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Science as a Contact Sport from Amazon!

  Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth's Climate

An Objector’s Review of Science as a Contact Sport:

An ode to the IPCC and Al Gore, October 29, 2009 By Gaetan Lion (Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program)

If you loved An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It you will love this book too. Otherwise, if you are looking for nuanced science rather than hyperbolic exaggerations, you'll have to read other sources. Stephen Schneider has been a key participant in the IPCC since its inception and its numerous related precursor organizations. He has been a strong advocate for the Global Warming theory since 1974. He considers anyone that questions the "consensus" on Global Warming as a "denier" to be treated with intellectual disdain. But, Schneider does not acknowledge that the "deniers" include numerous top notch scientists. And, Schneider omits raising any of the scientific issues they have raised. You can read about them in The Deniers: The World Renowned Scientists Who Stood Up Against Global Warming Hysteria, Political Persecution, and Fraud**And those who are too fearful to do so, Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming and Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don't Want You to Know among many other books.

Schneider advances that the IPCC is dominated by conservative empirical scientists. This statement is not quite believable. The other books describe the IPCC as heavily politicized where peer pressure to abide by the Global Warming theory is omnipresent. This is by design as the IPCC mandates absolute consensus on all assessment analysis. It pitches Global Warming scientists advocates (the scientists skeptics are discouraged) against ill informed government representatives. This process is about politics rather than science.

Schneider defends Michael Mann in his developing his famous hockey stick. And, by doing so he loses much credibility with anyone familiar with this sad episode of scientific fraud. Steve McIntyre, a mathematician, uncovered that Mann arbitrarily overweighted one principal component to generate the hockey stick pick up in temperature in the 20th century. Once this manipulation is corrected, McIntyre observed that the long term temperature record reverts to a random trend. However, when describing this episode Schneider manages to turn Mann into the hero and McIntyre into the villain. For Schneider, preserving the Global Warming consensus is more important than rigorous science.

Schneider readily dismisses the recent decline in temperature since 1998 as a short-term meaningless sampling error. But, if temperatures had increased above trend he would have called it an acceleration in Global Warming confirmed by the data.

Schneider has repeated the same mantra since 1974 that includes the following themes:
a) Unless we drastically curtail CO2 emission, CO2 concentration is on its way to double by 2050;
b) A doubling of CO2 concentration will result in a temperature increase ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 degree Celsius (this is from an outdated model developed in 1974; most recent IPCC models revised the range downward from 1.4 to 3.8 degrees with a most likely scenario of 2.4 degrees);
c) About 125,000 years ago when Earth was just a degree or two warmer than now sea levels were 4 to 6 meters higher. The same is likely to occur now;
d) Such change in climate will have devastating implications for agricultural production and the survival of some members of the Third World; and
e) Temperature increase will result in more frequent and dangerous extreme climatic events ranging from drought, to floods, and hurricanes among others.

Schneider's assertions are divergent from the relevant data. First, CO2 concentration since 1959 (earliest modern accurate records) has increased by only 0.41% per year. This would translate into an increase of only 18% by 2050 (not a doubling). Given that population growth is declining and energy efficiency is improving, it is possible the increase in CO2 will be less. Second, using the IPCC models the mentioned increase in CO2 concentration would result in a temperature increase of only 0.87 degree Celsius with a 95% confidence interval of only +/-0.5 degrees. In terms of sea levels, the Earth has warmed by about two third of a degree over the past century and sea levels have risen just a few inches. That's why the IPCC forecasts sea level rises of only a few inches to a couple of feet by the end of the century. Additionally, over the past century while temperatures have increased crop yields have increased spectacularly. And the majority of countries have experienced dramatic rise in life expectancy.

In terms of climate volatility, the scientific findings are more ambiguous then Schneider conveys. As just one example, two leading scientists and experts on hurricanes, Thomas Knutson and Robert Tuleya stated in their recent paper that "CO2-induced tropical cyclone intensity changes are unlikely to be detectable in historical observations... and will probably not be detectable for decades to come." According to them, hurricane Katrina had nothing to do with Global Warming. Meanwhile, Schneider repeats several times that Katrina was either the direct result or made significantly worse because of Global Warming. Many more examples regarding the prospective increased climate volatility can be similarly debunked by researching scientific papers.

Schneider shares remarkably little data throughout the book. He shows only a single graph of CO2 concentration rising from 315 parts per million in 1960 to 370 in 2000. He uses an extremely narrow scale on the Y axis to show a strong upward slope. And, that's supposed to make his entire case. He never shows any graphs including both CO2 concentration and global temperature trends on the same graph because such an image would readily show that there is only a low correlation between the two. And, that other factors must account for the brunt of temperature changes. For more information on the subject, check out the research of Joseph D'Aleo on 'US Temperatures and Climate Factors since 1895.'

Stephen Schneider's Response:

Stephen Schneider Response to An ode to the IPCC and Al Gore, October 29, 2009 By Gaetan Lion

Clearly it is unproductive and incredibly time consuming to answer all negative reviews or statements about what I say or believe, but when facts are overtly wrong, it might be useful to judge the credibility of the research skills of the accuser by showing the facts. I will only mention a few in this review, since they are typical of the deniers mantras. Let’s start at the end of this review:
“A doubling of CO2 concentration will result in a temperature increase ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 degree Celsius (this is from an outdated model developed in 1974; most recent IPCC models revised the range downward from 1.4 to 3.8 degrees with a most likely scenario of 2.4 degrees);”

There are several factual errors here. First of all the 1.5-4.5 range was from a US national Academy of Sciences Study headed by Jule Charney of MIT in 1979, not a model in 1974—but that is just ignorance of history. It was not a model, but a 1979 judgment of many scientists based on models, data, theory and an open process of weighing these factors--and the report was extensively peer reviewed. They assumed it covered a 10 to 90 percentile range, meaning there was a ten percent chance it could have been larger or smaller than the 1.5-4.5 o C climate sensitivity given by the Charney team. IPCC kept the Charney formulation—despite my complaints that it ignored above and below range end point probability distributions--until the Fourth Assessment Report, where Working Group 1 revised UPWARD the climate sensitivity to 2.0-4.5 oC warming in equilibrium if CO2 doubled from pre-industrial levels. They called this a “likely” range based on the uncertainties guidance paper that Richard Moss and I pushed on the IPCC to stress uncertainties in 2000—all explained in Science as a Contact Sport for any fair reader to learn about. Thus, if it is a “likely” range that means the probability that the estimate is true in the judgment of the lead authors is 66 to 90%, meaning they think that the outliers above 4.5 or below 2.0 degrees C warming are between 5-17% in likelihood. Thus this IPCC AR 4 climate sensitivity assessment is a substantial INCREASE in estimated climate sensitivity—for what it is worth being an author judgment—but not at all what “Geaton Lion” says in his review of Science as a Contact Sport. And that is just one glaring error or misunderstanding that was clearly explained in the book if one read it with understanding or an open mind.

One other example and I think the reader will get the point on how absurd this review is on the facts—not the opinions—everybody is entitled to those. The reviewer attacks me for defending Michael Mann and colleagues for their original “hockey stick” ideas—the first set of authors to actually use a geographically widespread and calibrated set of estimates—by calibrated that means there is an overlap period between instrument measured temperatures and proxies like tree rings or bore hole temperatures which allows backward extrapolations to be more accurate. Without calibration absolute numbers are pretty qualitative. I agree Mann et al did not do the analysis as well as they would if they redid it today, but to be fair, this was the FIRST calibrated attempt to do a 1000 year record and it is certain in such cases that alternative choices of assumptions based on more analysis and other colleagues’ work will almost always alter detailed initial conclusions—exactly how systems science works. But will these improvements alter the basic conclusion that the “blade” of the hockey stick is higher than any temperatures over the past 1000 years, or just a tweak to the numbers.

Systems science proceeds best by replication—not of others bird-dogging individuals by redoing their calculations with their very personalized computer codes, but by repeating with their own independent computer codes the analysis with similar and different assumptions. The more groups that do this replication, the more confidence the community has in broad conclusions if the replications don’t overthrow the basic conclusion.

Because of the importance of the “hockey stick” debate, about a dozen groups have in fact undertaken a similar analysis and these results are displayed in the figure on the very first page of my website, taken from IPCC--which got it from the published literature. At the same time the US National Academy of Sciences undertook an assessment independent of the IPCC on the hockey stick, and all can read it—it basically says the handle of the stick is quite wavy, but the blade remains—thus the basic point of Mann et el has indeed survived replication intact and the denial from the “climate skeptics” have not. It cannot simply be asserted that one analysis—Stephen McIntrye’s—trumps the dozen others and refutes the “hockey stick”, as the preponderance of evidence clearly is otherwise. Moreover, the IPCC never used the “hockey stick” to make its detection and attribution statements, but used “fingerprint” analyses using sophisticated statistics from the literature. But that is for another day.

Let me just put in what I said about this in Science as a Contact Sport so you the reader can judge who is more credible—me and the NAS and the IPCC or those who repeatedly claim the “hockey stick” doesn’t exist based on little generalized analyses. Here’s what I said on Page 147:

“…Michael Mann, whose “hockey stick” graph of the reconstruction of temperatures over the past millennium showed in 1999 that the 1990s had been the warmest decade in a thousand years. Mann was attacked by climate skeptics using a similar legalistic tactic, demanded by a denier congressman from Texas, Joe Barton, chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. It took a full review of the hockey stick study by a National Academy of Sciences committee to prove that although Mann and colleagues did make some minor errors—as is normal in creative, original science—the basic conclusion, that the past several decades were the warmest in at least 500 years, remained. In 2007 the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report SPM said about this controversy: “Average northern hemispheric temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in the past 1300 years.”

Remember, in IPCC publications after the uncertainties guidance as implemented in 2000, “likely” means a 66-90% chance and “very likely” means more than a 90% chance.

One more final minor point on the Gatean Lion review:

“He considers anyone that questions the "consensus" on Global Warming as a "denier" to be treated with intellectual disdain. But, Schneider does not acknowledge that the "deniers" include numerous top notch scientists. And, Schneider omits raising any of the scientific issues they have raised.”

Briefly on this: I have many scientific issues discussed in Science as a Contact Sport, including debates in detail within the IPCC tent, not just between mainstream scientists and doubters. This assertion is belied by anyone who reads the book—though, in truth, the book is not intended to be a detailed refutation of the various claims and counter claims, I have done that in several previous books and on my 300 page website It is a history of how we got to this point, but of course mentions many specific scientific debates. But more important is the statement that I assume all skeptics are deniers—clearly a pejorative term. I am very specific in Science as a Contact sport on the difference I see between a real skeptic—all good scientists—and a denier—one who denies the preponderance of evidence by clinging to small point or believes that any unknown aspect of a complex systems problem somehow overpowers a strong preponderance—it doesn’t—that is the false god of falsification, which is not the way systems science is done. Here is some of what I said about that in the book, page 205:

“When I give a public talk on aspects of climate change, I alwaystake the time to explain the difference between climate deniers and skeptics. All good scientists are skeptics—we should challenge everything. I was a big-time climate skeptic, changing from cooling to warming and nuclear winter to nuclear fall when that is where the preponderance of available evidence led. As more solid evidence of anthropogenic global warming accumulates, the numbers of such legitimate climate skeptics are declining. Climate deniers, however, are not true skeptics, but simply ignore the preponderance of evidence presented. Skeptics should question everything but not deny where the preponderance of evidence leads. The latter is, at best, bad science or, at worst, dishonesty.”

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Copyright 2011, Stephen H. Schneider, Stanford University