Thursday, February 26, 2009

Much ado about nothing

Steve Bloom and Hank Roberts pointed me towards this article in The Register, which has been splashed all over the septic end of the bogusphere (I think I'll adopt that typo). I'm relieved to find that it's all a fuss about nothing. The "report" is simply the collation of one of these popular-but-pointless sceptic-vs-scientist debates, and has no official status. The various documents surrounding it are here on the JSER front page (only in Japanese), just below the headline "Global warming: What is the scientific truth?". The pdf labelled 本文 is the main report. The articles immediately under that are various documents by two of the contributors, Kiminori Itoh (伊藤) and my colleague Seita Emori (江守), who was the only climate scientist involved in the event and who tried to present the scientific case but was obviously rather outnumbered. Those documents have some pictures in so may be partially readable, even to non-Japanese readers. You may notice a citation or two for yours truly.

Emori-san apart, the other 4 participants in the farce have no background in climate science, and instead a history of scepticism. Kusano, the one puffed by The Register as "Program Director" here (well, next door in the Earth Simulator Centre) has indeed been (over)promoted to that status but in scientific terms appears to be a bit of a nobody and will certainly not be known to many climate scientists. He is one of the prime movers behind the waste of money I referred to here. Akasofu certainly used to be prominent in his own field of solar science, but went emeritus some time ago, and Itoh and the other one are budding sceptics in the local scene, one a geologist and the other a chemist, again with no climate science connections though that didn't stop one of them writing a book with the title "Lies and Traps in the Global Warming Affairs” (Japanese).

So its hardly a shining advertisement for Japanese science, and a bit embarrassing for JAMSTEC to be associated with it, although TBH there are enough other reasons to be embarrassed about JAMSTEC that this hardly matters. Fundamentally it's just a bit of random non-scientific quackery from the local sceptics, who seem to have grown in prominence recently here. As usual, Japan is decades behind the rest of the world in socio-political development :-) The Register seems puzzled that it's been ignored, but this is surely the kindest fate. I hope they didn't waste too much money on the translation.


Nosmo said...

Off topic, but wondering if you could comment on this:

which is summarized here

I didn't place much weight on it since it was just one article but MT seemed to think it was important.

Ayrdale said...

Japan "a bit behind in socio-political development ?"

What is "socio-political development" ?

James Annan said...


Thanks, you aren't the only one to ask and I'm working on it...

Ayrdale, I simply mean development in the socio-political sphere, perhaps a cheap jibe in general terms but here I specifically mean the growth of a denial industry of junk science and non-science. Basically, people here tend to defer to authority, to excess IMO.

Even in this case, it is notable that by far the most prominent on the sceptic side (Akasofu) has lived in the USA for decades. He may even be a US citizen, in which case under Japanese law he was supposed to give up his Japanese citizenship, although few people do this in practice.

Ayrdale said...

Re the link to MIT paper, is there comment from the head of M.I.T.’s Atmospheric Sciences department, Prof. Richard Lindzen ?

James Annan said...

Where did you get the impression that Lindzen is head of EAPS at MIT? Zuber was certainly head recently, and still mentions it on her CV (which may be out of date, of course).

Ayrdale said...

Sorry that may have been a mistake.

Dr. Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...

James Annan said...

Thanks, I know who Lindzen is :-)

I don't think many people would care particularly about his views, were he to offer them. I've not heard a peep from him recently, and the last I did read was just a rehash of old debunked stuff. I don't think he does much research these days.

TokyoTom said...

James, I agree that the report on its face is clearly NOT in any way official, but is rather simply an email debate among the 5 participants.

I note that as of now the report only has 700 Google hits, and none of the Japanese press have covered it.

However, more background might be helpful to understand the genesis and purpose of the report, if you are able to shed any more light.

I wonder, for example, how important JSER is and whether it has a well-known climate agenda, whether the debate coordinator Yoshida or co-editor Sakurai have any climate expertise or known agenda, what is the role and agenda of JAXA (which the cover page lists as the sponsor), and how is it that of the 5 debate participants only Emori was a climate scientist.



James Annan said...


Your comment is timely, as Emori-san is visiting tomorrow. I'll see if he can shed any more light (and also ferret around myself if need be).

James Annan said...


Sounds like the organiser Yoshida-san is a bit of a sceptic. Emori-san says he was happy to be outnumbered to avoid it being presented as a debate between positions of equal weight. He is also quite happy with the full documents in Japanese, which he claims are convincingly in his favour :-)

There is more material posted up on the JSER front page now. I don't intend to attempt a translation.

Michael Tobis said...

Morano's press release this morning is flogging the event. Excerpt:


"On the scientific evidence so far, according to Dr Kusano, the IPCC assertion that atmospheric temperatures are likely to increase continuously and steadily "should be perceived as an unprovable hypothesis".

Dr Maruyama said yesterday there was widespread scepticism among his colleagues about the IPCC's fourth and latest assessment report that most of the observed global temperature increase since the mid-20th century "is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations".

When this question was raised at a Japan Geoscience Union symposium last year, he said, "the result showed 90 per cent of the participants do not believe the IPCC report".

(end quote)

The final allegation by Muruyama (emphasized) is used as the title of the press release.

Alex Harvey said...

Hi James,

I would like to correct some of the above above abount Richard Lindzen.

You said you haven't heard a peep out of Lindzen; well he just spoke first at the ICCC Heartland conference and gave a particularly rousing speech. He said, among other things, "We will win this debate - because we are right."

You also questioned whether he still does research.

See Rondanelli, R., and R.S. Lindzen (2008). "Observed variations in convective precipitation fraction and stratiform area with sea surface temperature". J. Geophys. Res. 113. doi:10.1029/2008JD010064.

Lindzen, R.S (2009), "Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?" arXiv:0809.3762v3

See also the publication history at his MIT website.

I'd say it's fair to say that he's still fairly active for a scientist nearing 70 years of age.

Best regards,

James Annan said...

That arxiv thing is just a non-research ramble, and the other paper hardly relates to predictions of AGW. I was wondering if he had done anything relating to AGW.

Funny that you should quote him claiming to be "right". Of course it is Lindzen who previously believed climate sensitivity was 0.5C, then upped his estimate to 1C, and last I heard he was saying 1.5C - fully 3 times greater than he thought 20-30 years ago. Meanwhile the rest of the world has been saying it is 2.5C or 3C for this entire period, and will continue to do so after Lindzen either admits he is still wrong, or dies, whichever comes sooner.

Alex Harvey said...

Hi James,

If you look again, you'll see that the Ronandelli & Lindzen [2008] paper is in support of Lindzen's Iris hypothesis, and I'm sure you'd agree that this does in fact relate very directly to AGW.

Note also:

Rondanelli, R. & R.S. Lindzen (2009) Journal of Geophysical Research, (in review), Comments on “Variations of tropical upper tropospheric clouds with sea surface temperature and implications for radiative effects” by Su et al., 2008.

Rondanelli, R. & R.S. Lindzen (2009) Can thin cirrus clouds in the tropics provide a solution to the faint young sun paradox? (to be submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research).

Choi, Y.-S., C.-H. Ho, S.-W. Kim, R.S. Lindzen and Q. Hu (2009) Abundant supercooled clouds in the winter Antarctic atmosphere observed in MODIS and CALIOP measurements. (submitted to J. Climate)

Ho, C.-H., Y.-S. Choi, J. Kim and R.S. Lindzen (2009) Presence of supercooled clouds in very cold temperature ranges. (submitted to Nature Geoscience).

Choi, Y.-S., R.S. Lindzen and C.-H. Ho (2009) Dust aerosol influence on cold cloud albedo (in preparation).

Do remember that Lindzen has contributed an enormous amount to our understanding of the atmosphere over his 45 year career, including the theory of the diurnal tide, the explanation of the quasi-biennial oscillation, the first models for ozone photochemical interactions with infrared radiation, and many other important results.

Best regards,

James Annan said...

Yes I'm sure Lindzen has done many wonderful things. However on the subject of climate sensitivity he made a bad guess several decades ago (when it was rather more of an open question) and has been too stubborn to back down like a truly open-minded and sceptical scientist would have done.

(The Ronandelli and Lindzen paper only impinges rather tangentially on the Iris, as the authors take great pains to point out.)