Saturday, May 28, 2011
Despite somebody else at his facility taking umbrage (& I must admit some of the questions #4 in particular, were phrased in a more argumentative manner than necessary) Dr Wolff has indeed replied and given me permission to post here. I would like to thank him for doing so in a reasoned and constructive manner. I will probably give my comments next week but, with the exception of a few words on point 7 I think his comments should stand on their own today:
1 - Do you accept Professor Jones' acknowledgement that there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995?
*I have not heard this statement. However, because the climate system is inherently noisy, with alternating short runs of cold years and of warm years, there could NEVER be a statistically significant trend over just a few years. One can only determine a multidecadal trend by looking at the gradient over multi-decades. If you insist on taking trends over a decade, you will find periods with a positive gradient, a negative gradient or flat, but none of them significant. This was exactly my point about the analogy with months. There will quite certainly be a warming trend in temperature between January and July, but you will certainly find periods of 10, perhaps even 20 days, that have no, or even a negative, gradient.
2 - Do you accept that the rise in CO2 has improved crop growth by around 10% & that the consequent influence on world hunger is more beneficial than any currently detectable destructive action of alleged global warming?
*I am not an agricultural scientist, and have not looked into this, but yes, in general increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are likely to increase crop yields. The second half of the question asks me to make a moral and economic value judgement. While I may have a view on it as a citizen, this has nothing to do with the science.
3 - Do you accept that the Hockey Stick, as originally presented by Mann and the IPCC contained calculations that were inconsistent with good science and that Mann's refusal to make calculations and algorithms available for checking were inconsistent with scientific principle?
*The Mann reconstruction was a first attempt at doing an exceptionally difficult job. There are now numerous other attempts (shown in IPCC AR4) which all tell roughly the same story, but that have suggested better ways of doing some aspects of the job. This is how science works - someone does their best, then someone else comes along and shows you how to do it better.
4 - Do you accept that many claims from people and organisations on the alarmist side, from Al Gore's claim that South Sea islands had already been abandoned due to rising sea levels and Pachauri's claim that any dispute that the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2025 was "voodoo" are wholly, completely and totally untruthful and would have to be openly denounced by anyone on the alarmist side who has any trace of honesty?
*There was clearly an error in the IPCC WGII report regarding Himalayan glaciers. This has been acknowledged as soon as the error was recognised. Even one error in 3000 pages is unacceptable, no disagreement from me on that. I am less clear why you are asking a scientist to comment on a film by a politician; I have never cited this film as a source for my science and I don't plan to.
5 - Do you accept that there are a number of geoengineering solutions which arithmetically can be shown would work (including stratospheric dust, the geritol solution or even just replacing CO2 burning with nuclear power) which would work at a small fraction of the cost of the war against fire, or in the case of nuclear, at negative cost?
*There are definitely geoengineering solutions that might theoretically work. Much more research will be needed to assess whether they can be implemented at reasonable cost and without excessive side effects. But yes, they are certainly among the options that have to be considered. My view is that all different energy options should also be considered, and may be needed: but this is again a personal view not a scientific one.
6 - Do you accept that the refusal of alarmists to denounce fraud on their side, or even its active support or covering up, detracts from the credibility of the entire movement?
*No scientist I know would accept fraud. Luckily so far no fraud has been proven in climate science. I don't know many alarmists, and I don't know what movement you are referring to.
7 - Of the alleged "consensus" - can you name 2 scientists, out of the roughly 60%, worldwide who are not paid by the state, who support catastrophic warming & if not can you explain how something can be a consensus when no member of a subset of 60% of the alleged consenting, consent?
*There are several problems with the question as written. Firstly, I assume you are asking whether people support the idea that significant warming will take place (not whether they want it to happen). I also can name only a very few scientists who would say "catastrophic". I don't really know many private companies that carry out climate science, so I am not sure how one should compare these two groups. However, I frequently speak to ordinary scientists in private companies who seem happy to accept the points I made in the left hand column of the original post on Bishop Hill, including the warming range projected in the studies cited by IPCC, which I assume is what you are asking. They are not however people who consider themselves experts on climate, so they would not expect to be making public pronouncements, nor to be asked to be part of a consensus. However, if you really want two names of people who have had a major stake in the oil industry in particular, then Lord Oxburgh (formerly Shell Chairman) and Bryan Lovell (formerly Chief Sedimentologist and Exploration Manager with BP) would be a good start.
Professor Eric Wolff FRS
British Antarctic Survey, Science Leader (Chemistry and Past Climate) at British Antarctic Survey
On point 7 Lord Oxburgh is not salaried by government but as boss of a wind turbine company does benefit from government subsidies, indeed his.“direct financial interest in the outcome” has been a cause of complaint over his appointment as chair of the climategate enquiry. I am however both surprised and heartened to see that there is general scientific agreement on both sides, with only very few scientists dissenting that claims of "catastrophe" are unwarranted (though I had, a couple of weeks ago been told something similar elsewhere). That seems to allow far more space for rational debate than many politicians and news media allow.
I welcome comments but lets keep them courteous. I am perfectly capable of giving and getting robust comments when required but this is part of a scientific discussion in which both sides are on their best behaviour.
I'm pleased that Prof Wolf has responded to the questions.
This makes a refreshing change, as too many scientists involved in the Global Warming industry, either ignore awkward questions or respond with ad-homs about the quesyioner being in the pay of (insert name of fossil fuel company).
1) I am very surprised that Prof Wolf hasn't heard of Prof Jone's statement. His response is accurate to a degree, but we're now at 2011, so after 16 years we would, at least according to IPCC's projections of a 2-4.5C/century increase,have seen an upwards trend.
2) Valid comment.
3) Failure to answer the pertinent part " contained calculations that were inconsistent with good science and that Mann's refusal to make calculations and algorithms available for checking were inconsistent with scientific principle?"
Does the good professor agree with Dr Mann's refusal to supply to someone who expresses doubt as to the statistical significance and indeed the suitability of the proxies as chosen, the requested details?
4) "This has been acknowledged as soon as the error was recognised"
Sorry, wasn't this Pauchuri's "Voodoo science" moment?
5) Good reply
6)I respectfully suggest that there may well be some scientists within the climatology community, whom Prof Wolf apparently doesn't know and that he is a little blinkered if he hasn't noticed that there's quite a movement associated with AGW, take a look at 20:20 for example?
7) I actually find it hard to understand the exact question.
Can I be so bold as to summarise EW's answers?
7. Lord Oxburgh?
I realise that Dr Wolf has added a lot of caveats to his affirmatives but hope I am right. It all seems rather heartening to me and, as with Judith Curry, it looks like there is much broader agreement between communities of scientists and so called sceptics.
Dr Wolf's assertion that significance can be established over a multidecadal interval is uninformed. We need a lot more data than we have presently to establish the natural range of variation of surface temperatures. For example, in a cyclo-stationary stochastic process, one would need to know something about the periodicity of the the signal along with something about the variance characteristics of the noise, to determine significance of a short term trend. We know none of this with regard to surface temperature.
The trend to 1996 (about 17 years) was for warming. The trend since has been flat. That first trend is, apparently, significant. The trend since, not so much. What a difference a couple of years make!
"2) Valid comment."
Indeed it is. So I wonder if Professor Wolff makes this point to his fellow alarmists, as they use a claim of scientific consensus to support such moral and economic judgements.
Except that Pachauri's "voodoo" comment was not a defense of the 2035 date, but rather a response to an Indian government report (http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/MoEF%20Discussion%20Paper%20_him.pdf) on glaciers which had a rather odd and unscientific chapter on climate change (see Chapter 8). The report was completely independent of the 2035 error. Note, also, that the Himalayan glacier analysis in Working Group I (which was the part actually written by glaciologists) on the IPCC has held up to scrutiny - it was only Working Group II that had the error in one sentence, which was written by non-glaciologists.
I was thinking of forming the "NE Glasgow Sceptical society" and was wondering whether you were able to join.
You may contact me through my blog: http://scottishsceptic.wordpress.com/ or you may find a message if I can find a contact here.
"A Statistical Analysis of Multiple Temperature Proxies: Are Reconstructions of Surface Temperatures Over the Last 1000 Years Reliable?"
published by two statisticians in a leading statistics journal, Annals of Applied Statistics. See
It says that the proxies do not do any better than random numbers, and fail to match recent temperature rises.
I do not agree with Wolff's statement about IPCC AR4.
If you look at the relevant figure (6.10) you can see that the graphs do not tell roughly the same story. They are all over the place, and most do not resemble a hockey stick. Ironically, the only thing all the graphs agree on is the MWP!