approved of his approach. Evidence accumulated that the IPCC projections were wrong, double wrong, useless, unskilled and failed on all the major predictions. Still the APS supported them.

This is why Science-by-committee is such a hopelessly unscientific approach.

Now finally, the  APS announces it will Review that 2007 Statement on Climate Change,   February 20, 2014.

There are six members of the new committee, and it is indeed the most broad spectrum and balanced climate science committee I’ve seen. The other three members are Ben Santer, William Collins, and Isaac Held (all essentially climate modelers).

It could be that years after individual physicists and bloggers saw the writing on the wall, the APS has finally realized their support of the IPCC is shredding their scientific reputation. They have a 115 year history as one of the largest hard-science societies. They should never have supported a religion with a trillion dollar price tag.

If they jump ship, the quickening will start… that acceleration on the curve where other agencies and groups rush to dump the dying meme. The moment is coming when the phase change occurs and everyone starts to say “I was always a skeptic”.

Tony Thomas has an excellent article in Quadrant, arguing that this is “finally some real climate science” and the tide has turned. (Perhaps it has, but I’m waiting for the outcome). If the APS really is being transparent, open, and are willing to objectively assess the evidence, then it will cause a storm.

The APS audit of the IPCC makes a contrast with the Australian Science Academy’s (AAS) equivalent efforts. In 2010 the AAS put out a booklet, mainly for schools, ”The Science of Climate Change, Questions and Answers”, drafted behind closed doors. The drafters and overseers totalled 16 people, and the original lone sceptic, Garth Paltridge, was forced out by the machinations of  then-President Kurt Lambeck.[5] The Academy is currently revising the booklet, without any skeptic input at all. Of the 16 drafters and overseers, at least nine have been IPCC contributors and others have been petition-signing climate-policy lobbyists, hardly appropriate to do any arm’s length audit of the IPCC version of the science. Once again, the process is without any public transparency or consulting with the broad membership. –– Tony Thomas

As Thomas notes, the questions posed are “trenchant”. I would say they also cut to the core of the points that really matter:

While the Global Mean Surface Temperature (GMST) rose strongly from 1980-98, it has shown no significant rise for the past 15 years…[The APS notes that neither the 4th nor 5th IPCC report modeling suggested any stasis would occur, and then asks] …

To what would you attribute the stasis?

If non-anthropogenic influences are strong enough to counteract the expected effects of increased CO2, why wouldn’t they be strong enough to sometimes enhance warming trends, and in so doing lead to an over-estimate of CO2 influence?

What are the implications of this statis for confidence in the models and their projections?

What do you see as the likelihood of solar influences beyond TSI (total solar irradiance)? Is it coincidence that the statis has occurred during the weakest solar cycle (ie sunspot activity) in about a century?

Some have suggested that the ‘missing heat’ is going into the deep ocean…

Are deep ocean observations sufficient in coverage and precision to bear on this hypothesis quantitatively?

Why would the heat sequestration have ‘turned on’ at the turn of this century?

What could make it ‘turn off’ and when might that occur?

* Thanks to Baa Humbug for that reminder of the great John Daly’s site.

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