Saturday, September 20, 2014

Koonin Hits the Fan

Eli, not a long time ago, posted on the utter cluelessness of the sub-committee putting together a new APS statement on climate change. Like lambs to the slaughter he said, but sadly, one of the lambs was not a sheep but a wolf, lying in wait.  Steve Koonin, the former (Ethon reports) chair of the subcommittee has outed himself in the Wall Street Journal.  

He reprises the expected

  • No such thing as settled science.
  • Scientific and policy discussions have been inhibited
  • I am a physicist and I know
  • It could be bad, but you can't prove it will be bad in my backyard.
  • People are itty bitty things, how could they affect the Earth
  • Climate models are not to be trusted
  • The Pause, The Pause
  • and the models missed The Pause.
Well, if you want more go read Rupert's Rag but sadly damage may have been done.  Ethon has heard that having steered the APS committee in the direction he intended Koonin has resigned in the Hal Lewis manner.  Noisily and nastily.  Confirmation awaited, but there should be blood on the floor. 

The APS has been arrogantly negligent in  its handling of the coming Climate Change position statement.

This sucks.


dbostrom said...

Deniers degrade everything they touch. They simply can't avoid it.

Lars Karlsson said...

This was weird:

"The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth's global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit."

In short: "Climate has always changed. For instance, it is changing now."

Marion Delgado said...

And that's BINGO I'm afraid. Time to cash in my cards and hit the bar.

Arthur said...

I note the APS web page where members were told to go for updates on the climate statement has not been touched in about 6 months; their is nothing since that fiasco of a workshop. Maybe APS is too focused on the corporate reform business to worry about sorting this out but the whole thing started with quite a lot of fanfare, and there really is supposed to be a policy of regular review of statements so the lack of action seems damaging to me.

Arthur said...

Hmm, I read his WSJ article. While it's not as stupid as most of the stuff on WUWT, there seem to be several points that are simply factually incorrect -
* in what sense are human contributions only 1-2% of the natural greenhouse effect by 2050? We're already 30-40% of CO2 change. He's talking about the 33 C total temperature change from greenhouse warming? Even then, 0.8 C is already close to 3% and it will be 5% likely by mid-century.
* he claims no acceleration in sea level rise - was it really rising at 1 ft/century in 1940s? If true it sounds like a temporary cherry-pick rather than sustained change.
* 16 years - well all hope of an honest discussion was lost with that cherry

Bryson said...

Wow. I'm very interested in toxic ideas, what makes them attractive and how they get around. Nothing exceptional about the patterns, but this guy has a lot of the key indicators working for him. Maybe should be designing new manure spreaders.

Lorcan Bonda said...

I think you misrepresent Koonin's point with respect to "human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere's natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences."

On balance that statement is true. Without natural greenhouse warming, the Earth would be at a temperature of roughly -10C. Many naturally occurring gasses are warming agents (such as water vapor.)

He's not claiming that the 1-2% addition from carbon dioxide is insignificant, he is saying that is the challenge of developing accurate models for carbon when it is a small component of the total equation.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Water vapor is a condensing greehouse gas, carbon dioxide is a non-condensing greenhouse gas, as are most all others that have any effect. Are you saying our radiative transfer models are incorrect? Are we saying his atomic nuclei models are incorrect as well? All models are incorrect, they're models. But they are calibrated models, evolving over time, adjusted against modern experimental data.

Get a grip, you're an apologist.

Magma said...

How about that? Looks like Koonin may have carried out his own supplemental subcommittee research using authoritative sources such as WUWT. Oh, and this:

The ball is now in the APS' court. If I was a member of that society (I'm not) I'd hold off on my membership renewal until I saw its climate change statement, or its reaction to Koonin's op-ed.

This newer revised deny, obfuscate and delay tactic is now apparent... try to place a mole in key positions within relatively obscure volunteer committees and subcommittees and allow them to quietly do disproportionate damage behind closed doors. Not in the area of scientific research itself (revealingly enough, they can't), but in the softer target area of policy.

Arthur said...

So wait, the 1%-2% is based on only the "direct" effect of CO2? Ignoring all the feedbacks (which by the way ARE there in the full natural effect)? This sort of manipulating numbers to minimize things is almost as stupid as the argument about 400 ppm = 0.04 % of molecules in the atmosphere so how could it make a difference. It's like saying if I fall off a 30-ft building my change in gravitational energy is only a fraction of 1% of the change in gravitational energy that naturally occurs as I travel around the surface of the Earth, so it couldn't possibly be harmful.

I would rate this as outright deceitful. Shameful behavior - as bad as Lindzen has been in his WSJ op-eds. Could they have a common coach or something?

John Mashey said...

See APS policy review
"The members of the Subcommittee are: Steven Koonin (chair), Phillip Coyle, Scott Kemp, Tim Meyer, Robert Rosner and Susan Seestrom."
(That was not in WSJ, but I suspect will appear, given some of the other APS history below.)

Arthur mentioned that. People might explore that, and check out the bios of those who attended the workshop, several of whom are quite famous for uncertainty.

I'm an APS (and APS GPC) member, and I certainly have not yet seen a statement put up for review. Maybe that's coming and this is preemptive move against something sensible ... or the statement isn't.

(All along Eli has been worried about this more than I, as from some experiences I've thought APS leadership relatively savvy, but Eli may have been right. We'll see.)

Note the cleverness of devoting ~2 pages to this (Front page of paper Reviews section, with banner at top left of first page of whole paper) ... on a Saturday.

John Mashey said...

By the way, in the printed paper:
1) First page had a banner box for this.

2) It occupied most of first 2 pages of the Reviews section.

3) And it was clever to run it Saturday.

BBD said...

Bias in the Murdoch press? Strategically misinforming key sectors of electorate and so distorting the evolution of public policy? Goodness gracious me. It'll be a war on democracy next.

I dread explaining all this to my son when he's old enough.

John said...

Eli reported rumors that Steven Koonin was going to resign in the same way that Hal Lewis resigned in 2010, nastily and noisily. That got me thinking about the Lewis uproar, much ado about nothing. If you go to the Lewis resignation, which can be found
here, you'll find the following amazing statement from Lewis.

"It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist."

Lewis claims the global warming "scam" is driven by "trillions" of dollars, (in the plural) meaning at least $2 trillion.
Now the GDP of the US is about 17 trillion. So Lewis is claiming about 10% of the GDP is global warming money. Which is of course preposterous.

Maybe Lewis confused a billion with a the middle of a letter in which Lewis accused his opponents of exaggeration (!!!)

John Mashey said...

Along with Lewis, there was Ivar Giaever, and then Roger Cohen (who didn't resign from APS, but did resign from APS GPC organizing group.)

Magma said...

@ John Mashey (20/9/14 1:22 PM)

...and by pure chance it also happens to fall outside the paywall that covers ~95% of content.

Wonder what that cost someone, or if it was on the house?

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

WSJ articles are free for day or so, and then you can usually get them by googling the titles even though they are behind the paywall. That's WSJ subscriber policy for now, but it does seem to work.

Anonymous said...

"This sucks."

That's it. That's your observation.

"This sucks."

I expected so much more from someone who constantly refers to themselves in the third person.

"This sucks."

What are you? Fourteen years old?

EliRabett said...

Would you prefer something erudite like TS Eliot's take on how the APS had handled this issue?

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

But that sucks works for Eli.

Anonymous said...

That's better. Better still:
Pompous ****s
by Malabu

blinded by
their own hindsight

having no eyes
and anus mouth

wishing they had a nose
to stick in the air

it’s not-
surprising to me

all they can do,
is blow
a lot of foul

on their face
...talking bullshit

...and Then There's Physics said...

Some have already pointed this out, but Koonin's claim that by the mid 21st certainly we'll only have shifted the natural greenhouse effect by 1 - 2%, is based only on the change in anthropogenic forcing and ignores that this is amplified by feedbacks. Of course, how much we warm by the mid 21st century will depend on our chosen emission pathway, but all bar the RCP2.5 pathway probably produce at least 2 degrees of warming by the mid-21st century. Given that the natural greenhouse effect is 33 degrees, 2 degrees is 6%, not 1 - 2%. So, by the mid-21st century there is a good chance we will have shifted the natural greenhouse effect by 6% or more. Koonin appears confused.

Martin Vermeer said...

``This sucks'' works for this bunny too, pardon my French.

``If you have the facts on your side...'' in the absence of a table, pounding the style seems like a good idea for anonibunny.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

That's it. That's your observation.

And what was your observation? I seemed to have missed it in your treatise on the posted subject.

WHT said...

Koonin is a computational physicist. Will it make his head explode that modeling ENSO may come down to a simple non-linear model?

Don't get depressed over what Koonin says. The science always wins out in the end.

Mal Adapted said...

John: "So Lewis is claiming about 10% of the GDP is global warming money. Which is of course preposterous."

Yeah, but so is everything else in his letter of flounce. I feel it's a mistake, or at least a waste of good outrage, to call out the very-most preposterous thing. The whole notion that all climate science since the 1820s is a fraud should be flabbergasting, after all. The appropriate response is "mWAH-HAHAHAHAH!"

afeman said...

The science always wins out in the end.

That's what I'm afraid of, in this case.

Russell Seitz said...

John Mashey may find it interesting to compare the 2014 WSj piece with I what I wrote in 1990:

Where, in terms of reading the literature , has Steve been for the last quarter century ?

E. Swanson said...

Koonin's piece for the most part is just a replay of the usual denialist disinformation.

For example, he notes that:
"Although the Earth's average surface temperature rose sharply by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%."

Why just 16 years? Well cherry picking the beginning the analysis with the very warm year of 1998 skews the trend. If one begins in 1999, a trend calculation shows warming. Of course, the claim also fails to consider the massive increase in the burning of fossil fuels in China and India, much of it coal, without emission controls such as were introduced in the US back in the 1970's. The resulting particulate and aerosol emissions may explain the reduced rate of warming seen in the data.

As of this morning, a Google search ["Climate Science Is Not Settled" Koonin] tells me that the article has 9,360 hits. Koonin's piece spreads more FUD, which should make the WSJ editorial department (AKA, the propaganda section) very happy.

Dano said...

Why just 16 years? Well cherry picking the beginning the analysis with the very warm year of 1998 skews the trend. If one begins in 1999, a trend calculation shows warming.

It is easy enough to go to Woodfortrees and do a trend for 1999, 1997, 2000, 1996, 2001, 1995. Currently I am finding linking these resulting graphs works well to show 1998 is cherry-picking.



Anonymous said...

If studying the whole issue from all sides, and asking questions is a "denier" but believing "because they say so" is scientific, you have zero logic.
I am familiar with all but one point Steve Koonin wrote about. No one here can disprove anything he said.......No one.

Anonymous said...

It is not a climate consensus its a climate salsiccia, it gets consumed slice by slice.


Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

zero logic

I admit that's an awesome concept but unfortunately I've never heard that used before in either math or science, and I've studied a lot of combinatorial logic, mathematical physics, etc. Can you define that for us here? Is that something to do with the zero set or the superset of all subsets? Or maybe counting by zeros? Are you innumerate?

The only thing I can come up with is a cool name for a rock band.

Hank Roberts said...


That was instructive when I read it in 1990 and remains a good one that I point people toward, when suggesting we need to think harder.

We did need to do something then to control acid rain (and still do, given China). Pity we lacked understanding of many interactions (like mercury and other heavy metals going up the smokestacks from coal plants, and how pH change affects bioavailability).