Climate Skeptics

How and when did you become one?

A lot of interesting responses.

As some note there, to me the biggest deal with the release of the CRU data five years ago wasn’t (just) the duplicity and unscientific behavior revealed in the emails, but the utter crap that was the source code of the computer models. It was clear that it was not done by anyone familiar with computer science, numerical methods, or modeling, and the notion that we should have any confidence whatsoever in their output was societally insane. In terms of Matthews’ paper, I’d put myself somewhere between “lukewarmer” and “moderate skeptic.”

[Update a couple minutes later]

Starting to read through the comments. Here’s just one horror story:

Most of the claims being made by climate change advocates appear to run contrary to basic meteorology. As I’ve been attacked personally and professionally for offering contrary views, I decided to leave the field. I will defend my Atmospheric Science PhD thesis and walk away. It’s become clear to me that it is not possible to undertake independent research in any area that touches upon climate change if you have to make your living as a professional scientist on government grant money or have to rely on getting tenure at a university. The massive group think that I have encountered on this topic has cost me my career, many colleagues and has damaged my reputation among the few people I know in the field. I’m leaving to work in the financial industry. It’s a sad day when you feel that you have to leave a field that you are passionately interested in because you fear that you won’t be able to find a job once your views become widely known. Until free thought is allowed in the climate sciences, I will consider myself a skeptic of catastrophic human induced global warming.

Yup. Totally, totally politicized. It’s not a science any more. Unless you think that Lysenko was a scientist.

15 thoughts on “Climate Skeptics”

  1. I’m sure absolutely no one cares, but my reaction was much the same. My background in engineering doesn’t come up much in the space community, but I’m actually, if I say do myself, a pretty good coder. I can keep up with the Computer Science, but I mean as a craftsman of software. My first job after college was working with ESRI ArcSDE system, which is basically a specialty data storage system for geographic data, processing map data generated from satellite images. Large data set transformation and metadata tracking was pretty much my bread and butter. The idea that they could properly track the metadata for lossy big dataset transformations when they couldn’t be version tagging their code, because they obviously weren’t using code control, is absurd. Forget all the stuff that doesn’t make sense and the epistomological point that they can’t possibly be as certain as they think they are; that’s my wheelhouse and I know they are doing it wrong. It’s the modern version of discovering they didn’t know how to keep the black-and-white notebook properly. It makes me wonder if they were ever taught to think clearly, or were taught why good notes were important. It’s insane. Like the whole world is so specialized nobody stopped to teach Science how to be scientific anymore.

  2. I had been dubious of the more extreme claims of AGW some point after 1996 (when I looked into AGW-related claims for a market betting game I frequented at the time (still the top player in the game, yay). The extreme claims just weren’t justified. Despite almost two decades of research since, I still don’t see evidence to back that up.

    But Climategate was a game changer for me. It made me realize that a large portion of the climatology community was more interested in putting up the right public face than in portraying an accurate state of the current research in climatology to the outside world. I had also heard earlier in 2008 and 2009 several people in related research fields complain about the various things that were going missing in climate model simulations. That combination put me off considering current day research. Instead, I’ve resolved to study the future climate, the only part that climatologists can’t manipulate.

    1. “But Climategate was a game changer for me.” Yeah – for me too. The amazing thing is that pro-AGW folks have no understanding of Climategate to this day. They keep talking about academic malfeasance, and they were all cleared, etc. They couldn’t be cleared of the real accusation, which was: being politicians instead of scientists.
      Nothing wrong with being a politician, but no one trusts them. You don’t get the special level of trust that scientists enjoy from most civilized people. Now you have to show your work or I won’t believe a word of it.

  3. Another engineer here (BSME). I do thermal-hydraulic analysis and testing in the nuclear plant business, and when I started hearing about AGW in the early 1990’s, I was interested. Hansen was making some really extraordinary claims based upon computer modeling, which I had just started getting familiar with in my job. I had no opinion at that time and continues to follow the controversy as it kept unfolding. I noticed little things, like claims about past weather events that did not match what I remembered, Hurricane forecasts that did not come close to what actually happened, and then, and article by an AGW supporter who talked about the temperature having risen by 0.1C over the previous decade who extrapolated that to a 7C rise by 2050.

    Having analyzed precision test data extensively, I knew about instrument error, and in the nuke biz, we use only the very best money can buy. Calling a 0.1C temperature rise as “significant” when it a well within the error of measurement set my bullshit detectors to screaming.

    Then as Algore and his dhimmicrap hordes ratcheted up their screaming about the coming apocalypse, my suspicions were confirmed. They were following the same old pattern of leftist rhetoric. The AGW proponents never debated their theories, it was “settled science.” That solidified my suspicions about their premises and it has been so since the late 1990’s. I was ready to take on the “science” teachers when my oldest got into high school, and I did so starting in 1999. I made damn sure my sons were all immunized and I let their teachers know where I stood and that I’d tolerate NO bullshit.

    1. +1. I have the computer skills that Jonathan mentioned (I used ArcGIS for a good year while building a 65 sq mile WLAN), but my background is engineering too (BSIE now a PE). I was modelling failure rates of ISS. Not only did we have some of the best means of testing for precision, but we had the same access to model developers as Hansen. We had many MTBFs measured in hours out to 7 significant digits. How the hell were those models calibrated? Powered aviation wasn’t that old. And as we see now, the SARJ failed early and so did the pumps on the external TCS.

      So when I’m watching Hansen, who I learned in grade school about the next Ice Age (yes, they really did teach that despite those who try to deny it, and I even found the report from Hansen’s boss at NASA that started the discussion, protip: it was based on Hansen’s models of Venus at the time), going out and talking about the significant .1 change and extrapolating from there; I was skeptical that the errors in the 1970s models were all found and thus new models could now be trusted.

      It was Crichton’s book that convinced me of the AGW movements purpose. If we are alone, I’ll admit to believing in Climate Change, because yeah, the climate changes. But those who call one an idiot for not believing in Climate Change really just want you to believe in AGW. There is money to be made in AGW, not so much in tectonic or solar warming. And I personally believe the Earth system complex enough to have coping mechanism for small variations. The human body is complex enough, why wouldn’t the Earth be?

      1. “It was Crichton’s book that convinced me of the AGW movements purpose.”

        Would that book happen to be State of Fear? I’ve owned it for quite some time (or I stole it from my sister, maybe), but didn’t read it until about 6 months ago. I had to look at the copyright date a few times to verify that it was already a ten year old book, because it seemed to mirror a lot of what I was seeing in the current Climate Debate. I enjoyed it even though it was predictable at times, but it was an interesting take on the issue and the mentality behind the various factions and belief systems involved in the situation.

        1. That’s the one, but you don’t need to mention the title to AGW believers any more so than you would need to tell Muslims which Salman Rushdie book you’ve read. Once an apostate, the entire work is blasphemy.

          The epilogue of the book works for the fight for gun control and healthcare too. Think how college campuses are being changed by the demonstrably false claim of 1 in 5 women being raped.

  4. I am trying to remember, but I think there was a “Next Ice Age, omigosh-we-are-going-to-freeze” think going in the popular press in the ’70’s, but I and many others didn’t pay much attention to it.

    The deal about CO2 keeping heat in and that we are adding a lot of CO2 to the atmosphere has also been around as long as impending Ice Age hysteria, and I guess a lot of us shrugged that the two effects may balance out.

    It must have been in the year 1980 that I encountered the X-Files-esque Dude-With-the-Wheelchair on a sidewalk on the Caltech campus. Darn, I wish I knew the man’s name, and he might be a playa in all of this. There must not have been that many climate-modeling CO2 warming alarmists, at Caltech in the year 1980, who relied on a wheelchair to get around that someone out there couldn’t put a name to this man?

    Anyway, we was certain from modeling results in the year 1980 that we were going to fry, and he was a big, big champion of nuclear power as a solution. A warmist who is pro nuke, in my book, has strong marks for consistency rather than arguing for reliance on unicorn body gas.

    Any ideas of who it is that I had encountered? He seemed to be a young enough guy in 1980 to “still be around” today.

    1. I don’t really remember the “we’re all going to freeze to death” stuff from the 70s, I wasn’t reading the popular science press back then. But around that time I do remember reading through some old Popular Science magazines from the 50’s (courtesy of visits to my grandparents’ place), and there was a memorable article in them about the warming trend that would make Greenland a nice vacation spot… That made me take the current hysteria with a big grain of salt.

      A problem with the models that doesn’t often get mentioned is the vast number of tunable parameters. I had to look the quote up, but von Neumann said “with four parameters I can fit an elephant”… and I think the point is broadly right. I remember my father pointing out a chart to me, it was the output of two model runs. The first tracked the historical record (such as it is) well enough, and the second with ‘CO2 held constant’ or some such, showed a cooling trend. I found it annoying – of course if you assume in your model that rising CO2 increases temperatures by X, and tune the other parameters so that the model matches history, then run that same set of parameters with lower CO2, it’ll show lower temperatures. It doesn’t prove anything except that the *model* assumes CO2 = temperature rise.

  5. The “crap code” released in the climategate files was certainly crap. And the results of the crap were worse crap. But the term “computer models” and “climate models” usually refers to the UN’s IPCC’s computerized efforts to construct scenarios and predictions about the physics of the atmosphere and future temperatures (and other weather forecasts) that result from the interplay of the equations, the data, and the assumptions of well-understood physics. What the CRU team was doing with THEIR crap was attempting to “hind” cast some kind of record of past temperatures. Given weather records that were incomplete, or covered only parts of the globe, or did not extend as far back into history as other records, or to be merged with “proxies” such as tree rings — how is the pile of crap to be analyzed. So the author of the “HARRY-READ.ME” files comments on the crap that was his data, the crap that was his team’s assumptions, the crap going into prior attempts at code (that became “data” to be input into his own codes) and the crap tools he himself was creating to meet deadline.

    A slightly exaggerated summary is that the CRU / HARRY code was built to manufacture “hockey sticks” describing the past. Other computer “models” are built to quantify Hansen’s forecasts regarding “Business as Usual” in the future, versus various other outcomes possible with various other policies imposed upon the world.

    All crap, but as different as horse manure and bat guano.

  6. For most of the time that temperature records were kept, the resolution on thermometers was 1 degree Fahrenheit. The error bar on a perfectly-calibrated (historical) thermometer is thus +/- 0.5 degrees. If you’re using that historical data to derive your models, then even if present-day instruments are accurate to hundredths or thousandths of a degree, the error bars are still +/- 0.5 degrees; any predicted changes less than that are an overprecision error. When people started making predictions of a spurious 0.1C accuracy, I knew to discount them immediately.

    The phrase “the science is settled” sealed the deal for me. It might fool people who view Science as some sort of deity rather than a recursive method of approaching understanding of nature.

    1. You sound like someone who paid attention is physics lab or statistics class. Indeed, a calculation to greater precision than the input data is not meaningful. Reporting data without error margins is even wrong.

  7. This kind of popped out for me:

    “when you feel that you have to leave a field that you are passionately interested in”

    There is a difference between “interest” and “commitment”. Think of bacon and eggs. The chicken is interested. The pig is committed.

  8. I’ve been a skeptic since the beginning. I have a degree in Software Engineering. I learned college levels physics including thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, etc. I had pretty good physics teachers too.

    Once I did the math on the amounts of energy involved, the amounts of CO2 involved, and the fractions that are man made well. Let’s say the whole hypothesis started feeling really dubious to say the least. I also have a passing interest in history and archeology. I knew that there are historical records of times where the temperatures were higher than they are today. That is in human *recorded* history which only goes back to the last couple of thousand years. The whole case for AGW is ridiculous on the face of it.

    The models they made are basically useless. There are too many hidden variables in the problem which make modelling it extremely difficult if not outright impossible. They just added some fudge variables to “tweak” the input data so that their model would fit the desired output and didn’t even bother explaining how they did this. The model is so useless it cannot make any viable predictions neither in the short term nor in the mid term. This is not a problem specific to climate science. It happens in other areas where people try to model complex chaotic systems like economics.

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