APS turns to face the tiger

Magoo alerts us to this wonderful post by Tony Thomas at Quadrant Online. I elevate his comment to increase its visibility immediately and I hope to have time for further comment soon.

As Magoo says: “Finally, some serious questions being asked by some serious climate scientists at the American Physical Society in an open and public forum.”

Mr Thomas reports that the APS has performed an audit of the IPCC’s AR5. Following this, the APS (formerly hijacked by climate extremists) boldly appointed three famous sceptics to a panel charged with reviewing the society’s position statement on global warming. They are Richard Lindzen, John Christy and Judith Curry. All of the review, discussion and recommendations are being conducted in public and full records kept.

This is the best news you have heard in the last ten years. Already the APS has questions and observations that sternly challenge the IPCC report. A tasty few:

  • Some have suggested that the ‘missing heat’ is going into the deep ocean… Why would the heat sequestration have ‘turned on’ at the turn of this century? What could make it ‘turn off’ and when might that occur? Is there any mechanism that would allow the added heat in the deep ocean to reappear in the atmosphere?
  • How are the IPCC confidence levels determined?
  • What has caused the 5% increase in IPCC confidence from 2007 to 2013?
  • A factor-of-three uncertainty in the global surface temperature response to increasing atmospheric CO2 as expressed by equilibrium climate sensitivity, has persisted through the last three decades of research despite the significant intellectual effort that has been devoted to climate science.
  • What gives rise to the large uncertainties in this fundamental parameter of the climate system?
  • How is the IPCC’s expression of increasing confidence in the detection/attribution/projection of anthropogenic influences consistent with this persistent uncertainty?
  • The rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years. Please explain that circumstance in light of the presumed monotonic [steady] increase from anthropogenic effects.
  • The IPCC-projected rise of up to 1m by the end of this century would require an average rate of up to 12mm/yr for the rest of this century, some four times the current rate, and an order of magnitude larger than implied by the 20th century acceleration of0.01mm/yr found in some studies. What drives the projected sea level rise? To what extent is it dependent upon a continued rise in Global Mean Surface Temperature?

Tony points out a vital weakness in the IPCC’s reliance on computer modelling:

The APS notes that the IPCC draws on results and averages from large numbers of models, and comments, “In particular, it is not sufficient to demonstrate that some member of the ensemble [of models] gets it right at any given time. Rather, as in other fields of science, it is important to know how well the ‘best’ single model does at all times.”

Have we found our fearless tiger hunter and how ferocious is this tiger anyway?

UPDATE 21 March 2014 12:05 PM

Magoo (thank you, my friend) points out a month-old statement by Judith Curry on the APS audit, with typically penetrating Curry-style observations. The APS has a public website for the Climate Statement Review.

If you haven’t already seen it, you’ll want to rush over there, but here are a couple of teasers that hope for and perhaps even presage a quantum quality leap in the public approach to climate science. If any institute can start those authoritative scientific dominoes falling around the world, surely the physicists have the best chance of doing it. Watch out, Royal Society; be careful, science advisor to the PM.

The lie that “the debate’s over” is over

The APS gives the clearest possible acknowledgement that there is a climate debate and Dr Curry extends it the warmest welcome. Who imagined just a couple of years ago that a mainstream scientific body might generate a faithful, evidence-based overview of climate science, warts and all?

The APS produced a complete transcript of the workshop, with PowerPoint slides embedded within. This is a remarkable document — more than anything else that I’ve seen, it provides in my opinion what is the most accurate portrayal of the scientific debates surrounding climate change. There was some fascinating (and new to me) science presented. In a future post I will discuss the scientific presentations. But one general reaction is that while the six of us agreed on the primary scientific evidence (apart from some tiffs between Santer and Christy on the satellite-derived tropospheric temperature trends), we each had a unique perspective on how to reason about the evidence.

Judith’s conclusion makes my spine tingle with anticipation.

I have been harshly critical of the statements on climate change made by various professional societies, and the process by which those statements were crafted and approved (see my post (Ir)responsible advocacy). I give the APS an A+ for the process in preparing their statement. The thoroughness and transparency is unprecedented. And I like the idea of having relatively objective people write the statement, people without a dog in this particular fight.

That said, I have no idea what will actually transpire between now and when a new statement appears, and what the new statement will actually say. In any event, it was a real pleasure and privilege to participate in that Workshop. And I think the Workshop transcript is a superb resource for assessing the state of the debate on climate science.

In this hemisphere we’re moving into autumn but the new APS approach makes it feel like a fresh spring. So the metaphors of tiger and spring make a dreadful mix, what does it matter?

The IPCC is a paper tiger.

Views: 106

22 Thoughts on “APS turns to face the tiger

  1. Andy on 20/03/2014 at 3:20 pm said:

    So the APS has been taken over by “deniers”

    Presumably the smear jobs will start soon

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 6:54 pm said:

      >”So the APS has been taken over by “deniers” ”

      They were there all along:

      “About 100 APS members, including many Fellows and
      Distinguished Professors have signed a petition submitted by
      Robert H. Austin [1] challenging the APS 2007 Statement on
      Climate Change. One very good reason for issuing the
      challenge was not in the petition: the executive board has no
      business pretending that they speak for the membership. A
      second is that the board itself has no expertise in climate
      science. The petition drive was initiated because the
      Statement is riddled with unproven assertions”


  2. Andy on 20/03/2014 at 4:42 pm said:

    Off topic, but this just came to my attention via Facebook

    Greenpeace are currently trying to distance themselves from Patrick Moore, claiming that he is “lying” about being a co-founder (they have a page on their website to this effect)

    So check out this little nugget from the Wayback Machine

  3. Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 5:09 pm said:

    Good news. Inevitable eventually that the IPCC had to be challenged.

    [Thomas] >”a non-cosy audit of the IPCC’s claims on which the global campaign against CO2 is based”

    Timing couldn’t have been better now that the WGII hypethon has been “leaked”.

    Re SLR, IPCC-projected rise of up to 1m by the end of the century requires >”an order of magnitude larger than implied by the 20th century acceleration of 0.01mm/yr found in some studies”

    Except now we’re in the 21st century and not only are those studies now irrelevant but in the 21st century, satellite SLR is decelerating i.e the 20th century 0.01mm/yr acceleration in the tide guages above is not evident in 21st century satellite SLR – in fact, the opposite is evident. From 2000, satellite linear is 2.79 mm/yr (curve is -1E-05x^2). It would have to be in excess of 3,2 mm/yr by now (and +1E-05x^2) to be accelerating, it isn’t.

    [APS] >”What are the implications of this statis [sic – stasis] for confidence in the models and their projections?”

    Confidence is zilch and projections are GIGO.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 8:04 pm said:

      >”Timing couldn’t have been better now that the WGII hypethon has been “leaked” ”

      ‘Official prophecy of doom: Global warming will cause widespread conflict, displace millions of people and devastate the global economy’

      The Independent, Thursday 20 March 2014

      “Climate change will displace hundreds of millions of people by the end of this century, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions of dollars off the global economy, a forthcoming UN report will warn.”


      Or not.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 8:41 pm said:

      >” ‘Official prophecy of doom: Global warming will cause widespread conflict, displace millions of people and devastate the global economy’ ”

      Also, coincidentally, we’re doomed anyway:

      ‘Nasa-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?’

      The Guardian

      “A new study sponsored by Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.”


      Degrowth, doom, and collapse being the predominant environmental strategies anyway – but it gets complicated:

      ‘Environment versus growth — A criticism of “degrowth” and a plea for “a-growth” ‘

      In recent debates on environmental problems and policies, the strategy of “degrowth” has appeared as an alternative to the paradigm of economic growth. This new notion is critically evaluated by considering five common interpretations of it. One conclusion is that these multiple interpretations make it an ambiguous and rather confusing concept. Another is that degrowth may not be an effective, let alone an efficient strategy to reduce environmental pressure. It is subsequently argued that “a-growth,” i.e. being indifferent about growth, is a more logical social aim to substitute for the current goal of economic growth, given that GDP (per capita) is a very imperfect indicator of social welfare. In addition, focusing ex ante on public policy is considered to be a strategy which ultimately is more likely to obtain the necessary democratic–political support than an ex ante, explicit degrowth strategy. In line with this, a policy package is proposed which consists of six elements, some of which relate to concerns raised by degrowth supporters.


      I propose an “a-doom” strategy as a solution to all of the above.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 9:37 pm said:

      juggler65 ,

      “Oh no. It looks like we’re all going to die, again. I think this is something like the third time, in the last two weeks, that we were all going to die.”


  4. Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 5:13 pm said:

    [APS] How long must the statis [sic – stasis] persist before there would be a firm declaration of a problem with the models?

    If that occurs, would the fix entail:

    A retuning of model parameters?

    A modification of ocean conditions?

    A re-examination of fundamental assumptions?

    # # #

    IPCC answers to the above will just exacerbate their discomfort given the potential inferences.

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 20/03/2014 at 6:01 pm said:

    >”What has caused the 5% increase in IPCC confidence from 2007 to 2013?”

    Not just 2007 either. IPCC temperature overestimate and confidence increase graphed from FAR 1990: ‘IPCC’s Confidence Grows as Models Get Worse’


  6. Magoo on 20/03/2014 at 9:59 pm said:

    They’re all the right questions to ask, almost as if they’d come from the mouths of Lindzen, Christy & Curry themselves. I think this will be the beginning of the end for the IPCC if the APS revolts (which I’m sure it will) – the other scientific institutions will have little option but to follow suit when confronted with the truthful answers to the questions being asked, and that will be the demise of both the IPCC and the illusion of a consensus.

  7. Magoo on 20/03/2014 at 10:58 pm said:

    Judith Curry gave the subject a write up in February:


  8. Richard C (NZ) on 21/03/2014 at 9:10 am said:

    Climate science isn’t necessarily ‘settled’


    March 20, 2014


  9. Alexander K on 30/03/2014 at 4:17 pm said:

    I remember the fuss from ‘The Hockey Team’ when Professor Curry expressed her scientific scepticism and the subsequent flak she took. Since that time, she has steadily increased in my esteem with her cooly-reasoned statements. I don’t have the science or maths education to fully understand evrey aspec of the discussion, but Professor Curry’s integrity shines like a beacon.

  10. Andy on 31/03/2014 at 3:30 am said:

    Rowan Williams warns of climate catastrophe.


    The church of course, being in the front line of climate science.

    • Alexander K on 31/03/2014 at 3:42 pm said:

      Rowan Williams is probably missing the limelight and the fancy costumes he used to inhabit in his position and role in the Anglican church, but talking total doom-laden nonsense is hardly a sensible ploy for him, long term. When retired church leaders jump the fence into strange and unfamiliar pastures, spouting nonsense is probably a fear response.

    • Andy on 31/03/2014 at 6:46 pm said:

      This was on the front page of the UK Sunday papers, by the way

  11. HemiMcK on 31/03/2014 at 2:15 pm said:

    I like the GWPF web site.

    One article posted illustrates the beneficial effects of higher CO2. It also gives a bit of a lead as to the size of the land sink. It would seem that a rise in green matter mass of 2% to 4% over the last 10 years would be the right order of magnitude.


  12. Richard C (NZ) on 31/03/2014 at 5:53 pm said:


    The report [WGII] says impact due to climate change already observed includes:

    • Ill-health is expected to increase in many regions, especially developing countries.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/ipcc-report-finds-world-might-be-irreversibly-changed-20140331-35sth.html#ixzz2xW9oxXuY

    • Richard C (NZ) on 31/03/2014 at 6:33 pm said:

      Ah, missed this bit:

      “The report also assesses research into the projected future impact of climate change. Findings are that:”

      So ill health is “expected to increase”, especially in developing countries. I’m sure those foraging in third world rubbish dumps will be very concerned about this.

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