Sunday, April 24, 2016

Desperate Deniers: Larry Kummer, replication of ice melt and other climate changes

Sou | 4:29 PM Go to the first of 16 comments. Add a comment
There was another tattered, mixed up article from Larry Kummer, Editor of the Fabius Maximus Website, at WUWT a couple of days ago (archived here).  He was postulating that the big experiment being conducted on the planet can't or won't be replicated. I hope he's right, if there is a replicate planet somewhere out there. I hope that any inhabitants of that replicate planet don't do what we're doing, for their own sake and that of their world. Larry's headline was: "Climate science might become the most important casualty of the replication crisis".

Larry has picked up on studies that show that in some fields of science, particularly those disciplines in which experiments can only use tiny sample sizes, there have been shown to be problems in replicability. There would not be many climate-related studies that fit these criteria. In any case, Larry was talking more about climate science in general, or perhaps climate modeling only.

He wrote, referring to replication failures:
Many sciences are vulnerable, but climate science might become the most affected. It combines high visibility, a central role in one of our time’s major public policy questions, and a frequent disregard for the methodological safeguards that other sciences rely upon.
His preceding sentence wasn't too accurate either. He wrote about "replication failures in “settled science”", and right up the top he wrote: "First psychology and biomedical studies, now spreading to many other fields — overturning what we were told is settled science, the foundations of our personal behavior and public policy." The problems aren't in "settled science" as far as I know, it's at the frontiers of science in specific fields: mainly some pharmacological research, biomedical research, psychology to some extent, and genetics. Larry mentioned physics, but I'm not aware of any systemic problem in physics.

Nor did Larry provide any evidence of any "disregard for methodological safeguards that other sciences rely upon". That's not surprising because he doesn't seem to know much about climate science as a whole. He seems to think that it's solely concerned with climate model experiments. He doesn't appear to know that it includes a whole lot more than that. His article was one giant straw man logical fallacy, one of the telltale techniques of climate science denial.

You could sum it up by saying that Larry Kummer is hoping that one day someone will write a paper showing that ice doesn't melt in the heat. Or perhaps that adding gigatonnes of water to the ocean won't results in a rise in the sea. Or maybe that burning fossil fuel won't produce CO2 and water, or that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. I'd say he's dreaming, but he could be just stirring. Or he could be proof positive that being able to construct whole sentences is not strongly correlated with intelligence.

PS Larry Kummer pointed to one of his sexist articles, which was a follow-on from a previous even more sexist article. (He referred to "game", which I had to look up, portraying it as "the latest counter-revolution to feminism". I'm not sure, but it seems to be some packaged up answer for insecure adolescent male youths who object to equal opportunity, or are afraid of women, or something.)

From the WUWT comments

There were 194 "thoughts" in the latest archived version, including some in which Larry showed up his lack of clear thought.

Science or Fiction demonstrated another logical fallacy, that of personal incredulity:
April 23, 2016 at 5:34 am
@ vukcevic
I have always wondered about that. How can we possibly know accurately the short term and long term natural variation and trends in the solar irradiance at the top of the atmosphere over hundreds and thousands of years. I guess we have only been able to measure it directly the last few decades. 

Bill Johnston noticed the tattered nature of the article, and wrote:
April 23, 2016 at 7:13 am
It appears the writer took a break and temporarily lost his train of thought. 

ristvan can't separate popular dietary fads from scientific fact, for which I can't really blame him. A study of basic biochemistry would help him. He wrote:
April 22, 2016 at 5:48 pm
Interesting essay. IMO the breach already existing (dietary fats, gluten, climate) will NEVER be healed. Eisenhower warned of this. Hijacked by special interests and political agendas. CAGW on a global scale, UN sponsored, seals the deal.
Humanity will move on. But ‘science’, NASA, and such trust will never be reclaimed. Ever. NASA foundering is but the canary in the coal mine. 

A lot of people, such as Ric Haldane, got consensus the wrong way around. Science isn't based on consensus, a consensus comes from the science.
April 22, 2016 at 5:55 pm
How do you replicate a “science” based on consensus? 
afonzarelli embraces Larry's straw man and dreams of an ice age. He hopes (in vain) that the greenhouse effect isn't real:
April 22, 2016 at 6:16 pm
climate science… combines high visibility, a central role in one of our time’s major public policy questions, and a frequent disregard for the methodological safeguards that other sciences rely upon
Which may the best reason that climate change could wind up being a “YUGE” teachable moment in modern history. Just imagine what will happen if the global temps start dropping in the near future. So many highly visible institutions have had so much invested in climate change. If it gets exposed as a fraud to the degree where it’s no longer being discussed (like global cooling in the 70’s) there is the potential for a great cultural shift in the acceptance of the sciences.
EVERYBODY has heard about climate change and if it turns out they were all wrong about it? People will readily be able to say they were wrong about climate change, so maybe they’re wrong about psychiatry or economics (or what ever else), too. In our time, i don’t think we will ever see a greater false paradigm than climate change. Hopefully in the near future, humanity will have the opportunity to put this false paradigm to good use…
Hivemind steps out of the closet and declares he or she is a climate conspiracy theorist:
April 22, 2016 at 9:59 pm
I see climate change as the biggest scientific fraud in all history. Other theories, such as phlogiston, were the result of ignorance and replaced once counter-evidence was provided and a superior theory came about. But climate change is different. There has already been plenty of counter-evidence which has been rejected out of hand. Evidence has even been falsified.
Perhaps it is time to let the whole sorry mess collapse into the stinking pile of bovine excrement that it is. Yes, people’s naive trust in Science will be crushed. Just like two hundred years ago, when their belief in God was crushed. But something good would come out of it. A more eyes-open kind of understanding of what science can and can’t do.

mark takes Hivemind's conspiracy theory and adds some red and blue embroidery:
April 23, 2016 at 5:58 am
I agree with ‘biggest fraud’. What concerns me is that the fraud is a product of devious minds who will examine their successes and failures to convince, and refine their techniques for their next assault on liberal democracy and capitalism. 

Is JohnKnight a young earth creationist?
April 23, 2016 at 2:19 pm
“Evolution” is the original “consensus science”, it seems to me. Once that was accepted, the door was left wide open for what has since entered . . 

Joseph Shaw is another rabid conspiracy nutter who seems to think that the thousands and thousands of independent researchers in independent research institutions all over the world have been in collusion for decades:
April 22, 2016 at 6:24 pm
While the replication crisis is real and significant for the affected fields, climate ‘science” is uniquely well insulated from the problem and much less vulnerable than psychology or the social ‘sciences’.

One has to remember that the replication crisis refers to failure to reliably reproduce the results of actual experiments and observations. Climate ‘science’ involves essentially no experiments and relies primarily on model results and prediction / projection of future conditions. Even measured climate data is typically buffered from reality by multiple layers of models, adjustments, and statistical manipulation to the point that “observations” can be whatever the researcher wants / needs them to be.

The climate modelers have not had any problem producing generally consistent [though quite spurious IMO] results despite using quite different assumptions regarding key climate parameters. Why would future models produce different results except to confirm that “it is worse than we thought”?

Editor of the Fabius Maximus website (Larry Kummer) is hopeful that climate models, which have been almost spot on to date, will fall apart. He wrote:
April 22, 2016 at 8:04 pm (excerpt)
...We can only guess at this, but I’ll take the other side of the question. Climate science’s vulnerability lies in its predictions, especially in the increasingly lurid papers outside the IPCC’s consensus. Time will prove these right or wrong, eventually. It might take decades, but there will be an accounting.

The current crisis in other fields involves some high-profile research from the 1970s and 1980s. While embarrassing, these fields appear to be escaping without serious consequences. If those predictions prove false, I doubt climate science will be so fortunate.
What might be the results of the public policy climate wars? My guesses: Imagine the horrific fate of the losers after the climate policy debate ends.

Note: matching observations to a model’s projections using a scenario with close to actual emissions => a prediction, per the IPCC’s definitions. 

This is the latest comparison, comparing the multi-model mean of CMIP5 models with actual forcings with observed global mean surface temperature:

Global mean surface temperature and CMIP5. The CMIP5 multi-model mean has been updated with recent forcings and GISTemp data includes 2015 observations. Source: Stefan Rahmstorf, updated from Mann15 article in Nature's Scientific Reports.

This comment from Sceptical lefty illustrates the denier's inability to face facts. Deluded deniers, despite six consecutive months, two years in a row, and four decades in a row of "hottest on record", are still hoping against hope that climate science is a hoax:
April 23, 2016 at 5:45 am
There will be no horrible fate for the false prophets. They are now generally pitching their doomsday predictions for a time close enough to be scary, but sufficiently distant to avoid personal accountability when these predictions fail to eventuate.

The trick is to enjoy a successful career. Being right (or even decently wrong) is not a relevant consideration.

This is probably not the most moral of outlooks, but hey!, a fellow has to make a living.

gymnosperm got some notion from somewhere or other and decided, against evidence, to promote it:
April 22, 2016 at 6:53 pm
Sodium. It has been well know since the 1970″s that Sodium is harmless and it is actually the chloride ion that causes human hypertension. Yet every cereal box lists the Sodium content and we are exhorted to low Sodium diets.
In this particular case with a 1:1 correspondence the error makes little effective difference, but the tendency to latch onto some partial truth very much resonates with the current fixation on Carbon.

chaamjamal started off well with this, but his or her comment rapidly deteriorated into denial:
April 22, 2016 at 7:07 pm
the replication idea applies to experimental studies and cannot be applied to climate science because it is purely an observational study. you can’t rewind nature and re-run it under controlled conditions.

In a reply to a reasonable, if long, comment from Steven Mosher, Larry Kummer, Editor of the Fabius Maximus website, showed that he doesn't understand climate models and confuses them with weather forecasts:
April 22, 2016 at 8:42 pm (excerpt)
...One obvious example: replicating model runs from early models has proven difficult for the few scientists who have attempted this — which makes it impossible to validate them by re-running them with observations made after publication (instead of scenarios) to compare their predictions to actual weather)...
davidmhoffer, responding to a comment from Larry Kummer who was arguing that climate science can be replicated, agreed with Steve Mosher that mostly it can't. David's view is that all the thousands of climate scientists all over the world have been committing fraud for the past several decades. He's an uber-conspiracy nutter, and resurrected one of his favourite eye-rolling eye-ray themes:
April 22, 2016 at 10:10 pm
can you provide a published source to support it?

The appeal to authority card in all its glory.

Can you cite a single example of a climate science “experiment” which can be replicated?

Per Einstein, all you need is one.

The rest of your argument is equally wrong. There is no replication crisis. Falsification in science is speeding up. Per Planck, science proceeds one funeral at a time. In other words, everything to do with cherished beliefs rather than replicable expeirments. Cherished beliefs remain in place in the face of replicable experiments to the contrary.

Consider that the notion that we could see by virtue of rays that shot out of our eyes reigned supreme as settled science for hundreds of years. Generations upon generations were taught settled science that could be falsified by asking why you can’t close your eyes and see the backs of your eye lids. The speed with which bad science is falsified has sped UP. It no longer takes centuries, or even life times in the majority of cases.

There were lots and lots of undisputed comments that showed up how WUWT is nothing if not a conspiracy theorists' haunt. SAMURAI, for example, started with the following and degenerated:
April 22, 2016 at 9:44 pm (excerpt)
CAGW zealots have abondoned the Scientific Method in pursuit of government grants, donations, fame, fortune and political agendas.

For a change Pamela Gray wrote a reasonable, even sensible, comment:
April 23, 2016 at 7:24 am
I have published research, and with just a Master’s degree. Not bad. I am also a one-hit wonder. Not good. But neither of these things impress me much one way or the other. The merit is in the fact that without my input and quite a few years later, my study was repeated (not replicated because equipment improvements were made that produced a cleaner stimulus used in early latency auditory evoked potentials and with more subjects). The salient results I obtained were again seen in the repeated study.
With that background, research replication is an exact copy. In many fields that may not be the best design, especially if better techniques or better equipment is available. Repeating a study with new and improved techniques and/or equipment that results in the same finding gives robustness to the proposed hypothesis. As it did mine. And that’s not too bad at all.

I'll finish with the last comment, which is from Joshua. It took to the very end for someone to call out one of Larry Kummer's straw men. Joshua wrote:
April 23, 2016 at 7:06 pm
Such alarmism:
but the crisis might have severe side-effects — such as a loss in public confidence. … With our confidence in our institutions so low and falling, news about replication failures in “settled science” might have affect the public’s confidence willingness to trust scientists. This might take long to heal.

One would think that before putting such alarmism on paper, you’d research the public trust in scientific institutions (and scientists), think about whether there have been changes over time, and consider what some of influences might be for any changes you might find, other than those that you’re speculating about.

Surely, you’ve done that. Then why didn’t you report what you found? Because I’ve seen a fair amount of evidence that you’re alarmism is not substantiated. 

References and further reading

The 5 telltale techniques of climate change denial - article by John Cook at CNN

Despondent deniers: Why fake sceptics are losing and more... - HotWhopper article, March 2016

Denier weirdness: Very strange WUWT article on President Obama in Alaska - HotWhopper article, September 2015


  1. Kummer's efforts provide one of the more puerile examples of fossil fuel industry inspired FUD tactics.

  2. There is actually abundant evidence of replication in climate science, whereas the latter is less abundant in psychology and biomedical research.

    Just take the surface temperatures: there's NCEI, GISS, HADCRU, JMA, and BEST (and possibly some others - apart from the various local analyses). There are tens of different climate models. Or just take the multitude of paleoclimatic reconstructions.

    Larry Kummer is ignorant. And yes, I am being kind here.

  3. It seems like a classic creationist trick of separating observable and testable science from "historical" science

    Historical science is open to interpretation because it is not testable and repeatable

    So the formation of the Grand Canyon - simply cannot be tested (according to creationist) hence open to interpretation

    Inter species evolution cannot be tested blah blah blah (most creationist accept testable "micro" evolution)

    Daft beyond parody

  4. Yea gods, I despair when these fools think they know more about the scientific method than the scientists do.

    Call it a straw man, call it a red herring. He is trying to claim that global warming is an "experiment" as defined by the scientific method.

    It isn't a scientific experiment of course. It is no more an scientific experiment as someone sticking a firecracker in their ear to see what happens.

    The true scientific experiments are the observations of temperature rise and other effects (repeated often), global climate models (which are run often) and so forth.

    1. You see that a lot. Not just engineers or individuals with half-forgotten undergraduate science degrees, but in others who clearly never got much past high school and who are regurgitating junior high-school science clichés and simplifications about the scientific method.

      I take the more practical approach that the scientific method is what working scientists do. If philosophers of science want to summarize this or reduce it to a set of underlying principles that's fine, but it's also derivative.

    2. I agree with Magma. The "scientific method" encompasses and enormous range of epistomological strategies. The one thing they have in common is that, in the end, the knowledge and theories they produce have to be internally consistent, and provide reliable guidance for understanding the real world.

      My own field of astronomy provides numerous examples of strategies that go far beyond the cliches of junior-high-school science. We can't go a control experiment, but at the same time we're reasonably sure that, say, pulsars are rotating, magnetized neutron stars, because there is a huge amount of evidence that's not explainable any other way.

  5. If you want to know more about game, follow WeHuntedTheMammoth -- said blog does roughly what you do to deniers, but to misogynists.

    1. That's a really excellent blog. I have to say that many of those morons almost make me ashamed of my gender.

      On second thought, no -- they're just morons.

  6. Why not just use a stuffed armadillo to disprove all of Global Warming ?

  7. O/T. Mosher is doing a stirling job at WUWT right now, smacking down denial / conspiratorial comments on Tisdale's land surface temp comparisons.

    1. Smacking down may be too harsh. He's actually being patient and detailed.

    2. Mosher's like a Sour Patch Kid.

      The trouble is that his original sourness in his support for the Denalati is in no way countered by his offer of bandaid relief as it is currently manifested at WUWT, no matter how patient and detailed.

      Still, first steps...

    3. I called him a prick on HW last week but I'll give him credit for trying to educate the WUWTers. Last I looked Tisdale had the good sense not to engage.

    4. Mosher may be a prick (I don't know him personally), but he's an informative one. And from what he says, he's done his homework.

      I suspect however that most WUWTers won't understand what he's saying, and those that do are wearing headphones.

  8. Tisdale didn't come back at me a while back either - just said something like "you're from the UKMO - that figures"

    I'd posted up Gavin's updated CMIP5 chart with latest obs and forcings as well as some other criticisms such as 5 yr smoothing to hide the recent up-tick.

    I've decided to attack more often, coz they are on the run though of course the usual delusionists will always double-up.

    Even Stealey was fairly moderate to me today after I'd de-constructed a rant by some GOP tea-partyist - the usual "not a shred of evidence" bollocks mind.

  9. Re: replication. Ecologist Dr. David Schindler jokes that one of his most well-publicized studies (that phosphates are responsible for algae blooms) had a sample size of 1.

    For those not familiar with his famous experiment he used a lake that had a similar configuration to a weight lifter's dumbbell, put a barrier across the narrow portion of the lake to keep the two sides separate, and put phosphate into one side. The resulting algae bloom in just that one side was photographed from air; the photograph made it into magazines, newspapers and tv, and eventually led to the removal of phosphates from detergents.


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