Lindzen and “No statistically significant warming since 1995″

by John Quiggin on March 3, 2010

I discussed the ‘no statistically significant warming since 1995’ talking point on my blog recently This talking point has been around the delusionist blogosphere for some time, though with a lower profile than ‘global warming stopped in 1998’, and was put as question to Phil Jones of UEA in a BBC interview. Jones answered honestly, if a bit clumsily, that the data period since 1995 is marginally too short to derive a statistically significant trend, a response which was headlined by the Daily Mail as “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995?” and became the talking point of the day. As has been widely noted, confusing not statistically significant’ with ‘not significant; in the ordinary sense indicates either deliberate dishonesty or ignorance of a point covered in excruciating detail in every introductory stats course.

But where did this silliness come from? I’d seen Janet Albrechtsen quote Lord Monckton on the point, and it seemed about right for him, an innumerate debating point that would take a fair while to refute, during which time he could move on to the next one.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered the point being made (and apparently originated) by Richard Lindzen of MIT who is (or ought to be) by far the most credible figure on the delusionist side. In a piece published on “Watts Up With That” Lindzen says ‘There has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995’. Lindzen illustrates this claim with a graph he appears to have made up for the occasion, complete with unexplained error bars (I’ve appended a NASA graph with error bars for annual estimates).

In this piece for Quadrant he gives a variation, saying “has been no statistically significant net global warming for the last fourteen years” and “the fact that warming has ceased for the past fourteen years is acknowledged” . Note the slide from “has been no statistically significant net global warming for the last fourteen years ” to “warming has ceased”, committing the basic newbie error against which all budding stats students are warned.

Lindzen has published a couple of hundred papers in climatology, so I think we can assume he knows that the statement “there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995” means nothing more than “given the variability in the data, we need at least 15 observations to reject the null hypothesis at 95 per cent confidence”, a fact so trite as not to be worth mentioning.

It is sad to see a respected scientist reduced to this kind of thing. And as far as I can tell, all this is simply to avoid admitting that he backed the wrong horse back in 1990, when he bet that he was smarter than the majority of climate scientists who thought humans were (probably) causing global warming. The data since then has supported the majority view, but instead of revising his position, Lindzen has resorted to dishonest statistical trickery.

To quote The Economist, with respect to the Daily Mail

Since I’ve advocated a more explicit use of the word “lie”, I’ll go ahead and follow my own advice: that Daily Mail headline is a lie.
But at least the Daily Mail headline writer could plead ignorance. Lindzen has no such excuse.

Update: More on this from Deep Climate


NASA GISS global mean temperature divergence from 1950-80 baseline

{ 96 comments }

1

sd 03.03.10 at 5:35 am

So I see that as credibility-reducing gaffe after credibility-reducing gaffe has piled on the AGW community you’ve shifted from dismissing skeptics as “denialists” to dismissing them as “delusionists.”

I shudder to think what you’d start calling the skeptics if some of the more core AGW research starts to come into question. Puppykillerists? Goatbuggerists?

Or would you stick with the Ds for poetic continuity? Doodooheadists perhaps?

Hint – escalating the name calling doesn’t elevate your credibility or stature. It just kind of makes you look like a tool.

2

Substance McGravitas 03.03.10 at 5:41 am

credibility-reducing gaffe after credibility-reducing gaffe

As compared to loons like Monckton?

3

sd 03.03.10 at 5:47 am

Substance: having crazy opponents doesn’t make you sane. Having stupid opponents doesn’t make you smart.

Its reasonable to conclude that the IPCC is mostly credible. It just plain dumb to conclude that the IPCC is no less credible now than it was 6 months ago.

4

Substance McGravitas 03.03.10 at 5:52 am

Substance: having crazy opponents doesn’t make you sane. Having stupid opponents doesn’t make you smart.

It doesn’t make the opponents less credible though, does it? Funny that.

5

John Quiggin 03.03.10 at 5:55 am

sd, you seem to be making it up as you go along. I haven’t changed my terminology as you claim.

They objected to ‘denialists’ so I chose ‘delusionists’, which I’ve used for some years now. And if, as you admit, they are crazy, why shouldn’t I say so? I’m certainly not going to allow the term ‘sceptic’ to apply to gullible fools who swallow the kind of nonsense Lindzen puts out here because it suits their wishful thinking.

6

John Quiggin 03.03.10 at 5:57 am

Bonus points for your use of the term “gaffe” which translates almost perfectly as “inconvenient truth”. A Freudian slip, perhaps?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsley_gaffe

7

onymous 03.03.10 at 6:30 am

It is sad to see a respected scientist reduced to this kind of thing.

It is, but it seems to be pretty normal among scientists past a certain age (50-ish?) to turn into caricatures of themselves with fixed positions held more and more vocally with age. I hope that if I age into such a person someone will gently tell me that I need to shut up.

8

daelm 03.03.10 at 7:29 am

onymous:

“but it seems to be pretty normal among scientists past a certain age (50-ish?) to turn into caricatures of themselves”

you were thinking of richard dawkins, right?

9

JoB 03.03.10 at 7:44 am

‘Inconvenient truth’ is most definitely not even close to ‘gaffe’. Lots of Kinsley and not a lot of gaffe; sorry to be cheeky, but it seems a bit of a Freudian slip on source checking.

10

Es-tonea-pesta 03.03.10 at 7:59 am

@comment 1: So I see that as the credibility-reducing gaffes have mounted to nearly a dozen in number, each reducing the credibility of the AGW community by as much as 0.00000004%, you’ve shifted from celebrating gaffes as “credibility-endangering” to celebrating them as “credibility-reducing”.

11

Ben Alpers 03.03.10 at 8:01 am

My dental hygienist told me yesterday that my wingnut dentist has been singing the praises of “Germany’s greatest geophysicist” who believes we’re entering a mini-ice age.

Anyone know the origin of this particular bit of denialism or who “Germany’s greatest geophysicist” is?

12

JoB 03.03.10 at 8:24 am

Dr Quackasufo found:

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=94b7d021-c5da-4e82-b37f-53d338709fb1

He’s Japanese though; but what’s the difference for a wingnut ;-)

13

Zamfir 03.03.10 at 8:40 am

Milankovitch was guy who came up with the (now reasonably accepted) idea of orbital effects as causes of ice ages, and I suppose that sounds German enough for some.

Also, his life was pretty much a shining example for conspiracy folks: he was a civil engineer who was laughed of the stage by the meteorologists. Only after his death the data became reliable enough to show that his ideas had value.

He was also a university-employed geophysicist whose ideas were taken reasonably serious within that community, but the first story sounds better of course.

Climate skeptics love astromical effects as explanations, so I can easily imagine that a long-death Serbian writing about past ice ages turns into a living German writing about the next ice age.

14

Zamfir 03.03.10 at 8:43 am

The guy was even a friend of Wegener, of “They said Wegener was wrong about plate tectonics, so I must be right about UFOs” fame.

15

John Quiggin 03.03.10 at 8:44 am

JoB @9 I can’t follow what you are saying at all. Can you explicate?

To explicate myself: as Kinsley observes, in journalistic usage (which is about the only place the term occurs) a “gaffe” almost invariably involves telling the truth when convention/convenience dictates otherwise. Hence, I think an inconvenient truth is pretty close to the mark.

16

toby 03.03.10 at 9:54 am

@Ben Alpers, #11

Re: “Germany’s greatest geophysicist”

This was possibly a reference to Dr Mojib Latif of Kiel University who published a hypothesis that global temperature rise may not be monotonic, but have periods of stready state, or even local cooling.

HIs paper was seized upon by the “usual suspects” like the Daily Mail to “disprove” Global Warming. Latif responded quite firmly that he completely accepted current climate science, and stated that “Global Warming” should be his middle name.

Just another episode in the zany world of climate denial.

http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/of-moles-and-whacking-mojib-latif-predicted-two-decades-of-cooling/

17

JoB 03.03.10 at 10:46 am

John, I understood you perfectly but ‘which translates almost perfectly as’ is simply untrue. Oh well, let this not come between us. I hate this ‘inconvenient truth’ thing (also because when I am hearing ‘Gore’ my brain goes ‘Tipper’). The thing is true or not (& I think it is true) and all of the fuzz about inconvenience is a Hollywood diversion at best.

18

ogmb 03.03.10 at 12:20 pm

Shorter Lindzen: “A-Rod hitless since the end of the World Series. Is his career over?”

19

BArry 03.03.10 at 12:26 pm

” It is sad to see a respected scientist reduced to this kind of thing.”

onymous: “It is, but it seems to be pretty normal among scientists past a certain age (50-ish?) to turn into caricatures of themselves with fixed positions held more and more vocally with age. I hope that if I age into such a person someone will gently tell me that I need to shut up.”

I don’t think that it’s that, but more of the fact that the fixed position he holds has been disproven, and more and more evidence comes in every year, burying it still deeper.

He has a choice, and is choosing denialism. At first, he can point to the inevitable flaws in any theory, and the odd bits of data which support his position. However, as the data keeps rolling in against him, it’s got to be quite easy to slowly shift into dishonest junk science, especially because there’s a whole network set up to support him.

20

Henry 03.03.10 at 12:47 pm

>My dental hygienist told me yesterday that my wingnut dentist has been singing the praises of “Germany’s greatest geophysicist” who believes we’re entering a mini-ice age. Anyone know the origin of this particular bit of denialism or who “Germany’s greatest geophysicist” is?

“Hoerbiger”:http://www.skepticfiles.org/evolut/cosmicic.htm, of course.

21

Stuart 03.03.10 at 12:48 pm

Shorter Lindzen: “A-Rod hitless since the end of the World Series. Is his career over?”

Alternatively, as we know that statisticians can’t predict the outcome of a single throw of a dice, this shows us their entire field of study is invalid, and anything based on statistical analysis is false (unless we happen to agree with it, of course).

22

Barry 03.03.10 at 2:17 pm

Stuart, you’ve hit upon the heart of the matter: at first, it suffices to point out that a theory hasn’t been proven/accepted, then one can point out that a theory hasn’t been overwhelmingly proven beyond a reasonable doubt/overwhelmingly accepted.

However, as the evidence keeps coming in to prove a theory, one gets backed into a corner; the only way out becomes to go into the ‘third dimension’, and become a lying junk scientist.

23

Marc 03.03.10 at 3:13 pm

It isn’t that older scientists automatically turn into cranks. Even most gadflies are more invested in pointing out potential problems with how we interpret things than, say, rejecting the Big Bang Theory. However there is a certain species of gadfly who fall in love with their contrary views so deeply that they simply can’t accept alternate evidence. An astronomy example is Chip Arp, convinced that quasars are local, while everyone else believes them to be enormous black holes which live at the centers of distant galaxies. He did good work before he went around the bend on this (which happened 40 years ago, by the way.)

The difference is that Arp doesn’t have a powerful political and economic lobby on his side.

24

Barry 03.03.10 at 3:15 pm

“The difference is that Arp doesn’t have a powerful political and economic lobby on his side.”

The key point – I would be very, very surprised if there were not senior geologists who rejected plate tectonics until they died, long after it was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However (AFAIK), the energy industries didn’t fear that theory, and didn’t pump millions of $$ into lying organizations fighting that theory.

25

toby 03.03.10 at 3:26 pm

“An astronomy example is Chip Arp, convinced that quasars are local, while everyone else believes them to be enormous black holes which live at the centers of distant galaxies”.

Another example is Einstein, who opted out of quantum mechanics after the 1920s, and spent his remaining years pursuing what most working scientists believed was a chimera. That being said, he maintained a status of admiration and hero-worship. Even today, there is a certain hope that Einstein’s final labours may bear fruit.

Fed Hoyle suffered the spectacular demise of his Steady State Cosmology after the Big Bang clocked up a confirmation with the discovery of cosmic background microwave radiation. Hoyle never fully conceded and continued trying to revive his theory until he died.

Neither Quantum Mechanics nor Cosmology interfered with the Free Market, however.

26

Sebastian 03.03.10 at 3:30 pm

@cranky old scientists -
if we believe (some of the more sociological aspects of) Kuhn we would even expect truly great scientists to be the type of people who stick to their views a little too long, who are a little too arrogant etc. If you’re going to be the type of person that does even slightly paradigm altering work that seems an almost necessary trait of personality. With, of course, often unfortunate consequences.
^^Einstein was a Quantum Physics denialist after all.

This is often bad – Lindzen, Watson, the great late Mathematician Serge Lang who was an AIDS denialist until his death in 2005 – but there are positive cases, too, it kind of depends on where these people set their hearts – e.g. I find that Krugman’s arrogance and sticking to his view a little too long has a positive effect on his punditry.

27

politicalfootball 03.03.10 at 3:36 pm

I find that Krugman’s arrogance and sticking to his view a little too long

I dunno. I’m hard-pressed to come up with a view that Krugman has held onto too long. I’m not sure I’m sympathetic to his free-trade views, for example, but his defense of those views is reasonable, and backed by appropriate evidence.

28

JoB 03.03.10 at 3:39 pm

@23-25-26. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to say: Julian Jaynes!

29

Barry 03.03.10 at 3:42 pm

Sebastian: “…e.g. I find that Krugman’s arrogance and sticking to his view a little too long has a positive effect on his punditry.”

Krugman has proven that he’ll change his views as the evidence rolls in. Anybody who read his (popular) writings back in the 1990’s knows that.

30

Stuart 03.03.10 at 4:06 pm

I think a better counterexample is those two Australian doctors (Marshall and Warren) that overturned the orthodox idea that bacteria couldn’t survive in the stomach, and thus couldn’t be the cause of many stomach ulcers.

31

marcel 03.03.10 at 4:36 pm

Onymous @ 7:

It is, but it seems to be pretty normal among scientists past a certain age (50-ish?) to turn into caricatures of themselves with fixed positions held more and more vocally with age. I hope that if I age into such a person someone will gently tell me that I need to shut up.

Max Planck:

A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Shorter Max Planck (often attributed to Paul Samuelson):

Science advances funeral by funeral.

32

ajay 03.03.10 at 4:55 pm

it seems to be pretty normal among people past a certain age (50-ish?) to turn into caricatures of themselves with fixed positions held more and more vocally with age

FTFY.

33

Henry 03.03.10 at 5:45 pm

bq. F[r]ed Hoyle suffered the spectacular demise of his Steady State Cosmology after the Big Bang clocked up a confirmation with the discovery of cosmic background microwave radiation. Hoyle never fully conceded and continued trying to revive his theory until he died.

And wrote a mediocre science fiction novel, _The Black Cloud_, in which the alien confirmed to a grateful humanity that Steady State was right. Pratchett has a Steady Gait joke about the great A’Tuin somewhere (probably _The Light Fantastic._ )

34

Area Man 03.03.10 at 5:51 pm

You’ve got to wonder about the whole “lying eyes” thing.

A question for Lindzen and his ilk: If global warming were happening, how would the temperature trend since the mid 1990s look any different? Other than the slope of the line being steeper, what would you expect to see if there were an actual signal on top of the noise?

I for one would expect to see exactly what we do see. But I would be interested in how people like Lindzen answer this question.

35

geo 03.03.10 at 6:07 pm

a mediocre science fiction novel, The Black Cloud

Henry, I’m shocked. I thought it was a great novel. Probably all true, too.

36

Deliasmith 03.03.10 at 6:29 pm

geo:

just beat me to it.

I’d be amazed and delighted to read a better science fiction story than The Black Cloud.

Apart from other considerations, the science is so clever, and explained so lucidly.

And the whole point of the novel is how ungrateful the world is …

37

roger 03.03.10 at 6:54 pm

I don’t find it sad. I find it infuriating that Lindzen’s denialist crap gets distributed by an irresponsible media. I find it comic that a scientist who has been bettered in an argument resorts to more and more desperate misreadings – the essay to go to on this is Stephen Jay Gould’s piece on Lord Kelvin, False Premise, Good Science in The Flamingo’s Smile which puts its finger on where scepticism is useful and where it is not (and might be useful as a reference in your book about Zombie ideas, John). And as for the league of Hummer fetishists that eat up every factoid like they were swalling the eucharist itself, what can one say? They are the sad ones, and make life sad for the rest of us.

38

Rich Puchalsky 03.03.10 at 7:05 pm

It’s really too bad that anti-DFH-ism has taken over the discourse to this extent. I thought that Lindzen was a hack from the start, taking industry money in order to support industry’s position. Now that he’s provably resorted to this kind of denial — which everyone agrees that he must know better than to believe — he’s given the “it’s too bad that scientists get cranky as they age” narrative. And the people who thought that he was bought and paid for are still dismissed as uncivil or over-the-top or something, not as people who turned out to be right.

39

Kevin Donoghue 03.03.10 at 7:08 pm

“I’d be amazed and delighted to read a better science fiction story than The Black Cloud.”

I enjoyed Hoyle’s October the First is Too Late. But then I usually don’t like science fiction, so maybe that just goes to show that it’s crap.

40

John Quiggin 03.03.10 at 8:08 pm

@Rich Puchalsky Bought and paid for is the default hypothesis with these guys e.g. Balling, Goklany, Michaels. So, I don’t think it’s OTT to assume this wrt Lindzen.

But the evidence for this in Lindzen’s case is actually fairly thin – Ross Gelbspan said he got some money from Western Fuels back in the 90s, but it wasn’t much and could have been seen as a misjudgement.

My diagnosis (as in the post) is that he’s an irresponsible contrarian (he denies the health risks of smoking, and makes a point of smoking during interviews) who has painted himself into a corner.

41

Aulus Gellius 03.03.10 at 8:53 pm

34: “A question for Lindzen and his ilk”

Ah, you’ve already gone wrong there. That side of the debate never answers questions. Nor do they pay attention when their own questions are answered. The point is always to raise further “disturbing” questions, and demand (but then ignore) more evidence. There’s a very widespread rhetoric of constant investigation and search among the delusionists; in a way, they are rightly called “skeptics,” since the point is always that everything is uncertain, and no conclusions are ever well-proven enough.

42

ice9 03.03.10 at 9:11 pm

Vituperative hatred of Gore is the signal characteristic of denialists when they are among their own species; it’s how functions much like the bright red buttocks of certain apes–a simple, subverbal cue, visible at long range, which allows them to identify one another. I figure it this way. Denialists spend most of their rhetorical energy on one another rather than in the hostile confines of comment threads (or scientific journals) where they will be challenged. From nodding, they have overdeveloped neck muscles. Even when those thinkers appear in hostile venues they tend to salt their essays with digs at Al Gore. If Gore hadn’t already won the Nobel he’d deserve it for selfless service as a lighting-rod for douchebaggery. So sd above offers us conclusions based on the badly begged question of credibility-reduction, arguing for a magical feedback loop between the reality of climate change and public opinion. And to his credit, no reference to Al Gore. Therefore he’s right.

ice9

43

Rich Puchalsky 03.03.10 at 9:18 pm

I guess I’m satisfied that it’s being treated as a matter for evidence, not as something rejected out of hand.

However, I think that you’re underplaying the evidence. See here, for example. It’s not just Western Fuels, and it’s not just back in the 90
s. He gets speaking fees, he’s had a speech underwritten by OPEC, and he’s a member of three different right-wing foundations that are largely funded by industry.

44

Jim Harrison 03.03.10 at 9:46 pm

The monetary fuel for climate denialism comes from energy companies, the fervor from conservative ideologues, the strategy from cynical PR mercenaries, and the cover from the handful of scientists who have become cranks in their old age.

45

Area Man 03.03.10 at 10:38 pm

Ah, you’ve already gone wrong there. That side of the debate never answers questions. Nor do they pay attention when their own questions are answered.

I know. I’m just wondering what could be going on in someone’s head to make them claim that, out of all the warming over the last 100+ years, the period where it accelerated the fastest doesn’t actually show warming. I’m just curious as to how someone sympathetic to this argument would justify it.

in a way, they are rightly called “skeptics,” since the point is always that everything is uncertain, and no conclusions are ever well-proven enough.

That’s certainly true when it comes to conclusions they don’t like. However, denying the mainstream view requires one to believe that you can pump virtually unlimited amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without causing significant warming. That is a hypothesis that they do not regard with the least bit of skepticism.

46

John Quiggin 03.03.10 at 11:24 pm

Similarly, ‘skeptics’ warning about ‘alarmism’ turn into gullible believers when the scare story concerns the supposed collapse of the economy to be brought about by a carbon price of $50/tonne. Lindzen has been among the worst in this respect.

47

Aulus Gellius 03.04.10 at 12:18 am

@45: but usually, when that kind of nonsense is attacked, they very quickly retreat to “hey, I was just trying think outside the box; maybe there are some problems with my idea too, but let’s enrich the debate by inviting some more creative thinking. Free your mind, man.” At least, I think that was Levitt’s defense. It’s a skepticism that puts all suggested theories on the same level, regardless of the amounts of evidence for or against them (the more I think about it, the more it seems like a parody of Sextus Empiricus: balancing opposing arguments, and always ending with uncertainty). This not only allows them to continue disbelieving the predictions, but also allows them to entertain multiple mutually contradictory opposed beliefs: there’s no global warming, it’s not caused by humans, it’s not harmful, it’s not worth the cost of preventing, there are several better ways of preventing it, etc.

@46: true, predictions of economic disaster are believed. But surely that’s reasonable: after all, physical scientists will say any old thing, but predictions about the economy are matters of reliable, unquestionable fact.

48

axg 03.04.10 at 2:01 am

Researchers in applied fields get (or should have got) a ton of warnings when they were budding stats students, but how many of them stick? I believe (based on a many hundreds of research papers in various fields read over my lifetime) there are entire fields where it is fully acceptable in peer-reviewed research articles to conflate “statistical significance” with significance (as an the English word), and lack of statistical significance with “no effect”. (One would hope that the top journals in a field would do better, of course).

I have encountered people talking on their research who don’t even bother with the “statistical-” qualifier and are genuinely totally flumoxed when asked for clarification.

Where this is accepted, and in a publish-or-perish enviroment, what possible point is there to heed those caveats from stats 101 too scrupulously (or even remember them)? Indeed, this is could be career limiting. So while I know nothing about the practice in climatology specifically, or Mr Lindzen, I think one should be cautious in general about attributing the worst motives or the best understanding of statistics to someone who makes such mistakes. Even someone at MIT.

49

Matt McIrvin 03.04.10 at 4:50 am

I’ve read a lot of SF, and I liked The Black Cloud quite a bit and October the First somewhat. It’s true that Mr. Black Cloud gets in a good word for the steady-state theory.

And it’s definitely true that Hoyle branched out into all kinds of crankiness, including claiming that Archaeopteryx was a fake and that most disease germs come from outer space. (I dimly recall one interviewer asked him if he thought HIV came from space and he said, no, he thought HIV was made in a biological weapons lab.)

50

John Quiggin 03.04.10 at 5:45 am

I agree with MM as regards The Black Cloud. The Cloud’s steady-state advocacy was much less obtrusive than the didacticism of lots of SF – lots of writing of all kinds for that matter. Oct 1st had some good bits, but the hero got on my nerves.

51

Matt Austern 03.04.10 at 6:04 am

One other thing to remember about Hoyle: The Black Cloud was published in 1957, and Penzias and Wilson’s discovery of cosmic background radiation was in 1964. It’s true that Hoyle continued to believe in his pet theory long after it had been disproved, but in 1957 I don’t think there was anything unreasonable about it. Putting it in his novel felt more like a little inside joke than the screaming of a crank.

52

Guano 03.04.10 at 9:18 am

I first came across Christopher Monckton at University, almost 40 years ago. A bizarre character, to say the least. It is disconcerting to find him quoted today in the press on a very serious subject.

53

Thon Brocket 03.04.10 at 11:29 am

54

John Quiggin 03.04.10 at 11:51 am

@axg A good defence, but if you look at the WUWT post, Lindzen clearly knows the difference.

55

Barry 03.04.10 at 1:50 pm

In addition, one stat error is one thing, but a record of repeatedly playing cutsie in one direction is another.

56

Old-Timer 03.04.10 at 2:24 pm

The correct answer is: “The world has been warming for over a century. There has been no statistically significant departure from this trend in the last ten years.”

57

Barry 03.04.10 at 3:46 pm

Old-timer, that is indeed the correct answer, but it’s tricky to do on-air, especially when trying to be careful about many other statements. It’s not that one thing, it’s the whole pattern.

58

politicalfootball 03.04.10 at 4:28 pm

That’s good stuff, Thon. The bit about establishing populist cred for the deniers was particularly funny:

For all the smears of big money funding the “deniers”, the numbers reveal that the sceptics are actually the true grassroots campaigners, while Greenpeace defends Wall St.

So now we measure scientific value by polling the tea partiers? It’s an epistemology for modern times.

Also topnotch: the careful distinction the author draws between climate research being based on satellite data and studies, and climate change denial being based on … something else:

The US government spent $79 billion on climate research and technology since 1989 – to be sure, this funding paid for things like satellites and studies, but it’s 3,500 times as much as anything offered to sceptics.

So satellite data and studies are automatically going to argue in favor of climate change, and we should therefore mount a massive funding program for denialists. Beautiful stuff.

59

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 03.04.10 at 4:50 pm

“Similarly, ‘skeptics’ warning about ‘alarmism’ turn into gullible believers when the scare story concerns the supposed collapse of the economy to be brought about by a carbon price of $50/tonne. Lindzen has been among the worst in this respect.”

At $50/tonne a lot of CO2 reduction becomes economical – carbon sequestration, for one. $50/tonne CO2 emissions is roughly 50 cents on a [U.S.] gallon of gas. Yet somehow the price of gas has varied by more than a buck over the past few years and we haven’t reverted to flint tools and stone axes. Anyone telling you that addressing CO2 emissions will destroy the economy is Full. Of. Shit.

What they don’t realize, CO2 emissions being cumulative, is that more CO2 emissions today means sharper cuts in the future. The U.S. Dept. of Energy is already looking at capturing CO2 from ambient air – i.e. for the scenario where zero emissions of CO2 aren’t enough, but we have to go to *negative* emissions. That’s *a lot* more expensive.

Unfortunately, I think the UEA emails complaining about McIntyre’s FOIA-harassment of climate scientists have created enough FUD to screw any movement on pricing carbon in the U.S. for a decade, at least. Which means the Chinese won’t do much that’s substantive, although probably still enough that when the U.S. does do something in 2020, it’ll be too far behind in the technology curve relative to China to gain any market share.

60

libertarian 03.04.10 at 8:12 pm

“It is sad to see a respected scientist reduced to this kind of thing.”

Perhaps, were it true.

But coming from an economist who has never had a fraction of the respect of Lindzen, and who, judging from his blog, has never risen above tendentious sophistry, I know to whom I’ll continue to give the benefit of doubt.

61

Marc 03.04.10 at 9:28 pm

#59: the argument is laid out clearly, and you can’t even be bothered to construct a counter-argument. You just know what you believe and who you believe, and that settles it.

You do fit your chosen name perfectly.

Non-scientists can get confused about statistical arguments, but this particular one was constructed by Lindzen to be dishonest. Namely – take a data series, find the longest period of time when a trend falls below some threshold of statistical significance, and broadcast an incredibly misleading statement that nothing has occured during the time period in question.

When, as a practicing scientist in the field, you know full well that you would have reversed the claim if you pushed the starting time by one year.

62

John Quiggin 03.04.10 at 9:58 pm

Indeed, this kind of response is characteristic of the intellectual collapse of libertarianism.

63

text 03.04.10 at 10:00 pm

has never risen above tendentious sophistry

Why is it that certain types of people think the term “sophistry” is a valid place-holder for argument? What do you think the term means, dear libertarian? Is “sophistry” more than an arrangement of words that you don’t like?

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politicalfootball 03.04.10 at 10:03 pm

libertarian, if acclaim is your measure of credibility, who has more acclaim among climate scientists: deniers or, um, climate scientists? Surely you have to grant that the whole “appeal to authority” argument works against you here.

(The unsupported insult argument, however, is right in your wheelhouse, and you are wise to rely on it.)

65

libertarian 03.05.10 at 12:26 am

“Indeed, this kind of response is characteristic of the intellectual collapse of libertarianism.”

Heh. At least we had somewhere to collapse from Quiggin.

#63 “Sophistry” is specious argument designed to deceive. Lindzen is one of the top few atmospheric scientists on the planet. Yet we should rather listen to some blogger/part-time economist barely known outside his own country in his chosen field? I am not one for arguing from authority, but let’s just say Quiggin’s take on the veracity of Lindzen’s statements are hardly relevant. More important is that the climate scientists themselves admit their models are at a loss to explain the plateau in temperatures for the past decade.

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onymous 03.05.10 at 12:49 am

Lindzen is one of the top few atmospheric scientists on the planet.

By what measure? Google Scholar turns up one highly-cited paper by him since 1990, which presents the “iris effect”, his magical answer to global warming that no one believes and which is pretty thoroughly discredited. He has the publication profile of someone who may have been important in the 70s and 80s, but not so much since. (Look at the Google Scholar returns for Hansen to see what an older but still-important scientist’s publication record looks like. Though maybe I should pick someone less superhuman for comparison.)

Yet we should rather listen to some blogger/part-time economist barely known outside his own country in his chosen field?

If said blogger and economist is able to summarize the consensus views of the experts, yes.

67

John Quiggin 03.05.10 at 2:06 am

This particular question isn’t one of expertise (though, of course, as pointed out above, the vast weight of expert judgement is against Lindzen)

Anyone who has passed and understood a first-year stats course can see that Lindzen has got it badly wrong. That apparently doesn’t include the typical libertarian, which is one reason that almost without exception they have gullibly swallowed a message that suits their policy prejudices rather than accepting the conclusions of science on an issue they can’t understand themselves.

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andrew adams 03.05.10 at 12:42 pm

Lindzen does have bona fide scientific credentials – he’s not a Watts or a McIntyre, so when Libertarian says

Lindzen is one of the top few atmospheric scientists on the planet. Yet we should rather listen to some blogger/part-time economist barely known outside his own country in his chosen field?

it’s not an unreasonable argument, at least if the subject at hand is Lindzen’s particular area of expertise – atmospheric physics or a closely related field. So I presume Libertarian would apply the same principle to all of those who are experts in the field of climate science and give more credence to professional scientists like Hansen or Schmidt than to bloggers with no relevant qualifications or expertise.

But of course this isn’t an argument about atmospheric physics, it’s essentially an argument about the inferences we can draw from a statistical analysis of certain data, which is a different thing altogether, and if Lindzen is talking nonsense we have a right to call him on it.

And the “not statistically significant” argument is inherently absurd – in any given year you can calculate the minimum number of past years (call it y) needed to give a statistically significant trend and point out there has been no statistically significant warming for y-1 years. If warming really has stopped then the deniers would be able to demonstrate a statistically significant trend which showed this.

69

Barry 03.05.10 at 1:29 pm

“So I presume Libertarian would apply the same principle to all of those who are experts in the field of climate science and give more credence to professional scientists like Hansen or Schmidt than to bloggers with no relevant qualifications or expertise.”

I think that this is a classic symptom of junk science – taking one or two actual experts in a field, hyping their credentials, and ignoring the several hundred to several thousand who disagree. Note that it’s a classic in creationism – setting up a debate between a creationist with some credentials, and *a* biologist. This makes a 10,000:1 controversy look like a 1:1 controversy.

Now, if there was something happening in the real world which added weight to those few dissenters, that’s one thing; it might well be that those dissenters are heading for historical fame as the pioneers of a new theory. But what we see here is year after year after ….. after year of more and more evidence piling up agains the dissenters.

70

libertarian 03.05.10 at 2:42 pm

RE# 66: You’re not seriously comparing Lindzen to Hansen. Hansen is an intellectual pygmy by comparison. His citation count reflects his stature as the driving scientific force behind AGW alarmism, not his contributions to the fundamental science.

Regardless, the argument here is about “statistically significant” vs “significant”. Presumably because he is not actually familiar with the subject, Quiggin casts it as a mere case of cherry-picking an artificially short interval, and that if we just wait a few more years all trends will reappear. This is baloney. There has been a plateau in global temperatures for the past decade after a steeper rise in the 70s, 80s and 90s, which the climate models are at a loss to explain, something the climate modelers readily admit. It may be just variance, but even if that is the case, the models are not capturing the variance in the real climate system on that time scale, so the last decade does indicate the models are not capturing all relevant climate processes.

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Barry 03.05.10 at 3:32 pm

“There has been a plateau in global temperatures for the past decade “

Bullshit – now you’re leaning on the 1998 El Nino.

72

andrew adams 03.05.10 at 4:20 pm

And anyway, that “plateau” is not statistically significant.

73

Barry 03.05.10 at 4:35 pm

double fault to the libertarian – anybody want to go for strike three?

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Barry 03.05.10 at 4:38 pm

Actually, libertarian’s comment at #65 is strike 1, for reasons that I pointed out in #69.

That makes three strikes – don’t worry, though; for some fields, like glibertarianism, you’re doing fine.

75

libertarian 03.05.10 at 4:52 pm

hahaha. You guys are so funny. The plateau is significant for the *models*. They don’t exhibit that kind of decadal variability. There’s a good reason for that: they’re programmed for CO2 to produce warming, not so much to model the more complex processes in the climate system (since many of them are still not well-understood). So all they can do when you pump up CO2 is show a largely monotonic temperature rise.

If you read Lindzen more widely you’d realize his primary schtick is the difference between what the models predict and how the real climate behaves. Of course, if you’re a devout believer in the Church of Global Warming, you’d prefer to listen to washed-up blogger-economists than have your faith questioned by someone who knows what he is talking about.

There’s some big words in that explanation Barry/aa, so feel free to take your time responding.

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andrew adams 03.05.10 at 5:21 pm

It’s simply not true that decadal variability is not consistent with the models. See this paper by Easterling and Wehner

it is clear that the models can and do produce sustained multi-year periods of ‘‘cooling’’ embedded within the longer-term warming produced in the 21st century simulations. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that the natural variability of the real climate system can and likely will produce multi-year periods of sustained ‘‘cooling’’ or at least periods with no real trend even in the presence of long-term anthropogenic forced warming.
Claims that global warming is not occurring that are derived from a cooling observed over such short time periods ignore this natural variability and are misleading.

Lindzen’s “primary schtick” is that climate sensitivity is much lower than that indicated by the large number of studies which have been done on the subject. Unfortunately his much lauded (by some) joint paper with Choi which supposedly proves this has found to be badly flawed – even Roy Spencer, hardly an “alarmist” has said so.

And why would we need to rely on “washed up blogger-economists” when we there is a huge body of peer-reviewed science which supports our position?

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toby 03.05.10 at 5:26 pm

Lindzen says ‘There has been no warming since 1997 and no statistically significant warming since 1995’.

Libertarian says “Regardless, the argument here is about “statistically significant” vs “significant”. “

Convenient word that, “Regardless”, as in “plunging on, regardless”, … libertarian wants to go here:

Fox News: Global Warming in Last 15 Years Insignificant, U.K.’s Top Climate Scientist Admits

“If you read Lindzen more widely you’d realize his primary schtick is the difference between what the models predict and how the real climate behaves.”

No, the difference is between what the (accepted) models predict and what Lindzen’s models predict. The trope of “you’re talking about models, I’m talking real climate” is a loada baloney. Even the denialists use satellite temperature data, but the satellites don’t measure temperature, they capture microwaves, whiich must be converted to temperature by … a model.

Phil Jones did say the change was “nearly significant”, I wonder if he said “Well, the slope of the linear model fitted to the time series of temperatures over the last 15 years is significant at the 10% (or 15%) level”, would the denialists have jumped all over him for exaggerating the significance? Jones (as a good and cautious scientist) stuck with the 5% level, but as any statistician will tell you, 5% is more a traditionally-used figure than one derived from any first principles. The medical crowd use it a lot, so it turns up a lot in treatment protocols, but in many ways it is arbitrary. Pity Jones did not just quote the p-value and leave it at that.

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libertarian 03.05.10 at 6:09 pm

RE #76: Look at figure 3 in that paper. The pdfs for forced model runs are way to the right of the observational pdf (black). Translation: feed CO2 into models and they show much more monotonic warming than the actual climate.

“Roy Spencer, hardly an “alarmist” has said so”

Roy Spencer has also most recently pointed out that the global thermometer record is biased sharply upwards (ie, there is a lot less actual warming than we are being led to believe).

“And why would we need to rely on “washed up blogger-economists” when we there is a huge body of peer-reviewed science which supports our position?”

All created by what we now know to be the biggest circle-jerk in the history of science.

RE #77: you’re incoherent.

79

guthrie 03.05.10 at 6:16 pm

Libertarian #75 – CO2 does produce warming, as do methane, CFC’s and a few other gases. So I fail to see what the problem is with models showing warming…

Furthermore, the models are programmed to include clouds, ice, land surface, ocean surface, ocean overturning circulation, rivers, sulphates, vegetation and probably other things that I can’t recall and aren’t immediately written in the reference I have here. (reference page 99 chapter 1 IPCC FAR) Moreover you have failed to give us an example of a model showing a largely monotonic temperature rise. Care to do so?

80

toby 03.05.10 at 7:51 pm

Anyone with an interest in this topic should hear Naomi Oreskes give a great talk about her book “Merchants of Doubt” which comes out this year. Just go to the link below. She explains how a small group of right-wing scientists have used the same tactics to delay action on tobacco, acid rain, and the ozone hole as well as climate change. Her view is that the success of these tactics over many fields is due to a common misunderstanding of science.

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/?utm_source=bloglist&utm_medium=dropdown

re: Libertarian, so that’s what “intellectual bankrupcy” means? Great defense, reminds me that I was sympathetic to libertarianism until you all fell flat on your faces for Bush and Cheney.

81

John Quiggin 03.05.10 at 8:07 pm

Just a reminder which will no doubt reinforce opinions on both sides of the debate as regards Lindzen’s capacity for statistical reasoning. He’s also a ‘sceptic’ regarding the health risks of smoking and acts on his views.

82

onymous 03.05.10 at 8:22 pm

RE #76: Look at figure 3 in that paper. The pdfs for forced model runs are way to the right of the observational pdf (black). Translation: feed CO2 into models and they show much more monotonic warming than the actual climate.

It might help if you read the caption or the labels on the graph, which I expect you’re actually capable of, rather than freely interpreting it to say something it doesn’t say that happens to reinforce your preconceptions. The only curves there that one would expect to match are the black and green, and — wonder of wonders! — they do. As the text says:

The observed record shows a very similar distribution to the 20th century simulations, especially considering that only one version of the observed record was used in this analysis adding credence to the conclusions in the IPCC AR4 that the observed warming since 1950 is very likely due to increasing greenhouse gases.

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andrew adams 03.05.10 at 8:53 pm

“And why would we need to rely on “washed up blogger-economists” when we there is a huge body of peer-reviewed science which supports our position?

All created by what we now know to be the biggest circle-jerk in the history of science.

What’ s he point in debating a scientific question with someone who rejects the entire body of science?

84

andrew adams 03.05.10 at 8:54 pm

Sorry, only the final paragraph above is mine.

85

Walt 03.05.10 at 9:32 pm

Wow, that was one humiliating exchange for libertarian.

86

arthegall 03.05.10 at 9:47 pm

I’m not sure you could call it an ‘exchange’ — most of the fire was going in one direction.

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libertarian 03.05.10 at 10:16 pm

“What’ s he point in debating a scientific question with someone who rejects the entire body of science?”

What’s the point in debating a scientific question with someone who believes global warming alarmism constitutes the entire body of science?

88

libertarian 03.05.10 at 10:23 pm

RE #82:

“The observed record shows a very similar distribution to the 20th century simulations, especially considering that only one version of the observed record was used in this analysis”

What does that even mean? “especially considering that only one version … was used”? They picked the one that gave the closest agreement?

The models have been tweaked to buggery in order to get the 20th century to match observations. Let them rip on forecasting instead of hindcasting and they behave very differently. And guess what? The predictions produced 10 years ago of screaming GW have not panned out. Now the modelers are busy tweaking again to get a better match to the latest decade, but unfortunately for them, their credibility is now shot.

Sorry control freaks, you don’t get to tax me for breathing.

89

John Protevi 03.05.10 at 10:44 pm

Sorry control freaks, you don’t get to tax me for breathing.

I think we can tell the Lawyers Guns and Money crowd that a New Internet Tradition has been formed today: the glibertarian version of Godwin’s Law

90

Substance McGravitas 03.05.10 at 10:47 pm

He’s beathing and taxed, so he’s there already. Control freaks win again!

91

libertarian 03.05.10 at 11:33 pm

92

John Protevi 03.05.10 at 11:56 pm

Well played, libertarian, well played. We might finally have found that right-wing humor we’ve heard so much about but never see much of.

But the song forgot to mention how fat Al Gore is, besides how rich he is. See #42 above.

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guthrie 03.05.10 at 11:58 pm

libertarian #90 – is that supposed to be an argument or a contradiction?

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Aulus Gellius 03.06.10 at 2:04 am

let’s all just admit that libertarian has defeated us: Lindzen is the most influential climate scientist, if you discount all of the ones who believe in Global warming, so we should accept his word about what “significant” means.

95

alex 03.06.10 at 8:24 am

Can’t we all just agree that he is Wrong on The Internet, and move on?

96

hugh ord 03.09.10 at 1:15 am

I beg to differ. Statistically significant simply means that the data being presented is less than than the maximum measurement error. That is to say if the the data is no more accurate than plus or minus z, then any number within that range cannot be known accurately.

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