Theon eviscerates climate warming community

This is not the sort of news I usually pick up on, but I quote below the retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, and former supervisor of James Hansen, both because of the relevance to modelling practise, and because he captures so exactly what has driven me out of science over the last 5 years, and onto the blogosphere.

Theon declared “climate models are useless.” “My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.

If climate models are useless, what does this make the order of magnitude larger community of scientists in the climate change effects community who use these models to prophesy impending doom: dupes, enabelers, or marketers of the latest trendy idea? Sorry guys.

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0 thoughts on “Theon eviscerates climate warming community

  1. Pedro S: An excellent recommendation IMHO. Read a few pages in Google books. “Climate science would seem to have an underdeveloped sense of the importance of quality assurance safeguards…” something I have been harping on for ages. It deals with species extinctions and climate change, two areas I am very familiar with.

  2. Pedro S: An excellent recommendation IMHO. Read a few pages in Google books. “Climate science would seem to have an underdeveloped sense of the importance of quality assurance safeguards…” something I have been harping on for ages. It deals with species extinctions and climate change, two areas I am very familiar with.

  3. Another excellent (but rare) book is Edith Efron’s “The Apocalyptics”. Published in 1984, Simon & Schuster, 589 pages, hundreds of references ….

    This was the first book I have read that analysed the start of ‘green’ science, with its theme being the scary prediction that there would be an epidemic of cancers around the world, caused by man-made chemicals. The interesting aspect is that Edith refused to use a single reference from industry (avoiding the nascent Exxon factor charge) and that each assertion is referenced to the individual’s original statement, verbatim. The guilty people hang themselves.

    Even when writing the book before 1984, some familiar names were around – Gore, A; Carson, R; Commoner, B; Erlich, P & A; Lovelock, J; et al. There is overlap of people, of methods, of belief science, of poor statistics, of overbearing Government and so on. It’s as if some people fail to learn the lessons of history and are condemned to live with them.

    Dr Moderator, you chose the same paragraph from John Theon as I chose to send around the traps.

  4. Another excellent (but rare) book is Edith Efron’s “The Apocalyptics”. Published in 1984, Simon & Schuster, 589 pages, hundreds of references ….

    This was the first book I have read that analysed the start of ‘green’ science, with its theme being the scary prediction that there would be an epidemic of cancers around the world, caused by man-made chemicals. The interesting aspect is that Edith refused to use a single reference from industry (avoiding the nascent Exxon factor charge) and that each assertion is referenced to the individual’s original statement, verbatim. The guilty people hang themselves.

    Even when writing the book before 1984, some familiar names were around – Gore, A; Carson, R; Commoner, B; Erlich, P & A; Lovelock, J; et al. There is overlap of people, of methods, of belief science, of poor statistics, of overbearing Government and so on. It’s as if some people fail to learn the lessons of history and are condemned to live with them.

    Dr Moderator, you chose the same paragraph from John Theon as I chose to send around the traps.

  5. Just to restate my position: I think everyone is biased. We need to be adult and put systems in place that produce a more objective outcome. The IPCC is simply a single review of the literature, good in terms of its synthetic contribution, but not systematic in terms of adhering to an explicit methodology that might expose its weaknesses, not comprehensive, etc. Let get real about models (not the lanky kind). Theories are ideas that have not yet been discredited.

  6. Just to restate my position: I think everyone is biased. We need to be adult and put systems in place that produce a more objective outcome. The IPCC is simply a single review of the literature, good in terms of its synthetic contribution, but not systematic in terms of adhering to an explicit methodology that might expose its weaknesses, not comprehensive, etc. Let get real about models (not the lanky kind). Theories are ideas that have not yet been discredited.

  7. Heck, we all have private biases. That’s the human form. Sometimes we show them more than we should. The hard part, too hard for some, is to concede when you are shown to be wrong.

  8. Heck, we all have private biases. That’s the human form. Sometimes we show them more than we should. The hard part, too hard for some, is to concede when you are shown to be wrong.

  9. It’s a shame Dr Theon left it so long. It does not get a mention in the major Australian papers that I have searched, apart from Andrew Bolt’s blog.

  10. It’s a shame Dr Theon left it so long. It does not get a mention in the major Australian papers that I have searched, apart from Andrew Bolt’s blog.

  11. Here is Gavin Schmidt’s response at RC:

    # Anne Says:
    28 January 2009 at 10:04 PM

    Gavin

    Are you going to comment on your bosses former bosses,
    Dr. John S. Theon, recent comment?

    Theon declared “climate models are useless.” “My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.

    Anne

    [Response: He was not my boss’s former boss. And what is there to comment on? What study is he alluding to? What papers does he reference? If this is just his opinion, how can it be refuted? Who are these scientists who do such terrible things? When did they do them? Where? As for sub-grid scale processes, we’ve just done two dense FAQ posts that address precisely those issues. His conclusion about climate models does not appear to be based on anything, and is patently false. Climate models have proved useful in myriad ways – for prediction (effects of Pinatubo, strat cooling), for assessment of data consistency (ice age tropical temperatures, MSU trends), as test beds for new instrumentation or methodologies, for explaining past climate changes, and indeed for being more skillful at future projections than any naive expectations of no change. Asking me to comment on Theon’s remarks, is like asking me to duel a ghost. There is nothing there. – gavin]

    See, opinion. Mere opinion. Wasn’t peer-reviewed by anyone you can trust: Michael Mann, or Gavin Schmit, or Ray Pierrehumbert, or even Eric Steig. Wasn’t published in Nature or Science — not even GRL! Apparently he can’t even cite his sources properly. And who was consulted before Dr. Steon’s announcement? He didn’t even read the RealClimate FAQ! It’s like duelling a ghost. There’s just nothing there.

  12. Here is Gavin Schmidt’s response at RC:

    # Anne Says:
    28 January 2009 at 10:04 PM

    Gavin

    Are you going to comment on your bosses former bosses,
    Dr. John S. Theon, recent comment?

    Theon declared “climate models are useless.” “My own belief concerning anthropogenic climate change is that the models do not realistically simulate the climate system because there are many very important sub-grid scale processes that the models either replicate poorly or completely omit,” Theon explained. “Furthermore, some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results. In doing so, they neither explain what they have modified in the observations, nor explain how they did it. They have resisted making their work transparent so that it can be replicated independently by other scientists. This is clearly contrary to how science should be done. Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy,” he added.

    Anne

    [Response: He was not my boss’s former boss. And what is there to comment on? What study is he alluding to? What papers does he reference? If this is just his opinion, how can it be refuted? Who are these scientists who do such terrible things? When did they do them? Where? As for sub-grid scale processes, we’ve just done two dense FAQ posts that address precisely those issues. His conclusion about climate models does not appear to be based on anything, and is patently false. Climate models have proved useful in myriad ways – for prediction (effects of Pinatubo, strat cooling), for assessment of data consistency (ice age tropical temperatures, MSU trends), as test beds for new instrumentation or methodologies, for explaining past climate changes, and indeed for being more skillful at future projections than any naive expectations of no change. Asking me to comment on Theon’s remarks, is like asking me to duel a ghost. There is nothing there. – gavin]

    See, opinion. Mere opinion. Wasn’t peer-reviewed by anyone you can trust: Michael Mann, or Gavin Schmit, or Ray Pierrehumbert, or even Eric Steig. Wasn’t published in Nature or Science — not even GRL! Apparently he can’t even cite his sources properly. And who was consulted before Dr. Steon’s announcement? He didn’t even read the RealClimate FAQ! It’s like duelling a ghost. There’s just nothing there.

  13. Alex:

    “See, opinion. Mere opinion. ”

    LOL. I think the opinion of someone with the stature and credentials of Theon is important and puts another big dent in NASA’s reputation and the value of it’s data. And if Theon starts naming names and giving specific details, Katie bar the door!

    Talk about opinions: that’s what J. Scott Armstrong says the GCMs are: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/28/forecasting-guru-announces-no-scientific-basis-for-forecasting-climate/

  14. Alex:

    “See, opinion. Mere opinion. ”

    LOL. I think the opinion of someone with the stature and credentials of Theon is important and puts another big dent in NASA’s reputation and the value of it’s data. And if Theon starts naming names and giving specific details, Katie bar the door!

    Talk about opinions: that’s what J. Scott Armstrong says the GCMs are: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/01/28/forecasting-guru-announces-no-scientific-basis-for-forecasting-climate/

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