Sunday, April 5, 2015

#5 Prof Trenberth stifling "sceptics"?? - CC/Steele Landscapesandcycles Debate

A virtual debate with Jim Steele based on his interview at Heartland Institute:  

Heartland Daily Podcast | Jim Steele | January 27, 2015
Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett (for the National Center for Policy Analysis) interviews Jim Steele, ecologist, director emeritus of the Sierra Nevada field campus of San Francisco State University
Mr. Jim Steele:  "And we trust the scientific theory because it been fairly tested by others - the theory must out perform all alternate explanations, eliminate confounding factors plus lively debate.  But, what I was finding was the scientific process was being defiled when scientists refused to debate in public. ... and any attempt to prevent that debate, in our schools, in the media, in peer reviewed science, it's only denigrating the scientific process.  ... And I think those public debates would help create real climate literacy "
Well then Mr. Steele, let's have our Great Global Warming Science Debate.  I will accept these responses from your Heartland Institute podcast as your opening round.  I'll offer my rebuttals, evidence and questions.  I agree to post your thoughtful responses unaltered. (Though it is looking like you're going to do your best to hide and ignore these critiques of your self-certain claims. Your silence will serve to expose your hypocrisy and inability to defend your statements on an even playing field.)

In this fifth installment I'll be debating your take on Dr. Trenberth and confront you with the ethical question raised by Lawrence Torcello: "How should society contend with those who knowingly disseminate misinformation about climate science?" 

Steele:  So you know, I've always advocated the need to be good environmental stewards and to be a good steward we need good science that we can trust.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Yeah?  So what happened?

It's one thing to preach about stewardship and needing science we can trust.
It's quite another to practice what you preach.

Mr. Steele, may I ask you, do people have a right to expect our educators to be honest about the science they are presenting to students and public?
Steele:  And we trust the scientific theory because it's been fairly tested by others - the theory must out perform all alternate explanations, eliminate confounding factors plus lively debate. 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mr. Steele, what kind of "lively debate" are you talking about?  
Have you given any thought to the two basic types of debate?

You know, the political style debate where winning your argument is all that matters.  This sort of debate invites rhetorical and emotional 'devices' and since the goal doesn't reach beyond winning the argument at hand, they tend to be won by the slickest speakers who are best at mesmerizing their audience.  More the stuff of theater than substance.

On the other hand, consider the academic debate, where the goal of the debate is getting to the right answer and achieving a better understanding.  This debate also requires ego and rhetorical skills and striving to win one's argument.  But, the goal of debating is better understanding of the issues at hand.  I'm fearing you, Mr. Steele and your Republican/libertarian pals, simply can not fathom such a concept.  Am I correct?

Winning the debate is fun, great, but it's the getting it right that's the most important.  Being caught in a mistake and "losing" or sustaining bruised feelings is chump change.  Learning from the added knowledge and lessons and then striving towards greater achievements in light of the newly gained knowledge, now that's pure gold.   

Consider the constructive debate.

Is it OK to ignore key evidence?
Is it OK to repeat known lies?
Is it OK to ignore the statements and evidence presented by a debate 'opponent' ?
Is it OK to employ emotional and rhetorical distractions that have nothing to do with the substance of the questions?

Is a debate an argument to win?
Or is a debate an opportunity for mutual learning?
Steele:  But, what I was finding was the scientific process was being defiled when scientists refused to debate in public.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Just who is doing the  "defiling" here?

What about you Mr. Steele?  

Do you have an obligation to engage in a debate and respond to challenges?  If not, then why should real scientists debate with people who won't even take the time to learn the details about what they're talking about and who refuse to listen to corrections?

Want to know about the constructive scientific debates going on all the time?  All it takes is a good faith effort to listen to them talking about their projects.

Simon Fraser University
Public Lectures
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
United States Geologic Service - Online Lectures 
Climate Change 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
University of California Television 
Jeffrey B. Graham Perspectives on Ocean Science Lecture Series 
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 
Stanford University  
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  
Fresh Air. The Scent of Pine. 
A series of videos covering the fundamentals of the anthropogenic global warming theory
And there are many more.. 
Steele:  And leading scientists like Kevin Trenberth he published a cartoon labeling all skeptics the greatest threat to Earth - which effectively serves as a threat against funding any scientists that shows climate skepticism.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It reads:
Climate change is not the biggest threat to the planet.
Hah! I knew it.
Climate sceptics like you are.

Oh the melodrama.  That cartoon is soo threatening.  He sure was sending out the message loud and clear.  Climate science is being done at hundreds of institutions world wide, I'm sure the HR departments all got the message.  

Hey Jim, ever imagine the cartoon just gave the guy a good laugh and he felt like sharing it?  After all it's fairly common to start one's talk with a laugh or two.  

Besides, the cartoon speaks a bitter truth, if not for deliberate misinformers, society would be decades into cutting emissions and building up infrastructure thus moderating these changes that increased atmospheric GHGs is guaranteed to do.  But no, instead all we've done is throttle up and pretend tomorrow won't get here.

Incidentally, what's with you retelling that cartoon and quoting that as "all" sceptics?  That's not what the cartoon said.  Hmmm, a bit of that 'spin' Heartland brags about? 

For your information, in that cartoon "sceptics" was short hand for unidirectional skeptics.  I've explained this to you before, unidirectional skepticism equals denial plain and simple.  

Check out the state of our climate:
Steele:  So given all that I decided to write a book.  Free from Trenberth's gatekeeping effect, illustrating the effects of other powerful factors like landscapes changes and natural climate cycles on wildlife and modestly titled it "Landscapes and Cycles" to document my journey to climate skepticism.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Puffing up the conspiracy ideation - can't you do better than that?  Still you give me an excuse to post some quotes from that Trenberth talk at the end of this 'debate'. 
~ ~ ~

Regarding your book, it would be one thing if you kept it to ragging on and misrepresenting flaws in some wildlife studies, but you cross the line with your constant pot shots at the "CO2 consensus", as though that were still a matter of debate for any intelligent person who's aware of this physical Earth.  

Then you double down by denying changing climate impacts on landscapes and wildlife, changes that are increasing in leaps and bounds, with no end it sight.  That really does put your cognitive abilities and judgement into doubt.

Topping it off there's your sin of malicious serial slander of one honorable professional expert after another with your conjured up horror stories and science fiction.  Shame on you.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Heartland's Burnett: - So to sum up basically, a lot of different chains of evidence, trails of evidence lead you to your climate skepticism?
Steele:  Absolutely, there's a lot of times I would just ask myself, is my skepticism justified, I can't be anything but a skeptic. 
~ ~ ~
Mr. Steele can you define what you mean by "skeptic"?

Does your skepticism require you to question all sides of an issue?

Does your skepticism include a degree of self-skepticism?

Would you agree that unidirectional skepticism equals denial?

In closing, let me remind you of Carl Sagan's sage advice:
"Keep your mind open, but not so open that your brain falls out."

Supplemental information

Regarding Professor Kevin Trenberth, here are some quotes from that talk.  Followed by Sou reviewing AnthonyWatts' misrepresenting Dr. Trenberth's public statements regarding his science.  Then links to an assortment of articles to remind us of some of the many malicious dirty attacks climate scientists have been subjected to, but that Steele doesn't seem to object to.  I finish up with the case of Lawrence Torcello, who asks a most important, if belated, question.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Straight talk from Dr. Kevin Trenberth on denialists, climate science communication, and climate change policy
Posted on February 22, 2011 by Rick Piltz

In a paper presented at the American Meteorological Society meeting in January, leading climate scientist and IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth talks about climate change deniers, ‘climategate’, the IPCC assessments, the media, and politicians.

On climate assessments and denialists:

Scientists make mistakes and often make assumptions that limit the validity of their results. They regularly argue with colleagues who arrive at different conclusions. These debates follow the normal procedure of scientific inquiry.

The IPCC assessments are a means of taking stock and avoiding some of the “noise” created by the different approaches and thereby providing conservative but robust statements about what is known and what is not.

But their critics are another matter entirely, and their false claims have not been scrutinized or criticized anything like enough! Perhaps climategate comes from the somewhat inept response of climate scientists to criticisms from various sources. The climate change deniers have very successfully caused major diversions from the much needed debate about what to do about climate change and how to implement it. It is important that climate scientists learn how to counter the distracting strategies of deniers.

On the media and denialists:

The media have been complicit in this disinformation campaign of the deniers. Climate varies slowly and so the message remains similar, year after year — something not exciting for journalists as it is not “news”. Controversy is the fodder of the media, not truth, and so the media amplify the view that there are two sides and give unwarranted attention to views of a small minority or those with vested interests or  ideologies.  The climate deniers have been successful in by-passing peer review yet attracting media attention. In those respects the media are a part of the problem. But they have to be part of the solution.

On scientists and denialists:

The main societal motivation of climate scientists is to understand the dynamics of the climate system (both natural and human induced), and to communicate this understanding to the public and governments. … They find it disturbing that blogs by uninformed members of the public are given equal weight with carefully researched information backed up with extensive observational facts and physical understanding. As Thomas Friedman noted on “Meet the Press” 6 September 2009, the internet is an “open sewer of untreated, unfiltered information.” Moreover, “the American public is incapable of deciphering between facts, fiction and opinion” …

While statements about climate change are cautious and all sorts of caveats are applied by scientists, or else they are criticized by colleagues, the same is not true for the deniers. Many scientists withdraw from the public arena into the Ivory Tower after being bruised in skirmishes with the public via the press.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The 'Consensus' View: Kevin Trenberth's Take On Climate Change

Richard Harris  |  August 23, 2013


The double standard.
Mr. Steele musters up great offense at sharing a harmless cartoon, but he's fine with his mentor Anthony Watts' slime balling with fabrications rather than facts.  Case in point:

Anthony Watts takes on Kevin Trenberth and loses big time
Sou  |  January 17, 2015

In this latest WUWT article (archived here), Anthony wrote this, as if it was the first article about the Trenberth Fasullo paper at WUWT, instead of the fourth in a just a little over a month:
From the “settled science” department. It seems even Dr. Kevin Trenberth is now admitting to the cyclic influences of the AMO and PDO on global climate. Neither “carbon” nor “carbon dioxide” is mentioned in this article that cites Trenberth as saying: “The 1997 to ’98 El Niño event was a trigger for the changes in the Pacific, and I think that’s very probably the beginning of the hiatus,” 
This is significant, as it represents a coming to terms with “the pause” not only by Nature, but by Trenberth too.
For anyone who knows of Kevin Trenberth's work, to say that first second sentence of Anthony's is ludicrous would be an understatement.

Kevin Trenberth has been publishing papers about the oceans for more than forty years.  He knows more about oceans than all the purported hundreds of thousands of WUWT readers combined. John Fasullo is younger, but if you combine them, they have more than 55 person years of science between them.

If Anthony Watts is interested in tracking the history of discovery of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, he could do a lot worse than starting with the following two seminal papers by Kevin Trenberth, going back nearly 25 years:

Trenberth, Kevin E. "Recent observed interdecadal climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 71, no. 7 (1990): 988-993.

Trenberth, Kevin E., and James W. Hurrell. "Decadal atmosphere-ocean variations in the Pacific." Climate Dynamics 9, no. 6 (1994): 303-319.

Since we're tracking back history, this 1981 paper might be of interest - though it's probably peripheral to the subject, it was cited in Mantua, Hare et al (1997).

Trenberth, Kevin E., and Daniel A. Paolino Jr. "Characteristic patterns of variability of sea level pressure in the Northern Hemisphere." Monthly Weather Review 109, no. 6 (1981): 1169-1189.

What caught my eye was the opening sentence, particularly given Anthony's opening comments about Dr Trenberth "finally admitting to ... cyclic influences":
The atmospheric circulation is characterized by various "centers of action" which are spatially interdependent.
Since I've plugged the references here, I'll add the PDO paper:

Mantua, Nathan J., Steven R. Hare, Yuan Zhang, John M. Wallace, and Robert C. Francis. "A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production." Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78, no. 6 (1997): 1069-1079.

Back to the Nature article - here are some key excerpts discussing the "hiatus" in surface temperature rise in recent years:
Trenberth, ... estimated that aerosols and solar activity account for just 20% of the hiatus. That leaves the bulk of the hiatus to the oceans, which serve as giant sponges for heat. And here, the spotlight falls on the equatorial Pacific. 
 Just before the hiatus took hold, that region had turned unusually warm during the El Niño of 1997–98, which fuelled extreme weather across the planet, from floods in Chile and California to droughts and wildfires in Mexico and Indonesia. But it ended just as quickly as it had begun, and by late 1998 cold waters — a mark of El Niño’s sister effect, La Niña — had returned to the eastern equatorial Pacific with a vengeance. More importantly, the entire eastern Pacific flipped into a cool state that has continued more or less to this day. 
This variation in ocean temperature, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), may be a crucial piece of the hiatus puzzle. The cycle reverses every 15–30 years, and in its positive phase, the oscillation favours El Niño, which tends to warm the atmosphere (see ‘The fickle ocean’). After a couple of decades of releasing heat from the eastern and central Pacific, the region cools and enters the negative phase of the PDO. This state tends towards La Niña, which brings cool waters up from the depths along the Equator and tends to cool the planet. 
Researchers identified the PDO pattern in 1997, but have only recently begun to understand how it fits in with broader ocean-circulation patterns and how it may help to explain the hiatus. 
One important finding came in 2011, when a team of researchers at NCAR led by Gerald Meehl reported that inserting a PDO pattern into global climate models causes decade-scale breaks in global warming3. 
Ocean-temperature data from the recent hiatus reveal why: in a subsequent study, the NCAR researchers showed that more heat moved into the deep ocean after 1998, which helped to prevent the atmosphere from warming6. In a third paper, the group used computer models to document the flip side of the process: when the PDO switches to its positive phase, it heats up the surface ocean and atmosphere, helping to drive decades of rapid warming7. 
A key breakthrough came last year from Shang-Ping Xie and Yu Kosaka at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. The duo took a different tack, by programming a model with actual sea surface temperatures from recent decades in the eastern equatorial Pacific, and then seeing what happened to the rest of the globe8. Their model not only recreated the hiatus in global temperatures, but also reproduced some of the seasonal and regional climate trends that have marked the hiatus, including warming in many areas and cooler northern winters. 
...That was investigated by Trenberth and John Fasullo, also at NCAR, who brought in winds and ocean data to explain how the pattern emerges4. Their study documents how tropical trade winds associated with La Niña conditions help to drive warm water westward and, ultimately, deep into the ocean, while promoting the upwelling of cool waters along the eastern equatorial region. In extreme cases, such as the La Niña of 1998, this may be able to push the ocean into a cool phase of the PDO. An analysis of historical data buttressed these conclusions, showing that the cool phase of the PDO coincided with a few decades of cooler temperatures after the Second World War (see ‘The Pacific’s global reach’), and that the warm phase lined up with the sharp spike seen in global temperatures between 1976 and 1998 (ref. 4).
The article goes on to discuss the work of Mark Cane, who proposes that global warming may lead to extended La Ninas.  Other scientists' work suggests that global warming may lead to more El Ninos. Time (and more research) will tell.\

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Given Steele's sanctimonious approach I believe it's appropriate to add this reality check that shares various articles about how his side Republican/libertarian crowd depend on dirty tricks, and how that in turn reflects on their tunnel vision of reality.

Time to push back against the global warming Nazis
February 20th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
~ ~ ~
Nazis, shoddy science, and the climate contrarian credibility gap
Dana Nuccitelli  |  Friday 21 February 2014
~ ~ ~
Climate Change Denier Roy Spencer Says People Who Use Word 'Denier' Are 'Global Warming Nazis'
Graham Readfearn | February 20, 2014  
~ ~ ~
Outrage as Lord Monckton calls Australian climate change adviser a Nazi
By Bonnie Malkin, Sydney  |  June 23, 2011
~ ~ ~
Texas Tech scientist sees intimidation effort behind barrage of hate mail
TCN JOURNAL  |  January 20, 2012
~ ~ ~
Climate science attack group turns sights on Texas professors
~ ~ ~
When Grownups Bully Climate Scientists
By Dominique Browning  |  April 10, 2012
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Sarah Palin: Climate Change Is the New Eugenics
Jesse Berney  |  December 2014
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Death Threats for Australian Climate Scientists
By Aaron Ross  | Wed Jun. 8, 2011 
~ ~ ~
Why Climate Scientists Receive Death Threats
By Tim Radford  /  Climate News Network  |  November 12, 2014


And then there's the story of the philosophy professor Lawrence Torcello, who dared ask: How society should contend with those who knowingly disseminate misinformation about climate science.

Hate Mail Barrage Reveals Climate Disinformation’s Dark Side
Got Science? | April 2014

Lawrence Torcello, a philosophy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, never imagined he would become the focus of a vicious barrage of hate mail when, last month, he published an article in a British online journal about the ethics of climate change misinformation.

But, sure enough, in recent weeks, Torcello has been subjected to death threats, racial slurs, anti-gay and anti-Semitic epithets. He’s been called a fascist, a Stalinist, a Nazi and a communist. One of the many contemptible emails he received, for example, reads simply: “DIE you maggot.” An anonymous phone message ominously threatens that he’ll “be paid a visit.” In all, Torcello estimates that he has been subjected to more than 700 harassing calls, emails and tweets.

What did Torcello do to attract such a response?

He raised the ethical issue—in an academic venue, no less—of how society should contend with those who knowingly disseminate misinformation about climate science.

Sadly Familiar

Before delving into the particulars, it’s important to note that Torcello’s case highlights an increasingly common form of harassment that is all too familiar to scientists and other researchers who have spoken out about climate change. Eminent climate scientists such as Michael Mann and Benjamin Santer have faced similar intimidation and even death threats. Mann was likened in print to a child molester; Santer was subjected to a dead rat on his doorstep, among many other similar incidents. ...

A Philosophical Argument

It should be clear to anyone who actually reads Torcello’s article that he is wrestling with the philosophical question of how society should hold to account those who willfully distort climate science and disseminate misinformation. Of course, it’s more than an academic question because it is a well-known fact that fossil fuel interests have long been underwriting a disinformation campaign specifically designed to block climate action and confuse the public about the issue. 

Blatant Distortion

The first blatant distortion of Torcello’s argument appeared on Breitbart, a right-wing website, in an article which inaccurately alleged Torcello was saying that “scientists who don’t believe in catastrophic man-made global warming should be put in prison.” That inflammatory piece of misinformation was soon picked up on sites including The Daily Caller and FoxNation.

The Drudge Report stretched the distortion of Torcello’s article even further, erroneously contending that he had “called for the incarceration of any American who actively disagrees that climate change is solely caused by human activity.” Of course, Torcello had never said anything of the kind.

Disinformation: The Real Issue

Fringe groups can whip themselves into a frenzy all they like, but it doesn’t change the fact that Torcello’s academic article raises an issue of real import.

We’ve known for years and even decades that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human activity is leading the planet to dangerous and potentially catastrophic climate change. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues the most sober warnings yet about the imminent threat we face.

Fighting Back

Regardless of the answers we ultimately find to those questions, it is clear that a reasonable debate does not include hate mail and harassment.

Unfortunately, however, Torcello’s case is common enough that my colleagues at the Union of Concerned Scientists decided to publish a primer offering helpful pointers about how harassed scientists should respond, including:
  • avoid getting pulled into debates with people who only seek to waste your time,
  • respond only through mainstream sources or your own blog,
  • and keep records of harassing messages, contacting authorities if they become threatening.
Torcello says that the response he has received has shown him that “those seeking to distort the findings of climate science are equally willing to distort philosophical and political argument with blatant acts of dishonesty.” It’s a sad reality that those who write about climate change now must prepare for this sort of harassment and that universities and other organizations need to be prepared to support their employees during such assaults as well.

Still, even ugly harassment can’t be permitted to shut down a debate whose time has come.

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