Randy Olson on lemmings and leaders


Great article by Randy Olson at the Benshi, contemplating two polarized options of dealing with the climate crisis: like lemmings or like leaders.

Lemmings would tend to wait for the problem to become so massive that there’s just no other option than to deal with it, as in ‘we need a catastrophy before we start taking this problem seriously’.


leadership is what ought to be expected of a species of primates whose birth canals have had to widen over the ages to make space for enlarged crania.

He also discusses the following important point, based on the following suggestion he received from a friend:

“Accept arguments on the basis of evidence alone (not on the basis of who presents them).”

to which he counters:

That sounds great and admirable, at least in principle. But it’s not realistic in the complicated world of science-based issues. (…)

This is why we have leaders. It’s called civilization. At some point we put our trust in those with that stuff called “knowledge.” Like the IPCC. It’s not perfect, but it’s our best shot at avoiding the lemmings scenario.

For the complicated world of science-based issues, the lay person needs shortcuts to evaluate the trustworthiness of the information. One of my older posts that I like most deals with exactly that question. For health issues, it’s not much different.

And to plug another, unrelated but also very good article, Stephan Lewandowsky wrote a guest post over at Skeptical Science on short term uncertainty in the weather versus long term certainty in the climate, with the price winning quote:

There is uncertainty [about climate change], but only in the way that there is uncertainty about what happens when you drive into a brick wall at 80 km/h. You might just get away with a few bruises and a concussion, but it is far more likely that you would break a leg or worse.

No one in their right mind would drive into a brick wall because the outcome is “uncertain.”

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128 Responses to “Randy Olson on lemmings and leaders”

  1. harry Says:


    Are you serious?

    This is an awful article.

    Replace” leadership” by “Hitler”and “lemmings” by “germans”.

    Read it again.

    Notice the last sentence.

    More trials?

  2. Paul Kelly Says:

    Little over the top, Harry.

    Olson cites The IPCC and the AL Gore as examples of the needed leaders, saying the IPCC is our best shot. The IPCC’s action plan is “Let’s get together again real soon”. Al Gore should be an embarrassment to climate science.

    The case for top -down is weak when it can only be supported by strawman analogies.

  3. harry Says:

    @Paul Kelly,

    You did not follow my advise to replace the words as I suggested. This message was not as harmless as you would like to portray it. It is not about the likes of Al Gore, it goes far beyound.

  4. Rattus Norvegicus Says:


    You’ve really jumped the shark…

    I tried rereading the article making the suggested substitutions, but it made no sense when read in that context.

  5. Marco Says:

    Paul, why should Al Gore be an embarrassment to climate science? It’s not like he pretends to be a climate scientist (unlike, say, Monckton) or does any science himself.

  6. Steve Bloom Says:

    He’s just a troll, Marco.

  7. Paul Kelly Says:


    One of the main topics in the climate blogosphere is how to communicate the science. While Gore is not a scientist, he purports to represent the science in his books and speeches. His errors, exaggerations, and misrepresentations bring ridicule rather than understanding. What does it say when someone who has spent many years warning of impending catastrophic rising sea levels buys million dollar oceanfront property? BTW, I think Monckton is equally counterproductive for his side of the argument.

  8. adelady Says:

    What oceanfront property? It has ocean views, but so do some mountain-top properties.

    Even I, who couldn’t care less where the man lives, know that the property is elevated and not likely to suffer from sea level rise unless things go +really+ pear-shaped.

  9. Paul Kelly Says:

    Olson and others here consider Al Gore and the IPCC appropriate, positive leaders of the lemmings. Ask yourself really how are they doing so far.

  10. Marco Says:

    Paul, the number of errors, exaggerations and misrepresentations of Al Gore can be counted on two hands, and frequently requires one to interpret something he said a certain way (see below). Judith Curry managed that number in one thread on realclimate…

    Regarding my “interpretation” statement: I can see how people with no knowledge on climate may take certain statements of Gore in AIT a certain way, which would be counter to what the science says. Problem is, as soon as you DO have knowledge, you interpret it a different way, and there is no contradiction. For example, Gore never has claimed catastrophic sea levels will happen in HIS lifetime. Just that they will happen.

    BTW, here’s that “oceanfront property”:
    Look at picture 8: it’s on one of the hills in Montecito. Likely above sea levels even if the whole Greenland Ice Sheet melts, as well as the WAIS, and the temperature goes up by 5 degrees (giving significant ocean expansion).

  11. Paul Kelly Says:

    Marco, I’m glad you can see how people with no knowledge on climate may take certain statements of Gore in AIT a certain way, which would be counter to what the science says. You probably also understand Gore misleads by false implication. Contrary to your statement, the more knowledge of the science one has, the more off Gore seems.

  12. Chris S. Says:

    Re: Al Gore’s Montecito house. Intrigued I had a look – apparently it’s just off Park Lane ( http://realestalker.blogspot.com/2010/05/real-estate-wrap-up-al-and-tipper-gore.html ). So I went & had a look on Google Maps but couldn’t find the house though looking around I think it’s likely it’s not the most expensive in the neighbourhood. According to Google Earth Park Lane starts about 85m above sea level and climbs into the foothills. That’s some sea level rise!

  13. Marco Says:

    Paul, no, I do not see that Gore misleads by false implication. I can see that certain people want to understand his statements a certain way, so they can present it as counter to science and hence call him misleading.

    Calling his villa “oceanfront property” is misleading, however…you dislike someone whose words can be misrepresented, and then use misleading terminology to attack that person. Welcome to your own world of (self-)deception.

  14. Deech56 Says:

    “Hitler”? Godwinization on the first comment. Pretty remarkable.

    The point of the post is that a lot of people are content to take a wait-and-see attitude towards action, apparently thinking that the risk of inaction is minimal. There are two points here:

    1. By the time the evidence is enough to satisfy those people, we will be in a very serious position indeed.

    2. Sources of information matter. I am glad to see the parallels between medicine and climatology. People who wouldn’t think of trusting the neighborhood homeopath seem to have a mistrust of scientists and the massive amount of evidence that has been published.

  15. Jim_S Says:

    I’m sorry, Bart, but I can’t see this as a great article, or even a passable one. Olson just divides up the world into Leaders, who are All Right-Thinking People, and Lemmings, who are no doubt goldarn preeverts sucking on the precious bodily fluids of our grandchildren even as they fall off the cliff. I imagine both sides have used a similar argument in every war ever fought. Whatever your views about climate change, the presentation of this kind of dichotomy as a model for planning can’t be credible.

    The medical analogy doesn’t really help his case. If the CDC said in a report that a third of the population would get diphtheria by 2030, well, that would just be a mistake. If one of the states pointed out the error, and the Director of the CDC answered by accusing the Governor of using voodoo science, that Director’s future career would be measured in days, maybe hours. Accountability matters to credibility.

    The only way I can make sense of it at all is as a locker room pep-talk to a downhearted team after a bad first half. In that context, it doesn’t have to be coherent. But pep alone isn’t going to get it done; the team needs better plays and fewer gaffes.

  16. Paul Kelly Says:

    I suppose we could parse the important differences between beachfront, oceanfront and ocean view. Sorry to have contributed to a distraction. The question remains is Gore a good and effective leader? My answer of course is no; and, Marco is correct that my general dislike for Gore colors my opinions. Others will differ, which is with me. That said, measured by results, his leadership has been ineffective. The same effectiveness question can be asked about the IPCC.

  17. Tom Fuller Says:

    Actually this post shows why the ‘hockey stick’ controversy is important.

    Obviously it’s important to have leaders. The question is, who decides who the leaders are?

    Al Gore anointed himself as a leader. That didn’t work so well. James Hansen tried to lead, but then expanded the area he thought he could lead on to a much wider scope.

    Both they and others depended on the use of symbols such as polar bears and flooded cities to garner support. But one of the most effective symbols was the Hockey Stick chart.

    It worked in convincing many people. Attacks on the hockey stick are also attacks on those who appointed themselves as leaders.

    In a democratic society, how should leaders be selected? We’re obviously not going to vote on ‘lead scientist.’ But we vote for political leaders who select scientific officials for energy and technology posts, for education, etc.

    I think we will have to trust that process rather than allowing people to jump in front of a parade and call themselves leaders.

  18. harry Says:


    What I wanted to point out is that the people Olsen wants to have as Leaders, will turn bad due to their uncontrolled power. That is why we have a Constitution, two houses in government and separation of the three powers.

    Assigning labels like Lemmings reveals an indigenous contempt for people with differing views. Someone with this form of contempt is in no position to propose the rule of the “enligthened”, the Illuminati, as he reckons himself to belong to the enligthened ones, no doubt.

    It is strange to see that more people who adhere to the belief of AGW are proposing that normal democratic processes get frozen and replaced by the rule of the wise, as in dictatorships. It boggles my mind.

    It is the return of the fascists.

  19. Paul Kelly Says:

    Olson isn’t recommending new leaders. He is defending those that have been the leadership for decades, the IPCC and Al Gore. To me, they’ve led into a blind alley. Their principle errors are the insistence on trying to reach energy transformation through CO2 suppression and measuring success by temperature rather than fossil fuel replacement.

  20. Bart Says:


    You’re going way overboard. This is the last time that you compare people you disagree with with fascists or the like (at least on this blog).
    Nobody proposed that normal democratic processes get frozen. Please make a solid argument for such extreme opinions or don’t bother voicing them.

  21. Deech56 Says:

    harry, the desire for those of us who understand that the science shows that there are real risks if we do nothing to reduce carbon emissions is for our elected leaders (Congress, the President in the US) to act. The Supreme Court has provided a path via the EPA that is another option, but one that is less desirable.

    The Senate is set up in such a way that 60 of 100 votes are needed to move forward, so a determined minority led by a core group of people who reject the science can stymie what the majority wants. That does not seem democratic to me.

    One political party has turned away from the leading figures in the field, and away from the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, which was founded to provide advice to those leaders.

  22. Deech56 Says:

    To add: and that party will be happy to pass the problem along to the next generation.

  23. Beaker Says:

    “Their principle errors are the insistence on trying to reach energy transformation through CO2 suppression and measuring success by temperature rather than fossil fuel replacement.”

    It may just be me, but where does the IPCC do this? Admittedly I have only read the summary for policy makers on the mitigation issue, but as far as I can see they only mention different policy options there, without mentioning which ones should be implemented or how success of the policy should be measured. But perhaps that is in WG III?

  24. harry Says:


    I am not comparing the people whom I disagree with to fascists.

    What I am stating is that they are calling for a form of ruling which I would call fascist rule: the rule of the enlightened. As history has shown, this form of rule will turn out to go corrupt due to the uncontrolled way of their rule. That is why I pointed out that we have one Constitution, two Houses, and the separation of the three powers. The 123 of modern Democracy.

    And yes, normal democratic processes get frozen by the appointment of the elite ruler. In fact, what Obama has done with the appointment of his czars, beyound the control of both House and Senate is already an example. These people are not accountable to House or Senate. Not being accountable is a breach of democracy. It is counterintuitive to the basic idea of the Constitition: “We, the people”.

    And please read carefully what I have written, since you are jumping to conclusions about things I did not say so.

    Tampering with the democratic way by inserting elite rulers leads to global disaster. My personal opinion.

  25. Beaker Says:

    @ Harry: Nobody, not Randy Olsen, nor anyone else, is proposing to abandon “the 123 of modern democracy”. What Randy is describing is the fact that we have to refer to experts for decision making, for the simple fact that we cannot the validity of all knowledge ourselves. Like it or not, this is reality. This is how it has worked in democratic societies for centuries already, including in the US.

    And the “Czars” you have in your government are simply officials who supervise the execution of policy as determined through your “123 of modern democracy”. They are simply there because when you institute nation wide policy, you have to have a person there to manage it. Nothing more, nothing less. They have been there since the beginning of the USA, although they are not always called Czars, that is just a media invention.

  26. Paul Kelly Says:


    Since you have read the summary for policymakers, how any policy options mentioned there don’t involve CO2 suppression? I ask because I don’t know.

  27. harry Says:


    When I reread Randy Olson’s article, it jumps out to me that he is very satisfied with Al Gore. I would not like to insult Al Gore by calling him a climate expert. When this is the reality, I pity you.

    Randy is also very clear in his terminology: The visionary leader vs the Lemmings. The good against the bad.

    Now I presume that I am one of the Lemmings, since I am not a “visonary”.

    But I will not go over the cliff, because everyone around me believes in AGW.

  28. harry Says:


    All persons belonging to the Cabinet of the president have to be endorsed by the Senate. Article 2 of the Constitution. The Cabinet is supposed to support the president in the proper execution of his task as being the executive branch of the tripartite, and as such is subjected to the approval by the legislative branch.

  29. Beaker Says:

    @ Paul Kelly:
    “Since you have read the summary for policymakers, how any policy options mentioned there don’t involve CO2 suppression? I ask because I don’t know.”

    If you haven’t read the SPM, then where does your claim concerning the IPCC come from?

    And what do you mean with “CO2 suppression”? I’d like to know what you’re looking for exactly before I answer.

  30. Steve Bloom Says:

    But, but, Beaker, PK is one of the smartest commenters around according to Keith Kloor. He *can’t* be uninformed or incoherent in the way you’re implying.

    Or maybe he’s just an idiot troll who makes himself feel better about his non-fact-based political choices by making stiuff up on the ‘tubes. If so, no wonder Keith Kloor considers him such a paragon.

  31. Beaker Says:

    “Randy is also very clear in his terminology: The visionary leader vs the Lemmings. The good against the bad.”
    That is not the terminology he employs. It’s the expert versus the non-expert. And that is just reality.

    “All persons belonging to the Cabinet of the president have to be endorsed by the Senate. Article 2 of the Constitution. The Cabinet is supposed to support the president in the proper execution of his task as being the executive branch of the tripartite, and as such is subjected to the approval by the legislative branch.”
    That is at least a debatable position. Constitutional scholars have stated that the appointment of Czars by the president is perfectly fine constitutionally, as long as they do not have legislative powers. The term czar isn’t exactly helpfull in this, as it is not an official term encompassing a legion of functions, some of which are president appointed, but others are appointed by governmental organisations or senate confirmed. So stating that “Czars” have been appointed as “elite rulers” is basically meaningless. You’d do better to name specific functions and why the method of appointment for them would be unconstitutional.

    But that is as far as my knowledge of your political system goes. And this is probably venturing to far off topic, so I’ll let you have the last word on Czars if you want it.

  32. Beaker Says:

    @ Steve Bloom:
    “But, but, Beaker, PK is one of the smartest commenters around according to Keith Kloor. He *can’t* be uninformed or incoherent in the way you’re implying.”

    I did not mean to imply anything, just in case. My question on where Kelly got his information was serious, as he may have gotten this from a source that is perfectly valid, for example an article on the IPCC recommendations. Although I think it bad form that he made the accusations he did without actually reading the SPM, it’s not like I’m a saint in that respect.

    One of the reasons I ask for clarification on what he means with “CO2 suppression” might be that the policy recommendations would fall under his definition and we are simply talking past each other.

  33. Beaker Says:

    “Or maybe he’s just an idiot troll who makes himself feel better about his non-fact-based political choices by making stiuff up on the ‘tubes. If so, no wonder Keith Kloor considers him such a paragon.”
    Hehe, I must admit that I’m less than impressed with some of Keith’s recent reporting (and even less with his excuses for that reporting).

  34. harry Says:


    Olson did not use your terms. He simply put Lemmings against Leadership. Not expert. That is what you invented. Olson only speaks about Leadership. That is also the only way to adore Al Gore. Al Gore has no expertise in climate science, whatever science (despite his honorary Dr title at the University of Tennessee? Correct me when I am wrong).

    And is it Leadership you think we are waiting for?

  35. Paul Kelly Says:

    I read the SPM several years ago. I recall it presenting various emissions scenarios and reduction goals. If non CO2 oriented policy options were mentioned, I’d be glad to be reminded.

    The claim that the IPCC is a leader of the movement to globally control CO2 is Olson’s, not mine. He may be conflating the IPCC with the COP.

    CO2 suppression means a focus on CO2 emissions as the basis for policy and measurement of success. To me this is treating the symptom rather than the disease and even if implemented is unlikely to meet its goals. A focus on actual deployment of fossil fuel replacing efficiencies and technologies is the surest way to energy transformation. This is in no way an argument against the science. It is a recognition that there are other equally valid reasons for getting away from carbon based energy.

    What I’m looking for exactly is the fastest way to replace burning things for energy.

  36. harry Says:

    @Paul Kelly

    Have you considered nukes? MOX and Thorium do seem to have real potential.

  37. Paul Kelly Says:

    Steve Bloom,

    Always a pleasure to read thoughtful comments from my heckler. I see you’re now calling me a troll, an odd description for someone who makes occasional comments on a couple of blogs. A person who constantly submits pointless and inane ad hom comments on lots and lots of blogs, now there’s a troll.

  38. Paul Kelly Says:


    I’m less concerned with what has potential than what is deployable right now.

  39. harry Says:

    @Paul Kelly,

    There seems to be a lack of readily deployable energy sources. Why not push the not readily available? Wind and Solar are missing the opportunity by failing to deliver when they were needed most, and were readily available.

  40. Tom Fuller Says:

    As someone who has been on the receiving end of Steve Bloom (and others’) insults, I can only counsel Mr. Kelly to just ignore him completely. Don’t even reply, Paul.

    The IPCC don’t even pay lip service in the Summary for Policy Makers to other remedies and other sources of global warming, such as deforestation and better control of aerosols and soot. Their commitment is to legislated international caps on emissions. Everything else is not even a sideshow–it doesn’t exist.

    They write in the SPM for AR4: “Most of the observed increase in global averagetemperatures since the mid-20th century is verylikely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    The only remedy they write about is this: “Based on current understandingof climate-carbon cycle feedback, model studies suggest that to stabilise at 450 ppm carbon dioxidecould require that cumulative emissions over the 21stcentury be reduced from an average of approximately670 [630 to 710] GtC (2460 [2310 to 2600] GtCO2) toapproximately 490 [375 to 600] GtC (1800 [1370 to2200] GtCO2).”

  41. Tom Fuller Says:


    Wind, solar and biofuels are receiving all the publicity these days. However, the bulk of renewable energy is provided by hydroelectricity, by a significant margin (98% to 2%?).

    Hydroelectricity is expected to double over the medium term, thanks in large part to large dams built in the developing world, especially China. It will be supplemented by small hydro and maybe run of river.

    However, one area where signficant gains could be made isn’t especially renewable. Both combined heat and power and waste-to-energy plants, which have been growing rapidly in penetration, could be accelerated. CHP provides about 7% of the world’s primary energy, at 80-95% efficiency, as opposed to normal plants’ 35%. It’s an energy-efficiency measure, but a really significant one.

    And, at a residential level, rich people in homes they intend to inhabit for a long time can contribute greatly using ground source heat pumps–again, not strictly renewable, but highly effective. Payback’s a long time and the initial investment isn’t peanuts, but hey–we’re all supposed to be getting richer, right?

  42. Paul Kelly Says:


    If you break it down by individual sectors like residential and commercial building HVAC, automotive and other forms of transportation industrial and manufacturing, there’s reason for optimism.

  43. Tom Fuller Says:

    Actually, Paul, that’s what I’m doing for a client. I just finished renewable energy, which is a bit sobering, but I’m getting cheered back up by potential improvements in energy efficiency.

  44. Marco Says:

    Tom Fuller claims:
    “The IPCC don’t even pay lip service in the Summary for Policy Makers to other remedies and other sources of global warming, such as deforestation and better control of aerosols and soot.”

    Marco notes:
    “Afforestation; reforestation; forest management; reduced deforestation; harvested wood product management; use of forestry products for bioenergy to replace fossil fuel use; tree species improvement to increase biomass productivity and carbon sequestration; improved remote sensing technologies for analysis of vegetation/soil carbon sequestration potential and mapping land-use change”


    “Landfill CH4 recovery; waste incineration with energy recovery; composting of organic waste; controlled wastewater treatment; recycling and waste minimisation; biocovers and biofilters to optimise CH4 oxidation”


    “Improved crop and grazing land management to increase soil carbon storage; restoration of cultivated peaty soils and degraded lands; improved rice cultivation techniques and livestock and manure management to reduce CH4 emissions; improved nitrogen fertiliser application techniques to reduce N2O emissions; dedicated energy crops to replace fossil fuel use; improved energy efficiency; improvements of crop yields”

    Marco concludes:
    Tom Fuller shown wrong again. Expect Tom to ignore Marco, because he’s been so mean.

  45. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mean Mr. Marco…

    Yes, the Synthesis Report does cover a lot more than what they presented to policy makers. Pity, that.

  46. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mean Mr. Marco, do you even look at the stuff you throw up in the comments, or do you think that we won’t?

    But thanks for making my point for me.

  47. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    Uh, Tommy? Marco quoted the Summary for Policy Makers. This is better known as the SPM which you could have groked from the link. But you didn’t. Reading the link would have made it clear, but you obviously didn’t read the link either.

  48. Paul Kelly Says:

    Beaker originally brought up the Summary for Policymakers which only refers to WG1. That has Marco morphed into the Synthesis Report which covers all working groups including WG1. I hope Tom agrees that, by ignoring the difference between the SPM and the SR, we can all agree the IPCC does indeed mention land use and other options although not in the SPM.

  49. Beaker Says:

    “Yes, the Synthesis Report does cover a lot more than what they presented to policy makers. Pity, that.”
    Earth to Tom, that was from the summary for policy makers.

  50. Beaker Says:

    “Beaker originally brought up the Summary for Policymakers which only refers to WG1. That has Marco morphed into the Synthesis Report which covers all working groups including WG1. I hope Tom agrees that, by ignoring the difference between the SPM and the SR, we can all agree the IPCC does indeed mention land use and other options although not in the SPM.”
    Kelly, what Marco quoted came directly from the summary for policy makers. Really, I want to take you seriously, but if you make these kind of easily checked mistakes, that becomes very hard.

  51. Paul Kelly Says:


    You are talking nonsense. The page Marco quotes is named Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. The document named Summary For Policymakers does not contain the words quoted.
    Google AR4 summary for policymakers. Download the pdf. Do the same for AR4 synthesis report. Compare and contrast.

  52. Bart Says:


    Olson also talked about expertise, in very much the way as paraphrased by Beaker at 22:58, 21st.

  53. Bart Says:

    Interesting discussion so far. All the better if people can keep namecalling of any kind to a minimum. All, please don’t be overly offensive nor defensive. Thanks!

  54. Marco Says:

    How wrong can some people be?

    Doing a google search as Paul Kelly suggested provides the following as the second link (*) for me:
    click on Summary for Policymakers
    then select “adaptation and mitigation options”
    Gee, that would be the link I provided.

    (*) The first link is the SPM for WG1, which logically contains nothing about mitigation and adaptation, since that would be WG3. So let’s look at that one:
    Gee, how strange, the SPMS4 document contains the same elements also brough forward in the WG3 SPM….

  55. Scott A Mandia Says:

    “We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be.” – John Holdren

    Souns correct to me. We are on the path toward 4C and that is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

    Unfortunately, there are few if any statesman in Congress or the White House so I fear that the seatbelts will go on the bus after quite a few children are killed.

  56. Eli Rabett Says:

    Interestingly, this same discussion took place in the eternal triangle between MT, Roger and Roger’s playmate with the bad hair, Richard Tol. Tol’s take on this was that Michael was an authoritarian.

    Eli killed that thread by pointing out that we are arguing about the meaning of authority. Using it in the negative sense of an arbitrary control of people, for example, Hitler was authoritarian (thread over), is a strawman. Bart, Randy and Eli are use it to say that one should pay more attention to those who know more about a subject, not be ruled by them, in other words they are authorities on, for example, climate change.

  57. willard Says:

    Eli Rabett’s pointing out can be applied to distinguish wont appeals to authority from fallacious ones.

  58. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mean Mr. Marco, I was wrong. I was reading the HTML version of the SPM at the time I commented upthread, which showed only text and most especially didn’t show footnotes, tables and charts, which is where the references to deforestation etc. occur. I regret the error.

    I regret more the IPCC’s emphasis on global control of emissions as the right tool for the job, as opposed to being one of the tools in the toolbox, but I was wrong when I said they did not mention the other aspects.

  59. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mr. Mandia, trend temperatur rise is less than 0.2C per decade since the 1980s. That does not look like 4C per century to me. Our emissions have grown dramatically. Our temperatures have not kept pace with high climb SRES.

  60. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mr. Rabett, you kill a lot of threads, something you seem quite proud of. I believe the thrust of this thread is the difference between self-appointed leaders and those who acquire credibility through other means, either politically or professionally.

    And I think the relevant point is that those who sought credibility and the right to lead using polar bears, Himalayan glaciers and Hockey Sticks as illustrative graphics for their campaign posters most deservedly did not succeed.

    Those icons (and the others from the various ‘Gates) have not been replaced, and neither have the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

    You are writing about the politics, not the science. The political results of what happened over the past year are clear–much clearer than the science.

    As your ilk are wont to say about the science, we have moved on. The past can bury its discredited voices–notably Mr. Gore, Mr. Mann, Mr. Hansen. (And America loves a resurrection–they can always come back.)

    Your challenge is to find credible new leaders, not prop up the fallen heroes of your past.

    Al Gore will not easily survive revelations of personal energy use, exaggerations in AIT and questions of sexual impropriety.

    James Hansen strayed from climate to broader environmental and political concerns. Getting photographed with models in front of coal mines after saying the streets of NYC would be flooded in 2008 basically blew it for him.

    And as for Michael Mann, criticism of his principal work will not go away. Ever.

    Your new leaders will have to come from a different school. One that is less confrontational and more willing to discuss uncertainties.

    These new leaders would be wise to discuss strategies other than carbon trading and global caps on emissions.

    I am not certain that your old leaders, their committed followers, or candidates for new leadership have accepted that this is the reality. You certainly haven’t.

    Which gives your opponents a free field to play in.

  61. Scott A Mandia Says:


    You need to take a stats course. After viewing the IPCC emissions plots that show non-linear growth rates, you wish to fit a linear trend line to the past two decades to support your argument about rates for the next two decades and next century?


    Drs. Mann and Hansen have not been discredited by people who actually understand climate – just by people like you that really do not.

    “The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.“ — Mark Twain

  62. Tom Fuller Says:

    Pity then that Mann and Hansen are trying to lead a world heavily populated by non-scientists, isn’t it? Which is what this thread is about, isn’t it? For they have been discredited. I personally think deservedly so, as a scientist who is willing to let others lie for him is just as unsuited for leadership as one who lies himself.

    The Hockey Stick is discredited and deservedly so. The proof of its being discredited is the number of erstwhile defenders who now say it is unimportant.

    And the streets of NYC are not covered today by water from rising seas. Dr. Hansen said they would be. Pretty simple, actually. He tried to scare us, but lived long enough to see his predictions fail.

    As for the temperature trends, they do include current temperatures, being from the 80s through the present. Temperatures have not risen at or above 0.2C in any decade since the 80s.

  63. Tom Fuller Says:

    Oh, and Mr. Mandia, perhaps to save you an intermediate comment before continuing, I am aware that climate response is non-linear. However the high temperature SREs specifically chart temperature rises above 0.2C per decade in this period.

  64. Eli Rabett Says:

    And you blather a lot Tommy. If killing off empty blather is a sin, Eli is guilty, guilty, guilty.

  65. Eli Rabett Says:

    And oh yes, the first to go will be the Hamptons. We in the US are already encountering severe loss of the East Coast barrier islands from Florida to Maine, which is a huge shame.

    These are some of the best beaches in the world and, where they have not been overdeveloped, the prettiest. (OK, Ocean City and Atlantic City, etc are jokes, but their beaches are prime). As a young bunny, Eli would bike to the Rockaways and sit on the beach with his friends for hours. Good blather.

  66. Tom Fuller Says:

    Silly Rabett, I’m glad not everyone agrees with you about the content ratio of my writing, although perhaps you would say that it matters more who reads me. But I’m certainly willing to concede your expertise on blather.

    And apparently science fiction as well. How big are the floods and the sea level rises you predict, Mr. Rabett? Do you envision yourself as Kevin Costner patrolling the lonely seas? Doing battle with the Smokers?

  67. sidd Says:

    Mr. Tom Fuller quotes Mr. James Hansen “saying the streets of NYC would be flooded in 2008″

    I cannot find a citation for this. As written the statement is unclear.

    a)Mr. Hansen stated : “NYC will be flooded in the year 2008.”

    b)In the year 2008, Mr. Hansen stated “NYC will be flooded”

    Perhaps Mr. Fuller would provide the original quote and provenance ?


  68. Tom Fuller Says:

    Check around, sidd–the article where he was quoted as saying that resurfaced on the intertubes a month or two ago and was featured in a number of climate-related weblogs. He did say it.

  69. Beaker Says:

    @ Tom Fuller: “Check around, sidd–the article where he was quoted as saying that resurfaced on the intertubes a month or two ago and was featured in a number of climate-related weblogs. He did say it.”

    Sorry, but it’s not other’s task to hunt around for your sources.

  70. Paul Kelly Says:

    Near the end of his article, Olson says this is a ” period of rethinking for the climate crowd”. I’ve said they need to refocus on achieving the goal of energy transformation. Many have devoted much time and effort pursuing a top down global emissions based solution that is pretty much a dead end. It is difficult for them to step out of the climate box to find many who share their goal and have constructive ideas on how to achieve it.

  71. Tom Fuller Says:

    @Beaker, this is a comment on a blog, not journalism. If sidd wants to find it, he will. Or he will go to his grave thinking I made it up. His business, not mine.

  72. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    I’m not entirely sure he did say it. It seems to have started at WUWT.

    In an article on Salon.com by Suzy Hansen journalist Bob Reiss, while recounting an interview which had occurred 1988 or 1989 placed those words in Hansen’s mouth. Not sure if that qualifies as a prediction or not, or if he said something like that if it was not misinterpreted by the journalist in question.

    Of course, here it is 20 years on and we’ve had catastrophic flooding in US this year in Nashville, just not in NYC.

  73. Tom Fuller Says:

    Rattus, think we had catastrophic flooding 20 years ago–maybe 19, maybe 21.

    It was an article in some NY paper or magazine and the reporter asked Hansen what would happen in 20 years. He predicted that the street they were standing on would be under water.

  74. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    Tom, I laid out the information I could find. It did not trace back farther than the Salon article. AFICT, there is no record on the web, other than this Salon article, of Hansen having made such a prediction in other than an offhand way.

    To use Michael Tobis’s simile, Nashville rolled a 13. Russia has rolled a 13, Pakistan has rolled a 13. The midwest got off fairly light this year, but cities in the midwest have rolled a long series of elevens and twelves in places which usually only roll a 9 or 10 (flooding along the Red River, the Cedar River, etc. happens fairly often).

  75. Eli Rabett Says:

    You know Tom, your really don’t know much. The US East coast barrier islands are threatened by the combination of sea level rise and subsidence. There was an article in the Washington Post last year that might give you pause
    In the Washington region, Environmental Protection Agency official James G. Titus said, Hains Point, along the Southwest Waterfront, and K Street NW in Georgetown might have to be elevated. Sections of the waterfront Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore might also need to be jacked up.

    And, Titus said, rural areas along the water might have to be abandoned. On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, for instance, rising seas could eat up large sections of marshy Dorchester County.

    A more uncertain fate awaits such places as Assateague Island, a celebrated nature preserve, or the Maryland and Delaware beach resorts. They sit on barrier islands, just a few feet above the water.

    “If these sea-level-rise numbers . . . come to pass, then I think it’s pretty much a certainty” that these resorts would be abandoned, said Young, of Western Carolina University. “We’re going to be spending so much money protecting metropolitan areas that it’s hard to imagine we’d have enough left over to protect resort communities.”

    Eli may be a bunny Tom, but you are simply a clown

  76. Scott A Mandia Says:

    Global Warming: A Sea Change

    I blogged on the topic of sea level rise back in June. There are some good illustrations there relating to the East Coast of the US.

  77. Tom Fuller Says:

    Rabett, your tricks are for kids. What do you think sea level rise is now, per year? How much is that contributing to East Coast shore problems and how much is due to the perennial erosion and millenia-long subsidence? What proportion of their problems would you attribute to SLR? 2%? 5%? 99%?

  78. Tom Fuller Says:

    Silly rabbit, here’s something recent from someone you love to detest, which of course increases his credibility in my book. Bjorn, take it away…

    “Imagine that over the next 70 or 80 years, a giant port city – say, Tokyo – found itself engulfed by sea levels rising as much as 15 feet or more. Millions of inhabitants would be imperiled, along with trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure.

    This awful prospect is exactly the sort of thing global-warming evangelists like Al Gore have in mind when they warn that we must take “large-scale, preventive measures to protect human civilization as we know it.” The rhetoric may sound extreme, but with so much hanging in the balance, surely it’s justified. Without a vast, highly coordinated global effort, how could we possibly cope with sea-level rises on that order of magnitude?

    Well, we already have. In fact, we’re doing it right now. Since 1930, excessive groundwater withdrawal has caused Tokyo to subside by as much as 15 feet, with some of the lowest parts of the downtown area dropping almost a foot per year in some years. Similar subsidence has occurred over the past century in a wide range of cities, including Tianjin, Shanghai, Osaka, Bangkok, and Jakarta. In each case, the city has managed to protect itself from such large sea-level rises and thrive.

    The point isn’t that we can or should ignore global warming. The point is that we should be wary of hyperbolic predictions. More often than not, what sound like horrific changes in climate and geography actually turn out to be manageable – and in some cases even benign.”

  79. Paul Kelly Says:

    Eli has made the strongest case yet for adaptation even without mitigation. It is an opportunity for him to focus on a reachable goal. Perhaps also a chance to consider new, achievable mitigation strategies.

  80. harry Says:

    After reading the previous posts, I am wondering who would qualify for Lemmings and who would be called a Leader (Which, in German, is Fuhrer). Eli is making an as usual bizarre reasoning.

    The point of the article by Randy Olson is:
    1. we have people who understand that the heavens are burning, and we have
    2. Lemmings who are too dumb to see that the heavens are burning.

    Let us appoint one of the Leaders to show the stupid Lemmings the way to act, with powers beyound the ones given to the democratically elected. If they have no exceptional powers, there would be no rationale for these Leaders to be present.

  81. Paul Kelly Says:

    Actually, Harry, that is not at all the point of Olson’s article. He is asking if what he calls the climate crowd should wait like lemmings for a catastrophe or be leaders like the IPCC and AL Gore. It is a very poor analogy, but your interpretation cannot be derived fro the article.

  82. harry Says:

    I just saw that you managed to get the articles I referred to have them translated from Dutch?

  83. harry Says:


    Then we have a difference in the interpretation of our reading. For me it is absolutely clear that Randy Olson wants more than normal capabilities for the “Leaders” above the “Lemmings”. Solely the fact that he dares to call the people who are not agreeing with his elitist position “Lemmings”says enough.

    I am no “Lemming”. I sincerely doubt whether the science behind the global warming is solid enough to exist. Call me a denier. Whatever. But I am no “Lemming”. I am not following anyone blindly over the cliff. Which (running over the cliff in following your predecessor) is exactly what a lot of AGW disciples do. (My personal opinion, no offense)

  84. sidd Says:

    Mr. Rattus Norvegicus was kind enough to provide enough clues to
    the reference at


    The date of the article is 2001. The quote from Mr. Bob Reiss begins:
    “While doing research 12 or 13 years ago, I met Jim Hansen…”

    So that would put the date of Mr. Hansen’s statement as 1988-1989

    The quote from Mr. Hansen continues:
    “The West Side Highway will be under water.”

    At that time there was no West Side Highway, as I remember.
    Did not the West Side Highway collapse in the 70s ,not rebuilt till
    the 2000′s ?


  85. Tom Fuller Says:

    Glad Rattus was able to help.

  86. Rattus Norvegicus Says:


    The Westside Highway, or the Henry Hudson Parkway, does appear to have had to problems during this period. But they were not due to climate (flooding) problems, just normal neglect — or as the government might prefer to refer to it “deferred maintenance”. During the period the “Westside Highway” was closed there was still a surface route along the Hudson through the upper Westside. I remember driving on it in 1990 or 1991 while visiting a friend who lived near 92nd and Madison(?) — had a rental car so I was actually the one doing the driving. Loved New York. Between the subway, buses and taxis I could get pretty much anywhere, but being a California guy I still liked to drive. Just not park. Parking in NYC is hell.

  87. Eli Rabett Says:

    Well yes and no on the West Side Highway. A cement truck crashed through the elevated highway in 1973, and it was taken down eventually, but the replacement surface route is called the West Side Highway. This is pretty much a few feet about the normal water level for lower Manhattan.

    High tides and rain can already flood the Battery at the southern end of the island which is also the southern end of the West Side Highway. Done and done

    One could probably put a flood barrier at the Narrows where there are reasonable hills on both sides to protect Manhattan but Canarse, the Rockaways and much of the south coast and barrier islands on Long Island will be flooded out no matter what is done.

    As to adaptation, as J. Willard Rabett put it

    1. Adaptation responds to current losses.
    2. Mitigation responds to future losses
    3. Adaptation plus future costs is more expensive than mitigation,
    4. Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.

    That doesn’t say that adaptation is not needed, it does say that adaptation without mitigating the underlying cause is stupid and futile. So is praying for fairy dust.

  88. sidd Says:

    Reading on, I see that Mr. Hansen was correct about traffic on Broadway,. I pass thru the city evry now and then, and it seems to get easier to jaywalk across Broadway each year. Or maybe I just am getting better at it.

    On a side note, I happened to be in NYC and Philly on the same day in early July during which they were both setting hi temperature records. Quite breath taking, especially in the NYC subway, and not in a nice way.


  89. Rattus Norvegicus Says:

    Looking at the Army Corps of Engineers after action report seems to confirm that Nashville rolled a 13, with recurrence intervals for the event at greater than 1000 years. Rainfall totals exceeded the monthly rainfall in the area in 3 days, and this was not by a little, it was by 50% or more.

    Similarly the Russian heat wave was at least a 1000 year event, I’ve seen reports that it may have been a 3000 year event (see wunderground.com). I haven’t seen any analysis on the Pakistani floods, so I can’t comment on them. So many several sigma events in such a short period of time has to make one wonder…

    I have to agree strongly with Eli, adaptation w/o mitigation is hopeless. There are a large number of flood control projects on the upper Cumberland, but because of the widespread and extreme nature of the event they were of little use. Care to roll another 13?

  90. Paul Kelly Says:

    Floods and heatwaves are interesting, but the area of Eli”s concern is Atlantic coast barrier beaches. For his sake, lets hope sufficient mitigation is already in place to make saving the beaches permissible.

  91. sailrick Says:

    To mix metaphors, putting the cart (adaptation) before the horse (mitigation), is like a man who digs himself into a hole, and then adapts to it, instead of stopping digging.

  92. sailrick Says:

    That last comment is basically the same as the one I posted under the name frflyer at Only In It For The God, and which MT displayed at the top of the page for several days.
    (In case anyone saw that and was wondering if I swiped it.)

  93. Tom Fuller Says:

    Put realistic boundaries around future conditions and I would be happy to help fight for mitigation.

    Leave it fuzzy and full of scare stories like 20 foot sea level rise and I will say there’s no science involved and it is better to focus on adaptation.

    Either get real about what’s coming down the road or be prepared for a long and ultimately unsuccessful struggle.

  94. Paul Kelly Says:

    Without in any way supporting adaptation with mitigation or without, let’s broaden the definition of mitigation. Building weatherization is mitigation. All improvements in efficiency and carbon intensity are mitigation. Technology deployment is the most desirable mitigation.

  95. Tom Fuller Says:

    Agreed and I support them–but I also would support them without any threat of climate change.

  96. Paul Kelly Says:

    The hard part is convincing Bart and Eli et al that these other mitigations are sufficient.

  97. Bart Says:

    Hansen’s accomplishments in science are tremendous. He does have the rare trait of daring to stick his neck out and make predictions, many of which turned out to be in the right ballpark. Dismissing him altogether because of such a salon article, of which I don’t know the ins and outs of what exactly he said or meant, and in which context, seems a little absurd in light of his accomplishments and achievements.

    You mentioned your interpretation of Olson’s article a few times now; that’s enough. Needless repetition is not needed, esp not if it borders on the offensive.

  98. Bart Says:

    Paul, decreasing the carbon intensity of energy (amount of emissions per unit of energy produced) has a tremendous potential of course. (see eg the Kaya identity).

    I think all those options you mention, eg improving building insulation, improving efficiency, etc are regarded as mitigation. I think efficiency measures by themselves will not be enough to get the climate on what I consider a safe path (let’s say, below 2 degrees warming for simplicity’s sake). But if you include all carbon intensity measures, then the sky is the limit. Carbon free energy exists today that could be implemented to a much larger scale (it costs though). I think we’d be wise to also decrease the energy intensity of GDP in our portfolio (which is what efficiency is a part of). Could improving carbon intensity and energy intensity together get us there? Perhaps. But as MT has frequently noted,

    A given economic growth rate can be sustainable only if the average impact per unit wealth declines at an equal or greater rate.

    In light of expected economic growth in the world, the carbon and energy intensity would have to improve very, very strongly indeed. Tobis touches here on the other, much trickier and in the taboo sphere, terms in the Kaya identity: population and GDP. I’ll discuss population in a forthcoming post.

  99. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, as I think population is tightly linked to the areas we are discussing, could I suggest an integrated approach?

    Regarding Hansen, I bow to your superior knowledge of his scientific contributions, and have no wish to dispute them or discredit him. For all the attacks skeptics have made on his advocacy, I’m unaware of any questioning of his scientific record.

    But his advocacy is fair game for all of us, and I think it’s clear that his advocacy is not of the same caliber as his science, if his science is of a gold standard–simply because his advocacy is not.

    I haven’t written much about Hansen, and what little I have written has not been as critical as my writing about other players, especially Mann and Jones from the scientific community and Romm and Lambert from the advocacy group. I actually was favorably impressed (like my impression really matters…) by an appearance Hansen made on David Letterman (American talk-show host). Hansen was calm, cogent and restrained, obviously well-informed and well-briefed. Very effective.

    I don’t think population and GDP are taboo, at least not in the circles I travel. But you certainly will be walking into a discussion that’s been ongoing and has had its heated moments. I look forward to your post.

  100. Rattus Norvegicus Says:


    Regarding Hansen, I bow to your superior knowledge of his scientific contributions, and have no wish to dispute them or discredit him. For all the attacks skeptics have made on his advocacy, I’m unaware of any questioning of his scientific record.

    Except those fringe deniers who question the surface record and the usefulness of modeling…

  101. Tom Fuller Says:

    Rattus, there are fringe skeptics out there. However, not all those questioning the surface record and the utilization (rather than utility) of general circulation models are on the fringe.

    You should note that some who were labeled ‘fringe deniers’ basically verified the analysis framework of treatment of the surface record just as soon as they had access to adequate data to do so. And they published these findings in the same forum where they had queried these models, places like The Blackboard.

    I won’t repeat the hackneyed cliche (that’s a hackneyed cliche, isn’t it?) about models being wrong but sometimes useful (whoops–just did, didn’t I? Well, my intentions were pure.) I will note that where they are the single support for claims and papers, that I often note that the uncertainties inherent in modelling are not always explained as carefully as they might be. I will also note that there seems to be a tendency to treat a model run as if it were a real world experiment in terms of the data it produces. That troubles me, and I should think it would trouble you too.

  102. harry Says:


    I agree that we can reduce the amount of energy we use. But it will have a price. And the price is sometimes too high for that particular measure to be feasible.

    First of all, we have to define what goal we want to achieve.
    1. Reducing the amount of energy spent.
    2. Reducing CO2 emissions.
    3. Reducing the warming of the planet.

    I have been working on 1 for my household. I do not consider 2 useful, and I am sure 3. is for me personally an unachievable goal.

    Next, I made an inventarisation of my family’s energy use during the last 10 years, and related it to the number, duration of use and power consumption of the appliances we have. This information all went into Excel. Next I studied the data and identified which appliances were responsible for what contribution to our total energy consumption. Consequently, measures were taken to reduce the use of energy by those selected appliances.

    A 30% reduction in electricity, a 40% reduction in natural gas consumption, a 200% increase in burning wood, a 50% reduction in drinking water and a 200% increase in the use of natural well water.

    Overall a reduction of energy costs with 50%, partly due to avoiding excessive energy taxation.

    But what I did has never been suggested by one of the visionary leaders, and every measure is completely legal. Or using federal subsidies, eg the PV system.

    However, I doubt whether my global CO2 contribution went down. I rather surmise that it could have gone up.

  103. harry Says:

    @Rattus Norvegicus

    I think I qualify for your description of fringe deniers who question the surface record and the usefulness of modeling… And I am proud of it.

    Let me explain.

    The major problem we have is that global temperature during the last centrury or two has merely increased by 0.8 C. If we are going to do analysis of such a small analomaly to whatever signal, it will correlate. We can measure temperatures to microkelvin accuracy, in a laboratry. But outside, we are faced with a network of very unreliable stations, which are not all attended to properly. So I distrust the surface record, with good reason.

    As for modelling, what can I say? Once you have complete grasp of the processes involved in your system, you can model it. Eg the voltage across a resistor as function of the current. With increasing accuracy, differences from theory start to become clear. It appears that the value of the current influences the value of the resistor. You find out that the material of the resistor shows a temperature dependant relation. Increasing the measuring current changes the amount of energy, and hence the temperature of the resistor, which now shows a different value. New version of the model. With increasing accuracy, you find out that the material of the connecting wires changes the apparent resistance. New version of the model.

    And this is an example of a very simple, physical analogy. Climate models contain thousands of these “simple” assumptions about the behaviour of elements within the models.

    And as for running a model: have you ever tried the following experiment:
    (Calculated on a HP41CV)

    Which implies that when using iterative models, you end up with garbage, even when your individual iteration is accurate within 0.1%. I am certain that there is no model which achieves an accuracy of 10% for any given iteration.
    0.9^1000= 1.75* 10-46. I cannot buy water that has less pollutants in it.

    And which model does use less than 1000 iterations? None, because we can have convicts to calculate them on paper, as was the use in the old days of logarithic tables in ever increasing decimals.

    Please get back to earth.

  104. Rattus Norvegicus Says:



  105. harry Says:

    @Rattus norvegicus

    Yes, WTF?

  106. harry Says:

    @Rattus norvegicus,

    What I wanted to make clear is that both surface temperature record as well as any simulation is prone to errors, which multiply during iteration. And they go off into realms beyound physics.
    Believe what you want, but realize that it is based on belief.

  107. Rattus Norvegicus Says:


    Your little demonstration only proves that your HP41 did not have the accuracy required. The scientific calculator application I used to check your results got the right answer (probably a little better than yours since 1.75 is rounded up). The other answers are reasonable within rounding errors.

    Still I fail to see what your point is. Climate models iterate, using as input the results of the previous step to calculate the next step. This has nothing to do with your example. I am assuming that you got your example for Pat Frank, or someone like that, but it is not a reasonable example of how errors accumulate in climate models. The literature is large on this point, I strongly doubt that the people who do this for a living have it so completely wrong.

    You are either a fool or a tool.

  108. Eli Rabett Says:

    Tom: Guess that makes Pat Michaels and the Roger Pielkes fringe scientists. Eli can live with that.

    Harry: Exponentiation in calculators is not done by repeated multiplication.

  109. Tom Fuller Says:

    Reading comprehension 101 for silly rabbits overloaded on cereals, or possibly cooking sherry:

    Inspect the following sentence: “However, not all those questioning the surface record and the utilization (rather than utility) of general circulation models are on the fringe.”


    Then begin to respond.

  110. Scott Mandia Says:

    Hansen et al. Hit a Climate Home Run — in 1981


  111. Bart Says:


    That’s a very good post indeed. Just printed out the paper for careful reading later. It also links in a bit with the lengthy stats discussions here a while back, eg their envelope of expected random climate variability.

  112. Warmcast Says:

    Tom Fuller:
    “And I think the relevant point is that those who sought credibility and the right to lead using polar bears, Himalayan glaciers and Hockey Sticks as illustrative graphics for their campaign posters most deservedly did not succeed.”

    As opposed to who?
    The issue hasn’t changed. Arctic ice is an issue and the plight of polar bears and many other species are still a problem as climate changes due to GHGs.

    Himalayan glaciers are an issue like all glaciers, the majority of which are retreating.

    The hockey stick seems to be sticking.

    All these issues are for leaders to act on and to do something about.

  113. Warmcast Says:

    Tom Fuller:

    “Actually this post shows why the ‘hockey stick’ controversy is important.”

    I haven’t seen anything that is controversial. The recent M&W paper hasn’t convinced me that there is anything radically wrong with Manns graph.
    It has however led me to be suspicious of the new M&W paper.

  114. MarkB Says:

    “Dismissing him altogether because of such a salon article, of which I don’t know the ins and outs of what exactly he said or meant, and in which context, seems a little absurd in light of his accomplishments and achievements. ”

    That’s exactly how dirty politics works. One campaign finds some off-hand comment quoted by a journalist remembering an interview back a decade or two and it becomes a campaign ad.

    Many attack Hansen because of his scientific views. Others don’t like him because he’s outspoken on emissions reductions, as Fuller indicates. That role is only reserved for non-scientists and “skeptics”. Ironically, those supporting mitigation tend to criticize Hansen’s advocacy views more than his scientific views, due to his vehement (and arguably misplaced) opposition to cap and trade, while deniers enjoy propping up his views on that issue.

    Hansen is someone deniers place on a pedastal in order to sling mud at from below, and to present the impression that global warming is supported by a few “discredited” scientists worshipping at the Church of Gore.

    I see Hansen as a prominent scientist, who has a pretty nice track record.


    but one of thousands of course.



    Regarding the TN flooding, from the Army Corps reportl, posted by Rattus:

    “Some areas received rainfall amounts that exceeded 17 inches during the two day event, the highest amount in more than 140 years of record. Much of the rain fell in areas not controlled by the Corps reservoirs…. With so much rainfall occurring over the uncontrolled portion of the basin, the flood damage reduction projects were not in a position to play a major role of reducing flood crests along the Cumberland.”

    Almost seems like a broken record these days.

  115. harry Says:

    @Eli Rabett,

    I know, which is why I mentioned how it was calculated. For your information, Excel gives the same results. And from my specs you could have deduced much more…

    The results approximate 1/e. If you repeat the excercise with 1.1^10 etc, you will get a very accurate approximation of e.

    Just for fun.

  116. harry Says:

    @Rattus norvegicus,

    It is OT, and Bart will hate me even more for this, but what is wrong with my HP41 calculator? Of course it is rounded off, how would you display a value of around 1.75E-46 on a 10 digit display?

    And I am not so sure that modellers know sufficient about error propagation. You, for instance, are unaware of it.

  117. harry Says:

    @Rattus norvegicus,

    The HP41 and its predecessors made the lunar landing possible. There was nothing more reliable at that time. And it still is reliable, although old and outdated. It is a shame that there are currently no worthy successors.

    Again, Bart, Ot. Sorry!

  118. Pat Cassen Says:

    harry is “not so sure that modellers know sufficient about error propagation.” But he could learn something about that if he was so inclined:


  119. harry Says:


    Nice try,

    but your search is not quite on topic with model based error propagation.

    Please comment on my figures. I do no give a damn about models for which the code has NOT been released. Show me the code.

  120. harry Says:


    And you will very soon realize how damning these iterative build-up of errors is.

  121. harry Says:


    A lot of code available is in Fortran, from the long old days when we had to decide whether a digit would be 8 bits, or far worse, 32 bits in case of a float. We were working with 10K bytes of memory.

    This is the GISS code, based on very old Fortran 77 code. I can read it, I can code it, but is uttergarbage.

    So please do not try to defend things you cannot understand, as is obvious from your comments.

  122. Eli Rabett Says:

    Harry, Excel (and my $14 calculator) have enough guard bits that the difference between .9.. ^1000 by exponentiation and repeat multiplication is one part in 10^14. For .99 and .999, the agreement is even better. You are basically blowing ignorant smoke, either that or you should go back to your Wang. You don’t have a clue.

    And yes there has been a lot of very good and complicated code written in FORTRAN 77, and yes, the GISSTEMP code works, but it is being updated by the Clear Climate Code Project.

  123. Pat Cassen Says:

    Well harry, perhaps I did misunderstand – I thought you were speaking more generally about error propagation.

    So you really think that climate modelers don’t understand the basic principles of numerical analysis? I guess it’s a wonder they get anything out of those codes at all – must be all garbage, just like you say…


  124. Steve Bloom Says:

    MarkB, better to say IMHO thast the denialists place Hansen on the back side of a fan and then fling their poo at him.

  125. Bart Says:

    Harry asks

    Show me the code.

    At your service.

    And as you guessed, playing ping pong with calculators is off topic.

  126. harry Says:

    @Eli Rabett,

    I know, I only wanted to point out what the effect would be of error propagation in iterative modelling. Not that there would be any difference in the calculation of specific values using the appropriate formulas.

    I unfortunately do not have a Wang. But maybe my MAI Basic four will solve the problem. I will fire it up tonight.


    I did not say that climate modellers are unaware of the basics of error propagation, but I am sure a lot of the readers of various blogs have no clue about it. I merely wanted to illustrate that even minor dicrepancies in the modelling, especially in iterative models, can cause a model to go off limits. There are ways to solve this, but not all are “physically” correct. That is why I would like to have the code. Bart supplied me with a large archive of code, at which I will toss an eye. Keep reading.

  127. harry Says:


    And to make things worse, when you are trying to build a model, you will never know when your model is going wrong compared to the world that you are trying to model. Ie, a given value for a given date may be 100% correct, or with a lower degree of accuracy. Using this value as starting point for the calculation of the next value elaves you with the problem: how will my next value perform. Fore and backcasting with models, or using traning and evalution periods help, but will never solve the problem.


    I have used Abramowitz and Stegun extensively, so I know something about approximations of various functions.

  128. Pat Cassen Says:

    harry – Thanks for clarifying.

    Yes, there are many ways in which numerical models can go astray. If you find such problems in any currently used codes, I am sure the modelers would welcome your input.

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