Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rabett Reads

So, what is out there in the great blogosphere. Well, a couple of things which deserve a lot more attention. First of all Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch reports on the House Science Committee's one last rational climate science hearing. Rick's problem is that he is grown up and so he doesn't get a tenth of the readership he deserved. His report (and he was in the audience) is a complete one, and you can get an idea of Rick's skill from this excerpt.

The second panel was enlivened by a high point of the hearing – a sort of verbal boxing match between Ben Santer and Pat Michaels that the chairman allowed to go on for about four rounds of exchanges (from 1:56:30 to 2:12:00). Michaels, in his customary style, put up a custom-made, non-peer-reviewed data graph that purported to show that the IPCC concluded incorrectly that most of the observed global warming during the past 50 years is due to human activity. Santer came right back at him, telling the members that Michaels’ analysis was just plain “wrong” – and taking it apart point by point. Michaels is no slouch in the debating department and returned fire. Back and forth they went, Michaels the contrarian and Santer jumping on every Michaels statement to carry an argument more widely accepted by the leading climate scientists. Finally the chairman decided to move on. (Santer’s written testimony; Michaels’s written testimony.)

It’s not clear what the members get out of such an exchange. Some members have a tendency when listening to scientists giving opposing views at congresssional hearings to say something like “good, let’s hear the evidence, let’s examine both sides of the debate, and decide for ourselves.” As if a congressional hearing were an appropriate venue to study scientific issues, and as if the members (or any other non-specialists) were qualified to draw conclusions about climate science. Mostly, such an occasion is not about science so much as it is about confirming one’s preconceptions. Some might be confirmed in the view that Michaels is an outlier and provocateur, others that there is a big debate in the science community that precludes meaningful policymaking. But watching Santer have an opportunity to go after Michaels “on the record” was quite a moment to see live (from our vantage point in a back corner of the standing-room-only audience at the hearing).

and he tells you where the meaty parts of the hearing video are.

Next, Eli has stumbled upon a newish blog, Idiot Tracker, where some interesting meta things are being said. An interesting place to start is a discussion of the "lukewarmers" and how they have positioned themselves between the science and the hard place
There is a half-full glass here, which is that a number of people who clearly identify emotionally and politically with the denialist movement have taken major steps towards the scientific consensus in order to maintain their credibility. While sharing the denialosphere's loathing of "activists" and its demonization of scientists like Hansen and Mann (whose unforgivable sin was to establish beyond a reasoned doubt that humans are causing a rapid and substantially unprecedented warming of the earth's climate) the lukewarmers avoid three major pitfalls of denialism:

1. They do not have to deny the basic physical laws which dictate that greenhouse gases cause warming.

2. They do not have to refute the massive physical evidence that the climate is warming.

3. They do not have to pretend that the vast majority of scientists who accept the theory of AGW are participating in a vast conspiracy to hide the truth about (1) and (2).

The lukewarmist position also allows one to position oneself as a moderate threading the needle between two extremes.
The real contrast here is not between "activists" and "skeptics" but between deniers and everybody else – between the science and the right-wing lunacy. But lukewarmers are exploiting the shift in the Overton window brought about by voluble climate deniers to position their radical views as a sane middle ground.

Here's the problem. Lukewarmism doesn't get its adherents where they want to go – because even if we accept at face value their claims, the world would still require intense efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in order to stave off disaster.
Eli is quite fond of the Overton window, esp. as he thinks that the Rabett introduced it to the climate discussion. In a continuation, Idiot Tracker discusses the limits of lukewarmerism, or the fact that even if they choose an unreasonably low central limit for climate sensitivity, they have to pick a confidence interval, except that for reasons made clear at the Tracker site, they can't, not and remain lukewarm.

But, but, dear bunnies, we do have to have something off color. You know the sort of thing that brings a little dinner up with the disgust, and friend Lubos provides it with a full blown rant on Tawanda Johnson, the APS Press Secretary who responded to his emertius Hal Lewis . Now true, Steve Milloy has reposted it. And true, Lubos' post is, is well, kinda early Strom Thurmond, and true, it makes no sense, but it will be very useful the next time Keith and Judy start tutting which Ethon reminds Eli is now.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to Rick Plitz. I watched the Michaels/Santer tiff - quite entertaining. You could tell Michaels was losing when he started jiggling in his chair like a kindergartner who needs to go to the restroom, and gave up on throwing out random numbers that supported his fantasy-view of attribution, and instead turned back to personal attacks on a 15 year old paper...

Also thanks for the link to Idiot Tracker.

However, you lost a lot of your brownie points by linking to that Lubos rant. (okay, you warned me, I shouldn't have clicked through... but those brain cells that ran away screaming may never come back!)

Also also... I'm kind of surprised with Bartlett's testimony, it was quite reasonable, and yet his Wikipedia page claims he is a tea-partier and staunch conservative. If there were more tea-partiers like him, it would be a better party.


CapitalClimate said...

According to comments by the outgoing chairman, Bartlett is conservative enough to be totally off the grid ("in the good sense", he said).

Anonymous said...

I read the lukewarmer pieces on the Idiot Tracker a while back and I have to say it was very informative. To the point that I have a hard time taking anyone who calls him/herself a lukewarmer seriously.

Anonymous said...

Lukewarmer? Someone who hasn't joined up all the dots, not because they can't, but because they will get an answer they don't like if they do.

One might say they are tepidatious (tsk, tsk).

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

Bartlett is my Congresscritter, and is out of step with his party on in environmental and energy issues. He's also a former scientist, and he does get it. Unfortunately, he is a reliable "nay" vote on any action to involve the Federal (US) government in doing something about the problem.


Anonymous said...

Why there you are, I see you now...!

"TheTracker said...
These are the times I realize how lucky I am that no one reads my blog. Seriously. Mo' readers mo' morons."

18/10/10 3:38 PM

Half wit; half glass & a name change---ipso fatso,... we are all scientists now.

If 1 of 5 people are mental... and only 20% of the world wide population believe in AGW. Can you draw any conclusions from that?

PS/ If an moron changes his ID to Idiot, what do we, now call all of you? You too, will all have a wonderful Thanksgiving this holiday season.
All the Best

susan said...

I love this, particularly the bit about JC/KK and Motl, whose annoying popularity has given him the limelight lately. You might enjoy this on the "middle":


Susan Anderson

Unknown said...

Did Milloy drop Motl's post like a hot potato? The Milloy links lead back to Motl. What a piece of utter drek. Even the softening of the post(see IT for original language) leaves ugliness all around.


Former Skeptic said...

What a piece of utter drek.

It's par for the course. Coy Milloy also didn't own up to LM's (ahem) "resignation" from America's McGill for similar behavior.

In all seriousness, he really does need help. Anyone wanna start a fund for LM's meds?

EliRabett said...

Nah, he is much more amusing in full flight.

Seriously, Motl is the North Korea of science. He is like that in person too Eli hears. People need to return fire when he starts.

Former Skeptic said...

Motl is the North Korea of science.

[NSFW] I'm reminded of this.

I'm so roneryyyyyy...so roneryyyyyyy

Just put LM's smiling mug on Kim Jong Il's and everything makes sense.

Former Skeptic said...

Slightly OT, but our fave crackpot "journalist" is back over at TB and at KK's.

Anonymous said...

Well, if there is any doubt about whether Roy Spencer has "gone 'round the bend", this should eliminate it: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dr-roy-spencer--lord-christopher-monckton-to-challenge-climate-orthodoxy-at-cancun-un-conference-available-for-radio-and-all-media-110375594.html

Dr. Roy Spencer & Lord Christopher Monckton to Challenge Climate Orthodoxy at Cancun UN Conference Available for Radio and All Media

CANCUN, Mexico, Nov. 24, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- CFACT, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, will feature two prominent experts on climate science and policy at COP 16, the UN conference on climate change which convenes next week in Cancun.

Lord Christopher Monckton will be in Cancun December 1 – 10.

Dr. Roy Spencer will be in Cancun December 6 – 10.

Both will be available (allowing for travel) before and after Cancun.

joe said...

I've been reading Dr. McKitrick's web page on the "Hockey Stick Affair", and thought I'd share some of his conclusions re: Wegman.

"The Wegman panel not only fully endorsed our findings, but also presented a wide-ranging critique of the insularity of the paleoclimate community, their isolation from mainstream statistics, and their hostility towards external review and replication work. Wegman makes a good recommendations about the need for higher standards of disclosure and review scientific research is used in public policy."

I wonder how he feels about these statements now?

Anonymous said...

I have tried probably 6 times to get Steen Mosher to explain exactly what is meant by 'Lukewarmer' - I thought he coined the term first. Also tried to get Lucia Lund... whatever her name is, to explain it... Mysteriously neither would. Or not so mysteriously.

The whole thing is simply a marketing strategy - something Mosher has experience with apparently.

There is no specific 'Lukewarmer' theory. It does not exist.


a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

My understanding of the term "lukewarmer" is that they acknowledge the science (or at least most of it), but contend that we need do nothing about the threat of climate change. Flavors include:
1)It'll all be good.
2)We don't know enough yet.
3)A miracle will save us (e.g. Lindzen's Iris effect)
4)Technology will save us
5)We'll adapt
6)Oh, too bad. It's too late to do anything now after we wasted 20 years in denial and on steps 1-5.