Romm’s Illustrated Guide

From Joe Romm: An illustrated guide to the latest climate science.

Annual global temperature anomaly

It has lots of neat graphs for those who want pretty pictures, and links you can follow to the actual science for those who want to chew on the details. (You’ll need to click twice, since the first link in most cases is to an earlier item where he summarized a particular study. But from there you can find links to the original papers, some of which are behind paywalls.) The thing I like most about it is how it demonstrates that there are many different reinforcing lines of evidence that the globe is warming. The evidence doesn’t consist of a handful of cherrypicked stolen emails containing intemperate language, or a few carefully selected assertions from a lengthy UN report. It is a whole body of actual science, published in reputable journals, representing research by hundreds of different teams approaching the problem from different directions, using different techniques, all arriving at a similar conclusion. That’s what an actual scientific consensus looks like, and when you ignore it, you put yourself in the same category as toddlers who believe they can wish some unpleasant fact away, that they can cover their eyes and thereby make it so no one else can see them.

We live in a free society, in which people get to speak their minds regardless of the care they have taken in arriving at their conclusions. But free speech isn’t free. As a society we pay what I’ve come to think of as a “bullshit tax” every time someone who is demonstrably wrong publicly proclaims their demonstrably wrong views. When a Fox News anchor crows, “Here’s your 24 inches of global warming, Al Gore!”, we as a society pay a price. When a commenter on a blog constructs an argument that follows some esoteric detail down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole and eventually proclaims, “See? That’s why I don’t believe the science,” we pay a price.

Tea Party activists aren’t the only outraged taxpayers. I’m outraged that we as a society are paying this bullshit tax. I don’t want to do away with free speech, but I am deeply resentful of those who use their freedom to impose this tax on the rest of us.

10 Responses to “Romm’s Illustrated Guide”

  1. shcb Says:

    Same duck different feathers

  2. Craig Says:

    I’ve been putting together a progression of news stories regarding recent critiques of part of the UN climate reports in your “hail” post. My own opinions are not that of “Global warming isn’t happening” or that it isn’t “man-made” at all. My concern is over the “settled science” aspect of the fact that a) man is responsibile for the bulk of any warming, and b) what are the provable and tangible ramifications directly connected to man’s input, and c) what are the actual results that any reversal of man-made influence can obtain?

    Dr, Phil Jones’s admissions should be concerning for people on either side of the issue. No, he isn’t backing off of the overall claim regarding warming. But some of his candid allowances should be taken as a challenge to those in the “warmist” corner to double-down on their confidence in the theory by welcoming a clean sweep of the questionable publications used in the ICPP reports, and letting in some fresh air regarding the study of the scientific data used as the basis of the warming claim.

    Even a former chair of the IPCC feels that only a fully transparent review of the information used will change the momenteum away from man-made warming that is building in the public, political, and even the scientific, circles.

    One of the biggest issues seems to be translating the harder scientific datapoints related to temperatues and such, to the softer science of actual practical impact that can be applied as projections of actual ecosystem deterioration. There seems to be a disturbing amount of information coming to light that involves enviromental impact claims which were based upon pooly researched, non-peer-reviewed, advocacy-group infected, information.

    In summary, it looks more and more that a proper attitude of following the actual science to whatever conclusion it may lead to, has gradually been replace by a mindset of protective view of a set opinion, and a dismissive, condesending regard for anything outside of the adopted belief system. Even if that isn’t fully true, that is the perception currently being created. As I’ve said before, scientists are humans first, thus susceptible to the weaknesses inherent in being one.

    I get the fact that there will be gasbags in the media whose serious reflection on these matters is one-inch deep. But they don’t get a paycheck to be deep thinkers. Just rabble-rousers (aka, every cable news talking head you can think of). But John, you seem insistent in considering every contrary opinion on this subject as literally infantile. But when some of the “adults” are shown to be engaged in deflection and obstruction, and using studies clearly outside of rigorous standards for research to protect a narrative, then it should be reasonable to at least allow serious questions to be made.

  3. shcb Says:

    I thought one of the more telling remarks by Jones was that he has lost so much data because he isn’t very good at keeping that sort of thing organized. In the first place that seems to me a prerequisite for a scientist is to be able to organize data. But if he isn’t good at that sort of thing, hire someone that is. We all have deficiencies but good managers find ways to minimizes those flaws.

  4. Craig Says:

    I need to clarify one of my sentences from my prior comment:

    “Even a former chair of the IPCC feels that only a fully transparent review of the information being used, can change the momenteum that is building regarding the questioning of man-made warming in the public, political, and some scientific, circles.”

  5. knarlyknight Says:

    John – that’s a great link, thanks.
    Craig – Awesome reply, honest questions are always welcome in my w
    shcb – 1st post: there’s a lot more than feathers there. 2nd post re: jones: that was hilarious! Either you are a humble genious of ironic self-satire or a goofus who completely missed the wisdom in previous posts.

  6. shcb Says:

    I thought this explained it pretty well

    In the event of a serious discrediting of the global-warming claims, public outrage would therefore be directed at the community of science itself, and (from within that community) at its leaders who were either ignorant or complicit until the scandal was blown open. If we are to understand Climategate, and move towards a restoration of trust, we should consider the structural features of the situation that fostered and nurtured the damaging practices. I believe that the ideas of Post-Normal Science (as developed by Silvio Funtowicz and myself) can help our understanding.

    In retrospect, we can ask why this particular, really rather extreme view of the prospect, became the official one. It seems that several causes conspired. First, the early opposition to any claim of climate change was only partly scientific; the tactics of the opposing special interests were such as to induce the proponents to adopt a simple, forcefully argued position. Then, once the position was adopted, its proponents became invested in it, and attached to it, in all sorts of ways, institutional and personal.

    We have argued that in the case of Post-Normal Science, the ‘extended peer community’, including all affected by the policy being implemented, must be fully involved. Its particular contribution will depend on the nature of the core scientific problem, and also on the phase of investigation. Detailed technical work is a task for experts, but quality-control on even that work can be done by those with much broader expertise.

    The position of Green activists is especially difficult, even tragic; they have been ‘extended peers’ who were co-opted into the ruling paradigm, which in retrospect can be seen as a decoy or diversion from the real, complex issues of sustainability, as shown by Mike Hulme. Now they must do some very serious re-thinking about their position and their role.

    Jones is either a really bad scientist (my post) or as Ravetz says he got caught up in the politics and left science, so either he is lying or he is incompetent, neither is good.

  7. jbc Says:


    I think there’s a chicken-and-the-egg problem in focusing on Jones. Yes, there’s a tendency of all people, scientists included, to want to be right, to defend a previously taken position, and to do so more stridently when they are challenged. I think Jones may well have gone too far in his response to the efforts of the anti-science crowd. But as I pointed out in the original item, this isn’t about one scientist, or one paper, or one research center. This is about a body of scientific evidence converging from dozens of different, independent viewpoints.

    Yeah, the question of policy implications is an important one to look at. We absolutely need to have a rational, balanced, informed discussion about the limits of what science does and doesn’t know with what degree of certainty, and the risks and potential benefits of different responses. But that’s a separate question from what Romm is talking about in the piece I linked to. That the head of one climate research unit at one university got caught up in pushing a particular viewpoint (in the face of a well-funded, sustained propaganda effort from the anti-science crowd), or that one UN report contained several questionable assertions that are not actually supported by the science, doesn’t invalidate the consensus position of the large majority of the world’s actual climate scientists. It doesn’t even come close.

    I’m as interested as the next guy in stuff like what Jerome Ravetz is talking about at that link that shcb posted. And yes, it has a bearing on questions of how society interprets what scientists say, and factors scientific findings into public policy debates.

    But it’s a very large leap to go from that, to viewing the consensus scientific position on global warming as somehow having been fundamentally overturned, or even seriously challenged. People who engage in that kind of commentary (like shcb has done, and Anthony Watts does at his blog) are not participating in the scientific process, any more than cheerleaders rooting for one side or the other on the sidelines of an NFL game can be said to be influencing the outcome of the game. The actual movement back and forth on the field is controlled by the players (in this analogy, the scientists). And a TV weatherman with a blog, or a senior engineer with a hobbyhorse obsession with a particular graph, are not the equivalent of climate scientists, no matter how much they’d like to think of themselves as such.

    Contrary opinions are infantile, to the extent they manifest a belief that an untrained layman can spend a half hour looking at a graph and thereby spot a fatal flaw that has somehow been missed by hundreds of scientists actually trained in that field. What would you call it?

  8. Craig Says:

    Although, there are certainly people in the anti-warming circles who have distain for scientific results that are counter to their preferred beliefs, to lump all those who question the man-driven warming theory as “anti-science” is not accurate. I’d rather not make this comment a link-fest, so people can go to your earlier post regarding hail to see the articles I’ve attached to it (the British press seems to be doing a great job of following this issue). The thing is, most of these people are making the point that poor science is being used in the first place, and want to see things researched more transparently and more accurately. They also argue that there appears to be a growing amount of conclusions, based upon tainted and speculative studies, that are unsupportable, in terms of the practical effects upon our ecosytem.

    As I mentioned, this is beyond one data center Director’s mistakes and admissions (albeit a major data center in constructing the UN reports). A former IPCC head (whose names escapes me) is considered enough about both the real and perceived failures in this process, that he has called for a new and much more transparent approach to conducting and validating past and future research. He has voiced serious concern for the sloppiness in which these exposed studies have been allowed to be included in the IPCC’s reports.

    True, some conservative media flame-throwers, and all those who simply don’t like the whole warming theory, are pushing the idea that warming is utter bunk. Many people who are expressing concerns about these revelations are people who are not opposed to the idea that warming is happening, or that man is the cause of some percentage of it.

    But before countries are expected to devote hundreds of billions of dollars to reworking the world economies in the course of making fundamental changes to everyone’s way of life, it seems rational, at minimum, to be have some degree of certainty in the specifics of what man’s efforts can change and just what kind of change can actually be affected.

  9. Craig Says:

    I really should edit myself better before I hit the submit button.

    In the second paragraph, I meant to say that ” A former IPCC head is concerned enough”, not “considered enough”.


  10. shcb Says:

    Maybe you’ll have better luck than I Craig, but that is what I have been saying for years, but it get’s twisted here somehow. JBC made the comment that he trusts the word of qualified environmental scientists over a senior engineer that has devoted a half hour to research. Of course, but I didn’t come up with the idea the temperatures haven’t been rising in the last decade, qualified environmental scientists did, I merely used whatever information was available to me and used the skills my profession affords me to make as intelligent decision as possible. This is what the article I linked to was saying, people in other professions may not be trained in all the miniscule aspects of that area of scientific study, but they may have the skills to make a judgment on the validity of the process, and they always have. What they lacked was access to the data. A plane ride was usually required and days spent in a library. Now the computer puts it all in our palm. So a senior engineer in Colorado or one in San Francisco can at least smoke out egregious lies, if they want. If one person says global temps have stabilized in the last decade and another says they haven’t, I can test that theory if I have the data, but when one side has “lost” the data I get suspicious.

    My question is where do we go from here? It would seem the data we do have is probably ok as far as it goes, it is the interpretation of that data that is most suspect, computer models seem corrupt, but are they all? This is like the milk from one infected cow getting mixed in the tank with the cows producing good milk, can you dip a bucket into the tank and remove enough of the tainted liquid or do you have to pour the whole thing down the drain.

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