The fatal lure of making stuff up

Two posts in one day! You do spoil us, ambassador.

Whenever one or more denialists gather together or alone, they inevitably make something up about climatology, and then criticise climatologists for doing whatever imaginary thing it is they’ve made up. Today’s invention is linearity (but, sigh, I’m giving too much credit for novelty, of which there is none. I mean, of course, reinvention):

global climate models are all based around the idea that in the long run, when we calculate the global temperature everything else averages out, and we’re left with the claim that the change in temperature is equal to the climate sensitivity times the change in forcing. Mathematically, this is: ∆T = lambda ∆F

Linearity is indeed a useful concept, and the concept of climate sensitivity is only useful if some kind of quasi-linear relation holds between forcing and response. But as ever the denialists have it all backwards. Climate sensitivity is an emergent property not an imposed one; and the things that everyone thinks of as “global climate models” – i.e. the vast AOGCMs that contribute to the IPCC runs that we all see wiggly lines from – don’t make the linearity assumption at all. It turns out that if you study the results from the models you do indeed find this quasi-linear relationship, which is why CS is a useful concept, and why you can then use CS as a way of constructing (simpler, faster) models for other studies. But mistaking cause for effect is a stupid error.

This is rather similar to another claim – that the water vapour feedback is built in; and if the denialist is really doing well, they might manage to stumble out with “assumes constant relative humidity”. But again, this is nonsense: the AOGCMs don’t assume a RH; they calculate it. It turns out to be (an emergent property) that RH remains roughly constant with temperature change on a global scale.

I think this is yet another variation on the “dumb America” fallacy, which in this case goes something like:

* Oh dear, I have nothing to say, but I would feel worthless if people didn’t read things I write. So I’ll write something.
* Climate is interesting! I’ll write something about climate models. I know nothing about climate models, I’ll take a look…
* Oh dear, that was all a bit complicated, wasn’t it? All those thousands of lines of code, all that basic science, all those scientific papers. Understanding that would be hard, and I’m soft.
* I know, I’ll read a few blog posts and make something up. It needs to be something “controversial” but I also need to remember my target audience: don’t want to scare the horses.

And there you have it. Next?

Energy and Climate Change committee: new inquiry: IPCC 5th Assessment Review

So, da UK Energy and Climate Change committee is having an “inquiry” into IPCC 5th Assessment Review. I’m not sure why. This will be a review of a review, which could itself be reviewed, which will end in endless regress? More likely it will fizzle away into nothing. Myles Allen appears to be suggesting that the ctte are bozos (not in so many words, of course. That would be unparliamentary. Instead, he says things like the thrust of the committee’s questions does raise concerns that the committee has allowed itself to be misled in this regard or As an aside, it seems strange to ask about the economic implications of a report that is explicitly and exclusively focused on Physical Science or This question is so broad that almost any answer is possible), which may well be correct. Myles has several other rather sensible things to say, many of which reflect my concerns. For example:

The problem with IPCC’s response to criticisms of previous assessments is that the focus has been entirely on formalizing procedures, whereas the reports ultimately depend on the collective scientific judgment of IPCC authors and reviewers.

This chimes with things I’ve said – or perhaps just thought – before; and not just about the IPCC, but about life in general.

One shouldn’t take this “inquiry” too seriously. This is the sort of things pols do as part of living and breathing. For example, they’re having an inquiry into the Outcomes of Warsaw COP 19, an event so pointless that I didn’t even bother to mock it.

You can read the written submissions. Aaaaaanndd the result is: everyone has said exactly what you’d expect them to say. Some usual nutters say the usual things – bonus points for the Star Trek analogy though. Its always helpful for a committee like this, with lots of stuff to wade through, for people to write “yes, I really am a nutter” in bold type right up front, so they can ignore you more conveniently.

I can’t say I read much of it. There are fewer responses than might be expected – I suspect that many people didn’t take it seriously. I did read one of the less usual folk – Professor (aside: prof? According to the EPS he is a humble Dr, and is retired. Which wouldn’t be odd, because he’s 85 years old) Pierre Darriulat – who said (when he isn’t saying A good guide to make such a critical review is the NIPCC report; fortunately, he’s not dumb enough to say that twice):

To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists? While it is easy to find a vast majority of scientists who consider that evaluating the potential danger of an excessive (whatever it means) emission of C02 is of utmost importance, they will usually recognize that our current knowledge prevents making reliable predictions and they will not see it as urgent to take decisions. However, in most cases, on the basis of their relying on the precautionary principle, they would mostly be for considering seriously ways to limit in the long term, our C02 emissions. They will agree that no decision should be taken under pressure, but should take due consideration for economic, financial, social and geopolitical considerations for which they do not claim particular competence (other than as ordinary citizens).

I’ve pulled this out not because its interesting in itself, but because it does the usual: fails to answer the question, and instead veers off into the responders pet obsession: in this case, not science, but policy.

But enough fluff. What of reality?

I’m glad you asked. All this chatter reflecting the blogospheric world doesn’t reflect the real world. In which we get responses like:

* The fundamental consensus on climate change science has not changed, and there is overwhelming evidence that supports the causal link between human activity, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change.
* Climate change is a global issue, and so international collective action will be critical in driving an efficient and equitable response on the scale required to meet our climate challenges.
* EDF Energy agrees with the statement made by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change at the IPCC launch event on 1st October 2013 that the Fifth Assessment Report “…should be a catalyst to renew efforts and meet the challenge head on.”

(Written evidence submitted by EDF Energy (IPC0043)).


* How robust are the conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report? The Government considers that the conclusions of the AR5 Physical Science Basis report are robust. The report was produced by over 850 independent expert scientists, all leaders in their fields (209 Lead Authors, 50 Review Editors and Over 600 Contributing Authors). The report took over 2 years to produce and underwent multiple rounds of expert review. It was also reviewed by the 194 governments which form the IPCC. They have all accepted the findings.
* To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists? The Government understands that the IPCC Working Group I Report assessed all relevant peer-reviewed climate research and modelling undertaken since 2007. As already noted the report was produced by over 850 independent expert scientists from all over the world, many being leaders in their fields (209 Lead Authors, 50 Review Editors and Over 600 Contributing Authors). Then the author teams considered the comments of 1000 reviewers. The report reflects any lack of consensus through the use of confidence levels throughout. Thus, the Government is confident that the assessment takes into account the full range of the wealth of recent research and the conclusions of its authors, plus the full range of views of climate scientists, because of the thorough and open review process.

(Written evidence submitted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (IPC0025)). Note, BTW, that the govt is intelligent enough to actually answer the question.

Or, put another way, “Piss off pygmies”.

Meanwhile, at the Keeling Curve

You’ll note the button for “support the Keeling Curve”. This, too, I haven’t investigated in detail (can the US Govt really be not continuing this stuff? That would be mad. Even Bush didn’t do that) but Eli assures me its a good thing.

Sea ice: oh no, not again

ohnonotagain Yay, more nonsense about sea ice: the traditional “US Navy predicts summer ice free Arctic by 201x”, where this time x=6. Does anyone actually believe this rubbish? If so, I have money just sitting around, bored, twiddling its little green fingers and waiting to take your bet. If “summer ice free” means “oh yeah, not actually ice free, but less than 1 million square km” then please form an orderly line. Even odds, let’s say £1k. Who’s first up?

Do I see Nafeez Ahmed there? Or Wieslaw Maslowski? No? How odd.

Found by the lost [*]:

* Ed Hawkins ‏@ed_hawkins: Brave prediction by Maslowski for ice-free Arctic in 2016 (+/-3) |…
* Gavin Schmidt ‏@ClimateOfGavin: @ed_hawkins do you mean ‘brave’ as in unphysical, unpublished and even at the time demonstrably unlikely?

[*] You can have a point if you can find the source for that. Hint: google won’t help you.


* When will the Summer Arctic be Nearly Sea Ice Free?
* Sea ice betting report for 2012. Yes, I know I haven’t written 2013 yet, but it was dull.
*The Future of Arctic Sea Ice Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 40: 625-654 (Volume publication date May 2012), First published online as a Review in Advance on March 8, 2012; DOI: 10.1146/annurev-earth-042711-105345, Wieslaw Maslowski,1 Jaclyn Clement Kinney Matthew Higgins and Andrew Roberts

Who is Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy?

s A trick question, of course. The answer is “the author of a blog post at WUWT entitled IPCC’s Report on Climate Change: Myths & Realities“. The blog posting itself is a more-than-usually-pointless mish-mash of nonsense, and isn’t worth reading. I did anyway, though, and can assure you that “A World Meteorological Organization insider’s view of the IPCC report” is wrong, because it isn’t really about the IPCC report at all; its just the usual stuff.

But it is being sold on credentials as “A World Meteorological Organization insider’s view”, and SJR claims to be “Formerly Chief Technical Advisor – WMO/UN”. “Chief Technical Advisor” sounds impressive, but even more impressive is SJR’s stealth-like ability to leave almost no track at all on the web, despite the claim of such a high-profile position.

I found which I think must be the same guy, as it makes the same claim. There are misc links to stuff about Hyderabad. His “Employment History” is very brief and laconic: Scientist ICRISAT. ICRISAT really exists, but the connection between the two that google can find is a paper on sorghum from 1984 (that’s searching on “ Jeevananda“).

There’s also a book, Climate Change Myths & Realities dating from 2008. Some of it is astonishingly crude and rough by anyone’s standards: try looking at page 80, or page 108, or indeed page 1, which assures us that 0.93% of the atmosphere is organ. There are also a whole pile of pics in there that have clearly been ripped from elsewhere, with no attribution. The few bits about GW that I read were much like the stuff he posted at WUWT; i.e., uninteresting. The pic is from the end of the book, as is his claim to have “published about 500 scientific articles”, which is a fair number. Google scholar suggests his count is some way off. And the last ones I find are from the mid-90’s: Over-emphasis on energy terms in crop yield models may or may not be a worthy if minor and little-cited contribution; but the affiliation Agricultural Meteorologist (Managing Consultant, Jeevan Agromet Consultancy), Plot No. 6, ICRISAT Colony suggests that he wasn’t formally employed at that point. Perhaps he was retired from ICRISAT? He has at least one from 1974.

And his claim to be “Formerly Chief Technical Advisor – WMO/UN”? I can find nothing to support it.

[Update: delightfully, this post is now the #1 google hit for “Jeevananda Reddy”.]

Meanwhile, in Ukraine

Far more interesting things are going on.

Review of a review of The Climate Casino

Prompted by PB I read Gambling with Civilization by Paul Krugman, which is a review of The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World by William D. Nordhaus. I haven’t read the latter.

The Climate Casino is in no sense the work of someone skeptical about either the reality of global warming or the need to act now. He more or less ridicules claims that climate change isn’t happening or that it isn’t the result of human activity. And he calls for strong action: his best estimate of what we should be doing involves placing a substantial immediate tax on carbon, one that would sharply increase the current price of coal, and gradually raising that tax, more than doubling it by 2030

And so I want to know, “how strong is this strong action”? A carbon tax is good, obviously, but Shirley Nordhaus is a touch more specific than “sharply increase the current price of coal”, so why can’t Krugman be? K continues Some might consider even this policy inadequate… to which the obvious answer is: “how can I possibly know whether its adequate or not, you bozo, unless you tell me how big this tax is?”

K continues:

it turns out that the rate at which you discount the distant future doesn’t make much difference to optimal policy

Well, that’s fascinating, and rather surprising. Especially given all the fuss over Stern’s numbers – an insight like that would be a major change to the discourse. Obviously K will go on and tell us how this comes about. Ha ha, fooled you – or more likely I didn’t – K just notes this point and moves on. WTF?

K says that N says “there will be mounting costs as the temperature rise goes beyond 2°C”. Again, this is irritatingly vague, and it isn’t clear if there are costs, but they go up sharply post-2°C, or if small net benefits turn into costs post-2°C. Perhaps its not desperately important: the focus is on large changes; and anyway, N isn’t trying to say anything startlingly original at this point. K/N both agree that the std.textbook_method for dealing with emissions is pricing emissions, and are happy with “a carbon tax and/or cap-and-trade”. N says direct regulation is a poor choice; K acknowledges that, but then in his own voice half-argues for regulating coal-fired power stations, on the grounds of political feasability. I’m dubious, as before.

What’s our target for limiting T rise? [Note that there is some dissonance between that question and a carbon tax, which K doesn’t mention, so I don’t know if K does.] “The scientific rationale for the 2°C target is not really very scientific” says N, but you can sense that K doesn’t really like this.

K wonders who is the target for N’s book. As he says, all the sane folk already agree, and the wackos aren’t about to be convinced by rational argument. There is, of course, a failure in self-referentiality there, because one could say exactly the same thing of K’s review. Given his disappointing vagueness about rather important details, its clearly not intended for the numerate.

Common People

“For twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue.”

[Update: there’s a better version at (thanks cm). As to the point – I really didn’t think I was being subtle. Its a reference to the discussion we ended up in at]

Exciting times in the Ukraine

ukraine Suppose you were a citizen of the Ukraine. Which way would you rather turn: to Europe or Russia? The answer is so obvious its hardly worth asking the question.

Now suppose you’re the rather thuggish Prez of the Ukraine, and that part of turning towards Europe involves cracking down on your own corruption, not to mention being forced to free the previous Prez PM, who you’ve banged up on spurious charges. Whereas Russia, in the person of Putin, doesn’t give a toss about civil rights or corruption.

And so the scene is set for an exciting clash. Just like in Syria, just like in Uganda, the interests of the people are different from the interests of the leadership. Hopefully the people will win. Hopefully and likely this won’t turn into a civil war. That would be a bad result. See Hobbes, or Brian on Syria or even me on Syria sort of.

Note that blue and yellow are the colours of the Ukrainian flag, so the armband in the pic is their colours, as well as by a happy coincidence those of the EU. The EU flag in the pic is the EU flag, of course. I don’t know what the white flag with the red horizontal stripe is – ideas? [Update: its the political party Batkivshchyna, led by the imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko; so that makes sense. The white-with-red-cross-and-crosses visible in some other pics is Georgia, another victim of Russia.]

Astonishingly, there’s not a word about this on R4 news tonight. They’re rubbish: leads are some unimportant helicopter crash in Scotland and a similarly unimportant train crash in the USA.


* Ukraine pro-EU protests: Police forced to flee as 100,000 demonstrators take over central Kiev – Indie
* Clashes amid huge Ukraine protest against U-turn on EU – Aunty
* Ukraine police and protesters clash in Kiev – in pictures – Graun
* Ukraine sees biggest anti-government protests since Orange Revolution – Torygraph