Re: [asa] agw: Skeptics vs Believers

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Mon Dec 07 2009 - 03:59:36 EST

I'd like to take a stab at this, since I'm one of those skeptics who "hasn't engaged with the data." However, I am "convinced of AGW," I'm just not convinced it's a serious problem; in other words, I have little confidence in the model predictions I've seen or read.

My lack of engagement with the data is deliberate. As a former scientist I know I can't make a contribution in this field unless I drop everything else and become a climate scientist. For personal reasons that's out of the question. So the most I can do by engaging with the data is lead some cheers if I think the data are showing what the scientists claim or criticize if I think they're making a mistake. Since I'm not a climate scientist, such actions would be coming from someone who has insufficient familiarity with the field, and no intelligent person should pay attention. Frankly, while I appreciate posts that contain scientific results on the subject--some of which have been from you, I assign very little weight to any approving comments or opinions about the significance of the data, because I know the commenter is not a climate scientist and hence is unlikely to see the data in full context. Sorry, just being honest, that's the way I look at it.

Consequently the way I've chosen to engage this very serious subject is by addressing it in contexts that I'm familiar with, and this addressing is of necessity in generalities. This addressing also is not to people as scientists but, perhaps, to scientists as people. In other words, I know I'm not going to make a scientific contribution, but maybe I'll be able to put a helpful idea into someone's head who's also thinking seriously about the subject.

I'm not an expert geoscience modeler, but I've had some experience with modeling and considerably more experience observing others model and compare their modeling results with real data. Geoscience modelers often can predict the past very well. This isn't because their models are necessarily superior, it has a lot to do with having adjustable parameters. Oil industry geoscientists probably have more experience comparing their modeling results to real data than any other geoscientists, because after they do the modeling, their company often drills a hole that allows them to get real data to compare with. That is, they can check their predictions of the future, not just their predictions of the past; and they can do it accurately and frequently. Often they make good predictions, but often there are significant surprises.

Surprises are fewer if the unknown area being modeled is close in every respect to the data area used for designing the model.

No Earth model is close to being perfect. The question is, where are its flaws? How serious are they? The answer is, no one knows. If they knew, they would make corrections. I suspect that, if and when we see significant GW, the current models will not work well and new models will need to be invented from time to time as GW progresses. The models, while based on solid physical principles, are themselves hardly unassailable.

I've read recently in several different places that climate modeling has not predicted recent global temperature behavior (i.e., the past 11 years). If models are valid, they should be able to predict phenomena close to the regions in which and for which they were designed. If what I've read is true, it's disconcerting that the models can't predict such temperature behavior at times close to when the model was designed. If true, this forces me to dismiss completely any predictions of such models that are farther removed in time. To do otherwise would be like believing an oil company geophysical model should make better predictions in a distant basin when it failed in the basin where it was designed.

Before anyone makes any large economic commitment on account of any AGW belief, it would be really helpful to have models that have proved they can predict the future accurately. Without such proof such commitment would be foolish.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Randy Isaac<>
  Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 4:22 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] agw: Skeptics vs Believers

  That is a great site. Thank you.

  It also seems noteworthy that on this list, those who are not convinced of
  AGW have not yet engaged with the data. They either haven't provided any
  reasons for their view, or have offered subjective perspectives such as not
  liking the attitude of AGW advocates or fearing that there might be
  connections with New Age philosophies, or simply not trusting the scientists
  involved. Many simply persist in expressing their doubts but fail to respond
  to any data that are presented. I think it is important that the discussion
  focus on the basic scientific methodology. I like having people on both
  sides of the issue on this list. That is important for an effective dialog.
  But let's see the data! Or hear some substantive arguments. Attitudes and
  fears of New Age aren't in that category, important though they may be.


> I enjoyed the below site - found it useful for succinctly showing the
> basic pro and con positions.

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Received on Mon Dec 7 04:00:11 2009

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