Judith Curry 2007: We should not ignore the risks of global warming

by

Good Curry quote:

There is no easy solution to this problem; the challenge is how best to develop options that are feasible, efficient, viable and scalable. It is correct to be concerned about the possibility of bad policy choices. But I have yet to see any option that is worse than ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing.

Update:

After I’d already posted this, Judith Curry amended the above comment (thanks Grypo for the heads up):

Note from JC: this post was NOT made by me. The words in this post were pulled from a 2007 op-ed I wrote for the WaPost
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/10/AR2007101002157.html?hpid=opinionsbox1.
This was at the peak of my “warmist” phase, this is probably the strongest statement re policy that I made.

Bolding hers. Alas, apparently Curry is distancing herself from her more rational self a few years ago. The WaPo editorial she’s referring to is actually quite good. It’s peculiar though to see how she’s gotten in the limelight for becoming so vocally critical of the mainstream. That’s an indication for a dangerous dynamic in which extreme voices get amplified.

Title updated as well.

About these ads

Tags: , , , ,

40 Responses to “Judith Curry 2007: We should not ignore the risks of global warming”

  1. Eli Rabett Says:

    Why is one tempted to use the NASA line: better, faster, cheaper. Pick two.

  2. grypo Says:

    That wasn’t Judith’s post, as she’s amended whoever did it:

    Note from JC: this post was NOT made by me. The words in this post were pulled from a 2007 op-ed I wrote for the WaPost

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/10/AR2007101002157.html?hpid=opinionsbox1.

    This was at the peak of my “warmist” phase, this is probably the strongest statement re policy that I made.

  3. Anna Haynes Says:

    Eli, wouldn’t the triad be different, in a context with a delayer contingent and costs of inaction?
    (since in this case, faster _is_ cheaper)

  4. sharper00 Says:

    I was going to say I agreed with the quote but it seemed entirely inconsistent with basically everything she’s said recently. It seems she’s now basically disavowed it.

  5. willard Says:

    Words are cheap. Adjectives are cheaper.

  6. Steve Easterbrook Says:

    Wow. She was very sensible a few years ago. How did she lose so many marbles so quickly?

  7. Dana Says:

    Ditto what sharper00 said. I was briefly stunned when I read the quote. Is Curry actually beginning to become rational again? Alas, it’s just a glimpse of her past rationality. Ditto Steve Easterbrook’s question.

    Reading the other comments reminded me why I couldn’t stomach Curry’s blog anymore after about 4 days.

  8. dorlomin Says:

    http://www.pacinst.org/topics/integrity_of_science/AGU_IntegrityofScience_Curry.pdf

  9. Steve Bloom Says:

    So. Eli, the logic would seem to tend inexorably toward outsourcing the solution to the climate problem to Elon Musk. :)

  10. Anna Haynes Says:

    Oof.

    That is kind of a misleading headline, though; adding a date would help.

  11. Bart Says:

    Thanks Grypo for alerting me and others to the fact that this was from 2007 rather than a current statement by Curry. Her amendment wasn’t there at the time I spotted it. I updated the post accordingly. Quite amazing how her stature in the public debate has grown due to her taking on contrarian positions. That shows the dynamic of the debate quite well (which is to the detriment of increasing public understanding).

  12. bugs Says:

    “That’s an indication for a dangerous dynamic in which extreme voices get amplified.”

    That observation is very important. Just shows how effective the deniers are at ‘puffing’ who they want us to hear.

  13. Paul Kelly Says:

    Curry is one of a number of scientists who are not totally sold on what is sold as the consensus. Biffra might be another.

    Eli gives a construct to choose two from three, but Anna says he gives the wrong choices. Better, faster, cheaper are for going to the moon. For mitigation, the three from which you pick two needs at least one more choice because faster = cheaper and cheaper = faster. And she’s right.

  14. Eli Rabett Says:

    Depends on the discount rate you use. Consult with Tol who never saw one high enough.

  15. Sou Says:

    Attention is more important to some people than anything else. It doesn’t matter why they get it, as long as they get it and they can never have too much. It’s a drug that befuddles the mind and subdues conscience.

  16. tempterrain Says:

    Maybe its time to remake the 50’s sci -fi classic “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” but this time the plot could be centred on scientists who look the same as the originals, have all the same memories etc, but inexplicably start to talk total nonsense in their areas of previous expertise.

  17. Paul Kelly Says:

    The discount rate of whatever size isn’t all that important in the faster cheaper calculation. Yes, actions that replace fossil from today forward lessen the cost of future replacement and/or adaptation. Also, replacement goes faster if it is cheaper in real dollars. For the faster cheaper calculation, the replacement rate is more important.

    Probably Curry has, since 2007, seen “any option that is worse than ignoring the risk of global warming and doing nothing”. Living in the US, she would have seen Waxman/Markey, which was worse than doing nothing. She definitely witnessed the inane pomposity of Copenhagen. So there’s at least two.

  18. grypo Says:

    Bart:

    Quite amazing how her stature in the public debate has grown due to her taking on contrarian positions. That shows the dynamic of the debate quite well (which is to the detriment of increasing public understanding).

    Yes, just as Muller has gained certprominenceance, not only from media, but from others refuting his contrarian ideas. It’s an impossible dynamic to get away from because, yes, it is a “story” that scientists become contrarians, but it’s just not an important scientificific story. The media has this very confused. They think that Curry and Muller have done something to change how we should look at the debate, but they haven’t. In other words, they’ve bought into what fossil fuel wanted them to — use a small subset of scientists to confuse the public about where the debate is and create uncertainty about what policy objectivesimplementment to deal with the risk. In this sense the media has given API exactly what is needs, and they didn’t even have to lift a finger this time.

  19. steve from brisbane Says:

    Maybe someone can help me here: am I the only person who finds Judith Curry’s writing as clear as mud? Her blog is filling up with thousands of words about uncertainty, the need to understand regional effects, uncertainty, having to do things differently, uncertainty, natural climate variability, the need for robust policy (taking into account uncertainty), low regrets policy, how there should be a new ways of looking at uncertainty, how mean other climate scientists are, how they aren’t thinking about uncertainty enough, etc.

    But anything even vaguely resembling an actual practical conclusion is forever running off into the distance. She seems entirely about critique – and rambling, pretty vacuous critique at that – and nothing about precise remedy for her complaints: just a list of things that should be thought about. She really seems only interested in inaction and words. Lots of words.

    Well, that’s how I find her, anyway.

  20. Heraclitus Says:

    steve, I don’t see anything there that suggests you need help.

  21. Paul Kelly Says:

    Curry’s contra – mainstreamism may be influenced by shifts in the mainstream of her own area of expertise between 2007 and today. It explains her struggles with uncertainty, which she doesn’t have the writing skills to cogently explain. Criticism of Curry comes mostly from those who cling to the information deficit model. Once that model is discarded, she is seen in a different light.

    The Schneider dilemma is how to be persuasive while being honest about uncertainty. Curry has grabbed one of the horns. In a Schneider model, she is bringing necessary honesty about uncertainty into the mainstream.

  22. sharper00 Says:

    I find her writing very difficult to understand, both in style and in how what she argues supports the conclusions she seems to reach. I don’t believe those who support her understand her any better.

    I believe the short answer is that she wants very much to reach a certain conclusion (that climate change isn’t a problem) but is heavily constrained by her scientific knowledge of the topic. Therefore she’s forced into the fuzzy world of “uncertainty” in order to argue that climate science is basically entirely correct, it’s just not “certain” enough to support doing anything about it.

  23. Bart Says:

    Paul,

    Your last sentence assumes that until now, the necessary honesty about uncertainty has been absent from the climate science mainstream. I’ve see no evidence for this, merely handwaving.

  24. Dana Says:

    I’ve often described Curry as an uncertainty inflator. There are of course uncertainties in climate science, but she blows them way out of proportion. For example, I think at one point she said we can’t constrain climate sensitivity to a range any smaller than 0-10°C for doubled CO2, which is simply absurd.

  25. Bob Brand Says:

    Being “uncertain” might argue for caution – the precautionary principle.

    Uncertainty ought to be quantifiable: what is the probability distribution? Climatology is getting really good at calculating the probability distributions for physical parameters like forcings, feedbacks and even the resulting temperatures and humidities.

    Once you have to translate these physical parameters into ‘impacts’ (economic, health-wise, ecology) it gets a lot less certain and the distribution of possible impacts widens considerably.

    The next step, choosing the best course of action based on the cost/benefits of the impacts and their probability distribution makes it even fuzzier: choosing an optimal course of action adds uncertainty about societal response, and about the degree in which the actions can be implemented.

    I would suggest Judith Curry is not only struggling with the sum total of these uncertainties, but also with her vehement wish to be “a bridge” between climate science and the ‘sceptics’. Not that easy…

  26. Paul Kelly Says:

    Bart,

    My sentence assumes that Curry is trying to bring honesty about uncertainty, but not that nobody else is. Saying, for example, that Pele played soccer doesn’t assume that no one else has. Whether Curry is right is wrong, I have no idea. I don’t read her blog. I tried a few times, but her writing skills really are so poor that I couldn’t get through her posts. In addition, uncertainties in climate science don’t much affect my reasons for rapid fossil fuel replacement.

    If by definition the mainstream includes honesty about uncertainty, then some proponents are clearly outside the mainstream. Al Gore, Joe Romm and Bill McKibben come immediately to mind.

  27. dhogaza Says:

    Paul Kelly:

    My sentence assumes that Curry is trying to bring honesty about uncertainty, but not that nobody else is.

    She makes that claim, though.

    If by definition the mainstream includes honesty about uncertainty, then some proponents are clearly outside the mainstream. Al Gore, Joe Romm and Bill McKibben come immediately to mind.

    Well, let’s look at a major uncertainty, climate sensitivity per doubling of CO2. AR4 gives a value of 2-4.5C. It’s not “out of the mainstream” to point out that if we’re lucky and uncertainty is at the low end of that range, we’re in for a world of hurt if we continue dumping increasing amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Gore summarized mainstream thinking. Romm’s an MIT-trained PhD physicist who has a distinguished public service record and thoroughly accepts mainstream views. McKibben does as well, AFAIK.

    I suppose you could be imagining, as Judith does, that “honesty about uncertainty” includes embracing claims that sensitivity is 1C or less, which is roughly equivalent to claiming that “honesty about uncertainty” means that mainstream geologists must embrace the possibility that the earth is only a few thousand years old …

  28. andrew adams Says:

    Curry clearly feels that the mainstream (especially the IPCC) does not properly address uncertainty and, as dhogaza points out, she does seem to believe that she is taking some kind of stand against the mainstream in this respect.

    One problem is that she complains that people understate or do not properly address uncertainty when actually they just don’t accept her interpretation of the nature or extent of the uncertainties. Witness her absurd comments on climate sensitivity which Dana refers to above or her views regarding attribution – “natural variability” is not a “plausible alternative hypothesis” to explain the warming in recent decades, it’s just hand waving.

  29. dhogaza Says:

    “One problem is that she complains that people understate or do not properly address uncertainty when actually they just don’t accept her interpretation of the nature or extent of the uncertainties.”

    This, AFAICT, is a fall-back position on her part. She began by claiming that the IPCC process has led to uncertainty being essentially ignored, but got schooled with a lengthly list of quotes from AR4 making it clear that her simplistic claim was simply false.

    Then it became more like … “uncertainty is higher than they admit” rather than “they admit to no uncertainty” …

  30. Dana Says:

    Curry’s problem may be, as Bob Brand notes, she’s trying to be some sort of bridge between the two ‘sides’. I see two major problems with this.

    1) Very little (if any) “skepticism” (denialism) is based on sound science, so how do you bridge that gap? Curry chooses to do so by inflating uncertainty so that she’s not denying many facts, but she’s giving the “skeptics” an out, i.e. uncertainty is so large that we can’t say AGW is a problem. This, as long as you don’t understand risk management, allows justification for the ‘wait and see’ approach.

    2) Denialists are not a compromising bunch, so to ‘bridge the gap’ you have to concede more and more to their side, and your scientific footing erodes more and more as a result. In the end when you think you’re ‘compromising’, you’re really just saying really silly things, like climate sensitivity is 0-10°C. It’s a “compromise” in that you’re allowing for both low and high values, but it’s still just ridiculous.

  31. Paul Kelly Says:

    dhogaza,

    “I suppose you could be imagining, as Judith does, that “honesty about uncertainty” includes embracing claims that sensitivity is 1C or less”

    You should know by now that I get all my climate questions answered at stoat. So probable sensitivity of 3 give or take 1.5 is in the mainstream and anything outside it on either side is not.

    Again I encourage you to retire the information deficit and political models, and to adopt the faster-cheaper and social models.

  32. dhogaza Says:

    Again I encourage you to retire the information deficit and political models, and to adopt the faster-cheaper and social models.

    To be honest, I’m not interested in politics other than the politics of denial, i.e. what we’re seeing today with the Republican Party in the US.

    And your request to adopt your particular models as being superior to others is a political request, separate from science, regardless of how you portray it.

    3 +/- 1.5 isn’t really mainstream, there’s really no mainstream support for sensitivity less than 2C. If stoat claims otherwise, he’s at best wading toe-deep in the mainstream.

  33. Paul Kelly Says:

    The models mentioned are not particularly mine. Faster – cheaper came from Anna Haynes and Eli Rabbitt right here on this thread. The idea that replacing fossil fuel is better seen as a social process rather than a political one is certainly not original to me.

    Yes, I am asking you to separate the science from the communication and action models to which it is presently attached and use the models I propose. It is not a political request. You are asked to join a social process. It is a social request.

  34. MarkB Says:

    Curry:

    “If what i said was utter nonsense, why is anyone here talking about it, I have 440 comments in 24 hours.”

    http://curryquotes.wordpress.com/page/2/

    Being contrarian doesn’t always result in more welcome attention. I mean, claiming the Earth is flat doesn’t get someone anywhere these days. Unfortunately, there’s a large audience for the climate denial thing. While there are plenty of players willing to capture that audience, Curry fills a unique niche, something along the lines of “credible climate scientist changes direction – fights the warmists”.

    What I find hard to believe is that she’s sincere. How does a scientist who once generally demonstrated a competent grasp of her field go from this to uttering “incoherent nonsense” that many high school students could expose?

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2010/10/she-who-refuses-to-do-arithmetic-is.html

  35. dhogaza Says:

    It is not a political request. You are asked to join a social process. It is a social request.

    Requesting that people abandon political solutions in favor of non-political solutions is a political request.

    We’re seeing a huge shift in demand towards smaller cars in the US, and domestic producers don’t anticipate an end to it any time soon. It doesn’t matter if fuel costs have risen due to political action (say, higher taxes) or economic reasons (instability in the middle east … caused by political action, aha!). Domestic auto producers are probably thanking their lucky stars that the federal government pushed them towards increasing fuel-efficient models as part of the restructuring that was a requirement of the Chrysler/GM bail-outs.

  36. Paul Kelly Says:

    dhogaza,

    You’re not being asked to abandon politics. Vote for favored candidates. Support preferred legislation. However much of your time is taken up by that, you still have a lot of time on your hands. Why not do a little mitigating using the social power of association?

  37. Eli Rabett Says:

    Paul, coming back here after a week or so Eli sees your post. First of all, better, faster, cheaper was Dan Goldin’s mantra, to which the engineers replied pick two, because there is an inherent tension between the three. In the same way Curry’s feasible, efficient, viable and scalable has a bunch of tensions so you may easily be left with nothing that is all four. You appear to have missed the point, but indeed, solutions to our problems may pose the choice of two in the better faster cheaper group.

    Second, the discount rate makes a difference in the faster cheaper calculation if there is an up front (capital) cost. There are any number of efficiency investments that have rapid payback that are not made because of capital costs, which are affected in any calculation by the discount rate assumed.

  38. Steve Bloom Says:

    Curry started in with this act at about the same time she and PW launched a for-profit climate consulting business. This was not a coincidence. The modelers are the competition.

    As Michael Tobis has described, Curry comes out of an observation tradition, and the people she’s attacking come out of a physics-based tradition (theory and modeling). Assuming honesty on her part, probably what’s happened here is that the behavior of the climate system has gone off the rails relative to the physcial intuition Judy developed earlier in her career (and which note is about what the field was saying at about the time of the AR2). That she lacks the math and physics chops to even engage in a debate reduces her to sniping from the sidelines, which in any case is probably paying off for her given the propensity of the media and policy spheres to over-inflate the value of contrarians.

  39. Paul Kelly Says:

    Eli,

    What Anna and I are saying saying is that if we choose better and either faster or cheaper, we are really getting both. For mitigation, faster and cheaper are positively joined in ways not available for moon landings.

  40. Eli Rabett Says:

    Paul, that is the hope. Hope springs eternal, and it takes that long to get ther.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 128 other followers

%d bloggers like this: