Why you won’t see headlines as climate science enters the doldrums
Posted on November 4, 2013, at Watts Up With That
This (17 years) is a non-event, just as 15 and 16 years were non-events. Non-events do not make headlines. Other non-events of the year are one of the fewest numbers of tornadoes (especially when corrected for under-reporting in the radar-free past) in at least the recent past (if not the remote past), the lowest number of Atlantic hurricanes since I was 2 years old (I’m 58), the continuation of the longest stretch in recorded history without a category 3 or higher hurricane making landfall in the US (in fact, I don’t recall there being a category 3 hurricane in the North Atlantic this year, although one of the ones that spun out far from land might have gotten there for a few hours).
We (the world) didn’t have an unusual number of floods, we don’t seem to have any major droughts going on, total polar ice is unremarkable, arctic ice bottomed out well within the tolerances slowly being established by its absurdly short baseline, antarctic ice set a maximum record (but just barely, hardly newsworthy) in ITS absurdly short baseline, the LTT temperatures were downright boring, and in spite of the absurdly large spikes in GASTA in GISS vs HADCRUT4 on a so-called “temperature anomaly” relative to a GAST baseline nobody can measure to within a whole degree centigrade, neither one of them did more than bounce around in near-neutral, however much the “trend” in GISS is amplified every second or third month by its extra-high endpoint.
A virgin’s kiss
The US spent months of the summer setting cold temperature records, but still, aside from making the summer remarkably pleasant in an anecdotal sort of way (the kind you tell your grandchildren when they experience more extreme weather: “Eh, sonny, I remember the summer of ’13, aye, that was a good one, gentle as a virgin’s kiss outdoors it was…”) it was unremarked on at the time.
Let’s face it. The climate has never been more boring. Even the weather blogs trying to toe the party line and promote public panic — I mean “awareness” — of global warming are reduced to reporting one of GISS’s excessive spikes as being “the fourth warmest September on record” while quietly neglecting the fact that in HADCRUT4, RSS and UAH it was nothing of the sort and while even more quietly neglecting the fact that if one goes back a few months the report might have been that June was the fourth coldest in 20 years. Reduced to reporting a carefully cherry-picked fourth warmest event? Ho hum.
So, good luck in getting any news agency to report reaching 17 years in any or all of the indices — this isn’t news, it is anti-news. It is old. It is boring.
It is also irrelevant. If GASTA (Global Average Surface Temperature Anomaly) stubbornly refuses to rise for five more years, stretching the interval out to 20 to 22 years in a way that nobody can ignore, does this really disprove GW, AGW, or CAGW? It does not. The only thing that will disprove GW or CGW is reaching 2100 without a climate catastrophe and without significantly more warming or with net cooling. A demonstrated total climate sensitivity of zero beats all predictions or argument. The “A”(nthropogenic) part is actually easier to prove or disprove in a contingent sort of way, although it will probably take decades to do so. Contingent because if there is no observed GW at all, AGW seems difficult to prove. But since we are in the part of the periodic climate cycle observed over the last 150 years where the climate remains neutral to cools around an overall warming trend, we might well see neutral to very slow warming even if AGW is correct, if there is an anthropogenic component to the long term trend and oscillation that we can observe but not really explain over the last 150 years.
The models suck
The one thing the 33 years of satellite measurements and increasingly precise surface temperature measurements have been able to prove is the one thing that the 17 year interval is truly relevant to. The GCMs used to predict CAGW suck. The GCMs in CMIP5 (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project) that contribute to the conclusions of AR5 are almost without exception terrible predictors of the Earth’s actual climate.
This conclusion is unavoidable. Even if they all cannot be rejected at the “95% confidence level”, almost none of them are close to predicting even GASTA alone, let alone RSS/UAH, global rainfall, frequency and violence of storms, etc. As we leave 2013′s hurricane season behind with almost no chance for an Atlantic storm this year, which GCM predicted the paucity of hurricanes and tornadoes over the last few years? Where are the droughts and floods? Which GCMs actually got the temperature distribution right (when they didn’t get the average or average anomaly right, the answer is almost certainly “none of them”)?
We are told “Catastrophic warming is coming, it is just around the corner”. We ask why and without exception we are told “Because the 30 or more GCMs we carefully built in the 1990s in response to the CAGW threat and normalized with the warming data from the 70s and 80s (not to mention Hansen’s initial model report from the late 1980s) all say so.” We then quite reasonably ask what they predicted for the last 20 years, and of course we can see that they all did indeed predict shockingly rapid warming. We then compare this to what actually happened, which is almost no warming over the last 20 years — a single warming pulse associated with the 1997/1998 ENSO event and then neutral ever since. We note that the warmest of the models that are still included in the CMIP5 data because nobody ever rejects a model just because it doesn’t work are a whopping 0.5 to 0.6°C warmer than reality — they are the models with a total sensitivity of 5 or 6°C by 2100, so they have to warm at 0.5°C a decade to get there.
This really is shocking. Shockingly bad science, shockingly dishonest political manipulation of policy makers on the part of scientists who participated in the creation of AR5 and permitted their names to give the report its weight.
As I’ve pointed out once and will point out again, by failing to be honest in AR5, by removing words that expressed honest doubt from the earlier draft and redrawing the figure to obscure the GCM failure, the IPCC has now gone far out on a limb that will end the career of many scientists and politicians before AR6 if there is no significant warming by that time. Not only significant warming, but a resumption of some sort of regular upslope to GASTA. Even if there is another ENSO-related burst of warming (which I’m sure is what they are hoping for) if it is only 0.2°C — and it is difficult to imagine that it could be much more given evidence from the past — it will barely suffice to restore the warming trend to 0.1°C/decade give or take a hair, roughly half of the lowest estimates of climate sensitivity. And they run the very real risk of getting to 2020 with GASTA basically the same as it was in 2000.
At that time, the hottest GCMs are going to be almost a full degree C too hot compared to reality. The people who contribute to the IPCC reports aren’t fools — most of them know perfectly well that the high sensitivity models are trash at this point, and they know equally well that it will no longer be possible to conceal this fact even from ignorant politicians by 2020 if there is no statistically significant warming by that time. Because it is an open secret that there was a cover-up that deliberately concealed this, effectively lying to policy makers—there will be a public scandal. Heads will roll.
An idiot could figure out what’s wrong
The only way the IPCC can possibly avoid this as it proceeds is to issue a correction to AR5. Go back in and eliminate the GCMs with absurdly high sensitivity, the ones that obviously fail a hypothesis test when compared to the actual climate record. Personally I would advise eliminating at a much more generous level than 95% — a complete idiot with experience in computational modelling could go into these models and figure out what is wrong, given an additional 16 years of data — simply retune the models until they can manage both the warming of the late 20th century AND the warming hiatus since. Models for which no tuning can reproduce the actual past go into the dustbin, period — ones that can manage it will all have a vastly lowered climate sensitivity and will produce a much larger fraction of warming from “natural” variability, and less from CO2. Finally, insist that all models use common numbers for things like CO2 and aerosol contributions instead of individually tuning the largely cancelling contributions to reproduce an interpolated temperature change.
I’m guessing that over half of the participating models will simply go away at this point. They can then reconstruct figure 1.4 in the SPM, note the good news that even though the remaining models will all still predict more warming than actually occurred the warming that they project by 2100 will be between 0.5 and 1.5°C, not 2.5°C or more. This is almost precisely in line with what was observed in the 19th and 20th century without CO2, and will grant a far larger role to natural variability (and hence a smaller one to CO2).
Is the failure of a model difficult to detect?
Why should they do this, even though it is near-suicide to do it at this point? Because it is suicide not to do it. Because it is the right thing to do. Because they have a queasy feeling in their tum-tums every time they look at figure 1.4 in the AR5 SPM and realize that the dent that they made in the car isn’t going to go away and Dad is going to be even more pissed when he finds out if they lie about it. After all, everybody knows that the worst models in CMIP5 are wrong at this point. The people that wrote the models and ran the models know that their models are broken at this point. It’s not like the failure of a model is difficult to detect or something.
If it were “just science”, all of this would have been happening in the literature for some time anyway. People would jump all over models that fail, because in the usual realm of science there is little money on the line and because trial and error and try, try again is the normal order of business and what keeps you getting paid. Not so in climate science. Here it is all political. Hundreds of billions of dollars and the directed energy of the entire global civilization ride on the numbers. Here there is a real risk of congressional hearings where a flinty-eyed committee chair grills you by showing you GCM curves selected from figure 1.4 of the AR5 SPM and asks you “Sir, at what point was it obvious to you that this curve was not a good predictor of the future climate?” Because if the answer was “2012″ — and given the REMOVED TEXT from the earlier draft of AR5 everybody knows that it was 2012 at the latest — that’s contempt of congress right there, given that AR5 directs billions of dollars in federal research money and hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies and misdirected governmental energy at all levels from federal to state to local to personal.
Worth sacrificing these children?
We pay, pay, and pay again in the form of taxes, higher energy prices, neglect of competing services and goals — and what we pay pales to nothing compared to the terrible price paid by the third world for the amelioration of hypothetical CAGW. Millions of people die every year from respiratory diseases alone brought about because they are still cooking on animal dung and charcoal because coal burning power plants are now “unclean” and have artificially inflated price tags at every level.
If CAGW is a true hypothesis, then maybe — just maybe — it is worth sacrificing all of these people, most of them children under five, on the altar to expiate our carbon sins. But given this sort of ongoing catastrophe, this ongoing moral price we pay on the basis of the “projections” of the GCMs, how great is the obligation of the scientists who wrote AR5 towards “mere honesty”, to put down not their own beliefs but the objective support for their beliefs given the data?
For some time the data has been sufficient to prove that the tools that claim the biggest, scariest AGW are simply incorrect — broken, in error, failed. Yet their predictions are still included in AR5 because without them, the “catastrophe” disappears and we are forced to rebalance the cost of gradual accommodation of the warming while continuing to civilize and raise the standard of living of the third world against the ongoing catastrophe of adopting measures that everybody knows will not prevent the catastrophe anyway (if the extreme models are correct) at the cost of a hundred million or more lives and unspeakable poverty, disease and human misery perpetuated for decades along the way.