25 June 2010

Peter Webster on PNAS Paper: "Very Likely Disgusted"

Peter Webster, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, weighs in on the PNAS paper that segregates scientists into two categories, good guys and bad guys. Webster is listed as one of the "good guys" on the PNAS list:
All of this is new to me as I have just returned from Asia where I was happily oblivious to the PNAS paper and, forgive me, engaged in science. It has come something of a shock to find myself pigeon-holed, classified and lined up!

I do require one clarification and perhaps you can help. Which is the black list: those who agree with the IPCC as defined by PNAS, or the skeptics? By the PNAS classification, I ended up as a supporter of the IPCC, since I signed the Bali 2007 document. I am trying to remember why I did so. That was 3 years ago and I had not thought too much about IPCC and etc. and it was before the latest assessment. Since then I have become more involved with climate change research and more critical of process and perhaps more questioning of the attribution of warming simply because the IPCC performed poorly in distinguishing between natural variability and anthropogenic effects or hardly considered the issue at all.

Sorry PNAS, but I have evolved, since 2007! But at least my view of the science is not determined by orthodoxy. I imagine Roger Sr. feels the same way.

Re the PNAS paper, it is rather louche. What is the point of this paper? Are the arguments so old and stale that it has to rely on past statements to substantiate a point of view? Death rattle come to mind. Perhaps we are seeing the death throes of the old guard. Perhaps out of these ashes will emerge a more solid scientific view on climate and global change, free of orthodoxy and invigorated by debate.

Finally, in case the PNAS paper comes out in a second edition. I should state my position on attribution. Very Likely? Likely? Well maybe!

Actually, I would like to form a new subgroup, “very likely disgusted.” I suspect its membership may be rather large.

30 comments:

Richard Tol said...

I rarely sign petitions and I generally prefer not to be classified, but I happily sign up to Peter's "very likely disgusted"

Banjoman0 said...

Ditto here!

Sharon F. said...

Judy Curry had some ideas for the transformed science:

"We’ll eventually get past this trust issue with greater transparency etc. (I hope). But the bigger issue is the growth of citizen science in our field, enabled by social computing such as the blogosphere. This is a tremendous opportunity to engage and educate the public, and even more. We should be working on ways to put crowd sourcing to work. We should be exploring the question:

How can innovative social computing/crowd sourcing tools be developed and employed to enable large-scale collective intelligence to address the scientific and policy challenges associated with climate change? Goals: enable complex problem solving, drive public policy innovation, provide transparency, facilitate understanding of complex issues, build trust, empower the public and policy makers to identify and secure their common interests, reduce polarization, identify the best contributions, increase the signal and reduce the noise, etc."

From:http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/06/18/who-started-this-ruckus-anyway/#comment-8143

Sharon F. said...

Whoops, somehow my first post didn't go through without which my second post doesn't make any sense.

What I said was:
Bravo! Bravissimo! I agree with Peter's :

"Death rattle come to mind. Perhaps we are seeing the death throes of the old guard. Perhaps out of these ashes will emerge a more solid scientific view on climate and global change, free of orthodoxy and invigorated by debate."

Last night at the Boulder panel, everyone was in agreement that what society needs is a transformed energy economy. Maybe we also need a transformed process of science, where openness, civility, and the quest for finding the truth about nature and human nature isn't subsumed by tribalism, disciplinary or other turf battles, quests for small p and large p political power, and making things seem more important or difficult than they are to get more research funding.

People are thinking about this kind of transformation, and that leads to my reference to Curry in the post now above.

bostmass said...

OT: When will you add the ability to share your posts via twitter? Is this blog on twitter?

Charlie Martin said...

"Louche". "Not reputable or decent."

What a lovely word! And perfectly apposite.

Peter D. Tillman said...

"... rather louche"

"Death rattle comes to mind."

"... the advocates have used bad social science to show that the science of climate change is sound."

Roger, you're on a roll!

Count me among the “very likely disgusted.” And thanks for putting together such an informative & entertaining blog!

EliRabett said...

Peter Webster is not exactly a neutral in this food fight. OTOH, Prall and friends appear to have touched an Oreskes sized nerve, so let us discuss the matter.

As in everything else, no citation analysis is perfect, but some are useful. Are you disputing that the published literature overwhelmingly supports what Eli will call the "consensus" expressed in that blacklist of 255 National Academy members who described
------------------------------

the fundamental conclusions about climate change:

(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth’s climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.
--------------------------

Which of these would Roger or anyone else here care to dissent from?

John said...

EliRabett asked, ¨Which of these would...anyone else here care to dissent..?¨
Let´s start with
¨i) The planet is warming...¨
After impartial re-assessment of atmospheric temperature - a year hence - we may know IF there has been warming. There are sound arguments both the evidence is un-certain and the oceans play significant roles in energy transfer.
I care to dissent: we cannot say at present.

Harrywr2 said...

Eli,

I'll challenge points iv and v.

The IPCC AR4 made economic assumptions vis-a-vis the price of coal.

In 2005 the EIA projected that the price of coal would continue the steady decline in inflation adjusted price it had experienced since the 1950's.

The price of coal has since doubled. To say the economic assumptions were wrong would be an understatement, they didn't even get the sign correct.

With the exception of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, the 'inexpensive coal' is gone.

In 2008 the USGS resurveyed the power river basin coal field. Indeed it still has 160 billion tons of coal left.

Unfortunately, there are only 10 billion tons of 'economically recoverable' coal left in the Powder River basin.

http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008/1202/


Here is a CBO report on the cost of nuclear vs coal, it used a $40/ton price per ton for coal and concluded a $45/ton carbon tax would be required for a total cost of $85/ton
http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/91xx/doc9133/05-02-Nuclear.pdf

Here is a list of delivered coal prices by state
http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/page/acr/table34.html

Here is a map of new nuclear power plant applications
http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/col/new-reactor-map.html

There appears to be some correlation between delivered price of coal and new nuclear power plant applications.

In 2002 China was exporting steam coal for $27/ton. Today they are importing steam coal at $108+/ton. A fourfold increase.

A 1,000 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plant costs about $2 billion to build in China, chump change compared to coal at $100/ton. China has announced a tripling of its nuclear power construction plans.

The World Energy Organization informed the IPCC of what it thought were realistic fossil fuel consumption figures, the IPCC did actually include the World Energy Organizations projections in its report,but chose to run the computer models on impacts using historical fossil fuel consumption growth figures, which is the A1F scenario.

I'll be the first to admit that the world becomes one ugly place in the A1F scenario.
If for no other reason there will be a lot of warring over that 50 billion tons of fossil fuels that aren't economically recoverable.

Of course, since the 50 billion tons of fossil fuel required to make the A1F scenario come true aren't economically recoverable, what happens if they were economically recoverable is a moot point.

Sharon F. said...

Eli,

as to within your "v." my area is the "forest" section.

I think it would be more accurate to say that "Climate change may cause differences in ecosystem composition, structure and function." We may develop a different array of ecosystem services from forests, and some forested landscapes may change to savannah or prairie. We don't know the size or scope of those potential changes and they are both inherently uncertain due to the complexity of species and their interaction with the environment, and they are a function of human behavior- also exceedingly complex and difficult to predict. I feel that the most productive dialogue on this is not among climate scientists, but among different disciplines of experts on forests and forest/human interactions.
To say conditions will change is valid, to make a value judgment about "threatened" (what values, specifically are "threatened"?), I believe crosses from science to values.

dgg said...

John, I agree, but then I find eli hard to take seriously, he seems more interested in 'sides' than science.

Peter on the other hand does great climate science and is worth listening to. 'Very likely disgusted' is about right.

jgdes said...

Eli and every one of those NAS panel members know that iv and v are 100% speculative and were also predicted with global cooling in the 70's. Also iii is out of date because natural variation was revived as a handy armwave to explain why warming paused. I'm afraid you just can't have it both ways! This lack of rigour in these toytown attribution studies is pretty much what Peter Webster is referring to.

David Becker said...

It is also relevant that there actually was a medieval warm period and Roman warm period during which the earth was almost certainly warmer than it is today (even though CO2 was lower.) There also existed a little ice age, from whose end global temperatures are now reckoned; it's always nice to start at a low point if one wants to see an increase in some metric. A segment of climatology has become a classic case of pathological science. Better data, analyses, and hypotheses are needed.

alex said...

Eli, 8: How original! And how unproven! Please explain what caused the MWP.

Roddy said...

Eli, I would 'dissent', as in 'not proven', from 3, 4 and 5.

EliRabett said...

Congratulations to the winners. You have now failed general chemistry II. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere acidifies the ocean period. The effect has been measured and compared to what is expected with increasing [CO2] in the atmosphere.

http://www.ocean-acidification.net/OAdocs/SPM-lorezv2.pdf

http://www.ocean-acidification.net/

jae said...

Hmmm, I wonder if that Ocean Acidification Summary is any better than AR4? Is is also exclusively peer-reviewed by top-notch eminent infallable scientists? Sorry, but climate science has a really poor reputation of late.

Harrywr2 said...

EliRabett said... 17

"Congratulations to the winners. You have now failed general chemistry II. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere acidifies the ocean period. The effect has been measured and compared to what is expected with increasing [CO2] in the atmosphere."

Except nowhere in the report is it listed how much CO2 needs to be emitted to create a catastrophic problem.

I would note that the Chinese are importing coal from as far away as Gillette,Wyoming.

Why would a country with the 3rd largest coal reserves in the world pay someone in Wyoming $40/hour to dig coal out of the ground and then pay to have it shipped half way around the world when they supposedly have an 'unlimited supply' of domestic coal and labor rates of less then $2/hour?

Better to fail Chemistry II then Economics 101.

Marlowe Johnson said...

Harrywr2,

We're getting pretty close to catastrophic already, and the world isn't going to run out of coal anytime soon.

Do you work for Peabody? Everywhere I see you're going on about coal. It's amazing!

jae said...

"We're getting pretty close to catastrophic already, and the world isn't going to run out of coal anytime soon."

?? Science, please.

jae said...

For Eli from Tim Ball:

"It’s astonishing how many facts are believed real when they were only speculation in a media report or in an IPCC Report. Too often it’s a ‘fact’ supporting a false or misleading headline or assumption. Here is an example from a BBC article about ocean acidification. The headline said, “Acid oceans ‘need urgent action’.” It is false or at best misleading because the oceans are not acid they are alkali and they don’t need urgent action because the data on which the claim is made are completely inadequate."

In a great little article on just how the IPCC and Media are misleading folks:

http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=5913&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ClimaterealistsNewsBlog+%28ClimateRealists+News+Blog%29

It includes a couple of nice paragraphs for other orthodox AGWers, too:

"Structure of the IPCC begins with Working Group I outlining an unproven speculation that academics call a hypothesis, which is defined as, “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” In this case they proposed that CO2 is a gas that causes global temperature to rise and it will continue to increase in volume in the atmosphere because human activity, particularly energy production, will continue to expand.

As evidence accumulated it showed the hypothesis was not proven. Indeed, nobody has produced a record that shows a CO2 increase preceding a temperature increase."

Lazar said...

Peter Webster writes;

I would like to form a new subgroup, “very likely disgusted.”

You signed a public declaration, lending your expertise to its credibility (Bali Climate Declaration 2007); "as scientists, we urge the negotiators to reach an agreement [...]". People wondering what that expertise is in relation to those who dissent is a reasonable and useful question... I don't see reason to be "disgusted".

Harrywr2 said...

Marlowe Johnson said... 20

"Do you work for Peabody? Everywhere I see you're going on about coal. It's amazing!"

Coal is the major source of CO2 emissions. The economics of coal determines the economics of not using coal.

No, I don't work for Peabody Coal, as a short term investment(10-20 years) it is probably a good bet. It will take a minimum of 40 years to phase out coal. The last big pile of 'cheap coal' is in Gillette,Wyoming. It might stay 'cheap' for another 10-20 years. It's not enough to supply the whole world with though.

The price of Appalachian coal has already risen to the point where the major consumers in the South Eastern US(150 million tons per year) have already put in their application to the NRC for new nuclear plants.

On the Pacific Coast of the US, the 'end of coal' is already set on the calender.

Coal is one of both sides of the debates misunderstanding.

Somebody says a $45/ton CO2 tax will be required to discourage new coal plant construction. Obviously people go 'I'm not paying that much' and get upset.

The reality is that in the South Eastern US no CO2 tax or a very small CO2 tax is required to tip the scales in favor of nuclear rather then coal.

In Wyoming, the CO2 tax would have to be $75/ton to tip the scales.

The South Eastern US will need another 50 nuclear plants to get off of coal, they already have applications before the NRC for 12.

In my simple little mind, those places where it is already economic to do so will move off of coal first. Those that still have 'cheap coal to burn' will be last.

Since there is a current limit to nuclear industrial capacity, the 'move first' folks already have the nuclear industry booked solid for the next 5 years.

As far as 'near catastrophe' generic terms like 'near' or 'expected' are somewhat meaningless.

Last I checked ocean heat content is falling.

jae said...

Here's something else for all the science fiction nuts, "progressives," "environmentalists," AGW believers, and all others blind to facts and reality to consider:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/7840035/Firms-paid-to-shut-down-wind-farms-when-the-wind-is-blowing.html

Is this sane?

jgdes said...

Eli points to the single item from a morass of conflated and hugely speculative scares, which has some amount of science behind it - far from enough but some - and declares we've all flunked Chemistry for not blindly accepting the rest of the pork barrel. Congratulations for passing advanced sophisty with honours Eli!

Of course stupid mother nature flunks general chemistry too; by it's warming sea absorbing CO2 rather than emitting it. But then nature is always a wee bit more complex than the straight line, two variable diagrams that some of us prefer. That's why we always need comparison of hypotheses with hard data. In the real world nobody can yet attribute any bad effects from those largely modeled results of reduced ocean alkalinity.

Does nature ameriorate her poor education with a heretofore overlooked higher level of resilience or does this 1% extra on top of the natural flux really not suggest a tipping point is imminent?

Lazar said...

Peter Webster writes;

"It has come something of a shock to find myself pigeon-holed, classified and lined up!"

Guy signs a petition for action predicated on the conclusions of AR4 WGI and WGII.
Some people interpret this signature as agreeing with those conclusions.
Guy responds; "how dare you classify me"!

Guy claims he didn't read or understand the stuff he was agreeing with...
"That was 3 years ago and I had not thought too much about IPCC and etc. and it was before the latest assessment."
And blames 'some people' for taking his signature in good faith...
"Re the PNAS paper, it is rather louche."

Double what?

Lazar said...

... which leaves a question, if the public must not "classify" a statement of support as a statement of support, and must not try to distinguish between contrary positions by the levels of supporting expertise, then how precisely are they to decide on a scientific issue that requires a policy response, apart from everyone gets a PhD?

markbahner said...

"Which of these would Roger or anyone else here care to dissent from?"

"(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more."

There's no way to dissent from this statement--which is by far the most important of your 5 statements--because it's completely unfalsifiable. There is no way to prove that global warming (let alone "climate change") does not "threaten" "coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more."

This is no more a scientific statement than a horoscope statement that says, "Aquarians will be under threat from drunk drivers this year."

It's incredible the amount of unfalsifiable BS that passes for science in climate "science," e.g.:

"On a global level, the numbers of additional people at risk of malaria in 2080 due to climate change is estimated to be 300 and 150 million for P. falciparum and P. vivax types of malaria, respectively, under the HadCM3 climate change scenario. Under the HadCM2 ensemble projections, estimates of additional people at risk in 2080 range from 260 to 320 million for P. falciparum and from 100 to 200 million for P. vivax."

NewYork said...

"because the IPCC performed poorly in distinguishing between natural variability and anthropogenic effects"

By what measure?

"or hardly considered the issue at all."

There's a detailed chapter on attribution. This leads me to conclude Webster didn't read the report at all.

It's ironic that Webster is criticizing the IPCC on the matter of attribution and confidence levels. In 2007, he co-authored two studies with similar results. One conclusion:

"It is concluded that the overall trend in
SSTs, and tropical cyclone and hurricane numbers is substantially influenced by
greenhouse warming."

So not only are there more hurricanes because of global warming, but greenhouse warming specifically. The IPCC is clearly much more reserved with this conclusion. Even Al Gore has said there's substantial uncertainty regarding hurricane frequency and warming.

http://webster.eas.gatech.edu/static/Papers/Webster2007a.pdf

http://webster.eas.gatech.edu/static/Papers/Webster2007b.pdf

Webster and Curry are from GATech and both have engaged recently in similar illogical rhetoric, often filled with vague insinuations and downright false statements. Coincidence, or is there something else going on? Did someone rub them the wrong way?

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