Voices from the climate community on "seepage"

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 14 May 2015

Our recent article “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community” in Global Environmental Change, authored by me and Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson, has attracted a bit of attention over the last few days. I sample a few comments here and reply to a lengthy post by Richard BettsHead of the Climate Impacts strategic area at the UK Met Office, that critiqued our paper.

The Vice Chair of the IPCC Jean Pascal van Ypersele tweeted about our paper and encouraged climate scientists to read it:

 

Some scientists clearly did, and sent us some comments for attribution:


Professor Andrew Dessler, of Texas A&M, stated:

“These results strike a chord with me.  As someone working in the area of climate change, I have been attacked for my public statements about the science of climate change.  I can't help but think that this causes me to water down what I say.”

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate research (PIK) provided the following comment:

“The paper on "seepage" by Lewandowsky et al provides sobering and convincing evidence for how climate change denial affects the scientific community - this should make every climate scientist pause and think. The authors highlight an important problem: how climate scientists have been influenced in their work by the public debate, to the extent of even inadvertently adopting a rhetorical framing created by contrarian voices from outside science.  They show this for the example of the supposed (but not real) "pause" or "hiatus" in global warming, for which some of us have been using the label "faux pause" for years (check out #fauxpause on twitter).
 
They highlight how the IPCC adopted the term 'hiatus' despite strong concerns by the German government about the misleading nature of this term. And they analyse the double standards used when discussing the so-called 'pause' as compared to an equally long period of rapid warming, which in fact deviated more from the long-term trend than the recent phase of slower warming. In fact, in 2007 in Science we noted the rapid warming during 1990-2006, naming as the first reason "intrinsic variability within the climate system" - which is also the prime reason for the slower warming trend when looking at the period starting in the hot outlier year 1998.

As Lewandowsky et al write: "The use of a single ‘cherry-picked’ outlying year to establish the presence of a ‘pause’ ... does not conform to conventional statistical practice and is testament to the degree to which the climate mainstream has embraced the ‘pause’ meme for extra-scientific reasons." I hope that the article by Lewandowsky et al will be widely read and discussed and that it will lead to greater self-awareness in the climate science community in future!"

A post by Katherine Bagley at Inside Climate News reports the impressions of Kevin Trenberth, an IPCC Lead author as follows:

Climate denial campaigns "can absolutely influence what you do and what you write about," said Trenberth, who was not involved in the study. "Part of the reason they do it is to distract you and get you to waste your time." Instead of "publishing the good science needed to advance our understanding of climate change," scientists are left defending their work and debunking false claims.

Those three voices support our analysis that climate denial can affect scientists and how they conduct and communicate their science. At least tacitly, they also recognize that the relevance in our work is not only in pointing out the existence of a phenomenon, but that in so doing we also provide the tools to address it: We know from related work (on which I may blog later) that knowing about a phenomenon such as seepage is half the battle to avoid its occurrence.


Knowledge is generally empowering, and seepage is no exception. Exercising some caution and reflection goes a long way to ensure that one’s scientific agenda is not inadvertently shaped by false agendas.

 

A Critical Voice: Richard Betts on “seepage”

 

However, not unexpectedly, there are also some critical voices. We expected that our paper would evoke some spirited disagreement, and so Richard Betts’ critique of our paper is most welcome as it provides us with an opportunity to restate our argument and address some of the objections raised by Professor Betts. To facilitate discussion, I begin by noting that there is much in Betts’s post that we can agree with—for example, the increased role of social media, the increased focus by governments on the need for adaptation and hence decadal predictions. No disagreement there. But then again, none of those points pertain to the issue of seepage.


As far as the core of his objection to the seepage notion is concerned, Betts focuses on our arguments surrounding the alleged “pause” in global warming during the last 15 years. We consider this phase to be a fairly unremarkable fluctuation about the average warming rate, a position we support by some informative statistics.


Our argument about seepage and the “pause” rests on two principal points, namely (a) that this “pause” was given undue attention by the scientific community in comparison to previous episodes of above-average global warming, and (b) that this attention sometimes involved an unexplained—and unjustified—departure from long-standing scientific practice.


I limit myself here to Betts's comments pertaining to our case study, involving the “pause” in global warming. Unfortunately it appears that Betts’s critique was largely unencumbered by acquaintance with what we actually wrote. I therefore provide specific pointers to our paper that correct his claims.


1. Claim: Lewandowsky et al. “… do not specifically identify the “previous occasions when decadal warming was particularly rapid”, but it’s fair to assume that they are referring to the 1990s, probably the period 1992-1998. This was the most recent occasion when global mean temperatures rose rapidly for a few years…”

  • Neither assertion is correct. Figure 2 in our paper (bottom panel) identifies the period of particularly rapid warming that we were talking about, which spans 1992 to 2007. It follows that 1992-1998 was not the most recent period of rapid global warming, but that very rapid warming was observed in the 15-year period up to 2007.       

.

2. Claim: “It is perplexing that Lewandowsky et al do not seem to be aware of this [earlier] research on short-term climate variability….. Possibly Lewandowsky et al are wondering why there was not a raft of papers specifically focussing on the observed temperature record between 1992 and 1998. The reason is simple  this was not a particularly surprising event. When global temperatures rose rapidly few a few years after 1992, this was very easily explained by the tailing-off of the short-term cooling influence of the Mount Pinatubo eruption.”

  • The focus on a 7-year time period that we never mention in the paper is perplexing indeed. The 15-year periods we cover are not all readily explained by Mt Pinatubo or the 1998 El Niño.

3. Claim: “Lewandowsky et al regard research into natural variability as “entertaining the possibility that a short period of a reduced rate of warming presents a challenge to the fundamentals of greenhouse warming.” Is there any evidence at all of climate scientists actually thinking this? I don’t think so.”

  • Yes, there is evidence that scientists frame it as a fundamental challenge (even if they don’t actually believe that). Consider the following verbatim statements from recent articles on the “pause:”

“Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth's global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001.”


“Despite a sustained production of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, the Earth's mean near-surface temperature paused its rise during the 2000--2010 period.”


“Given the widely noted increase in the warming effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations, it has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008.”

 

“Despite the continued increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, the annual-mean global temperature has not risen in the twenty-first century, challenging the prevailing view that anthropogenic forcing causes climate warming.”

And the list goes on….


What those citations show is that a short-term fluctuation, sometimes over as short a period as a decade, was considered by those scientists to constitute a “problem” for climate science that had to be resolved.


To restate what James Risbey already noted in a comment on Betts’s post:

“In the past, the notion that CO2 and GMST must increase in lockstep was considered laughable and indicative of one's ignorance of climate.  It was well known that CO2 is increasing steadily, but GMST does not because of decadal and longer scale variability.  Yet in recent years, some prominent climate research papers on the so called 'hiatus' have started out by pointing to an apparent conundrum between steadily increasing CO2 and fluctuating GMST.  i.e. that which was not a conundrum now is.  That change in framing is indicative of 'seepage'. That's not a particularly controversial claim or complicated argument, but it is a different argument from the one addressed by Richard on trends in climate variability research.”

Of course, all papers on the “pause”, including those cited above, come to the conclusion that anthropogenic global warming continues and will continue to pose a risk in the future. In addition, those papers have contributed to our knowledge of short-term climatic variability. Contrary to another claim made by Betts, we are conversant with that research and have recently contributed to it by showing that climate models do accommodate recent temperature trends when the phasing of natural internal variability is taken into account—as it must be in comparing a projection to a single outcome. However, notwithstanding the “pause” papers’ conclusions and the fact that global warming continues unabated, the framing of a short-term fluctuation as a problem for science departs from long-standing stastistical and climatological knowledge.

 

The Risks of Risk Communication

At this point, one might wonder why all this matters? Given that we do not disagree with the results of the research on the faux “pause”—how could we, having contributed to it—and given that the disagreement between Betts and us seems to boil down primarily to semantics and the imputation of scientists’ motivations, does it matter whether or not there is “seepage” into the scientific community?

We believe it matters a great deal.


To be perfectly clear: Talk of a “hiatus” or a “pause” in global warming has been a contrarian talking point for about a decade, and there is clear evidence that this framing was picked up by the media (see Max Boykoff’s article in Nature Climate Change last year) and has now been picked up by some climate scientists.


This matters because political momentum for mitigative action is difficult to sustain or mount while the public believes that there is a “pause” in global warming. Talk of a “pause”, when there is none, therefore has political consequences and, by implication, also carries ethical risks.


Lest one think that this risk is remote, the legal aftermath of the earthquake in L'Aquila, which embroiled scientists in charges of manslaughter for their alleged failure to warn the community, vividly illustrates the legal and moral hazards that are incurred when the public is not informed (or misinformed) of the full envelope of identifiable risks arising from scientific findings.


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69 Comments


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Comments 1 to 50 out of 67:

  1. Barry Woods at 05:28 AM on 15 May, 2015
    It is a little what came first the chicken or the egg..

    I suspect sceptics who are interested in science, started using pause, slowdown, lack of warming, hiatus, no upward trend, etc..because this was what the scientific community were using to discuss the issue, to describe observed event in the surface temp dataset..

    for example. (a decade ago, the lack of warming, had been noticed)

    Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 5th July, 2005


    “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant….”

    Dr. Phil Jones – CRU emails – 7th May, 2009


    ‘Bottom line: the ‘no upward trend’ has to continue for a total of 15 years before we get worried.’

    -----------------------------

    Just looking back at Met Office press releases, we can see this terminology being used a number of years ago, and papers being written about the slowdown..
  2. Barry Woods at 05:30 AM on 15 May, 2015
    so the seepage was perhaps in the opposite direction...

    who knows for sure, what does it matter, and what can be done about it....

    Have you done a literature search, on when 'lack of warming, slowdown, no upward trend, hiatus, pause, started appearing in journals, papers, and scientific opinion pieces?

    Or perhaps just asked some scientist that use it, when they started using it...
  3. richard.betts at 05:53 AM on 15 May, 2015
    Steve

    Thanks for posting and responding to my comments - it's good to have this discussion.

    It's also good to talk about the actual paper, rather than the Exec Summary you posted. As we've already discussed, it's frustrating that the journal have not yet published it, but hopefully they'll do so soon.

    Just to clarify, my remark on the lack of identification of dates was motivated by your statement that "During earlier rapid warming there was no additional research effort directed at explaining ‘catastrophic’ warming." I wasn't aware of 1992-2007 having been described as "catastrophic" so looked for a period of shorter but more rapid warming in case that was what you meant. However, if 1992-2007 has been described somewhere as "catastrophic" then I stand corrected.

    Much of our disagreement boils down to whether words like "pause" and "hiatus" should be used as convenient labels for an interesting period in the global temperature record, or not at all for fear of being misused. I prefer the former, because in my view the latter is allowing politics to intrude on science.

    My main concern is best expressed by quoting the final paragraph of the paper:

    "...we can do more to ensure that we do not inadvertently allow contrarian, skeptical, and denialist claims to seep into our thinking, leading us to overstate uncertainty, under-communicate knowledge, or add credence to erroneous claims by spending undue amounts of time responding to them, much less ‘‘explaining’’ phenomena that do not even exist."

    The very final 2 phrases are the most concerning. They reads to me as if you are suggesting that the processes that influenced the recent trajectory of global surface temperatures are not something that should receive much research focus, even though temperatures did something a bit surprising. (Not surprising enough to overturn conventional wisdom, but surprising enough to show that we have much more to do in improving skill of inter-annual and decadal forecasting). So it seems to be about more than just whether we give the recent period a convenient name to not - it seems to be about whether we should study it a lot, a little or not at all.

    Could you expand on this? For example, are you saying that climate scientists should not seek to further understand the drivers of recent global temperatures, or that this is fine but they should not publish it in high-profile journals, or that this is also fine as long as papers are worded with a political interpretation as well as a scientific one in mind? (Or something else). Your thoughts on this would be appreciated.

    Incidentally, I do agree with your final statement of the post above - we should communicate the full range of risks. However, I don't see that research or talk of the "pause" gets in the way of this.

    Thanks for the discussion,

    Cheers

    Richard
    Moderator Response: Richard, i am at a workshop with only 5 minutes between talks, so can only take up one issue very briefly: The fact that you have not found any reference to "catastrophic" in the context of 1992-2007 is precisely our point. That period saw a greater acceleration than the deceleration observed during the "pause" (relative to long-term trend) and no one jumped to explain the "catastrophe" then. So why the focus on a (smaller) fluctuation now? Concerning your other points I hope to comment (or post) later after my workshop finishes.
  4. Richard Betts - I think it's quite clear from Dr. Lewandowskys post that describing the 1990-2006 period as 'catastrophic' warming rather than expected levels of natural variation is his equivalent of the use of 'hiatus' or 'no warming' to describe the last 15-18 years. And that what his paper has noted is that the term 'catastrophic' was not applied in the literature, an asymmetry with the current statistically insignificant trends.

    In short, previous short term insignificant _high_ trends trends weren't harped upon as issues with the body of science (despite being noted in the literature as of interest), but current short term insignificant _low_ trends are. Repeatedly. Loudly. And that difference in framing is the very 'seepage' from contrarian/denialist rhetoric that the paper discusses.

    Your query about "...climate scientists should not seek to further understand the drivers of recent global temperatures..." is therefore a wholly incorrect framing of the Lewandowsky/Oreskes paper. Those drivers certainly _should_ be (and are) studied. But recent variations are not indicative of major issues with our understanding, and we shouldn't frame them that way and thus bend over backwards towards contrarian rhetoric.
  5. Brandon Shollenberger at 07:06 AM on 15 May, 2015
    I haven't had time to parse all this, but the first point of this post seems highly questionable. Richard Betts said the authors "do not specifically identify the 'previous occasions when decadal warming was particularly rapid.'" This is supposed to be rebutted by the paper identifying a single period of 1992-2007. However, neither side of the discussion seems on track as "previous occassions" is plural, not singular.

    Having only one example while saying you have multiple overstates your results, but I suppose that doesn't really matter for this discussion. What does matter, however, is the claim:

    Figure 2 in our paper (bottom panel) identifies the period of particularly rapid warming that we were talking about, which spans 1992 to 2007. It follows that 1992-1998 was not the most recent period of rapid global warming, but that very rapid warming was observed in the 15-year period up to 2007.


    Figure 2 of the paper is interesting because it is an obvious example of cherry-picking. Figure 1 shows different temperature records from three different sources. Figure 2 then shows only one temperature record, the one which emphasizes its results the most. This is particularly bad because after discussing Figure 2, the paper says:

    Thus, arguments about a ‘‘hiatus’’ or ‘‘pause’’ can only be sustained by ignoring the fact that the most recent trend is statistically nearly identical to that of other decades unless a single particular year is used as a starting point—in other words, only by cherry-picking.


    The paper says an argument can only be sustained by cherry-picking, while using a cherry-picked graph as proof. The cherry-picking goes even beyond the choice of data set, as the periods chosen are largely arbitrary, with there not even being a justification offered for why 16 year periods were used (or why this post refers to a 15 year period). But again, that is neither here nor there.

    The real issue is this post claims Figure 2 shows rapid warming from 1992-2007. It doesn't. What Figure 2 shows is you get a strong warming trend when you perform an OLS fit over the 1992-2007 period for a particular data set. That doesn't tell us anything about when warming actually happened. Linear fits may indicate warming has happened over a period, but they cannot tell us which portion of the period actually exhibited warming.

    This is easy to see as a linear fit from 1900-2000 will show warming even though there the planet did not monotously warm from 1900 to 2000. In the same way, one can reasonably argue the warming Figure 2 shows is the same warming Betts referred to, the warming from 1992-1998. The only difference is the paper arbitrarily decided to use 16 year periods, and as such, it had to tack the 1999-2007 period onto the 1992-1998 period.

    And it's still just a cherry-pick because 1992 was the coolest year the paper could start this period on, in the temperature record cherry-picked for being best suited for the results of the paper.
  6. richard.betts at 07:14 AM on 15 May, 2015
    KR

    Hmm, I'm not sure why anyone would use the term 'catastrophic' for 1990-2006, that seems like a bit of a strawman. Are you sure that's the argument that the authors are using?

    I think the final paragraph of the paper does give the impression of saying what I asked about above. The authors specifically talk of "spending undue time" on these issues, which seems to go beyond mere framing.

    However I'd be pleased to hear from Steve about this. Genuinely, I'd be very happy to be reassured that "not spending undue time" does not mean do less research or publish fewer papers on this area.
  7. Richard Betts - "I'm not sure why anyone would use the term 'catastrophic' for 1990-2006..."

    Exactly! Nobody would, and in fact as far as I know nobody in the peer-reviewed literature did.

    Nor would anyone claim that the 1990-2006 variation in trend (0.21°C/decade) would in any way be "challenging the prevailing view" in climate science or that "it has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise rose so much" - that would be absurd. But just such language has been used when discussing recent _low_ variations.

    That language, _that_ is the difference in framing that Lewandowsky and Oreskes are discussing - discussing short term low trend variations as a challenge to the science as a whole, while short term high variations (equally within the range of statistical variation) receive no such concern.

    Detective Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
    Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
    Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
    Holmes: "That was the curious incident."


    In the past, the dog did nothing. But now there is _furious_ barking - that's a change, a difference, and that curious change in framing, to a framing that seems to express a need to defend science in the face of contrarian rhetoric, is what Lewandowsky and Oreskes are discussing.

    I find it quite puzzling that you seem not to understand that.
  8. Oddly, Barry Woods seems to suggest that "sceptics" get what little science they might have from somewhere other than science by suggesting that "seepage" might be "going the other way".

    If only real science did seep into the mind of fake sceptics, instead of them picking and choosing and making up stuff, or blowing out of all proportion some snippet from a stolen email and arguing that it "proves" that an Ice Age Cometh.

    I see that Richard Betts still doesn't understand what the paper is about.
  9. @Sou at 14:42 PM on 15 May, 2015

    "I see that Richard Betts still doesn't understand what the paper is about."

    I guess you have read the paper and are sympathetic to its stated conclusions but since the paper has apparently not been not seen by anyone outside the original authors, and anyone who have been allowed an emailed copy directly, I think your would need to be more specific here in what you think Betts should understand about the paper.

    Betts is a climate scientist who is apparently being told by this paper that he and his colleagues have developed some pathological traits in their work, it appears that the paper says climate scientists respond and work differently to the current temperature trend they experience.
    This seems quite a remarkable claim for social scientists to make about climate scientists IMO, and I would have thought therefore requires quite a detailed response to Betts, as the first representative of a negative critic AFAIK, when he makes quite a detailed critique.
  10. richard.betts at 18:21 PM on 15 May, 2015
    KR

    But the recent evolution of global surface temperature *was* more surprising than in 1990-2006! It goes beyond just whether it's near the limits of global warming prediction - research in the mid-2000s (e.g.. http://www.agci.org/events/2008/DecadalPrediction/PDFs/smith_etal_2007.pdf) used techniques specifically designed to forecast internal variability, and as you can see, this still predicted global surface temperatures to warm over the next decade. In that work, it seemed that the main predictability in decadal forecasting would still come from the anthropogenic global warming trend. Surface temperatures did not evolve as predicted in that paper, so it was a surprise.

    Nobody had attempted this for 1990-2007 as those techniques were not available then.
  11. Richard Tol at 21:56 PM on 15 May, 2015
    I've now read the paper. It does not offer any data or analysis, just opinion and a few anecdotes.

    Global Environmental Change used to be a good journal, but then it drifted into a softy-softy space. I once had a paper rejected there with the comment "no data please". It seems not to have regained itself.
  12. @tlitb1

    I think your would need to be more specific here in what you think Betts should understand about the paper.

    There are specifics in the article up top, plus "detailed" specifics from me:

    http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2015/05/seeps-and-scams-part-iii-richard-betts.html

    Betts is a climate scientist who is apparently being told by this paper that he and his colleagues have developed some pathological traits in their work,

    No, that's not at all what the paper is about. Your comment doesn't seem to have anything to do with this paper. Did you post here by mistake? Are you on the right blog?

    Contrary to what you think, the arguments in the paper are neither remarkable nor controversial. The good thing about the paper is that it sets out in a structured fashion what everyone knows has been happening. If you think you did comment where you meant to, then I suggest you read the article up top, and the previous article, and the paper, which, contrary to what you've written, is published and open access:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015000515

    Also the authors are not strictly speaking social scientists. Three are psychology researchers, one is a climate science researcher, and one is a science historian and geologist/earth system scientist.
  13. @Sou at 23:53 PM on 15 May, 2015


    "...contrary to what you've written, is published and open access"

    Well only being available just a few hours ago I notice! Thanks ;)

    "Contrary to what you think, the arguments in the paper are neither remarkable nor controversial."

    Not sure why you'd want to undermine the papers worthiness like this. I thought academia prized interesting new work?

    In response to me saying:

    "Betts is a climate scientist who is apparently being told by this paper that he and his colleagues have developed some pathological traits in their work"

    You reply:

    "No, that's not at all what the paper is about. Your comment doesn't seem to have anything to do with this paper."

    Now I read the paper I see there is no 'apparent' about it, it literally is saying this seepage into scientists brains makes it so they can't think straight or do statistics e.g.:

    "In effect, scientists came to doubt their own conclusions, and felt compelled to do more work to further strengthen them, even if this meant discarding previously accepted standards of statistical practice."

    IMHO this claim seems remarkable and controversial. ;)
  14. You do seem intent on misreading the paper. Why is that? Perhaps you think it remarkable that people would be compelled to do more work in response to public discourse. Heck, I double check stuff even if a denier, whose opinion I don't value at all, picks up on something I said. If a person had such misplaced confidence in everything they did that they took not one bit of notice of what anyone else says about it, that would make a person virtually unemployable.

    In any case, the paper itself discusses the psychology - it is normal human behaviour as evidenced by the research that was quoted. It's not pathological. The traits are normal - and some of what makes us less than perfect.

    In no way am I "undermining the worthiness" of the paper. The words I used to describe the argument were taken from those used by one of the authors, since they reflected my own opinion.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/guest-post-climate-variability-research-did-the-sceptics-make-us-do-it/#comment-55677

    Your eyes are playing tricks, from the look of things, too. They blocked out the part where I wrote about the particular value of the work, which is substantial. I'll add that not only was it a structured approach, it was supported by psychological research as well as a case study of climate science. That's important. What we think we observe isn't always what is happening. In this case, what many of us have observed has been researched and explained.

    The paper is already making a difference, and I believe this work will prove invaluable to scientists from many disciplines - not just climate and earth sciences.
  15. Richard Betts - So you feel that in the eight years since that 2007 Rahmstorf et al paper our confidence in decadal projections has increased to the point of justifying a qualitative change in how the literature portrays trend variations of _similar_ magnitude?

    I would have to disagree.
  16. Radical Rodent at 03:14 AM on 16 May, 2015
    What I do get annoyed about is that I am working hard in a wealth-creating industry and paying taxes to fund you in your wealth-absorbing world, allowing you to spout off (probably gaining you an income greater than mine), using utterly fallacious argument, at those who “deny” climate change, with your usage of obscure wordage and phraseology in a desperately pathetic attempt to gain some sort of gravitas for your totally barmy “ideation”.

    Imagine (or “ideate”) yourself on the upper floor of a building. Only your footprints from the top step are lit; the rest of the floor is in darkness. You have no idea how far the floor extends; you can only see how far you have travelled. Are you “cherry-picking” that top step as the top of your climb, so far? Or are you saying that you are still on an upward slope, as you are higher than you were on the bottom step? Or is that analogy too complex to seep into your brain?

    Any fule know that climates change. Climate is not the only immutable thing in the universe; climates have changed since the world began, 4.5 BILLION years ago, for many and various reasons, few of which we have any understanding of. To declare those who do not agree with YOUR personal, totally uncorroborated view that any change has to have been caused by humans as “climate change deniers” has to be one of the most egregious examples of projection there is. Wrapped in your cocoon in the world of Academe, you are giving nothing of any value to the general human knowledge or consciousness; do us all a favour – get your bank account off the tax-payers’ teat, and go out and get yourself a proper job.
  17. bare_gills at 08:12 AM on 16 May, 2015
    Over many years now, there has been a well orchestrated and successful campaign to convince the world to accept the hypothesis that CO2 resulting from mankind's emissions is resulting in global warming which will, if not controlled, result in runaway warming with catastrophic results for the planet.
    In order to gain support for measures to limit emissions and avert the suggested catastrophe, psychology has been invoked to demonstrate to the public that those having a different opinion are somehow deluded and not thinking in a logical way. This has recently been stepped up so that "climate denial" is now considered by many as a crime against humanity.
    Alongside that, we have the McCarthy style witch hunt techniques used to discredit, demonise and ruin the careers of any scientist daring to support ideas not fully sanctioned by the CAGW supporters.
    We also have virtually all governments, newspapers and television stations confirming support of the CAGW hypothesis.
    Even Barack Obama and The Pope have been persuaded to add their unqualified support to the campaign, although unfortunately a Presidential denier has now become something of an embarrassment.
    As an educated man Prof Lewandowsky, do you really believe, and do you expect others to accept, that given the toxic environment which has been created, a few uncoordinated scientists and bloggers are in a position to influence climate scientists to the point where they are so confused and oppressed they are no longer able to think clearly and carry out their research?
    Perhaps you do and if so, I feel very sorry for you.
    To most intelligent people, the possibility of this is so remote as to be beyond reasonable.
    Your paper should be withdrawn.
  18. Lawrence Torcello at 13:48 PM on 16 May, 2015
    First, whether you accept the conclusions of this paper or not it is important to understand that the article is not about pathology. All of us are subject to the cognitive influences discussed by the authors. It would be truly extraordinary if climate scientists, or any other human beings, were in some way immune to the cognitive biases the rest of us seem to be “wired” with.

    This paper serves as a needed reminder that even under the best of circumstances, and intentions, we are subject to the influence of outside distractions—in ways difficult to perceive on our own. The claims being made in the article ring true to me. Still, even if climate scientists aren’t being influenced by the relentless din of a very loud minority of naysayers it remains wise to avoid using terms that are easily misconstrued to have profounder implications than they should.

    When it comes to communicating research it is important to be mindful of how non-experts are likely to hear specific words given a particularly charged social environment. In an atmosphere where significant portions of society ideologically reject the consensus findings of climate science, or don’t realize that a consensus on the human cause of climate change exists, the use of words like “pause” or “hiatus” take on an unintended significance in the public’s imagination.

    The findings in question relate to concerns I raise in "The Ethics of Inquiry, Scientific Belief, and Public Discourse" Public Affairs Quarterly, 25 (3):197-215 (2011). To quote what I wrote there:

    "In the context of the cognitive asymmetries previously mentioned, an ethics of public political discourse relating to science and public affairs is necessary to temper speech that is laced with sensational misrepresentations, distortions, and simplistic (if intuitive) misunderstandings. In other words, the ethics of public discourse and inquiry requires that we attend to the rhetorical asymmetries that one can reasonably expect to follow from cognitive asymmetries."
  19. A pause or not a pause, that is the question.

    I really think we need an answer. If there is no pause, then a great many climate scientists have been influenced by a small number of relatively powerless individuals. This is most alarming. Of course at the same time we have to accept that if they can be influenced by a small number of sceptics then it follows that they can be greatly influenced by the massive consensus that has grown up around the issue as a whole. The amount of confirmation bias would be huge.

    Alternatively, if there is a pause then it seems that the mainstream climate science community have not done enough to enlighten people like the author of this paper.

    So climate scientists, which is it? Is there no pause and are you puppets to anyone pulling your strings? Or is there a pause (for whatever reason) and you just haven’t done enough to get the word out?
  20. Tiny - According to Tamino "There is no pause!"

    https://tamino.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/its-the-trend-stupid-3/

    In a clever misinterpretation, one ultimately rooted in cherry-picking, there are those who actually claim that the data do demonstrate global warming has slowed down.

    Unbelievable as it may seem, they actually do. While the data have followed the global-warming-continues-without-slowing-down pattern just about as closely as one could have imagined — this year right down the middle — they still insist that global warming has slowed down. They like to call it a “pause.”


    By way of example:

  21. And if that graph is a comprehensive picture of all the data one must conclude that something untoward has happened in the minds of those who say something different. I think some kind of official consensus is needed.
  22. The description hiatus for instance occurs several times in the scientific literature prior to the current period - for instance after Pinatubo and during the 1980s used by prominent climate scientists noting a departure from expect climate norms. These departures from expectations have to be a topic of scientific interest precisely because they represent an unexpected event. With the level of scrutiny around climate science since Climategate, it is not surprising that others also pick up on these unexpected events and deviations from the consensus narrative, so climate science already had these ideas and concepts without needing to bring them in from outside.

    However, if seepage exists, then it must exist in multiple directions - not just from the skeptical side. For instance, the seepage of ideas from other pressure groups - for instance Greenpeace, FOE and other environmental pressure groups - such as the 'dark money' and 'conspiracy' ideas and name calling (eg the stereotype threat like using the term 'denier' even of those who accept the fundamental science, but are more cautious of long term forecasts), and secondly the seepage of anti-growth environmental concepts from the 1970s such as the earth as an incredibly fragile place ("Blueprint for Survival" from 1972) and the collection of catastrophist memes (eg Ehrlich) that persist in the literature to the current day despite repeated evidence of overclaiming and over dramatisation of potential risks. These two types of seepage are clearly visible in the works of non-scientists examining reactions to the science climate change and I wonder why these weren't also brought to attention in the current paper.
  23. Barry Woods at 05:32 AM on 17 May, 2015
    Professor Peter Thorne (IPCC lead author) commenting on an article about all this in the Guardian:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/15/are-climate-scientists-cowed-by-sceptics#comment-52286021

    "As a contributor to the hiatus box in IPCC AR5 and an author and reviewer of several relevant papers frankly this whole thing is depressing and shows extreme naivety as to what constitutes the scientific process and the accrual and acceptance of scientific knowledge. Indeed the only relevant part is the final sentence. That as climate scientists we have to develop thick skins.

    To maintain that as scientists we should not investigate the pause / hiatus / slowdown (there I used the phrase ...) is downright disingenuous and dangerous. It is important to understand all aspects of climate science and that includes recent and possible future decadal timescale variability and its causes. We all experience climatic variability so we should understand it. The large volume of papers on the hiatus will undoubtedly have served to improve our knowledge of climate variability and the climate system and will almost certainly lead to improved climate projections in future through improved climate modelling.

    If it had been decided to ignore the hiatus then those benefits and insights would not have accrued. So what if some of those papers resulted from segments of society asking questions about this? First, its an entirely reasonable and policy relevant question because what has caused it has very real implications as to what we should do vis-a-vis short-term adaptation decisions. Second, even if it weren't a reasonable question, then it would still be entirely reasonable to address it to explicitly head off mis-conceptions.

    So, this whole thing is a side-show and as such depressing."-Peter Thorne

    http://icarus.nuim.ie/people/thorne-peter
  24. @18 Lawrence Torcello at 13:48 PM on 16 May, 2015

    First, whether you accept the conclusions of this paper or not it is important to understand that the article is not about pathology.

    It may be important for *you* to understand that but I suggest any independent reader of the paper would see in it a clear depiction of a recent history of pathology in climate research.

    The paper says that climate scientists are now reduced to explaining

    "phenomena that do not even exist"

    It is essentially saying they have become delusional. Is that not pathological?
    Still, even if climate scientists aren’t being influenced by the relentless din of a very loud minority of naysayers it remains wise to avoid using terms that are easily misconstrued to have profounder implications than they should.

    When it comes to communicating research it is important to be mindful of how non-experts are likely to hear specific words given a particularly charged social environment.

    Are you saying that scientists should police their terminology in their peer reviewed work in future in case it gets used by laymen or policy makers in some pathological way?

    But who determines the correct terminology they should use in their work?

    Social scientists like you and Stephan Lewandowsky?
  25. richard.betts at 10:25 AM on 17 May, 2015
    KR

    I think you've missed my point above. Nobody tried to predict the internal climate variability before 2007 because the techniques had not yet been developed. The first such attempt was actually published in 2007, and predicted a continued lack of warming for a few years and then a resumption of warming. This did not happen. So, we need to understand why, so we can improve this kind of forecasting.

    Incidentally, Roger Jones made an excellent point at ATTP: https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/05/12/guest-post-climate-variability-research-did-the-sceptics-make-us-do-it/#comment-55865


    I presented two papers ... that maintained that atmospheric temperature is a series of plateaus punctuated by step changes and that trends are the illusion. There are valid theoretical and evidential reasons for thinking why this may be the case. This is where research should be looking, rather than either defending or proscribing language with statistical tests.

    Both presentations also presented risk analyses and economic analyses that showed non-linear climate change to be of greater concern than trend-like changes, discussing those implications for adaptation.
  26. What irritates me to no end, is that although scientists thoroughly understand the physics of atmospheric greenhouses, the impressions experts like Betts project is that until we achieve totally complete and absolutely correct measurements of every component of our Global Heat Engine - we can somehow pretend greenhouse gases aren't doing their job 24/7/365 - specifically relentlessly increasing the heat and energy within our climate system.

    I wish someone like Betts could explain what I'm missing.
  27. richard.betts at 00:42 AM on 18 May, 2015
    PeterM

    That's ridiculous, I have never said anything even remotely like that.
  28. No it is not ridiculous and please note what I say:
    "the impressions experts like Betts project..."
    And it most certainly is what the message the lay-public has been taking away.
    Sure, with a lot of help from the unidirectional science skeptics and their deliberate manufactured confusion.

    Oh another big complaint I have with many authoritative sources is that they are constantly conflating Surface temperatures with Global temperatures. Explain that one.

    Oh and if you truly believe what I'm saying is ridiculous I suggest you need to step back and look at your own words with a little skeptical distance.
  29. http://whatsupwiththatwatts.blogspot.com/2015/05/lewandowsky-responds-betts.html
  30. @PeterM at 01:28 AM on 18 May, 2015

    I am fascinated by your exchange with Richard Betts.

    You said:
    No it is not ridiculous and please note what I say:
    "the impressions experts like Betts project..."

    Using 'impression' immediately confesses subjectivity and unless you claim to call upon a powerful cohort of credible supporters who also hold this 'impression' it seems so far to be only your 'impression' about Betts.

    Let me counter you by saying the impression experts like Betts projects resembles nothing to do with pretending that greenhouse gases are not doing their 'job'.

    You can see my last statement is subjective. However, so is yours, so we cancel out ;)

    Can you point to something Richard Betts has actually said that confirms him pretending about science as a fact?

    I am all ears ;)
  31. Ben Newell at 05:28 AM on 18 May, 2015
    Two issues stand out (for me) from the recent posts on this site. The first is whether we made any claims about the “pathology” underlying the behaviour we discussed in the paper. We did not.

    The effects and their explanations that we do discuss are well-documented, relatively common place cognitive “biases” that we all experience in different degrees at different times. There is nothing pathological and nothing particularly surprising about our claim that third person effects, stereotype threat and pluralistic ignorance might play a role in the discussion about how we are affecting our climate. Moreover, highlighting the role that these effects could be playing is why we think having this discussion is important. A view which appears to be shared by many in the climate community (see quotes in the article above).

    The second is whether we accuse climate scientists of ‘wasting their time’ in addressing fluctuations in the warming trend. We did not. In fact we said the opposite, as shown below:

    "Our conclusion does not imply that research aimed at addressing the causes underlying short-term fluctuations in the warming trend is invalid or unnecessary. On the contrary, it is a legitimate and fruitful area of research, and we are certain it was not done because climate scientists intended to accept a contrarian frame—rather, if any values other than scientific curiosity drove their research, it was more likely to have been a desire to rebut contrarian talking points than a willingness to accept them."

    What we do say, however, is that when that research into fluctuations is framed explicitly as investigating reasons for a “pause” or “hiatus” then there are grounds for arguing that this framing has occurred due to seepage of contrarian talking points from those who continue to doubt the basic hypothesis of AGW.

    One final point is that there are comments from some along the lines of ‘why should (we) climate scientists listen to (you) social scientists?’

    As someone who has studied for some time how people deal with uncertainty, make decisions, and more generally process information – and is concerned about what we are doing collectively to our planet – I don’t think it is inappropriate to offer potentially valuable insights to the debate.

    I listen very carefully to climate scientists when they tell me there is a problem, so I find it strange that from some quarters there is such resistance to reciprocating when information might be usefully conveyed in the opposite direction.
  32. @Ben Newell at 05:28 AM on 18 May, 2015

    There is nothing pathological and nothing particularly surprising about our claim that third person effects, stereotype threat and pluralistic ignorance might play a role in the discussion about how we are affecting our climate.


    To paraphrase: Methinks now the social scientists protest too much?

    Especially about the "pathology" word.

    But why would they not expect that?

    Readers please note who introduced the term "pathology" above ;)

    Ben Newell you are a co-author of the paper that is telling scientists they are behaving in way that "add[s] credence" to "phenomena that do not even exist".

    You are a social scientist that studies a subject group and tells that subject group they "add credence" to "phenomena that do not even exist".

    I really, really, do not not know how much more clear anyone could be in telling scientists they are working in a pathological way.

    I don't know why these guys can't see what they are doing. Maybe a bit of historical context could help?

    Let me try:

    It is well documented now that Isaac Newton may have wasted much of his time working on the interpretation of the Bible and investigating Alchemy. Hypothetically, if it was possible then, this could even have been a valid contemporary social science point made about the pathology of his work.

    Newton's mainstream work became acknowledged genius and his Bible and Alchemy studies have now been forgotten. Whether they actually fed into his work is also forgotten.

    Historically.

    Nowadays maybe Newton would not have got away with this.

    What with the prevalence of social studies today.

    Imagine if Newtons Bible studies were shown to be fallacious by social study scholars who were alerted to his peculiarities back in 1662?

    Hint: they were called priests then.

    Newtons private Arianism could have been found out, he denied the Holy trinity, he should be condemned.

    Clearly.

    You guys are doing this contemporaneously with climate science before any god damn body understands jack about climate, and somehow pretending you own your own biases we have nothing to pay attention to there.

    This is anachronistic.

    Seriously. Keep it up! :)
  33. richard.betts at 08:43 AM on 18 May, 2015
    Hi Ben

    Thanks for responding. I do value engagement between natural and social scientists, in fact I lead trans-disciplinary research in which this is actively facilitated, so we should not let this turn into another "us vs. them" situation. The disagreements here are focussed on this particular paper.

    I'll focus on your second point, about research into fluctuations in the warming trend, as the other issue ("pathology") was not raised by me.

    You say that your co-authors and yourself are not saying this area of research is a waste of time. However, there are actually several places in the paper in which you seem to suggest that this research should not be done, and not only that, appear to question the scientific competence and credibility of the research. I'm not the only climate scientist who reads it this way - see for example comments by Prof Peter Thorne below the Guardian article on this paper, eg. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/15/are-climate-scientists-cowed-by-sceptics#comment-52306080

    Specifically, you say:

    In effect, scientists came to doubt their own conclusions, and felt compelled to do more work to further strengthen them, even if this meant discarding previously accepted standards of statistical practice.


    This does very much seem to suggest that work was done that otherwise would not (and should not) have been done. The last remark seems particularly inappropriate. As Peter Thorne says about this:

    In particular the 'statistical practices' sentence is an assertion with precisely zero basis in reality. As such, it is highly offensive.


    Moreover, the final sentence of the paper says:

    [we should not] add credence to erroneous claims by spending undue amounts of time responding to them, much less “explaining” phenomena that do not even exist.


    Again, the very final phrase of that quote is, frankly, astonishing. You are quite explicitly (but wrongly) stating that climate scientists have been investigating something that "does not exist".

    As it happens, the Carbon Brief today published an interview with the Chief Scientist of the Met Office, Prof Dame Julia Slingo OBE, who has just been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. The transcript and videos of the interview are here: http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/05/the-carbon-brief-interview-prof-dame-julia-slingo-obe/

    At one point, Julia says:

    It's certainly true that over the last decade, fifteen years or so, the planet hasn't warmed at the rate one would expect simply from the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. We've made no bones about that, we've been very clear about that and we're beginning to understand why that is.


    This is the exact opposite of your concluding phrase. There is a phenomenon which requires explanation. Temperatures did not do what we expected, and we've been trying to find out why.

    Later in the interview, Julia is asked again about research on the 'slowdown'. She says:

    This is absolutely at the leading edge of climate science, and we will get better understanding as we get more observations and as the models grow in granularity it will allow us to be more confident in how the oceans do move heat around, the role of the ocean eddies and so forth.


    It is quite clear that this is a crucially important area of climate research, that is needed to help us further develop our understanding of the climate system.

    Of course, in case you are concerned, none of this is throwing doubt on the existence of anthropogenic global warming - this is very clear from Julia's interview.

    I'd encourage you and your co-authors to reflect on the phrases "discarding previously accepted standards of statistical practice" and "explaining phenomena that do not even exist" and consider whether these are giving a fair impression of the credibility of climate science. I do not think they are.
  34. richard.betts at 09:05 AM on 18 May, 2015
    Hi again Ben

    Incidentally, Peter also points out that you did not provide the citations for the GISTEMP and HadCRUT4 datasets that you used in your figures. This is poor practice.

    The GISTEMP website http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/ says:

    Citation
    When referencing the GISTEMP data provided here, please cite both this webpage and also out most recent scholarly publication about the data. In citing the webpage, be sure to include the date of access.

    + GISTEMP Team, 2015: GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP). NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Dataset accessed 20YY-MM-DD at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/.
    + Hansen, J., R. Ruedy, M. Sato, and K. Lo, 2010: Global surface temperature change, Rev. Geophys., 48, RG4004, doi:10.1029/2010RG000345.


    The HadCRUT4 website http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcrut4/ says:

    References
    When using the data set in a paper, the following is the correct citation to use:
    Morice, C. P., J. J. Kennedy, N. A. Rayner, and P. D. Jones (2012), Quantifying uncertainties in global and regional temperature change using an ensemble of observational estimates: The HadCRUT4 dataset, J. Geophys. Res., 117, D08101, doi:10.1029/2011JD017187.
  35. richard.betts at 09:11 AM on 18 May, 2015
    For the record, here's one of Peter's comments:

    JJRichardson, sorry but I have not misrepresented what Lewandowsky said. For example in the penultimate paragraph:

    In climate science, we see a similar phenomenon of non-experts challenging an established body of evidence that has converged on the conclusion that global warming is unequivocal and in all likelihood due to human industrial and agricultural activity. But in this case we see scientists not only responding to these contrarian claims, but publishing a significant number of papers in peer-reviewed journals to try to explain them. In effect, scientists came to doubt their own conclusions, and felt compelled to do more work to further strengthen them, even if this meant discarding previously accepted standards of statistical practice.

    Is impossible for me to reconcile this text as being anything other than direct criticism of the work of myself and more importantly very many other very well respected and extremely well qualified scientists (many of whom have published hundreds of papers on many areas of the science and I am proud to count as friends as well as colleagues) on recent global mean surface temperature trends and their causes and implications.

    In particular the 'statistical practices' sentence is an assertion with precisely zero basis in reality. As such, it is highly offensive.

    This paper and the resulting discussion is very definitely not a way to win friends or influence people. Bear in mind that the norm is to read the abstract then conclusions before deciding whether to read the remainder and frankly my take home has been that this paper is an unhelpful and unwarranted criticism of our significant work in the area. Work that I have no doubts has added substantially to the scientific knowledge basis. Sorry if that offends you somehow. My twitter feed says I am far from alone amongst my colleagues in concluding this.

    I would also note that despite using both HadCRUT4 and GISTEMP in their figures I see no reference to Morice et al., 2012 or Hansen et al., 2010. Its hardly as if they seemed crushed for space on references. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for using datasets and not citing the papers underlying. None. Period. I would go as far as to assert that it is indicative of seepage of the worst of blog practices into the peer reviewed literature. A basic premise of the literature is to cite sources. Its kind of paper writing 101 here. Its not as if the references are not available on the same websites as the data is downloaded from.


    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/15/are-climate-scientists-cowed-by-sceptics#comment-52306080
  36. Richard Betts - "Nobody tried to predict the internal climate variability before 2007 because the techniques had not yet been developed." Seriously? A very quick Google Scholar check shows >20,000 articles on "internal climate variability prediction" prior to 2007. I believe you are again overstating the level of confidence we've developed in decadal trend predictions since then.

    I would like to make several points here: First, internal variability including primarily ENSO appears to account for much of recent trend changes (Risbey et al 2014), with much of recent warming being directed into the oceans rather than surface air temperatures, there are also forcing changes such as volcanic aerosols in operation (Ridley et al 2014), and accounting for these effects it's clear that anthropogenic forcings are indeed acting as expected in the presence of the natural variability and forcings (Schmidt et al 2014).

    Moreover, even with these variations in short term trends, current temperatures are well within the 2-sigma range around 30-year trends - the only reason to think that there has been a 'hiatus' is applying the Mark I eyeball to temperatures since about the 3-sigma 1998 El Nino, rather than actually applying statistics.

    And then there's the odd side track: "...two papers ... that maintained that atmospheric temperature is a series of plateaus punctuated by step changes and that trends are the illusion. Quite frankly, such claims fail on statistical basics - the observed variability of the climate is large enough that statistically insignificant jumps and pauses will occur, and it is an error (one that is demonstrably statistically invalid) to attribute those to step changes in trend, rather than that variability, that noise.

    I am glad, however, that you seem to finally recognize the difference in framing between current short term low trends on one hand and past short term high trends of even larger magnitudes on the other.
  37. Ben Newell at 17:55 PM on 18 May, 2015
    Dear Richard

    The phenomenon referred to in the final sentence is the "hiatus" or "pause" (which we and others argue/conclude is not one - hence "does not exist") and NOT the short-term fluctuations that have appeared surprising to some (although perhaps not all that surprising given the time scales involved).
  38. @KR at 12:54 PM on 18 May, 2015

    Seriously? A very quick Google Scholar check shows >20,000 articles on "internal climate variability prediction" prior to 2007.


    Actually I'm afraid your Google search criteria does not demonstrate anything of the sort since it is designed to just find those four words in an article in no particular order. I think you will need to do some more work to provide examples of papers before 2007 that specifically mention attempting to predict internal climate variability.

    Maybe there is one?
  39. The paper hinges on showing a change in behaviour of scientists. It is clearly not a neutral anthropological observation about scientist behaviour. The Seepage paper clearly has a preferred value system.

    The Seepage paper claims that the appearance of scientists writing papers using the term "hiatus" or "pause" post 2007, is equivalent to a hypothetical situation of scientists writing papers that use the phrase “out-of-control catastrophic warming” before 2007.

    The Seepage paper doesn't indicate its authors bothered to look for papers that may fit that pre-2007 'catastrophic' criteria, so the authors clearly think that is a pathological, almost comic, idea. As indicated by the evident sarcasm of this sentence:

    We are not aware of two special issues of Nature journals that were devoted to the spectre of “out-of-control catastrophic warming” based on the 15 (or 16) years leading up to 2007.


    It seems when it comes to make a comparison of pathological seepage post 2007 with pre 2007 literature, the authors diligence fades. Their "awareness" of the actual literature pre 2007 is not properly quantified or shown AFAICS .

    Instead the authors make a point about the population (or sample?) of trends since 1970 to 2013 and say that some selected negative z-scores of the trends post 2007 are outweighed in magnitude by the positive z-scores (presumably) seen pre-2007. Implying - why be more bothered about the post 2007 declining trend?

    However the z-score calculations are not shown in any supplementary material, and the precise years selected are not given.

    Again it appears the authors diligence fades when it comes to explore a possible disproof of their hypothesis.

    The deep irony about a paper that claims to show that climate scientists are unduly influenced by a minority unpublished biased lay critics, is that it is evident the paper itself is clearly an exercise in bias overtly intended to wield peer review in an attempt to influence behaviour rather than examine behaviour.

    Maybe the authors of the Seepage paper would have done us all a favour and shown definitively, and finally, why a "pause/hiatus *cannot* exist rather than blankly asserting it does not?
  40. Barry Woods at 20:26 PM on 18 May, 2015
    I would imagine that scientists at the Met Office are refering to the following graph/data, when they discuss a 'slowdown', 'pause', 'lack of warming', hiatus (or whatever word/phrase is 'allowed' for public consumption these days in the media) in surface temperatures

    (not a cherry picked 1970, start date, in a graphic earlier in the comments above)



    Observing a higher decadal rate of warming in the 1980's & 1990's, and a slower decadal rate of surface temperature warming so far this century, scientist seek to explain it, and there have been dozens of papers, with dozens of hypothesis.

    Surface temperature is not the only measure of global warming, but it is (or has been) THE measure of global warming. The 2C political target is that of the surfcae temperature anomaly (1.2C to go!)

    So, when the early decadal forecaset (Met Office) were announced in 2007 with strong predictions of warming by 2014, briefing and advice to governments given on theback of it and subsequently in Dec 2014, were replaced by a flatter trajectory, with the BBC's Roger Harrabin observing that this would suggest 20 yrs of a 'slowdown' in temps, which caused quite a bit of fuss. Researching this phenomenon became of greater media interest, (though scientists had been looking at it for a number of years)

    I'm sure that whatever the surface temperature does, in the next decade, be it pause, plateau, slowdown, warm faster, cool slightly, or whatever. The scientist at the Met Office will not see it as a problem, but be very interested in explaining it..
    It seems more politically minded sociologists and psychologists seem to think it would be a problem.....

    ref from the article above:

    "This matters because political momentum for mitigative action is difficult to sustain or mount while the public believes that there is a “pause” in global warming. Talk of a “pause”, when there is none, therefore has political consequences and, by implication, also carries ethical risks.
  41. Barry Woods at 20:28 PM on 18 May, 2015
    should be Dec13, not Dec14
  42. richard.betts at 08:32 AM on 19 May, 2015
    Hi Ben

    Assertions that "the pause does not exist" depend on an assumption that the global mean surface temperature record is best viewed as a linear trend with fluctuations around it. However it can also be viewed as a series of steps and plateaus. Neither has any intrinsic truth, it is just how we perceive patterns in numbers.

    The concern with the terms "pause", "hiatus", "slowdown" seem to arise from a view that the "public" need to be given very simple messages because they are incapable of thinking for themselves. However, if a member of the public looks at any graph of GMST over the last few decades, they will clearly see that in recent years the change has not been very marked. This is immediately obvious to the eye. Being flatly told that the feature seen in the data simply "does not exist" is, in my opinion, somewhat patronising. Far better to acknowledge what is seen, explain why it has occurred, and point out that it's only one aspect of climate.

    The climate is complicated - we need to come terms with that! Oversimplifying things invariably comes back to haunt you sooner or later. While simple "messaging" may be thought to lead to quick wins, if these messages are later exposed as being too simple and omitting important detail, this can eventually backfire. In the long term, credibility and trust are far more important as a foundation for solid decision-making.
  43. Dr Norman Page at 13:23 PM on 19 May, 2015
    Lewandowsky seems to feel that CAGW is so little supported by the data that any criticism will undermine the ability of the scientists actually working in the field to express their views. On the contrary the weight of the establishment academic herd instinct has ensured that in many cases a "pause" seen in the data is almost invariably accompanied by ad hoc explanations of why the models are on track anyway and assurances that the dreaded warming will soon appear with renewed vigor. The real world situation is quite different as this exchange with Freeman Dyson shows.
    "E-mail 4/7/15

    Dr Norman Page

    Houston

    Professor Dyson

    Saw your Vancouver Sun interview.

    I agree that CO2 is beneficial. This will be even more so in future because it is more likely than not that the earth has already entered a long term cooling trend following the recent temperature peak in the quasi-millennial solar driven periodicity .

    The climate models on which the entire Catastrophic Global Warming delusion rests are built without regard to the natural 60 and more importantly 1000 year periodicities so obvious in the temperature record. The modelers approach is simply a scientific disaster and lacks even average commonsense .It is exactly like taking the temperature trend from say Feb – July and projecting it ahead linearly for 20 years or so. They back tune their models for less than 100 years when the relevant time scale is millennial. This is scientific malfeasance on a grand scale. The temperature projections of the IPCC - UK Met office models and all the impact studies which derive from them have no solid foundation in empirical science being derived from inherently useless and specifically structurally flawed models. They provide no basis for the discussion of future climate trends and represent an enormous waste of time and money. As a foundation for Governmental climate and energy policy their forecasts are already seen to be grossly in error and are therefore worse than useless. A new forecasting paradigm needs to be adopted. For forecasts of the timing and extent of the coming cooling based on the natural solar activity cycles - most importantly the millennial cycle - and using the neutron count and 10Be record as the most useful proxy for solar activity check my blog-post at http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com/2014/07/climate-forecasting-methods-and-cooling.html

    The most important factor in climate forecasting is where earth is in regard to the quasi- millennial natural solar activity cycle which has a period in the 960 – 1020 year range. For evidence of this cycle see Figs 5-9. From Fig 9 it is obvious that the earth is just approaching ,just at or just past a peak in the millennial cycle. I suggest that more likely than not the general trends from 1000- 2000 seen in Fig 9 will likely generally repeat from 2000-3000 with the depths of the next LIA at about 2650. The best proxy for solar activity is the neutron monitor count and 10 Be data. My view ,based on the Oulu neutron count – Fig 14 is that the solar activity millennial maximum peaked in Cycle 22 in about 1991. There is a varying lag between the change in the in solar activity and the change in the different temperature metrics. There is a 12 year delay between the neutron peak and the probable millennial cyclic temperature peak seen in the RSS data in 2003. http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/rss/from:1980.1/plot/rss/from:1980.1/to:2003.6/trend/plot/rss/from:2003.6/trend

    There has been a cooling temperature trend since then (Usually interpreted as a “pause”) There is likely to be a steepening of the cooling trend in 2017- 2018 corresponding to the very important Ap index break below all recent base values in 2005-6. Fig 13.

    The Polar excursions of the last few winters in North America are harbingers of even more extreme winters to come more frequently in the near future.

    I would be very happy to discuss this with you by E-mail or phone .It is important that you use your position and visibility to influence United States government policy and also change the perceptions of the MSM and U.S public in this matter. If my forecast cooling actually occurs the policy of CO2 emission reduction will add to the increasing stress on global food production caused by a cooling and generally more arid climate.

    Best Regards

    Norman Page





    E-Mail 4/9/15

    Dear Norman Page,

    Thank you for your message and for the blog. That all makes sense.
    I wish I knew how to get important people to listen to you. But there is
    not much that I can do. I have zero credibility as an expert on climate.
    I am just a theoretical physicist, 91 years old and obviously out of touch
    with the real world. I do what I can, writing reviews and giving talks,
    but important people are not listening to me. They will listen when the
    glaciers start growing in Kentucky, but I will not be around then. With
    all good wishes, yours ever, Freeman Dyson.

    Email 4/9/15

    Professor Dyson Would you have any objection to my posting our email exchange on my blog?
    > Best Regards Norman Page

    E-Mail 4/9/15

    Yes, you are welcome to post this exchange any way you like. Thank you
    for asking. Yours, Freeman Dyson.
  44. I know this is straying off topic, but I'll do it anyway because it's related.

    @Richard Betts - "The concern with the terms "pause", "hiatus", "slowdown" seem to arise from a view that the "public" need to be given very simple messages because they are incapable of thinking for themselves. "

    No, it's because most members of the general public don't read climate science. Not because people are incapable of thinking. "The public" have a lot more on their plate than climate.

    Plus - it's the simple messages that stick even when they are wrong. eg "No Big Tax".

    "However, if a member of the public looks at any graph of GMST over the last few decades, they will clearly see that in recent years the change has not been very marked."

    You are joking, aren't you? How many members of the public do you think have ever seen, much less taken notice of, "any graph of GMST"? How many people, if you stood in the doorway of Marks & Sparks, would know what the letters GMST stood for?

    Yet you seem to be arguing that messaging surface temperature as a "pause" won't be seen as "global warming has stopped" in the minds of many people. Heck, denier blogs are still posting articles about the impending ice age - as did several newspapers in the UK.

    http://blog.hotwhopper.com/2014/01/alec-rawls-selects-his-science-its-sun.html

    And a denier lobby group in the UK is milking their shonky review of surface temperatures for all they can get from it, to persuade the public that the GMST can't be trusted anyway.

    The climate is complicated. So is education, and health, and law and order and the myriad of things that require a policy response. The climate is not unique in being "complicated".

    However the public want simple direct information. Most people don't have time to become experts in every single matter that affects society, even if they wanted to. How to convey a complicated message simply and directly is for communications experts to figure out.

    The public relies on scientists to get the facts right, and politicians to act accordingly. Most people don't need or want all the details of the complexity. All they want to know is: is there a problem, and if so, what can they do about it. They don't need complications like "GMST" or "pause" therefore "delay" therefore "we don't need to do anything, or not just yet".
  45. I am curious why this feature of the temperature record is being communicated in absolute terms (pause/hiatus/slowdown).

    Why not describe the feature in relative terms, such as deviation, departure or divergence?

    Climate models and reality have been on noticeably diverging trajectories for quite a while now, to me that is something that needs to be explained, in a manner that shows agreement and confidence among the research community.

    As an interested layman, I am disappointed that political activists think the language must be dumbed-down and modified for public consumption.
  46. Lotharsson at 06:15 AM on 20 May, 2015
    I don't think I saw the following notion expressed at Sou's, but haven't time to re-read the whole comment thread there. Apologies if it's an overly duplicated response.

    "The concern with the terms "pause", "hiatus", "slowdown" seem to arise from a view that the "public" need to be given very simple messages because they are incapable of thinking for themselves. "


    Not in my case. My concerns with the terms "pause" and "hiatus" (and to a lesser extent IMO with "slowdown") includes that a significant portion of the majority of the population not only can but demonstrably do interpret "pause" and "hiatus" in precisely the simplistic and misleading fashion that you seem to be suggesting that they will not do.

    And as I have posted at Sou's this misinterpretation is actively aided, abetted and assiduously cultured by professional spin doctors and PR people and those who travel with them. They are not above asking people to eyeball charts and draw inferences from that eyeballing or from very short periods when they find those inferences desirable, regardless of how scientifically valid or invalid those inferences are.

    For example, Björn Lomborg has been in the news lately. He once wrote an article in The Guardian where he pointed out that recent trends in sea level rise had not only (if we were to paraphrase him several years later by adopting the same terminology as is discussed here) paused but even did "show a slight drop". He pointed out to readers that this was "much better than expected" and framed this as something that the public were not being told by "environmental campaigners" and those reporting science in the media. Further, he used that and other examples to raise the notion that if we can't trust the models we can't decide on policy responses to the challenge of global warming. He then argued against that notion on the basis that some indicators were better than expected and should be taken into account in order to make "sensible" or "smart choices", choices that he positioned implicitly in opposition to policies based on (say) the understanding as actually embodied by the IPCC at the time including the understanding provided by those models, and that were positioned explicitly in opposition to the carefully framed alternative of "gambling on cutting CO2 emissions dramatically".

    In case you think this may have been entirely fair comment by Lomborg based on the data at the time, check out the graph showing the portion of the sea level rise record that Lomborg highlighted as paused or even dropped slightly in the image in this post. Ask yourself if his notion that we should pay attention to a trend measured on that basis when we want to "make sensible choices" is scientifically defensible and whether it promotes or hinders sensible policy choices. Then relate that to the current usage outside of scientific circles of the terms "pause" and "hiatus" which are being used to promote even more explicit rejection of climate science understanding than Lomborg's typically more subtle methods embody.

    (If you want to check my claims about his article or analyse how he constructs his persuasion pieces to guide people to inferences that are scientifically dubious check it out here. It's rather interesting to count the number of data sets that you think have been abused to construct it.)
  47. @Lotharsson at 06:15 AM on 20 May, 2015
    If you want to check my claims about [Lomborgs] article or analyse how he constructs his persuasion pieces to guide people to inferences that are scientifically dubious check it out here.

    Thanks I did. I wonder if you did? If not then I could possibly understand your post. You maybe merely relying on the image that Greg Laden uses that shows Lomborg's quote by omitting Lomborgs initial "Moreover," and moving along his sentence to start at a capitalised "Over the last two years..."

    Having context helps here I think. Lomborgs full quote regarding sea level is this (my emphasis):
    We are constantly inundated with stories of how sea levels will rise, and how one study after another finds that it will be much worse than what the IPCC predicts. But most models find results within the IPCC range of a sea-level increase of 18-59cm (7-23in) this century. This is of course why the thousands of IPCC scientists projected that range. Yet studies claiming one metre or more obviously make for better headlines.

    Since 1992, we have had satellites measuring the rise in global sea levels, and they have shown a stable increase of 3.2mm per year (1/8 of an inch) – spot on compared to the IPCC projection. Moreover, over the last two years, sea levels have not increased at all – actually, they show a slight drop. Should we not be told that this is much better than expected?

    Anyone can now see from the full Lomborg statement above, he is talking about stories asserting sea level rise will be worse than the IPCC predictions. The point Lomborg makes is clearly that the proven accuracy of the IPCC is being overlooked in preference for exagerattion. So it is clear for anyone capable of thinking for themselves his point about what makes "better headlines" is of mind when he rhetorically asks whether the recent (in 2008) 2 year decline should be not be depicted as better than expected.

    Lomborgs irony here may be too clumsy or too arch for some, but when shown the full context I think claiming it is actually Lomborg propagandizing for the public to expect sea level to fall pushes credulity too far.
  48. Lotharsson at 16:32 PM on 20 May, 2015
    I wonder if you did?


    Indeed. If I had merely relied on the quote at Greg Laden's blog as you suggested might be the case, then I wouldn't have bothered to direct readers to the article.

    I don't want to spend a lot of time on analysing specific examples of abusing "pauses" because it can rapidly get way off topic, but I think it's important to at least point out that the example I gave appears to be valid. In doing so I certainly agree that having the full context here helps.

    Lomborg starts out right up front in his article by positioning "environmental campaigners" as "almost inevitably say[ing]...what we are seeing is even worse than expected". In contrast Lomborg pitches expectations arising from scientific understanding (if it's sufficiently well developed) as having a distinctly different relation to observations: we "would expect that...things are sometimes worse and sometimes better than we expected, and that the most likely distribution would be about 50-50." So it's already clear that Lomborg is defining expected outcomes for observations to be what a reasonably developed scientific understanding expects.

    He then deploys the first example of the rhetorical pattern in the quote you provided when discussing surface temperature data "this decade" (i.e. the 8 years or so to the time of writing). His definition of expected observations for the 8 years of surface temperature arises in this quote:

    An average of all 38 available standard runs from the IPCC shows that models expect a temperature increase in this decade of about 0.2C.


    This is a pretty mainstream definition (providing that we set some issues that aren't germane to his definition of expectation, e.g. the apparent fallacies of conflating projections with predictions, of using the average and ignoring the confidence intervals and of treating models that weren't expected to model natural variability in surface temperature in detail especially over periods as short as 8 years as doing so).

    He then quite clearly uses this definition as his benchmark in the immediately following paragraph as there is no other implicit or explicit notion of expected for surface (or satellite) temperature observations to be found in the piece:

    Temperatures in this decade have not been worse than expected; in fact, they have not even been increasing. They have actually decreased by between 0.01 and 0.1C per decade. On the most important indicator of global warming, temperature development, we ought to hear that the data are actually much better than expected.


    In other words he never even mentions temperature projections that lie outside the IPCC range, let alone position projections that lie outside as the expected outcome that observations should be compared to.

    Next he repeats the pattern when talking about Antartic sea ice where his expected outcome for observations is again defined by reference to the IPCC models with no mention of anything he positions as an outlier study:

    IPCC models would expect declining sea ice in both hemispheres but, whereas the Arctic is doing worse than expected, Antarctica is doing better.


    When we come to the quote you provided about sea level rise observations, we see the same pattern repeated and expanded. The first quoted paragraph explicitly sets up the correct expectation as being the IPCC predictions, just like the other expectations in the article:

    "...one study after another finds that it will be much worse than what the IPCC predicts."


    This comparison of study expectations to IPCC expectations is used to position studies that lie outside those expectations as outliers in order to suggest that (in line with the main thesis of the article) they are getting far too much press due to being outliers. Lomborg could not make that suggestion if he were positioning the outliers as the correct expectation for comparisons with observations!

    Next, that definition of expectations for sea level rise observations is restated and reinforced in the next paragraph where the trend in sea level observations since 1992 is said to be:

    "...spot on compared to the IPCC projection."


    This is the only explicit comparison in the piece between observations and expectations for sea level rise, and it is definitely not a comparison to the "outlier" study projections. Furthermore the "moreover" comparison of satellite observations since 1992 links directly to that explicit comparison (that being the usual function of a sentence beginning with "moreover"). Moreover(!) the "moreover" comparison clearly links conceptually to that explicit comparison because it's the very same comparison except that it's now restricted to a subset of the observations since 1992 (as highlighted in the image at Greg Laden's blog). Finally, the "this" in "this is better than expected" links directly to the "moreover" observations and hence refers to a comparison with the IPCC projections.

    Accordingly I submit that your interpretation of "better than expected" as being a comparison to studies that "make better headlines" is not consistent with the article itself.
  49. @Lotharsson at 16:32 PM on 20 May, 2015
    I don't want to spend a lot of time on analysing specific examples of abusing "pauses" because it can rapidly get way off topic...

    I don't see why not since alleged "pause" abuse is the topic of the Seepage paper discussed here.

    Also especially since in the Lomborg article you've brought to the discussion you can see Lomborg is doing something very similar to the Seepage authors in his article, he is alleging that certain types of trends are being over reported (my emphasis).

    Have you noticed how environmental campaigners almost inevitably say that not only is global warming happening and bad, but also that what we are seeing is even worse than expected?

    This is odd, because any reasonable understanding of how science proceeds would expect that, as we refine our knowledge, we find that things are sometimes worse and sometimes better than we expected, and that the most likely distribution would be about 50-50. Environmental campaigners, however, almost invariably see it as 100-0.

    Lomborgs' single point in his article has some similarity to the Seepage paper, albeit in the opposite direction of emphasis: Lomborg is saying that we only hear in the media about catastrophe and it never lets up, contrary to any reasonable expectation
    If we are regularly being surprised in just one direction, if our models get blindsided by an ever-worsening reality, that does not bode well for our scientific approach.

    The Seepage paper, instead, is claiming that climate scientists are over-discussing a "pause" when the trend declines, and saying they never reported a "catastrophe" when the trend was rising. As indicated by the Seepage authors sarcasm here :
    We are not aware of two special issues of Nature journals that were devoted to the spectre of “out-of-control catastrophic warming” based on the 15 (or 16) years leading up to 2007.

    Your careful iteration of where Lomborg is repeating a "pattern" in his article is only you noticing that Lomborg provides examples throughout his piece for the "sometimes better than we expected" trends that have been missed.

    Perhaps you only need to just understand the very simple "rhetorical pattern" of Lomborg saying "we rarely hear" throughout his piece and not assume he is saying "we should only hear" when he is not saying that?

    So when we come to your assertion that Lomborg repeats a "pattern" when he discusses sea level rise, this only indicates you really can't see the underlying point of his article as highlighted by your grammatical analysis here:
    Moreover(!) the "moreover" comparison clearly links conceptually to that explicit comparison because it's the very same comparison except that it's now restricted to a subset of the observations since 1992 (as highlighted in the image at Greg Laden's blog).

    "Moreover," (note with a comma) at the start of a sentence is a conjunctive adverb, indicating that it is attached in conjunction with something before it: i.e. in this case a sentence saying that since 1992 the IPCC has been "spot on". In no way does Lomborg undermine the IPCC but uses the recent 2 year "subset" and then rhetorically asks if that should that be reported as better than expected.

    I suggest you should do a little thought experiment; look again at Greg Ladens image with the fabricated quote and imagine it instead replaced with the full meaning intended by that conjunction here:
    Since 1992, we have had satellites measuring the rise in global sea levels, and they have shown a stable increase of 3.2mm per year (1/8 of an inch) – spot on compared to the IPCC projection. Moreover, over the last two years, sea levels have not increased at all – actually, they show a slight drop. Should we not be told that this is much better than expected?

    Anyone capable of thinking for themselves would then see the quote against the image and see the point is rhetorical and would want to know the previous context it related too. I.e Lomborgs whole point of exaggeration in one direction against "better than expected".

    Or would you prefer not to do that and rather accept the fabrication?
  50. Lotharsson at 22:09 PM on 20 May, 2015
    Your careful iteration of where Lomborg is repeating a "pattern" in his article is only you noticing that Lomborg provides examples throughout his piece for the "sometimes better than we expected" trends that have been missed.

    That is incorrect on two grounds. Firstly, it was me analysing examples of Lomborg defining expectations (as he used the term) because you disputed the definition as I understood it.

    Secondly and more importantly his allegations that "sometimes better than we expected" trends are missed are all or almost all fallacious. They rely on underlying claims without scientific merit (as the image at Greg Laden's blog clearly points out in graphical form). No one with scientific competence would honestly declare a less than two year sea level trend "better than expected" because they understand that non-trend factors including natural variability swamps the trend over such short time scales. That means that observations simply cannot be validly compared to expectations that by definition do not include the effect of those non-trend factors over those kinds of time scales.

    And that meritlessness undermines most if not all of the basis for Lomborg's criticism of what he alleges was not being heard but should have been (quite apart from other issues with his argument). Indeed, that leads me back to my point for introducing his article. That was to illustrate those who:

    ...[ask] people to eyeball charts and draw inferences from that eyeballing or from very short periods when they find those inferences desirable, regardless of how scientifically valid or invalid those inferences are.

    I chose the article specifically because it provided a great example of inappropriately short periods being used to suggest inappropriate inferences to a non-scientific audience! The article chides the press (at least) for "missing", i.e. not reporting, certain unscientific characterisations of scientific data as if they were scientifically valid characterisations (and also encourages readers to assume that policy proposals are too pessimistic on that same fallacious basis). In other words I grokked the "single point" you suggest that I must not be getting and chose the article because that point amongst others was justified by an invalid inference.

    Moreover," (note with a comma) at the start of a sentence is a conjunctive adverb, indicating that it is attached in conjunction with something before it...

    ...which seems to be entirely in agreement with what I wrote. However you've carefully elided the other reasons that one cannot interpret that sentence as being a comparison to studies Lomborg paints as outliers, along with the continuation that highlights the key difference between our interpretations. My continuation noted that the only reasonable way I can see to interpret the very next sentence containing "better than expected" is as commentary on the previous sentence - not commentary on the last sentence of the previous paragraph - as the construction of both the paragraph and the central argument of the entire article demonstrates.

    ...look again at Greg Ladens image with the fabricated quote...

    The quote itself is word for word accurate except for "past" being substituted for "last" which doesn't significantly change the meaning. Accordingly your allegation of fabrication is somewhere between very pedantic and false. Probably the best you could do to improve that claim is to argue that there should have been a leading ellipsis because "Moreover, ..." was omitted, but that would be another very pedantic objection. You might try to argue (as the rest of your comment suggests you are) that it's taken out of context but I have already written more than enough to explain my basis for rejecting that claim. Hence:

    I suggest you should do a little thought experiment...

    I did. And my thinking for myself did not reach the conclusion you advocate, for reasons previously explained in more than sufficient detail.

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