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Ken Fabian

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Posts posted by Ken Fabian

  1. I'm not sure I have the background to give a capable critique. As an interested layperson I would note that I expect the opportunities for variant forms to survive would be greater in the 'recovery' period, regardless of mutation rates; less competition and less predation initially even if later on those would rise. It's distinguishing the greater variation from unchanged mutation rates in a changed environment with unexploited niches from greater variation from changed mutation rates that would seem to make or break this paper.


    On a smaller scale this variation of mutation rate ought to be present locally and regionally wherever significant environmental change occurs - ie there ought to be observable examples.


    I also wonder if it's actually the case that the surviving, initial mix of species can be considered poorly adapted; certainly they were better adapted to survive the crisis period and whilst some might have gotten here by scavenging on resources that won't be replenished others may thrive in the new environment even if it's absence of competition that gives them the opportunity. Those opportunists, successfully spreading in the presence of opportunity, seem most likely to be the progenitors of new species regardless of the potential for later variants to become their greatest competition.

  2. Some people are thinking about colonising other planets - with the numbers likely to be much higher amongst members of a forum like this than within the population at large - but I personally have serious doubts about the feasibility or benefits of such enterprises. An Antarctic colony looks a lot more achievable, with the advantage of not having to build an entire specialised high tech infrastructural foundation to launch it and support it with, yet I doubt it would work either except as an expensive experiment; it's not likely to contribute much to it's own economic viability. As an exercise in R&D by wealthier, advanced economies that can afford it, a remote base in a hostile Earthly environment may yield some benefits that other means like modelling can't deliver, but real colonies require tangible benefits and financial viability or else they fail to get the investment and other backing they require. Antarctica as a test might be affordable by an EU, or USA or China, but I'm not convinced it can really tell us much about the viability of colonies on other planets.


    My own view is that unless and until we see some extraordinary tech advances, human occupancy of space will only exist as outposts of an Earth economy, an economy more advanced than it is now supporting space activities that provide direct, tangible benefits to that economy. The conditions for such a future depend on sorting out some serious issues down here on Earth, or else the necessary economic base won't be there. Colonies raising their symbolic middle fingers to Earth and all that paid their way, in the style of 'Red Mars', seems unlikely fantasy based on presumptions of extraordinary technological capabilities ie that they can survive without ongoing external support. Self sufficiency, when the minimum threshold technology for basic survival is something well beyond the external supports underpinning activities in the most hostile environments on Earth, looks problematic.

  3. Eldad Eshel, had you not mentioned psychosis this discussion probably would not be proceeding as it is. I don't think that admission is sufficient reason to disbelieve your account and being disbelieved appears to be one of the ways those who suffer from mental illnesses are often discriminated against; according to a friend who spent time in a Psych hospital, the first thing that happened was staff treated what he told them as unreliable, even what was relevant. I don't think what you are describing is less believable than some of the forms of verbal abuse I've witnessed or been subjected to; those could be described and discussed by me, probably without being suspected of being delusional. I think ordinary 'sane' lying and deception is a far more common form of unreliability than psychosis and delusion.


    What you are describing sounds like the sort of verbal abuse that people who are territorial might use for strangers or outsiders although you didn't indicate that was the case. My brother described visiting an ethnic part of an Indian city where the men wore traditional dress that include a big knife/small sword; at his appearance hands went to those and some kind of clasps were audibly being unclipped. Accompanied by hostile glares. What you describe could be a kind of provocative bad behaviour that has become locally popular for the same reasons and lack of reasons other provocative bad behaviours have. As disturbing as "A f**k or a fight!" addressed, with obvious sincerity, to everyone who passes by?

  4. Daecon, if "we" are still relying on fossil fuels for the larger part of our energy needs 100 years from now and are treating availability rather than advisability as the real limit, I think "we" - our descendants - will be in serious trouble. Being so cheap that it's preferred over, and limits the uptake of low emissions alternatives may well be the very opposite of "well" or "good.

  5. The enormous potential value of improved energy storage has become so clear it will ensure innovation gets supported. It impacts the takeup of renewables as well as electric vehicles and there is good cause to believe that significant improvements are in the pipeline. Advances in one will feed advances in the other - and right now they are on a roll and gathering momentum.


    I think it's unrealistic to expect manufacture of renewables or EV's or other alernatives to be anything but a reflection of the energy mix of the day; the extent that transport becomes low emissions all the way down the chain will depend on how much of the energy mix is low emissions. How rapidly that kind of change can happen isn't clear however I suggest that when options like wind, solar, wave or tidal reach and pass competitive price points the rate of uptake can be expected to accelerate; extrapolation from historic trends, from prior to passing those price points, is going to be very misleading.


    I don't think the price of oil is going to be a serious problem for the growth of electric vehicle use. Oil's price volatility is, by itself, a serious problem, no matter that it might be periodically cheaper. Are we, and most importantly the big investors and lenders, willing to bet on it staying cheap when we know it's capable of dramatic fluctuations? As better batteries make their way into new generations of vehicles the advantages are going to be hard to ignore; reliability, low maintenance and capability for taking advantage of low cost recharge options like oversized home PV systems or just plain old low cost off peak. In combination with smart home energy systems and management systems the storage in an EV can be utilised to maximum advantage.


    Grand fixes like fusion just don't look realistic to me - if it's so hard to do that the combined best efforts of the world's most technologically advanced nations are struggling to make it work then it's likely it will continue to be very difficult and expensive for the foreseeable future. Large scale, all out fixes, even with tried and tested technologies - like fission - require the kind of strong bipartisan commitment that climate science denial and obstructionism undermines; being capable of incremental deployment in an uncertain and divided political climate is one of the strengths of renewables.


    Unproven fusion looks unsuitable for rapid deployment in the remote parts of the world that are not technologically advanced; they need options that are usable now to avoid sinking big money into fossil fuel plant that locks in decades of future emissions growth and has high likelihood of becoming stranded assets. I think the kind of funding that fusion has got must make other energy R&D projects, many with much more widely applicable and achievable goals envious; I wouldn't like to see it abandoned but I would like to see energy storage R&D, for example, get similar levels of funding and support.

  6. all2015.jpeg?w=500&h=332

    I never bought into the claim that there has been a Pause or Hiatus in global warming - it looked obvious to me that global warming overlays a lot of variability and that variability in surface temperatures is more than capable of ups and downs lasting as long or longer than a period as short as from 1998 to 2014. I think Ocean heat content shows the change in global heat balance more directly and clearly than surface temperatures and shows much less year to year, decade to decade variability. It never showed any warming Hiatus -




    When known causes of temperature variability were taken into account - most of all ENSO, which was dominated during the 'hiatus' period by cooling La Nina rather than warming el Nino - there was clear and sound reason to expect surface temperatures to show less warming in the post 1998 decade than the decade preceding. If warming from enhanced greenhouse had really stopped then the known conditions were there for significant drop in surface temperature - which didn't happen. That was because of an underlying trend of temperature rise averaging about 0.15 C per decade that didn't pause at all.


    Surface temperatures going up and down in equal measure (over a sufficient period of time, climate scientist seeming to prefer 30 years or longer) is what no warming looks like. Up with less down is what warming looks like. Up with no down at all is a lot of warming. Up without only more up - which looks like the minimum for many of those people who refuse to accept mainstream climate science to concede that there really is any global warming - is actually very rapid warming. I don't know that continuous warming year on year is likely or even possible - ENSO can change the average surface temperature by 10 times the current warming trend in a single year. ENSO's influence averages out given enough time (say 20 to 30 years). temperature adjusted for the approximate known amount that ENSO skews temperatures one way or the other looks like this (and it pushes temperatures down as much as up) and shows no post 1998 "Pause" or "Hiatus" -




    No Hiatus, no Warming Pause, just variability overlaying a persistent warming trend.

  7. Clothing does have social meaning and the expectations with respect to appropriate dress are remarkably strong. Personally I find some of it mystifying - but dressing cheaply and practically, as I tend to do conveys a social message too; seems I'm unlikely to rise beyond my lowly station and show no real pretensions for wanting to. Appearances may not be everything but it seems they count for a lot; dressing inappropriately for status and venue can have real consequences, even for people who are competent and confident, so most people feel strong social pressure to make the effort.


    And what's with The Suit and it's essential accessory, The Tie? For more than a century this uniform for adult male respectability has prevailed, with surprisingly little change - even people wealthy and powerful enough that they should not feel bound by any dress code seem to be bound, or at least find it advantageous, to abide by that one. The smallest differences in The Suit and The Tie are treated as significant. People do change skin colour - getting tanned or avoiding sunlight are both common to maintain a preferred appearance. Then there is make-up and hair style. Which are usually carefully coordinated with clothing.

  8. How much violence and cruelty involves people believing the victims deserve it? Consider popular television shows where quite horrific acts of violence against people that we are shown, usually clearly and unequivocally, are 'bad' are the major points of gratification for viewers. When viewers know who the perpetrator is, having a cop break in without a warrant, beat them to get crucial information, lock them in a cell with a brutal rapist, is no longer a violation of the rights of someone who should be subject to trial, with a presumption of innocence, but somehow becomes an acceptable and even an admirable act. I suspect too much of the worst violence humans have committed has been done with the conviction that they deserved it and is celebrated at least as much as it is condemned.


    I recall reading about a study (sorry i can't find the source) that showed people got pleasure responses when seeing a thief being punished; it was shown to be very satisfying to see the bad guy get his just desserts. Except that, in reality the thief and victim were actors. Fortunately the punishment was not real either, otherwise people would be getting pleasure from harm done to innocent actors for doing their job. Unfortunately, in reality there is no thorough investigation and weighing of evidence required for an individual to get such an emotional response; just someone saying 'they did it' can be enough. Just being the wrong ethnicity or religion and similar in appearance to such an individual can too often be enough. War and the marketing of war involves this kind of feelings of gratification from violence against people who are deemed bad and community support is underpinned by clearly portraying the enemy as deserving what happens.


    It makes me a firm supporter of rules of law, accountability, due process and open, public access to information. It disturbs me to see the popularising of the avenging vigilante - or secret agencies - who exacts 'justice' outside the law. And disturbed that the long lasing and societally damaging consequences of people and groups taking the law into their own hands are so rarely portrayed and examined.

  9. MountainGarden, the enhanced greenhouse from burning fossil fuels adds something like (according to Franner 2009) 100 times more heat than the total 'waste heat' from combustion and energy use. Another study by Zhang and Caldeira puts the total heat gain over the estimated period of raised CO2 levels much higher, at more than 100,000X - I'm not sure what to make of that except to say it's surprising and disturbing.


    Wherever they are placed, solar power systems should reduce that enhanced greenhouse component. During a transition, and depending on where they are made, manufacture will still be adding GHG's - most likely at rates reflective of the energy mix present, so at 100,000X that could remain significant until low emissions energy is closer to 100%. And if we acknowledge the need to stabilise climate that - or negative emissions - appears to be the required goal. If there were 100% terrestrial renewables that should leave us with zero net gain from waste heat. Nuclear would continue to add heat. If space solar is in low orbit, it will shade the world below most of the time it's in sunlight, but, given some period of operation during periods when it neither shades the world below nor is shaded by it it would add some small proportion of energy that otherwise wouldn't reach the atmosphere. Higher orbits would make change the proportion.


    Whilst I hesitate to say waste heat is insignificant it barely rates compared to far more significant enhanced greenhouse and other problems around energy/emission/climate.

  10. After thinking about it -


    As a PR exercise for their aerospace industry - a bit like a formula 1 car is for an automotive manufacturer - it may have some value.



    - that seems improbable; such a project would far exceed total turnover of a not very profitable industry (or at least of the space element of a aerospace industry), unlike F1 which uses a relatively small portion of total turnover. An attempt to get a big, enduring commitment of government support?


    ...it's a really good training of how we can establish bases on other celestial objects and it will be of extreme use if we do plan on colonising the space



    Pavelcherepan, given that I think the viability as well as benefits of space colonisation are vastly overstated (especially with respect to the difficulties and costs) I don't think a lunar base as a training exercise is good value. I don't doubt that there are plenty of people with unbounded optimism and enthusiasm for human expansion into space here - it seems like the sort of forum that would attract them. I'm not convinced it's based on realistic assessments of those difficulties and costs.

  11. There isn't much science to do there apart from geology (lunology?) that wouldn't be better done elsewhere. That may lead to discovery of mineral resources beyond those already known - refractory elements like magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron and titanium mostly and mostly not in short supply plus some potential for platinum group metals - but exploiting them involves the development of entire systems of transport, construction, mining and refining that currently don't exist, for an environment more hostile than any exploited on Earth. The requirements would be somewhere beyond current cutting edge and could be presumed to be prohibitively expensive.


    As a PR exercise for their aerospace industry - a bit like a formula 1 car is for an automotive manufacturer - it may have some value. Some extending knowledge for it's own sake could add some more - if they can afford such extravagances.The afficionados of space tech will get thrilled, perhaps imagining this will bring their optimistic dreams of inhabiting space a bit closer. I remain very doubtful such optimism is well grounded - an abundance of resources and opportunities are one thing, exploiting them successfully is another.

  12. I have to begin by saying I'm very doubtful of the feasibility of space based solar as any kind of, let alone an all encompassing energy solution for terrestrial use. I admit I'm even a bit doubtful of Mike Smith Cosmos' motivations for this proposition -


    ...in danger of stripping our store of energy reserves dry.



    Mike, I would say climate change is a more compelling and urgent reason for a global energy transition than the danger of running out of energy resources. Do you accept that, rather than the danger of running our energy resources dry the need to leave the greater part of fossil fuel resources in the ground is the most immediate - and unless carbon capture and storage becomes financially feasible, permanent - constraint on those resources?


    Although efforts towards that energy transition are a long way from adequate, as a motivation to urgently look beyond fossil fuels, climate does have strong basis in science and evidence. Much more so in my view than any hypothetical impending energy shortage. When it comes to mobilising support for seriously big, visionary projects motivation is an essential ingredient. My own view is that failure to mobilise the support - community, government and corporate - for that essential goal has been a serious constraint and impediment to the transition away from fossil fuels; a grand and visionary approach like a Space Based Solar Power System (SBPS), much like capital intensive big nuclear, is especially vulnerable to a lack of clear commitment to that fundamental goal.


    There have been broad, comprehensive and well credentialled studies of our energy options and space based solar hasn't emerged as the standout best option. I'm not sure it really rates as a serious option at all. I know that such an energy transition will involve significant commitments made without future certainty but Space Based Power Systems are entirely hypothetical and to be viable, look to be predicated on a pre-investment in other entirely hypothetical technologies such as space elevators or other novel and untried launch systems. I would note that I would find it disturbing to discover that the concerns people have about the climate consequences of our energy choices are being co-opted and we are misled into commitments to unproven and potentially uneconomical energy solutions by people with unbounded optimism and enthusiasm for space projects, for whom that space capability rather than energy/emissions/climate solutions, is the primary motivation.


    Renewable energy options down here on Earth may have their limitations, but for the most part they are not hypothetical. Importantly they can be trialled and introduced incrementally without those very large pre-investments that a space based approach requires. They are approaching or passing price points that make them viable commercial competitors to fossil fuels even without the climate consequences and costs being factored into the economics - and it doesn't look like the well of innovation is anywhere near running dry. The intermittency issues are real and challenging but I suggest they are not uncrossable barriers. As for nuclear, I have my own reservations about rapid, massive global expansion of it's use, and whilst I have no doubt it will have a significant place in a global low emissions energy mix it has some real barriers, economic as well as security and political, that put it at severe disadvantage. Later perhaps, in an appropriate thread - not here.


    As far as space based energy goes, it occurs to me that any feasible means of beaming energy down from orbit would have the potential to beam energy up from Earth, over and down again someplace else. Some places have energy excesses. Siting solar or wind or tidal to maximum effect would be enhanced by better transmission methods. Proponents of SBPS might took more closely at the feasibility of such technologies for a global energy transmission grid and avoid the need for launching all the other stuff. I would note that the losses from proposed microwave systems which seem to be most favoured, are still significant and transmitting energy thrice - up, over and down - would exacerbate that. Long wave radio seems to be hypothetical and being low frequency, it intrinsically carries less power and doesn't look suitable. Laser might work better in any space to space transmission with potentially lower energy losses so it might be possible to rely on microwaves only twice for up and down.


    However I do remain very doubtful; wind and solar may have been unrealistic as more than a niche even a decade ago but they now comprise more than half all new generation being built. Energy storage may have been solar and wind's poor relation but that is not the case any more; we are better placed than ever to develop a combination of intermittent renewables, distribution and storage systems adequate to our requirements. These are all on something of a roll and far from hitting barriers they are gaining momentum; grand, visionary - most especially the more speculative options - have a long way to go to even get any kind of foot in the door.

  13. I don't mind debating some specifics of climate science, but when debating with people expressing mistrust in our institutions and practices of science and will not accept the advice from, for example, long running and respected organisations such US Academy of Sciences or Royal Society or World Meteorological Organisation or, dare I say it, the IPCC then I doubt there is much I could say that would persuade them. Whilst it's worthwhile to distinguish between the real, the perceived and the politically contrived grounds for doubt and attempt - as I and I'm sure others see it - to correct some of the more egregious misunderstandings and errors, it's not really what I wanted from this thread.


    I've been repeating myself with respect to my views on the appropriateness of accepting the work of professional scientists who are working within our institutions and frameworks of science - in my opinion the unfairly maligned "appeals to authority", ie deferring by those who aren't such experts to those who are. My interest has been driven in large part by my concerns over long running inadequacies in responding to the science based understanding of climate and climate change - more usually climate politics than climate science. My view is that doubt/scepticism is widely misused and misapplied and contributes a lot to Doubt, Deny, Delay climate politics, by providing a sciency sounding justification for withholding commitment and obstructing policy appropriate to the science based knowledge and advice.


    Given it's the road blocks at the intersections of science, politics and policy that I see as problematic for making emissions/energy/climate policy based on the science based advice I'm inclined towards taking the discussion beyond the scope of the 'hard science' section of the forum. Further discussing the use of doubt/scepticism as a tool of persuasion for undermining community trust in science, rather than as a scientific method that ought to reinforce it would take us into politics. If I understand correctly, as a relatively new participant here I would not be permitted to start a thread on climate politics in "Politics"?

  14. Willie71 @80 said -


    No one is suggesting that an authority be accepted without question because of their authority.



    Except perhaps me? Although I wouldn't state it quite like that; there are some caveats. Expert advice, professionally given by appropriate experts may be open to question but not by anyone and everyone. In some cases to fail to accept it can constitute professional negligence.


    I think for most people there is no reasonable option but to accept appropriate expert advice. Not because authorities are beyond question, but because most people lack the necessary competencies for questioning to effectively to resolve doubts and distinguish between those with a sound basis and those arising from inadequate understanding. Accepting expert advice is a practical - and responsible - way to deal rationally with issues raised by 'authorities'.


    Whilst it's certainly reasonable and for those within a professional field - even necessary - to question and confirm what's valid, I question the extent to which those outside it can question effectively without impeding their capacity to deal rationally and effectively with issues raised. And I question whether, when the issues raised are directly relevant to lives and economies, any 'right' let alone obligation exists for those in positions of trust and responsibility, who are required to make decisions relevant to those issues, lives and economies, to question appropriate expert advice from scientific 'authorities'. As I've said there is legal precedent and potential for legal actions over negligence for failure to pay attention to expert advice, but whilst it's not yet become explicit with respect to climate science, I think the ethical basis for legal precedents involving other kinds of expert advice is there.


    From outside we can determine a lot - for example whether what one authority says is consistent with that of his/her peers or if there is ongoing uncertainty over specific issues and find what has stood up to repeated expert review and questioning. We can learn what is a matter of ongoing investigation and debate within a specialty and why. From outside it is even possible that real issues that are overlooked can be brought to light but unless it's addressed to those within it or with oversight, like professional publications or ethical and professional standards committees, boards of review or the like it's going to get intermixed with the mess that is political and partisan debate and influencing of public opinion.


    To doubt the integrity of climate scientists, their methods and of the systems of oversight as a rule of thumb is likewise something that I think inappropriate for most people. Personally I think our institutions and practices of science have well and truly earned respect and trust. Because of the culture of keeping records and having those openly available, open to review any ongoing errors, misunderstandings and failures of standards will be difficult to sustain and therefore there is a sound basis for extending such trust. And I would be very surprise if Presidents and Prime Ministers and the like, who have often publicly exhibited their doubts and held partisan political positions on climate policy haven't asked, via the investigative authorities and powers at their disposal, if any entrenched misconducts or failures of professional standards, or conspiracies have been going on within our institutions and practices of science in order to expose them. And make ongoing political use of such evidence. I see plenty of accusations but I don't see little if any such evidence. On the contrary.

  15. Tantalus, if you won't accept that climate modelling is a valid way to figure the possible and likely consequence of emissions, how do you think we should make some kind of judgement and proceed?


    From my perspective I see pretty much every major study or report, from every institution that studies climate, every peak science body and every Academy of Sciences saying it's real, it's serious and it's urgent. There are also a lot of uncertainties that are not, in my view, glossed over. They include the possibility that impacts may be less severe than some kind of average of models and projections. But I think uncertainty leaves open the possibility that they may be much more severe.


    Taking no actions until we know better is in reality continuing to take strong actions - gigatonnes a year of fossil fuel burning - on the basis that we just don't know. Yet claiming we just don't know looks like a choice, one that involves withholding acceptance of the validity of the body of knowledge science has accumulated so far. For those not working professionally it's a free choice; only those bound by professional codes of conduct have any obligations that preclude believing and saying whatever they want.


    To what extent should your personal doubts be grounds for withholding acceptance of the professional work of others - work that National Academies and Meteorological organistions consider valid? And to what extent should that withheld acceptance be the basis in turn of political opposition to policy that treats the mainstream advice as valid?

  16. Whilst I think it's unrealistic for individuals to do a competent and complete review of a multi-faceted field like climate science I think that mistakes, misunderstanding and misrepresentations can be usually be recognised easily enough. I have tried to be reasonably well informed, whilst not claiming any status as expert. I think the use of doubt, misapplied and not accompanied by adequate competent investigation is inappropriate and as likely to lead to error as not.



    Note that key evidence for dangerous levels of warming are based almost solely on computer modelling (and only some of their scenarios). Thus far for whatever reasons the models have failed to predict the last 15 years accurately.



    Tantalus I think any suggestion that computer modelling should line up within timescales of 15 years and are failures if they don't is a misunderstanding or, when from people who know better, a misrepresentation. They have never been claimed (except by people who want to criticise them for doing something they were never intended or expected to do) to predict internal climate variability on that scale by those developing and using them. It's a bit like claiming that modelling of temperature changes through Spring, based on the axial tilt theory of seasons, that shows that on average each Spring day will be warmer than the one before, is wrong if each and every day is not warmer, and further, that the whole axial tilt theory must be wrong if there is a couple of weeks of cooler than average Spring temperatures. Sorry but I'm not impressed so far with your ability to evaluate the validity of climate modelling if you don't see that natural variability from ocean oscillations means trends averaged from many model runs will never - and should never be expected to - line up with temperature records over short time scales like 15years.


    The process of averaging... smooths the trend line, but each model run has ups, downs, pauses, accelerations of global average temperature, very often exceeding those of the past 15 years. Failing to look at the natural variations, principally the ocean oscillations and their phases, that underpin shorter term variability, when evaluating how well models performed, ie comparing the averages of many models with phases averaging to flat, rather than those that had those phases closest to what actually occurred, is not evidence of failure of modelling but of failures of competent and honest evaluation of them.


    Natural variation from just one climate variable alone - ENSO - can shift the global average temperature more than 10 years worth of global warming between one year and the next and even one or two more el Nino years than la Nina or vise versa within such a 15 year period will skew a trend up or down from any longer term average. ENSO resists prediction much beyond the following year. They appear in models and model runs in different sequences and strengths, yet looking back at the model runs that chanced to put the phases for ENSO nearest to what actually occurred, showed global warming close to what actually occurred. ie the modelling did not fail at all.


    From Abstract for Nature paper "Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase" (paywalled unfortunately but a news article discusses it here)



    The question of how climate model projections have tracked the actual evolution of global mean surface air temperature is important in establishing the credibility of their projections. Some studies and the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report suggest that the recent 15-year period (1998–2012) provides evidence that models are overestimating current temperature evolution. Such comparisons are not evidence against model trends because they represent only one realization where the decadal natural variability component of the model climate is generally not in phase with observations. We present a more appropriate test of models where only those models with natural variability (represented by El Niño/Southern Oscillation) largely in phase with observations are selected from multi-model ensembles for comparison with observations. These tests show that climate models have provided good estimates of 15-year trends, including for recent periods and for Pacific spatial trend patterns.




    The authors' conclusion?


    When the phase of natural variability is taken into account, the model 15-year warming trends in CMIP5 projections well estimate the observed trends for all 15-year periods over the past half-century.



    It's certainly possible to reference work we aren't personally able to verify and understand why some doubts are not well founded in fact. It does rely on my trusting that the Nature paper is accurately published, was peer reviewed by people with relevant skills and does not misrepresent the models that it references.

  17. Overtone, I think there is no reasonable option except to trust in our institutions of science. Not out of faith, but as something earned. Expert 'opinion' from working scientists comes with obligations for relevance, honesty and accuracy. For those who hold public - or corporate - office, there are similar obligations around responsibility and trust. Popular opinion, or that of self appointed 'experts', which have no such obligations, simply aren't good enough.


    Tantalus, I'm glad I managed to not misrepresent your views. Just to be clear I think the risks of failure to adequately reduce emissions in a timely manner look to be greater than the foregone economic growth from doing so. More importantly that appears to be consistent with the expert advice commissioned by and for governments.


    Doing and not doing, action and inaction can be inverted in these discussions. We are taking 'strong' actions in burning fossil fuels at multi- gigatonne per annum rates and dumping the combustion products into the atmosphere without restraint. There really isn't any default 'no action' position that has no consequences and no risk. We can argue the level of confidence in understanding the consequences and we can argue about the risks, but whatever we 'do' - and we will be doing something - will be on the basis of imperfect knowledge. Yet this is an issue where the mainstream scientific advice has been broadly consistent in the face of decades of exceptional scrutiny so I'm doubtful of claims that the fundamental basis is seriously in doubt. Given that emissions are ongoing, and the advice that the climate impacts are cumulative and effectively irreversible, delaying and deferring policy for better, more perfect knowledge comes with significant risk. Personally I'm not sure 'risk' (like 'scepticism') has the broad acceptable meaning that is appropriate when the consensus of experts is that it's something that is happening rather than something that might happen.


    Scientific inquiry going back more than a century has revealed a physical basis for climate consequences to raising atmospheric CO2 levels. Given the widespread use of fossil fuels, scientists and scientific institutions are being called upon to investigate and advise on the consequences for global climate for a variety of future scenarios. Sometimes scientific inquires can be implicit - scientists working within a field where better understanding of climate processes is intrinsic to what they do - or it can be explicit - a Prime Minister or President or Parliament or Congress requesting answers to questions or information or an overview or reports from an agency like the US National Academy of Sciences. Or a group of governments can use an international body like the UN to set up a specific agency like the IPCC to review, summarise and advise.


    I have serious reservations about the capability of self appointed individuals to do it better than organisations like The Royal Society or National Academy of Sciences or the IPCC and whilst I think it's certainly an individual's right to believe and express whatever he/she wants, i don't think policymaking should defer to them.


    So, Tantalus, I can't accept that where your confidence in climate science differs from that within the reports by such agencies, that policy should be influenced in any way by your judgement. When people hold positions of trust and responsibility that 'right' to believe whatever you like and withhold acceptance for the expertise of others becomes constrained. In reality and unlike areas like medicine and engineering, responsibility for basing decisions on expert advise with respect to climate responsibility has not yet been made explicit. But it is heading towards being legally recognised, at least in limited ways - a court decision in the Netherlands for example requiring government policy on emissions reductions to have goals in line with the mainstream science.


    As a scientific principle, properly applied, doubt may serve well, but misused as a means to justify deferring and delaying appropriate policy, it's not serving us well in this time of need.

  18. Can someone clarify what the time limit is for editing? I've managed to put a 'not' in the wrong place, inverting the meaning but was absent for a time and didn't notice - but found the edit option expired when I went to change it. I'm sure most people will realise from context but I would have liked to fix it.


    My own habit is to put an edit postcript saying what if any substantial changes were made, and for minor ones too unless the edit was immediate or within a very short time.

  19. ere the work of others is held to be in doubt until personally satisfied otherwise - to what extent is personal support withheld in turn for policy that is based on the expert advice being sound? I doubt it is unaffected.

    Ophiolite suggests that, on the basis of risk assessment, policy based on the presumption of mainstream advice being valid would have his support during the period his judgement is held in abeyance. But, whilst he insists that withholding acceptance of the work of others is a scientist's obligation, supporting policy based upon it, on the basis of risk assessment isn't presented as an obligation. I don't doubt that it's possible that the issue of holding the science to be in doubt won't affect support for policy based on it being valid, but I seriously doubt it.

    Tantalus points out that it involves significant decisions -

    ... if some of the worst case scenarios of the IPCC are correct, then we need to take drastic actions, these actions could potentially cost the world's economy a lot of money and slow growth.

    It doesn't sound like Tantalus feels such an obligation. Sounds like the risks of excessive costs of action impeding economic growth are ones we should be hesitant to take. I don't know what efforts Tantalus makes to validate such assessments, or what he does to address his doubts of climate science. Or if that is a legitimate and productive use of his time and effort. I would say that if he held some kind of relevant public office he would be negligent to ignore the expert advice.

    Is every 'scientist' even capable of personally validating a body of knowledge as large and complex as climate science? Is there a time limit for doing so or a point at which holding the work of others in doubt should revert to holding one's own ability to properly validate it to be in doubt? Holding to high principles can also be impractical, unrealistic and disabling.

    Now, my own understanding is that the climate problem is one where the consequences are decades to centuries delayed between cause and effect, the effects are cumulative and are effectively irreversible, so the risk assessment criteria are there for justifying strong policy with minimum delay. ie deferring commitment to action until doubts are answered has significant consequences. I also have a lot of trust in the institutions, the methods and processes of science and I don't believe it is misplaced or inappropriate. The US Academy of Sciences or UK's Royal Society for example have earned their places as expert advisors to governments and communities, through attracting and engaging the most capable scientists and through a history of probity and service to the community. Even if I were a working scientist, it would be wholly appropriate to treat the advice they give as trustworthy, whether I've personally validated it or not.

  20. As a cornerstone of science I suggest scepticism is applied individually to the specific but collectively to the whole. I disagree that AGW is as simple as risk assessment when doubt holds you back from accepting that the work of others is not valid until personally confirmed - it requires some level of confidence that the work of others will be valid. I believe there are sound reasons to trust that the work of others - within fields of science where trustworthy methods and processes and oversight are in use - without personally validating them.

  21. Ophiolite - withholding acceptance of the work of others as valid during the interim between a starting point of doubt and any conclusion of your investigations will leave you in don't-know limbo and incapable of action based on the expertise of others.


    I disagree that science must work as you claim. I can see where doubt is the appropriate starting point, such as in reviewing newly submitted and published papers, novel hypotheses or where significant data that is inconsistent comes to light but as a general rule applied to existing bodies of knowledge I think trust in the methods and processes, and of institutions providing oversight are valid and serve well. I think doubt is something to be applied selectively rather than as an all encompassing prerequisite to acceptance of science based conclusions as valid.


    All encompassing doubt will ultimately fail for all but the most extraordinary intellects and I suspect the overall body of knowledge of a multifaceted area of study such as climate science may be beyond even the extraordinary. Trust in the methods, processes and institutions that built and oversee a specialised body of knowledge, as well as much of the consensus knowledge itself is valid and reasonable.


    For those aiming for expertise it's reasonable to begin from acknowledging ignorance and commitment to learning, including learning past and current methods and processes, which will, of course, include the application of sceptism. ie they will have a sound basis for trust in the reliability of the knowledge base they hope to build upon even where unable to confirm it's validity personally.

  22. Doubt is a fine state of mind in science





    Kisai - It's not doubt that's the fine state of mind, it's the commitment to becoming well informed that doubt can lead to. If it's not a process that includes that follow through action - the prying open of textbooks - doubt is a disabling state of mind that impedes rational decision making. Whether that follow through occurs or not, if it comes with provisional withholding of acceptance that the work of others is valid it is disabling. We can hope that for those identifying as scientists doubt is motivating rather than disabling. I still believe that scientists should provisionally accept the body of work of other scientists as valid, whether they carry through with scepticism as a process or not. This should be explicit when urging the use of sceptical inquiry as a scientific method.


    My own view is because withholding acceptance that climate science as valid is widely taken to be a correct response to doubt, that state of mind and the very term 'sceptic/skeptic' has become something to be identified with and held to for climate action obstructionists. It becomes an opportunity to put open alternative 'textbooks' of their choosing in front of people as well as a 'legitimate' reason to oppose, delay and impede prompt action.

  23. To be fair to Ophiolite this was included -


    In the meantime we should proceed on the basis that global warming is a real and present danger.



    - which could equate to the provisionally treating the consensus of experts as true that I think is most appropriate.


    If, as a scientist, you feel you should confirm it for yourself and then find something that is in error, then point it out - journals accept and publish criticisms as long as there are valid grounds and there are other channels. Standards and Ethics committees or similar are there if malpractice is found; absolutely fraud or other malpractice should be reported and investigated.


    Ten Oz -


    Climate change deniers like evolution deniers walk the same tight rope of "micro vs macro".



    I certainly notice fallacies from focus too narrow - local or regional rather than global, one or few indicative measures out of many and too short time scales. And focus too broad - looking at very long time scales that can make current climate change appear trivial.

  24. Ophiolite and I had an exchange in the "Who here is a global warming skeptic?" thread. I did want to continue but the thread was locked (for being overlong) before I could do so. Hope I'm not stepping on toes by starting this thread.


    Ophiolite asked for responses to this -


    I am a global warming skeptic. I think it is not only plausible to have doubts, but essential, especially if we wish to honour the memories of Bacon and Galileo and Newton. We should doubt the data gathering techniques, we should doubt the analytical processes, we should doubt the conclusions. We should doubt the researchers, we should doubt their motives, we should doubt the peer review process.

    Doubt is a cornerstone of good science. Skepticism is an essential part of the scientific method.

    Having doubted all of these things in relation to global warming I am left with the distinct impression that global warming is very real and very serious. However, as a good skeptic, there is one area in which I have no doubt. I do not doubt the possibility that new research could turn our current understanding on its head - its just that that possibility is, on the balance of the evidence, extremely remote. In the meantime we should proceed on the basis that global warming is a real and present danger.

    Oh, and have a look in your dictionary. You will likely find that skepticism and denial are not synonyms. Skeptical? Just go ahead and check.


    My own reply was that it is not an appropriate default position to take because most people do not have the ability to evaluate complex science and accepting what the overwhelming majority of experts in a field tell us is not just appropriate, for those who hold positions of trust and responsibility it could be considered negligence for them to fail to do so.

    Ophiolite replied that many participants here are scientists and it is a correct position for scientists to take but agreed that, for those without the requisite skills, deferring to experts is more appropriate. I still find myself disagreeing.

    Ophiolite - It may be a matter of semantics - just what you mean by "doubt" in this context - but I think a default position of doubt suggests, intentionally or not, that you won't accept the validity of climate change science (or any other science) until personally satisfied, through personal investigation. That may not be what you mean but I think it requires clarification.

    My own view is that, even for scientists, treating the work of other scientists as valid should be the default position. It's not a matter of tribal loyalty or science as faith but of trust in the institutions and practices of science. We can quibble - there are some areas of science that I personally think need to lift their game - but climate science is, in it's fundamentals, about maths, physics and chemistry. It's based on the 'hard' sciences rather than the 'soft', without much room for the subjective. And perhaps no area of science has been subject to as much scrutiny as modern climate science. For those involved in oversight within scientific institutions, keeping eyes open for sloppy science, bias and malpractice is good practice but not the same as doubt as the default.

    Perhaps, for those appointed to a panel of experts by Institutions like the National Academy of Sciences to review a field of science - as happened at President G.W. Bush's request

    on climate science - witholding any acceptance and doubting everything it might be appropriate but more generally even for other scientists I don't think it is.


    It looks most appropriate when individual science papers are submitted and published, for experts capable of competent review to provisionally withhold acceptance and begin with doubt and scepticism; in that circumstance it could be the kind of scientist's obligation suggested. For the accumulated body of knowledge within a field - the consensus if you will - an initial position of acknowledged ignorance is, I believe, more appropriate - an "I don't know" rather than "I doubt" - if only because it won't be construed to mean the work of others is provisionally rejected.

    I never completed undergraduate science - not qualifying as a scientist - but my impression was that students don't begin from a position of doubt but of acknowledged ignorance. Along the way they should learn how and why the widely agreed conclusions within a field have been achieved rather than presented as unassailable 'facts'- ie come to know why it's valid not simply taken on faith. And learn which conclusions are in dispute and why. The end result for a student starting from a position of doubt should be much the same; a confidence in the conclusions that merit it and awareness of the grounds for dispute for those that don't.

    Making the effort to understand something personally and be well informed is to be applauded and sharing your experiences, of your doubts and how you dealt with them, in places like this is worthwhile. With respect to climate change science Doubt has become a professionally crafted product by and for partisan interests for political gain - to compromise, impede and delay oppropriate and effective government policy. In a context of climate politics where concepts of doubt, scepticism and uncertainty are being misused we need to be especially careful in urging it's wide application. People who don't have the skills and competency or even a real comprehension of scientific scepticism and who may not follow through with it as a process, are being encouraged to provisionally withhold acceptance of mainstream climate change science and oppose policy based on that 'scepticism'. So I'm sceptical about urging doubt as a default place to start with climate science. (edit: last three sentences added after initial post)

    My own experience is that, whilst the nitty gritty of real science can often be dense and opaque and beyond the non-expert to critique, even ordinary people like myself can recognise misunderstandings, misinformation, logical fallacies, appeals to tribal loyalties, pressing of emotive buttons ie the charlatan's (or politician's or PR/advertiser's or tankthinker's or non-thinker's) tools of persuasion. Most of the commonly repeated grounds for doubt of climate change science can be examined by non-scientists and recognised as weak or invalid.

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