Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The language of climate change

Journalists and readers alike are learning some lingo formerly used primarily by climatologists. Many people’s vocabularies are expanding (mine included) while following news coverage and commentaries about climate change and global warming.

One example is dangerous anthropogenic interference (DAI). I learned the phrase while reading a book by Elizabeth Kolbert entitled “Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.”

Kolbert explains that DAI does not refer to any specific disaster but rather it involves a range of climate change scenarios that could result in mass extinction.

“The disintegration of one of the planet’s remaining ice sheets is often held up as the exemplary catastrophe,” Kolbert wrote. “DAI is therefore understood to refer not to the end of the process, but to the beginning of it-–the point at which its arrival becomes unavoidable.”

So far, scientists have yet to determine what carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere would represent DAI. Scientific debate about global warming involves countless technical questions. Sometimes, it seems to me that constructive debate gets sidetracked by semantics.

I can see this happening easily with DAI because many people disagree about whether humans are the dominant force triggering climate change. Of all the people who attended the recent Copenhagen meeting, I wonder how many participants would describe global warming as “a natural process.”

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2 Comments:

Blogger Francis T. Manns, Ph.D. said...

Climategate Forecast...
“• What is the current scientific consensus on the conclusions reached by Drs. Mann, Bradley and Hughes? [Referring to the hockey stick propagated in UN IPCC 2001 by Michael Mann.]
Ans: Based on the literature we have reviewed, there is no overarching consensus on MBH98/99. As analyzed in our social network, there is a tightly knit group of individuals who passionately believe in their thesis. However, our perception is that this group has a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism and, moreover, the work has been sufficiently politicized that they can hardly reassess their public positions without losing credibility.”
AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION, also known as The Wegman report was authored by Edward J. Wegman, George Mason University, David W. Scott, Rice University, and Yasmin H. Said, The Johns Hopkins University with the contributions of John T. Rigsby, III, Naval Surface Warfare Center, and Denise M. Reeves, MITRE Corporation.

December 31, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger curlyisadog said...

Rene Magritte the surrealist painter made a famous painting of a pipe titled “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe). Of course it’s a painting of a pipe. The image is a model … and how well this fits your idea of a pipe depends on your perspective or world view not looking through the eyes of the painter.

Climate models such as used in IPCC assessment reports are said to represent the important principles involved in climate processes, such as heat trapping capability of greenhouse gases. The model is actually a large ensemble of complex linked models too complex for the general public to understand so they are asked to trust experts in the climate science community.

It is well known that the models do not provide complete descriptions of some important non anthropogenic forcing and amplifier feedback effects such as moisture – humidity, particulates – soot (which can natural or manmade), cloud, albedo radiation from the earth’s atmosphere, etc.

For example, we are learning that moisture has a major greenhouse effect much larger than even CO2. See Pielke Sr. web site which points out that the additional humidity in a warming atmosphere is even more important than the warming directly from the greenhouse effect. However it is incorrect to attribute this to warming from a CO2 increase as has been done within climate science community. And this was not challenged by the peer reviewers of the papers involved.

The 100-year model projections are presented as “science-based” demonstrationof the urgent need for action to mitigate anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (AGW).

The cap & trade or tax – carbon mitigation policies are motivated by a) reducing manmade GHG emissions and b) lessening our reliance on fossil fuels. As common folks understand the nature of the underlying science better the focus was broadened to include energy self sufficiency. This is a dangerous and devious extrapolation; these are two different things and should have specific policy prescriptions to avoid unintended distributional consequences.

The market is very capable of dealing with energy self sufficiency. As for GHGs if the science were settled there would be no debate and the “consensus” climate community would not behave like street gangs. The models of long term anthropogenic GHG forced warming are policy models, not scientific hypotheses (as presented), therefore no more than undemonstratable conjectures.

Scientific theories/ data must be submitted for verification at the earliest possible time; and the scientist just proven wrong should celebrate as he has been given the basis to advance knowledge of mankind. In-sample testing does not explain non warming over long periods of time, e.g., 1940s through 1970s of nonwarming while CO2 concentrations were ramping monotonically. IPCC climate models are policy models similar to economic models with little capability of hypothesis testing, against the null hypothesis or alternate explanations; however, they are the main reason for urgent policy measures.

Fallacy is from claiming that this is based on the scientific process, it most certainly is not. CBO’s Douglas Elmendorf uses policy models for running cost - benefit analysis of proposed legislation as in health care reform –nothing more than vetting assumptions and calculations, not testing the validity of the assumptions and models , examining good v. bad outcome validity or other policy options.

PhD scientists succumbing to temptations of calling this “done science” for “own personal motivations” is hypocrisy. IPCC’s model “likelihood” implying expected probability of long term events is smoke and mirrors, nothing more than subjective self polling and not science or statistical probability based.

January 6, 2010 at 3:28 PM  

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