A busy evening: I was giving a one-hour talk about the Higgs discovery on the (European) Scientists' Day tonight. Before it began, I was ordered by the Czech Public TV's main news channel, ČT24, to be a guest (via video chat from Pilsen, with the Pilsner Tower in the background) in the #1 news story at 10 pm (the IPCC report) along with two more well-known Gentlemen on the alarmed side of the climate debate, Dr Tolasz and Prof Moldan. I resisted for quite some time but then I said OK. It was a better experience than I was afraid of. The host did a good, balanced job, I think. The hiatus wasn't discussed at all but other things were – even without me, he grilled them about the fact that the humans may still be causing just one-half of the climate trends and I could say some words about the decreasing IPCC figures (lower bound from 2.0 to 1.5 Celsius) as a proof of exaggerations before, how long the CO2 elevation will last, how many errors could have been there in AR4 aside from Glaciergate, some sea level rise and whether it's dangerous or unprecedented (it's nothing compared to 100+ meters in the last 20,000 years), the CO2 residence time in the atmosphere (even if CO2 were a problem, it would be a temporary problem at most for a century or so and then CO2 largely drops back), and a few others. Prof Moldan who used to be in the center-right ODS ironically turned out to be much more enthusiastic alarmist than Dr Tolasz who is largely apolitical.The summary for policymakers has been released. It has been expanded from 31 pages to 36 pages because a different layout was used but there seems to be no significant change one should waste his time with given the insignificance of the document. So there's no need to discuss these IPCC issues again.
Some journalists have responded with the usual hype. For example, the Times wrote
While I think that the release of the document was a non-event and nothing too interesting happened in that portion of climatology in the last 6 years (and the only "new events" that influenced the report was the lower degree of bigotry by the current IPCC writers relatively to the previous IPCC report's authors and the continuing absence of a warming trend), I was watching a part of the IPCC webcast from Stockholm because I was ordered to write a 13-kilobyte article about the newly released document for the Newsletter of the Václav Klaus Institute and I wanted to check that I was not missing – and I was not wrong – about any major enough issue.
The competing NIPCC report released its summary a week ago or so and it would arguably deserve more time which I don't have at this moment. But I hope that some reader will read it. See Fox News on NIPCC (2 minutes).
The webcast featured Pachauri and similar folks but there were also some men whose training was visibly more scientific – and one could say that they arguably loved science much more than Pachauri does. I could sometimes symphatize with them as they were trying to explain some scientific concepts, while they were also being bounded by the expectations that they wouldn't directly contradict the IPCC's general message (alarm) by any sentence.
David Rose of Mail on Sunday asked the most articulate question. I hope that I remember it right. For how much more time the hiatus has to continue for the IPCC to consider the possibility that it means that the models are fundamentally flawed.
Now, there's clearly no sharp moment at which models or theories allowing for any nonzero stochastic, unpredictable component may be falsified with 100.00000% certainty. It's always possible, albeit increasingly unlikely, that all the deviations are due to the noise. So if that were what he has asked, the question would indeed be "ill-posed", as the old scientist described it. The certainty never becomes 100.00000%. As more data is being accumulated that contradicts a theory, the theory is only gradually getting disfavored.
But that's not really what Rose asked. He asked when they start to consider the possibility. That's a different question, one about the procedures at the IPCC and the panel members' subjective judgement. While the accumulation of the data incompatible with the conjecture is a gradual process, there comes a moment at which a scientist starts to consider a possibility. The moment may be somewhat unpredictable as well but some estimate should have been given. There was no estimate (except for their mentioning of the 30 years – which however wasn't claimed to be the answer to the question).
In particle physics and other hard sciences, scientists falsify the null hypothesis when the data is found to deviate by 2 sigmas or 3 sigmas or 5 sigmas. The precise moment isn't given but you should notice that all these possibilities – despite their vastly different \(p\)-values – require the amount of data that is of the same order of magnitude. For example, a 5-sigma discovery only requires \(2.5^2=6.25\) times more data than a 2-sigma "discovery". Below 2 sigmas, no sensible scientist would claim credible enough evidence in one way or another; above 5 sigmas, the certainty of the discrepancy is becoming obvious super-exponentially. Moreover, the standards of rigor in their field should be known to the IPCC folks so they should have given an estimate when a real problem for the models emerges.
Well, Santer et al. 2011 has answered the question and the answer was 17 years. For some reason, the IPCC folks didn't find it appropriate to quote this piece of official literature that tried to answer exactly the same question. Of course, the reason is that we have already seen 17 years without global warming so their basic cause's being in trouble would become too self-evident to everyone.
So they deliberately suppressed all the numbers but I had lots of understanding for the old chap who was saying that thermodynamics is able to make macroscopic predictions about the gas even though the detailed microscopic properties of all the molecules are unpredictable. That's an important point in physics and science and one that the laymen should be led to understand (I will try to explain that using the Higgs discovery example during my popular Higgs talk tonight, on the Scientists' Night – the word "European" was apparently dropped here in Pilsen haha). But they may still rightfully ask where is the boundary of the "macroscopic realm" and Rose has actually done exactly that. The answer to that question isn't sharp but it's sharp within the order of magnitude or so (and even sharper when conventions of a field are obeyed) and the answer wasn't given to Rose, apparently because it was inconvenient.
Needless to say, the conventional length "30 years" where climatology begins is something that people just made up. It's deliberately chosen to be comparable to the length of a human productive life – or a career. So whatever one accumulates during his career may be used as a "climatology" which may differ from the "climatology" of the previous generations or previous 30-year-long intervals. But there doesn't really exist any physical rather than anthropological evidence – any justifiable calculation – that 30 years is the right value of the critical time scale at which the climate becomes predictable or something like that. Nothing qualitative is changing at that timescale. The variations of temperatures are affected by tons of processes whose typical timescales cover pretty much everything from split seconds to billions of years.
What we're trying to find out here is the period after which the hypothetical relentless increasing trend caused by CO2 emerges – at some confident level – from the "noise" by which we (naively) mean all other factors. The answer – the timescale – of course depends on the climate sensitivity. The lower the climate sensitivity is, the longer time you need to observe the hypothetical effect of the CO2.
A Chinese journalist asked whether it's the plan of the IPCC to ruin the growth and prosperity to China. Vague words, not a real answer, were given to him. And lots of similar questions you may imagine – questions of that type have been discussed thousands of times and you know exactly what the alarmists would answer so it wasn't terribly interesting. Except for Rose and perhaps one more exception, the journalists were asking questions that indicated that they didn't know much about these matters.
A Twitter notifier Chrome extension has been bombarding me by tweets written by Katie Mack, an Australian astrophysicist. I find it amazing that someone in this more or less hard science may get so sucked by these pseudoscientific delusions. She seems really obsessed by the hypothetical climate threat. So I was sort of forced to read dozens of tweets about the overwhelming consensus, terrifying predictions, criticisms of Australian politicians for their climate realism, and so on, and so on. Needless to say, there was no consensus about the nontrivial issues in Stockholm (for example, even the "explanation" of the hiatus was changed during the last night; it isn't due to the "heat eaten by the ocean", the "leading hypothesis" as quoted by the U.S. delegation that loves its Trenberth, but due to the reduced solar activity and aerosols – it's totally clear that they're just guessing and making things up all the time, otherwise huge changes like that couldn't occur overnight) and none of the things they published were terrifying despite the fact that many of them were inflated by a hundreds of percent.
She has also linked to The Guardian that used the opportunity to publish an applet that calculates how warm it gets in your lifetime depending on your year of birth. A funny thing is that the applet uses numbers that are incompatible with those released just today – the applet was made in 2009 so all the temperature increases are approximately 50 percent overvalued relatively to the new IPCC ones which are still overvalued by 50-200 percent relatively to the right ones. It's clear that these folks aren't listening even to their "holy IPCC" if they are ready to ignore the single most important number in the new report. Their only goal is to spread lies that keep the climate alarmism alive in the brainwashed part of the human society – people like Katie Mack.
Quite generally, I simply can't understand people like Astrokatie. Or even Alexander Ač, for that matter. They often seem to have some basic intelligence, like IQ above 90. And they have apparently been interested in these matters for many, many years. But they still don't seem to get the basic facts, they still don't remember the basic numbers, they still can't see when someone says something completely wrong at a very basic level. Maybe they see it but they don't want to see it and they act as if they weren't seeing it.
I just don't get those things. Two decades ago, it was before I had any good enough clue about the magnitude of various temperature changes in various regions and at various timescales etc. I was reading newspaper articles about global warming. They would never show any graphs so I was assuming that the graphs were sort of linear and clear, not just red noise, so they have a reason to talk about these things. But when I started to be interested in those things, it took just hours to learn, understand – and, in fact, memorize – all the key facts and next to key facts that I encountered and needed to fact-check.
The idea that someone of my age (or someone who is as old/young as I was then) need more than a decade (and maybe an infinite time) to penetrate into a basic body of knowledge that I could master in hours just seems otherworldly to me. These people must be either utterly irrational, taking the belief in the apocalypse as a necessary prerequisite for their survival, or totally lacking intelligence. How that can be compatible with their being hired in more or less hard sciences such as astrophysicist is beyond me.
Holy cow, the tweets keep on flowing; I should unfollow her. Now she writes that she first learned about global warming in the kindergarten so it's great that we waited for so long. Has she ever thought about the possibility to understand what they were telling her when she was 6 in some more detail and somewhat less uncritically? Well, that assumes that her science and maths skills have made some progress during the decades.
OK, I won't talk about her anymore, unfollowed. This frequently posted stupidity on one's screen isn't something a rational person should undergo voluntarily just because one of the thousands of tweets she wrote some months ago looked relevant to me. ;-)