Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Pattern of Climate Change Skepticism Runs Amok, and Is Self Reinforcing on Popular Blogs and Ideological News Related Sites

The comment below is a summary late in a long series, in response to this posted thread by Judith Curry. Curry is a climate change "skeptic" who is well known because she is one of the very few with some semi related academic credentials, and whose blog is wildly popular.

Climate change advocates seem to rarely go to Curry's site (and even less to site's that are far more contemptuous) and bother to comment there, because of a belief that it does no good. But this only helps such popular but heavily skewed sites such as Curry's become even more self reinforcing echo chambers, and doesn't help introduce other fellow people to more information.

Most skeptics won't change their mind, but some people do and can learn. And given an out can start to see things differently over time, particularly when given an out, and not simply castigated for being a skeptic and called a "liar" or "greedy bastard" or not entitled to their view, however erroneous they might be. (Or one might think them to be.)

But many also don't go because it is extremely unpleasant.  On a site like Watt's Up With That, for instance, almost any one making valid points that go against the in "knowledge" that climate change is all but a hoax, will almost always get all sorts of nasty comments in response, nearly everything written picked apart and then often wildly misrepresented out of context later (often over and over), and be subjected to a great number of insults.

It is also easier for that to happen since almost no one goes to these sites except those that self select to have their views reinforced. Therein forgetting that it's an echo chamber. Or from the perspective of many visitors, perhaps not caring since it's among the few places that don't represent the "ignorant misled hordes being duped by the money grubbing climate scientists and people that want to make money off of climate change." (As opposed to fossil fuels or excessive reliance upon them, and notwithstanding the idea that if the call is for investment in and change - another thing many climate change skeptics seem to greatly fear - over to better practices, technologies and uses, it will involve an investment and expenditure and return just like any other part of GDP.)


Here is where this particular section of the thread starts, with this comment.

It's in response to, and quotes from, a comment suggesting that because there are carbon sinks (forests, oceans, etc) and because enormous amounts of carbon are emitted naturally (ignoring the relevant fact that carbon is an enormous cycle and what matters is the balance of that cycle and sudden additions to that balance).....

.....our observed changes in atmospheric carbon aren't so much due to the fact that man has suddenly taken tens of millions of years worth of carbon that was slowly sequestered from the air through decaying plant matter carbon that didn't emit back into the atmosphere and slowly built up over time (forming fossil fuels) and is releasing them back into the atmosphere in what is essentially a geologic instant (nor lessening sinks by chopping down forests, starting w the middle ages).....

..... - but because, well, carbon has just sort of naturally gone way up, beyond the levels of the past millions of years; and suddenly skyrocketed upward beyond the known boundaries of nearly the past million years, somewhat on its own.

But in fairness it should be noted that the idea of space aliens coming down between 2 and 5 a.m. PST every evening and adding a little extra carbon to the atmosphere, is left out as another plausible explanation.

It's not so much that we shouldn't always be open to other explanations for everything and anything: It's that the basic logic - that natural emissions are enormous so the "smaller" additions of mankind don't matter - mischaracterizes the basic relevance of sudden exogenous additions to an otherwise essentially closed system; and the more basic fact that what matters is that it's a biological cycle, not a big pit (or hole in the sky ) that we and or mother nature toss things into, and that nothing comes out of.

So ultimately, after many comments (again, you can see this part of the thread, and read up to it, or the original post by Curry and the entire thread), this: (Also directly linked to here.)

Remember, it's a comment, not a scholarly article, or even a post. This format had no edit function, and no delete, so as with most comments, it's a draft, written in casual format, and w/o much opportunity for review.

Once again the same pattern.   You tried to point out one error, which turned out to be a (big) error by you, as well as quite a manipulation of readers here, and what the article said. Then you repeated it later and ignored all points in response.
So now you go to dismissing with the phrase "based on incorrect understanding." As opposed to your understanding, which is clearly better than the world's leading climate scientists who study this issue. 
Who by the way don't have much issue with my article's relevant points or conclusions.
Although if after 15 responses that have done nothing but perpetuate your entrenched zealotry on this issue as well as manipulate readers, you actually have a valid point that shows a fundamental mistake - and does not wildly mislead readers (again) - please share.
I have no hesitation correcting things, updating, and integrating more information when relevant.
But I don't think you can. What I think, and what I expect, is just as I have said before, is more of the exact same pattern.
It's what you need to do to perpetuate your illusion, reinforced by incredibly insular self reinforcing and highly selective echo chambers such as this site and a few others, that a geologically radical change (defined as on the order of millions of years now) to the long term heat "capturing" property of the atmosphere, won't significantly impact the climate of the planet on which that atmosphere sits.
Which is essentially all my article helps to illustrate, and which you are unwilling to even consider, because like most skeptics you have already reached a "conclusion" and everything is now done, and everything "interpreted"  (or dismissed) to reinforce that conclusion.
So you dismiss it, and ludicrously dismiss as "made up physics" that climate would be significantly impacted by a huge increase in the earth's net energy retention. (Which net energy increase has to happen, and is demonstrably happening - and so far as we know would only be offset by less water vapor, which, along with changing precipitation patterns and a bigger capacity for a warmer atmosphere to hold what water vapor there is in it for  longer periods of time,  would be a bad thing since it would heavily amplify drought - already one of the biggest potential problem areas of this.) 
This pattern of practicing the opposite of science, and using select science, under the guise of "science" to simply support a predetermined conclusion, desire or belief (usually led by non science related ideology, such as excessive macroeconomic or government response fears, or a bias against basic ideas of environmental externalities, fealty to fossil fuels, etc) is what the WUWT site is to a tee. (As well as every single one of your comments.)
And fits in as almost a caricature, with commenters almost frothing at their disdain for climate scientists and all of us "fools" without the "in the know insider" more brilliant science knowledge and understanding that they posses - almost none of it publishable in major vetted science publications, nevertheless, because it is arrived at by wildly cherry picking,  misrepresenting,  misinterpreting, miscontructing, and confusing every little angle of science itself and unknown, with climate change refutation.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Crux of the Climate Change Issue and Misinformation Quandary

A while back, University of Alabama at Huntsville Scientist Roy Spencer, who has a history of the same kind of errors always going in the same direction, managed to get a study published under an implicit theory that "clouds drive climate," rather than also serve as a response to it.

The study was sufficiently flawed that the editor of the science journal involved ("Remote Sensing") took responsibility for its publication, and chose to resign over it; citing the degree and type of the error, which went outside the normal curve of "mistake" in the highly professional and well vetted world of academic journal publishing. He also, however, blamed not only himself, but the scientists involved in the paper, which itself was not only comprised of "fundamental error" and "false claims," but which was written as if the scientific arguments or views with which the authors tried to take issue, did not even exist.

By both trapping earth surface radiated thermal radiation on the one hand, but increasing the earth atmosphere albedo (and thus reflecting more solar radiation directly back into the upper atmosphere and space) on the other, clouds of course play an enormous role in weather.

And while clouds also help shape a large part of climate over time, they form as a result of underlying climatic conditions. Unlike long lived atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, ice sheet and permafrost conditions, incoming solar radiation, and ocean heat concentrations, clouds are extremely ephemeral, and ever changing on an exceedingly short basis.

Thus, the idea that clouds, formed by evaporation and atmospheric water vapor (which serves as a very important but extremely short lived and changing greenhouse gas) don't reflect a response to the fundamentals that drive climate, but serve as a key driver of climate, is far fetched.

Seemingly far fetched arguments are fine - even needed - in science: they check conventional thinking and sometimes lead to great breakthroughs, and often better understanding. But the most critical focus when presenting a potentially far-fetched argument, is of course foremost to assess the arguments against it, and help illustrate where and why they are in error.  Spencer, and his colleague William Braswell, rather astoundingly, simply ignored all the "arguments" that went counter to the rather strange claims they made.

This is not just bad science.  It is, fundamentally, almost anti-science.

There is a lot of pseudo science on the issue of climate change, widely, repeatedly, and passionately promulgated around the world - and in the U.K., the U.S., and Australia in particular - that often terribly misconstrues the issue:

Consider the wildly popular notion of claiming that Climate Change is not real or major, since "antarctic sea ice extent has been growing," despite the far more relevant fact, usually completely ignored, that total polar ice - arctic sea ice, antarctic sea ice, northern polar land ice sheet mass, and southern polar ice sheet mass, has been greatly diminishing; and diminishing at an accelerating rate. (The arctic sea ice extent is also more relevant than the antarctic extent because the arctic is open water, and historically has had a solid ice cover through the summer months - which is starting to change - while the Antarctic is land. And so antarctic sea ice - a little further away from the pole - has largely disappeared traditionally during the summer months. So unlike in the north, a complete disappearance wouldn't comprise nearly as radical of a change. And it is more relevant since the rate of change - diminishment - in the arctic, has been massive in comparison with the rate of change - augmentation - in the antarctic region.)

To pick out one of the four areas of polar ice melt to argue one way, when all four, far more relevantly, illustrate the exact opposite, would be considered remarkable in any other area of scientific inquiry; yet passes for routine, and acceptable, when it comes to Climate Change Naysaying. ("CCN")

While Climate Change Naysayers have falsely turned the issue of ice melt into a refutation of Climate Change, the issue of ice melt is actually the opposite, and very relevant:

Even small changes in ice sheet mass can have large climate consequences.  Additionally, the increase in antarctic ice sea ice extent masks key regional shifts, and is slowly increasing due to major changes in the Southern Annular Mode ("SAM" winds), pushing the new ice northward and allowing new formation, and also likely due to increased glacial melt insulation. More importantly, the rate of loss of arctic sea ice- which in some regard is again a more important indicator since the north pole is mainly open water while the south pole is a continent (Antarctica) is about 10 fold (~1000%) faster than the rate of antarctic increase. And that rate of decline of arctic sea ice itself is profound, and, accelerating.

The massive ice sheets at both ends of the earth stabilize our climate, and have kept us in the moderately temperate to occasionally frigid (i.e, "encroaching glaciation") range of the Ice Age period we are currently in, and have been  in for over a million or more years. (Note that our alteration of the long term greenhouse gas concentrations now extends back at least several million years, to a time period pre-dating the current ice age with its massive ice sheet structures at both ends of the planet.) And these ice sheets are also now melting: And melting at an accelerating rate, at both ends of the earth.

To thus claim that the earth is not warming - as is now routinely done, and which even forms a good portion of Climate Change denialism, "skepticism" and confusion - during a short term geological period of consistently high (and even on a shorter term basis, still very moderately increasing after a very high shorter term increase in the 90s from the decade before) is both preposterous and extraordinarily misleading, as the earth is still accumulating heat - which is what matters - and at an accelerating pace.

Energy going into melting ice sheets will not be reflected in geologically short term ambient air temperatures. Yet we over focus on current air temperature as if this defines Climate Change, when right now, ambient air temperature is the least important aspect of a problem that ultimately reflects the changing (increasing) net energy balance of the earth.

And much of this accumulating energy is going into melting these ice sheets; melting permafrost regions (within which are over a trillion tons of carbon - almost double the amount of total carbon in the atmosphere right now - much of which will be released in the far more atmospheric heat energy absorption and re radiation intensive CH4, or methane, form, and ultimately a positive feedback loop); and, most notably of all, heating the world ocean - and doing so at a geologically massive, and, accelerating, rate.

In fact, according to the World Meteorological Organization's annual 2013 report (emphasis added):
About 93 per cent of the excess heat trapped in the Earth system between 1971 and 2010 was taken up by the ocean
From around 1980 to 2000, the ocean gained about 50 zettajoules [10 to the 21st power] of heat. Between 2000 and 2013, [the ocean gained] about three times that amount
Part of the ignorance on this issue - which is not just lack of knowledge, but incorrect knowledge and conclusion constantly, and often aggressively promulgated to the world and media - is fed mainly by non scientists, or scientists in other fields than those directly connected to climate change, who have either been misled on the issue themselves (further reinforced by a massive number of wildly popular, highly insular, and self reinforcing anti Climate Change websites and even media outlets); or - though often quick to project the argument of "belief" outward onto others - by ideological belief or scientifically irrelevant conflation of the actual science of the issue, with concern and presumption over possible political and economic ramifications and assumptions of it.

And part of it has been fed by a few, if rare, actual climate related practicing scientists, such as in the case of the far too disproportionately influential Roy Spencer, among a few others - such as, for example, John Christy, who, ironically, is also at the very same University of Alabama at Huntsville as Spencer.

Spencer (as well as Christy and the small handful of others), is far too disproportionately influential in part because he is one of the very few actual practicing climate scientists who takes a dim view of the idea that radical long term atmospheric heat energy re absorption will significantly alter future climate; and in large part it is because of the massive use, constant exposure, and promulgation of any possible seemingly credible argument or arguer in support of Climate Change Naysaying.

But Spencer's strange cloud argument was not novel, nor creatively expressive of the flaws in current understanding, nor an improvement upon or even contribution to it; but instead, consisted of hype and base misrepresentation masquerading as science.

Notably, although tens of thousands of such "papers" have been "published" by anti Climate Change organizations and lobbying groups, very few if any have been been published by vetted scientific journals that actually undermine the basic theory of Climate Change itself.

Naturally, Climate Change Naysayers have a theory for this as well - as when one wants or needs to have a belief, self-plausible appearing theories are infinite. Hence it's a "conspiracy," that all of the "Climate Change" refuting "studies don't get published in any of the fully vetted and highly professional and rigorous scientific journals - even though the basic process of science relies upon contention, questioning and constant re-examination, and there is far more interest, and likely even fame, in scientifically (not rhetorically) showing our massive and still ongoing alteration of the long term nature of our atmosphere to not be a big deal future climate wise. So such studies, if valid, or at least reasonable and not based upon basic misconstruction or misinformation, would be welcome, and a big deal.

There is just no solid argument for it because the only thing keeping Climate Change from being so slam dunk clear that it would be more patently obvious to the non scientific, is that it is in the future, it scans a broad range of time, and it covers a broad range of general responses which due to the very nature of climate itself can't realistically be broken down into concise pathways of short term precisely predictable and in advance measurable (until, somewhat, after the fact) change, as opposed to broader and longer time frame scale change.

And of course there is massive desire to believe that we are not affecting the environment, so that we "don't have to" change; don't have to shift what are probably long term counter productive agricultural practices for a whole host of reasons; don't have to have rigorous and open minded economic conversations about just what really defines economic progress and freedom long term, what measures it, and what really contributes to it; and perhaps most of all, don't have to to actively rather than passively switch off of fossil fuels upon which we have grown so "comfortable." (With former President George Bush even going so far to call our reliance upon oil an "addiction" in his 2006 National State of the Union Address) or infringe upon what some see as a basic, inviolate, "God given" right - namely, very cheap fossil fuel energy.

For despite the hype to the contrary, the cherry picking of select data, the constant conflation of the normal process of scientific correction, adjustment and learning with refutation of Climate Change itself, and the constant assertion that a failure to be able to precisely predict that actual short term geological path of Climate Change itself means that the issue of major climatic shifts is therefore not valid, the basic Climate Change theory - contrary to what is often so loquaciously if misleading expressed - is fairly straightforward, if imprecise:

Greenhouse gases absorb and re radiate mid to long wave thermal radiation (surface heat emission, whereas incoming, and immediately re reflected solar radiation, is mainly in short wave form), that would otherwise continue to radiate upward into the upper atmosphere and space. And a radical shift in their concentrations to levels not seen on earth in millions of years will likely be masked for quite some time upon a "relatively" stable climate system; but, as the underlying conditions of that stability - earth albedo, ocean energy, ice sheet presence, permafrost coverage, and the ongoing increased (and still massively increasing) thermal absorption and re radiation itself, in conjunction with the increasingly changed underlying conditions - all change, will ultimately and invariably have to fundamentally alter that system.

Roy Spencer is not trying to figure out the nature of this change, what contributes to it, and what we can learn about it; but, along with a large portion of the world and in particular online and lobbying community, is instead trying to refute it, and for very specific reasons. And his wacky, and widely repudiated "contrarian" study that not only misrepresented his findings but oddly also even failed to address the substance of the very theories he was attempting to repudiate - in, lo and behold, the direction of concluding that Climate Change is "much less significant" - was no coincidental happenstance simply arrived at through objective analyses of the relevant science, facts, and data. It was in fact instead very purposeful, and part of a broader pattern that has nevertheless conditioned itself to believe it is really simply following the "better" science.

Part of the problem isn't just the constant perpetuation and amplification of misinformation and issue misconstruction itself by interested, misinformation, conspiracy theory, or ideological led groups (along with often facilitatingly poor explication, and a lot of presumptive "conclusions" over what an average individual should somehow know in a veritable sea of misinformation on the issue by some groups concerned with the issue or even the massive misrepresentation on it) - but a good portion of the media itself. This includes, among others "talks a good game" but misinformation radical Glenn Beck's provocative online "magazine" Blaze; Forbes; and the widely misnamed "Fox News." (It is misnamed not because of the fairly ironic "Fox" title, but because it should be Fox Advocacy, as it is really advocacy couched as news - something, when recipients believe they are getting actual "fair and balanced," to use Fox's constantly iterated term, "news and analysis," which is far more effective than outright advocacy at influencing belief.)

Let's take an example, tying it into the Spencer paper so flawed, that, questionable action or not, the editor of the publishing paper resigned over it.

So how did Fox News handle this story? A search of all Fox Roy Spencer related articles made no substantive mention of any error, retraction or correction.

Yet here, in marked contrast, is the very first sentence of Fox's online story about the study itself.
Has a central tenant of global warming just collapsed?
Famous comedian and satirist Jon Stewart was one of the first to categorize the extensive use of Fox' News question marks as a form of veiled advocacy; that is, opinion, often extreme opinion, pushed across as if it were investigative analysis.

The study covered a period of about 10 years - from 2000 - 20009. Given the enormous range of climate variability itself, let alone one expected to shift (and one that is starting to show such signs, "oddly" coincidental or not), and as the climate is expected to shift over time, the heightened expectation of increased weather and overall variability, and unpredictability, ten years is a remarkably short period to draw contrary conclusions from.

Making the assertion that Climate Change is much less relevant than previously thought, based upon ten years of temperature of "random" cloud cover, misses what the Climate Change issue really is. Far more problematically, yet for reasons again never illuminated, it also relied upon the wild presumption that cloud cover, even though an ongoing ephemeral phenomenon, is largely irrelevant to the process of anthropogenic or atmospheric heat re radiating molecular driven climate change, and yet itself an initial driver of climate rather than at least in part a resultant conditional phenomenon, or in part, "result," of it.

Again, this goes against the entire body of scientific knowledge on the subject. Which itself is fine if there is a coherent reason offered as to why; but more potently, the argument makes little sense, and again, there is no coherent reason (or any reason) offered as to why.

Climate change, as noted in this previous link, more accurately refers to "the long term geologic history of earth, and the recent rapid additions to the long lived concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, to levels not collectively seen in at least several million years; and the expected, if somewhat uncertain, range of likely and even severe changes to longer term climate in response."

The issue or "theory" sits somewhere between the "theory" of gravity and a strong hypothesis, based upon basic earth physics; our long standing geologic record; the earth's tendency to somewhat easily shift and change climatically as it is; and the geologically radical, outstandingly rapid, and still ongoing change upward in the atmospheric level of long lived greenhouse gases.

And the scientific theory is that this change is likely to bring about a lagging, possibly jagged, almost certainly non linear, increasingly volatile, and short term unpredictable (and long term unpredictable in terms of being exact or precise) shift or series of shifts in our climate: With our long term climate overall, ultimately shifting over to a new, stable stases, well after current atmospheric concentrations of long lived greenhouse gases, from a geologic perspective, have stabilized. (Right now, from a geologic perspective, far from stabilizing, they are essentially shooting straight up.)

Models try to capture this as best as they are able, and invariably get caught up in the problems of trying to pinpoint with accurate precision, what future climate is not only going to be, but exactly when it will be as well, and along what exact path it will follow as well.

This would be a difficult if not near impossible task with respect to just basic climate alone. It is even more so when the atmospheric concentrations of long term heat trapping gases have shot up to geologically radical levels - leading to far more re radiated atmospheric heat, and over time, the increase in energy build up of the earth itself: Something - with respect to warming ice sheets, increasing net ice melt, increasing permafrost subsurface temperatures, and ocean temperatures - also, again, correspondingly observed.

Yet the inability to exactly pinpoint both the precise degree of average ambient rise or just change, as well as the precise almost geologically meaningless path on a nearly year to year or decade to decade basis, has been widely mistaken for the efficacy, vitality or sensibility of the "Climate Change" phenomenon itself, and again, also aggressively and repeatedly promulgated as another false repudiation, or refutation, of it.

Yet regarding that Fox story - of which a google search provided not a one follow up correction, even after the Spencer study, prompting a major headline proclaiming the Climate Change theory itself to have been all but undermined, was largely repudiated and shown to be hogwash, including even by the publishing Journal itself, here are the second and third sentences :
Climate change forecasts have for years predicted that carbon dioxide would trap heat on Earth, and increases in the gas would lead to a planetwide rise in temperatures, with devastating consequences for the environment.But long-term data from NASA satellites seems to contradict the predictions dramatically, according to a new study.
Yes, according to a study - albeit subsequently left out by Fox - so fundamentally flawed, by an author who has a systematic pattern of always making mistakes in the same direction, and apparently strong non science oriented reasons for doing so, that the two year editor of the journal resigned over it. Not over pressure, but over the egregiousness of the mistake and "most likely problematic" falsity of the claims, according to the editor himself.

Yet nevertheless, without ever a subsequent correction to be found, here are the fifth and sixth sentences of the Fox article:
"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show,” [Spencer] said. The planet isn't heating up, in other words.
Except, it is:

Net ice melt is increasing. Glaciers and ice sheets are warming and melting not just in the arctic, but the antarctic as well.  And again, at an accelerating rate. Subsurface temperatures in permafrost regions, which cover over a fifth of the globe, are increasing (even faster in some areas than the ambient surface air temperature above them). And the oceans, which cover almost three quarters of the globe, are gaining warmth at a rate that is many times, and according to one scientific study, 15 times (or fifteen hundred percent) faster than at any time in the past ten thousand years.

And, less important than the above changes, but still notably, overall temperatures over time - as in climate, the longer term, not shorter term, trend matters - are increasing, in a way that is already geologically unusual, with almost all of the 20 warmest years on record in the past 25 years alone, and, astonishingly, 13 of the 14 warmest years ever on record - even with the oceans still warming when they should have cooled to keep the air so consistently warm if the globe itself wasn't still warming - all occurring in the past 14 years.  And, though somewhat minor, but simply augmenting the general trend a little more, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the "meteorological" summer (June, July, and August) was the hottest on record. (It was the fourth hottest according to NASA), and 2014 is on track to possibly become the new hottest year ever.

But Fox, before ending up the piece with one of the more tame quotes on the matter (and on Spencer) by Texas A & M atmospheric scientist Andrew Dessler, calling it "incorrect," further honed its powerful and completely unsubstantiated underlying "Climate Changes is not really real" message veiled as news, by publishing what not only dances near the edge of pure fiction, but crosses firmly over the line into it:
James Taylor, a senior fellow for environment policy at conservative think-tank The Heartland Institute, wrote at Forbes that the meaning of the new research is clear -- and it compromises what he called a "central premise of alarmist global warming theory."
Yes, Taylor - a paid advocate for the Heartland Institute, itself designed and funded specifically for the purpose of repudiating the concept of Climate Change - did write that. And Forbes, another near constant (but not always) Climate Change misinformation media source, did publish it.

Yet most scientists (although suddenly the word scientist, in an overt attempt at wildly spun advocacy - the opposite of news reporting, almost by definition -  means "alarmist," not scientist, in every single of the many pieces that Forbes has "published" by Taylor), note that Spencer is not really practicing science here; that the paper got some of the most basic things backward; that Spencer has a scientific history of being repeatedly wrong, and always in the same direction; and that while it is nice to model, Climate Change refers to the long term general expected effect over time from what has been a multi million year geologic change in a matter of a mere few hundred years, much of which has occurred in the past 50 or so years alone. Not models.

But for Fox, one of the leading sources of "news" in America and the leading and, according to studies, not just the most watched, but the "most trusted," of the very few national cable news channels, it was not actual climate scientists, but James Taylor - a lawyer who took science classes in college, and a paid advocate who works for a center specifically designed for the purpose of refuting Climate Change, - who is the science expert that Fox nevertheless elected to quote in terms of the article, and achieve Fox's seeming aims:  namely, to undermine and refute the idea of Climate Change and, it seems, any real understanding of the issue that doesn't align with its extreme (if common in the Internet and its extremely self selecting and self reinforcing) and highly misinformed view that Climate Change does not pose a significant threat of major, non linear, climatic shifting, with major to massive consequences for the specific world in which we evolved, and built up our civilization upon.

And so the powerful beat of misinformation continues to reverberate through the land, and alter the informational landscape upon which a democracy, for good analysis, assessment, and decision making, relies.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

But Such a Humble Creature Such as Ourselves Could not Possibly affect the Earth, Right?

 From WUWT, 8-17 (emphasis added):
Those opinion leaders that Patrick meets with will realise, as Patrick has done himself, that virtually all climate change is natural and that mankind’s contribution is minimal; they will then be able to convey this to the public.
For how could man affect climate? Climate is energy. Greenhouse gases absorb and re radiate energy (heat) that would otherwise waft up into the upper atmosphere and space, thereby slowing increasing the energy balance of the earth.

Except for one thing: Man can't really affect the climate. Nor put people on the moon. Send Rovers to Mars. Spacecraft to Saturn, Jupiter, and beyond. Split Atoms, create bombs capable of in tandem destroying the earth many times over, explore the depths of the oceans miles below the surface, freeze matter to a near motionless state of near (or past?) 0 degrees kelvin, or probe the insides of atoms. (Other cool stuff, and pictures, here.)

We can't do that.

You see, our affect is "minimal." Sure, greenhouses make life on earth as we know it possible, and keep the earth around 55-60 degrees on average, instead of zero. Teeming with life, rather than a near lifeless frozen ball of rock hurtling through space. Raise those long term greenhouse gas up to levels probably not seen on earth in millions of years? Some seven billion plus people, collectively affecting the very atmosphere that traps and re radiates thermal radiation, ultimately driving climate on earth?

No big deal, for "virtually all climate change is natural, and mankind's contribution is minimal." Based upon very little.

That scientists strongly say otherwise?

A matter to likewise simply be dismissed: Science re directed by non scientists' superior knowledge, and scientists, attacked, and turned into "science scandals of the century."

Here's a Thought - Refutation of a Scientific Consensus is not just "I Disagree"

If you want to put up alternative theories you have to find some kind of credible evidence to support them … if you can’t do that you tend to resort to name-calling, calling global warming things like a religion or a cult or some kind of conspiracy.
Australia's "Chief Scientist," Ian Chubb. (Via The Guardian)

He has a point, doesn't he? (Chubb was responding to Tony Abbott business adviser Maurice Newman advising Australia and the world on Friday of the "perils" of "ignoring nature's warnings" or global cooling for which we are "ill prepared.")

Yet it's what's repeatedly missed on Climate Change refutation. (Though maybe something else besides true scientific analysis is driving climate change refutation):

Calling AGW a cult or religion isn't a reason why a radical increase to long term greenhouse gases - to levels not seen on earth in millions of years - would not lead to a similar major shift in climate. Particularly given that climate is ultimately a longer term response to energy changes: And a major increase in atmospheric thermal absorption and re radiation, constitutes a major change in long term energy. 

One of the major Climate Change refutation sites is run by a well known college science professor, Judith Curry, who always seems to write posts strongly slanted towards refuting climate science; although without basic analysis as to why basic climate science, on the issue of AGW - as opposed to the ongoing process of scientific correction and adjustment itself - is wrong.  

My question for Judith Curry - among others -, has still gone unanswered:
...Since it is so important for the diversity of scientific thought - ...and despite the clamor for diversity and challenge, [the fact that] this leading site, for laying out the myriad errors of climate change skepticism arguments, is nevertheless, among many similar ones, decried, denigrated, and dismissed as unworthy and worse – what, exactly, is the “contrarian” position?
Let’s discuss it, as a viable... theory for the idea that the climate [nevertheless won’t significantly shift,  as a result of our ongoing accumulation of increased atmospheric re radiation of energy capacity in response to geologically radical changes to our atmosphere’s long lived greenhouse gas concentrations to levels not seen on earth in at least several million years, and still rising fast]....
But first, please, tell me what it is.
Notice, again, no one answered what it was.

In part because CC refutation is not about saying why, based upon geophysics, the earth, for some odds reason, won't shift - or why it doesn't face a large threat of shifting. It is about taking the ongoing process of science itself, and using selected mistakes, corrections, adjustments downward, cherry picked, and often even misrepresented parts itself, as false refutation for the separate underlying theory itself.

That's not skepticism.  It's self reinforcing, selective goal oriented refutation itself - something very different from rigorous objective scientific examination, while serving the purpose of convincing itself it is not.

Just How Much of a Stretch is some Climate Change Denialism?

On Friday, Tony Abbot business adviser Maurice Newman published a piece in The Australian, warning that politicians were ignoring "nature's signs" of a major global cooling, "at our peril."

The Op-ed was craftily written. The problem was, it made things up, or grossly misrepresented them. And it appears that all the major assertions that it relies upon are false or misleading.

Even the scientist specifically relied upon for Newman's major newspaper published assertion, had this to say specifically about Newman's claim (that the current threat is global cooling due not to climate change, but to the fact that solar radiation - and not a massive increase in the very gases that absorb and re radiate hear - has been driving increasing warming):
[It] is, frankly, ludicrous.
Scientists who tend to understate, are not in the habit of calling things ludicrous.

But Newman in his piece had relied upon "leading British climate scientist Mike Lockwood," for his claim that it has been solar radiation (despite solar radiation actually decreasing the last few decades) and not a geologically radical multi million year increase to long term atmospheric greenhouse gas levels that was driving climate trends.

Lockwood not only disagreed - startling enough for a scientist whose work is used as a predominant part of a major op-eds argument - he rightly labeled it ludicrous.

But then, Climate Change refutation, rather than mere skepticism, is sometimes somewhat akin to a religion, convincing itself that it is science. Even often by projecting everything that disagrees with it, as religion, no matter how ridiculously.  (Notice also the question here was simply never answered.) It tends to reinforce itself, as like minds all take the ongoing process of scientific discovery itself - mistake, correction, debate, adjustment - for refutation of the underlying theory it seeks to refute.

The earth might cool. Who knows for sure. But the point is that the best, and overwhelming, assessment of science is that major (past) increases in greenhouse gases have been driving changes recently, pose a major threat of significant future change (on both overall patterns, and likely overall ambient heat upward), and the earth has been warming as well, significantly, even without taking into account the ocean and other signs which greatly amplify the picture.

Science aside, the greenhouse affect is major; and the theory that a geologically radical long term shift upward in these very same gases would not have a significant impact upon climate, would probably need some (let alone considerable) basis. But again, there has bee none, other than to argue with signs of corroboration of the basic CC theory, as refutation of climate change itself.

And a claim by a non scientist, relying upon scientists for the contrary notion - that Greenhouse gases don't matter, and so misconstruing the few scientists "relied upon" in the process so excessively that one is prompted to call the claims "ludicrous," is yet another exercise in trying to refute, by any means possible, for the sake of, refuting. Which is quite different from skepticism. It may be earnest, self sealing (and massive misinformation reinforcing) belief, but it is still very different from skepticism.

For example, on the super popular but climate change refutation site "Watt's Up With That," skeptical science author, textbook on climate science author, and book author John Cook is repeatedly called "a liar," and the site he founded repeatedly dismissed. It has to be for climate change refutation to continue it's approach not of skepticism, but of simply refuting climate change science, or anything that supports it:

For on Skeptical Science's home page, near the very top, it aptly, and it seems very correctly, points out:
Scientific skepticism is healthy. Scientists should always challenge themselves to improve their understanding. Yet this isn't what happens with climate change denial. Skeptics vigorously criticize any evidence that supports man-made global warming and yet embrace any argument, op-ed, blog or study that purports to refute global warming.
One could consider that there might be something to this, as well as the many points by multiple scientists and others, suggesting how a lot of climate change refutation is based upon a basic misconstruction of the issue, and a more objective analysis of what the issue itself is and is not; but that would get in the way of Climate Change refutation.

So John Cook, for example, among many others, is called a liar. And often by bizarre means and very thin standards, which if similarly applied to climate change refuters, would yield the same type of results, and far, far more of them, and often, far stronger.  Yet this allows John Cook, Skepticalscience, most climate scientists (Michael Mann, for instance), many others and the legitimate points to put the discussion back on the track of a rigorous, skeptical, rather than end result driven frame, to simply be disregarded - along with all points that refute climate change refutation, all points that support the basic theory of CC, and the idea that refutation is based upon "scientific analysis," to be adhered to.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Another One of Nature's Signs - of Cooling?

A new study, published in this month's Journal of Geophysical Research, concludes that arctic sea ice snow cover has gone down dramatically since the 1950s - by about a third in the Western Hemisphere, and by about half, near Alaska.

The study is here.  Read more here and here.

Thankfully, the earth is going to cool, according to the business (interestingly, not "science") adviser to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday. So this pattern, along with increasing antarctic land ice sheet melt, increasing arctic ice sea ice loss, increasing arctic ice sheet melt, increasing permafrost temperatures, ocean temperature increases, at an exceedingly rapid rate, and a long term and fairly significant rapid upward trend in ambient atmospheric temperatures, should reverse itself, and we'll be facing a global cooling which - according to the Australian Business Adviser - politicians are ignoring the signs "from nature" on, at "their, and our, peril" (see update).

Not ignoring the signs of an increasing future shift in climate as one would expect to follow from an increase in long term atmospheric "heat trapping" greenhouse gases to levels not seen on earth in millions of years, and, as we've seen, the signs are starting to increasingly corroborate.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What if?

(2x updated below; 8-15-14, 8-18-14)

What if aliens from another planet invaded us in 2017, and we're not sufficiently prepared? (See first update below.)

More reasonably, what if scientists are right, and increases to long term "heat trapping" atmospheric greenhouse concentrations to levels not seen on earth in at least several million years, leads to severe future climate shifting in response?

Somewhere in between these two "what if" questions, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot's chief business adviser, Maurice Newman, in a piece in the Australian last Thursday (8-14), asked both "what if" the recent warming of earth is due to an increase in solar radiation, and we face a massive risk of major cooling. He also answered, claiming we face just such a threat, for which, he asserted, the world and its people, are ill prepared, and that politicians are ignoring "nature's signs," of, at "their, and our, peril."

So, two things, among many others, we are ill prepared for: Global cooling, and alien invasion.

Global cooling could occur. And the sun could be going into a lower solar activity phase. But it's hard to prepare for major cooling when all the science suggests the opposite; that the impact of atmospheric greenhouse gas changes dwarfs any impact of changes in solar radiation; and that if an extremely unusual and significantly long drop in solar radiation were to occur, it would be a good thing not a bad thing, to help partially offset the increasing impact of already geologically radical increases in long term atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

And it's also hard to prepare for when the basic fact that Newman bases his claim on, is incorrect - solar radiation has slightly gone down the past few decades, and yet the globe, also contrary to Newman's claims, has not cooled. At all:

13 of the 14 warmest years in modern history have all occurred in the last 14 years. The 2000s was the hottest decade on record. Permafrost (land, not air) temperatures have increased even more, as not just the air, but the earth, is heating. Polar ice sheets are indisputably melting, and there is strong evidence that it is also melting at a faster rate, with additional risk of further positive reinforcement from warmer water encroachment (video here). And, while with such record setting ambient air temperatures the world ocean should have cooled a little (by giving off more heat energy then they took in, to in turn keep air temperatures higher than the norm on average - the oceans have instead continued to warm, even, at an accelerating rate. All this, during a phase of now low solar activity.

And, of course, all this aside from also ignoring the fact that greenhouse gases absorb and re radiate thermal energy that would otherwise waft into the upper atmosphere and beyond, thus "insulating" the earth, and over time, warming it - and that the increases to the levels of these gases, in a geologic sense, has already been massive. Which Newman also doesn't "agree" with. Or accept.

Which seems a little like religion, veiled as skeptical science.

Yet speaking of religion, Newman considers sensible measures to slow down our rapid continued increases to our atmosphere's long term greenhouse gas concentrations, akin to
"Primitive civilisations offering up sacrifices to appease the gods."
Or, it could be that radically changing the long term nature of our atmosphere to a level ultimately incompatible with the general climate we have come to know and love (and more importantly, rely on), and then continuing to add to and amplify the same at geologically breakneck speed - all while proclaiming and believing we're not really changing anything until there is the proof of it having thus been wildly changed, after the fact - is the sacrifice to appease the Gods.

The Gods, of fossil fuels.  Based upon a belief system that our own destinies, industry, societal development, economy and growth is dependent upon purposefully engaging in practices that directly
harm our world - even though we have alternatives, and the ability to greatly learn and expand those alternatives - because for the moment, and without true competition that evens the business playing field between practices which cause great external harm, and those that do not - those more harmful practices, "cost less."

Update. 8-15-2014: Jason Box, a climatologist with over 70 outside reviewed publications germane to the topic of climate change, believes, as do many scientists who study the issue, that the threat of increasingly positive reinforcing climate change due to carbon release in the form of methane from melting ice and warming sea bed floors, is potentially extreme.

It's an "interesting" contrast; the professional climatologist who is super knowledgeable about the issue illustrating a widespread scientific concern about erupting methane heavily reinforcing an increasingly radical (and warming) climate change process, on the one hand, and a non scientist business adviser to the Australian President, who thinks, or claims, we are ignoring the risk of global cooling, "at our peril," based upon the anti science idea that it's always just the sun alone that drives everything. (Although his belief seems more centered on simply ignoring - or finding ways to dismiss or even reverse - the entire issue of greenhouse gas level increases.)

Climate Change in theory, short term anyway, could produce almost anything climate wise: And a movie starting Dennis Quaid entitled "The Day After Tomorrow" does dramatize (and fast forwards) massive glaciation - due not to a drop in solar radiation, which relative to our massive increase in greenhouse gases is wildly more far fetched, but to an abrupt climate change from sudden massive melt and a radical change in Atlantic currents suddenly bringing massively cooler temperatures far south.

How would that compare to the more mythical alien invasion idea, tossed about above to suggest that sounding an alarm bell about being "ill prepared" for global cooling under the current set of facts, was somewhere in between a pseudo reasonable speculation, and concern of ill prepareded-ness for "alien invasions"?

We could "in theory" prepare for major cooling if we knew it might happen. On the other hand, we probably couldn't for an alien invasion. (One might also surmise, other huge impediments aside, that if a civilization became advanced enough to leap galaxies, it might also be well past the need to "conquer" and "destroy," unless, of course, as Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson has wondered, there is some off chance they would simply view us in the same way we view, say, earthworms, and that higher evolution for massive intergalactic space travel wouldn't lead to treating advanced earthworms who are part of their own ecosystem, more respectfully.) And we don't prepare because the odds seem beyond ludicrous.

A serious freeze might have higher odds than something so ridiculous, but it would also likely not be anywhere as bad as an "alien invasion."And "The Day After Tomorrow" notwithstanding (again, based upon Climate Change - a massively unusual shift in something directly affecting the net energy balance of the earth, not solar radiation), it would come with some degree of warning.

Taking all that into account or not, and ironically enough given the opening rhetorical question of this post about alien invasions, Professor Matthew England's response upon hearing of Newman's claims, actually was:
Saying we aren't prepared for global cooling is like saying we aren't prepared for an alien invasion.
Yet it was the non science oriented Australian Prime Minister business adviser who in his Australian piece op ed article claiming we are "ill prepared" for global cooling as a way to "cool" off concern over increasing radical atmospheric change, who claimed - and somewhat ironically given the level of climate change "refutation" in the U.S. Congress, for example - that politicians have "made science a religion."

In other words, the idea of assessing our world as best as we are able - what science is - and assessing sensible strategy in response, is suddenly "religion." Logic that equally applied, would perhaps render all strategic assessment based upon objective, empirical data and basic science or observational analysis (which is in essence almost all risk assessment the world over),"religion."

But perhaps, again, what has really been turned into something more akin with religion, is coming up with ways to try and refute the basic idea of anthropogenic climate change, by any means or argument possible.  Including now, clinging to the mirror image alarmism of "not being prepared for cooling"; which, in his far fetched piece, Newman warns we ignore the signs "from nature" of, at our peril.(Presumably, Newman's not referring to the signs of increasing natural methane releases that have Box and so many others seemingly far more rightly concerned, but other "signs" which he doesn't actually reveal.)

Not signs of a warming world, which Newman, by this clever reversal into cooling "worry" tries to offset; but signs of cooling, because the sun might hit an unusual low spot in solar radiation. (As noted here, which is assessed as less likely than not; but again if it did, that would be great, because it would offset the process of climate change at least a little.)

The irony of this admonition of not heeding the signs of nature, at our peril, given all the signs, both subtle, and not so subtle, of increasing future climate change - likely toward more and not less volatility, and more overall heat, not less - probably couldn't have been better delivered in a work of satiric fiction. Yet it was delivered in The Australian as a very serious op-ed, by a business adviser to a major prime minister.

Of a country, and continent, no less, that just happens to be getting ransacked by increasing climate changes, drought, and heat.

Update 8-18-2-14:  Newman so severely misinterpreted the relevant basic science, that the very scientist Newman relied heavily upon for his Op-ed claim that the sun, not our activities and changes to the atmosphere, have been driving all climate responses - actually called such a claim "scientifically ludicrous," among a litany of mistakes and mis-characterizations with respect to almost all scientific assertions made in - again - the very much non satirical, but certainly ironic, piece.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Watts Up With Using U.S. Data, to Seemingly Refute GLOBAL Temperature Claim

According to the "Watts Up With That" home page, it is "the world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change."

But yet Watts Up with questioning global temperature extremes, then immediately assessing U.S. extremes instead:
According to the Northeastern University press release, using climate models and reanalysis datasets, the authors found that:
While global tem­per­a­ture is indeed increasing, so too is the vari­ability in tem­per­a­ture extremes. For instance, while each year’s average hottest and coldest tem­per­a­tures will likely rise, those aver­ages will also tend to fall within a wider range of poten­tial high and low tem­perate extremes than are cur­rently being observed.
But is there any evidence that this has been happening? We can check what’s been happening in the US, by using the US Climate Extremes Index, produced by NOAA.
It's perhaps inadvertent, but there's a major sleight of hand here:  "Is there any evidence that this has been happening?" -  with "this" being an increase in extreme temperatures around the entire earth - leads immediately to checking the contiguous U.S., which represents about one-fiftieth of the earth.  

We could check what is happening in the U.S., and even do so in an article initially focusing on a claim regarding global temperature extremes.  A non misleading way to do that would be "global extremes may be increasing, but in the much smaller surface of the contiguous U.S., it looks like they have not been."

This article, instead, overtly questioned whether temperature extremes have been increasing globally, and then seemed to "check" it by looking at temperature extremes data for a very small patch on that the globe that represents 1/50th of so of its surface.

The article also noted (emphasis added):
Of course, the US only accounts for 2% of the Earth’s surface... but it seems a sensible place to start
But 2% of the earth's surface is not a sensible place to start. When questioning a claim that the globe has experienced an increase in extreme temperatures, a sensible place to start, and finish, is on global temperatures. Not 1/50th of the globe. Yet this article started with that 1/50th, and stayed with it until the end.

Did any commenters happen to catch this? No, apparently. Many did jump all over the Climate Change is all but a hoax bandwagon, however. For instance: 
--"See, your mistake here is you used the real data. To get the right answer your supposed to use a model."
--"Someone should have presented this at Kodra’s dissertation defense." [Note, the original Northeastern dissertation paper that projected future temperature extremes, in part due to a record of globally - not U.S. - increasing extremes, was in part authored by Evan Kodra as part of his 2014 dissertation.]
--"May I remind you of the first rule of climate ‘science’ , where the models and reality differ in value it is reality which is in error. So you see no problem here"
--"I would love to comment, but I legally can’t; because The Nature conservancy persuaded me into signing into a gag easement……… so I lost my right to voice my opinion."
--"This is a good example of how easily empirical data clobbers the vaporous theories of the global warmers." [Note: It's particularly easy to clobber a claim when something entirely different than the claim itself is being clobbered.]

--"I am so sick of the Climate Conjecturologists.
“While global tem­per­a­ture is indeed increasing”? Not really.
“So too is the vari­ability in tem­per­a­ture extremes”? Apparently not.
“Each year’s average hottest and coldest tem­per­a­tures will likely rise”?
“Will likely rise”? When? After a lengthy hiatus? Or likely not?
“Those aver­ages will also tend to fall within a wider range than are cur­rently being observed”?
“Tend to”? What the heck is that supposed to mean? Either they will or they won’t."[Note, in some ways this is one of the better comments. It's earnest, and, aside from a few flagrant mistakes, captures the heart of why, along with of course a huge desire, there is so much misinformation supporting the idea that Climate Change is not a big deal, and why it is so easy to give such zealous attention to furthering that notion. And that is that the issue is not simple, it is not already "proven" in advance, there is an enormous lag (the most critical yet most misunderstood point), it is confusing, and that it imprecisely represents a range of outcomes, all of which are what happen when we conduct an enormous super long term global experiment of geologically radical proportion on the only earth globe we know: so there is no "control variable" earth, and nowhere near the advance precision both in climatic response, and in our ability to precisely outline in advance the direct path of any change, that Climate Change refuters or minimalists have come to expect.]

Here's another recent example, that goes through a lot of highfalutin and seemingly relevant (but largely misconfigured and not relevant) science analysis, and then, suddenly, and stunningly, concludes that the large recent increases in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide levels we've been measuring?

The same increases to levels not seen in at least two million years...the same increases, to now just over 400 parts per million, from the high 200s just a few hundred years ago, when from fairly precise ice core data we know that levels never exceeded the high 200s parts per million over the past eight hundred thousand years, the same levels that geologically have, "out of the blue" suddenly, after seemingly millions of years, just shot straight up, coincident with massive deforestation and, via fuel combustion, the rapid release into the atmosphere of carbon that had been slowly sequestered over many millions of years of non fully decomposed plant matter?

A one in ten thousand or one in one hundred thousand or so, and otherwise wildly inexplicable (notwithstanding a rather wildly inexplicable argument) and sheer coincidence between the sudden, massive net additions we've made, and the sudden rise after nearly a million years, and likely several million?

More, even:  For the conclusion was,
How can it be made clearer that CO2 is currently rising and varying for natural cause?
Not just that sudden, massive, multi million year CO2 increases essentially have little or nothing to do with the sudden, massive, decrease in world sinks of CO2 (deforestation), and sudden creation of long (fossil fuel) dormant emissions, but, "how could it be made clearer."

Anything - from the "world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change," the site that also according to its home page, of which Johnathan Moseley from The American Thinker asserts, "changed the world and is one of the most influential resources on global warming" - to refute man affected Climate Change, rather than objectively, consider it. And anything to not believe it.

How could it be made any clearer.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Roy Spencer, an Exhibit that Climate Change Refuters Might Heavily Question, and the Real Climate Change Discussion

Roy Spencer is not a scientist.  He plays one on T.V. And, less satirically, in the News.

In the real world, Scientist Roy Spencer has a repeated history of errors. Yet his errors are not random, as would be expected if someone were merely trying to study an issue and figure out what is, or what might, be going on.

Instead, every single one of Spencer's known errors has followed the pattern of always serving to make a weaker case for the phenomenon casually, if a little simplistically, referred to as Climate Change.

Statistically, this is mildly remarkable.  Yet, as it turns out, it's not a coincidence.
I would wager that my job has helped save our economy from the economic ravages of out-of-control environmental extremism.
It's okay to have whatever view one wants on environmental issues. But not to use that view to always manufacture results to fit a pre-determined pattern: so much so that other scientists stop paying attention to Spencer as a scientist.

Kevin Trenberth, a leading atmospheric scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (via email to Climateprogress):
I have read the paper. I can not believe it got published. Maybe it got through because it is not in a journal that deals with atmospheric science much?
Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University (emphasis added):
You would think, if you have a scientific history of being wrong on so many issues, you would have a little bit of humility before claiming you've overturned scientific evidence yet again.
Dessler also suggested (via email to Climateprogress)
Spencer’s “paper is not really intended for other scientists, since they do not take him seriously anymore (he’s been wrong too many times).”
Yet the media, does. And to a fairly high, degree, unfortunately. Such as, for instance, Yahoo News, a major source of public news and information, which also unfortunately published an enormously headlined article (penned by an anti Climate Change ideologue no less), that was then relied upon by countless other news related sites as well as advocacy organizations, based on a study so flawed that the editor of the journal who published it apologized and resigned due to the level of mistake involved for a peer reviewed journal.

Media wise, where was the story about the mistakes?

As pointed out in a comment to Real Climate's refutation of the piece itself:
Despite your superb dissection, the paper was wildly successful. And it has nothing to do with its scientific worth. This was another PR assault masquerading as a serious science paper. 
It garnered terrific publicity in Fox, Forbes and other Murdoch outlets. It further stoked the emotional embers of confusion and doubt in the public. Politicians and climate policy wonks can wield and wave this one.
People are getting assaulted by heat waves, droughts and floods. It succeeded wonderfully in distracting attention and feeding the hunger for pseudo validation of magical thinking. Some will fiercely refuse to accept anthropogenic climate change – no matter what the evidence or science.
Yet Yahoo news, and Forbes, ran a story with a huge gaping hole headline, that even somehow manages to refer to climate scientists not as scientists, but as "alarmists" (multiple times even, in a piece that, with numerous other errors, looks more like a caricature of reporting than actual reporting, but was published as "actual" reporting), based on a scientific study so flawed that the editor of the journal who published it apologized and resigned due to the level of mistake involved.

Spencer's theory in the paper, and in support of the sensationalist national news headline it seemed designed to foment, was kind of a wacky one: Clouds drive warming, rather than serve as a response to it.

To contend that something that is short lived and always changing nevertheless drives climate, and that the far more long term, stable, and direct influences upon it (long term ocean temperatures, which have been consistently rising, a change in solar radiation, or a change in the long term atmospheric absorption and re radiation of heat) would not drive climate, seems backward.

While at the same time, the paper itself was a somewhat circular attempt to explain away recent warm ambient temperatures as coincidental to the longer term trend of more than 100 years now, and thus having little to do with the increased retention of radiated heat by the atmosphere. This interpretation was reached even though any such cloud cover response would reflect shorter term cloud patterns that may or may not be affected by the broader climate direction, rather than vice-versa, as Spencer postulated, yet with no real scientific basis or explanation.

Unfortunately, it received large attention in terms of (misleadingly) poking holes in basic climate change understanding, and very little attention in terms of the far more relevant story here: It was a highly erroneous paper - one which was "most likely problematic in both"  "fundamental error" and "false claims," that nevertheless lead to much headline and news confusion, and public mis-perception on the issue, that followed a similar pattern from the same author that nevertheless continues to make big time news.

There was also frustration about this among some scientists. NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt:
If you want to do a story then write one pointing to the ridiculousness of people jumping onto every random press release as if well-established science gets dismissed on a dime," Schmidt said. "Climate sensitivity is not constrained by the last two decades of imperfect satellite data, but rather the paleoclimate record.
That is, really, the story, as there seems to be some confusion in the media over what Climate Change refers to as well. It more accurately refers to the long term geologic history of earth, and the recent rapid additions to the long lived concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, to levels not collectively seen in at least several million years; and the expected, if somewhat uncertain, range of likely and even severe changes to longer term climate in response.

But, theory aside, what about the fundamental mistakes in Spencer's paper and its grand claims, and the continued pattern of one sided mistakes that always seem to try and discredit climate science? (Which, again, mistake wise is fine; but the pattern of mistakes always in the same direction, is not.)

Why the mistakes? Possibly because Spencer views himself more...
Like a legislator, supported by the taxpayer, to protect the interests of the taxpayer and to minimize the role of government. 
The unfortunate thing for informed public discussion and information on this issue is that he is not a legislator.  He is a scientist. Yet apparently acting like a legislator by constantly coming up with formulations designed specifically to achieve a predetermined policy role.  This is near the opposite of science.

As is this:
Like the Nazis, they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause (in the 1930s, it was superiority of the white race).
Re-quoted in the Guardian, Spencer wrote the quote above in a blog piece that was letting of steam at being labeled a climate change "denier," yet also in an update to the same piece frighteningly claimed that redress of climate change will "kill far more people than the Nazi's ever did": an odious comparison, one based on wild speculation that seems to have no basis in anything, nor (but trivially in comparison) much faith in long term macroeconomics or ourselves as people. (As if our ability to be industrious and thrive and work and grow is based not on our ability to be industrious and thrive and work and grow, but only on cheap oil.)

It is also a claim that, even as exaggeration, juxtaposed next to the still uncertain but far less wildly speculated threats that increasing melt and warming poses, would be humorous if it wasn't really anything but, funny. And it also may be a statement for the ages, as future generations, wondering why we continued compounding any long term climate affect of an already somewhat radically long term atmospheric change, rather than seek to mitigate and ameliorate, can look back, and groan in disbelief.

In somewhat of an inherent contradiction, not to mention further irony, Spencer also labels others who are "sure" (aka, they believe) that our radical alteration of the atmosphere presents a significant risk of fairly severe future climatic shifts, as being "extreme." Thus also labeling the majority to great majority of professional climate scientists or atmospheric physicists who have professionally studied the issue, not as "wrong," but as "extreme," which is almost to castigate the practice of science itself, or nearly everyone practicing it.

This is particularly ill thought out, given that most who are assessing these risks aren't completely sure of anything in terms of specific affect, which is the whole point here - and what has been clung to, in order to disparage any concern, as well as most general climate science, in the first place.  Yet on the other hand, the inability to perfectly model almost the exact path that climate alteration takes, over a geologically super short term, is repeatedly if mistakenly used to then discredit the basic idea that the idea of a risk of such alteration even exists in the first place. When the two are separate concepts. The basis for the risk is the geologic record along with multi million year and still rising atmospheric alterations, further corroborated by geologically short term (i.e,the past 100 years or so), if not fully probative, observation.  Models are an attempt to further quantify and predict something which, the shorter the term, the more unpredictable.

Scientists, not thinking of the context of misunderstanding that they are furthering, then nevertheless frequently utter such absent minded statements that in affect amount to, "Gosh, I''m frustrated, I wonder why we can't model this perfectly in advance."

Here's why: Because it's climate. It's over a long period of time. And knowing the precise parameters of any long term shift, or change to what was already a largely random system to begin with, and upon what exact pace, path and pattern those parameters may change - when again some of that pattern is subject to natural climate variability no matter what, as well as probably even more variability inherent over the geologic short term in responding to the massive external forcing which our atmospheric alteration represents - is probably next to impossible, save by luck, until after such time as it has happened.

It doesn't mean that over time we can't get closer, as we get more and more data and more understanding. But climate models' inability to predict exactly 1) how much change 2) per X unit of time, has been repeatedly mistaken as an inability to then predict the far more important, general response or even likely response. On which, climate models have been repeatedly spot on.   In other words, we and models can (generally) predict what type of effect and over what general range, but not exactly the effect, and not over the exact range. And models have repeatedly done the former, while shooting, of course, for the latter.

Yet in contrast with the assessment of risk that includes a range of uncertainty, Spencer's "non extreme" view is founded upon the fairly "sure" idea that something of multi million year potential - in terms of the basic change in the atmospheric absorption and re radiation of heat that over time would build up heat in our oceans and permafrost and ice sheets - nevertheless represents no real risk of altering the climate in a way that would be ho hum for the earth, but potentially enormous for us. Thus, in a bit of a flip flop, extremists are those who think this poses significant risk. Non extremist "pragmatists," are those that somehow know it somehow, likely does not.

Such an analysis essentially castigates any view that assesses "risk," of anything, under any scenario, as extreme, and in essence undermines, or completely misconstrues the entire concept of "risk" to begin with, rendering it a non factor. That is, there is either known certainty. Or the condition, the threat, the need or sensible argument for response, doesn't exist.  "Risk," in essence, no longer exists.

On this same general sort of reasoning also hinges the climate change "skepticism" idea that current changes in our temperature, which reflect non unprecedented but, statistically, far out of the ordinary century long term upward trending changes in ambient global temperatures, are not caused by what is often called "AGW," simply because it is "possible" that they are not.

But it is far more likely that they are. Thus the fact they "could" otherwise have occurred on their own, is not evidence that Climate Change is not real. If anything, the fact that earth has responded in the general pattern - and one that over at least the last several millennium, even though it is likely still early in this process, somewhat stands out - is evidence that what we would expect to start to have an affect (increasing atmospheric re radiation of heat on a scale not seen for a very long time here on earth), is in fact starting to have such affect.

Yet labeling current changes, "natural" as non climate expert George Will, for example, does here, simply because it is possible, although extremely unlikely, that the current change would have simply happened in this direction and to this degree over a century plus of time on its own, doesn't make a lot of sense. It does not serve as evidence (let alone refute, as it is often used) for the idea that our atmospheric alteration is not already starting to somewhat impact the climate. It is just evidence for the idea that the earth "might have" moved this way on its own anyway; even though odds wise, the chances are extremely low, while the chances that increasing atmospheric re-radiation would not over time simultaneously have an increasingly significant effect, lower still.

Spencer also questions the very idea of a large climate science majority.  For instance, back in May of this year, he co-authored a piece in the WSJ arguing there really is no predominant consensus; one that, not surprisingly, is misleading. Spencer's coauthor on the piece? Joe Bast, who founded and heads an institute to discredit climate science. Bast, who is not publishing scientific papers - unlike Spencer, who is - but yet also views his role as that of a legislator, seems, like Spencer, to also be driven not by the science of the matter, but of the speculated societal or governmental response to the science. Which, also, is not science, but wholly separate from it. Yet which is serving to further misinformation on the science, or serve toward a biased analysis of it. For instance:
Bast says it is only natural that a libertarian like him would decide to question the scientific foundation for climate change. Getting serious about global warming means implementing government regulation, going after industry, raising taxes, interfering in markets — all anathema to a conservative agenda.
All that is well and good. But attacking climate science in anyway possible, as a means to an end, rather than as part of that science itself, is leading to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding on the part of the public.  And on the part of those seeking to discredit science - particularly in the highly polarized, and polarizing, self reinforcing, insular world of the Internet, where in groups with almost the same perspective, alternative ideas or perspectives not only get drowned out, but spurned; often derisively.

But what of this fear of redress, that prompts Spencer, in frustrated moments, to ridiculously assert that his critics want simply to support the Supreme Authority of the State (which this blog argues heavily against, even protecting the right to purposefully misinform on an issue that many Climate Scientists and policy advocates will do great future harm to mankind simply to protect a short term interest in profits).

What of the idea of redress - is it radical, or as Henry Paulson, former Treasury Secretary Under George W. Bush specifically writes- radical not to?

What of the idea of redress itself, or merely the consideration of what the best approaches might be? The very thing that prompts Joseph Bast, a self described former hippie who wanted to "live off the land" (the continuity being that Bast is still radical, albeit in a different direction), to try and discredit climate science in the first place. And that Roy Spencer, playing scientist not just on T.V., but in real life, joins him on.

By labeling views, even if in frustration, that he disagrees with as "Nazism," Spencer of course relegates all perspectives that anybody might have on any issue that would involve our government, "Nazism."  Anything the government does, thus - again the excess, and counterproductive seeming hysteria of this extreme term aside - could be so similarly termed. And everybody who exists, who ever had an opinion (unless that opinion was one of sheer anarchy, or no government at all), so similarly termed.

But what of the more general role of the government, which is invariably playing a role in the debate. What is reasonable?

Is it reasonable to want to protect our society, and our people and our kids from something they can not otherwise avoid, and maybe they should have some sort of right or option to be able to avoid - pollution - or in this case our society and our future generations from the potentially society and world damaging affect of what would be, to us, a radical climate shift to hotter, far more volatile, and intense, weather with increasingly rising oceans, until a new stases is reached?

The EPA was started under non Nazi Richard Nixon.  Protection of the earth used to be a basic Republican Party tenet, and as the Republican Party started moving to the right, it somehow got lost in a sea of anti-government rhetoric.

Yet government is nothing but us, managing our affairs in the world, that we share and interact upon. What it does or should do is a matter of some debate with widely varying opinions depending on subject, and specific contexts. But in terms of having some form of government, as opposed to absolutely no rule or law, and thus pure anarchy,  what basic purposes should government serve? What can not be addressed through even the most idealistic of anarchistic intentions?

Possibly these three, maybe a couple more.  But these three are all by definition collective, and unavoidably so:  National Defense. Justice. And the protection of that which we both must share, and can not avoid sharing. Namely, our environment. Once thought of as "limitless," this is a newer addition. And because of this, it is often mistakenly confused with the notion of "big government."

But big government is not that which we must collectively solve and or protect - harm to the very air we breathe, or possible radical threats to our very long term climate itself through inadvertent yet geologically intense alteration to the long lived nature of our blanketing atmosphere. Big government is how we choose to respond to the few, true, real collective challenges that we do face; most sensibly assessed, through honest, responsive examination, analysis, study, discussion and debate. Just as with every other issue and policy choice we face.

This blog for instance, as one main idea, has argued for sensible climate change redress, and in what is suggested here, in the least intrusive way possible. Former Bush Administration Treasury Secretary Paulson advocates a reasonably similar view:
The solution can be a fundamentally conservative one that will empower the marketplace to find the most efficient response.
Others may call for for intrusive action, such as allocations or certain prohibitions; which if no action is taken, ironically, will almost inevitably occur after a period of particularly bad weather or very bad short term climate, and people really start to get concerned or worse over it. It's also a view to address what most climate scientists who professionally study the issue call a possible to probable enormous future - and at that point largely irreversible, and ongoing, problem.

Those who claim the science is unsettled or action is too costly are simply trying to ignore the problem. ... The nature of a crisis is its unpredictability....waiting for more information before acting — is actually taking a very radical risk.
The problem is that the only way to know what the total affect of this problem is, will be after the fact. If (when) larger and larger amounts of ice start to melt - a pattern that is already slowly starting - the earth's albedo decreases, and more and more solar radiation is not reflected harmlessly back out to space, but heats the earth even more, giving off even more thermal radiation (when the earth does become cooler than the air), the process will be self reinforcing, and probably unstoppable, until a new relatively stable "stases" is reached.  One that will almost undoubtedly be far different from the very narrow range are used to. This is called belief. But it's also based upon, as Gavin Schmidt puts it, the Paleoclimate record, and our additions to the atmosphere, that don't get turned off and on as molecules, but, there, in the atmosphere, act as they are bound by physics and chemistry, to do.

The idea or assertion that it nevertheless won't, often accompanied by great derision of the "belief" in climate change, and asserted as based upon science (essentially meaning the absence of full proof before an event occurs) is also a belief, and perhaps a more basic one. (Further entangled, or even created by, the otherwise wholly separate issue of concerns over its redress.)

As Lindsay Abrams, writing in the detailed article in Salon linked above, puts it:
Many of the effects of climate change are already being felt; the more serious effects, however, are still a way’s off. There is no one consensus on just how soon they’ll occur, and how bad they’ll be, because science, not being in the business of making prophecies, is not able to say with absolute certainty just what’s going to happen in the future. What science can do, however, is identify patterns that may lead to future risks, and then help us understand just how urgently we need to be thinking about mitigating those risks
Scientist Spencer, however views this very same view so well articulated by Abrams, as "extremist," of being "sure," when it is instead identifying a range, and general possibility of risk based upon radical atmospheric change and long term geologic history. (And, though it doesn't "prove" anything, some further corroboration in the fact that the Climate is generally changing, in the direction predicted, and, if not uniquely, somewhat unusually so in terms of recent geologic history.) 

Yet Spencer himself is nevertheless sure that while it's really not so certain what will happen, he is pretty certain that rapidly changing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas molecules to levels not seen on earth in several million years (and still rapidly rising) through fairly specific, identifiable, and changeable patterns, will nevertheless not unduly affect our "Goldilocks" climate. And that those that don't agree with this assessment - the great majority of those who have professionally studied the issue, are "extremists."

Possibly another reason for this, as referenced in the Guardian, is that (emphasis added):
Spencer is also on the advisory board of the Cornwall Alliance, a group with 'An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming' claiming that "Earth and its ecosystems—created by God's intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory." The declaration also has a section on "What We Deny," and Spencer recently wrote in The Christian Post,
...we deny "that most [current climate change] is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community." Spencer
There is nothing nothing for the earth to correct, let alone to support the view that the earth is "self regulating." Or even that the term, applied to a ball of rock moving through space, has any meaning, since there is nothing to "self regulate."

Lifeforms, and even ecosystems, however, would self regulate (and we might self regulate by, having identified the inadvertent and likely counter productive changes we were making, address them), and in terms of ecological systems, this would reflect an adjustment in response to a change in the total net energy input to the earth's surface over time - both from solar radiation, a fixed variable, and from atmospheric re radiation via long lived greenhouse gas molecules - the same molecules that in very small number are responsible for making the earth about 59 to 60 degrees F (or K) warmer than it would be in their absence, and which have now suddenly, and, from a geologic perspective, radically, risen to total collective levels not seen on earth in at least several million years; since, in fact, a time when there was far less total ice coverage, and our oceans were 30 to 60 feet higher.

And even if the earth were "self regulating," there would be nothing to support the view that it would "self regulate" in a way that happens to favor man's own interests. Other, than, well, faith.  Calling those that don't agree with that such names, seems the very antithesis of science, as well as, of reasoned consideration. What scientists are supposed to do, and what the scientific process consists of.

Yet Spencer's influence is profound.

This is due to several reasons, one of which fundamentally contradicts his and Bast's proclamation in the Wall Street Journal this past May (yet echoed throughout the blogosphere both well before and since) that there really is not real strong consensus. There's not really a narrowly defined consensus. How bad is the risk? How likely? Is there anything we can do to change it? How compounding might it be to continue to add?

Where there is a strong consensus is on the idea that our radical alteration of the atmosphere is likely already significantly impacting our climate right now, presenting a significant to high risk of doing so on the order of at least several degrees Celsius, which would likely bring about radical, fundamental change to our basic earth systems, and to the climate upon which we have generally, come to rely. Or, more simply, that we're affecting the climate right now in a significant way, and that it's likely to get worse, perhaps much worse.

But why was it Spencer, of all people, and out of all the scientists who now professionally study climate science, who helped pen such a piece that there's no real consensus?

The reason cuts directly against Spencer's main point in that piece itself.  And that is, while there are some practicing scientists on the issue who share some degree of skepticism on it, they are far and few between.  That is, there just aren't that many scientists, out of the many who professionally study climate science, who legitimately dispute the general consensus.

That doesn't mean questions on the issue are over, but they've only just begun, We're just mired down in the wrong, and counter productive, debate, still asking the wrong ones.