Eli, contrary to rumor, has been following the comings and goings here and abouts. Even twittering back and forth with Ethon. As some bunnies may have noticed, this being summer, it is time for delicate flowering, and indeed there have been outbreaks at the usual places, for example, Judith Curry wondering about the road to scientific hell, and then missing all the turn signs. ATTP tried to play nice (Eli pointed out that she had not a clue about ethics, it got sin binned).
In any case, which always goes around in the best circles, Eli was wandered over to an interview of Robert Bindschadler by Dahr Jamal. Bindschadler a ice mass specialist now emeritus at NASA is one of the ones in the corner screaming bloody murder. He is very pessimistic about ice on the planet, looking at major losses to the ice sheets in the 100-200 year time frame.
To reinforce your sense of well being, Eli would point you to the final report of the Dark Snow Project,
In the interview he describes how at the time of the first IPCC report, 1991, significant losses from Antarctica and Greenland were not even considered because it was assumed that the time frame for such would be well outside the next century horizon of the report. As SAR, TAR, AR4 and now AR5 followed, and the weakening of the ice sheets became clear, the issue crept into the IPCC reports, but often in strange ways
Then we get up to the fourth IPCC report in 2007, and we were starting to get some models that incorporated our best understanding of the ice sheets that were showing that there might be some dramatic impact in terms of contribution to sea level. They were acknowledged, with verbiage like, ice sheet dynamics can change rapidly and contribute large amounts of water to cause excess sea level rise, but the dynamics are not well enough understood for predictive capability. The sea level numbers were pretty low, and the words around said they didn't really know how high they might go. So the story at that time was that we didn't really know what the numbers were.
I asked the head of Working Group I on that report which had ultimate responsibility for everything that was in the Working Group I report, I said, "All the words say don't trust the numbers; why are there numbers there at all?" She told me that governments insisted that there be numbers, that they gave them the table and said you put the numbers in this table. Thus, she felt compelled to do that because the report was not going to be accepted by the government until there were numbers in the table.Bindschadler was and is alarmed by this and, as he says, he started to engage
The shortening of the time scale that glaciers can now contribute to sea level rise and climate change drew me into the debate. And the science is solid. There's no question about it. Even in the early days it was solid. So I came down hard on the side of yes, it is happening, and I can speak to that when it comes to sea level going up as a result of shrinking ice sheets. That is going to happen.But the dagger, was of course from the delicate flowers
That gave me my entrance onto the stage where these nasty debates are going on. I wasn't that far away from the general expectation within the scientific community that said that as long as we spoke from the facts, and stayed secure with our caveats that have to be there, we will be listened to and it will have a positive effect on necessary policies that need to start being put in place. It was that naïve expectation that we're the experts, and scientists are usually pretty well regarded as credible, and that's never changed.
But there was such a strong blowback from climate change skeptics and deniers, using their bad science, and we felt there was a failing in the reporting of that, and even though the vast majority of the scientists, and back in those days it was 90 to 10 percent, it would still be reported as an equal debate.
The other thing that led me into a retreat is you would go out there and try to limit your emphasis on caveats and speak more crisply or without the caveats and with more black and white and you would be shot in the back by your colleagues. So I would be quoted in the paper making a rather bold statement and a colleague would call me out and say, well you didn't mention the uncertainty factor, and sounds like you know more than you know you do. But you have to consider the audience. If all you do is lace it with uncertainty, it gives them reason to do nothing.
But there was not uniform agreement within the scientific community that that was the way to go. So I retreated.