Saturday, 25 January 2014

Interesting what the interesting Judith Curry finds interesting

I am a little late with this, I just came across the Week in review by Judith Curry. If there is one thing that annoys me about the way Curry communicates, it is her suggestive, but completely non-committal language. The exact opposite of what I am used to among scientists. The word "interesting" is one of her favorite suggestive words.

Here is a quote illustrating the problem. Curry writes:

Freezing is the new warming

RealClearPolitics has an interesting article Freezing is the new warming, that summarizes the current state of the public debate on climate change.  Excerpts:

Or try refuting global warming. Temperatures have stopped warming for more than a decade? That’s just a temporary “pause” in the warming that we just know is going to come roaring back any day now. Antarctic ice is growing? That’s actually caused by the melting of ice, don’t you know. A vicious cold snap that sets record low temperatures? That’s just because the North Pole is actually warming. So if the winter is warm, that’s global warming, but if the winter is cold, that’s global warming, too. If sea ice is disappearing, that’s global warming, but if sea ice is increasing, that’s global warming.

Now we can see what they mean when the warmthers say that global warming is supported by an ironclad scientific consensus. The theory is so irrefutable that it’s unfalsifiable!

Which is to say that it has become a cognitive spaghetti bowl full of ad hoc rationalizations, rather than a genuine scientific hypothesis. 


This is pure and utter nonsense. Let me just discuss the main point, all the other denier memes are debunked at Skeptical Science. It is very easy to falsify the theory of global warming by greenhouse gasses.

If there would be an unexplained temperature drop of one degree and it would stay there for a decade, the theory is completely dead. If the same thing happens to the ocean heat content, the theory is dead within a year.

RealClearPolitics is right in suggesting that anything that will actually happen is very unlikely to refute the theory. Quite of lot of basic science would need to be wrong. And RealClearPolitics is right in suggesting that it is not sufficient for something to happen what feelies intuitively feel should not happen in a warmer climate. You do need some actual proof that the phenomenon should behave that way. His blog is at least honestly called a political blog.

Judith Curry is very intelligent and has much experience as scientist. She naturally knows that this quote was nonsense, but also that her audience likes it. Thus she non-noncommittally calls it interesting.

My wish for 2014 is that Curry comes back to the scientific community and stops using the word "interesting" so much. The scientific way of trying to understand why there is a difference of understanding is making it clearer what you mean.

[UPDATE: The blog Klimaatverandering just has listed 10 ways to "falsify AGW". Worth reading.]

[UPDATE: This post and the ensuing discussion made me think that a long post on the topic may be useful. I would argue that falsifiable is important and that falsification is overrated.]

19 comments:

Lars Karlsson said...

The very beginning of that RealClearPolitics post is an outright lie:

"The year began with the news that an Australian "climate researcher" leading a tourist expedition to Antarctica got his ship trapped in the sea ice. Which is embarrassing, because the purpose of his expedition was to study the melting of sea ice supposedly caused by 20th-century global warming."

But I'm sure Curry found that part also "interesting".

And Then Theres Physics said...

intuitively feel should not happen in a warmer climate. You do need some actual proof that the phenomenon should behave that way.
Yes, I think is a crucial point and one many get wrong. As you say, there are certain things that, were they to happen, would essentially falsify AGW. However, it would also falsify some fairly fundamental parts of radiative physics. A fascinating prospect, but quite unlikely. However, there are many who seem to think that certain things should not happen in a warmer climate without having any idea if that is true or not. It's hard to know if this is simply because some lack the basic scientific training to appreciate this, or if it's simply wishful thinking (or some combination of the two).

And Then Theres Physics said...

My wish for 2014 is that Curry comes back to the scientific community and stops using the word "interesting" so much.
I'm fairly new to this whole topic, so I find much of what Judith Curry says very surprising and very unscientific (and sometimes, completely - scientifically at least - wrong). Because I'm unaware of her background/history I also - like you - hope she can recognise that some of what she says is odd coming from someone who should (and presumably does) know better.

I get the impression, though, that others think that Judith Curry is a lost cause and would rather simply attack what she says than try to convince her that some of what she says is not scientifically credible. I hope that they're wrong as it would be quite something if Judith Curry could take more care over what she says and what she presents. I'm not convinced that it's particularly likely though.

Victor Venema said...

Lars Karlsson, the RealClearPolitics is really interesting. You will have to look very hard to find a sentence that is true. I truly do not understand how a scientist could think that her readers should read that piece.

Then Theres Physics, I fully agree. It would be exciting if all our understanding of radiative transfer would be wrong. All those laboratory experiments that depend on it and all of astronomy would have to be reevaluated. I would love to see that happen in my life time and I would love to find the error myself even more. But highly unlikely. It is more likely that Quantum Mechanics finally sheds itself of the "observer".

Professors are like zombies, they never go away, no matter how much you shoot at them. Thus you have to try to clarify why you do not agree with each other. They have tenure. For science that is a good thing, that you cannot bully someone to have a certain opinion, especially that the state and the powers behind it cannot force a professor. For the public perception of climate science it is less good. Still, someone believing JC is responsible her or himself for that error.

Daneel Olivaw said...

"I would love to see that happen in my life time and I would love to find the error myself even more"

That's something that the denialist crowd doesn't seem to get. Scientists LOVE overturning previous established knowledge is what Nobel Prizes are made of.
I'm in the middle of getting my degree in atmospheric sciences and I would like nothing more than to find some fundamental flaw in our current scientific understanding of the climate (so far, not such luck). And I know my University would like nothing more than to be the institution that nurtured such a massive and historic discovery.
The whole argument about scientists and institutions colluding to suppress new findings is so wrong that boggles the mind.

William Connolley said...

I think your comment re Curry's language - suggestive but non-committal, the opposite of science (to slightly put win your mouth) is very good, and worth repeating (so I will :-).

In science, you want people to commit to things, so that they can be tested. Curry - and perhaps this applies elsewhere - have learn to write insofar as possible non-testable things.

William Connolley said...

http://judithcurry.com/2014/01/25/death-of-expertise/ is another classic Curry. The entire thing is about her, the attitude she promotes, and her friends in the blogosphere and she doesn't realise.

Victor Venema said...

Daneel Olivaw said: "The whole argument about scientists and institutions colluding to suppress new findings is so wrong that boggles the mind."

Exactly. And one wonders whether they are just too unfamiliar with science and expect it to be organized like the way they would organize a right-wing think tank, or whether they are just playing games.

The only one aspect in which they are right is that if you challenge the main stream, no matter in which direction, you need good arguments. If you have an uninteresting mainstream piece of work, it is easier to be lucky and sneak through peer review.

William, thanks for the shout-out. A rare honor.

Her unscientific language is probably worth another post. I am trying to read her congressional testimony. Many people have already written posts detailing some of the scientific errors. I would not have noticed most, being quite new to climatology, but the language, it hurts my brain. Sorry, for being such a scientist.

I am not sure whether I understand you last comment. The post by the Federalist she quotes is about the climate ostriches and similar people. But she does seem to notice, this time, and defends herself. After you comment, I had expected that she would act as if the Federalist was attacking Michael Mann and supporting her. The ostriches often use such spin, but this time she tries to defend herself.

Funny that in her defense, she does not mention Zeke Hausfather as an example of an outsider that did his homework and now contributes to science. I guess his work is too constructive. Better mention the giants of science: Donna Laframboise & Steve McIntyre.

Dan Pangburn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Google Dan Pangburn and you will see that he has been on this quest for years now. Trying to advertise his 'Nobel Prize' winning theories. You will see his thread bombs everywhere. Time to give it up Dan. You just come across as a desperate loser.

Victor Venema said...

Sorry Dan Pangburn, but your comment contained no arguments and it was off topic. Please read my comment policy above the comment box again.

guthrie said...

Suggestive but non-committal language is also that used by the purveyors of woo and false history (e.g. those who think the pyramids were built more than 7,00 years ago or with the use of superior technology, or that there used to be a global super civilisation 10,000 years ago) to give an idea to the reader which they will remember for years as being correct, even although there's no evidence for it. It is sad to see a scientist fall so low.

Dan Olner said...

Did anyone else notice that Judith Curry was one of only two 'scientist' namedrops by Marsha Blackburn (the other was Lindzen) in the Bill Nye / Marsha Blackburn interview? If she was aiming to get herself into the `skeptic' A-list, she's doing well.

Dikran Marsupial said...

Prof. Curry isn't always non-committal, "I just finished listening to Murry Salby’s podcast on Climate Change and Carbon. Wow."

http://judithcurry.com/2011/08/04/carbon-cycle-questions/

Victor Venema said...

Curry surely is in the A-list. The bad thing about that list is that I have the feeling I could do it better. Except maybe for Pielke Sr. up to some time ago. However, I would not be able to look at myself in the mirror anymore.

Dikran Marsupial, maybe I should read more carefully, but Curry's post on Salby sounds non-committal to me.

"Wow" is like "interesting". She never writes writes that she agrees with Salby. It sure gives the impression of support, but when challenged on the carbon cycle, she can always claim that she just put it up for discussion.

Wow, unbelievable how deep some people will sink.

guthrie said...

Yup, that's exactly how purveyors of woo and the like write. The similarities in style are clear.

Anonymous said...

Lars Karlsson said...
The very beginning of that RealClearPolitics post is an outright lie:

"The year began with the news that an Australian "climate researcher" leading a tourist expedition to Antarctica got his ship trapped in the sea ice. Which is embarrassing, because the purpose of his expedition was to study the melting of sea ice supposedly caused by 20th-century global warming"

How is this statement a lie? Is this not what happened? Please elaborate.

citizenschallenge said...

Yup, it sure is interesting what Curry finds interesting… such as the notion that current trends are NOT leading us into catastrophic realms.

Here's a compendium of recent catastrophic weather events occurring within our steadily warming climate system.
Judith Curry's cynical game: "CAGW Memeplex"

Victor Venema said...

Anonymous, the climate researcher is a climate researcher, no need for scare quotes.

The term combined scientific and tourist expedition would be more accurate. One would expect libertarians to appreciate it when scientists try to reduce costs to the tax payer by taking tourists with them.

Finally, no climate researcher and certainly no expert on the Antarctic that regularly went there thought that there would be no sea ice around the Antarctic any more. Thus the embarrassment in that respect is rather limited.