Of Moles and Whacking: “Mojib Latif predicted two decades of cooling”

Or: Journalists should report what climate science actually “says”, rather than what they mistakenly “believe” it to say – Part II

In Part I we looked at some issues relating to climate science that the Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy” Eric Berger was mistaken about and had blamed “climate scientists” for. And while pointing out that it isn’t particularly fair for Mr. Berger to blame climate scientists for his misunderstandings, it would also be unfair to say that his confusion was his fault alone.

Fred Pearce wrote a recent column for New Scientist claiming climate modeler Mojib Latif predicted that up to two decades of cooling were coming: “We could be about to enter one or even two decades of cooler temperatures, according to one of the world’s top climate modellers.” Pearce’s claim was promptly picked up by the denialosphere and has been cited by “skeptics” as well as those who believe climate science is undergoing some sort of shake up, like Mr. Berger. Pearce’s story is greatly misleading both in terms of what Latif actually said and the role climate scientists believe natural variability plays in the climate system.

First a bit of background: Pearce’s story was written about a recent climate summit: the World Climate Conference-3. Part of the summit was dedicated to Advancing Climate Prediction Science; Latif’s presentation was concerned with decadal-scale climate predictions- concerning not only their potential value and viability but also the significant challenges that remain before we can make useful ones.

On interannual (more than a single year) and decadal (tens of years) scales, natural variability swamps the long term anthropogenic warming trend. That is to say that variations in naturally occurring aspects of the climate system have more of an impact on the ultimate value of, say, global average temperature over a span of 10 or so years than man-made global warming does. For example, changes in ENSO are one of the largest sources of natural variability and thus influence on global average temperatures in the climate system on interannual scales. In 1998, a very strong El Niño boosted the global average temperature much higher than the overall trend, while in 2008, a persistent La Niña in cahoots with a solar minimum ensured that temperature was in the top 10 (#9 for NASA, #10 for Met Hadley) hottest years on record, but not a record breaker.

While this might be surprising for some readers, let’s be clear: This is not “new” information. This does not represent a “shake up” of the climate science community’s understanding of the system, or a blow to “settled science”. This is acknowledged in the IPCC’s most recent Assessment Report (AR4 WG1 8.3 and 9.4) as well as in the relevant primary literature. For example, the AR4 Synthesis Report states:

On scales [smaller than 50 years], natural climate variability is relatively larger [than human influences], making it harder to distinguish changes expected due to external [e.g.man-made] forcings.

Latif begins the section of his presentation misrepresented by Pearce by confirming that the media incorrectly believes that global warming is monotonic- something that we know the warming is decidedly not; something not claimed by “climate science” or “climate scientists”. Significant natural variability is superimposed on the long term man-made warming trend. Although the press might expect for us to set a new temperature record every year, the existence of natural variability means that we could in theory wait a long time (~17 years) before setting a new temperature record. Latif imagines ‘what if':

It may well happen that you enter a decade, or maybe even two- you know- when the temperature cools- alright- relative to the present level- alright?

And then- you know- I know what’s going to happen -you know? I will get- you know- millions of phone calls- you know:

“Eh, what’s going on? So, is global warming disappearing?” You know? “Have you lied on [sic] us?”

So- you kn0w- and therefore this is the reason why we need to address this decadal prediction issue.

[ed. note: “entering… two [decades]” depending on the usage can take as little as 11 years, “enter[ing]” a decade” as little as one]

This was not an explicit prediction by Latif- it was a hypothetical scenario that is a real, if  not necessarily likely, possibility. Latif is saying that because people don’t understand that global warming isn’t supposed to be monotonic, and that there could be periods where temperatures pause or even dip below the present, the media and/or public will incorrectly believe that global warming has stopped/was wrong/etc. even though such “pauses” in warming are decidedly not contrary to our understanding of the climate system and how we anticipate it will respond to emissions driven warming.

Of course this is like cat nip to the denialists and their fellow travelers like Roger Pielke Jr. It feeds into the caricature, enabled by sloppy journalism, that nearly everything can happen because of global warming [often phrased, "Global warming, is there anything it can't do?" Sometimes with 'global warming' stricken out and replaced with 'climate change'].

Latif goes on to describe a number of phenomena that have an overall trend but are dominated on the interannual and even decadal scales by natural variability: Sahel rainfall, Atlantic tropical cyclones, regional sea levels. Again, none of this is new, none of it was presented as new. This represents no paradigm shift within climate science.

Latif then switches gears to model initialization. When the IPCC offers projections of global temperature change into the next 100 years, these are not predictions- as previously discussed. And dealing with interannual or decadal predictions instead of looking at the changes to temperature trends 100 years out is a difference between an initial value problem and a boundary value (or in Latif’s words, a “boundary force”) problem. Uncertainties about emissions scenarios (how much carbon we decide to burn) and model biases are the dominant areas of uncertainty for end-of-century projections of changes of how temperature will trend.

However, on much shorter scales, such as interannual or decadal scales, can you guess what the largest source of uncertainty becomes? Yep, that’s right, natural variability. Prediction on such short timescales then becomes at least partially an initial value problem. Latif rightly understands that such short term predictions depend on accurate understanding and modeling of initialization factors like variance in the North Atlantic Oscillation. You might remember when a team he was part of made some waves in predicting a temporary pause in warming/global cooling in their attempt to initialize a climate model to make a deliberate prediction (rather than say an end-of-century projection) of temperature for the next few decades. Suffice it to say that not everyone has found the basis of their prediction (of no immediate warming) particularly compelling.

Latif’s warning, garbled though it became regarding the reality and difficulty in predicting natural variability, deserves to be acknowledged. It’s exceedingly difficult for me to see, however, how or why the presentation was subsequently spun in the manner that it was, or why science journalists like Mr. Berger would accept said spin so uncritically.

Pearce’s article gives the false impression that there is a “new” or “growing” dissent from the broad strokes consensus on climate change. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I appreciate Pearce’s concern (that the existence of natural variability can embolden denialists), but it sounds like this concern has caused him to unnecessarily and inaccurately frame Latif’s presentation as a challenge to the scientific consensus on climate change. Natural variability is of course real. It can and will overwhelm man-made warming on shorter timescales. That journalists are beginning to pay attention to this simple fact is not a reflection of a sea change in our understanding of climate science.

Latif’s presentation and audio [LATE UPDATE: The audio has moved, it's now here under "Advancing Climate Prediction Science"; the presentation is available here] are available for anyone to examine. We can look at Mr. Berger and others’ claims about hurricanes/tropical cyclones and anthropogenic warming in a Part III if there is interest.

[Fixed some spelling errors and reworded the penultimate paragraph for clarity]

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71 responses to “Of Moles and Whacking: “Mojib Latif predicted two decades of cooling”

  1. Wow, I just found your site! I believe the reason why people are latching onto research such as this and why public opinion is shifting more and more into the skeptic camp is because prior to 2008, we constantly heard messages that included we were nearing a “tipping point” that would trigger “runaway global warming”. Those phrases were very common…not so much anymore. I realize these tactics were employed to trigger faster action. But it also fueled the fires of skepticism such that any backing away from such tactics/beliefs only multiplies the inverse reaction.

    • prior to 2008, we constantly heard messages that included we were nearing a “tipping point” that would trigger “runaway global warming”. Those phrases were very common…not so much anymore.

      Can you please offer some citations of claims of “runaway global warming”? As for “tipping points”, I’m confused. Are you saying that you think that they don’t exist, are somehow less likely to be crossed, etc.?

  2. No worries. If you do not know what I am talking about, we probably do not need further discussion on it. I understand your confusion about the situation then.

    • If you do not know what I am talking about, we probably do not need further discussion on it. I understand your confusion about the situation then.

      I’m pointing out the difference between random assertions and/or media claims and what climate science actually says.

      Care to reference anything pertaining to the latter? An activist or politician overreaching the science does not invalidate the actual science.

    • “No worries.”

      Well, I’d like to know what you’re talking about. It should be easy to cite examples of claims that were “constant” only a couple of years ago.

  3. Matt,
    Since you’re new to the site, you may not realize that there are blogs that require a higher standard of evidence than the lazy mess of anti-science you got away with posting at CWG/WaPo last week.

  4. I guess when Matt realized his strawman wasn’t gonna fly, he flew.

  5. Pingback: Today give platform to climate denier | Left Foot Forward

  6. Pingback: The Holocene Deniers - Page 62 - Christian Forums

  7. Shoshannah Pearlman

    If you google “global warming tipping point’ you get a whole bunch of hits, of which there are just the first few:

    http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0315-sea_ice.html

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/071214-tipping-points.ht

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/28/AR2006012801021.html

    ml

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1176980,00.html

    I think they’re all from 2007. While I didn’t read them in depth, they don’t seem to claim that we need to do something fast, or the planet will be uninhabitable by 2009. Such a claim would have lost credibility by now, as Matt implied. They said that we have to do something within the next few years (or decades) or the changes that will happen within the next century (or two) will be drastic and irreversible. It ain’t paranoia if they are really are out to get you, and it isn’t yellow journalism if the potential disaster really is horrific and likely.

  8. The link in this post to the audio of Natif’s presentation is broken. Those who wish to listen to it can find it at http://www.wmo.int/wcc3/rec_audios_en.html until the heading “Advancing climate prediciton science”

    Incidentally, a BBC blogger has picked up this story and done precisely what Natif feared, in a post titled “An Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming”:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/today/tomfeilden/2009/09/an_inconvenient_truth_about_gl.html

    Fox Nation then picked up the Beeb’s post and ran with it in a post titled “BBC: Earth Temps Will Begin Cooling” (thus attributing it to the BBC itself rather than to a BBC blogger–accidentally, I am sure):

    http://www.thefoxnation.com/global-warming/2009/09/17/bbc-earth-temps-will-begin-cooling

    And so it begins.

  9. I can neither get Latif’s presentation nor the audio. The presentation only shows 25 powerpoint screens and the audio leads to aWMO site where it is stated that the sought item cannot be found.

    Would you know another way to it?

    I listened to an interview on BBC Today with Latif where he didn’t just speak about hypotheticals. Neither did he speak of cooling. He stated that his model predicted a temporary stop in warming.

    However, the interview was very short and I am looking for a more extensive text.

  10. I translated today an interview with Latif published in the German quality paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 6/16/08. Here it is:

    Focus: In your new study you predict a stop in global warming until about 2015. But thus far it was accepted as a certainty that the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads more or less directly to global warming. What is the basis for your different prognosis?

    Latif: Besides the long term global warming caused by humans we also have short-term natural variability in the climate. This can mask human influence for a few years. And that is exactly our prognosis for the coming decade. In our model we have taken the changes in ocean currents over the last decades into account.

    Focus: In your model you mainly take the North Atlantic into account. There are, as you wrote in your study, weaknesses as far as the tropical Atlantic and Africa are concerned. How can you come up then with global predictions?

    Latif: We have a global model that is based on all the worldwide changes in ocean currents. The tropical Pacific in particular cools down easily. It therefore, with its enormous surface, contributes to the breathing space in the increase of global average temperature. And our model simulates these conditions in the Pacific realm very well.

    Focus: Why were these cyclic changes in ocean currents not reckoned with in the climate forecasts before?

    Latif: The models simulate those changes. We have, however, not enough measurements, especially from the depths of the oceans, and therefore do not know the actual development of the ocean currents. We have, however, now developed a simple method to deduce these from the surface temperatures.

    Focus: How can climate forecasts be certain if there are always such surprising turns?

    Latif: But we are not dealing here with a surprising turn. Any one who understands anything about climate knows that there are always such short-term changes. Global warming does not imply that the temperature increases every year. The warming only becomes apparent when you look at the development over a few decades.

    Focus: Skeptics do not believe in the predictive power of present models. Their argument is that the climate can in principle not be predicted because it constitutes a chaotic system. Are they right?

    Latif: No – we know that a loaded dice produces more sixes. Yet we do not know how the next throw will turn out. We can say, in a similar manner, that the temperature will go up with an increase in greenhouse gases over a long period. The weather forecasts will however remain limited to a few days. In both cases the boundary conditions are changed. They create order in the chaos. The position of the Sun is also a boundary condition, and that is why we know that it is warmer in summer than in winter.

    Focus: But does your result not give support to those skeptics who have since long maintained that natural factors have greater influence on the climate than greenhouse gases produced by human activities?

    Latif: No. Those skeptics only show that they understand nothing of the physics of climate.

    Focus: Does the IPPC now have to revise its prognoses because of your new results?

    Latif: The IPCC doesn’t have to revise anything at all. With the present increase of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions we have to count on an increase of global temperature of around 4 degrees Celsius until 2100, as the IPCC has indicated in its latest report. This change is much greater than the natural variability of about plus/minus 0.5 degrees in the last few centuries.

    Focus: What will the stop in global warming imply for such of its consequences that have thus far been predicted like stronger storms or the increased occurrence of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts?
    Latif: The temperatures will still, in spite of that short breathing space, be clearly higher than fifty years ago. So we will remain on a high level. So to that extent we have to keep counting on a tendency for more weather extremes.

    Focus: When we look at your temperature curves we see some cooling phases after 1970, which do not occur in the temperatures that have actually been measured. So how trustworthy is your model?

    Latif: We have only the second product of our research here. So in that sense we are still at the very beginning. It is important that the worldwide research in this field is intensified. We can then see in a few years what the real situation is.

    Focus: Researchers at NASA have come up with a prognosis on the basis of satellite dates, that the earth will even be cooling for twenty to thirty years. This is because a cyclic climate change, the so-called Pacific Decadal Oscillation, will reach its cold phase. This will reinforce the cool La Nina events and the warm El Nino phases will be less marked. How does that fit into your scenario?

    Latif: Our model predicts exactly the same thing. The colleagues at NASA have reached their results statistically, we with a model based on the basic physical equations. The cooling down of the Pacific is the main reason for the slight global temperature decrease. We have however not calculated that far into the future.

    Focus: What will happen when the ocean currents become stronger again and, after the breathing pause predicted by you, natural and anthropogenic global warming will come together?

    Latif: When the decadal changes reach their warm phase again global warming will be more rapid than the trend predicted by the IPCC. The natural climate variability will come on top of this all so that they can for a while cover up global warming, but also reinforce it.

    Focus: Some of your colleagues say that you are trying to get some kind of weather forecast possibility with your model. However, over the short time span of ten years that is considered the weather will be mainly influenced by fortuitous variability so that a prediction is impossible. What would you say about that?

    Latif: All theoretical studies on this theme show the opposite. Also, over the last few years there have been published a series of scientific studies with complex methods. It appears that exactly on a decadal timescale, comprising some decades, there is a certain potential for predictions.

    Focus: A group of scientists wants a bet with you that in the next decade global temperatures will, against your prognosis, further increase. Will you take this up?

    Latif: I am a scientist not a gambler. In spite of the short breathing space the global temperature will around 2100 be significantly higher than at the beginning of last century.

  11. “I was calling bullshit …”

    It seems that you have found your calling.

  12. You say “I was calling bullshit” in his reference to “tipping point” and the radical restructuring of economic systems advocated by those who would use science to attain political power?
    Ever heard of Al Gore?
    A participant offers a quick google search to show dozens of references, and you crawfish, rather than admit that Matts statement was actually true.
    Who cares if the Latif predictions of warming do or don’t come true? If by 2020 the political redistribution of power is accomplished, what matter if the predictions don’t come true?
    The point of the entire exercise is to force through fear the acceptance of restrictions that advance an ascent to power.
    Calling bullshit- thats a technique, if someone doesn’t fall right in with your agenda, call them a liar.
    You can identify a lie, but can you identify the truth?
    I don’t think so. And Lenny is an ass kisser.

    • I was calling bullshit on Matt’s claim:

      because prior to 2008, we constantly heard messages that included we were nearing a “tipping point” that would trigger “runaway global warming”. Those phrases were very common…not so much anymore.

      Because A) “runaway global warming” is a strawman; no one in the scientific community was claiming we were in danger of that, and B) “tipping points” are still very much used to describe the potential for us to trigger rapid and/or “committed” change without much advance warning (e.g. here).

      Your claims about economic/political usurpation are tinfoil hat territory and have no bearing on the science. Matt’s claims were bullshit, and I called him on it. He chose to pretend that I didn’t understand what he was talking about rather than acknowledge he couldn’t support his claims. It was transparent and embarrassing, which is probably why he hasn’t commented since.

  13. As someone who writes computer models for a living I feel qualified to comment on the argument presented here which boils down to:

    1) Climate models in general and Latif’s in particular are critically dependent on initial conditions, rendering them useless for making short term predictions.

    2) At decadal scales, “natural variability swamps the long term anthropogenic warming trend”, rendering the models useless for making predictions at this scale.

    3) We can trust the models however for making century scale predictions, even though (1) and (2) leave us no ability to validate the underlying equations.

    Nice. We’re supposed to risk world-wide economic collapse on a non-falsifiable theory based on models which have proven themselves of no predictive value and whose authors admit can not be validated until a century or so has passed. You call this science?

    Here’s some real science based on empirical evidence: Latif conceded the Earth has not warmed for nearly a decade and his model failed to predict this. Here’s some more: a model is only as good as the predictions it makes. It is far past time that those who demand we accept a lowered standard of living based entirely on doomsday predictions from demonstrably inadequate models shut the hell up.

    Get back to us when you got something that actually works. After all, as Latif himself admits, “we are likely entering one or even two decades during which temperatures cool.”

    • 1) I highly doubt that GCMs will be useful in making interannual forecasts in the near future. That was the point of Latif’s presentation. Decadal-scale forecasts may be possible with a better handle on key intialization factors. Which was, again, the point of Latif’s presentation. However, GCMs are not the only models available, and they certainly aren’t the only line of evidence pointing out the necessity of avoiding business as usual emissions.
      2) See above.
      3) End-of-century projections are not the same thing as explicit predictions. This was discussed in the above post. Did you not even read it before commenting on it?

      Nice. We’re supposed to risk world-wide economic collapse on a non-falsifiable theory based on models which have proven themselves of no predictive value and whose authors admit can not be validated until a century or so has passed.

      There is no part of the above that is correct. The costs of mitigation appear to be substantially lower than the costs of adaptation or, worse, “reaction”; AGW is not “falsifiable theory”, but nor is the concept of falling- they are both consequential descriptions of the effects of several well-supported falsifiable theories; climate models are not necessary to illustrate both the reality and anthropogenic attribution of the current warming, nor are they necessary to discern the broad strokes consequences of warming the planet to a higher equilibrium; GCM projections can be made and their skill assessed, however this isn’t something that so-called “skeptics” actually attempt with any seriousness or frequency- you can find any number of papers in relevant journals doing so however; a century is not required to evaluate a model projection, but if one is seeking to evaluate a model projection of the anthropogenically forced temperature over a century against what actually transpires…

      You call this science?

      You’re regurgitating pathetically ignorant myths about a subject you clearly haven’t spent even a cursory amount of time examining- you call that skepticism?

      Latif conceded the Earth has not warmed for nearly a decade and his model failed to predict this.

      Certainly you’ll have no problem citing where did so then. We’ll wait…

      As for the rest of your spittle-flecked rant, you might want to start here.

      After all, as Latif himself admits, “we are likely entering one or even two decades during which temperatures cool.”

      Except of course Latif didn’t actually say that. Fred Pearce paraphrased something Latif said, and invented the “we are likely” part. What Latif actually said is transcribed in the post above. If you continue to insist on making claims about posts that you clearly haven’t read, your comments will be treated as spam.

    • So anyone who ever put a formula into an Excel spreadsheet is now a climate expert? You don’t even have the respective roles of initial and boundary conditions right. It’s time for those who keep trying to create diversions by trashing the science to sit down and STFU so the actual policy debate can occur.

  14. “3) End-of-century projections are not the same thing as explicit predictions. This was discussed in the above post. Did you not even read it before commenting on it?”

    I don’t see the discussion you are referring to but any distinction between a “prediction” and “projection” must be academic at best. I note you completely avoid the point however. The state-of-the-art in climate modeling has thus far produced nothing of predictive value and are thus by definition have nothing of value to add to to the policy debate.

    “There is no part of the above that is correct. The costs of mitigation appear to be substantially lower than the costs of adaptation or, worse, “reaction”;
    This statement displays the logical fallacy of assuming the question at hand, not surprising since you believe in “settled science”. The cost of mitigation is zero if your premise is incorrect.

    “AGW is not “falsifiable theory”. Straw man alert. My assertion was that the hypothesis of AGW could not be falsified (at least for the purpose of devising policy) by modeling, since the models themselves produce no predictions that can be verified on a decadal scale. As a scientist I’m jealous. This is nice work if you can get it.

    “climate models are not necessary to illustrate both the reality and anthropogenic attribution”

    Are you denying that the GW hysteria has not been model driven? Are you denying that the conclusions in the IPCC’s Assessment Report which is now driving policy was not based almost entirely on model predictions? Are you willing to concede the models developed thus far have nothing of value to add to the debate and proceed from there?

    “a century is not required to evaluate a model projection, but if one is seeking to evaluate a model projection of the anthropogenically forced temperature over a century against what actually transpires…” Hmm, in my line of work, one generally gauges the predictive value of a model by measuring it against what actually transpires. Please enlighten me on your quality metric because mine is a bitch.

    “Except of course Latif didn’t actually say that.”

    Uh, in the Focus article quoted here, he says his model is in complete agreement with the NASA projection (prediction?) that “that the earth will even be cooling for twenty to thirty years.” I was being generous.

    • any distinction between a “prediction” and “projection” must be academic at best.

      Wrong.

      The rest of your comments re: models are similarly uninformed. GCMs have, for example, accurately predicted the response to the Mt. Pinatubo eruption to within a thousandth of a degree. And GCMs are but a single type of model, others have been used to predict other aspects of the climate system. Of course, if you actually bothered doing a modicum of research before making sweeping, grossly ignorant claims, you’d be aware of this already.

      It’s not begging the question to assess the cost-benefit of mitigation vs. adaptation vs. reaction (or some combination thereof) as *those are only options under consideration*. Climate denialism is simply no longer entertained by any of the relevant nations (re: a treaty) or their science academies. It’s fallacious itself to call the inevitable consequences of an action “begging the question” in all cases. This is tiring.

      The only possible way of “falsifying” anthropogenic warming at this point is to overturn basic physics at some level. At most, the relative anthropogenic component of warming to this point could be theoretically shown to have been overstated, in which case a heretofore undiscovered dampening agent must be discovered. Don’t expect any serious people to hold their breaths along with you.

      But once again, you seem obsessed with GCMs, as though they are necessary to illustrate or substantiate anthropogenic warming. They are not. And in any case, multiple lines of evidence indicating a ~3°C response to doubled carbon dioxide are not merely hypothetical or model-dependent, many are observational.

      I can’t speak claims to made in an interview in a foreign language magazine that I’ve never read, but Latif’s modeling group most certainly does not predict 20-30 years of global cooling, nor am I aware of any NASA modeling group at GISS, JPL, or anywhere else who does.

      Again, if you bothered to do even a modicum of research before you typed such things, people might actually believe that you were skeptical. It’s plainly obvious, however, that you’re not skeptical but rather a denialist.

  15. “So anyone who ever put a formula into an Excel spreadsheet is now a climate expert?” You attribute to me a claim I nowhere make, although my career in modeling did start with climates of a sort- confined to the environs of the Space Shuttle cabin.

    Trash science deserves to be trashed. And as for your suggestion that one must be a climate expert to engage in the policy debate, I would first point out that a large percentage of the scientists signing various “consensus ” statements are not climate experts either. Then, of course, there’s all that grant money floating about tempting even the most scrupulous. Sorry, you’re just going to have to learn to deal with the skeptics like every other scientists in every other field.

  16. Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the true scientific method, in layman’s terms, was to develop a theory (hypothesis?) and then, ultimately, PROVE it correct or incorrect. If this is more or less correct, then conclusions should not be based on hypothetical models that can neither be proven or disproven. Such models should be used and relied upon only to the extent they can contribute to the proving of facts yet to be discovered.

    More importantly though, conclusions should never be based on consensus…if such were the case then we might still believe the earth was the center of the universe (the scientific hypothesis/consensus a few centuries back) and that the earth was flat (yet another hypothesis/consensus a few centuries ago).

    My personal and “un-scientific” opinion is that, while I believe it would be foolish for us as a species to completely ignore the possibility that climate change might have an adverse impact on our livlihood at some point down the road and that we humans might even have something to do with it, it is equally foolish for us to completely buy into the hypothetical and theoretical doomsday scenarios such as those espoused by the non-scientist, Al Gore (nothing more than a master politician!!!). Unfortuantely, illustrious and uninformed politicians, world-wide, have have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker which has led to a reactive hysteria that might well do more harm than good.

    The methodical – and scientific – approach must be continued, which I believe is happening…but such methods of discovery should be void of the sensationalistic journalism and blogs that state EVERYTHING is fact OR fiction. To this end, there is no room for opinion, unproven models or political posturing…just the poven facts.

    JMHO…

    • The science isn’t based on a consensus, the consensus exists because of the science. Also contrasting mostly accurate descriptions of the science that might suffer from an inaccuracy here or there (such as Gore’s) with those who deny the existence of the problem, and saying that the truth lies somewhere in between is the middle ground fallacy. And it’s precisely the goal of those seeking to prevent meaningful action on the problem.

  17. “The rest of your comments re: models are similarly uninformed. ”
    I’d say offhand that it is you who are ridiculously ill-informed on modeling. Climate behavior is driven by coupled, non-linear dynamics and stochastic forcing functions which by definition are capable of producing bifurcated, chaotic results. Creating predictive models for such systems is notoriously difficult even if you have the underlying equations nailed. (Which is why the claim you keep making about the necessity of overturning “multiple branches of physics” is so amusing). The end point of such simulations based on these types of models are always critically dependent on how one initializes the state vectors and such simulations in general, do not repeat, even on a global scale, due to stochastic contingencies. At best, dynamic trends can be extracted but these must be painstakingly examined using difficult state variable isolation techniques before definitive conclusions about cause and effect can be ascertained. This last step requires comparison of simulated results with observed, real world data. In my field (solid state device physics) we’ve been at this for fifty years and still can not explain or predict many critical aspects of junction behavior, and we can easily make controlled measurements on closed systems. Color me skeptical that the GCM folks have got this all figured out.

    “GCMs have, for example, accurately predicted the response to the Mt. Pinatubo eruption to within a thousandth of a degree. And GCMs are but a single type of model, others have been used to predict other aspects of the climate system. ”

    Who cares? This has nothing whatsoever to do with proving the audacious claim that GCM models have anything of value to say about the climate one hundred years from now.

    “But once again, you seem obsessed with GCMs, as though they are necessary to illustrate or substantiate anthropogenic warming. They are not. ”
    So again, are you willing to eliminate all GCM predictions from the policy debate and proceed from there? And by the way, in the link you provide, you make some bazaar distinction between your “mathematical” model which you use a computer to calculate, and the “computer” models which you are trying to prove dispensable. It is the predictive power of the dynamics (i.e. the underlying mathematical equations) and not the arithmetic used in their numerical solution that are in dispute here. Perhaps you could enlighten us as to the point you are attempting to make.

    How about you stop arguing from obfuscation and invective and squarely address the main point raised in the original article by Eric Berger (hardly a denier or even skeptic). “If we can’t have confidence in the short-term prognosis for climate change, how can we have full confidence in the long-term prognosis?”

    • Berger is apparently (like you) confused by the difference between initial value and boundary value problems, something that he (like you) could correct with about 20 seconds of looking. It is this elementary distinction that makes GCMs ill-suited for interannual or (at least currently) decadal forecasts but adequate for mutlidecadal-to-end-of-century projections.

      The simple math model vs. GCMs illustrates that the significant drivers of climate other than anthropogenic forcing are laughably incapable of explaining the warming trend. It’s not just GCMs- our fundamental understanding of black body radiation, the IR absorptive properties of GHGs, moist atmospheric thermodynamics, etc. would have to be wrong.

      Again, none of this is particularly esoteric information. It’s honestly tiresome and unstimulating to continually have to go point for point with someone, who despite lacking even a cursory grasp of the subject matter, is convinced that he has it all figured out while those doing the work must have it all wrong. That is not skepticism. It is denial.

  18. “Climate denialism is simply no longer entertained by any of the relevant nations (re: a treaty) or their science academies.”

    I wouldn’t count us flat-earthers out quite yet. Cap and trade is dead in the Senate, there’s talk of pushing Copenhagen out a year (past the mid-term elections) and public skepticism is on the rise. You don’t have a signed and ratified treaty yet and I wouldn’t bet my house on your prospects, even though I’m upside down.

    • The lack of an emissions reduction treaty at present is in no way indicative of support for the notion that continuing on under BAU will have no, few, or fewer costs than mitigation. Even if I were in complete denial about the reality of anthropogenic warming and my fear was a retarding of the economy, I’d be a lot more concerned with the levying of taxes to pay for adaptation (which is the minimum action any government has been considering for roughly decade) when it would be less costly and have greater immediate benefits (in terms of particulate pollution, increasing energy efficiency, etc.) to seek mitigation coupled with adaptation in the first place.

  19. “Berger is apparently (like you) confused by the difference between initial value and boundary value problems, something that he (like you) could correct with about 20 seconds of looking. It is this elementary distinction that makes GCMs ill-suited for interannual or (at least currently) decadal forecasts but adequate for mutlidecadal-to-end-of-century projections.”

    My point (and indirectly, his) that you thus far refuse to address (except through insufferable condescension), is that you have exactly zero scientific (that is to say, empirical) evidence to support your claim that GCMs are “adequate for mutlidecadal-to-end-of-century projections.” At best, you can claim we won’t know for fifty years or so. Fine, get back to us in fifty years.

    “The simple math model vs. GCMs illustrates that the significant drivers of climate other than anthropogenic forcing are laughably incapable of explaining the warming trend.”

    What is laughable is the audaciousness of such a statement when skeptics and proponents alike agree that we do not understand the scope and scale of natural variations. Also, you must explain how pre-industrial warming trends of greater magnitude (i.e the MWP) both in terms of absolute temp and rate of change managed to occur given your assertion.

  20. Pat, the models aren’t the theories (hypotheses, actually) that are to be disproved. They are just models of what results from the actual hypotheses. And the actual hypotheses are concrete, like “a doubling of CO2 causes the atmosphere to retain X amount more heat”.

    Regarding the “doomsday scenarios such as those espoused by the non-scientist, Al Gore”: Al Gore is irrelevant. These aren’t Al Gore’s scenarios. He is merely articulating what climate science says–and pretty accurately, for the most part.

  21. “Nice. We’re supposed to risk world-wide economic collapse on a non-falsifiable theory based on models which have proven themselves of no predictive value and whose authors admit can not be validated until a century or so has passed. You call this science?”

    This is the thing that all “skeptics” come back to. “It will ruin our economy!” What’s that based on? Economic computer models, that’s what. So the climate models, based on well-understood physics and chemistry aren’t to be believed, but economic models, based on flimsy empirical relationships, are valued above all else?

    Care to apply the same level of skepticism to economic models that you do for climate models? [sound of crickets chirping]

    • Bingo. Significantly dangerous future climatic impacts? Completely dependent on ‘unfalsifiable, garbage Climate Models’ despite the wealth of paleoclimatic evidence in good agreement. Economic armageddon if we even attempt to reduce emissions? Inerrant Truth.

  22. The denidiots don’t need no stinkin’ models to know that Al Gore is plotting the destruction of the world economy from the Internet control center in the basement of his 87-room energy-guzzling mansion. You know, the one where he controlled the Supreme Court into selecting him for President.

  23. “This is the thing that all “skeptics” come back to. “It will ruin our economy!” What’s that based on? Economic computer models, that’s what.”

    Nonsense. No computer model is required to deduce that replacing fossil fuel generated power (.5 – 5 cents per kWH) with non-fossil fuel based generation at 20 – 40 cents per kWH is going to have a substantial and negative impact at both the macro (GDP) level and on individual pocket books. Carbon taxes are paid by people who receive nothing of value for the added expense. That by definition equates to a reduction in disposable income. Again, no computer model required.

    • This is why when talking to science deniers, the longer one does so it becomes increasingly difficult to believe they’re not engaged in some sort of elaborate performance art.

      If you ignore everything but the “sticker price” per unit paid by the consumer it is more costly to switch from Product A to Product B, if the price of A is lower than that of B? You don’t say! This is like arguing that it is cheaper for the consumer to subsist on a diet of “cheap” junk food and soft drinks [or better yet, bottom shelf alcohol] rather than eat well-balanced meals, as the immediate price of the former is ostensibly lower than that of the latter.

      When you ignore pesky little things like massive taxpayer subsidies, resource depletion, health care costs, and all the other expenses eventually borne by taxpayers that have failed to be incorporated into the price of junk food, of course eating sensibly appears to be the more expensive option. Similarly, it’s either jaw-droppingly dishonest or else naive to make similar claims about the cost of maintaining a carbon-intensive energy trajectory relative to renewables when you ignore the immense disparities in subsidies, health costs, inefficiencies, future rising costs due to resource depletion, etc. before we even begin talking about the dire consequences of unchecked ocean acidification, sea level rise, agricultural disruption, biodiversity loss, etc.

      And of course this is ignoring completely emissions reduction schemes such as “tax and dividend” (its merits relative to other schemes set aside for the sake of argument), where the entire cost of the tax is returned directly to the taxpayers. In short, extensive economic assessments, including modeling, certainly are required to do any sort of meaningful cost-benefit analyses, and the funny thing about that is…

      As always, your objections are a kilometer wide and a millimeter deep.

  24. “Similarly, it’s either jaw-droppingly dishonest or else naive to make similar claims about the cost of maintaining a carbon-intensive energy trajectory relative to renewables when you ignore the immense disparities in subsidies, health costs, inefficiencies, future rising costs due to resource depletion, etc.”

    Your arguing through your hat. Renewables are 50-100 times more expensive than oil/coal/ng and that doesn’t take in to account the massive investment in the grid that will be required to make renewables anything more than a pimple on a gnat’s ass in the percentage of power delivered. Go ahead, explain to us how a true cost analysis gets you to parity. I’m sure it will be quite entertaining.

    I was especially amused by “future rising costs due to resource depletion”. Ignoring the fact that the predictions of oil reserve depletion have proven laughable, the logic of paying more now to keep from paying more later escapes me. And factoring potential future cost increases into today’s energy calculations in a pathetic attempt to reach parity just makes you look desperate.

    As for indirect health care costs, here’s a direct one: CAFE standards kill people. Ten’s of thousands of people. But, like all zealots, you are willing to sacrifice (others) for the cause.

    • This would be amusing if it weren’t so pedestrian. You made a patently absurd argument in defense of your divinely received knowledge re: Assured Economic Catastrophe. My point about rising costs due to resource depletion was not that scarcity that will in the future be priced into the per barrel cost should be counted against its cost now, but that as noted in the linked article there is already a growing realization re: the lack of new fields that has lead to rampant speculation and incredible volatility- which bring their own increasing costs atop the price paid by the consumer at the pump.

      You’re wrong on the science, claiming that humans have only increased CO2 by a “small amount”, cite laughing stocks like Tim Ball, etc. You’re wrong on the economics and pretend externalities either don’t exist or only work one way, ignore the consensus among economic analyses putting the total cost of mitigation at a maximum of around a percentage or two of global GDP (vs. 5% lost during the recent financial crisis and as high as 20% under BAU emissions, for comparison), etc. [Edited to add: Wrong on the politics, claiming "Cap and trade is dead in the Senate" when the bill is being introduced next week.] And now you’re calling me a “zealot” and claiming that I want to “sacrifice” people, despite your total ignorance as to what policies I do and do not support.

      You’ve pissed enough on my carpet. Go troll somewhere else.

  25. Pingback: Celebrity Paycut - Encouraging celebrities all over the world to save us from global warming by taking a paycut.

  26. thingsbreak – came in here a bit late via RC. Thanks for this but despite such clear and logical reasoning the likes of denialists such as Patterson just don’t (won’t?) “get it”. He really hasn’t a clue how science really works – and I think that’s possibly true even of lots of scientists. He doesn’t see how he is making dogmatic and unsupportable statements about “dire economic hardship” while demanding extreme and unrealistic demands on AGW theory. This double standard approach is transparent and idiotic. As posted elsewhere the only way to debate with idiots is to ignore them. But I wonder whether he has just enough intelligence to understand that it’s actually risk management we are talking about and that economists have a terrible track record in that respect. J Patterson – temper your non-skeptical dogmatism with a bit of research – check out what the real issue is on http://www.gregcraven.org Skeptics will understand but denialists will (idiotically) refuse to understand. Or watch http://www.ted.com/talks/james_balog_time_lapse_proof_of_extreme_ice_loss.html

  27. Pingback: “Al Gore Heartbroken That World Refuses to End”

  28. William Connolley

    As far as I can see Latif’s stuff is just a rehash on Keenleyside. Which is indeed a *prediction* of cooling, as they confirm: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/global-cooling-wanna-bet/ So I’m puzzled by your insistence that Latif is saying what-if, and very definitely not predicting stuff.

    • Keenlyside et al. 2008 was most certainly *not* a prediction of “one or even two decades of cooler temperatures”, which is what Fred Pearce and in turn the denialosphere claim that Latif predicted. This was clearly part of a hypothetical situtation in Latif’s talk about the desirability of achieving accurate decadal forecasting.

      At most Keenlyside et al.’s prediction was that the rest of 2008-2015 would cool enough to make 2005-2015 cooler relative to 1994-2004 – not an explicit forecast of 10 years of cooling beginning in 2008, much less August of 2009. Their own modeling shows more rapid warming than the A1B runs from 2010 onward.

      [Edited to add] Put differently, there were two parts to Latif’s talk dealing with future temperatures and natural variability. The first was a hypothetical scenario highlighting the importance of decadal scale forecasting from a science communication/policy perspective due to public misconceptions about monotonic vs. projected warming. The second was essentially Keenlyside 2008 rehash.

  29. William Connolley

    I agree that K isn’t what you say it isn’t. “Our results suggest that global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade, as natural climate variations in the North Atlantic and tropical Pacific temporarily offset the projected anthropogenic warming.” is probably representative. What isn’t clear is why you are so sure that L isn’t predicting now. I can’t be bothered to listen through all the audio so I may never know.

    • The first part, the hypothetical scenario (“Why decadal prediction?”) that is being misreported as a prediction, occurs from 24:58 to 26:28.

      The second part, where Latif actually talks about a prediction, is literally nothing more than a passing reference to Keenlyside et al. 2008 and occurs from 36:07 to 36:42.

  30. Pingback: Anatomy of a lie: How Marc Morano and Lorne Gunter spun Mojab Latif’s remarks out of control « Deep Climate

  31. Pingback: Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist, the man who moved George Will and math-challenged Morano to extreme disinformation | Climate Vine

  32. TB,

    I have transcribed some of the key excerpts here:

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/10/02/key-excerpts-from-mojib-latifs-wcc-presentation/

    together with some of the key slides.

    As you noted the earlier part of the discussion was purely hypothetical – that’s even clearer when you “back the tape” up a little and also see the “Climate Surprise” slide which is obviously not a real history or projection (unless there’s a model out there that projects a volcano around 2030).

  33. And then there’s the evolution of the misunderstanding, morphing into blatant distortion and falsehood:

    Read the following sequence of quotes and weep:

    * Sept. 1: It may well happen that you enter a decade, or maybe even two, when the temperature cools, relative to the present level. – Mojib Latif at World Climate Conference in Geneva

    * Sept. 4: One of the world’s top climate modellers said Thursday we could be about to enter one or even two decades during which temperatures cool. – Fred Pearce, New Scientist.

    * Sept. 5: UN Fears (More) Global Cooling Commeth! IPCC Scientist Warns UN: We are about to enter ‘one or even 2 decades during which temps cool’ – Marc Morano, Climate Depot (CFACT)

    * Sept. 19: Latif conceded … that we are likely entering “one or even two decades during which temperatures cool.” – Lorne Gunter, Calgary Herald.

    * Sept. 25: Mojib Latif of Kiel University in Germany told a UN conference earlier this month that he is now predicting global cooling for several decades. – Marc Morano, Climate Depot (CFACT).

    * Sept. 28: 1240 hits, and counting, for the Google search “Latif” “ likely entering one or even two decades during which temperatures cool”

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/10/02/anatomy-of-a-lie-how-morano-and-gunter-spun-latif-out-of-contro/

  34. Probably there’s some confusion over the phrase “next decade”, which appears to be 2005-2015, given its submission in 2007 and the fact that 2005-2015 is the last decade to be “flat” in the K et al projections.

    As TB said, Latif was not presenting new results in the actual prediction portion of his presentation – only rehashing K et al.

  35. Pingback: Anatomy of a lie, part 2: Gunter to IBD to Will « Deep Climate

  36. Pingback: Exclusive interview with Dr. Mojib Latif, the man who confused the NY Times and New Scientist, the man who moved George Will and math-challenged Morano to extreme disinformation | Going Green

  37. Pingback: » Decadal predictions

  38. Pingback: Decadal predictions «

  39. You are really struggling on this making up strawmen to knock down.

    I don’t see any serious commentator on AGW claiming that Latif is predicting decades of cooling, nor that that is even the issue.

    The quotes are clear. Latif is stressing that in a scenario where we happen to get a couple of decades of cooling from todays approximate levels it would provide no falsification of the theory of AGW.

    And THAT is the nub of the issue, not the strawman you and others have been heroically beating down.

    If not two decades of cooling, what exactly would it take to falsify the theory of AGW? It seems increadingly that nothing will.

    And there ends any claim that this is science.

    • I don’t see any serious commentator on AGW claiming that Latif is predicting decades of cooling, nor that that is even the issue.

      No true Scotsman, is it?

      what exactly would it take to falsify the theory of AGW?

      Start here, then here. Let me know where you disagree and why.

  40. Great explanation! You don’t mind, do you, if I lift it and post it on my blog with full credit and a link back, do you? I get about 500 hits a day. No commercial purpose whatsoever — just disseminating the science.

  41. Pingback: Photomaniacal » Blog Archive » Global Warming And The Second Battle of Copenhagen

  42. As explained here http://www.aclimateforchange.org/profiles/blogs/no-global-warming-hasnt-ended I patiently listened to Latif’s entire talk, paging through his slides as he went, and couldn’t find any multidecadal predictions.

    As for those wanting falsifiability, we’ve had a theoretical prediction since 1949 that CO_2-forced AGW would cause the troposphere to warm and the stratosphere to cool. Subsequent measurement matches the theory. There has been a persistent warming trend over the last century, with breaks that are explicable by including effects of aerosols in the model, but makes no sense without AGW. We are in a near 100-year deep solar minimum and annual average temperatures persist at or near record highs. Again, there is no other known explanation for this, but it’s consistent with AGW theory. There are many other lines of evidence that support AGW and make no sense otherwise. What more do you want? An exact result with an equation you can check against a few data points? Science of the real world doesn’t work like that (http://opinion-nation.blogspot.com/2009/08/science-in-real-world.html).

  43. Well, nothing’s changed in the two months since you posted this. I was reading Newsweek this morning and came across a painfully inaccurate article there about climate change. That’s “Everyone Out of the Water! Damn the Pesky Models! Full Speed Ahead!” by George F Will. In it he implies that global cooling is as likely as global warming, based on the imperfect state of climate modelling today.

    Of course, he didn’t actually state any direct sources for this claim, but by digging back through the Wall Street Journal reference he made (apparently, the WSJ is now the premier place to find scientific knowledge!), I found this article

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125686509223717691.html

    which links back to Mojib Latif and the stuff you talked about here (and is how I found your page).

    *sigh* This is just really frustrating. I suppose this is how football coaches feel about listening to the last weekend’s armchair quarterbacks.

  44. Pingback: Digg users hoaxed by Earthsuckers, again « Greenfyre’s

  45. Pingback: About that Daily Mail “mini ice age story” « The Way Things Break

  46. It looks like the results from Lotif’s 2008 research is making it’s media rounds again, now that the weather is cold during winter.

    Fox News just ran a piece on it, so did Dailynews.

  47. Pingback: Fred Pearce is a rubbish journalist « The Way Things Break

  48. Pingback: Cool first, warm later | Climate Etc.

  49. Pingback: Fred Pearce continues to be rubbish | The Way Things Break

  50. Pingback: Rubbish Reporting | Planet3.0

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