Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Open letter to Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon

The last couple days I've been catching up on some of Dr. Nielsen-Gammon's articles and comments over at the Climate Change National Forum (more on them later) and I find myself struggling with the way he manages to frame all of his evidence and arguments.  And although it's pretty much the same spiel I've listen to and struggled with understanding for the past couple decades, this time I think I've finally stumbled onto something important. 
[I should be clear Nielsen-Gammon is not a denialist, he is a respected scientist familiar with climatology - but what grabbed my attention was how his arguments were framed and that led to this] 

Here's my open letter to John Nielsen-Gammon, 

Dear JNG,

I read the things you write and seems to me you consistently micro-focus on obscure details.  You play with data and numbers and trumpet man's inability to perfectly replicate Earth's processes in a lab, or climate model.  Using those contrived arguments you tell folks, we have no worries.

I'm asking you to step back a little to consider your assumptions, perhaps reconsider your approach.

I want to suggest everything you {along with the usual AGW "skeptical" suspects} say springs forth from a weltanschauuing of supreme confidence in human ingenuity.  Including a faith that society's only hope is in the free-corporate-market status quo being allowed to run it's course.

Am I correct John Nielsen-Gammon?
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Looking beyond the individual you, I suggest it boils down to two different perceptions of our planet and Earth sciences.

At the heart of one is an appreciation that our Earth is a living organism, one that has taken four and a half billion years, evolving one day at a time, to arrive at the beautiful cornucopia that awaited a restless inquisitive human species.

The other mindset sees our planet through the lens of ancient texts and tribal dogmas.  To this group of humanity our life sustaining planet, Earth, isn't any more "real" than the Hollywood movie on the other side of the screen.  It's only function is to fuel our economy.

Therein lies the tragedy of our time.

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This brings me back to CCNF and their project.  I'll let them speak for themselves and allow time to reveal how they do.

Climate Change National Forum (CCNF) is a national platform, founded and led by scientists, to educate the American public on the science of climate change and its policy implications. Our website, ClimateChangeNationalForum.org, will feature an ongoing and open dialogue on climate change among scientists, experts, and policy makers
Our aim is to serve as an objective source for journalists, policy experts, scientists, and interested citizens. The site will first be used by scientists to discuss the latest research on climate change and share and debate ideas on aspects of climate change relevant to policy making. These scientists will also fact check a continuous stream of outside articles and news clips procured by a professional journalist in the “Climate Change in the Media” section on the homepage. In the second phase of the CCNF project, subject matter experts and policy makers will be able to join the online discussion to compare and debate the benefits and costs of possible responses with the science columnists and other policy columnists commenting under their posts in columnist-only comment threads.
Click on image to view PDF.
Click on image to view PDF
CCNF is going live on 1/2/2014. We have already gathered a diverse community of earth, climate, and physical scientists willing to participate and will further grow this community as our columnists begin publishing. CCNF is soliciting scientist-members of the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, and American Institute of Physics in the effort to amass a community of science columnists that is representative of the greater climate and physical sciences publishing community. (See Dr. Nielsen-Gammon’s “Letter to Fellow Physical Scientists,” recently featured on the American Meteorological Society’s blog, The Front Page, and a recent story on the project by the American Geophysical Union on their science and policy blog, The Bridge.)

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For What It's Worth:

Colorado Floods - statistical certainty vs geophysical realities 
Friday, October 25, 2013 


PL said...

I really don't understand your problem with JNG. Read his stuff carefully. He accepts AGW; he is the one who came up with the clear graphic showing the recent slowdown in GAT is just what you get from short-term trends in ENSO.

He wants precision in discussions of climate, from both sides. Read his work with that perspective, and you might agree more.

Sou said...

I've never call John Nielsen-Gammon a contrarian. He ripped into Judith Curry here, for example.


And he often speaks out for climate science and climate scientists.

Victor Venema said...

So what exactly do you feel was wrong what John Nielsen-Gammon wrote? I do not know his posts that well, but had read the post that was also discussed in your SkS link. That is a beautiful way of showing that the climate ostriches are wrong in trying to frame the hiatus as something of importance for future climate change. Thus a very valuable contribution and the opposite of a contrarian.

citizenschallenge said...

Yes, Sou I got a little too excitable tossing "contrarian" in there. Fixed that!
Also, I reread his "logic escapes me" and yes he took Curry to task, but I wasn't any more impressed with it since my first reading. Seemed a lot of what I call Dancing Around the May Pole.

It's his haggling over the consensus project and even worse his "Basics of Extreme Weather" that really got under my skin and triggered the cascade of thoughts that lead to the above letter.
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I do appreciate that compartmentalizing and obsessing over fine details are required cornerstones of science.

However, the casual clinical distance - single-minded focus on micro details, ignoring the real life risks of our situation, conveying that soothing 'we got plenty of time to sort this out' message - that deserves to be complained about and needs to be reevaluated.

Time to focus on what we do know, particularly when taken against the back drop of the extreme weather trends we are witnessing -

V.V., you've got me thinking that I should work with that N-G's "Extreme Weather …" article and see if I can do a better job of describing my specific critiques.

If you are curious you can get a better idea of where I'm going with this by reading this essay
"Colorado Floods - statistical certainty vs geophysical realities"

citizenschallenge said...

"He wants precision in discussions of climate, from both sides. Read his work with that perspective, and you might agree more."
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Well anyone who professes more accuracy on "both" sides needs to be doing some mighty loud complaining about the way Republican/Libertarian interests have derailed the public learning process with their endlessly repeating strategic lies and their dependence on dirty trick to divert attention.

All done to distract the discussion from those very few basic geophysical facts we need to be looking at.

citizenschallenge said...

Mussing on it, I'd say my biggest issue with JNG's approach is that it seems to be a dialogue with no interest in reaching resolution, the joy of the discovery is good enough.

Works great for Evolution - but we are destroying the planet as we knew it - and that we depend on for everything!!!

It's whole different ball game {don't you think Dr Nielsen-Gammon}. … yet it's treated like some curiosity.

Sou said...

I see now what you are getting at CC. You make some good points.

The general public won't be any the wiser if they read about scientists disagreeing, unless they understand what is being disputed. And if they understood what was being disputed then they would already know how science works.

For most people, the only message they'll come away with is that scientists disagree about some things and they'll be just as likely to conclude that scientists disagree about everything.

And I see no value whatsoever in treating fake sceptics as if they have something to offer. They don't. If they are deserving of anything, it's ridicule and contempt.

I'm 200% (+/- 10%) with you that we've got more than enough information to act. It's time we got more serious about cutting CO2 emissions.