NRC report not as interesting as expected

In my last post I called it the NAS report, sorry. I had expected a proper analysis form some (disinterested?) party by now. Perhaps that was optimistic. Its a long report, and the important bits are dense, and have previously been done to death in debate and papers anyway, with nothing terribly conclusive emerging. But having looked at various reactions to the report, (the most interesting was the comments under the Prometheus entry; which also correctly re-iterate the point first made by RC (AFAIK) that the entire debate doesn’t actually matter much for climate science) the overall effect is a bit nothing. No-one is knocked out of the debate; everyone is claiming victory. The newspaper headlines appear to be giving it to MBH, though.

[Update: both Nature Academy affirms hockey-stick graph and Science Yes, It’s Been Getting Warmer in Here Since the CO2 Began to Rise seem to be going with the HS graph, and confining The expert committee thus confirms the outlines of the near-iconic “hockey stick” temperature curve–a long cooling followed by a sharp warming during the past millennium–that had become a favorite target of greenhouse contrarians. But the committee also says the evidence in parts of the stick is fuzzier than the public and many scientists might have thought to the details]

19 thoughts on “NRC report not as interesting as expected”

  1. The newspaper headlines appear to be giving it to MBH, though

    …and this is actually the only arena in which this issue has any importance, so this is a good thing.

    It may have negative effects later as the septics will have some fair complaints for a change.


  2. You’re an optimist, Carl. They’ll be onto the surface record uncertainties relative to the IPCC’s tightening of overall certainty about the anthropogenic cause of the warming. And after that it’ll be the models. But eventually they will be reduced to flat earthers. Let’s just hope they’re not still in charge of the U.S. government by then.


  3. “with nothing terribly conclusive emerging”
    oh, I don’t know. The panel were very specific that reconstructions before 1600 had unquantifiable levels of uncertainty, and that before 900, they were virtually worthless.

    I would have thought that scientists would realise that “unquantifiable levels of uncertainty” is pretty well useless ! There also seems to be some severe statistical criticism in the report, and statements about open access to data and methodology which stand in contrast to the historical record of fact in MBH’98.

    “With the downplaying of MBH98 in the next IPCC report…”
    I wonder why !



  4. to listen to the McIntyre apologists you’d think that statistical games with multiproxy studies is the be-all and end-all of AGW arguments. Having spent the past few years working with climate modellers from the US & Europe, that just isn’t the case. It’s only the incestuous pseudo-intellectual conglomeration of the CA gang that keeps attacking the strawman they’ve concocted (i.e. MBH98 is the most important thing since sliced bread).

    I consider myself more in the Hans van Storch camp of “gee it’s sure hard to recreate the hockey stick exactly,” but the CAers are really just falling over their own egos these days, and McIntyre is desparate to “disprove” every damn thing out in AGW, which is simply laughable (gee, so every scientist in the area is a fraud?).


  5. “you’d think that statistical games with multiproxy studies is the be-all and end-all of AGW arguments.”
    why ? I haven’t argued that the reconstructions are the be-all and end-all of AGW arguments; neither have M&M, nor the NAS report. Is this what is called a “straw-man” argument ?

    “I consider myself more in the Hans van Storch camp of “gee it’s sure hard to recreate the hockey stick exactly,””
    obviously, being unable to replicate scientific work, or having a NAS panel refuse to agree with its conclusions, doesn’t give you any cause for concern.
    cheers !



  6. “you’re such a transparent liar, the M&M zeal stems from their belief that MBH98 dominates the IPCC report:”
    Dear Carl
    even if the MBH’98 graphic dominates the IPCC report, that is a long way from saying that the reconstructions are the be-all and end-all of AGW arguments.

    You have called me a liar, on entirely spurious grounds.


  7. per, you are a liar based on reasonable grounds — as evinced by the M&M link above, to whit “the IPCC allowed a deeply flawed study to dominate the Third Assessment Report.” as is shown all over the website, they screech that if they knock down the MBH98 strawman, the 3rd Assessment Report dissolves. And you cheerleaders bleat in unison!


  8. Coby: “…and this is actually the only arena in which this issue has any importance, so this is a good thing.”

    I know, science sucks and propaganda rules. This is how your approach to these questions and your priorities always looked like. And it is why your scientific credentials are what they are.

    [Lubos, I think you need to try to keep up. The HS is of *scientific* importance – its an interesting question. Is it of *policy* importance? Not in itself. Which is why the septics need to keep inflating it -W]

    Carl: “With the downplaying of MBH98 in the next IPCC report McIntyre & his right-wing cheerleaders will really look like flat-earthers.”

    That’s a great idea to make progress in science. You should also downplay science in general and replace it by (doctored) photographs of a smiling Al Gore. That will surely settle the questions.

    Bloom: “Let’s just hope they’re not still in charge of the U.S. government by then.”

    Congratulations to Steve McIntyre of Canada for becoming the U.S. president.

    Otherwise, Carl, Coby, and William, you did not get too far in the discussion about science and the NAS report, did you? If one looks at several sources, it is easy to see that the progress in science is inversely proportional to the number of [deleted] like all of you except for per.

    Best wishes

    [I haven’t read much of the report. What I have read is nothing new, which is as expected. Hopefully over the next weeks diligent people will read the report more carefully in the search for something new, and maybe find something – W]


  9. [I haven’t read much of the report. What I have read is nothing new, which is as expected. – W]

    dear w

    here is news for you. The report says that reconstruction going before 1600 have unquantifiable uncertainties in them; so MBH’s conclusions at 99.7% certainty are disavowed by the NAS panel.

    if that is nothing new to you, you sure have kept it hidden well 🙂

    toodle-pip !



  10. *sigh* — OK, this is a bone for the right-wing dogs, since realclimate saw fit to censor my similar big post on “lessons learned” from the whole MBH/Mc debacle.

    [Did we (they? it wasn’t me). Sorry to hear that. I won’t censor you… -W]

    I will concede that Mc&Mc, although they came off as reedy pseudo-intellectual a-holes over the past 7 years (especially with their zeal to help out the most draconian Repuke nutjobs like Inhofe etc), were able to “sand down” the earlier parts (“grip”?) of the hockey stick (with similar help from von Storch etc). It’s probable that if Mc&Mc spent 10% as much zeal & time on, say, string physics theory, they could similarly disprove Lubos is a fraud
    ;-). Or if they spent 1% as much zeal & time on the right-wing heros Bush & Cheney’s Iraq War justifications, they could prove what anybody with half-a-brain already knows about that fiasco. But that’s beside the point, they seem to be “one-hit wonders” and I guess that’s where they will stay (based on 6 new posts at CA basically barking up the same ole multiproxy tree).

    But as far as climate modellers go (well at least the ones I run into to), the hockey stick is no big deal — we like to hindcast perhaps the last few hundred years at most to have a basis for our forecasts. As I stated before, I’m sort of in the “Hans von Storch camp” because while I find Mc&Mc’s methods & faux-ire & faux-outrage far overblown, there are some sensible things amongst the invective, and perhaps Mann & the RealClimaters went a little too far in covering their tracks.

    I find it a little annoying since:

    (a) if they look bad then even us climate modellers are guilty by association

    (b) the RC guys were lambasting my project ( for an “alarmist press release” mentioning some high sensitivities that come up. But we have the data that shows that, whereas the NAS seems to show the statistical irrelevance of MBH’s earlier data.

    [Well, I’m with RC there, and probably even said the same myself – not sure. It was rather less a case of “mentioning” them as leading on them. But anyway… -W]

    So anyway I’m more interested in “lessons learned” — it’s obvious that Mc&Mc are still on a Quixotic crusade for any multiproxy study (he has like 6 new posts screeching about more studies in the NAS). But whether global warming is upon us is not a question paleo scientists & Mc&Mc tilting at windmill tree rings is going to answer. So what could be some lessons learned then, short of the Lubos/Mc/Per claims that Mann et al should be executed as a witch, drummed out of town, etc?

    Should every paper in every field provide all data & all reviewers must reconstruct the findings entirely? I don’t think there’s any field that does that, but a strict Mc-ian interpretation would think that is mandatory (from all their hyperbole over “it’s like a business audit” etc). I really doubt any of Lubos physicist heros even went through any sort of “audit” like that.

    That would be tedious as hell, but is that the only way to combat the witch-hunters? But who decides on the “auditors”? Mc&Mc just appointed themselves the bastions based on their own egos, sort of like how the Repukes used to bow down to hypocritical “drug czar” and gambling addict William Bennett.

    Although if the likes of Hans von Storch et al are around to do this on the side as a “seal of approval” alongside a peer review, that could be an interesting solution (if anyone has the time!). So there are some interesting questions, I feel, lost amongst the blogger noise.

    In fact, I think this whole debacle shows that blogging for science is a pretty dumb thing outside of cathartic means. I know everyone likes to fancy that “blogging is the new ‘Nature'” but from the low signal to noise and the quickness to anger nature (I’m totally guilty of this myself), it’s a pretty absurd & ludicrous platform. I think in the end, the von Storch et al critiques of the MBH98 methods were more erudite & scientific, and they were shown by the usual manner (i.e. peer-reviewed journal publications such as Science & Nature). The whole “bloggosphere” sideshow of RC vs CA was overall pretty useless other than as a false build up (and stroke) egos.

    [Blogging was never intended to be doing science – it was and is communication to the public almost entirely. And that seems to be working. The HS stuff is unusually polarised – I’m not sure how people work out who to believe; or if they do – W]


  11. “Should every paper in every field provide all data & all reviewers must reconstruct the findings entirely? ”

    not sure that is argued, but it is clear that peer-review which fails to do these things can be error-prone. MBH’98 makes this case in spades.

    But the thing that is interesting, is that public policy was based in substantial part on this paper, and any questioning was met by the scream of “it was peer-reviewed”. If peer-review is to be held up to be a sufficient standard, then it must meet that standard. We now know that it manifestly didn’t, and that public policy was based on that inadequate standard. That has to be cause for public concern.



  12. what specific public policy was made over MBH98, esp the parts that failed? none that I can see. do you think public policy was made because of the Medieval Warm Period “debate?” and not the many climate modellers, 20th century temp increases, known CO2 increases (Mauna Loa) etc? you guys leap to ridiculous conclusions.


  13. Dear Carl
    the TAR has the MBH’98 front and centre, and it features prominently in the summary for policymakers. The TAR was and remains an influential document which profoundly influences public policy in areas which impinge on global warming.

    If you wish to disavow the link between the TAR, and public policy (e.g. ratification of Kyoto), then I must leave you to that belief. The motivations of politicians is unfortunately beyond me !

    What will be demonstrably true is that the IPCC TAR relied heavily upon a piece of work which has been demonstrated to have numerous errors, where the NAS panel has made severe criticisms of its methodology, and has specifically disavowed some of its principal conclusions.




  14. the ’01 IPCC TAR did not succeed or fail based on MBH98, and you and your right-wing heros know it. When the next TAR comes out mostly based on climate modelling, you shills will just automatically switch gears and knock down strawmen about modelling.

    [Hi Carl. I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but per is a troll. Remember not to feed him. Yes I know it takes effort, but it will be rewarded -W]



    [Ah,fame at last. Still, thats an odd link they use for the stuff I did: far better is

    If you read that, you’ll see I end up disagreeing that the M&M stuff works as described on the real data. On random data, it does tend to produce a HS on random data, but not of the right sort (too little variance). But this is looking just at PC1, whereas Mann, as I understand it, points out that you reconstruct from a pile of PCs -W]


  16. what’s funny is McI posts links to your (IMHO) friendly replies as the first reponse to “a furious Internet response.” His cheerleaders are now claiming they should extend their “audit” to climate models now. HAHA I’d love to see what butchery they would make out of the Hadley Centre models for example (which are used daily for weather forecasting at any rate so are presumably audited enough 😉


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