Scroll To Top

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Empty vessel Judith Curry wants to stop the public learning about climate change

Sou | 3:46 PM Go to the first of 12 comments. Add a comment

Judith Curry is jealous of earth system modelers and the IPCC.  Her latest confabulation starts with this (archived here):

Diagnosis: paradigm paralysis, caused by motivated reasoning, oversimplification, and consensus seeking; worsened and made permanent by a vicious positive feedback effect at the climate science-policy interface.

In a previous post, I discussed the IPCC’s diagnosis of a planetary fever and their prescription for planet Earth.  In this post, I provide a diagnosis and prescription for the IPCC.
As William Connolley points out, in her previous post that she links to (archived here) "there is no IPCC diagnosis in there at all; and no IPCC prescription".  She doesn't discuss "the IPCC's diagnosis of a planetary fever and their prescription for planet Earth".  Instead it's a copy and paste from Joe Romm's ClimateProgress and another from The Onion.

In her latest waffle (archived here), Judith is trying to argue that climate models haven't improved.  She's wrong. They have, with each new generation.  She says climate models need to be ditched and replaced with ...errr...climate models.  And she says that the IPCC needs to be ditched, presumably so that policy makers can be free to develop policy without being constrained by unpalatable facts.

On resource allocation

Judith misrepresents earth system research writing that most resources have been allocated to climate projections:
Specifically with regards to climate research, for the past decade most of the resources have been expended on providing projections of future climate change using complex Earth system models, assessing and interpreting the output of climate models, and application of the output of climate models by the climate impacts community.
Most of the resources? That's got to be wrong.  Think of all the resources that go into scientific research in Antarctica and the Arctic (people, equipment, vessels, aircraft, infrastructure).  What about the cost of satellites that monitor the earth?  What about all the Argo buoys? What about oceanography and glaciology? These are all big ticket items.

The IPCC reports themselves suggest that Judith is wrong about the allocation of resources.  If you read the latest IPCC Summary for Policy Makers, then you'll see that the discussion of future expectations doesn't start until page SPM-14 out of 21 pages.  The first seven and a bit pages are devoted to observed changes, the next seven or so pages to drivers of climate change and understanding of observed recent changes, and the final seven pages to future global and regional climate change. And I doubt that reflects the resource allocation, which is more likely to be weighted to the science underpinning the earlier sections.  An understanding of distant past and recent changes is essential to determining what the future will bring.

Naturally, policy makers are more concerned with the future than the past.  It's too late to make policies for the past!  They need an understanding of the past so as to better prepare for the future.

Judith also implies that policy makers at the local level aren't doing anything to address climate change. She's wrong.  Local authorities are addressing the issue of rising sea levels, water scarcity, flood mitigation and more.  Building codes are being amended to allow for more intense rain.  Planning schemes are being changed to allow for rising seas and more frequent floods.  Bridges are being rebuilt to different specifications after being torn down by flash floods.  Port authorities are redesigning jetties for higher sea levels.

In the midst of her mixed up article, she makes a transparent sales pitch for her own commercial models, which don't project ahead longer than weeks or months, writing:
Further, increased scientific focus on subseasonal (weeks) and seasonal (months) weather/climate forecasts could produce the basis for tactical adaptation practices with substantial societal benefits.
"Tactical adaptation strategies" - yeah, right.  Yes, if there's going to be a drought for the next five years I want to know about it.  But weeks or months ahead won't tell me that.  And I'm not so concerned about whether next winter is going to be colder or less cold as I am about whether my great nieces will have to survive a world with a one or a two metre sea level rise.

I find this sentence particularly odd.  Judith writes:
As a result, we’ve lost a generation of climate dynamicists, who have been focused on climate models rather than on climate dynamics and theory that is needed to understand the effects of the sun on climate, the network of natural internal variability on multiple time scales, the mathematics of extreme events, and predictability of a complex system characterized by spatio-temporal chaos. 
What does she think that all the various climate and earth system models do now? That's exactly what they do.  And how does she propose to "understand the effects" without models?  Paper, quill and abacus perhaps?  Maybe not.  She says she wants climate models replaced with climate models:
New structural forms are needed for climate models that are capable of simulating the natural internal variability of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system on timescales from days to millennia and that can accurately account for the fast thermodynamic feedback processes associated with clouds and water vapor.
She can take her pick of timescales - either days or millenia.  She won't get both in the one model from what I know of climate models.  There are currently models for forecasting the atmosphere on a day by day basis (used by weather bureaux) and those that project decades, centuries and millennia used for better understanding the various elements of the earth system and making medium to long term projections.  The latter will simulate on timescales from days to millennia but as far as projections go they are designed for climate timescales, not short term weather forecasts.

"No more climate information" pleads Judith Curry

Finally she gets down to the nitty gritty.  Judith doesn't want anyone to report the science to government or the general public.  She writes:
The IPCC needs to get out of the way so that scientists and policy makers can better do their jobs.
What jobs would that be?  In regard to climate, scientists who aren't wasting time blogging disinformation are getting on with things and doing their job.  Policy makers want information from science and decided long ago that they would set up the IPCC to inform them about the science.  Does she want 195 governments to have to each set up their own mini-IPCC to inform them about the science?  That would be dreadfully inefficient to my way of thinking and leave them open to the risk of misinterpreting the science.  It would have the added risk that when governments came together to agree global strategies, they'd each be working from incomplete and most probably different information bases.

The disinformers

There are a handful of professional scientists whose hobby is to tell lies or spread disinformation about science to anyone who'll listen. They're driven by different forces - chasing fleeting fame, money, peer group pressure, wishful thinking or because their religion dictates. Even if I were to include the full time professional disinformers, it's still only a tiny percentage of the world's climate scientists and probably fewer than would be expected, given human nature.

Judith Curry has come out of the closet and is now a full-on science disinformer. She is, to use her own words, a wicked problem. If one were to analyse her words to the media or on her blog one would find 90% empty rhetoric and 80% to 100% disinformation (high confidence).

She comes across to me as someone who regrets the academic path she chose and is jealous of her more successful colleagues.  She has a really big chip on her shoulder.

When will she start using her blog for science?  When will she use her blog to write about her own research? Is what she has found out about climate so irrelevant that she can't write about it?

What gets me is the number of people who encourage her who should be able to see her for what she is. Some of them even idolise her for "speaking out"!  I'm not talking about all the other denier fans she has.  I'm talking about people who should know better.  People who otherwise seem to have some understanding of climate science.  People who can't see that she's just another empty vessel shouting meaningless platitudes.  For example (archived here):

R. Gates aka Skeptical Warmist | September 28, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Reply
One thing is certain– you will either be very well known for someone who played a key role in putting the ship of climate science back on a true course or a rouge wave that will be remembered more as a curious phenomenon. Either way, you certainly show boldness and conviction and have put your ultimate legacy on the line, which I can admire regardless of future historical accounting of your efforts and impact.
Boldness and conviction my foot!  Judith Curry is nothing but an also-ran science disinformer chasing fame.


  1. Diagnosis: Curry is doing politics, not science.

    1. I wonder if anyone's tried recruiting her to the Cornwall Alliance or the GWPF? She'd make a prime candidate for either or both.

    2. She seems to be the go-to person for David Rose to quote in his articles. His articles seem to be following the GWPF line pretty closely, in fact I sometimes wonder if they write them for him (Mail Group editor in chief Paul Dacre is known to be very clubby with Lord Lawson of GWPF).

      I was pretty sure DR would be cooking up some takedown of the IPCC for this week MoS and checked just now. He did not disappoint, AND he quotes Curry thus:
      That, said Prof Judith Curry, head of climate science at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is a high-risk strategy: ‘The IPCC has thrown down the gauntlet.’
      Should the pause continue, she said, ‘they are toast’.
      She was critical about the report’s statement that confidence humans had caused most of the warming of the 20th Century had increased from 90 per cent in the last IPCC report in 2007 to 95 per cent.
      ‘How they can justify this is beyond me.’

      He also approvingly quotes Nic Lewis:
      "Last night independent climate scientist Nic Lewis – an accredited IPCC reviewer and co-author of peer-reviewed papers – pointed out that taking start years of 2001, 2002 or 2003 would suggest a cooling trend of 0.02-0.05C per decade, though this would not be statistically significant."

      Nic Lewis is a retired financier with a maths background who dabbles in climate science. He appears to be closely associated with the Global Warming Policy Foundation. He is a co-author on a peer reviewed paper published in J Climate with McItrick and others and lead author on a recent article in the same journal. That is the total extent of his expertise.

    3. Should the pause continue, she said, ‘they are toast’.

      Yes, should the world fly out of its orbit we are all toast. Should the moon be made of green cheese we can have lunar cheese on toast.

      The world has been in a cooling trend since 2010! In eighteen months time it we might have been in a cooling trend since 2014, especially if an El Nino emerges next year.

      Sounds as if Judith is turning into "an ice age cometh" denier. What an idiot.

    4. "Nic Lewis [...] pointed out that taking start years of 2001, 2002 or 2003 would suggest a cooling trend of 0.02-0.05C per decade, though this would not be statistically significant."

      ...and is therefore a completely meaningless statement. so why point it out? :rolleyes:

  2. "The IPCC needs to get out of the way so the scientists and policy makers can do their jobs"

    That's right ,the IPCC is such an obstruction to policy generation, and the idea of getting experts to contribute to a report process is so left-field, so alien to their experience that many are left unable to function [sarc]...It's difficult to figure out how she could assemble that sentence, and commit it to the public. It has no connection with reality...

    1. I think she might mean:
      "The IPCC needs to get out of the way so the scientists and policy makers can do their jobs separately and without ever letting science inform policy"

  3. > Most of the resources? That's got to be wrong.

    Indeed. I think any member of the general public could be forgiven for thinking this, since climate change / prediction gets lots of headlines (but even there: attribution probably gets at least as much). But someone professionally active ought to know its not true. This is yet another of the septic-playbook memes that Curry has picked up uncritically.

    1. Connolley here as well ? This place is like a hang-out for all the ex WUWT trolls.

    2. "WUWT trolls"? You mean sane people who come to marvel at the freak show?

  4. Well, it never seemed worthwhile to add my clicks to "popular" but wrong misinformation salespeople.

    What's odd is that the statements contained herein are both sensible and correct. Clearly the insult patrol had to get busy and since the facts were not on their side ...

    1. Hi Susan. Insults are all the contrarians have at the moment. The "skeptics" are in a hiatus :)

      BTW I archive posts from unsavoury websites so people can read what I'm talking about without having to click the original :)


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.