How much nonsense is allowed in science?
Can one disagree on “climate change”?
Posted by Arnd Bernaerts, 02 November 2010
Consensus or no consensus, pro and contra, skeptics and no-skeptics,
marks the main battle line in the ‘climate change’ debate. The
confrontation of arguments is fierce. The blogs of “Pro Views”, “Lukewarmers”,
“Skeptical Views” demonstrate daily that they disagree. What is not
asked, whether the used term “climate change” makes any sense. The
question is about the term itself. Is it possible to agree on something
which is an empty phrase? Jointly the skeptics
and no-skeptics sing the song of “climate change”,
and thus miss to organise the debate in a manner that would turn the
debate in a more fruitful discussion across the lines. The matter was
raised in recent climate blogs, which are, with reference to blog
subject and according their date of placing, hereafter reproduced.
At blog: Climate
etc: “What constitutes “dangerous” climate change?” by
Judith Curry (05.Oct. 2010) Judith Curry: “So, what actually
constitutes “dangerous” climate change? ……The answer depends on
societal values and vulnerability/resilience, which vary regionally and
culturally and even among individuals within regions and culture.”
Lewis Deane | October 7, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Reply : “This place is for
thinking, pure thinking!”
Fair enough, but kindly be consequent. What sense does it makes to ask:
what constitutes “dangerous” climate change, if a reasonable
scientific definition for CLIMATE is not given. The UNFCCC has none, but
only defines “climate change” and “climate system”, which is a
laugh but not serious, as explained here: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b202-open-letter.html
Trying to compensate the deficiencies of UNFCCC with
the WMO definition that: “..in a narrow sense Climate is usually defined
as the “average weather…” ( details here: http://www.wmo.int/pages/themes/climate/understanding_climate.php
), is a useless exercise either, if nothing is said about the meaning of
“weather”. WMO offers nothing, and AMS Glossary says:
____The “present weather”
table consists of 100 possible conditions,
____with 10 possibilities for “past weather”, while
____Popularly, weather is thought of in terms of temperature, humidity,
precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind.
(In detail discussed at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b206_need_to_talk_July_2010.html
As soon as “climate” would be defined in scientific relevant and clear
manner, it would presumably not be to difficult to discuss with some
success what constitutes: dangerous changes.
At blog: Climate etc:
“Disagreement” by Judith Curry (27. Oct. 2010) . Judith Curry: “While
my goal is to build bridges, I realize that there is no hope of eliminating
disagreement on the climate change issue.”
of the main difficulties to agree on „Climate Change“ derives from the
completely insufficiency of the term CLIMATE. Like the word WEATHER it is merely
an ‘image’ in our daily life, a personnel, individual, and experienced
observation. It is a layman’s expression, and reflects in no way the physical
dynamic that govern the ocean and atmospheric processes. Both terms are
scientifically irrelevant, and if used by academics in their professional work,
or in communication with the general public and politics it is casing
“confusion” and misunderstanding, to say the least.
Discussed at: http://www.whatisclimate.com
Two outstanding meteorologist had this to say not a long time ago:
____”Only thirty years ago climatology was generally regarded as the mere
dry-as-dust bookkeeping end of meteorology.” H.H. Lamb, Meteorological Office
Bracknell, Berkshire (UK), “The New Look of Climatology”, NATURE, Vol. 223,
September 20, 1969, pp.1209ff.
is obviously the decade in which climate is coming into its own. You hardly
heard the word professionally in the 1940s. It was a layman’s word.
Climatologists were the halt and the lame. And as for the climatologists in
public service, in the British service you actually, had to be medically
disabled in order to get into the climatological division ! Climatology was a
menial occupation that came on the pecking scale somewhat below the advertising
profession. It was clearly not the age of climate.” F. Kenneth Hare, 1979; „The
Vaulting of Intellectual Barriers: The Madison Thrust in Climatology“,
Bulletin American Meteorological Society , Vol. 60, 1979, p. 1171 – 1174.
CLIMATE and WEATHER are still today only layman’s term.
At blog: Kimazwiebel:
“A quote provided by Mathis Hampel”, by Hans von Storch (29.Oct.2010)
Hans v. Storch says: Mathis Hampel, who writes a dissertation on "cultural
contingency, social and epistemic authority of climate knowledge production"
at the University of Venice, Italy, suggested to publish this quote without
__Lay person (BC and earlier)- in the main-: Climate
is the weather at a given place.
__Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519): Water is the driver of nature.
__J.W.v.Goethe said to Ekerman (1806): „The objects observed by
meteorology are indeed similar to the living ones which we can daily
observe in the living and creating process. They proceed from the
assumption of a synthesis, but on so manifold in its aspects that the
human observer cannot encompass it.”
__J.W.v.Goethe (Faust II, 1832):
“Everything comes from water.
Everything is maintained through water.
Ocean, give us your eternal power”
__W. Köppen (1875-1919): “The weather changes, while the climate stays”.
__WMO: “Climate is the average weather over a longer period of time (or
“the statistical description…of the mean..” .
__UNFCCC: none. (more at: http://www.whatisclimate.com )
__My suggestion: “Climate is the continuation of the oceans by other
means”, expressed in a talk (and paper) at GKSS, 04.Dec.1992; Heft 4,
VdFFdGKSS-Forschungszentrum, p.53. See also: Letter to, NATURE, 1992,
“Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292
Hampel (October 29, 2010 5:04 PM) said...“thanks for pointing out
whatisclimate.com , have you noticed that all quotes, including the one I
posted, are by male European adults!? for me climate is manifested in
memories about practices in weather. (dis)agree?”
(October 29, 2010 6:11 PM) said...
# “climate is manifested in memories about practices in
Positive. To explain the matter, in the direction you mentioned, a comment
posted athttp://judithcurry.com/2010/10/27/disagreement/ yesterday it
repeated hereafter: ArndB | October 28, 2010 at 6:22 am One of the main
difficulties to agree on „Climate Change“ derives from the completely
insufficiency of the term CLIMATE. Like the word WEATHER it is merely an
‘image’ in our daily life, a personnel, individual, and experienced
observation. It is a layman’s expression, and reflects in no way the
physical dynamic that govern the ocean and atmospheric processes. Both
terms are scientifically irrelevant, and if used by academics in their
professional work, or in communication with the general public and
politics it is casing “confusion” and misunderstanding, to say the
XXXXXX Dennis Bray says:
a recent posting Rob Maris conducted a survey to determine what makes a
climate change skeptic. It received both criticism and praise. Mention was
made that skepticism might reside in the science-policy interface.”
# Dennis Bray says: “Definition in general is
concerned with the systematic ordering of categories or concepts and with
the nature of relation between entities, creating a mutually exclusiveness,
and addressing that which is unique”
Let me say it more simple: “A definition is a (mutual) mean to know what
one is talking about.
Now, if one wants to analyse who is, or not is, a climate change skeptic
requires a definition of “Climate Change”, and as Climate is defined a
average (or statistical) weather, there needs to be a definition on
Weather in the first place. A original definition on WEATHER does not
exist. See my previous comments to the Klimazwiebel post “A quote
provided by Mathis Hampel “ (Fri.29Oct2010). Who than can know what
“climate change” means, and either be pro or contra in this respect?
The Glossary of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) says that
weather is: “The state of the atmosphere, mainly with respect to its
effects upon life and human activities”, AMS thereon breaks the weather
___The “present weather” table consists of 100 possible conditions,
___with 10 possibilities for “past weather”, while
___Popularly, weather is thought of in terms of temperature, humidity,
precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind.
(In detail HERE at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b206_need_to_talk_July_2010.html
Discussing and categorising ‘pro’ and ‘contra’ actually requires
to say precisely what physical conditions (or parameters) of the present,
past, or future weather conditions one is talking about. Summarizing it
under the meaningless term “climate change” causes serious confusion
and misunderstanding. (see UNFCCC: Para. 2.: “Climate change” means a
change of climate which....”). More at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/b202-open-letter.htm
Dennis Bray (November
1, 2010 4:56 PM ) said:
@aber You say ‘A definition is a (mutual) mean to know what one is talking
about.’ In that sense I think ‘climate change’ is quite clear. From a
simple dictionary: ‘Climate - The prevailing atmospheric phenomena and
conditions of temperature, humidity, wind, etc.’ Not exactly a scientific
definition but suffice here. ‘Change - becoming different.’ Hence the
prevailing atmospheric phenomena and conditions of temperature, humidity, wind,
etc. are becoming different - I have no problem with that. Climate is a bit like
a summary of weather I think. Under what conditions would we have wind change,
humidity change, temperature change ... well, perhaps climate change?
- RE-Comment aber (November 1, 2010 8:26 PM)
Dennis Bray: “Comment I have no problem with that. Climate is a bit like a
summary of weather I think.”
I am aware that the atmospheric science is living happily without a
scientifically reasonable definition of CLIMATE and WEATHER, although they use
this layman expressions not only among them, but also in communication with the
public and politics. Instead of ensuring minimum academic requirements, namely a
clear language and definitions, it is so inviting to keep the matter discussed
vague to the point of nonsense. At least it was extreme successful over the last
three decades. Why caring what does it mean: “climate change scepticism”.
Re: Hans von Storch (November
1, 2010 10:18 PM) said...
“I think we have a very good definition of climate - it is the
statistics of weather, and weather is the short term state of the
atmosphere, ocean, hydrosphere etc. Would you agree that this is a
reasonable definition, aber? I could do it a bit more formal, but that may
not be necessary.
A bit of mathematics sometimes helps.
Your comment was not really helpful, if I may say so. In fact, it was just
- a piece of stupid rambling.”
aber (November 2, 2010 1:28 AM) & (November 2, 2010
8:32 AM) said..:
@ Hans von Storch (November 1, 2010 10:18 PM) said...
“we have a very good definition of climate - it is the statistics of
weather, and weather is the short term state of the atmosphere,
ocean, hydrosphere etc. Would you agree that this is a reasonable
No, defiantly not! What you offer as ‘weather’ is actually a copy of
the UNFCCC definition (Art.1 (3)): “….the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere
and their interactions.” Even glossaries (i.a. AMS) are not offering
such an empty phrase. And sorry, statistics of weather remain
“statistics of weather”. Unfortunately your book with Francis Zwiers. Cambridge U press, 1999, neither provides a
reasonable meaning, which is not a mere use of a layman’s expression.
Allow me to close with a sentence I wrote almost 20 years ago : “For
decades, the real question has been who is responsible for the
climate. Climate should have been defined as ‘the continuation of
the oceans by other means’. Thus, the 1982 (Law of the Sea) Convention
could long since have been used to protect the climate. After all,
it is the most powerful tool with which to force politicians
and the community of states into actions.“ in: Letter to the Editor,
NATURE 1992, “Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292.
It was also the subject of a talk at GKSS (4th Dec. 1992), and
paper (Heft 4, VdFFdGKSS-Forschungszentrum, pages 53, in English at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/
is the task of the concerned science to define the meaning of terms they use.
That it might be difficult to define climate and weather can not serve as excuse.
No matter whether weather consist of 50, 100, or 200 conditions, the meaning
needs to be expressed in a reasonable way, or it necessary to say clearly that
it is impossible. Inexcusable to use layman’s expression. If science wishes to
use the word CLIMATE nevertheless, to emphasize for the general public what
matters in this respect, it would be helpful to say: “Climate is the
continuation of the oceans by other means”, as the local and global weather is
sustained, and dependent on the conditions of the oceans and seas.
ADDENDUM (15. November 2010):
Dennis Bray and Hans von Storch on CLIMATE
Bray said...(14): @ all
those who seem to have trouble with the definition of climate. Isn't it a 30
year statistical mean? I really didn't think it was necessary to elaborate as it
is the word 'skeptic' that was being scrutinized. November
2, 2010 8:21 AM
von Storch said...(15)
: This term "30 year
mean" is not really helpful, as it my be misunderstood as the mean value
across 30 years (or an estimate thereof).
It is meant as - a statistical parameter estimated form 30 years of data (why 30
years is a nother story) - and most estimates are formed by (weighted) sums,
such as variance. Obviously, variance (or standard deviation) is a climate
component as well; in this catgeory are also correlations (in time, in space) -
even spectra if you resort to power spectra; if you refer to maxima, percentiles,
extreme values, L-moments or EOFs, CCAs etc however, this link to "(weighted)
sums over 30 years of data" breaks down.
No, the "definition" "30 year statistical mean" is not
reasonable. The climate is the statistics of 30 (or any other interval) years of
meteorological (oceanographic etc) data, which includes co-variability across
time, space and variables. November
2, 2010 8:32 AM