Friday, March 30, 2007

Ask not for whom the Tol shills


Eli went over to visit Ethon at the other place, only to find the good Prof. Dr. Something or Other, Hamburg, Pittsburgh and Other Vacation Spots (ok, Dublin ain't bad, but he gotta lay off the Guiness), Richard Tol holding forth on the Hansen Arxiv piece:

Thanks, Roger, one would almost agree with Bush that Hansen should shut up.
Hansen, like Rahmstorff, is not a glaciologist but pretends to understand ice better than true experts -- and resorts to half-baked science sociology to prove his point.
My glaciologist friends tell me that they do not really understand and really cannot model the fast ice dynamics. They know their predictions are wrong, but they cannot even say whether it is an upward or downward bias.
Posted by: Richard Tol at March 30, 2007 03:01 PM
This is amusing on several levels. If they are talking about fast ice dynamics Tol's glaciologist friends think things are PRETTY DIRE. Of course things could be somewhat dire, really dire or end of the world as we know it dire, which appear to be the choices on offer here. OTOH the Roger and Richard show would be twice as amusing if Eli had not read and posted the recommendation that Hansen makes at the end of his manuscript and in his public presentations on the matter.
In this circumstance it seems vital that we provide the best information we can about the threat to the great ice sheets posed by human-made climate change. This information, and necessary caveats, should be provided publicly, and in plain language. The best suggestion I can think of is for the National Academy of Sciences to carry out a study, in the tradition of the Charney and Cicerone reports on global warming. I would be glad to hear alternative suggestions.
Richard is being perfectly numbty. (Ear tip to James Annan). One could now engage in a bloggers ethics panel, but the Rabett prefers rhyme

UPDATE: It should have been numPty. However, adopting the position that Eli never makes a mistake, allow me to point out that numBty combines dumb as a sack full of hammers with the lack of sensitivity associated with a true numbnut (3). Never question a partially dyslexic artist

At the risk of losing the thread, allow me to use the Urban Dictionary's definitions of dyslexia as an example of differences in style between here and the other place:

Other place: A learning disability or processing disorder which causes a person to not be able to recognize words that are misspelled as easily as a person who does not have it. Also people with dyslexia commonly have difficulty reading changing words around and adding them in where they aren’t. People with dyslexia are by no means stupid, in fact sometimes they are much smarter or more creative since a different part of their brain is more developed than the part that deals with language. People recently have started using dyslexia as an insult or otherwise just to justify things they've done backwards or words they’ve misspelled, but it is an actual disorder that many people have. See my book, Spelling and Science Policy Studies and the many articles we have published on the subject

Rabett Run: If you can spell it, you're not
Doctor: Please spell Dyslexic
Man: Huh?
Doctor: That'll be a yes then...
Numbty and Dumbty said it was nothing at all
Numbty and Dumbty told us to stall
All Tol's students and Roger Pielke's Ken
Couldn't put the ice caps together again
Just another clown protecting his franchise at our cost.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pielke either does not understand what hansen is saying in his paper, or he is knowingly mis-characterizing it.

Here's what Pielke said in response to a comment from Hank on Prometheus:
"Hansen is not simply saying that we need to interpolate [sic] the IPCC reports. He is saying that the IPCC report is too conservative, and not that it is outdated/superseded."

Actually, Hansen is saying that it is both too conservative and outdated -- and the former follows from the latter.

Hansen is quite justified in indicating that the report is outdated at the very get-go because it knowingly omits a potentially important (possibly critical) piece of the sea level rise puzzle: dynamics of ice sheet melting and disintegration.

From Hansen's paper:
"Glaciologist Richard Alley, an IPCC lead author, said “Lots of people
were saying we [IPCC authors] should extrapolate into the future, but we dug our heels in at the IPCC
and said that we don’t know enough to give an answer.”

Not knowing enough to give a definitive answer about how much such dynamics will contribute to sea level rise is not the same as saying that they will not contribute to sea level rise. They almost certainly will.

Hansen is justified in saying that the current IPCC report is too conservative (having left out the ice dynamics) because 1) such reports are conservative by their very nature and 2) there is absolutely no way in hell that the dynamics of ice sheet melting are going to lead to a slowing or reverse of sea level rise.

Roger Pielke continues:
"it seems to me that Hansen has already reached a conclusion and is looking for some way to legitimize it. He may very well be 100% correct in his views on ice sheets, but he probably should be careful in asking us nonexperts to discard the consensus model of science advice."

Hansen has reached no conclusions. But he is looking at the elephant standing in the room (ice sheet melt dynamics) and realizes that it is not going to go way if people merely pretend it is not there. Hansen is merely pointing out that the consensus model has a gaping hole in it.

Why shouldn't people -- including policy makers -- be made ware of this fact so that the hole can be filled with further study by a group of scientists like the National Academy?



Kerr (2007) describes a specific relevant example, whether IPCC should include estimates of
dynamical ice sheet loss in their projections: “too poorly understood, IPCC authors said”, and “overly
cautious – (dynamical effects) could raise sea level much faster than IPCC was predicting” some
scientists responded. Kerr goes on to say “almost immediately, new findings have emerged to support
IPCC’s conservative position.”

Anonymous said...

To be fair, the IPCC SPM did point out that we are aware of the gaping hole in our knowledge of ice sheet dynamics. It is just that people such as Pielke (Inhofe, Barton, McIntyre, etc. etc) choose to ignore this admission or grasp at the straw which says that ice sheet dynamics may have the effect of decreasing(!?) SLR.

Anonymous said...

Eli, I take it you prefer definition #2?

Anonymous said...

I take it that is a deliberate mispelling of numpty?

guthrie

Anonymous said...

Even with the uncertainties, the IPCC could have include the effects of ice sheet dynamics in their estimate of sea level rise by providing different scenarios with attached uncertainties.

I suspect that they may have chosen not to do so because they thought the uncertainties associated with ice sheet dynamics would somehow dilute (in the eye of policymakers and public) their certainty statement regarding AGW (among other things) and th overall "confident feel" of the report.

In other words, had they included the information on ice sheet dynamics with large uncertainties, it would have colored their other conclusions and left them open for attack for "overselling".


There is no way that IPCC can win with people like Pielke. IPCC are damned if they do (include the information with large uncertainties and scenarios) and damned if they don't.

It serves no one (not policy makers and not the public) to omit entirely the effects of ice sheet dynamics on sea level rise from the report. It is not accurate to say that they know nothing at this point. People actually know enough to be frightened by what they have seen.

Hank Roberts said...

My impression is that even 'scenarios' would have been overreaching at the time the IPCC's deadline arrived. We had the old story ---- sleeping if not catatonic giant, nothing going on under the ice; and some hints something else was happening, at that point, but nothing I recall that was very clear. Experts can correct this and I hope will, someone at IPCC should have a growing file folder on this area.

"nothing going on but a growing uncertainty about whether that has in fact been true or will be" isn't a scenario.

As to Pielke --- eeewwwww. Self-described honest brokers were recommending Enron, up to the last day before the crash. We fool ourselves first of all; "Honest Anybody's Anything Brokerage" has to be a red flag for high risk.

Anonymous said...

My impression is that even 'scenarios' would have been overreaching at the time the IPCC's deadline arrived"

I have the opposite impression, based on what I have been reading about studies that have come out on ice sheet dynamics over the past year or so.


"nothing going on but a growing uncertainty about whether that has in fact been true or will be" isn't a scenario.


Far more is known about ice sheet dynamics than that statement would indicate.

The very purpose of scenarios is to present different possibilities based on uncertain knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Here's one example of what I referred to above.

This article that was published in feb 2006 (over a year ago) talks about research that shows that Greenland's glaciers have been accelerating significantly over the past ten years.



"Sea levels likely to rise much faster than was predicted
By Steve connor, Science Editor in St Louis
Published: 17 February 2006

Global warming is causing the Greenland ice cap to disintegrate far faster than anyone predicted. A study of the region's massive ice sheet warns that sea levels may - as a consequence - rise more dramatically than expected.

Scientists have found that many of the huge glaciers of Greenland are moving at an accelerating rate - dumping twice as much ice into the sea than five years ago - indicating that the ice sheet is undergoing a potentially catastrophic breakup."

http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article345927.ece

Anonymous said...

"Honest Anybody's Anything Brokerage" has to be a red flag for high risk."

Whenever I see the word "Honest" tacked on the the beginning of a self assigned title, I think "Honest Al" the used car salesman -- and then laugh out loud.

It's hilarious.

Richard S J said...

Eli: You misread my message.

The main point is that Hansen is out of his depth, on ice (as he should know) and on the sociology of science (where many physicist are so blind that they do not even realise they can't see). I guess that Roger Pielke is particularly worked up on the second point.

Fast and slow are of course relative. Fast ice is slow in most contexts, and slow ice is really slow.

My second point, backed up by a quote from Richard Alley on this thread, is that nobody understands what is going on at Greenland at the moment -- that therefore extrapolation is most likely wrong -- and that the state of knowledge is such that one cannot even tell the sign of the bias.

Anonymous said...

"that the state of knowledge is such that one cannot even tell the sign of the bias."

Think about what you just said a little bit.

I'm not a glaciologist, but I can tell you that the dynamics of melting glaciers and ice sheets are certainly not going to reduce sea levels or reduce the amount of increase.

That's common sense and Hansen seems to have more of it than some.

Anonymous said...

Eli, just a note:
Poets do not need to explain or apologize for anything. Particularly not their spelling.

Anonymous said...

Richard Tol said "The main point is that Hansen is out of his depth, on ice"

What a hoot that statement is, coming as it does from an economist.

Last time I checked, the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets (Newton's law, anyone?) was a lot closer to physics than it was to economics.

EliRabett said...

Richard, you should take a look at James Titus' page on sea level rise. Titus' knows as much as anyone about the subject having essentially created the specialty for the EPA in the US. His comment on Hansen:

"The most recent paper on the subject by Jim Hansen. The Captain’s candidate for the next Nobel Prize awarded for climate change research. Although he helped EPA get started in assessing the consequences of sea level rise in 1983, he moved on to other issues. But twenty years later he came back to this issue, with a provocative essay in Climatic Change warning that greenhouse gases may put polar glaciers on a "slippery slope to Hell." The Captain uses these analyses to consider worse-case scenarios."

shows that there may be something you don't know.

Richard S J said...

Anonymous -- care to reveal who you are?

I actually have been a professor of geoscience for 7 years -- but that does not make me a glaciologist. The glaciologists in the deparment did impress on me, however, that ice is governed by a bunch of very non-linear differential equations -- and that any simple thinking is just simple-minded.

The big uncertainty is the amount of snow that will fall in the future -- more snow means more ice, but could also bring faster movement.

Similarly, a thinner ice sheet would imply less pressure, and may imply slower movement.

However, you should not believe me, but rather listen to someone like Richard Alley or David Vaughan -- who have been around ice for a while, are in no one's pocket, and say it's all too complicated.

I would advice against believing Jim Hansen, who has no track record on ice, seems keen on annoying the White House, and has been somewhat of an alarmist.

Anonymous said...

"shows that there may be something you don't know."

His statements alone show that -- no outside reading required.

Anonymous said...

Richard Tol said: "actually have been a professor of geoscience for 7 years"


Forgive me, I was confusing you with this Richard Tol, who is educated/ trained in economics (not science).

Titles can be meaningless, at any rate, unless they are backed up with tangible evidence of knowledge in a particualr area (eg, publication in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

James Hansen has a PhD in physics and has a lot of peer-reviewed science under his belt, which actually means he knows some science.

There is a (huge) difference between economic training and scientific training.

EliRabett said...

Richard, Eli would refer you to Hansen's recommendation on the matter, to set up a high level NAS review panel. He is saying that he sees data appearing that gives cause to worry and that the dyamics ARE non-linear (you appear to agree as do the glaciologists).

Everyone would benefit from reading Tamino's post on increasing (doubling) of earthquakes (ice shifts) on Greenland.

The Rabett would say to Richard that he appears to have bought RPJr. and RT's frame of the Hansen Arxiv article. This is almost always a major error. RTFR.

Anonymous said...

"ice is governed by a bunch of very non-linear differential equations"

Oh, my "non-linear". Really?

And "differential equations"?

Wow! How erudite.

As a physicist myself, I find it humorous how frequently non-scientists throw terms like "non-linear" around.

Many of them have no clue what it means as applied to glacial movements, for example -- or they would realize that it actually undercuts the argument that "a small temperature increase will have a small effect on ice dynamics which will in turn have a small effect on sea level rise."

Steve Bloom said...

Richard, you don't have to be an expert in anything to tell the difference between Alley's stance on the AR4 contents (as quoted by Hansen) and the consensus statement by glaciologists (including Alley and Vaughan) of a couple of days ago.

I would suggest to you that perhaps Hansen has a bit more access than do you to the unpublished views of people like Alley and Vaughan. Hansen has, after all, been a policy leader in the climate science community since you and RP Jr. were barely out of short pants.

Richard S J said...

Thanks, Steve.

I googled your hints, and found:
http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/news/rels/032807.html

I quote:

# Oceanic changes have caused the increased ice-shelf melting. The observed average warming of the global ocean has not yet notably affected the waters reaching the base of the ice shelves. However, recent changes in winds around Antarctica caused by human influence and/or natural variability may be changing ocean currents, moving warmer waters under the ice shelves.

# Our understanding of ice-sheet flow suggests the possibility that too much melting beneath ice shelves will lead to “runaway” thinning of the grounded ice sheet. Current understanding is too limited to know whether, when, or how rapidly this might happen, but discussions at the meeting included the possibility of several feet of sea-level rise over a few centuries from changes in this region.

To me, this reads like "it's all really complicated and we need a lot more work before we understand" rather than Hansen's "the IPCC is wrong" let alone "we will all drown".

Anonymous said...

Richar Tol: "To me, this reads like "it's all really complicated and we need a lot more work before we understand" rather than Hansen's "the IPCC is wrong" let alone "we will all drown".


That's a gross mis-representation of Hansen's position.


In his paper "Scientific reticence and sea level rise" (which I suggest you read, by the way), Hansen fully acknowledged the uncertainties associated with ice sheet dynamics.

He has called for the "National Academy of Sciences to carry out a study [to focus on what is known about ice sheet dynamics], in the tradition of the Charney and Cicerone reports on global warming"

Perhaps you can explain to all of us just why Hansen's proposal to have the National Academy take a look at the state of the (ice) science is not a good idea?


In James Hansen's words:
"In this circumstance it seems vital that we provide the best information we can about the threat to the great ice sheets posed by human-made climate change. This information, and necessary caveats,
should be provided publicly, and in plain language. The best suggestion I can think of is for the National
Academy of Sciences to carry out a study, in the tradition of the Charney and Cicerone reports on global warming. I would be glad to hear alternative suggestions.
is calling for an assessment by scientists

Richard S J said...

Dear anonymous Hansen fan,

His abstract has three sentences.

"I suggest that a ‘scientific reticence’ is inhibiting communication of a threat of potentially large sea level
rise. Delay is dangerous because of system inertias that could create a situation with future sea level
changes out of our control. I argue for calling together a panel of scientific leaders to hear evidence and
issue a prompt plain-written report on current understanding of the sea level change issue."

In the paper, Hansen specifically targets the IPCC as reticent.

The first sentence is just nonsense. The second sentence is not for Hansen-the-scientists to argue, as dangerous is a value judgement. The third sentence may make sense, although it would shift yet more time from research to assessment.

EliRabett said...

Well, let us look at these three sentences from the bottom up. Although, perhaps not the broad seal level (yes, Eli knows, but sometimes his fingers are smarter than his brain) panel Hansen was looking for, the West Antarctic ice shelf workshop was a good first step. Notice that they thought the situation to be dire enough to issue a public declaration which almost point for point agreed with Hansen's Arxiv manuscript.

That declaration specifically agreed with point two,

"Our understanding of ice-sheet flow suggests the possibility that too much melting beneath ice shelves will lead to “runaway” thinning of the grounded ice sheet. Current understanding is too limited to know whether, when, or how rapidly this might happen, but discussions at the meeting included the possibility of several feet of sea-level rise over a few centuries from changes in this region."

Eli really is not interested in parsing the difference between several feet in a few centuries and meters in 1-3 centuries. Neither are most who live in South Florida

At Rabett Run we think that Hansen is not attacking the IPCC, although you may have that opinion and it is a useful one for the reticent (which we may divide into the ostrich herders and the ostriches, ie. there are those for whom such a framing is a useful stick to beat the Hansens and others whom by nature require reticence), but rather he perceives a possible /probable danger which the IPCC process is not good for handling and wants to use another, more rapid procedure, the NAS study panel.

You should remember that past panels, for example the MSU one, recommended fruitful lines of research which lead to resolution of issues. That is likely to be the first result of such a panel on sea level rise. Just as IPCC is a good procedure for summarizing current understanding, NAS panels are good for focussing future research. Mostly that is their job.

Anonymous said...

Richard Tol said: "The second sentence is not for Hansen-the-scientists to argue, as dangerous is a value judgement."

Yes indeed, as everyone knows, scientists (who are not people) are not entitled to make value judgments (unlike economists like yourself, who are, of course).

Anonymous said...

"The third sentence may make sense, although it would shift yet more time from research to assessment."

Say what???

If a handful of scientists at the National Academy assess the current state of ice sheet science, I fail to see how that is going to significantly take away from time spent on ongoing research -- especially if they base their assessment on already published and submitted papers.

Talk about nonsense. Do you have any idea how this stuff works?