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.]

Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen

Right, the previous thread has spilled off a discussion of Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz and their representation of a Hansen et al. figure. I have the feeling that the JNS paper may have appeared in multiple places, but the one I have access to is:


There is a lot wrong with that abstract (culminating in the once-traditional but now discarded over-reliance on the S+C satllite record) but the bit that is of immeadiate interest (because it figures in the previous discussion) is their take on figure 5 from Hansen et al. Which is:


And which they “reproduce” as:


The “2” after “Hansen et al.” is a ref to the 1981 Science paper, so we really are talking about the same thing. They don’t say which figure, but it has to be fig. 5 (but see-also below the fold).

So, is their reproduction fair?


[Update, and post pulled to top (original publication date 2010/08/26) to show it: I’ve now discovered something vaguely interesting, in reading the “original” Nierenberg report, chapter 5 (which I never got to in my “book club” series). That is, their fig 5.8. Which is – ta da – the Hansen 1980 figure, panel (a) only: ie, just the CO2. But it is a faithful reproduction of the original – same obs, same start and end times, and the model line isn’t shifted downwards. So my guess would be that JNS got their fig from the Nierenberg report, rather than going back to the original. That doesn’t excuse them, of course. But it interesting that fig 5 of the Nierenberg report makes similar claims to JNS: it notes that the figure doesn’t match the temperature record very well (der, of course it doesn’t), and it fails to note, in that section, the other panels of the Hansen figure. So, who wrote chapter 5? Gunter Weller, James Baker, W Lawrence Gates, Michael MacCraken, Syukuro Manabe, Thomas Vonder Haar. I don’t know all of them, but at the very least Manabe and MacCracken cannot possibly be called “skeptics”. So how did that figure and discussion got into a chapter with their names on? Aha, because that section is about CO2 asa causal factor. They go on to reproduce the other panels of Hansen’s figure, including the combination-of-all-factors panel. So chapter 5 is OK; but JNS isn’t.

Also: I knew I’d seen and discussed this fig before: and the answer turns out to be Chez Eli – where else? But it was nearly 2 years ago.]
Continue reading “Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen”

Nierenberg vs Oreskes, round 2 (or maybe 3; I lose track)

Back in 2008, I examined the Oreskes vs Nierenberg affair and concluded that Nicolas Nierenberg was correct and Oreskes was wrong. And then NN capped that by actually writing stuff up into a paper, published in July of this year: Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate.

And (I missed this at the time I think), Nature published a letter from Nierenberg, Tschinkel & Tschinkel, titled “An independent thinker, willing to say what he thought”:

We object to the inaccurate and misleading characterization of William Nierenberg by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway (Nature 465, 686-687; 2010). Their claim that the peer-review panel chaired by Nierenberg “played down the severity of acid rain” is a contradiction of the panel report itself…

which was a reply to Oreskes earlier opinion piece puffing her book. And so now Oreskes has a reply to the reply in which she says:

William Nierenberg’s relatives disagree with our description of his role in the acid-rain debate in the early 1980s (Nature 466, 435; 2010). But their supporting evidence is a quote from The New York Times that is based on an interim report on acid rain, not on the final one. We maintain that Nierenberg worked with the White House Office of Science and Technology to weaken the final report on acid rain (Nature 465, 686-687; 2010), despite the consensus of the peer-review panel — articulated in the interim report — that acid rain was a serious threat. Historical documents from the White House and from Nierenberg’s own papers in the archives of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (for details, see N. Oreskes and E. M. Conway Merchants of Doubt; Bloomsbury Press, 2010) show how this was accomplished, and reveal the concern of other panel members when they discovered what had happened.

Oh dear, it is all too compicated. Where does the truth lie? I can’t check Oreskes assertions at all, without tedious library searches. For myself, until the matter is clearly settled, I’m going to trust NN on this: because he has clearly demonstrated errors by Oreskes in the matter of Nierenberg before, where she has wilfully misrepresented reality to fit her agenda. He says (pers. comm.)

The final version of the report was largely irrelevant since the interim report published a year earlier already made headlines with the recommendation for immediate action… All of this was made further irrelevant by the fact that the completely unmodified version of the report was leaked prior to publication. Nierenberg was quoted on numerous occasions as calling for action on acid rain, and he never changed his view.


This story is all getting tangled, so here is an attempt to put at least my posts into order:

* [Sept 2008] Nierenberg
* [Sept 2008] Book club: Nierenberg. Part I: introduction
* [Sept 2008] Book club: Nierenberg. Part II: Future CO2
* [Sept 2008] JASON arrives
* [Nov 2008] Nierenberg, chapter 3 and 4
* [Nov 2008] Nierenberg, concluded: Oreskes is wrong
* [July 2010] Well write a bloody paper about it, then
* [Aug 2010] This post
* [Aug 2010] Jastrow, Nierenberg and Seitz vs Hansen

I find it hard enough to keep my own posts in order, let alone anyone else’s, but: if you think *your* post deserves to fit into the list above, please mail/comment and if I agree I’ll add it.

* Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues has what I’d regard as an unduly favourable “review” of Merchants of Doubt: the problem is that he has failed to pick up any of the problems I’ve noted above, and has clearly taken Oreskes word for stuff. For all I know she is good for everything but the above, but that doesn’t seem entirely likely.
* is NN’s viewpoint.

And if you want to watch WN speaking, here he is (the content isn’t very interesting – std type of skeptic stuff around 1999 – calls Spencer and Christy’s stuff a “perfact thermometer” for example; spends a long time playing down the CO2 residence time; TOPEX/Poseidon sees no SLR).
Continue reading “Nierenberg vs Oreskes, round 2 (or maybe 3; I lose track)”

Well write a bloody paper about it, then

So often you get folks who have some brilliant theory, but unaccountably lack the courage to write the thing up and submit it for publication. However, I’m pleased to report that Nicolas Nierenberg is not such a man, and he *has* written a paper: Early Climate Change Consensus at the National Academy: The Origins and Making of Changing Climate (blog post). Whether (like me) you think it is basically correct or (perhaps, I’m guessing, like Eli you don’t) you will, I’m sure, welcome the way this is being played out in scholarly debate.
Continue reading “Well write a bloody paper about it, then”