Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Scientifically illiterate" David Rose has his "ill-posed question" floated in Nature Climate Change

Sou | 7:12 AM Go to the first of 73 comments. Add a comment
There's a new paper out in Nature Climate Change that caught the eye of Anthony Watts (archived here). I bet he's relieved to have something else to talk about, instead of the demise of global warming (which is as alive as ever, unfortunately).

Update: There's now a published comment to the Hollin and Pearce paper, which is discussed here: The IPCC climate message is clear based on the evidence: The fundamental flaws of Hollin & Pearce
Sou 24 October 2015

The paper is both timely and out of date. Timely because it relates to "seepage" - which was the subject of a recent paper discussed here a short while ago. Timely also because it's all about the so-called "hiatus", with the authors even claiming (in their press release blog article) that there was a "short-term decrease in temperature" (which there wasn't). Out of date for the same reason.

The paper is by one of the UK "deniophiles" called Warren Pearce, together with a post-doc at his university called G. J. S. (Gregory) Hollin, who looks to be studying autism (updated dead link Oct 15). This unlikely pair somehow got their unlikely paper accepted and published in Nature Climate Change. I don't know what the editors were thinking.

I had a look at the paper, and it seemed very simplistic and without much substance. I'll do my best to describe it. The authors decided off the bat that scientific communication is all about uncertainty and meaning. They wrote:
In this paper, we assess the relationship between two fundamentals of science communication: uncertainty and meaning

Not the meaning of uncertainty - that can be calculated. I think they were talking about the meaning of science and conveying that meaning to a scientifically illiterate public. Or more particularly, to one scientifically illiterate journalist, called David Rose.

Gregory and Warren focused on the press conference that was held when the IPCC Working Group 1 report was released in late September 2013. The paper isn't very long. It has a few very basic diagrams, simple enough so that maybe even David Rose could understand them if he tried. There was quite a bit of waffle up front - or what seemed like waffle to me. The first two pages were basically a long lead in to the argument that David Rose's "ill-posed question" wasn't really ill-posed at all. In fact it was ill-posed and Michel Jarraud, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), explained why. I figure that neither G. J. S. Hollin or Warren Pearce understood what makes a scientific question ill-posed. They certainly didn't write about this in the manner in which it was explained. David's loaded question was of the type "have you stopped beating your wife":

"How much longer will the so-called pause or hiatus have to continue before you would begin to reflect that there is something fundamentally wrong with the models?''

If you want to see it on video - click here (at 1h 3 min 48 sec )

What Thomas Stocker replied was:
These climate models have shown remarkable agreement with the longer term trends that are observed, and that I have shown over the last 100 years. And this gives us confidence , together with other changes that are simulated in these models and at the same time observed in the climate system. Like for example the reduction in ice or the uptake of heat in the ocean. These are the kind of variables on which we build confidence in these models.
There is an entire chapter in our assessment that concludes that models have improved in their performance, that they compare better in many variables. But of course, such a comparison is much more comprehensive than just looking at the last ten years. I should also say that it very much depends which of the last ten or fifteen years you would actually pick for a model comparison. And we are very clear in our report that it is inappropriate to compare a short term period of observations with model performance. 

David Rose then repeated his question about the "hiatus":
So with respect, you've not answered my first question. How much longer would the hiatus have to continue. Never mind what the start date is, the start date is when it is. How much longer would it have to continue before it would cause you to consider that the models may be flawed?
Thomas Stocker patiently responded:
I may not be able to give you a number. Certainly if we experienced for the next twenty years constant temperature, I would say, with great confidence, that this is not an option given the emissions of greenhouse gases that we measure every year at levels unprecedented, record emissions. And the relationship between warming and the emissions of greenhouse gases is a very robust one. But it is clear, there are phases of natural variability. For example, if we have a large volcanic eruption next year or a couple of years from here, then we would expect, of course, cooling. 

Michel Jarraud then took over and said: 1:08:28
Yes, Maybe I would like to deal with your question in a different way. From a scientific point of view, your question is what we would call an ill-posed question. And it is based on somewhat a misunderstanding of how the model works. Let me give you a few steps to explain what I mean.
In this room, the air molecules keep on bumping into each other. This is what we call Brownian movement. This movement is essentially unpredictable. However, it doesn't mean that because of that we cannot predict what the weather will be over the next few hours or the next few days. And actually it's done with remarkable accuracy. 
Now let's go one step further. It is impossible and it will always be impossible to predict one year in advance whether there will be a thunderstorm in a given place. However, it is possible to predict trends. Predict evolution of anomalies over a larger scale. 
Let's go one step further. It's not because we cannot predict these things one year in advance that we cannot predict the evolution of the climate, which is based on the interaction between a number of elements, like the ocean, like the atmosphere, like the cryosphere, like the land surface. And the model is, as you would say in the UK, the proof of the pudding is to a large extent in the eating of the pudding. And these models are becoming more and more remarkable at predicting the large scale trend. The longer term trends.
But, back to my ill-posed question, it would be wrong to judge a model on the ability to predict some individual event in this natural - oh, not only natural, in this variability. So therefore you should distinguish the ability to predict individual temperatures ten years in advance, from the ability to predict trends over twenty or thirty year periods. 
Back to your question. It has been a recommendation from the World Meteorological Organisation, when looking at the climate issue, it is important to look at long trends. And indeed I think, Chairman, you mentioned that. The consensus is that one of the best time scale to look at that is thirty years time scale.

Now there's one point to make clear. While there was much mirth among climate bloggers that David Rose was told his question was "ill-posed", that wasn't presented as an insult. We all just took great delight because of David Rose's appalling climate articles (see below). However, the term has a special meaning, and Michel Jarraud made that clear by saying "From a scientific point of view, your question is what we would call an ill-posed question". What it means is that if you want a meaningful answer from science, you need to frame your question in such a way that there will be minimal ambiguity in the answer. In mathematics it means that a problem has not been stated in such a way that there is an unambiguous and unique solution (refer Hadamard's definition).

From my perspective, the question was pretty poor because it was clearly a loaded denialist question. If David had been interested in the subject of climate models, he would have known that no model is perfect. All have flaws - or more properly, all have limitations. The important thing is being aware of these limitations, and to test them to make sure there is nothing unexpectedly wrong with them. As it turns out, the models have certain forcings built in. At the time they are finalised these forcings are what is known eg solar radiation - and for the future, what is assumed. Solar radiation in the future isn't known, so it has to be estimated. The CMIP5 models had forcings based on observations up until around 2006 and after that the forcings were estimates. So in regard to the forcings there are two possible sources of error. One is that the observations might be inaccurate. The other is that the estimates might differ from what actually happens.

David's question was akin to: "how many miles must an aeroplane fly before you scientists agree that there is no such thing as gravity".

The other point that Warren's paper barely touched on and not explicitly, which I mentioned earlier, was that this was a period during which David Rose wrote a lot of misleading and plain wrong articles about climate science. Here are two examples of David Rose headlines at the Mail, remembering that the press conference was held toward the end of September 2013:
  • And now it's global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year - 8 September 2013 (HotWhopper article)
  • Global warming is just HALF what we said: World's top climate scientists admit computers got the effects of greenhouse gases wrong - 14 September 2013 (HotWhopper article)

The IPCC even put out a press release, correcting something in one of David Rose's articles, where he claimed the scheduled meeting of the IPCC was a "crisis meeting"!

Given his appalling behaviour and absurd disinformation leading up to the release of the iPCC report, Thomas Stocker and Michael Jarraud were immensely polite and patient.

Gregory and Warren wrote in their paper:
Various attempts were made by the IPCC speakers to downplay the importance of the pause. Stocker repeatedly pinpointed a lack of published literature as a problem and claimed that temperature trends that last for less than 30 years should be treated as significantly less important than trends that last more than 30 years. This `temporal segmentation' enabled the pause to be dismissed as scientifically irrelevant, suggesting that journalists' questions on thematter could be ignored.
Jarraud offered just such a dismissal to Rose's question, which he claimed was 'from a scientific point of view...what we would call an ill-posed question'' (L827 828), essentially dismissing Rose as scientifically illiterate. The terms of this dismissal, however, seem inconsistent with the temporally localized claims made by speakers during the press conference. The speakers oscillated between two positions: one of broad certainty but little public meaning, the other of public meaning but little broad certainty.
Yes, many of us took it that David was being put in his place for making so many false claims in the weeks leading up to the release of the IPCC report. Whether that was how it was intended I cannot say. Intentional or not, David Rose certainly deserved being put in his place.

[Note: Victor Venema pointed out in the comments that the above passage is most probably not an accurate reflection of what Thomas Stocker would have said. He didn't say anything like that in reply to David Rose. Neither did Michel Jarraud. About the closest that Thomas Stocker mentioned in regard to thirty years was in this passage, which was not a response to David Rose but at another time: "an old rule says that climate relevant trends should not be calculated for periods of less than around thirty years, that these periods are less relevant for the change, the projection of changes in the future." Which is not quite the same thing. There's a transcript in the supplement to the article. And the authors took a very subjective and unscientific view of what Michel Jarraud said, too. See the passages I quoted up higher, which puts his comments in context. Sou 8:41 am]

[Note 2: I skipped over one other thing that the authors got woefully wrong. They said that: "This `temporal segmentation' enabled the pause to be dismissed as scientifically irrelevant, suggesting that journalists' questions on the matter could be ignored." Which is contradicted both by the transcript of the meeting and by the IPCC WG1 report. One or two questions on the matter were not only not ignored, they were some of the lengthiest responses of the lot. Whatever one might think about the so-called "pause" (which was a short term slowdown, not a stop or decline), it wasn't ignored nor was there any suggestion that it be so. There was a very lengthy response to a persistent question by a journalist from Bloomberg, who was wanting to know why the "hiatus" section was even included in the report. The panel members spent a lot of time explaining how, although the recent period is not seen as a change in the long term trend, it provided an opportunity to research in detail short term variability. From the transcript: "...let’s be careful not to interpret that in terms of trend, but very interesting work is being done by the assessment to try to understand the elements of these variability and to do a bit of attribution, which is a tricky issue." That plus the fact that David Rose's question got a lengthy and serious response. Sou 6:02 pm]

You'll notice that Gregory and Warren employ the trick used by David Rose (and Anthony Watts), with the word "claimed". They also can't tell the difference between an increasingly hot planet (the decadal trend), short term variability in the temperature trend, and the longer term climate change. Here's a chart of decadal temperatures. The second column from the right is the decade 2001-2010, which as you can see is much warmer than it was in the 1990s:

Warren and Gregory seem to be even more scientifically illiterate than David Rose is. The other journalists at the IPCC press conference were, in the main, much better informed about climate science.

In their paper they make much of the different time scales used in climate science. They used the term "temporally local" a lot. They wrote:
The IPCC has been able to establish greater certainty around AGW (Fig. 1), but attempts by the IPCC press conference speakers to ground their conclusions with reference to temporally local, publicly meaningful events (Fig. 2) threatened the credibility of the certainty they wished to convey This was not lost on the assembled media, whose questions prompted an incoherently oscillating position regarding the appropriate timescales to be considered within climate science
I looked over the transcript the authors provided and I can't say I agree. There was no incoherence that I saw. The journalists who asked the questions, with the exception of David Rose and one chap from Bloomberg, seemed to be very comfortable with the time frames used in climate science.

The authors also had a blog article press release in which they say:
Journalists repeatedly asked scientists about the pause and, in particular, how they could be increasingly certain about climate change in the face of such an uncertainty:

What they mean is that of the 18 people who asked a question, only four referred in any way to the so-called "hiatus". Roger Harrabin from the BBC asked one question about the "hiatus", Pilita Clark asked one question, and David Rose asked his different question twice. Someone from Bloomberg asked why the section on the past 15 years was included. In contrast to David Rose's loaded question about models, most of the questions indicated a reasonable depth of knowledge about climate science.

The authors give a token acknowledgement to David Rose being a disinformer about climate science, writing:
We do not wish to claim here that Rose was particularly sympathetic to the IPCC before the press conference, but in this instance his question was well founded. It exposed how attempts during the press conference to increase public meaning undermined the very scientific certainty that representatives were trying to communicate, and then leverage, to procure public meaning.
Warren and Gregory provide no evidence that David's dumb question was "well-founded". Perhaps they meant that questions that are dumb needed to be answered as if the person asking the question was completely ignorant about climate science and climate models. Maybe so or maybe not. I think that such an approach would not be a good idea, because it would mean over-simplifying the science. Many of the journalists in attendance demonstrated that they were well informed about the subject and it would have been a waste of their time to talk down to them.

The whole point of a the press conference was to talk to the people who were going to communicate with the general public. If the Mail wanted to send a scientifically illiterate denier to do the reporting, that's a disservice to its readers. Other papers and media services were not as disdainful of their audience, and would not have appreciated a dumbed down version.
(I think that Warren probably doesn't understand climate science too well, so maybe there is a lesson there after all.)

There is one positive in the paper. It does make you think about how people conceptualise climate. The notion of bringing greater clarity to the different time frames used for different things, is probably worth bearing in mind.

Addendum - topics of interest to journalists

Reading the paper in Nature Climate Change, you could be forgiven for thinking the IPCC press conference was all about the so-called "hiatus". It wasn't. Not by a long shot. Here is a overview, indicating the topics of the questions asked by journalists, in the order they were asked:
  • Predictions of the so-called "pause"
  • Which scenarios are closest to reality?
  • Informing the global climate treaty discussions
  • The carbon budget - how do we keep within the budget. How to prevent the burning all the fossil fuels?
  • Quantifying the reductions required to stay below 2 degrees
  • Downscaling of climate models to the regional level, the hydrological cycle, and linkages between ice thickness, ice cover, and precipitation in Europe.
  • Will Germany's shift away from fossil fuels make a difference?
  • The robustness of climate models given the recent slowdown in warming
  • Climate sensitivity
  • Impact of this report on climate negotiations regarding developing countries
  • Sea level rise - are faster rises now rejected?
  • Climate sensitivity and how much time we have to mitigate
  • Why was a fifteen year period discussed in the report?
  • The atlas of regional projections - what is the resolution?
  • Changes to the report in regard to the recent period (so-called "hiatus")
  • The number of governments who explicitly approved the report.
  • On the more pessimistic projections for sea level rise.
  • Climate sensitivity and deep ocean warming.
Sou 6:34 pm 9 June 2015

From the WUWT comments

Mostly the "thoughts" were the usual - many could have been written under any of the hundreds of denier articles on any topic at all. WUWT is just a board where deniers post their random "thoughts" of denial.

June 8, 2015 at 9:17 am
This is of course the problem with untruths’ and half-truths, the liar cannot remember what he/she said.

June 8, 2015 at 11:12 am
Agreed. To many lies and too many liars.

logiclogiclogic doesn't know there was a section inserted into the IPCC report on the so-called "hiatus". Nor that temperatures have been at record levels for several months now.
June 8, 2015 at 9:46 am
It is incredibly inconsistent that the IPCC doesn’t recognize the pause which is now 18 years 6 months according to RSS and very similar to UAH is now nearly as long as the warming which lasted from 1975-1998. Since the pause is likely to continue due to AMO/PDO for at least 10 years more it is likely the pause will exceed the duration of the rise. At some point they will have to publicly admit it is significant. 

J wants a congressional inquiry. Not sure where he or she lives - but that's not such a bad idea.
June 8, 2015 at 11:22 am
They will adjust it away, like with the most recent Karl paper.
The subtleties will escape the popular press and most people’s consciousness.
That is why it is important to keep up the publicity on the problems with the adjustments.
A congressional inquiry into GISS and NOAA adjustments is in order.

sciguy54 is from the northern hemisphere is my guess
June 8, 2015 at 10:29 am
Interesting article, but it avoids the elephant in the room:
“the decade 2001 onwards having been the hottest, the warmest that we have seen”
(Pachauri L261–263).
This is not only highly uncertain, it is almost certainly false if “we” includes our Minoan and Roman ancestors. If we are only willing to include our literal selves within the figurative “we”, then a significant percentage of “we” have never experienced a statistically significant climate warming of any kind. 

Unlike the journalists at the press conference, ferd berple can't get his head around the fact that there was a bit of a slow down in surface warming during the hottest decade on record
June 8, 2015 at 10:37 am
False science leads to contradictions, while the truth has no end. The contradiction between “the hottest decade” and “15 years is too short” exposed the IPCC position as being false. Surprisingly, the scientists involved could not see the contradiction, but the reporters did.
It is only now, 2 years later, that another group of researchers has finally discovered the scientists contradicted themselves. The IPCC was not up to the task. It could not discover its own errors. 

MCourtney can't tell the difference between science and faith - like most people at WUWT.
June 8, 2015 at 11:33 am
Has anyone noticed that the definition of ‘scientific certainty’ is “too far away to test”.
And has anyone noticed that the definition of ‘climate change over a couple of decades’ is “overwhelmed by noise and so without meaningful test”.
In climate science nothing is testable.
So is it science or faith?

References and further reading

G. J. S. Hollin & W. Pearce. "Tension between scientific certainty and meaning complicates communication of IPCC reports." Nature Climate Change (2015)  doi:10.1038/nclimate2672

Climate Change Misinformer Of The Year: The Daily Mail - Media Matters December 2013

Certainty and meaning? - ATTP has also written about this paper

Related HotWhopper articles


  1. Stocker repeatedly pinpointed a lack of published literature as a problem and claimed that temperature trends that last for less than 30 years should be treated as significantly less important than trends that last more than 30 years.

    Did Stocker also say something about 30-year periods? In your quotes it is
    Michel Jarraud mentioning 30-years and I would not call that an accurate paraphrase. He said in your quote:

    "The consensus is that one of the best time scale to look at that is thirty years time scale."

  2. I'd have to go through the whole transcript, which is provided as a supplement in NCC. In my article is the entire response that each of them gave to David Rose's question. (The authors were not very diligent in other areas so it wouldn't surprise me if they got that bit wrong, too. I don't think they are up to speed on climate science.)

  3. There's a funny postscript to this. I suspected that this paper was written as a favour to David Rose, and I could well be right.

    David Rose tweeted something to me like "The paper says my question was not ill-posed. Read the paper. Twat!"

    I'm told that "twat" has a rather unsavoury meaning in the UK.

    In any case, just after I tweeted back, saying I did read it, and suggesting he read my article, David Rose deleted his tweet and blocked me.

    I seem to be making a habit of annoying people this week. Hopefully not my cyber-friends though :D

    1. A rose is a rose is an onion
      Ernest Hemingway.

    2. Sou

      In UK English, that is a particularly vile insult to direct at a woman. As in completely outside the bounds of acceptable discourse. As in actually - not blog faux - shocking to me.

      I thought my opinion of DR could not go lower and I was wrong.

    3. Thanks BBD. I'm sorry if I offend anyone by repeating it here. It has no meaning to me so didn't have any particular impact. In fact it was only a few weeks ago that I first heard the word (or that it registered), and found out that it wasn't a nice word to use.

      Maybe that's why David thought better of it and deleted the tweet. I think he deleted it very soon after he sent it. So I interpret it as a knee-jerk response that he regretted and fixed.

    4. You can't unpunch someone.

    5. Next to deleting the tweet, it would have been a sign of good upbringing to apologise.

    6. It is indeed originally—and still is—a very rude word. But the modern usage is often just used to mean "fool", perhaps because it seems to be part way between "twit" and "prat". My sister used to call me a twat until my younger brother laughed and got the dictionary out.


    7. Andy S

      It isn't something you would call an adult woman under any circumstances. Please bear in mind that DR is a journalist and might be expected to understand the etymology of the words he flings around.

    8. As Andy S says, modern usage is as a fairly common insult to mean that someone is an idiot, or irritating. Most commonly applied to men, rarely women. I don't find it shocking that someone would use it (as a foul-mouthed Scotsman I'm not easily offended by swearing), however, in the context of a tweet from a well-known -ahem- professional it's out of order, regardless of whether is was that word, or worse.

    9. "...bear in mind that DR is a journalist and might be expected to understand the etymology of the words he flings around."

      Fat chance. I'll bet that if someone wasted the time to extensively analyze his writing, you would find that he uses esoteric terms correctly - because he looks them up; and much of his language is correctly used, because he is educated beyond his intelligence; but that he frequently misuses or misinterprets the nuances of rarer words, because he assumes, in his Dunning-Kruger penchant, that he knows what he's saying.

  4. Victor, yes Dr Stocker did refer to thirty year periods in relation to distinguishing long term trends from short term variability:

    transcript line 425
    "In the northern hemisphere, 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest thirty year period of the last fourteen hundred years. This is a time perspective that we can access, not with high confidence but with medium confidence, which is an important result by itself."

    line 578
    "...is something that scientists have known for a long time, that there is a large amount of natural variability and the shorter the time period is over which you determine trends, in fact an old rule says that climate relevant trends should not be calculated for periods of less than around thirty years, that these periods are less relevant for the change, the projection of changes in the future."

    line 1067
    "We want to have a statistics of a number of such decades, thirty years, which provides a much more robust insight into this issue of trends and changes in trends on such short term periods."

    1. Chris, thanks. Line 578 is probably the closest.

      Still quite a paraphrase. Stocker did say that below 30-years trend should not be used for climatic purposes, but did not say that 30-year trends are suddenly okay. The reliability of trends growths gradually.

      The uncertainty of a trend growth with the square of the period. Many people seem to assume it is linear. That a ten-year trend is quite something. But actually, a ten-year has 100 times the uncertainty of a 100-year trend.

      The traditional climatological 30-year period comes from a time when people we not yet computing trends, just wanted to describe the (stationary) statistical properties of this period.

  5. I still like you, Sou. ;)

    Let me try: "How many of those inverted hurricanes like they had in Day After Tomorrow would it take to disprove atmosphere physics?" Ooh, this is fun!

    Honestly, from several years of following Warren's doings and now this paper I can only conclude that he and probably his co-author are suffering from Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

    1. I am not sure about DK. But with Warren, it is certainly the case that ambition [to be a big wheel in pseudo-skeptic circles] gets ahead of ability.

    2. It may be relevant to note that Pearce also fiercefully defended Watts' blog as being truly skeptical from a scientific point of view. His evidence was a piece criticizing some Sky Dragon Slayer type of nonsense. When I pointed out that Watts a mere few days after that piece had given Tim Ball a forum (again), notably one of those Slayers, Pearce ignored it.

      To me it appears Pearce is one of those "there is no truth, only perception, and taking that into account, all opinions are equally valid" types. I think there is a name for them in the social sciences.

    3. "To me it appears Pearce is one of those "there is no truth, only perception, and taking that into account, all opinions are equally valid" types. I think there is a name for them in the social sciences."

      Can I suggest the word "wrong"?

      That sort of relativism did some damage to the perception of science amongst some academic non-scientists a few years back. Social science hasn't looked so good since the Sokal Affair when their nonsense was rather effectively skewered.

    4. No, there is an actual scholarly term for those people. I may not have described these types properly, and I can't find the article I once read discussing this, so it's all based on my memory, and that is certainly quite fallible.

      A small P.S.: I wonder whether Stocker and Jarraud will react on this article by Pearce and Hollin, as it appears, at least to me and a few others, to misrepresent their response. It's almost as if they have been taught the art of not understanding by Reiner Grundmann...

    5. Social constructivists?

    6. Catmando

      "Can I suggest the word "wrong"?"

      Or maybe, "not even wrong".

  6. Something I've not tested in Twitter but wondered about...

    If one retweets a tweet and adds a comment so that the original appears as an image in a quote box, and the original is subsequently deleted, is the quote in the retweet lost? If not, I would use this strategy to capture 'notable' tweets.

    Otherwise screen-capture and image-tweet is a good way to record people's unsavoury behaviours.

    1. No, use archive.is or web.archive. Archived versions are much easier to share and much harder to fake than screen captures. Unscrupulous people could photoshop a screen capture, so they're less credible than a page that's been archived by a third party.

    2. Anon, I've been using archives for years (I think I was one of the people who pointed Sou in that direction) but sometimes people just want a succinct view of the situation.

      Archiving is a good back-up though, so both should probably be used. To date I've only ever done both for WUWT, but it might be a good general policy.

    3. If a tweet is deleted it disappears immediately on any page refresh, that includes archiving. In this case the tweet disappeared when I replied (which causes the page to refresh).

    4. I use the 'Snipping Tool' which seems to be a basic feature of all the latest versions of windows (just search it). Just draw a line round the bit of screen you're interested in and it can be saved as a jpeg.

    5. Heh, I remember Snip from my Windows period. Thanks for the reminder John - it's moved me to discover Control-Shift-4, which was sitting next to screen cap the whole time!

      Right under my nose...

    6. "If a tweet is deleted it disappears immediately on any page refresh, that includes archiving."

      On archived pages? That's most interesting - thanks Sou.

    7. If I had a Twitter account I'd do the experiment. It is probably worth the try.

  7. Speaking of the Nature stable, Nature Geoscience has a paper out today by Wasko and Sharma which indicates greater precipitation extremes in Australia:


    This should create an extreme storm of another sort amongst the Denialati...

  8. I've added another note to the article above, about something else the authors got wrong. It's also about the so-called "hiatus".

  9. I've now added a list of the topics raised by journalists at the IPCC press conference. Most were interested in other things, not the so-called "hiatus".

  10. Sou

    First, if David Rose used the 't' word on twitter then yes that's a pretty nasty thing to say. Second, yes, he has had his name on some poor articles in the Mail, especially those which misrepresented what scientists said, and what the science means, eg. regarding short-term sea ice changes.

    However, in this instance, I disagree that his question was "ill-posed". Sure, it was an awkward question and even a loaded question, but what do you expect from a tabloid journalist? It's his job! Stocker, Jarraud, Pachauri etc should be expecting to deal with such questions and be well-prepared to do so. That's why they are in senior positions.

    And both Stocker and Jarraud did give an answer - Stocker said another 20 years, and similarly Jarraud said that one should look at 30-year trends.

    I don't think it's at all unscientific to ask "what would make you question your models?" - in fact that's a very important question to ask.

    My colleagues Chris Roberts, Matt Palmer, Doug McNeall & Mat Collins wrote an interesting paper which is somewhat relevant to this question - Doug's blog post on it is <a href="

    1. Richard,
      That he was a tabloid journalist doesn't mean the question wasn't ill-posed. Also, the question "what would make you question your models" isn't quite the same as what Rose actually asked. Also, both Stocker and Jarraud did answer it. Jarraud could, maybe, have avoided suggesting that it was ill-posed, but it wasn't said in a particularly unpleasant way. He also explained in quite some detail why he regarded it as ill-posed. You may disagree with him about this, but he did explain his reasons.

      Personally, I find it quite remarkable that we're focusing on a journalist who is ticked off that someone suggested his question was ill-posed, especially as it is a journalist who has demonstrated time and time again that their grasp of this scientific topic is poor.

    2. ATTP

      Thanks for replying, but I don't see why it's ill-posed. Rose just asked what would make them consider whether there's a problem with the models. For it to be ill-posed there would need to be no proper answer, but Rose was just asking for an opinion so there's no difficulty on whether an answer exists or not. Jarraud's explanation of why he thought it was ill-posed was incidentally useful in explaining about predictability, which is all fine, but I think really he meant that it was a complex question not an ill-posed one. Also he'd obviously spotted that it was loaded and was trying to think on his feet to deal with it. And as I say, he did give an answer about his opinion in the end, which proves it was not ill-posed!

      But I agree this is not worth making a song and dance about. For me it's not about who posed the question but what the question was, and whether it had an answer. I'm surprised Sou bothered to write this post to be honest, but I guess she can't help herself when she sees something covered in WUWT! ;)

    3. Michel Jarraud carefully explained why the question as asked was ill-posed from a scientific perspective. The answers were as good as any.

      I find it most odd that the authors of this paper wrongly claimed that the panel members said any question about the short term trend should be "ignored". Particularly when a) they didn't ignore such questions, but responded to them at length; b) there was even a section in the IPCC report on the short term variability presented in terms of a "hiatus".

      Richard, are you trying to defend this dreadful paper, and if so on what grounds? Do you disagree with the major flaws identified here and at ATTP's blog? If so, which facts to you dispute?

      By the way, being an ill-posed question is not the same as being "unscientific". I'm very surprised that you equate the two. As I indicated in the article, a scientific (and mathematical) question can be ill-posed, and many of them are, which is why science is fun and probably frustrating at times.

      I don't know the sense in which Michel Jarraud described David Rose's question as "ill-posed". I don't know whether he meant it in a scientific sense or if he meant it was a silly question. From his answer, I'd say he meant it in the former sense. That the question needed to be reframed in order to give a meaningful answer. Which the panel members did pretty well, I'd say. The question as posed would be very difficult to respond to in the way it was put, but both Stocker and Jarraud answered as well as anyone could expect. And quite clearly IMO.

      BTW - as ATTP says, David Rose didn't ask "what would make you question the models". If he had, he would most likely have got quite a different response..

    4. Richard,
      I would argue that Jarraud's answer was explaining why it was ill-posed, rather than an answer to the question. However, whether it was ill-posed or not, it's certainly not the case that David Rose's question was dismissed. As I said, Jarraud could have avoided suggesting that it was ill-posed, but if we're heading towards the point where we can't even criticise journalists's questions, then communicating this topic is going to get increasingly difficult.

      To me, that it was clearly a loaded question is consistent with it being ill-posed, but I'm not sure this is something worth arguing over :-)

    5. Sou

      I'm just focussing on this particular point, not the whole paper, and I've not read ATTP's blog on it. I just think it was a bit unwise for Jarraud to say the question was ill-posed, it made him look evasive when he had absolutely no need to be. I don't claim the high-ground here because I've also had difficult questions to deal with in press conferences and interviews and not always given the best answer off the cuff. However, the panel really should have been prepared to give a really good answer to a question that was obviously going to come up. (I do remember cringing slightly at the time).

      ATTP, I didn't say it was dismissed. I agree that Jarraud would have been better to avoid saying it was "ill-posed". However we should remember that many people on the panel were very tired after many days of intense negotiation over text and not much sleep, so they can be excused the odd bit of non-ideal terminology.

      And that point does mean that there is a danger in overanalysing the detailed wording of the conference.

    6. Richard,
      Oh, I wasn't implying that you had suggested that it was dismissed. One of the suggestions in the paper is that Rose's question was dismissed as being ill-posed, leading to David Rose being regarded as scientifically illiterate. Not only was it not dismissed (it was answered by Stocker and then Jarraud explained why he thought it was ill-posed), that David Rose was regarded as scientifically illiterate appears to be an interpretation by Hollin & Pearce, rather than as something one could formally determine from the transcript. I don't necessarily disagree with them, but I might not go quite that far myself :-)

    7. Another thing to bear in mind is that English is not the first language of most of the panel members. Also, Thomas Stocker said that he'd had six hours sleep in the previous 58 hours (or similar) - that was probably not too different for any of the others either.

      Reframing the question would only look evasive to people who didn't understand what was meant by "ill-posed". The question was IMO ill-posed, using either the scientific meaning or the layperson's understanding of the term. (It was framed in a manner that didn't allow a useful response, plus it was a loaded denier question of the type put to Phil Jones by the BBC going back a few years.)

      To craft a paper around these three words (Ill-posed question) is what strikes me as silly. And to turn around and claim the question was "well-founded" as if that was the opposite to "ill-posed" (it's not) was silly too. In addition, there was pretty well no evidence provided to support their claim it was "well-founded" - whereas Michel Jarraud did explain why he thought it was "ill-posed". (The authors ignored his explanation and, if relying on their paper, one probably wouldn't be aware that he'd given it.)

      Most of the paper comes across as waffley, and the scant evidence the authors provide to support their argument is more often wrong than not.

      From the human perspective, given the numerous attacks on the IPCC from David Rose leading up to this press conference, and his reckless disregard of facts, I thought he was treated very cordially. You'd not have known he had been misrepresenting them for weeks in big black headlines (and years, if it comes to that).

    8. A better topic might have been how to deal with loaded questions, in a scientific forum. Media training would cover that well when it comes to politics and diplomacy, but I wonder if it's been covered in an area like science, where you don't want to deflect the question but use it to explain the science. (Unlike politics, science is about sharing knowledge, not deflecting questions.)

      I expect there is a body of research somewhere out there.

    9. I've had a fair bit of media training over the years, and it has evolved somewhat to reflect the challenges of communicating complex science in a highly-charged political atmosphere! Initially it was fairly basic stuff on having a simple strategy on getting across what you want to say, but more recently it has included spotting and handling loaded questions.

    10. Richard,
      So, would "I'm not answering your loaded question, you fool!" be a good strategy or a bad one? :-)

    11. I'm still happy to go with "ill-posed".

      Because hair-splitting aside, it was.

  11. Sue;
    Regarding Rose and his history with the UKMO (the organisation I spent 32 yrs working for), here are links to them with their response to his DM "articles".
    Nice to see the rebuttals ... as the time I was in the UKMO they'd just sit back and take it.


    1. Thanks, Tony. I seem to remember those. It's good to be reminded..

    2. Tony

      Yes, we are indeed much more proactive in public and media engagement these days. It's easier with social media now - previously we had to complain to editors, broadcasters etc, and this was all generally behind the scenes so the public (and indeed staff like you and I) rarely got to know about it.

  12. How does this postmodernist stuff get into Nature? I thought it was a top-tier scientific paper...

    1. Yes, that was my thought too, that Nature was supposed to have some high standards. It made me wondered if "Nature Climate Change" might be one of those faux scientific publishers. But apparently not.

    2. If you write about the hiatus you can get everything published in Nature.

  13. We should ask David Rose "how much more does the planet have to warm before you will accept that Climate Models are correct?"

  14. Oh, Millicent, how could you ask such an ill-posed question ;-)

  15. Would it be correct to say that Rose is a poser?

    1. "Roses supposes he totses just posed
      A question supposed to sting like a bee;
      But Jarraud he knowses the question, ill-posed,
      Does not make much sense scientifically."
      (h/t Singing in the Rain)

  16. Another one who likes to ask ill posed questions is Peter Lilley, who ends up throwing his toys out of the pram here:


    maybe he an Rose attend the same 'dinner parties'.

  17. Both authors are part of the Institute for Science and Society at the University of Nottingham which includes the Making Science Public: Challenges and Opportunities which is a five-year research program funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2012-2017). It includes the blog Making Science Public. An interesting note on the News and Events page is the following -

    Congratulations to Warren Pearce who was awarded 3rd prize in the 2014 British Sociological Association (BSA) Climate Change Article Prize. Warren took part in the discussion event with other winners, book authors and study group members at the BSA’s Imperial Wharf office in February 2015. Warren’s article in Evidence and Policy (OA) argues that carbon dioxide emissions data were an inappropriate metric for local authority climate change policy. Adopting this metric was more about managerial forms of governance and scientific framings of climate change, than its usefulness for measuring policy progress. While the data set was collected during Warren’s doctoral work, he completely reanalysed it for this paper, incorporating STS literature he had looked at as part of MSciP.


    A 3rd place prize and a Letter in Nature Climate Change! I'm in the wrong field.

    1. Arguing that CO2 emissions are an inappropriate metric for climate change policy seems rather wrongheaded.

    2. Criminy, sounds like an adaptation of RP Sr.'s shtick.

      All should read this timely article.

      Somehow I missed Warren's third-rate, ahem, *-place*, finish, and I suppose I'll have a look at the paper. The abstract doesn't give me much hope:

      "Climate policy is typically seen as informed by scientific evidence that anthropogenic carbon emissions require reducing in order to avoid dangerous consequences. However, agreement on these matters has not translated into effective policy. Using interviews with local authority officials in the UK's East Midlands region, this paper argues that the ideas, arguments and data informing local climate policy have been grounded in evidence from the natural sciences. Focusing on carbon emissions data demonstrated a consensus around scientific knowledge, not local policy responses to this knowledge. Acknowledging this 'mistaken consensus' provides the potential to utilise evidence more attentive to local contexts."

    3. CO2 emission is an "appropriate metric" for what causes climate change. I'd have thought that in terms of "measuring policy progress" understanding the trajectory of the cause would be of critical importance.

      But that's just me.

    4. It looks as if what Warren's arguing in his paper is for the interim steps to emissions reduction be put up front at the local government level - driven by politics rather than management. That is, improved public transport, energy efficiency etc.

      I support having targets to improve these areas but don't see it as an either/or issue.

      One measure of how effective those strategies are would be the reduction in emissions. He seems to be arguing that because the emissions data is suspect, there's a need to toss out emissions reductions as a KPI (or target). I'd argue that the solution in that regard is to improve the data, not to stop monitoring it or having it as an explicit goal.

      I'd support having interim targets as well - in a hierarchical manner. That is, improved public transport --> less emissions; energy efficiency --> emissions reduction - with KPIs measuring the efficacy at different steps in the pathway. Otherwise you may go off the rails and not know it.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. The problem with using an indirect indicator is that it may have a very poor relationship with a measurement of the underlying causal factor, whether through confounders such as Jevon's paradox, or because they don't measure cryptic emissions.

      Further, I would be surprised if any soft, sociological measure of "progress" could be as objective and incontrovertible as a direct measure of carbon emissions - and, of course, of temperature.

      And when did emissions data become suspect?! They're some of the best-quantified parameters describing the atmosphere.

    7. Exactly, Bernard. There will be more than one benefit from improving public transport etc. The further you get from the primary goal, the more difficult it is to attribute benefit.

      The local government data is what councils were concerned about. That is, identifying just what emissions are attributable to each local authority. I can understand that, but am with you, Bernard. Improve the data, don't toss it.

    8. Bernard, this was LA-level emissions data, so especially at that time couldn't have been very good. IOW they took the emissions for the whole country (itself a little shaky) and divvied it up among the LAs, presumably with a breakdown by sector.

      But so what if the data was highly inaccurate? A given LA would still have had to go though an exercise of figuring out where their best bang for the buck (well, pound) was in terms of reductions, which will have required far less information and would have need to be developed locally anyway.

      Example: Let's say the national data for that LA included figures for residential heating, vehicles and industry. Their program decision needed to be based on the maximum amount of reductions obtainable with available resources. An assessment of the most efficient way to get emissions reductions might have been to do furnace replacement and insulation for residences, a public bike sharing program with designated bike lanes and nothing else (in the first round anyway) because the budget's tapped. The national data is irrelevant.

  18. Oh lookee here (about halfway down). Ain't he cute!

    I generally agree with your assessment of the paper, although it appears his main argument for not wanting to use emissions-based goals isn't because it's suspect (although it is) but because it's somehow too disconnected from the tangible steps to be taken. What he really seems to be describing is some LAs that had never thought much about climate change mitigation steps they might take suddenly being confronted with a central government mandate to do something soon. That was necessarily going to make for a confusing start, but there would have been just as much resistance to approaching things in the way Warren suggests. That the specific emissions data developed for an LA was incorrect (and probably all of them were) doesn't in the slightest prevent them from identifying and prioritizing steps to be taken in terms of their emissions reduction potential.

    "While central government had good intentions of producing a consistent dataset and reducing local authority burdens, their actions occasioned a negative local perception of [the LA-specific emissions dataset], which in turn provided the context for weak implementation of climate change mitigation policy."

    Well, "provided a context for" is a far cry from "resulted in." Warren provides no evidence other than the entirely predictable squawking from LA officials, which is no evidence at all relative to his thesis. It wasn't possible for that data to prevent or even retard action.

    A better case can be made for the contrary: Since the data described all emissions within a given LA (however inaccurately) and (I gather from the paper) told LAs to try to deal with all of them (of course impossible), how is that not applying maximum pressure? Alternative forms for the mandate all seem likely to have been less effective.

    I speak here from a perspective of decades of experience persuading LAs to venture into new areas of environmental action. Resistance to undertaking new things is just the nature of the beast. That Warren didn't recognize that up front is unsurprising given his utter lack of relevant experience.

    But hey, third place! Doubtless his career is assured.

    1. The work was based on "conversational" interviews. Given the errors in the paper discussed here, it's not known how selective Warren was in reporting the conversations with local authorities. I can't help but wonder to what extent this was another set of findings selected to suit a pre-determined narrative. (My experience is like yours, Steve. Local authorities only grudgingly respond to mandates from above. Well, that applies to everyone really, including state and federal government agencies here. Often, though, there are some "champions" within an agency or local council, who take up the task with real enthusiasm.)

  19. David Rose is also notorious for his messing up in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. At least he apologized for that. But did he learn anything from it?



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