Thursday, September 06, 2007

And in this corner . . .

Eli would like to draw your attention to two new entries in the blogroll

Skeptical Science by John Cook at the University of Queensland who mission is to take the hottest skeptical arguments (he's ranked them folks) and grind them into the ground using the mighty pestle of the scientific literature. John mission statement says:

I've noticed two patterns in global warming skepticism. Firstly, many reasons for disbelieving in anthroporphic global warming (AGW) seems to be political rather than scientific. Eg - it's all a liberal plot to spread socialism and destroy capitalism (or sometimes just plain dislike for Al Gore). As one person put it, "the cheerleaders for doing something about global warming seem to be largely the cheerleaders for many causes of which I disapprove".

But beneath the politics is a more elemental instinct - an aversion to alarmism. We've been burnt before. The media predicted an ice age in the 70's which never eventuated. Y2K was going to destroy society - it was barely a hiccup. And I won't deny there are alarmists in the global warming camp. Urgent cries that the ice sheets are on the verge of sliding into the sea. Hysteric predictions that Manhattan will soon be underwater. Or emotional pleas to save those cute little polar bears. Sadly, alarmists seem to be the loudest voices in the global warming debate. But that doesn't change the science underneath.

So I avoid the distractions of political agendas, ad hominem arguments and hyperbole about "the new religion". Instead, I concentrate on the science. And I noticed when the discussion did get to science, the same flawed skeptic arguments kept popping up and got passed around the blogosphere, Chinese whispers style. This website is an attempt to examine all the scientific arguments that reject AGW.

Very much in the spirit of Coby Beck's How to talk to a global warming sceptic and very nicely done but sadly no comments. (John is smarter than Eli)

And Big City Liberal Strikes Back, climate blogging gold amongst the Canadian politics dross (Ok BG, Eli is a cynic at heart). You might enjoy his Great Balls of Dry Ice pumpkin chucker (who the hell can spell trebuchet)


Steve Bloom said...

Actually Skeptical Science does allow comments. It may just be for the most recent six articles shown on the front page, though, since that appears to be the only place from which comments can be made. The direct article links don't have comments even for those six. Possibly that's just an oversight. John?

Steve Bloom said...

I should take this chance to plug a blog I hardly ever see mentioned, Fragilecologies. The blogger is Mickey Glantz, who can fairly be described as one of the Great Minds of ecological science (although the subject matter of the posts ranges far beyond ecology). Mickey was in on climate change early, so there's a lot about that. The carefully crafted posts are infrequent (averaging every 3 weeks or so) but well worth the wait. There is no comment option.

bigcitylib said...

I am deeply honored.

Sparrow (in the coal mine) said...

As for the global cooling argument I actually hunted down a 30 year old copy of the original NAS report, scanned it and then posted it on my blog:

A Wooden Stake in Newsweek's Global Cooling Heart

See it with your own eyes. Located at the bottom of the post.

Anonymous said...

I love Cook's observation about AGW skeptics:

"Skeptics vigorously criticise any evidence that supports anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and yet eagerly, even blindly embrace any argument, op-ed piece, blog, study or 15 year old that refutes AGW."

Show them a 2-year-old who has "refuted" AGW and I'm sure their standard would slip even lower.

Perhaps someone at CEI should produce a CD that mothers can play to their babies in the womb: "A message to my unborn child: Global warming is a libero-communist-Fidel-Castro supporting conspiracy to take away your property perpetrated by a Big Fat Politician who looks and talks like Commander Data from Star Trek . After you are born, don't believe a word he says..."

John Cook said...

Eli, many thanks for the kind comments (and the blogroll link, sweet!) For the record, I'm no longer at the Uni of Qld - I studied there but quit academia many years ago.

As for comments, being a sucker for punishment, I will be adding them in shortly. I'm hand-coding the website and am gradually adding various features day by day (as well as trying to keep up with the latest science developments). I added in comments on the blog posts last week - comments on each skeptic argument is next. I'm a bit trepidatious about what's gonna happen having seen the feral stuff that goes on in the blogosphere but intend to moderate like a fascist :-)

Anonymous said...

Hansen releases his code and this is what McIntyre says about it:

"Hansen says resentfully that they would have liked a “week or two” to make a “simplified version” of the program and that it is this version that “people interested in science” will want, as opposed to the version that actually generated their results."

Perhaps McIntyre does not think that anyone will read what Hansen actually said, even though McIntyre includes it immediately below his above statement:

"Reto Ruedy has organized into a single document, as well as practical on a short time scale, the programs that produce our global temperature analysis from publicly available data streams of temperature measurements. These are a combination of subroutines written over the past few decades by Sergej Lebedeff, Jay Glascoe, and Reto. Because the programs include a variety of
languages and computer unique functions,

"Reto would have preferred to have a week or two to combine these into a simpler more transparent structure, but because of a recent flood of demands for the programs, they are being made available as is. People interested in science may want to wait a week or two for a simplified version."

If anyone is showing resentment in this case, it is McIntyre himself, the poor dear.

Horatio Algeranon said...

Some might find the "Skeptic" arguments to be very anonymusing.

Deech56 said...

The release of Dr. Hansen's code has the whole CA crowd in a tizzy. Maybe this was to keep them all occupied, sorta like bell work.

Anonymous said...

I'd call it a frenzy -- like sharks around a chum line.

I hope Hansen put a virus in it that will put up a message on Steve McIntyre's computer: "Why don't you try getting something published rather than constantly whining about me?"

Ian Hopkinson said...

It's nice to see some other chaps (Reto Ruedy, Sergej Lebedeff, Jay Glascoe) at GISS who actually did the work getting some credit.

I've downloaded the GISTEMP source... I must admit I thought it would be an interesting exercise to repeat the analysis based on the published papers, but there's not much motivation when you know what the answer will be.

Anonymous said...

They won't ever get credit from anyone at Climate Audit, that's for sure. No climate scientist at NASA or NOAA will. Criticism is the name of their game.

I'm sure lots of people are going to download the source, but if there is compilation required and understanding of programming languages (and the UNIX OS) required, I'd bet that will prevent about 99% of the cheer-leading squad at Climate Audit from getting past the first step -- if they can even figure out how to open the tar file, that is.

Ian Hopkinson said...

What you say is true, although I was intending a slightly different sense of the word "credit", in that Climate Audit tend to attach everything to Jim Hansen personally (rather than crediting the whole research group).

Although I can see how the code could have arisen in the form it has from a long process of accretion, I prefer to believe it's a rather subtle joke, and that back at Hansen Central they have single executable (probably with a beautiful GUI) and a servant to press the "Calculate Global Temperature Anomaly" once a month ;-)

Anonymous said...

This is going down a slippery slope. With a nice little argument for every adjustment, the CA people are likely to tweak the code until they can make it cough what they want to see and then say "see, we have the real results." Then, some other independent reviewer will have to go through these results, and if it is shown that they are wrong, they will start to fight that demonstration, leading to a ridiculous endless argument.
The question is this: is anyone at CA ready to accept the idea that reality may not conform to their conviction? Assuredly not.
As a result, they will inevitably produce something that agrees with their pre-conceived conclusion. This is not even worth to bother following; as in a Hollywood movie, you can see how it's going to end shortly after it begins.

EliRabett said...

Ian, having looked at enough of this stuff in my lifetime I can assure you what GISS delivered was cleaned up, and Eli goes back to FORTRAN II, COBOL and FORTH.

In the words of Bismark, you don't ever want to know how treaties, sausage and scientific software are made

The real problem is the machine dependent code, because that means there are some antiques held together with bailing wire and prayers that the program depends on.

EliRabett said...

Ian, having looked at enough of this stuff in my lifetime I can assure you what GISS delivered was cleaned up, and Eli goes back to FORTRAN II, COBOL and FORTH.

In the words of Bismark, you don't ever want to know how treaties, sausage and scientific software are made

The real problem is the machine dependent code, because that means there are some antiques held together with bailing wire and prayers that the program depends on.

Anonymous said...

I'd take a treaty over the last two any day of the week.

At least we know treaties don't have bugs in them.

John Mashey said...

Re: sausages and software

There's an easy solution: if people want every piece of software in GISS to be a relesable *software product*, say in the way SAS or NASTRAN is, Congress can vote to multiply their budget by 3X or whatever it takes to hire a bunch of good software engineers with good relevant science backgrounds, documentation people, put together a SWQA&release department, and go for it.

[3X: sayeth Fred Brooks in The Mythical Man-Month: program -> program product: 3X higher cost; -> progamming system product: another 3X, for 9X total. I think this case is more like the 3X alone, but it might be a little higher.]

Personally, I'd rather take the same money and hire computational science and climate scientists and get more compute power for anybody who thinks they need it, and maybe add a few software & QA engineers to help out.

I will put in a shameless plug for an old article of mine about the longevity of software, using an example of Vernor Vinge's (who just won another Hugo, for Rainbow's End, which has very interesting software) that is precisely, but awfully likely, in the first couple paragraphs:

Ian Hopkinson said...

I know Eli, but we can all have our dreams ;-)

Personally, I think this marks the beginning of the end of the global temperature anomaly audit. People who like to believe "that sort of thing" will believe that the record is broken - everyone else will carry on as before.

Horatio Algeranon said...

The Circle Game

Anonymous said...

It is pretty funny watching them thrash around at CA trying to get this to run. They should have waited for Reto to get them a translated version working in a modern language (probably not Python). They are looking at problems with math library compatiblity, OS compatibility, FP processor compatibility, etc., etc. I would be surprised if they are ever able to get the same results...

Of course, this will be evidence that GISS is lying, but hey -- Hansen said Reto would have liked to get it into a portable format.

Rattus Norvegicus

Anonymous said...

Y2K was going to destroy society - it was barely a hiccup.

Well, the reason Y2K didn't do what it was supposed to do was because a lot of time and money was spent fixing things ahead of time. The argument that Y2K was going to cripple society was a bit overwrought but it did have lots of potential problems. If the IT industry had not spent several years and billions of dollars fixing the problem it might have been a catastrophe.

Rattus Novegicus

John Mashey said...

Well, I don't Y2K was ever going to be a catastrophe, but it certainly would have been painful, and the fixes would have been long-drawn out, given usual software release cycles, and a lot of people would have been surprised at how dependent they are on a lot of invisible machinery.

The misapprehension here is quite common, and as an old operating systems guy, I saw this all the time:

a) If an OS is flakey, and crashes, everybody knows it, and they are all over you.

b) If however, you use great programmers, good software practices, do a lot of testing, and ship an OS that works ... nobody notices, because a working OS is unobtrusive. No one calls in trouble reports saying "Wow! This software is stable."

The general case is that some system is very hard to make work well, but people do, so that everyone else expects it, and if anything happens, then it's a surprise.

Of course, in the Y2K case:
a) The press loved the story.
b) Consulting companies loved the story.
c) And, a lot of enterprise software was due for an update anyway, given the rapid changes of the 1990s.

Fortunately, we have more time to deal with Y2038 problem, and that will be someone else's problem. Regular systems should all be 64-bit by then.
I admit, though, the most amusing approach to Y2K was one I read in a New Zealand IT magazine in 1998 or 1999, in Auckland:

"They say when you come to NZ, you turn your watch back 20 years. So, let's do it, and see how everybody else deals with Y2K first."

All in all, a surreal moment, especially as a parade was then going past the hotel, led by Lucy Lawless (Xena).

Ben said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dutch layman said...

Some discussion has started as well on the item at the top of the list, 'The Sun'. Frying the 'sun's activity has increased' fish has been rather easy, but another though non-related comment was made:

,,Regarding the particularity of CO2 on the global warming, I don't see why to blame the CO2 of GW when its particular thermal characteristics show that the CO2 is not capable of producing any warming.'' (more reasoning follows)

While I have not been able to pinpoint the exact problem with the reasoning of the person making this argument, 'biocab', I did make an attempt using the bit of knowledge I got. Does anyone care to comment on this here or over there? I am eager to learn more on this, also because it's frustrating when your gut feeling tells you that something's wrong but you can't figure out what it is :-).

Regards from a 21-year old Dutch layman (well, actually forecaster, so not entirely but almost) and a big thumbs-up for the great work on your blog Eli!

John Mashey said...

For dutch layman

I suggest, first that you may want to go assess the source of the "biocab" comments. It's easy to find that website and rummage around for a while.

If you come back with an assesment, and you need further help, I'm sure somebody will comment.

Dutch layman said...

Well thank you John, I will make an attempt at that, though I am not *that* into all the chemistry and general radiative concepts, which was one of the reasons to ask for comments in the first place. But thanks anyway :-).

Marion Delgado said...

This Hansen programming thing is IMPORTANT. The GISS people are conceding to the denialist cretins because those cretins are part of the PUBLIC. Capisce, you libertard market fascists? They're ACCOUNTABLE, even to people who dislike them.
Compare and contrast. Your beloved corporations are unaccountable to anyone but their stockholders (and often not even them).

Democracy 1 Corporofascists 0

Also note the corporafascists' DUPES never grasped the difference between methods/algorithms to generate results and the actual programs. I think 90%+ don't even know what an algorithm is. Programming to them is copying something off the net and customizing a few lines.