Scientific models predict continued decline in Washington Post circulation if they keep publishing dreadful climate articles

Washington Post circulation

Okay, the Washington Post‘s circulation will probably keep declining even in the unlikely event their coverage of global warming improves.  But my headline is at least as scientific as the WP‘s latest climate piece “Scientists’ use of computer models to predict climate change is under attack.”

Memo to WashPost:  Scientists use of computer models to predict/project climate change has been under attack for a long, long time by the anti-scientific disinformers.  That ain’t news.  The real news, which you almost completely ignore, is:

  1. The models have made accurate projections (see NASA:  “We conclude that global temperature continued to rise rapidly in the past decade” and “that there has been no reduction in the global warming trend of 0.15-0.20°C/decade that began in the late 1970s“).
  2. When the models have gone awry, it is primarily in underestimating how fast the climate would change.
  3. Staying anywhere near our current emissions path — i.e. listening to the disinformers and doing nothing significant to restrict emissions — removes most uncertainty about the future climate impacts and leads with high probability to human misery on a scale never seen before.

But what do you expect from an article that begins this way:

The Washington Nationals will win 74 games this year. The Democrats will lose five Senate seats in November. The high Tuesday will be 86 degrees, but it will feel like 84.

And, depending on how much greenhouse gas emissions increase, the world’s average temperature will rise between 2 and 11.5 degrees by 2100.

The computer models used to predict climate change are far more sophisticated than the ones that forecast the weather, elections or sporting results.

Uhh, it’s not really that the climate models are more sophisticated.  It’s that the climate is considerably easier to forecast than any of those other three.

Climate has always been easier to predict than the weather:  We know with incredibly high certainty that July of this year (or any year) will be hotter than January of this year (or any year) — and we know with high certainty the 2020s will be hotter than the 2000s — but it is basically a coin toss as to whether July 15, 2010 will be hotter than July 15, 2009.  As NASA notes, “When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather.”  Long-term averages simply don’t change as rapidly as the weather and are inherently easier to project.

The analogies to sporting events and elections are simply inane.  They involve human behavior and thus aren’t model-able with the same basic laws of physics.  They are apparently included in the article simply to amuse and confuse.

The piece is a long litany of mostly irrelevant information and disinformer talking points:

Climate scientists admit that some models overestimated how much the Earth would warm in the past decade. But they say this might just be natural variation in weather, not a disproof of their methods.

Uhh, “some models”?  So some unnamed models may not have gotten it right.  Or maybe it was just that some of the groups doing the measuring lowballed actually warming.  The UK’s Met Office — which many scientists have said has underestimated recent warming — posted an analysis in December which concluded, “The global temperature rise calculated by the Met Office’s HadCRUT record is at the lower end of likely warming.”

In fact, NASA’s analysis makes clear that warming continues just as the models had projected.  Indeed, the WashPost buries at the end this central point, which by itself renders the entire article mostly moot:

Put in the conditions on Earth more than 20,000 years ago: they produce an Ice Age, NASA’s Schmidt said. Put in the conditions from 1991, when a volcanic eruption filled the earth’s atmosphere with a sun-shade of dust. The models produce cooling temperatures and shifts in wind patterns, Schmidt said, just like the real world did.

If the models are as flawed as critics say, Schmidt said, “You have to ask yourself, ‘How come they work?’ “

The models were actually used to accurately predict the cooling from the Pinatubo eruption.

The Washington Post entirely misses the even more important point that the models used for the 2007 IPCC report consistently underestimated recent climate changes (and emissions trends):

Needless to say, the Post never talks about the paleoclimate record, which provides both support for the climate models — and more evidence that they lowball likely future impacts (see Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher “” “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm”).

The models’ biggest flaws concern their ignoring most major amplifying carbon-cycle feedbacks (see “An illustrated guide to the latest climate science“).  But rather than explaining even once that the necessarily imperfect models almost certainly underestimate future impacts, the Post chooses to repeat without explanation this misleading point:

All the major climate models seem to show that greenhouse gases are causing warming, climate scientists say, although they don’t agree about how much. A 2007 United Nations report cited a range of estimates from 2 to 11.5 degrees over the next century.

Now this appears to willfully conflate two very different issues.  It seems to imply that the climate model don’t agree on how much warming we’ll see — by a factor of nearly 6!  But in fact much of that disparity is due to the use of very different scenarios of how much emissions will grow this century.

As I’ve noted many times, the IPCC wastes a huge amount of time and effort modeling countless low emissions scenarios that have no basis in reality.  Now if you take a low climate sensitivity (warming caused by a doubling of CO2 concentrations) and multiply it by a low emissions scenario, you get a low total warming.  The anti-science crowd then gloms onto that low number as evidence global warming won’t have serious consequences.  (And the media gloms onto that number and compares it to the high emissions, high sensitivity case  as evidence the IPCC modelers “don’t agree” by a wide amount.)

But the IPCC has never clearly explained that all of the low emissions scenarios presuppose we ignore the anti-science crowd’s plea to do nothing and instead take very strong action to reduce emissions.

On the other hand, the IPCC has explained it is far more likely that the climate sensitivity is quite high than it is quite low — but very few people in the media follow the science closely enough to realize that.

And so what the scientific literature and climate models tells us today with increasingly certainty is that if we take no serious action, catastrophic change might best be considered business as usual = highly likely (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F and Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“).

But the media and opinionmakers and most economists have been led to believe those scenarios are the extreme worst case and very unlikely, when in fact they are simply what is projected to happen if we keep doing nothing.

The true plausible worst case — which combine keeping on our current high level of emissions trend with what a more accurate attempt to model carbon cycle feedbacks — is far, far worse:  UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

But you won’t learn any of that crucial information from the Washington Post.  So why not join hundreds of thousands of others and stop reading it entirely!

UPDATE:  MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Climate Change had a very useful figure based on its 2009 peer-reviewed paper, which makes the point with more probabilistic detail:


Here is how MIT describes what it calls the “Greenhouse Gamble” in “an attempt to better convey the uncertainty in climate change prediction”:

Depicted as a roulette wheel, the image portrays the MIT Program’s estimations of climate change probability, or the likelihood of potential (global average surface) temperature change over the next hundred years, under different possible scenarios.Estimates of the risks of climate change are based on the best available information at the time the estimates are made, and thus as continued observations are made and scientific investigation proceeds the likelihood estimates that underlie these wheels must be updated.

Based on new research we provide updated estimates of the likelihood of different amount of global warming over the century under reference case, in which it is assumed “no policy” action is taken to try to curb the global emissions of greenhouse gases, and a “policy case” that limits cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases over the century to 4.2 trillion metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) measured in CO2-equivalent.

The notion is that as humans allow global emissions of greenhouse gases to continue to increase, the roulette wheel continues to spin. We can control emissions “” the policy case represents one choice for cumulative allowed emissions over the century “” and by doing so we can limit risk. Uncertainties in the Earth system response to increasing emissions are given by nature; we can learn more about these responses but we can not directly control them. The results show much higher likelihood of higher temperature increases than for the previous wheels.

On our current emissions path, MIT using the “best available information,” MIT projects a 9% chance of an incomprehensibly catastrophic warming of 7°C by century’s end, but less than a 1% chance of under 3°C warming.  As one MIT professor put it:

“The take home message from the new greenhouse gamble wheels is that if we do little or nothing about lowering greenhouse gas emissions that the dangers are much greater than we thought three or four years ago,” said Ronald G. Prinn, professor of atmospheric chemistry at MIT. “It is making the impetus for serious policy much more urgent than we previously thought.”

The time to act was quite some time ago, but now is far better than later!


31 Responses to Scientific models predict continued decline in Washington Post circulation if they keep publishing dreadful climate articles

  1. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe wrote: “The analogies to sporting events and elections are simply inane … They are apparently included simply to amuse and confuse.”

    They are included because the editors of the Washington Post don’t merely want to keep their readers ignorant by feeding them disinformation — they want to make their readers stupid by feeding them “inane” sophistry designed to impair their ability to think clearly, and to keep their readers apathetic by suggesting that the whole issue is “amusing”.

    The Post wrote: “All the major climate models seem to show that greenhouse gases are causing warming …”

    I don’t think you pointed out that this is rubbish. We don’t need models “to show that greenhouse gases are causing warming” (let alone “seem to show”). We can empirically observe that greenhouse gases are causing warming in the real world. No need for models there. Where the models come in is for projecting how much more warming is likely to occur based on various scenarios of continuing emissions, feedbacks, etc.

  2. That article is worse than wrong. A wrong answer, built on solid analysis with one mistake, can be corrected. A pile of mixed waste garbage, like this article, just stinks.

    If the author wants to write about the controversy between the different sides of the debate he should give the reader the background on who the parties are, who’s funding them and what they have to gain. The Koch family money is hard at work creating confusion.

    If he wants to write about the science, he shouldn’t write about irrelevant sports analogies that aren’t based on fundamental physics, as climate models are.

    The sad truth is that the staffs of politicians read this Post crap. I wish this garbage wasn’t fouling the discussion in DC, but it is.

  3. substanti8 says:

    A better sports analogy for the Post might be this:

    Recent research on baseball shows that the historical winning percentage of a team is largely determined by the size of its market – the potential pool of ticket revenue.

    The three teams with the best average are the Yankees (.568), the Giants (.538), and the Dodgers (.524) – which are all originally from New York.

    Ralph Finkelstein, the lead author concluded, “We found that potential revenue is a primary driver of the sports franchise system.”

    But “sporting skeptics” point to a series of stolen e-mails from George Steinbrenner as the smoking gun for their charge – that the entire sport of baseball is a hoax being perpetrated by umpires and the Rockefellers.

  4. Douglas says:

    Poor WaPo, hoping to become the thinking man’s FOX News — they don’t realize their current business model is based on an oxymoron.

  5. PSU Grad says:

    In my neck of the woods, 32 of the past 36 days have had above normal temperatures, some of them well above normal. The past six days have seen average temperatures 10 or more degrees F above normal. Yet I hear nothing from the deniers who wailed so loudly during the week long cold snap last January. So far as I know, Dr. Romm has not been invited on Neil Cavuto’s show to discuss these temperature anomalies. I can’t figure out why not, but I do know that “it’s really warm out there”.

  6. Dan says:

    I am a climate scientist, and although you are correct that the WP article makes many misleading analogies, you claim far too much certainty in the models. Climate models are not used to make predictions, they are used to make projections, two terms that are fundamentally different. Predictions imply forecasting specific changes that can be verified in reality once that time approaches; model projections examine the impact of a single, idealized forcing–changes in greenhouse gas concentrations–on the climate system (the feedbacks of which have significant uncertainty).

    Projections cannot be directly verified because the real world has many other forcings as well, and it is conceivable that other forcings, either natural or anthropogenic, may offset the effects of the greenhouse gas forcing. It is impossible to predict these forcings (e.g. volcanoes), which means it is misleading to state “The models have made accurate predictions”, since it is entirely possible that they “predict” some quantity correctly but for the wrong reasons.

    I urge you not to expend so much effort trying to convince the public that these models have predictive capacity, as this will set up a future scenario where the models are ridiculed for incorrect predictions when that was never their intended purpose in the first place. Instead, the models are used to explore and evaluate how little we know about how the climate will respond to increasing greenhouse gases (e.g. the huge range of future temperatures given by the IPCC)–and why this uncertainty in how the climate may respond is more than enough to motivate action without the need to overstate the scientific case.


    [JR: You have a great thesis advisor, Dan. But I think you miss the point of my piece. Doing nothing eliminates much of the uncertainty and leaves very little doubt that we risk unimaginable catastrophe.

    I did let the WP’s use of the word “predict” influence my word-choice. I agree that “project” is a better word, but I must say that I suspect the public draws precious little distinction between a model’s predictions and its projections.

    The models can and were used to predict the temperature impact from Pinatubo, and I really don’t see what’s wrong with the use of the word predict there, since it was a fairly constrained situation.

    If the models had no predictive capability, then they wouldn’t be of much use in convincing anybody of anything. The fact that they consistently underestimate key variables is very worrisome.

    But at the risk of making a long post longer, I have updated it with MIT’s well articulated statement of the “Greenhouse Gamble.”]

  7. Andy Olsen says:

    It is sad to see a once-great newspaper like the Washington Post go down the tubes, chasing the news media model of the Washington Times and Fox News.

    In a related story they continue to bias to please the right wing:
    Liberals not invited to Washington Post Q&A sessions

    It’s a pretty stunning bias and imbalance.

  8. John Atkeison says:

    Thanks for another thoughtful contribution, appropriately seasoned with outrage.

    I’ve posted it to facebook, and I hope others circulate it as well!

  9. SecularAnimist says:

    Dan wrote: “… the huge range of future temperatures given by the IPCC …”

    The “huge range” of temperature increases “given by the IPCC” reflect the “huge range” of possible GHG emissions scenarios contemplated by the IPCC — which is to say, they reflect how little we know about whether anthropogenic emissions will rapidly decline, or level off, or continue to increase — NOT “how little we know about how the climate will respond to increasing greenhouse gases”.

    OF COURSE the models cannot “predict” how much the Earth will warm over the next century — because the models cannot predict how human beings will behave, i.e. whether we will cease or increase our GHG emissions.

    You say you are a “climate scientist”. So you should know that.

    And in fact, our present trajectory of increasing GHG emissions is at or above the highest-emissions scenarios examined by the IPCC.

  10. mike roddy says:

    Dan, what you said makes perfect sense, and thanks for the clarification. Unfortunately, the mantra of “we really don’t know” (referring to the degree of scientific certainty over specific future climate predictions) is exploited by those who, without evidence, claim to know the opposite.

    Sure it’s a messy and sometimes degrading slugfest. But probability bands showing medium bad to catastrophic futures should be presented forcefully, not with codicils, or the public interprets your messages as lacking conviction. I know scientists don’t like having to even think about public perception of their work, but this is the world we live in- and may not be the world we live in 50 years from now if scientists don’t move forcefully to communicate the consequences of their knowledge.

    I would hope that being subject to ridicule by fossil fuel companies and loony bloggers would motivate you, but for many of you the outcome seems to be withdrawal.

  11. caerbannog says:

    Looks like an upside-down hockey-stick!

  12. Russ H says:

    I can the Editor of the Washington post’s email to his sales manager right now.

    “Hi, you are sacked if you don’t improve sales or hide the decline!”

  13. Paul K2 says:

    The Washington Post article is truly awful… Why is he comparing the climate models to computer models for sporting events? The best comparison for climate models would be models for predicting planetary behavior like ozone layer, or predicting climatic regions on Earth based on ocean currents and jet stream patterns etc.

    If you want to compare to similar models that might prevent catastrophe, then why not pick models based on equations derived and tested from scientific observations? For example, how about the models used to build bridges, or process simulation models used to build oil refineries or chemical plants? As an engineer, I can tell you that would be exceedingly difficult to build these facilities without simulation models.

    A good simulation model run on the World Trade Center towers would have predicted (based on the massive amount of jet fuel and heat of combustion), that the central support structural steel would lose its strength and the towers would collapse when struck by a commercial airliner laden with jet fuel. It was sickening to look at the burning towers that day, and in your (engineering) gut, know that the towers were going to fall, and there was nothing you could do… it was too late. Why couldn’t the reporter find the designer of the WTC and ask him if a simulation study could have predicted the collapse?

    Another good model would have predicted the failure of the O-rings on the space shuttle Challenger. The Morton Thiokol engineers who participated in the midnight meeting before the launch, who tried in vain to stop NASA from launching the next morning, because of freezing temperatures at the Cape, they know the value of good simulation models. The NASA administrator who asked “My god Thiokol, how long do you want us to wait? June??” (because he was under pressure to launch that day to coincide with Reagan’s presidential address) didn’t understand the importance of simulation models.

    The Thiokol engineers knew immediately when the Challenger blew up, what likely caused the accident. They sat in a room, watched the launch they had tried so hard to abort, and saw the explosion… and were stunned. No one said a word, because they all knew what likely caused the explosion. Couldn’t the reporter find these engineers, and ask them about the importance of good engineering model analysis?

    Or how about a good simulation model on the storm surge coming up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MR GO) and with the surge directly focussed to strike the wall on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans? New Orleans residents knew about some of the problems; hence the bumper sticker “MR GO must Go!”. And after the fact, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers apologized for the worst engineering failures in the history of the Corps. Why not ask him about the importance of using a good simulation model?

    I guess, we can do it the other way; just take the time honored (Republican?) approach… Wait until it blows up, or burns down, or collapses… then do the failure analysis. Of course, with AGW, by the time we see the failure with our own eyes, the damage will be extensive.

  14. Leif says:

    PaulK2; Good one and thank you for the efforts. Others above and Joe, thank you as well.

  15. Bruce says:

    Gee I guess The Post must be doing better than I realized if they can afford to do a puff-piece on climate change. Maybe I canceled my subscription too soon.

    And what about the author’s name – Fahrenthold? Temperature holding? Sounds phony to me. ;-)

  16. Dan says:

    Joe: Thanks, I appreciate the update. True, the case of Pinatubo is probably as close a case as I would feel comfortable applying the word “prediction”, although this is really a short-time scale effect (~1-2 years) with a relatively simple forcing, which does not automatically translate to predictive power over long time-scales and different forcings (but nonetheless, yes it is a small “success”). I also agree that the public may not distinguish between “predict” and “project”, but that is a failure of communication from the climate science community, and I worry that down the road this may come back to bite us.

    [JR: The difficulty in any blog post is that if I don’t make them really long, then people always point out how I have shortchanged the entire analysis. But I can’t really post everything in every post.

    I suspect that the only thing that is going to come back to bite us down the road is our failure to spare countless future generations untold misery. Come the 2020s, when everybody realizes what’s happened and what’s going to happen and how hard it will be to stop, there will be much anger as to why they weren’t warned more clearly. By the 2030s, I suspect the high-end projections will be largely confirmed, but by then it will be far too late.]

    SecularAlarmist: You’re right that the IPCC range reflects the range of scenarios, but you can also examine the complete range of projections on a model-by-model basis, and the range is very large because climate sensitivities across models vary widely (again a reason for concern, not inaction). Moreover the fact that models cannot predict the future is not only dependent upon human activity but also internal variability and other natural forcings such as volcanoes. Thus it is unwise to claim significant predictive capacity in climate models: if you claim such certainty and in 20 years your predictions turn out wrong–yet you get the physics of greenhouse warming right–then the public will really turn on the climate science community to a degree much greater than what we’re seeing today.

  17. Dan says:

    MikeRoddy: I agree that the climate science community needs to improve its capacity to respond, such as with the email hacking episode which was quite a failure of public relations. But I also believe very strongly in scientific credibility and the importance of avoiding overstating the case for climate change, which means that “probability bands showing medium bad to catastrophic futures should be presented forcefully” is a delicate balancing act. The IPCC is an excellent example: I think they’ve done a tremendous job creating a unified voice (among scientists who disagree on many of the specifics) explaining the science and the risks that the science dictates.

    Similarly, though, the recent issues with improperly reviewed statements and data in the IPCC highlight how critical it is to avoid overstatement because of the nature of the external politics that wants to use/abuse the science for their ends. For scientific matters of great policy significance, there will be people scrutinizing every detail–in many cases, for good reason–and thus you must adhere to very strict professional standards. This is particularly important in the context of a long-term problem like climate change that will require the support of the public for many decades.

  18. Bèr says:

    I like to use an analogy used by a Dutch journalist, Joris Luyendijk.

    “If you go to the doctor and he tells you that you have got cancer, do you say this is untrue if he has misspelled your name. Will you state that all his diagnosis are overturned and every patient should be taken off medicine. Will you not go for therapy?”

    I think it makes clear the issue of climate change in a setting more understandable for people not daily engaged in the climate debate. Free for use.

  19. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    The scientists are using physics! And math! They’ve got to be stopped!

    Or the press has been taken over by idiots.

  20. Leif says:

    UCS, (Union Of Concerned Scientists), on Colbert Report tonight: Defending climate science.

  21. Chris Winter says:

    Note this one paragraph stuck in the middle of the article:

    Scientists say they don’t need models to know that the world is warming: There is plenty of real-world evidence, gathered since the mid-1800s, to suggest that. “There’s no climate model in that conclusion,” said Christopher Field, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in California.

    Apparently the WP reporter finds that real-world evidence just as irrelevant as the fact that climate models have been shown to match what really happened fairly closely.

    [JR: Like magic!]

  22. Richard Brenne says:

    Why isn’t there emphasis on the fact that climate models are not trying to predict any particular weather event, but the averages of things like global temperatures increasing, which is much easier to do.

    As has been said before, actuaries don’t know when any particular individual will die, but what the average life expectancy for their group (age, gender, nationality, smoker or non-smoker, etc) is.

    In the most simplistic terms you can’t expect to accurately predict how many games the Nationals (although I’d predict less than they lose) will win, but you can predict that the Major League Baseball average will be 81 wins. As Substanti8 (#3) substani8s, you can also predict that big-market and thus richer teams and teams loaded with all-stars will do better than small-market, poorer and teams with less all-stars, especially when averaged over enough time.

    You can’t predict how many seats each party will gain or lose but that there will be 100 Senate seats. You can also predict that the party opposite the president’s will usually pick up seats in the first midterm election of his term and other things like that.

    Predicting the entire 65-team NCAA bracket with accuracy is impossible or even Butler’s excellence would be unlikely, but predicting that one of the four #1 seeds like Duke has about a 50% chance of winning the NCAA Championship since that is the history is reasonable. (It’s also a solid prediction that Duke would do better than Butler when they spend more on each player than Butler spends on its entire team. Butler was essentially the JV team with almost no one Duke would even bother recruiting, so while they didn’t make that one last basket, Butler showed more heart, character and better coaching by a long shot, in my not-so-humble and off-topic opinion [IMNSHAOTO].)

    When you understand that you’re talking about averages and likelihoods increasing (heat records, heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation and wind events of all kinds, etc) or decreasing (cold records, cold snaps, predictable precipitation patterns agriculture favors, etc), climate models are very useful, and more than useful enough to act to curb fossil fuel emissions and related growth of all kinds.

  23. Richard Brenne says:

    Dan (#6, #16. #17): It’s nice to have a climate scientist weigh in (and who is your advisor?). I don’t disagree with anything you say, and those of us who communicate climate change appreciate the precision and use projection rather than prediction. While we all want climate science to continue to improve, the science is being done sufficiently.

    What is grossly insufficient is the communication of climate change, and this is where we all need to pitch in and where I feel Joe Romm is doing a better job than anyone on Earth at this. His understanding of the science together with his using the entire toolkit of clear explanations, candor, honest advocacy, humor and even sarcasm at times is all needed. If everyone communicated like scientists typically do the public would know infinitely less about climate change than they do.

    Astro-physicists and astronomers like Neil de Grasse Tyson (who I’ve spoken to about this) communicate the dangers of asteroid impacts, gamma ray bursts and supernova explosions and have often positioned those in their talks and in shows on the Discovery, National Geographic and History Channels as if they’re greater dangers than the ones we’re creating, including climate change, ocean acidification, species loss, resource depletion, etc – all products of overpopulation and overconsumption that is clearly unsustainable.

    To me this is like driving while very drunk, peering up through the windshield fearing a meteor is about to hit the car.

    Just do the math about the relative risks of these various things, and climate change should get thousands of times the communication and attention these much smaller risks get. So assigning risks from climate change scenarios in percentages of probability and then communicating those to the public is important and isn’t done forcefully enough for the public to really get it. If we were all as strong in our communication as Joe Romm, I think they would.

    I love Real Climate for its scientific precision but that precision and scientific, watered-down language could make most untrained people think that there’s no real problem, or that it’s not that urgent.

    While Joe’s constantly adjusting his communications, he’s the one doing the best job of communicating the science of climate change and the urgency we need in addressing it. If he occasionally reigns some of his language in for being a little too strident, that’s far better than the conservatism and timidity most scientists other than people like Hansen, Schmidt, Mann and Trenberth show.

    Most importantly, if we don’t act to reduce fossil fuel emissions and other kinds of harmful growth it seems likely that within the next century billions will die much sooner than the life expectancy that would be predicted – or projected – for them now.

    Whether that number is 4.3 billion or 7.8 billion or any other number is of course unknowable. What is known is that the direction we’re headed with fossil fuel burning and all areas of related growth needs to be reversed, or sure as hell nature will reverse it for us in ways that are utterly unimaginable.

    Models are one important tool in the immense toolkit of our understanding. They are useful in combination with all the other tools and are constantly and rapidly improving.

    What we most need is to consider all the evidence before us, and act.

  24. PurpleOzone says:

    The Washington Post used to be a great newspaper. It’s hardly worth reading anymore. Sad

  25. john atcheson says:

    #6 Dan —

    The problem with the Post’s article and particularly with their headline goes way beyond a semantic digression about “project” vs, “predict.”

    It was misleading at a much more fundamental level.

    Suppose you saw the following headline:

    “Calculations suggesting Sun-centered solar system under attack.”

    Would you focus on the term “suggesting?” or “Calculations?”

    Of course not — you’d focus on the absurdity of the headline and rightly so.

    Besides, Joe was using “predict” in reference to the Post’s circulation, not climate models.

    Let’s keep our eyes on the prize here, guy.

    What’s important and egregious is the continued pathetic reporting of the climate change issue.

  26. David B. Benson says:

    Ok, once more, here is a prediction for the global temperature average of the 2010s:
    Carefully note this is a prediction, not a projection. And its not even much of climate model, being intentionally as simple as the known physics allows.

    And do note that the prediction is for lots warmer…

  27. John Egan says:

    Eye of the Gyre –

    The Beaufort Gyre is back – clearly showing up in multiyear ice maps recently released by NSIDC,

    2009 –

    2010 –

    A quick look at the Beaufort Gyre shows multiyear ice stretching east of 180. If 2007 was an anomaly rather than a “death spiral” then a four-year cycle of the Beaufort Gyre should restore ice in the region by 2011. Multiyear ice already encompasses 3/4s of the gyre. If multiyear ice closes the gyre, then the potential for a dramatic increase in the September 2011 Arctic sea ice minimum is likely.


    But nothing will help the Washington Post’s circulation.
    (Which I regret, but must acknowledge that newspapers are dinosaurs.)
    Unlike Arctic sea ice, the print media IS in a death spiral.

  28. Doug Bostrom says:

    Speaking of dubious journalism, here’s George “Resign or Be Fired” Monbiot still refusing to defend his cherished FOI against abuse by McIntyre & his troop of clowns:

    No, it’s all the scientist’s fault. They’re in the same general grouping as the Catholic Church, in George’s scope anyway:

    We all detest closed worlds: the Vatican and its dismissal of the paedophilia scandals as “idle chatter”; the Palace of Westminster, whose members couldn’t understand the public outrage about their expenses; the police forces that refuse to discipline errant officers.

    That’s really pretty offensive, when you think about it for a moment. Paedophilia?

    See how tightly Monbiot has screwed in his blinkers:

    None of it made sense: the intolerant dismissal of requests for information, the utter failure to engage when the hacked emails were made public, the refusal by other scientists to accept that anything was wrong.

    I’m sorry, Monbiot’s confirmed as an ass, there’s no kinder way to put it. If not he’s simply mendacious.

  29. _Flin_ says:

    Ahhh, precious precision. Of course July is colder than January. In South Africa.

  30. PurpleOzone says:

    I emailed a crisp and cutting Letter to the Editor to WaPo. Unlikely to get published.
    I spoke to the well-established state of climate modeling and tried to explain it in a couple of sentences. (It’s hard to do without the use of sports metaphors!)
    I questioned who was making the “attacks” and pointed out the one critic cited used the discredited, idea climate scientists are ignorant of the sun. Most cited by deniers.
    And asked why they don’t have an article about deniers’ funders.

    This article was so pathetic — was that an accident? The state of science journalism is awful. There used to be reliable, interesting articles written on many subjects. Nothing but gibberish and garbage out there now.

  31. preeem says:


    I just wanted to point out that a foreign paper is really coming out of this with high marks in my opinion. Le Monde in France has been systematically responding with publication of scientists’ argumentation to sensational books published by Claude Allègre and Vincent Courtillot. In today’s web edition, we see a report of 600 French scientists addressing their minister complaints about the treatment they are being given, and publishing attached pdf documents with their take on the books refuting their and their colleagues’ work.
    I believe this is the kind of media coverage that should be duly noted.