Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem?

DSC_5719-jns-cover So: “Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem” by Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz, published by the Marshall Institute, has turned up. Now I have to read it. I got mine from abebooks, if you’re interested.

One thing to note is that it was published in 1990, and so has access to IPCC ’90: they explicity acknowledge this in the preface, and ref it in chapter 1. I’m expecting that to be relevant, excuse-wise.

Preface: largely neutral; small “skeptic” slant due to over-emphasis of uncertainties.

Chapter 1 – reliability of the predictions

DSC_5720-jns-p8-9 All is going fairly sanely until Bang! Suddenly, on p8/9, an outbreak of pencil-up-the-nose madness: they present the picture I’ve inlined, and the text “The changes during the last ten years in the predictions of sea level rise form an interesting pattern… The downward trend is shown in Figure 1.” Even if those 3 data points were honest (and they aren’t) the curve-fitting they have done is invalid. But the data points aren’t honest, they are:

* 1979: 25 over 150 years
* 1985: 3 in an unspecified time period
* 1989: 1 in 50 years

Clearly, the very least you could possibly do would be to reduce these to the same time period. Using the time-base of 1979, that would mean trebling 1 to 3 for the 1989 point (which would then make it no change since the 1985 point, badly denting their theory. Assuming the 1985 point is a vaguely comparable timeframe). But that isn’t good enough either: SLR isn’t usually linear in these projections, it gets faster into the future as the world warms. So their data use here is so blatantly dishonest I’m astonished at their brass necks.

But that is not all, oh no that is not all. The 1979 25 foot value is from Schneider and Chen. I don’t have access to that, but happily it is referenced by the IPCC AR4 thus: Near-total deglaciation would eventually lead to a sea-level rise of around 7 m and 5 m (***) from Greenland and the WAIS, respectively, with wide-ranging consequences including a reconfiguration of coastlines worldwide and inundation of low-lying areas, particularly river deltas (Schneider and Chen, 1980; Revelle, 1983; Tol et al., 2006; Vaughan, 2007). So, as you would expect: the 25 foot value is assuming deglaciation of the WAIS and Greenland and is not comparable to a value projected to 2050 only which would have assumed little or no contribution from these sources. This too is dishonest, although less blatant, since it is slightly harder to spot.

And their third point of dishonesty over this figure is their omission of any number of other estimates. For example, the Nierenberg report (1983; gosh, I wonder if any of them had ever heard of that?) guesses 70 cm (~2.2 feet) in 100 years – but adding that in would have spoiled their beautiful smooth curve. And IPCC ’90 gives 66 cm for B-a-u, in 1990, so using just those two points would have been flat from 1983 to 1990. Which really wasn’t what they wanted to see.

And after that we’re back to sanity: probably over-emphsises uncertainty (a phrase I’m clearly going to need a lot, so abbreviated to OEU) at the expense of what was known, but compared to the outbreak of madness above, it is much better.

Chapter 2. Clouds and the greenhouse problem

By contrast, I can’t see anything mad in this chapter. Again, it OEU but apart from that seems OK.

Chapter 3. Greenhouse forecasts compared with observations

As you’d expect, this suffers from the same problems as Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen and so is unsalvagable (the Energy article is from 1991, and the book from 1990, so presumably came first; either way, for some reason they were sufficiently proud of this drivel to want to re-publish it, which is amazing). There is some other stuff in that chapter, but I don’t think it is interesting, other than perhaps to note that they quote D V Hoyt as the source of the assertion that NH aerosols haven’t been increasing. This allows them to rather casually dismiss aerosols as a possible cause of the 1940-1970 cooling, as they put it. IPCC ’90 (to which JNS had access, remember) cites a number of studies for the increase in aerosol (section 1.8.1). JNS just use Hoyt, which is to say Hoyt, D. V., 1979. Atmospheric transmission from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory pyrheliometric measurements from 1923 to 1957. J. Geophys. Res., 84, 5018-5028, errm, and I think you can see the problems there. So, once again, selective use of the wrong sources whilst ignoring the right sources wins the day, hurrah.

I think that is enough for one day. If my strength doesn’t fail me, I may manage to press on a bit further tmorrow.

[Update: well, there is more but it is much the same. So I’ll leave it at that.]

11 thoughts on “Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem?”

  1. How can you overemphasize the uncertainties with respect to clouds and the greenhouse problem when even today there is barely any agreement on the sign of the cloud feedback? In 1990 the problem was regarded by nearly everyone as completely wide open.

    [At this point I don’t really have the energy to go into the details properly. OEU is not a matter of lying, but of laying stress on what isn’t known, while discounting much that is known: for example, wrt clouds, the postulated strong negative feedback can’t be all that strong, since we know there have been past global temperature variations. I don’t think it is something that I can detail convincingly; if you don’t feel like believing me, you don’t have to -W]


  2. Although the book is from 1990, it is pretty much the same as the 1989 paper JNS were circulating and Eli suspects the IPCC stuff was built on as a late addition.

    And oh yes, we have discussed Hansen, et al 1981 vs. NJS before.. You could simply cut and paste the comments from there into the comments here and get the same results. Even the Rabett was surprised. Been there, done that. Kill the damn thing off.

    [Aha! Excellent – I knew I’d seen (and discussed) that fig before. But I did appeal for someone to tell me earlier and you didn’t 😦 I’ll link it in now -W]


  3. For a further specification, Eric, one would have to explain how a fast warming would be damped in the present but not at the deglaciations. But as William implies, there’s a vast amount known about paleoclimate today that wasn’t known then and there’s no simply no fingerprint of clouds behaving differently than they’re observed to today. Lindzen e.g. avoids this by saying paleoclimate isn’t his job, avoiding ever co-authoring with a paleoclimatologist, and arguing that despite having been proven wrong for twenty years his next paper will prove him right by jingo, an act which has worn entirely thin. Lindzen’s inheritors, e.g. Douglass and Spencer, are jokes.


  4. Re JNS, it’s amazing how fast their approach of just making stuff up became SOP (although of course it just reeks of the tobacco tactics that Seitz was already neck-deep in). I’m thinking that Judy Curry’s tribalism idea might actually have some application here, as in when you’re a Jason, you’re a Jason, and damned if any new bunch of largely non-physicists (the horror) is going to take our place at the table. IIRC a few years ago Eli went considerably into the Jason connection.


  5. Glad to see that you are starting to realize that NN’s claims about daddy don’t seem to hold water.

    [I disagree with you. As I’ve said, when looking at the claims that Oreskes made about the Nierenberg report – they are all wrong. And NN has made a good argument that Oreskes et al were wrong on acid rain too. The key distinction – suggested by NN – appears to be between WN’s work for the govt, and his work for the Marshall Institute etc.. The latter appears to be deeply flawed, occaisionally (as I’ve documented here) ludicrously badly. But the former appears to be fine (at least the stuff I’ve looked at). This looks to be a distinction that Oreskes should have made but has failed to -W]


  6. Hm. NN wrote in your earlier thread: “take a look at Scientific Perspectives on the Greenhouse Problem…. I did, and it isn’t an unreasonable document….” (November 15, 2008).

    Opinions differ?

    [Um, oh dear. How to reconcile these? Perhaps one could say that a quick scan though might not throw up obvious errors – there are pages and pages of consecutive stuff that is fairly reasonable -W]


  7. Hank,

    I agree with William’s observations about Scientific Perspectives. When I read through it quickly a while ago it seemed ok. And most of it is. But it is at a pretty low standard really, and some of the stuff like the sea level is really silly.

    The funny part is that they could have made their overall point just by quoting from the IPCC, or any number of other documents from the era.


  8. oooookayyyy … so, having someone critically reading the original material helps, because reasonable readers can end up with very different impressions of what they think they’ve read. Same problem with Oreskes as with this? How complete is Oreskes’ list of sources? I know, I should look it up…..

    If only we had the Scripps archive handy.

    William, a geek-tech-note, same I left for Nicholas on his blog: when you photograph _or_ scan a sheet of paper that has ink on both sides, if you slip a sheet of plain black paper behind it, that zeros out any image from the ink on the back side of the page, giving you a brighter and higher contrast end result.

    It may seem counter-intuitive (if so, test it).
    You get much much better photos of pages.

    Also, if you also get a nice big spring clamp or two, and hold the page you’re photographing flat, you get straight rectilinear text.

    Do _both_ and the image is suitable for OCR, which *cough* others can do for you.

    [If only I had a proper home office. But I’ll try to remember for the future, thanks -W]


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