Mod+ 234. GLOBAL WARMING, CLIMATE CHANGE AND OUR ILLUSION OF CONTROL

Eventually, Marcott et al. had to respond with a FAQ at Realclimate, where the following admission was made:

The 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions.
Again, misleading. The quote as you presented it is without context so it conveys a different meaning than was intended. If you read Marcott’s full contextualized quote it’s readily apparent that he’s simply stating that they used more recent data from the instrumental record for the 20th century portion. This is also addressed directly in the comments section (comment #10).

Marcott's quote with context:
Thus, the 20th century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions. Our primary conclusions are based on a comparison of the longer term paleotemperature changes from our reconstruction with the well-documented temperature changes that have occurred over the last century, as documented by the instrumental record
Response by Marcott et al.
Readers will be aware of the paper by Shaun Marcott and colleagues, that they published a couple weeks ago in the journal Science. That paper sought to extend the global temperature record back over the entire Holocene period, i.e. just over 11 kyr back time, something that had not really been attempted before. The paper got a fair amount of media coverage (see e.g. this article by Justin Gillis in the New York Times). Since then, a number of accusations from the usual suspects have been leveled against the authors and their study, and most of it is characteristically misleading. We are pleased to provide the authors’ response, below. Our view is that the results of the paper will stand the test of time, particularly regarding the small global temperature variations in the Holocene. If anything, early Holocene warmth might be overestimated in this study.

Update: Tamino has three excellent posts in which he shows why the Holocene reconstruction is very unlikely to be affected by possible discrepancies in the most recent (20th century) part of the record. The figure showing Holocene changes by latitude is particularly informative.
 
Again, misleading. The quote as you presented it is without context so it conveys a different meaning than was intended. If you read Marcott’s full contextualized quote it’s readily apparent that he’s simply stating that they used more recent data from the instrumental record for the 20th century portion. This is also addressed directly in the comments section (comment #10).
So: everything's hunky-dory apart from the fact that the uptick, occurring in the 20th century, isn't statistically robust by Marcotts' own admission. I'm not understanding English, nor the fact that the graph in his thesis heads down while the one in the paper heads up. That's alright then. One of these days I'll get the hang of this damn Newspeak.
 
So what do you think we should do?
First, thank you for a nicely worded response Jules. I won't go into my list but yes, I believe we all have been burned by experience. I had a brother in the marines in Vietnam and though he survived, it messed him up pretty good. But if we want to start taking responsibility, we'll need to apologize to the Vietnamese for the between 1 - 5 million of their dead we caused, and for what. Again, I could go on but I think you get the point and I appreciate again your conscious response to my small rant.

What do we do? Well, I think it's too early to be absolutely certain. I think it's pretty clear that the weather is changing. Are we a part of that, I don't doubt. Are we the cause of it, I don't think so - hasn't been proven to me. I think we really (we being the US) need to get our financial house in order. We owe the Chinese more money than I believe we can pay back. I think we'll go to war with them before we admit that. I believe that our government is lying to us in about every way possible. I believe our CPI numbers are cooked. We don't keep track of the expansion of the money supply, which we used to do. I'm not going to say the NSA is doing dastardly things but it has exponentially more fire power to manipulate and coerce everyone in the US, which includes Congressmen, Senators, Judges and yes even presidents, than J Edgar Hoover did and boy did he abuse his power.

So we need a solution that is outside the box. It hasn't appeared yet but I believe it's very possible. One of the things I learned about Economics is that you can be absolutely right about an idea but if your timing is wrong, you are way wrong.
 
So: everything's hunky-dory apart from the fact that the uptick, occurring in the 20th century, isn't statistically robust by Marcotts' own admission.
Marcott is referring to the “paleotemperature stack” as not being “robust” enough to describe the uptick. For that they used the instrumental record which is "robust” enough to describe it.

I'm not understanding English, nor the fact that the graph in his thesis heads down while the one in the paper heads up.
See comment #37 here:
A skeptical person would have found and downloaded the Ph.D. thesis, and attempted to answer the question for himself, before making veiled implications of impropriety and malfeasance, both on the part of Marcott and Dana.

If you had downloaded the thesis here (sorry, it's rather poorly compressed and 63Mb) you would see that the goal of the thesis was to investigate three longstanding questions of paleoclimatology:
  1. A longstanding question in glaciology is the nature and mechanism of the so- called “Heinrich events” of the last ~60 ka.
  2. In the field of glacial geology a longstanding question has been the timing of alpine glacial advances during the Holocene.
  3. In the field of paleoclimatology a question regarding how global temperature varied over the entirety of the Holocene epoch has remained to be answered for some time.
A brief review of those three goals quickly reveals that the purpose of the original thesis was to answer questions related to climate many thousands of years ago. Current temperatures are obviously irrelevant to that goal, so the graph does not extend beyond what was required.

And yet, as might be expected, Dr. Marcott chose to build upon his previous work and to take it in a new direction, one relevant to a major issue of the day, anthropogenic climate change.

Why is this surprising to you, or to anyone?

But... thank you, because you've added another bit of evidence pertaining to Mr. Watts' denial, and his willingness to intentionally mislead readers such as yourself. He took a perfectly innocuous and pedestrian example of the way science is conducted (do one study, earning one's doctorate, and then build on that work later in one's career) and presented it with implications of nefarious impropriety. Of course, he won't come out and actually make his accusations. He just asks innocent questions like "I wonder what accounts for the difference" (much as you did), then lets that hang in the air like a foul stench.

And you and others fall for it hook, line and sinker.

Maybe, next time, you'll trust Watts less and invest some of your own energy into figuring out how he's led you astray.
 
First, thank you for a nicely worded response Jules. I won't go into my list but yes, I believe we all have been burned by experience. I had a brother in the marines in Vietnam and though he survived, it messed him up pretty good. But if we want to start taking responsibility, we'll need to apologize to the Vietnamese for the between 1 - 5 million of their dead we caused, and for what. Again, I could go on but I think you get the point and I appreciate again your conscious response to my small rant.

What do we do? Well, I think it's too early to be absolutely certain. I think it's pretty clear that the weather is changing. Are we a part of that, I don't doubt. Are we the cause of it, I don't think so - hasn't been proven to me. I think we really (we being the US) need to get our financial house in order. We owe the Chinese more money than I believe we can pay back. I think we'll go to war with them before we admit that. I believe that our government is lying to us in about every way possible. I believe our CPI numbers are cooked. We don't keep track of the expansion of the money supply, which we used to do. I'm not going to say the NSA is doing dastardly things but it has exponentially more fire power to manipulate and coerce everyone in the US, which includes Congressmen, Senators, Judges and yes even presidents, than J Edgar Hoover did and boy did he abuse his power.

So we need a solution that is outside the box. It hasn't appeared yet but I believe it's very possible. One of the things I learned about Economics is that you can be absolutely right about an idea but if your timing is wrong, you are way wrong.
We have more in common than you may think.
  1. My country (NZ) also participated in the disgrace which was the Vietnam War because of our ties to the U.S. Thankfully we did not use conscripts here. I can remember going on many anti-Vietnam marches as a small child. Personally I believe Kissinger should have been tried as a war criminal.
  2. Our government has also passed legislation to allow our government to spy on us with greater freedom. And we have found out its been supplying information to governments like yours for years.
  3. I think you are right to be suspicious of your government. I am. I fear the way so few Americans seem to understand the actions of their country on the global stage. And I fear the way the rights laid down In the American Constitution apply only to U.S. citizens. But I fear the Chinese more.
  4. Yes, the chances of us getting our shit together and acting in good faith to solve the problem are slim - there are big financial interests at stake pulling the strings and muddying the waters.
  5. Unlike you I may be confident that our footprint on the planet is the largest. I don't know what information is the difference between your view of things and mine.
  6. I have been the General Manager of a business and I understand the need to operate in a positive cash flow environment. Ironically making money is something I was good at - I think it comes from being intuitive and able to act on gut feelings quickly. In business timing is critical - I know that only too well. I think I can also appreciate the financial value of the ecology of the planet and the cost to all of us of it turning to custard. I still have hope that we will find it within us as a species to find a way.
  7. Try not to give into cynicism even if you have every reason to because then the [email protected] have really won.
Best,
Jules
 
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No one has access to perfect knowledge. In that sense, everyone is an amateur.
Of course. Perfect Knowledge is a cognitive tool we use in business when trying to decipher the most probable motive behind a series of contradictory and inconsistent input. I am not convinced that your participation in this discussion, and your questioning of the reliability of the "scientific consensus," is based primarily and dispassionately on just the physics. As you have pointed out - the physics is 'uncertain'.
The counter-claims are also uncertain, as are the possible courses of action. It's a panoply of uncertainty. But I've read all your posts. Your position betrays almost NO uncertainty ; there is little hesitation or qualification of your stance, and no faltering in your tone. What is your motive, for aggressively defending, the course of doing nothing ? I think I know . . .

The biggest savings in CO2, ironically, have occurred in the USA, due to fracking. . . .
Here at my small business in Pennsylvania I've had personal experience with the consequences of the market forces involved in fracking. Outside my window I see the methane flame, the water trucks, and the Texas and Oklahoma license plates. Some of my friends have been enriched - others have been ruined. As you know -- energy is not free, and no solution is perfect. But I won't share my opinion on fracking just yet. . . .

If we stumble across some equally good and reliable source of affordable energy other than fossil fuels, it will be adopted through normal market mechanisms and there will be no need to legislate for it.
This, then, is perhaps the true Motive: You do not want any government intervention in your life?. Pretty sure that's true for Enrique, and Alex made a tangential comment about the UN.
If that is true, then the science behind this discussion is secondary; and I doubt even the combined voices of Sheldrake, Radin and Bernardo could change your opinion - not if it's based on politics.

I suspect you are motivated to continue burning fossil fuels NOT because the science indicates it is definitely harmless - but because you have a deep mistrust of the government and a fear of conspiratorial forces that would curtail your freedoms. Maybe this is the element of "control" that Alex was speaking about - but in reverse. You want the free market to remain in control, and not a bunch of do-gooder hippies ?

Or am I way off base
 
Marcott is referring to the “paleotemperature stack” as not being “robust” enough to describe the uptick. For that they used the instrumental record which is "robust” enough to describe it.
Okay. I didn't want to go into the detail, but IMO the best and most understandable piece on this is by Ross McKitrick in the Financial Post. For the whole article, see: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2013/04/01/were-not-screwed/ I've included enough to explain to the layman (like me) what happened in plain English.

11,000-year study’s 20th-century claim is groundless

The new, and startling, feature of the Marcott graph was at the very end: Their data showed a remarkable uptick that implied that, during the 20th century, our climate swung from nearly the coldest conditions over the past 11,500 years to nearly the warmest. Specifically, their analysis showed that in under 100 years we’ve had more warming than previously took thousands of years to occur, in the process undoing 5,000 years’ worth of cooling.

This uptick became the focus of considerable excitement, as well as scrutiny. One of the first questions was how it was derived. Marcott had finished his PhD thesis at Oregon State University in 2011 and his dissertation is online. The Science paper is derived from the fourth chapter, which uses the same 73 proxy records and seemingly identical methods. But there is no uptick in that chart, nor does the abstract to his thesis mention such a finding.

Stephen McIntyre of climateaudit.org began examining the details of the Marcott et al. work, and by March 16 he had made a remarkable discovery. The 73 proxies were all collected by previous researchers, of which 31 are derived from alkenones, an organic compound produced by phytoplankton that settles in layers on ocean floors, and has chemical properties that correlate to temperature. When a core is drilled out, the layers need to be dated. If done accurately, the researcher could then interpret the alkenone layer at, say, 50 cm below the surface, to imply (for example) the ocean temperature averaged 0.1 degrees above normal over several centuries about 1,200 years ago. The tops of cores represent the data closest in time to the present, but this layer is often disturbed by the drilling process. So the original researchers take care to date the core-top to where the information begins to become useful.

According to the scientists who originally published the alkenone series, the core tops varied in age from nearly the present to over a thousand years ago. Fewer than 10 of the original proxies had values for the 20th century. Had Marcott et al. used the end dates as calculated by the specialists who compiled the original data, there would have been no 20th-century uptick in their graph, as indeed was the case in Marcott’s PhD thesis. But Marcott et al. redated a number of core tops, changing the mix of proxies that contribute to the closing value, and this created the uptick at the end of their graph. Far from being a feature of the proxy data, it was an artifact of arbitrarily redating the underlying cores.

Worse, the article did not disclose this step. In their online supplementary information the authors said they had assumed the core tops were dated to the present “unless otherwise noted in the original publication.” In other words, they claimed to be relying on the original dating, even while they had redated the cores in a way that strongly influenced their results.

Meanwhile, in a private email to McIntyre, Marcott made a surprising statement. In the paper, they had reported doing an alternate analysis of their proxy data that yielded a much smaller 20th-century uptick, but they said the difference was “probably not robust,” which implied that the uptick was insensitive to changes in methodology, and was therefore reliable. But in his email to McIntyre, Marcott said the reconstruction itself is not robust in the 20th century: a very different thing. When this became public, the Marcott team promised to clear matters up with an online FAQ.

It finally appeared over the weekend, and contains a remarkable admission: “[The] 20th-century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions.”

Now you tell us! The 20th-century uptick was the focus of worldwide media attention, during which the authors made very strong claims about the implications of their findings regarding 20th-century warming. Yet at no point did they mention the fact that the 20th century portion of their proxy reconstruction is garbage.

The authors now defend their original claims by saying that if you graft a 20th-century thermometer record onto the end of their proxy chart, it exhibits an upward trend much larger in scale than that observed in any 100-year interval in their graph, supporting their original claims. But you can’t just graft two completely different temperature series together and draw a conclusion from the fact that they look different.

The modern record is sampled continuously and as a result is able to register short-term trends and variability. The proxy model, by the authors’ own admission, is heavily smoothed and does not pick up fluctuations below a time scale of several centuries. So the relative smoothness in earlier portions of their graph is not proof that variability never occurred before. If it had, their method would likely not have spotted it.

What made their original conclusion about the exceptional nature of 20th-century warming plausible was precisely the fact that it appeared to be picked up both by modern thermometers and by their proxy data. But that was an illusion. It was introduced into their proxy reconstruction as an artifact of arbitrarily redating the end points of a few proxy records.
 
Things you should know about Ross McKitrick who wrote the above article in the Financial Post:

He is a senior fellow of the Fraser Institute in Vancouver. The Fraser Institute is a Libertarian think tank set up in 1974 by a group of academics and business executives, concerned about big government. It received funding from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Some of the funding for this foundation comes from ExxonMobil. The head of this foundation Alejandro Chafuen was a onetime follower of Ayn Rand, the atheist free-market philosopher and writer. Fraser Institute has links with ALEC which is the mechanism through which big corporations hand the government their wish lists.

"There are also questions about how much the institute's work is shaped by its corporate funders. In 1999, the Fraser Institute sponsored two conferences on the tobacco industry: "Junk Science, Junk Policy? Managing Risk and Regulation" and "Should government butt out? The pros and cons of tobacco regulation."[2].

More recently, the Fraser Institute has led the campaign to deny the science behind and the dangers of climate change, with several of its fellows and authors signing letters to political leaders and writing Op Eds to that effect. ExxonMobil donates to the Fraser Institute for "climate change" work. Professor [[Ross McKitrick, author of the popular book that denies climate change Taken By Storm and known for his opposition to the Endangered Species Act in Canada, is also a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute."



http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Ross_McKitrick

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Atlas_Economic_Research_Foundation

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Fraser_Institute


Where is the Smiley for *Disgust*?
 
This, then, is perhaps the true Motive: You do not want any government intervention in your life?. Pretty sure that's true for Enrique, and Alex made a tangential comment about the UN.
If that is true, then the science behind this discussion is secondary; and I doubt even the combined voices of Sheldrake, Radin and Bernardo could change your opinion - not if it's based on politics.
Have you really read all my posts, including the one where I indicated I think all politics stinks? I wouldn't give you twopence for a politician of any stripe. Has it also registered that I am a Brit, and that we have the National Health Service, which nearly all Brits support and cheerfully pay for, and which on two occasions has saved my life? That we have state pensions to which we all mandatorily contribute during our working lives, and which in a little over a year will start paying out to me? In addition to other pensions I have contributed to in various jobs, which have included around 10 years working in IT in local government?

Brits aren't Americans with funny accents. We don't have the GOP, the tea-party, guns or wrangles over Obamacare. We're brought up from birth in a system with considerable state influence, and most of us are, on balance, grateful for that. But we also have an admixture of free enterprise, and that has applied under governments of both the left and the right. You've got to have a bit of both, in my opinion, to make for a decent society.
I suspect you are motivated to continue burning fossil fuels NOT because the science indicates it is definitely harmless - but because you have a deep mistrust of the government and a fear of conspiratorial forces that would curtail your freedoms. Maybe this is the element of "control" that Alex was speaking about - but in reverse. You want the free market to remain in control, and not a bunch of do-gooder hippies ?
What I've already said should have provided the lie to the projection of your imagination. Also, as a youth, I was rather inclined to the hippie lifestyle (sans the pot-smoking, which never really did anything for me except make me giggle). I've pointed this out earlier, but it can't have registered: Europe is about the same size as the USA, but is culturally much more varied, yet pretty generally, state influence is at a level that even American Democrats would baulk at.
Or am I way off base
You bet your sweet cotton-picking ass you are. Not once in my life have I voted Conservative, our right-wing major party. I loathed the Thatcher era for its heartlessness. Then along came Blair, whom I voted for, and he was really a conservative and hypocritical bastard who in a number of ways was worse than Maggie. Now I'll only vote for any party that opposes insane Green policies that will make life tough for the old and the poor through rising fuel and food prices. At the moment, that includes none of the three main parties: Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat. They're all pigging it at the green trough.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
Yeah, we have to be careful with our ascribing political motivations to different posters here because of their positions on climate change. Some here (and previously) have made clear their conservative-to-right-wing inclinations, but I knew that didn't fit Michael L..

If he's wrong, he's just plain wrong, not politically motivated wrong ;). (joke)
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
This controversial podcast creates potential new alliances or divisions among members. Which brings to mind the interesting question (for me): do you feel greater affinity for someone who shares your view (proponent or skeptic) on psi/survival, and has different political or policy issue opinions, or with someone who shares your politics but not your psi orientation? (Someone could set up a poll on another thread.) For me, it's surely the former, and I find I can somewhat easily forgive my friends' grievous mistakes on politics and policy issues ;). (joke again: in case it's not obvious)
 
Okay. I didn't want to go into the detail, but IMO the best and most understandable piece on this is by Ross McKitrick in the Financial Post.
Besides what I already posted above, the items in the Ross McKitrick (an economist) article are addressed in the Q&A and comments section of Response by Marcott et al. See comments #13, #24, and #43 for insight into the 'redating' issue. Suffice it to say, it doesn't support McKitrick's assertions.
 
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Besides what I already posted above, the items in the Ross McKitrick (an economist) article are addressed in the Q&A and comments section of Response by Marcott et al. See comments #13, #24, and #43 for insight into the 'redating' issue.
Well, I've looked at the comments you mention, and I'm none the wiser. What would be useful is some coherent response to McKitrick's points. If you claim to have that, then enlighten us using your own words. Go through McKitrick's article point by point and say what he's got wrong and why. Plain English would be appreciated.
 
This controversial podcast creates potential new alliances or divisions among members. Which brings to mind the interesting question (for me): do you feel greater affinity for someone who shares your view (proponent or skeptic) on psi/survival, and has different political or policy issue opinions, or with someone who shares your politics but not your psi orientation? (Someone could set up a poll on another thread.) For me, it's surely the former, and I find I can somewhat easily forgive my friends' grievous mistakes on politics and policy issues ;). (joke again: in case it's not obvious)
Frankly, I don't give a toss about the politics except insofar as bad policy decisions are affecting human well-being. Pretty much all of the main political parties in the West are totally bought into the hype and I loathe them all equally for that. I may argue vigorously on this topic with someone, but on another topic, be in complete agreement. Like they used to say in The Godfather: nothing personal, just beeziness.

If people want to fall out with me personally because we differ on this topic, that's their choice. I wish they'd get their facts straight about my motivations, though, and stop type-casting CAGW sceptics in general. We come in all shapes and sizes, and most of us at one time or another simply accepted the party line without question. We've been persuaded by the evidence that AGW isn't a serious issue.

If anyone wants to argue with me over it, bring it on and be prepared for a stand-up fight; it's mega-important to me, and however strongly the opposition feels, I feel at least as strongly as they do. However, I do realise, of course, that they're human beings, whom on other issues I might be in accord with. I'm not going to fall out with them across the board simply because on this issue we differ.
 
What specifically don't you get? Do you not understand Marcott's full quote which McKitrick decontextualizes in his article? Let's start there.
The link you give is to something that is 12,800 words long, and that's just on the first page. Do me a favour and please explain in your own words how Marcott rebuts the redating issue as McKitrick states it. I'm asking for your own words for a reason: I'm not sure you yourself understand the issue.
 
Here are my 2 cents.

1. We just don't know how important global warming is going to be and we aren't going to know. To find out we need, at a minimum, 100 spare Earths and 500 years to run experiments on those Earths. We don't know. We aren't gonna know (at least until it is too late).

So, what should we do? Well, we should be conservative - we should plan for the worst and hope for the best, right? So, ideally we should reduce the concentration of CO2 from 400 ppm to say 300 ppm. Is that gonna happen? No chance in hell. So, perhaps we can compromise and be practical so we'll do the minimum. What's the minimum? Drop our emission of CO2 to ZERO. Is that gonna happen? No chance in hell.

2. So what's gonna happen? We're going to emit shedloads of CO2 until we find something better than burning fossil fuel and find the political will to implement it (or the market comes to the rescue if the better thing is also cheaper). When will that happen? Don't know. Solar is making great progress but we could increase solar by 1,000,000% and we would still be emitting shedloads of carbon. I am sure we will get past this but it is going to take lots of time (20/40/60 years - who knows). It is so challenging because there are 7 billion of us and the poor would rather be rich and the richer you are the more energy you use.

I think everything that has been talked about (Kyoto / carbon taxes / carbon trading etc) amounts to zilch in this equation. Globally we have done nothing about climate change and there is no sign of that changing.

So, the bottom line, is that we are throwing the dice. We don't know the odds and we don't know the stakes. In my opinion that's all there is to this. Maybe we will be lucky and climate change will be no big deal. Perhaps we will be unlucky and it will be a catastrophe. Any which way, as a species, we are throwing the dice. We are unwilling (or perhaps simply unable) to do anything meaningful about it.

All of that said, over the years I have moved from being an atheist to being somebody who believes in God (which is one reason I found the Skeptiko podcast). I am sure God doesn't approve of trashing the Earth but I am also sure that God would also disapprove of the actions required to drop our CO2 emissions to zero (those actions being likely to cause untold suffering to billions of people). So, perhaps, throwing the dice is the best we can do.
 

Alex

Administrator
Stephen Leslie, I've checked out your profile and it appears that every post you have made on Skeptiko is on this thread. Do you actually have any interest in psi, or have you come here specifically to promote global warming dogma? I'd appreciate a straight answer.
her post, along with many others in this thread, seem to come from people who have not listened to the show (e.g. they never address any of the specific issues raised, just the general topic). of course, it's not my business whether someone listens or not, but as you mentioned in an earlier post, it provides an insight into how they approach the issue -- crusaders.
 
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