Climate Models: Inaccurate?

And that was a silly post because it does not explain why there are scientists who are Republican or conservatives that still tell you that the research is solid. Because it does not depend on just models.

Point being that as Margaret Tatcher and Reagan showed (by listening to science and not powerful interests), politics should not had been involved on this but powerful groups managed to turn the Republicans in congress into head in the sand people nowadays.

I would say that your friend’s belief that the climate models are inaccurate are the least of his problems. The “hardcore climate change” denial is a more pressing issue in that there is not a reputable scientific body in the world that denies the climate is changing. You can see this in the temperature record, in the timing of spring thaws, in the migration patterns of animals, and in the growing seasons and hardiness zones of plants. Even if you believe that all the NASA and NOAA scientists are either incompetent or part of a shadowy evil organization trying to impose one world government, it is hard to explain all the changes in the natural world we have been seeing over the past 50 years. It is just as hard to credit that the Pentagon and our military elite are in on the conspiracy as they have said multiple times that climate change is a huge threat to the US.

So I world forget about the models and how accurate they are. Maybe they are overselling the risk and consequences; it is certainly possible given the complexity of the system they are trying to model. What you really need to talk to your friend about is your friend’s hardcore denial. Once you get them over that hump, maybe you can have an intelligent discussion of the probabilities, costs, and the best way to hedge against the risks. This is really where we need the discussion to go in this country as I am sure that even climate scientists will agree that some mitigation strategies would be too expensive and not worth the costs.

I am a scientist, albeit not a climate scientist, and I would be interested in seeing some examples of this. I don’t regularly follow the climate science journals, I have neither the time nor the interest, but if scientists have been presenting fraudulent results, exaggerating effects, and dismissing or ignoring measurements that did not agree with their “narrative” and doing so for years, I would love to see evidence of that! That would be huge news in the science community! So what scientists have been doing that and how have they been censured?
By the way, no scientists I know have a “narrative”. They have hypothesis; is this what you mean? That scientists have been holding onto a theory in spite of evidence that conflicts said theory? Can you elaborate what you mean and show examples of this too?

The first sentence is true. But it’s irrelevant to this discussion, unless you misspelled “scientists”, in which case none of what you said makes any sense and contravenes the fundamental principles of science. This misspelling of “scientists” as “advocates” is very annoying, as if every climate scientist was a charter member of Greenpeace by profession instead of actually being, you know, a researcher in a scientific discipline.

The problem with any incompetent amateur armchair analysis of scientific evidence is that it is, by definition, amateur and uninformed, and if said incompetent also has a self-interested preconceived opinion, then the resultant conclusions will generally be wrong. That’s why we rely on scientists for scientific advice, and doctors for medical advice, and engineers for engineering advice.

The argument against “climate models” is beyond absurd – it’s at the level of “not even wrong”, just stupid. There’s no such monolithic entity as “a” climate model. There are everything from simple energy balance models right up to coupled atmosphere-ocean global circulation models and comprehensive earth system models; there are weather models, and short-term climate models, and long-term climate models; there are finely grained regional models and large-scale models and global models. What models do the denialists think are “wrong”? In what respect – temperature projections, sea level rise, ice melt or ice cover projections, vegetation change projections, or any of the hundreds of other factors?

Specific critiques of specific model behaviors invariably turn out to be misleading as already noted about the arguments cited by the OP. It’s based on the tired old tradition of implicitly assuming that a complex subject is actually very simple, presenting some misleading and simplistically simple piece of evidence as an apparent flaw, and then letting stupid armchair analysts reach stupid conclusions – the same armchair analysts that have no problem at all relying on science and medicine for expert guidance in areas where they don’t have a vested interest.

The short answer to it all is that climate models build up simulations from physical basics about which there is no doubt whatsoever, such as the forcing that is imposed on the climate system by every increment of CO2, which is given by the CO2 radiative transfer code, and which is at levels unprecedented in millions of years. There is no doubt about the rapid melting of the Arctic and the general loss of ice mass in the Antarctic, the rise of sea levels, and record global annual temperatures being set year after year.

It gets more complex when factoring in how large-scale feedbacks – mostly positive ones but some negative ones, too – affect the net global climate forcing. It gets still more complex when trying to relate the net forcing to projections of global temperature change in any particular timeframe, or with global circulation changes or hundreds of other physical manifestations that are modeled in climate simulations, but some of those destabilizations are associated with subjectively small temperature changes and many are already being observed, like significant precipitation anomalies. But the uncertainties in more specific projections should never obscure the fact that present CO2 concentrations and directly observable changes in the earth’s energy balance are completely unprecedented in human history and pose a serious threat to the stability of the climate system.

And, my flippant response would be that in fact the history of corrections to Spencer and Christy’s analysis of the temperature record provided by satellites shows that indeed this is correct…The “observations” for lower tropospheric temperature trends in the early days (1990s), which initially showed cooling, were in fact incorrect and the climate models were correct. If one looks back at why the temperature trend disagreed so dramatically with the latest version of their analysis (which may or may not really be correct itself), about half the error was caused by the shortness of the data record at that time and about half was caused by errors in their analysis that have since been corrected.

(Coloring mine.)

In this post, you made two completely distinct, unrelated statements, as I have highlighted here. In the first statement, you complain about advocates. And there’s really nothing wrong with that statement. There have been plenty of global warming advocates that missed the mark. “An Inconvenient Truth” had some famously bad scientific claims in it (although on the whole it wasn’t that bad, and it was far better than its opposite, “The Great Global Warming Swindle”, which was pretty much just all wrong all the time), Greenpeace is often full of shit, and quite a few advocates flub more complex facts such as why islands are sinking or whether hurricanes are increasing.

Then, out of nowhere, in the second statement, you start talking about scientific models, which have exactly fuck-all to do with “advocates”, unless we’re talking about models made by amateurs, rather than peer-reviewed science work, which is what most people mean by “climate models”. I’m not sure what the connection is, honestly; maybe you can clarify it?

Climate models do not produce certainties … they produce probabilities … we shouldn’t be expecting accuracy …

We have a scientific theory about this … so the question we put to the models is whether the models confirm this theory … we do want to avoid “proof by graph”, but gee whiz look at these graphs … clearly we’re on the right path to understanding … these models are a great tool, but the tool itself builds nothing …

[smile] … these models are getting better and better … whatever value the models are today … they will be much much better in just a few years … climatology as a science is in it’s infancy, without these new fangled computers we’d be stuck modeling N-S with slide rules … hahaha …

Yes, the climate models are inaccurate … but we know exactly how inaccurate they are, and can assign probabilities to their results … that’s just as important and maybe the best we can hope for …

The biggest uncertainty regarding future climate is not the technical accuracy of the models but the extent to which we will be willing and able to mitigate carbon emissions. That’s why a lot of the important modeling work is currently being done based on four different climate forcing assumptions for the year 2100 called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), ranging from the best possible mitigation scenario that would result in an increased forcing of 2.6 W/m[sup]2[/sup] to a worst-case business as usual scenario that is projected to lead to an increased forcing of 8.5 W/m[sup]2[/sup].

If we fail to take sufficient action based on the stupid excuse that climate models are somehow “not good enough”, then we end up with the worst case, and with catastrophic and irreversible consequences. We know this not only from models, but from direct observations of events already happening and from paleoclimate evidence of the results of previous abrupt changes in climate. The most concerning aspects are increased incidence of extreme weather, rising sea level, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, significant and long-term changes in some regional climates, and the potential that we could hit irreversible tipping points like changes to the earth’s thermohaline circulation. All of these are risk factors and they don’t all need to happen to pose a serious threat – any of them could have serious consequences, and some are already happening.

I will agree with you on most scientists, and in most subjects but not all.

However climate change is a subject in which the line between being an impartial scientist and being an advocate is very thin and not clear. My belief is that a number of scientists studying this issue are not impartial and have crossed the line to being an advocate. That is my point.

Taking your premise as granted: yes, much in the same way scientists studying the ozone layer in the 80s did: by necessity.

“Hey, Paul, I dunno if you noticed, but if we don’t do something, a whole lot of people are going to die and shit’s gonna get really fucked up.”
“Hmm, well, yes, this is true, but I don’t want to be branded an ‘advocate’, so maybe we’d best just keep publishing papers, and let other people deal with it.”

Is that how you’d rather it go down? Because I don’t think that’s a particularly good way to do it, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect the people closest to the subject matter to ignore the moral imperatives of their own findings. And meanwhile, none of this does anything to address the actual scientific findings or the data, or to point to any impropriety in the actual research.

But that, of course, is taking your claims as granted. Which I don’t. I think it’s an absurd claim based on absolutely nothing. I think a great many climatologists, particularly those most often in the firing line like Michael Mann, have been entirely impartial and reasonable on the subject. The people who have been “advocates” and made claims out of sync with the evidence are people like Willy Soon and John Christy.

How many? Who? Let’s name some names.

Regardless, i have to know what the overall point of this is. Let’s say there are a dozen or so scientists that have become advocates (however you want to define it); does that invalidate the work of the other several thousand researchers in climate fields? Does their advocacy make ALL the science wrong? What about the advocacy of people like Mockton? What effect does that have on the field?

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Which ones?

And if you are talking about ones that are public advocates - why do you think it’s their advocacy and political bias that is influencing their science, rather than their scientific findings motivating their advocacy?

The word I emphasized above is ill-defined in science … it’s a philosophical term …

The poles are warming faster than the equator … this would inhibit violent and extreme weather events …

Hyperbole may have a place in some discussions … but let’s try and keep it within the laws of nature … because if there’s supernatural and/or philosophical forces involved, we’re fucked no matter what we do …

I’m curious as to the probabilities of the 2.6 W/m[sup]2[/sup] and 8.5 W/m[sup]2[/sup] numbers you’ve given … and what results have the highest probability … because the way you’ve stated this data, you’re implying that it’s accurate to 0.05 W/m[sup]2[/sup] … or is this just more hyperbole? …

I think global warming is a whole lot less of a problem now that Hanford has begun disgorging her nuclear waste … 5ºC doesn’t make any difference to a biosphere full of plutonium waste … just saying …

Indeed, many times those advocates of inaction rely of the support from industries that would benefit the most from that advocacy.

And “experts” like that got the ear of conservatives with the willful help of professional poisoners of the discussion like Newt Gingrich and later Republicans.

Uh, nope.

BTW, that was Jennifer Frances from Rutgers University, the very same researcher whose research was used by climate change contrarians in the past in an attempt at telling us that we were cooling down.

When science provides input into direct impacts to our lives and well-being, words like “catastrophic” are appropriate when justified by the evidence, which as noted below, is an appropriate description for RCP 8.5.

I don’t know where you get this kind of amazing bullshit, but it’s the diametric opposite of the reality. There is a great deal of research supporting the idea of weather systems becoming disproportionately more extreme in response to increased forcing and temperature rise – see for instance the IPCC AR5 WG1 assessment or the older IPCC Special Report on Extreme Weather.

There was no “hyperbole” before and none now. As previously stated, the probabilities are largely dependent on what we are willing to do to reduce emissions. RPC 8.5 is a fairly straightforward extrapolation of the consequences by 2100 of staying on the current emissions trajectory – i.e.- of basically doing nothing. According to NOAA projections, under this scenario CO2 levels rise to 936ppm by 2100 making the global temperature rise by about 5-6°C by 2100.

One needs to keep that figure in mind – 5-6°C temperature rise – when looking at these impact projections (from the Summary for Policymakers, IPCC AR5 WG2 assessment on Impacts and Adaptation). These projections talk about impact risks with just a one degree or two degree temperature rise, and again, with greater temperature rises the risks and impacts increase disproportionately – and this is not a complete list, just a few that illustrate the risks:

[ul]
[li]Extreme weather events: Climate-change-related risks from extreme events, such as heat waves, extreme precipitation, and coastal flooding, are already moderate (high confidence) and high with 1°C additional warming (medium confidence).[/li][/ul]

[ul]
[li]Risks of global aggregate impacts are moderate for additional warming between 1–2°C, reflecting impacts to both Earth’s biodiversity and the overall global economy (medium confidence). Extensive biodiversity loss with associated loss of ecosystem goods and services results in high risks around 3°C additional warming (high confidence). Aggregate economic damages accelerate with increasing temperature …[/li][/ul]

[ul]
[li]Large-scale singular events: With increasing warming, some physical systems or ecosystems may be at risk of abrupt and irreversible changes. Risks associated with such tipping points become moderate between 0–1°C [of further] additional warming, due to early warning signs that both warm-water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts.[/li][/ul]

[ul]
[li]Unique and threatened systems: Some unique and threatened systems, including ecosystems and cultures, are already at risk from climate change (high confidence). The number of such systems at risk of severe consequences is higher with additional warming of around 1°C. Many species and systems with limited adaptive capacity are subject to very high risks with additional warming of 2°C, particularly Arctic-sea-ice and coral-reef systems.[/li][/ul]

Take, for example, Richard Muller of Berkeley Earth. An outspoken critic of climate models, who was funded by Koch and co. to develop a new and better methodology to disprove the consensus.

Of course Watts backtracked after Muller’s results were published: