Climate Protagonists Together ... but not Face-to-Face

Judith Curry and Kevin Trenberth: Equal Time on NPR

Hours of taped interviewing lead to two eight-minute segments on NPR’s ‘All Things Considered’ exploring the contrasting views of two prominent climate scientists.

Imagine two of the nation’s leading climate science protagonists sitting together for a long-form national broadcast exploring their quite different approaches to and understandings of climate change and its implications.

You’ll have to imagine it, because the pairing of Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Kevin Trenberth didn’t actually happen that way. Instead, NPR and “All Things Considered” science reporter Richard Harris aired consecutive-day eight-minute broadcasts focusing on each of them individually.

NPR science correspondent Richard Harris

“An interesting and complicated person” is how Harris described Curry in a phone call interview days after the two pieces aired on August 22 and 23 respectively. He said his goal in the interview with Curry was to do not so much a profile of what NPR described as the “controversial scientist” as an exploration of her points of view that make her something of “an outcast these days in the world of climate science.”

With Trenberth, his goal was to shed light on the approaches of a scientist seen as being key to the broad “consensus” perspective shared by most climatologists.

Harris spent a full day with Curry at her summer retreat on the California-Nevada border near Reno, but he wanted to avoid “a back and forth” with Trenberth with the two featured in a single broadcast. He stopped in Boulder, Co., on his way back east and spent a full day with Trenberth during a two-night stay. His tape recorder ran throughout most of the time he spent with both of them, the scientists have said, and the final broadcasts were about eight minutes each.

Harris said he had not told either Curry or Trenberth that he was interviewing the other scientist, and the two have indicated they had no advance notice of the kind of broadcasts he was planning, or of the particular approach to the story he had in mind.

Curry Focus: Uncertainties and Unknown Unknowns

Judith Curry had a focus on climate ‘uncertainties.’

In his piece with Curry, discussing her testimony before a House subcommittee this past spring, Harris described her as “one of a very small pool of atmospheric scientists that a Republican would invite to talk about climate change.” He said she “focuses on uncertainties and unknown unknowns more than on the consensus of climate scientists who say we know enough to be deeply worried.”

While accepting that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will lead to more warming, Curry told Harris, a no-action approach to scientists’ concerns may in fact be “the best solution.” Her position is the result “as much about the economics as the science,” Harris said.

He prodded Curry: “Of course, doing nothing to address climate change is actually doing a lot. Carbon dioxide levels are growing.”

“I don’t know how concerned I should be about it, on what time scale that might happen, whether it’s 100 or 200 years, what societies will be like, what other things are going on with the natural climate….I just don’t know.”

While taking steps to reduce her own carbon footprint, Curry said, “in terms of telling other people what to do, I don’t have any big answers.” She pointed to concerns that her six nieces and nephews could find trouble getting good jobs if climate decisions “jeopardize their economic future, and we don’t even know if they’re going to care and if this is going to matter.”

“But leaving climate change actions to individuals will not solve the problem,” Harris concluded in an NPR website article about the Curry interview. You can’t affect global warming simply by buying a Prius and adjusting the thermostat. And there’s no uncertainty about that.”

In her climate.etc blog, Curry wrote that she was “rather surprised when I read the article on the NPR website. It was mostly about politics and policy, which constituted a small fraction of our conversation.” She said she had spent about half of the eight hours with Harris discussing climate science, with policy issues coming up only when he raised them. She described as “generally accurate” Harris’s characterizations of her views on climate uncertainties and proposed policies and said “I don’t have any big complaints about the story.”

At the same time, she wrote “the implication that I am mostly about the politics and policies surrounding climate change is just wrong. I see this as a missed opportunity to discuss the science and the changing dynamics of the climate debate after ‘climategate.’” She wrote that she had expected the broadcast itself would include “more of an actual interview (i.e. where I actually said something)…I got about 60 seconds of airtime in an 8 minute radio show ostensibly about my own opinions. I have to wonder why Harris spent two days talking to me. I guess it took that long to get me to say something about my nieces and nephews.”

For Trenberth, ‘Rate of Change’ Most Worrisome

NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth, for whom pace of change is a major concern.

Introduced as “the prominent denizen” of NCAR and its “distinguished senior scientist,” Trenberth appeared more satisfied with Harris’s “recording stuff all day…he went back and kluged it together, and it came out alright.”

Harris related Trenberth’s initial differences in 1988 with retired NASA scientist Jim Hansen’s congressional testimony linking drought and global warming. He reported that Trenberth thinks Hurricane Sandy in 2012 “was maybe five or 10 percent more powerful as a result of global warming.”

“Trenberth readily acknowledges that there are still some gaps in understanding the Earth’s overall heat balance,” Harris said on air, after discussing issues related to natural variability and the role of oceans in warming. But those uncertainties don’t dispel Trenberth’s concerns over climate and carbon dioxide basics, he said.

Responding to Harris’s pointing to “frustrating times” for climate scientists finding their views often rejected for political reasons, Trenberth stepped into the policy arena, saying “I’m not sure so many politicians fully understand their role in this.” He said if the U.S. “plays[s] the right kind of role, then other countries will follow.”

“Some of the human-induced changes are occurring 100 times faster than they occur in nature. And this is one of the things that I think worries me more than climate change itself. It’s actually the rate of change that’s most worrying.”

The two actual broadcasts and transcripts — Curry’s lasting 7 minutes and 50 seconds and Trenberth’s 7 minutes and 49 seconds — are available online at NPR’s website: Curry here and Trenberth here. The two aired at 5:08 and 5:47 p.m. EDT respectively on Thursday and Friday “All Things Considered” broadcasts. As of late August, the Curry broadcast had attracted more than 330 onsite comments, and her own website posting on the interview had attracted more than 700 comments. The Trenberth broadcast had attracted more than 240 comments.

 

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of The Yale Forum (E-mail: bud@yaleclimatemediaforum.org).
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35 Responses to Judith Curry and Kevin Trenberth: Equal Time on NPR

  1. The continued focus on carbon dioxide to the exclusion of other causes of warming, both global and regional, is deeply troubling. The majority, or a near-majority, of the warming experienced to date and for the next 40 or so years, results from the influence of methane/ozone/carbon monoxide, black carbon, HFC-134a, HCFC-22 and other pollutants with lifetimes of a few days to a few years. These also cause human death and illness, forest death, crop losses and a variety of other ills. They are much, much easier to control–indeed emissions of many such as HFC-134a, could be reduced to zero with only modest efforts. Harris had 16 minutes–which is a lifetime on radio–to cover global warming and spent it on a pollutant that, yes, we must control. But we’ve got to survive long enough to do that, which requires sharp and immediate reductions in the short-lived pollutants.

    • rob sneck says:

      What are you talking about, Curtis?

      Other causes of warming have been ruled out because research shows that they aren’t the cause.

      For example, the effects of black carbon are short-term and can not possibly explain the warming trend.

      Please stop with the propaganda nonsense.

  2. Thanks for calling this to our attention. But it seems you are promoting a false news controversy here. Or promoting ignorance.

    How does NPR regard Curry as a prominent scientist? Why did they think her worthy of an interview? OK she loves her dogs. What else? Everything I read of Curry’s seems to be purposefully obfuscatory, not at all promoting understanding of the science. Refusing to see is a form of blindness. Curry’s confusion is important, and NPR failed to describe it well. Curry seems to have a touch of Ayn Rand in her.

    Is this the same NPR that pretty much ignored the entire global warming news story for the last decade? This is not really catching up. NPR seems to be feeding the belief in inaction. The house is on fire, shouldn’t we be looking for ways to put it out? Why human civilization insists on ignoring this problem is a much more important aspect to the story.

    • Lisa Doner says:

      Judith Curry’s credentials are readily found by examining her curriculum vitae (http://curry.eas.gatech.edu/currycv.html) which appears on the Georgia Tech website. It is because she has such good credentials that her “do nothing” stance carries weight. While I strongly disagree with her conclusions about the uncertainty data, dismissing the importance of her views by casting doubt on her (and NPR’s) credentials is a red-herring.

      • Fair enough. But if she is one of about 3 people with respectable credentials who disagrees with the mainstream, and mainly disagrees on an ideological rather than scientific basis, shouldn’t she be getting equal time with politicians, not scientists?

      • rob sneck says:

        Her credentials are not relevant when she is clearly spreading false claims (which she knows are false).

        • Mike Mangan says:

          Not that you would tell us what her “false claims” are. That’s the way it works in the climate wars. Skeptics are not merely disagreeing with the conclusions of the various bureaucracies, they are presenting “false claims” and spreading “disinformation.” In the old days Curry would have been burned at the stake for witchcraft.

        • “Comments and/or links that are defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening, contain personal or ad hominem criticisms will not be posted.”

          Let’s see. I hear you saying that she is spreading false claims and that she knows they are false. That is a polite way of calling her a liar.

          So on this thread we have one ignorant attack on her credentials and another mind reader who claims that she knows more than she will admit to knowing.

          Fact is, on the science, Trenberth and Curry are not that far apart. So where they are experts they have big swaths of agreement.

          Where they differ is where neither is an expert: policy. With Curry admitting her lack of knowledge and Trenberth telling folks what they should do.

          • rob sneck says:

            She is clearly making false claims.

            So the question, then is: Does she know they are false?

            If she is a competent scientist, she should know that they are false. And yet she keeps making the claims.

            What is the reason for this?

          • rob sneck says:

            Well, Mosher?

            Does she know that her false claims are false or not?

            If she is a competent scientist, she should certainly know they are false. But does she?

            Any answers?

    • Nullius in Verba says:

      “How does NPR regard Curry as a prominent scientist? Why did they think her worthy of an interview?”

      Curry’s significance was that she was a voice from inside the mainstream, who had battled for the mainstream against climate sceptics in the ‘hurricane wars’, but who bravely stood up for her scientific principles in expressing her shock and disappointment at the ClimateGate revelations. She is not an advocate or activist, willing to shade the truth or keep quiet for the sake of the cause, but an honest scientist. She did what all scientists should have done.

      Besides being an interesting story, it’s also an interesting and significant point of view in the debate. Why shouldn’t NPR have interviewed her? Unless you mean that only opinions agreeing with the party line should be allowed on the media, and all alternative viewpoints silenced?

      “The house is on fire, shouldn’t we be looking for ways to put it out? Why human civilization insists on ignoring this problem is a much more important aspect to the story.”

      Yes, that was the story she wanted to tell. That was what her break from the herd was all about.

      At the time Judith was still a believer in the mainstream, still a believer that there was cause for concern, and that climate science, the IPCC, governments and institutions were our best hope for taking timely action. But she saw the sloppy science revealed by ClimateGate as a threat to the credibility of this programme, and justifiably so. She saw it as critical that the scientific community take action to *fix* the science. The climate science community, in contrast, saw it as critical to deny that there was a problem.

      And I think it was this dishonest reaction that persuaded her that perhaps there was more to scepticism than she had initially thought, and that rather than a solid scientific case being marred by a tiny unrepresentative fringe of poor science, that in fact the reason the climate science community didn’t act to fix the science is because they *couldn’t*. They had systematically under-represented the uncertainties, had presented flaky/sloppy science as more solid than it was in order to encourage politicians to take robust action, and had now been caught out.

      So what she saw as science doing what science does – cleaning out the bad science and doing it properly, so everyone can *see* that it’s right – others saw as a personal betrayal, stabbing them in the back just when they were under attack and in greatest need of support. Ironically, had they listened to her, they would probably have come out of the affair much better off, and might even have recovered much of climate science’s reputation. Someone who acknowledges an error and fixes it gains far more in their reputation for integrity than they lose in their reputation for infallibility.

      But they didn’t, and I think it was when Judith found herself standing so virtually alone (at least openly) that she realised how far science had fallen. She had tried to build bridges to rescue her colleagues, but they didn’t think that they needed rescuing.

      Now she argues for more modest goals – less of the exaggeration and scaremongering, more acknowledgement of what bits we know with confidence and what bits we don’t. But it will make little difference, either way. Unless and until the temperature suddenly starts ramping up again even more dramatically, global warming concern is dead, along with any hope of coherent and effective political action. Why does human civilisation insist on ignoring the problem? Because the scientists called ‘Wolf!’, and then when caught out, refused to acknowledge that they had exaggerated their certainty somewhat. Even the activists seem like they’re just going through the motions, running on inertia. Do you really have any hope?

      In a decade’s time I expect, nobody will even remember global warming, like nobody remembers now how civilisation was going to end imminently last century through overpopulation and pesticide poisoning.

      There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come. There is nothing new under the sun.

      • Leif Knutsen says:

        “Cleaning science and weeding out the bad.” The problem with your statement is that currently ~97% of the WORLD’S climate scientists agree that climatic disruption is real and caused by the impacts of man for the most part. All continuing research has upheld or reinforced that observation and continues to mount by the day. After more than 50 years of research the hypothesis stands firm. You might recall that Einstein was laughed at and it was many years before a large portion of scientists accepted his observations and those are still tested to this day looking for flaws to no avail. I trust science to do so for both well into the future as it should. However if one finds that 97 times out of 100 a cure for cancer works that is no reason to wait to 100% and start using the therapy and build on the success. Would you take those odds? Asked and answered. Clearly profits from the pollution of the commons is a failed paradigm on any front you can name.

        • Nullius in Verba says:

          “currently ~97% of the WORLD’S climate scientists agree that climatic disruption is real and caused by the impacts of man for the most part.”

          So far as I know it’s about 85%, although none of the surveys I know of have asked the question in exactly that form, of that population.

          “All continuing research has upheld or reinforced that observation and continues to mount by the day.”

          Possibly so, but that’s a much weaker conclusion than most people think. The ‘disruption’ is not observable on a local scale, and for only half the change to be due to man (which is all that ‘most’ implies) would require a lower climate sensitivity than even most sceptics would insist on.

          The statement doesn’t mean quite what you think it does.

          “You might recall that Einstein was laughed at and it was many years before a large portion of scientists accepted his observations and those are still tested to this day looking for flaws to no avail.”

          Einstein got numerous things wrong, as Einstein himself would have admitted, and as all scientists do. He disagreed with quantum mechanics, and his general theory of relativity does not work at all well with it. Einstein rejected black holes as impossible. He introduced a cosmological constant for spurious reasons, and then rejected it. Science is a messy process, of guesses and approximations and falsified hypotheses, that does not leap in one bound to a perfect final solution, but gradually refines it.

          The neat and tidy story is constructed afterwards, and the limitations and uncertainties are usually omitted for a lay audience.
          But it’s more important than ever that people know they’re there.

          “However if one finds that 97 times out of 100 a cure for cancer works that is no reason to wait to 100% and start using the therapy and build on the success.”

          Cures for cancer have to go through rigorous medical trials, the evidence has to be published, the official auditors have to check the statistics, and the models and medicines have to be demonstrated to actually work in double-blind controlled trials. Climate science does not work like that – that’s one of the primary sceptic complaints, actually. The don’t have to publish all the data (and usually don’t). Nobody checks the calculations. There are no official auditors going over the statistics and the software documentation and so on. And the models diverge in many respects from reality, with no more than handwaving reassurances that the differences don’t matter and the approximation is probably good enough.

          If climate science was practiced to the same rigorous standards as medicine, I’d have far fewer complaints. Personally I think it ought to be held to an even higher standard, the stakes being much higher. (The ‘end of the world’, some people say.) But even a scientifically respectable bare minimum would be an improvement.

          • rob sneck says:

            @Nullius in Verba

            So far as I know it’s about 85%, although none of the surveys I know of have asked the question in exactly that form, of that population.

            No, several surveys show nearly 100%. That is in addition to the research done by people like Naomi Oreskes, showing that the actual research is even more clear on the situation.

            Climate science does not work like that – that’s one of the primary sceptic complaints, actually. The don’t have to publish all the data (and usually don’t).

            This shows why the so-called skeptics aren’t real skeptics. The data is available. If it isn’t published because it’s licensed on commercial terms, it’s still available from the place the researchers licensed it from in the first place.

            Nobody checks the calculations. There are no official auditors going over the statistics and the software documentation and so on. And the models diverge in many respects from reality, with no more than handwaving reassurances that the differences don’t matter and the approximation is probably good enough.

            All of these claims are false. I’m not even going to address them individually.

            If climate science was practiced to the same rigorous standards as medicine, I’d have far fewer complaints.

            Climate science is one of the most solid scientific disciplines we have. Your arguments are the same ones used by creationists to attack Evolution.

            Think about it.

          • Nullius in Verba says:

            “No, several surveys show nearly 100%.”

            As I said, “so far as I am aware”, all the surveys that asked the question got about 85%. Higher percentages have been obtained on different questions, or for smaller subsets, and these are commonly misreported in the media, so I expect that’s where you got your information from. If there are other surveys I’m not aware of that give different answers, why does nobody publicise them?

            “The data is available. If it isn’t published because it’s licensed on commercial terms, it’s still available from the place the researchers licensed it from in the first place.”

            Umm. I think you might be referring to one specific example of data refusal, there are lots more. Also, it’s not the same data – it makes absolutely no sense for sceptics to request data that’s already in the public domain, or for the scientists to refuse it. I think you may have misunderstood what was actually going on.

            (Rather famously, in the case to which you refer, the sceptics submitted multiple FOI requests for details of these licenses on commercial terms, that prevented redistribution. It turned out that there weren’t any. They had apparently been ‘lost’ or something. Odd.)

            “All of these claims are false. I’m not even going to address them individually.”

            :-)

            Yes. That’s the sort of response Judith was complaining about. And that’s why sceptics still get mileage out of ClimateGate.

            That’s the major point Judith was making, and the main point I’m making here now. Airily dismissing it with unsupported assertion does not work. It needs detailed evidence.

            This is not actually a sceptic argument. It’s the argument of somebody who believes there is a problem, wants action to be taken on it, and sees convincing an unconvinced public as the only way to get it. ClimateGate continues to be a powerful weapon in the sceptic arsenal. The only way to neutralise it is to acknowledge and deal with it, and to present a new and stronger case for the science not tainted with it. Not doing so only further delays action on climate.

          • Roger Albin says:

            Nullius in Verba – “If climate science was practiced to the same rigorous standards as medicine, I’d have far fewer complaints.”

            This is an absurd statement.

            By way of introduction, I’m a physician-scientist who holds an endowed chair at a major American research university. I review grant applications frequently for NIH and other funding bodies and I’ve chaired several NIH review panels. I’ve followed climate science for over 30 years, primarily in the pages of Nature, Science, and PNAS, but also by reading other primary literature.

            I wish medical research, particularly clinical research, had the power and precision of climate science. On all the points you mention, climate scientists do considerably better than the medical research community. Given the intrinsic difficulties of making decent predictive climate models and paleoclimate reconstructions, the achievements of the climate science community are truly remarkable and testify to the considerable talent of the individuals involved and the high standards of the climate science community.

            You point to clinical cancer research as a standard of comparison. There is simply no comparison in terms of scientific success. In the last 60 years, the cancer biology community has produced a small number of effective treatments for a small number of rare cancers. Major improvements have come largely from screening (cervical cancer, colon cancer) or from social interventions (reduced tobacco use). The track record of oncology research in terms of curative therapies is pretty poor. Despite receiving considerably less funding to address an extremely difficult problem, climate scientists developed a reasonably good understanding of the world climate system, reconstructed past climates with surprising degrees of precision, and developed good predictive models. I wish we had this kind of success in biomedical research.

          • Nullius in Verba says:

            “I wish medical research, particularly clinical research, had the power and precision of climate science. On all the points you mention, climate scientists do considerably better than the medical research community.”

            Then that is truly sad news. Not to mention most disturbing.

            Are you really saying that you would, for example, deliberately corrupt a medical database, hiding the inconsistencies you find by automatically assigning data to fake records, knowing that it would, as one researcher put it, “allow bad databases to pass unnoticed, and good databases to become bad”?

            Are you really saying that you would publish a reconstruction purporting to be of a particular difficult-to-measure quantity, knowing that the correlation between your reconstruction and the measured values of that quantity had an r-squared value less than 0.02? Would you really not report the failure of the cross-validation test?

            I sincerely hope you only say what you do because you have accepted the assurances of the researchers in question, and that you don’t actually know what they did. Or for some reason don’t believe it.

            Because if you are really saying that the medical research community would fake data, fail to report adverse results, throw out inconvenient data “to enhance a desired signal”, and a host of other scientific failures; that you consider your standards to be even lower – in a medical setting no less – I feel the strongest concern over the ethical state of the field. Do you feel no responsibility to the patients?

            I find it hard to credit that you would confess this knowingly so I am most strongly inclined to the former hypothesis, but perhaps you would like to clarify. Do you actually know from your own examination of the evidence what the climate scientists did?

            It was in one of the ClimateGate emails that Tom Wigley, former head of CRU, wrote: “No scientist who wishes to maintain respect in the community should ever endorse any statement unless they have examined the issue fully themselves.” While I think (in that context) it would have been far better for him to say what he said publicly, I suggest to you that it is nevertheless wise advice.

          • rob sneck says:

            @Nullius in Verba

            Yes. That’s the sort of response Judith was complaining about. And that’s why sceptics still get mileage out of ClimateGate.

            You don’t seem to understand. Deniers (they are not skeptics) will keep pushing these fake controversies not matter what. Fakegate (“Climategate”) is a fake controversy, but that doesn’t stop deniers from pushing it heavily.

            Responses like mine won’t make a difference. Deniers will keep doing their thing.

      • rob sneck says:

        Climategate AKA Fakegate is a fake, constructed controversy created to muddy the waters. If Curry does indeed believe in the Fakegate nonsense she has really exposed herself.

        • Nullius in Verba says:

          If so, then it ought to be fairly easy to provide the explanations and context to show that. So far as I am aware, nobody has. (And much of it has been implicitly acknowledged.) There are a wide range of *assertions* that there is nothing to it and no evidence of poor science has been found, but in most cases that would appear to be because they haven’t looked, or looked in the wrong places. The primary sceptic questions remain unanswered.

          (For example, I’d be interested to see the software documentation showing what testing was done on CRU TS2.1, which was described as a “flagship” data product, and was cited by the IPCC. Were the published gridcell station counts “meaningless”, as the current developer privately thought?)

          The problem is that while people previously inclined to take the climate scientists word for it will also accept the word of those dismissing it, the sceptics won’t. They will insist on public evidence. And in its absence they’ll continue talking about it to all and sundry, with nothing substantive to oppose them.
          From your point of view, that’s not good.

          This is the danger Judith foresaw. She saw that whether true or not the allegations were damaging, and that climate science had to do some urgent damage control to provide a full context and answers where there was an innocent explanation, and to take positive action to fix things where there was not. The fact she thought it fixable indicates I think that she believed the explanations were mostly innocent, at least initially. I don’t know what her opinion is now, but a lot of other people read the failure to do so as evidence that they were probably not.

          Which is why we’re here now, nearly four years later, still discussing it.

          Judith’s point was that whether the criticisms were valid or not, ClimateGate was a potential disaster for action on climate change, and it was in *your* interests, as advocates for action, to show the highest possible integrity in your response. It also ought to have made you angry, that people would muck about playing games and taking chances on such an important topic. The fate of the world is at stake, for heavens sake! And people are hiding data to protect their professional reputations and ‘intellectual property rights’?!

          No, I think if they saw it as a real threat to the planet – the proverbial ‘asteroid heading for Earth’ – that they’d be shouting for more people to be working on the numbers, checking their results, spreading the responsibility. I certainly would. It would be more than a handful of academics writing journal papers, flying to climate conferences. It would look more like the aviation industry, or high finance, or medicine. I can tell you, even when there’s only a few tens of millions riding on you getting the science right, it makes you sweat! I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the fate of the world riding on it.

          Personally I’m not that bothered about what they were up to, except as a matter of scientific principle, because I don’t think it matters any more. Politicians will do what politicians do. And science will sort itself out eventually, as it always does. Even if it’s “one funeral at a time”, as Max Planck put it. But as a believer, you ought to be.

          • Doug Lowthian says:

            Actually the context is easy to find and read. I’ve read it myself. Searchable databases of the entire email release are available but cherrypicking a few choice quotes doesn’t make a controversy, except on those doing the picking. Just where are the “right places” anyway? Multiple lines of investigation by skeptics and agencies and universities have yet to uncover any real evidence of any wrongdoing by any scientist. The real controversy is how a small group of hackers and PR people were able to undermine societies trust in science for political and economic gain.

          • Nullius in Verba says:

            “Actually the context is easy to find and read. I’ve read it myself.”

            Go on then. Show me the CRU TS2.1 V&V documentation.

          • rob sneck says:

            Sigh.

            Nullius in Verba, your text is far too long to address in its entirety. You are still spreading the old myths that make up Climategate/Fakegate. The fact is that there is no scandal, no matter how hard you try to make it so.

            Judith’s point was that whether the criticisms were valid or not, ClimateGate was a potential disaster for action on climate change

            She was just spreading FUD. No matter what anyone does, people who deny science will find a way to attack it. They did with Fakegate.

            You see, Fakegate was not a controversy but was entirely manufactured by the Denial Industry.

        • John Garrett says:

          Au contraire. It was the beginning of the end of the cabal that perverted science. It was a seminal event in the revelation of Michael “Piltdown” Mann’s shonky science.

          Harry sends warm regards.

  3. Susan Anderson says:

    You have got to be kidding. Judith Curry does have those degrees, but she is not a “leading” climate scientist since she started palling around with fake skeptics and bathing in the false limelight, while distributing free-form criticisms and failing to back her points up with facts and attacking anyone who asks her straight scientific questions. Montford, for heaven’s sake!

    The trouble with giving the 3% a 50% voice, and the 97% an “equal” 50% voice, is that it is misleading at best. You have attracted a hornets nest of commenters as well, which demonstrates that you have laid out the honey for them.

  4. Bud Ward says:

    I encourage a bit more civility and humanity in the tone of comments on this post, as some of those submitted are being rejected for being too inflammatory. Treat others as you would want them to treat you. and pause and breathe deeply before pushing send. Thanks.

    • Eric Gisin says:

      Really? Mosher pointed out a clear personal attack, and that person still has numerous posts.

  5. tomwys says:

    I guess I can’t fault NPR for trying to “soundbyte” climate, for such brief snippets of wisdom is what radio is all about. But the complexity of climate is vast, complex, and totally interrelated. The focus on CO2, and supposition that it is the (major – only – primary – take your pick) driver of our climate well-being is terribly misleading. What’s worse, political solutions that simplistically focus on CO2 (and sadly, only CO2) border on ineptitude. NPR missed an opportunity to bring out the beautiful interrelationships that drive the brighter minds into studying meteorology, climate, and environmental science. Don’t give up, NPR!!! Sooner or later, you’ll get it right!!!

    • rob sneck says:

      The focus on CO2, and supposition that it is the (major – only – primary – take your pick) driver of our climate well-being is terribly misleading.

      No, CO2 is the actual cause of the current warming.

      What’s worse, political solutions that simplistically focus on CO2 (and sadly, only CO2) border on ineptitude.

      If you think the focus is only on CO2 you are sadly misinformed. For example, methane being released from the ground as a result of the planet warming is something to be worried about.

  6. Rob Nicholls says:

    In my opinion, the evidence that human-caused global warming is very real and very dangerous is overwhelming (See the IPCC’s Assessment Reports if you’re not aware of this evidence). This is a robust scientific consensus, based on the work of thousands of experts in the field. I’ve never seen an argument from so-called “climate-skeptics” (arguing that climate change is unlikely to be dangerous or that the costs of tackling it will be worse than doing nothing) which has stood up to close scrutiny, although I have spent years searching for such arguments.

    So-called “climate skeptics” should not be given anywhere near as much air time as mainstream climate scientists, as the views of so-called “climate skeptics” have been shown again and again to be not based on science. While I respect Dr Curry’s right to her opinion, I don’t believe her views are at all representative of the current state of the science. I don’t understand how Dr Curry can give testimony to a congressional hearing which implies that “waiting and seeing” (i.e. delaying action to curb the accelerating growth in humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions) is a sensible option. The excess carbon dioxide that we’re putting into the atmosphere will take thousands of years to be removed, meaning that we are altering the climate for thousands of years to come. Even if we’re very lucky and the climate’s sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide is right at the bottom of the plausible range (1.5 degrees C of warming for each doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration), we only have a few decades to make the radical changes to our civilisation necessary to reverse the current trend of increasing carbon dioxide emissions and to prevent several degrees C of warming over the next few centuries.

    It will take decades to build an economy with very low carbon dioxide emissions. Waiting and seeing is not an option if we’re serious about preventing or minimising the risks that several degrees of global warming will bring (e.g. risks of flooding affecting tens of millions of people, risks of water stress (severe water shortages) affecting a large proportion of humanity, risks of widespread failure of agricultural systems and mass starvation, and risks of extinction of a large proportion of plant and animal species.)

    • Nullius in Verba says:

      “In my opinion, the evidence that human-caused global warming is very real and very dangerous is overwhelming (See the IPCC’s Assessment Reports if you’re not aware of this evidence).”

      I have seen them, and they contain no evidence.

      The IPCC says: “The approaches used in detection and attribution research described above cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgement is required to give a calibrated assessment of whether a specific cause is responsible for a given climate change.”

      Detection (has the climate changed?) and attribution (was it human caused?) are essentially done by building climate models, sometimes fitting patchy and inaccurate proxy observations of past climates to them to help fill in the gaps, and finding that the models cannot be made to fit without high sensitivity to anthropogenic CO2. It is unclear whether this is because the models are simply inaccurate, or because it is impossible to construct such a model consistent with observations. It is the *opinion* of the modellers that it is the latter.

      However, this opinion is not backed up by quantitative statistics on the possible model errors or alternatives (or as Professor Curry puts it, the uncertainty has not been properly quantified); it is based instead on the number and degree of agreement of papers published – a form of ad populam argument. The IPCC said so.

      People differ in what evidence they will accept. Some people accept argument ad verecundiam and ad populam, where they think them justified. Others do not. I accept the right of people who do believe in climate catastrophe to hold that opinion, and to say so – to argue for it in public debate. But I don’t accept their argument that any other views should be restricted or excluded from public consideration. It seems to me that betrays a lack of confidence in one’s own argument, that one fears to put it up against any opposition.

      You say you don’t understand why Professor Curry advises Congress as she does. Do you want to know?
      How else can you find out, except by holding the conversation?

      • rob sneck says:

        I have seen them, and they contain no evidence.

        Aaaaand there it is. The denial. The obviously false claim that anyone can verify is false.

        I have no idea why you, Curry and others like yourselves keep making claims that are so easy to falsify. Who do you think you are fooling?

        Detection (has the climate changed?) and attribution (was it human caused?) are essentially done by building climate models, sometimes fitting patchy and inaccurate proxy observations of past climates to them to help fill in the gaps, and finding that the models cannot be made to fit without high sensitivity to anthropogenic CO2.

        Another completely false claim which is very easy to figure out is false as well.

        Why, oh why do you and your kind keep making these obviously false statements? Do you really believe them yourselves, or are you making those claims despite knowing that they are false?

        I mean, if Curry really is a leading climate scientist, she must surely know that those claims she is making are false, right? Or does she really not know that?

        People differ in what evidence they will accept.

        It is clear that you will not accept evidence, full stop. The evidence of this is your claim that IPCC’s ARs “contain no evidence.”

        • Nullius in Verba says:

          “I have no idea why you, Curry and others like yourselves keep making claims that are so easy to falsify. Who do you think you are fooling?”

          Anyone with a modicum of scientific literacy who is prepared to check, rather than accept empty assertions and assurances.

          You say it’s easy to falsify. So why don’t you? If you’re right, it would be easy enough. Just give a short precis of the evidence that is not of the form “we can’t get our models to fit if we don’t assume high sensitivity”, and show where the uncertainties are accounted for to exclude any alternatives.

          The IPCC says of its methods “In this chapter, the methods used to identify change in observations are based on the expected responses to external forcing (Section 9.1.1), either from physical understanding or as simulated by climate models. An identified change is ‘detected’ in observations if its likelihood of occurrence by chance due to internal variability alone is determined to be small.” and “As noted in the SAR (IPCC, 1996) and the TAR (IPCC, 2001), unequivocal attribution would require controlled experimentation with the climate system. Since that is not possible, in practice attribution of anthropogenic climate change is understood to mean demonstration that a detected change is ‘consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing’ and ‘not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.’” How do they do that? How do they estimate expected responses? They say “Both detection and attribution require knowledge of the internal climate variability on the time scales considered, usually decades or longer. The residual variability that remains in instrumental observations after the estimated effects of external forcing have been removed is sometimes used to estimate internal variability. However, these estimates are uncertain because the instrumental record is too short to give a well-constrained estimate of internal variability, and because of uncertainties in the forcings and the estimated responses. Thus, internal climate variability is usually estimated from long control simulations from coupled climate models.” They say “Confidence is further increased by systematic intercomparison of the ability of models to simulate the various modes of observed variability (Chapter 8), by comparisons between variability in observations and climate model data (Section 9.4) and by comparisons between proxy reconstructions and climate simulations of the last millennium (Chapter 6 and Section 9.3). ”

          The IPCC are quite clear. Detection and attribution are done by comparing observations to models (of varying degrees of sophistication), and finding that observations don’t fit the modeled climate without higher CO2. Of course, the models don’t fit the observations anyway, but even supposing they did, this logic is flawed. To fill in the gap you would have to first show that it is impossible to construct a different model that could explain observations without the influence of CO2. This issue of the correctness of the models is referred to as model uncertainty, and the IPCC are well-aware of its importance. They say: “Ideally, the assessment of model uncertainty should include uncertainties in model parameters (e.g., as explored by multi-model ensembles), and in the representation of physical processes in models (structural uncertainty). Such a complete assessment is not yet available, although model intercomparison studies (Chapter 8) improve the understanding of these uncertainties.” In other words, the chain of logic relies on the models being correct, and they have no demonstration that they are correct.

          And this is why they say, as I said earlier: “The approaches used in detection and attribution research described above cannot fully account for all uncertainties, and thus ultimately expert judgement is required…” In other words, the conclusion is not based on quantified empirical scientific evidence, it is based on their opinion, as experts.

          And the most amazing thing about it is that they actually say so. But nobody reads the report, and figures out what they’re saying. They read the conclusions and summaries, that firmly assert this and that and the other, and everybody assumes that because they’re attached to a chapter full of graphs and numbers and impenetrable scientific text, that this is actual evidence.

          And I can certainly understand why many non-scientist outsiders would think so, and I don’t blame them. They shouldn’t have to read the small print. (Scientists ought to know better, though.) What I find more disturbing though is their attitude to free debate on the subject. Even if the evidence was solid and the matter genuinely settled, it is still a part of the scientific method that all doctrines are open to being questioned and challenged. Even on subjects like the laws of gravity, different points of view – even wrong ones – are welcomed. It is only because such theories can be challenged that our belief in them is justified. Thus, to try to exclude and silence dissent on any scientific subject is profoundly anti-scientific, and to do so on a subject where the science is still new and unproven, and far from settled, is much more disturbing.

          These are not the methods of science, but of politics. And I think it reveals a serious problem with science education that so many people don’t recognise that.