Thursday, January 14, 2010


(Note: this a post that has been languishing forgotten in an 'in-work' status for several weeks. I am posting it only to clear the backlog before moving on...)

First, as I've stated, I do not dispute that the climate changes over time - What I question is the proposition the actions of mankind is primarily and directly responsible for these changes.

Second, I challenge the conclusions of AGW alarmists (predominately due to the efforts of political organizations, who have a non-science agenda) who content it is necessary to totally revamping the world economy as described by current proposals in order to have a measurable impact on climate. IMHO, We simply don't know enough to base critical decisions on what some 'experts' suspect causes climate change to radically alter the economic foundations of modern society.

Third, I am intensely angered by the CRU fiasco because of the damage they have caused to the founding principles of scientific integrity with the (apparent) goal of justifying a pre-determined ideological position. While it may not be clear precisely WHY they have taken the steps they most certainly took, it wasn't to advance objective science. Individuals who have been placed in positions of authority have failed in their scientific duty. Politically, however, they've done exactly what was asked.

Do I wish to discard or discredit of *all* climate researchers? No, of course not. Like, you, I admire the detailed, complex, and sometimes mind-numbing work the vast majority of serious climate researchers are doing. They are pursuing research and science to expand the scope of human knowledge: they should congratulated, honored, respected and rightly so. We have a lot to learn. There are others who have created and manufactured a 'crisis' to advance their own agendas. That is not SCIENCE (but par for the course when it comes to politics).

Fourth, I'm both curious and concerned about the nature of the response to the fiasco by many in the climate community. For the anti-AGW forces, there is *way* too much of the “Ah-ha! WE CAUGHT YOU!” stuff going on - they need to let go of the 'we won' attitude and get back to studying the issue and figuring out where to go from here.

The response of many of the pro-AGW forces surprises me for 2 reasons... One, if the raw data has been corrupted and improperly manipulated (it has), they should be outraged and calling for people's heads on a platter (that's what they've been demanded against people who dared to challenge the conclusions before the CRU dump was made public). Strangely, many seem to be more concerned about going after 'whistle-blowers', than going after those guilty of 'hiding the decline'. Why?

Two, if the raw data shows that global warming is NOT a crisis-level problem - it may be an issue worthy of research, but NOT a signal of an impending catastrophe - they should be relieved. All too many seem content to refuse to re-visit their conclusions-of-doom in the light of revelations that the underlying data was not accurate to begin with. In fact, they should be frantically trying to find (or at least recover) the original raw data so they can start over. It may take a little extra time - isn't important to make *sure* we get the answer right? - but surely they can plug in the (correct) data back into their models, re-run the test, and then re-evaluate the results, right? As I said, it's curious... it's almost as if many on the pro-AGW side (but not all) are more concerned with protecting the justification of existing proposals - i.e., We Must Do Something NOW - rather than in making sure the theory is accurate and the proposals themselves are the appropriate response.

Do we need to economically viable energy alternatives? Absolutely. However, the pursuit of such alternatives should not be primarily driven by ideologically-based political agendas. Can there be Government (taxpayer) assistance? Perhaps, in certain cases and carefully controlled and limited cases. Should there be massive societal changes mandated with the force of law? NO. Historically, IMHO, more advancements have come from private research pursuits than from publicly-driven ones (there are exceptions, but you get my point). The capitalist system has produced the greatest standard of living the world has known. Let it work. (Have those benefits reached absolutely every last person? No. But, dang it!, those of us with honest humanitarian concerns are definitely trying!)

Now... Yes, NCAR is a valuable site. But allow me to point out a few things, and challenge a conclusion: “These models work.”

Q1: Is there a comprehensive and independent study which runs the available measurements for 1850-1950 as input variables through the model to predict the conditions for 1951-2000? If so, compare said prediction against the measurements taken during that period. If there is no more than a 2% error, I'll agree the models 'work' and are reasonably accurate.

Q2: Use the available data for at least 500 years (say 1300-1799, or 1400-1899), and, using the models, predict atmospheric conditions for a subsequent 100 year time frame (say: 1800-1899 or 1900-1999). Compare the model prediction against the available Real World measurements. If there is no more than a 2% error, I'll agree the models 'work' and are reasonably accurate.

The NCAR site only claims to create a “simulation with hypothetical conditions based on the current-day atmosphere remaining unchanged. The results: CCSM-2 produced realistic climate patterns” (my emphasis). Forgive me for picking nits, but note that “realistic” and REAL are *not* the same thing. It's highly subjective, to say the least.

If either of those requests are too 'global' in scope, then - based on an example from NCAR - run the available measurements for the entire 20th Century (1900-1999) and, using the model, predict the time, length, location, strength and duration of an El NiƱo event in the first decade of the 21th Century (2000-2009). Compare the model predictions against data from that recent Real World event. If there is no more than a 2% error, I'll agree the models 'work' and are reasonably accurate. What I'm asking for is NOT what they report to have done - they only claim to create “simulations that closely resembled known climate data” (my emphasis). The point: 'simulations' are not reality.

Do you see what I'm diving towards? Compare these “models that work” against the Real World... in other words: TEST THE MODEL for accuracy and precision. You cannot rely on a 'simulation that produces realistic results' - you have to test against the Real World. If it's been done on the scale of the examples I've given - where are those reports? (I've seen plenty of 'simulations' but nothing successfully comparing model predictions against Real World data.) In fact, from what I've seen, the climate models DO NOT accurately predict events just ten years ahead (e.g., 2000-2009)! And we're to believe the model can produce an accurate 100-year forecast which justifies turning the world economy upside down? Please.

And to address these 'appeals to authority' that keep coming up... whether particular individuals associated with UCAR and NCAR support or disagree with the IPCC's position papers doesn't matter. Whether the IPCC uses UCAR / NCAR data doesn't matter. Whether a particulat author, expert or collection of researches has credentials and peer-reviewed articles as long as my arm doesn't matter... Science is not about following ideology, or about counting noses: Its about developing a theory and trying to falsify it (not try to support it). And it only takes ONE researcher to DISPROVE a theory - It doesn't matter about the researcher's degree of study, how much experience in field they have or how many peer-reviewed papers they've published... if he can disprove ANY key component of the theory using accepted scientific processes, then the theory is Wrong. Period.

As a computer professional for over 40 years, I can speak based on experience ('authority') that a computer program will do just exactly what you tell it to do. If YOU make an error in coding, you can say the program 'worked', but the results may be useless. If I want to generate a particular result from a defined set of data, I assure you it can be done. That does NOT mean my carefully crafted 'model' will accurately reflect REALITY (but I'll produce something showing the result you want).

I spent 20 years programming cash registers among other systems. If I want to simulate a series of transactions that reflect a activity for a retail store, I can do it (and did it more times than I can count). I even used actual historical store data to generate that simulation. (I even had to 'tweak' the raw data so that it would work in my environment! I made dozens of notes in the source code where I made adjustments and why - sound familiar? And I *never* made an adjustment on the scale done in the CRU data.)

I was able to simulate years of transactions and produce graphs and reports which estimated cash flows, work loads, financial profit and loss, even 'shrinkage' (theft). However, they were only estimates - not Reality. I worked long and hard to get to a 10% error rate when compared with Real World, and eventually worked into into the 2%-5% range, which was more than good enough to make business decisions.

My simulations were compared against real-world store operations. I was challenged numerous times to determine why the simulation missed the target (high or low). The assumption was always - as it should be - that my MODEL was wrong; not that the Real World data was somehow inadequate because it did not produce the expected result. Frequently (most of the time), the estimates were off due to factors that simply were not included or considered as part of the starting data set. Many of those factors could not have been predicted.

Example 1: a store missed its target sales by almost 20% for a one-year period. I eventually discovered that a very large local manufacturing plant had closed during the previous year and about 30% of the area population had moved away... naturally, local sales for *all* business in that area were affected - and my model couldn't predict that Real World event.

Example 2: a store missed its target profit/loss by less than 0.1%. I must have an incredibly accurate model, right? Upon further review - to verify the results - I discovered that prices in that specific store for the most frequently sold items (but not all items) had been mistakenly modified by an improperly trained employee. This was an unintended error, but an error nonethenless. The result yielded higher item-level profit margins on the most popular items, even though the total number of sales transactions were lower by almost 15%. If I had been satisfied with the accuracy of the model's prediction (because it showed what was predicted), we would have missed detecting an (innocent) error in the Real World data.

Example 3: A significant amount of shrinkage (inventory loss) happens as an inside-job (by employees) than by customer theft. The model predicted a certain amount of shrinkage, based on the volume of sales. A store showed 3% variance on the financial side, and a 2% variance on the transaction count side, but the expected shrinkage was nearly ZERO. This was a Good Thing (less theft is good), but I didn't understand why it was happening. I discovered the employee turnover in that store was almost nil. In effect, they had retained the 'good' employees: the ones that stayed knew if they stole merchandise, they would be caught and prosecuted. I updated the model to include an evaluation of employee turnover which was a previously unknown factor in calculating shrinkage. Focusing on the more important elements (base profit level, number of transactions) while ignoring the missing shrinkage would have prevented a useful - and important - update to the accuracy of the model.

Do you see the parallels to these simple situations to falsification testing of AGW theory? The planetary climate - as we both admit - is MUCH more complex than my 'model' for estimating store activity. Further, the driving factors of the socio-economic world economy is virtually JUST AS COMPLEX. There are a lot of factors. We don't know enough about *all* the factors affecting climate and how they interact which each other.

And I'm glad we agree, when you said, “I don't think it is wrong for private citizens to ask questions about the stability of the science behind an assessment which will have important consequences for just about everyone on the planet.” However, I take issue with your claim of “largely unproven flaws” - I think the flaws are pretty obvious, and despicable in their origin. I do not insinuate that the whole process should be negated. Instead, I flatly propose that the scientific process should be upheld and aggressively applied to climate mechanisms and climate research. And it should be done in a manner that is 100% devoid of ideological agendas.

To insist we 'know the answer', especially because 'there is a consensus', when we cannot and have not clearly defined the scope of the problem itself - to say nothing our being completely unable to accurately measure the effects of any efforts we choose to make - is *really* where folks are being “a little presumptuous“... as well as being incredibly arrogant.

- Steve

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