From a Bright Young Climate Scientist

I’m beginning to wonder if I picked the right career, or perhaps I’m coming down with a touch of the climate change denial syndrome.

When I enrolled in an Integrated Climate Change Studies degree I was convinced that knowledge-based solutions to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases were the most important thing I could be doing with my life, with cool field work in Antarctica and on ships and all, and besides a good job in the Department of Climate Change was virtually guaranteed when an emissions trading scheme came in.

When Kevin Rudd’s Labor Government came into power I thought we could get a bigger and better scheme than Howard had promised, as all that reporting, legislation, regulation and subsidies would be so complex people would be knocking my door down for someone with my talents and training.

Howard had slashed climate research funding because the climate scientists said they had the solution and the science was settled, so he thought they didn’t need any more money. They learned from that mistake and made sure to keep finding more problems.

Perhaps it started with ClimateGate and the release of embarrassing personal emails between climate scientists. Honestly, it was only a small trick anyway and the Hockey-stick is so last decade. They were exonerated by 4 inquiries. Research has moved on. Climate models are the rage. Sharing your data so other can check your results seems so unscientific.

Then those awful HimalayaGates and so on insinuating there was something wrong with Greenpeace and WWF advising the IPCC. I mean, if we are going to have a better world, the right people need to be in charge, don’t they? Then there was the Copenhagen debacle. (Note to self – pack dinner jacket and knee-pads.)

Now, and this is most worrying, Dr James Hansen, the defender of creation as we have grown to love it, has just suggested that the models might have exaggerated the amount of human-caused warming – a lot! Does this mean that we are going to have to keep discovering climate catastrophes for twice as long? The threat of perpetual drought worked when we were actually in drought, but it had to rain eventually, and it gets a bit hard to blame both drought and flood on CO2.

Then there is the missing hotspot, the forecast warming of the part of the atmosphere called the middle troposphere. Satellite observations of warming in the hotspot region fall significantly
below all of the model estimates. Thankfully the climate scientists can still blame the data and not the models, but if the temperature doesn’t start going up again soon, I don’t know what we will do. Working in Meteorology doesn’t pay well enough, and you actually have to be useful.

What I am really worried about is this Ocean Heat Content [OHC] thing. Everyone agrees that the OHC is the true indicator of the extent of the warming of the planet, even Penny
. Someone had the bright idea of actually measuring what is really important to global climate – the rate of heat uptake of the oceans. It’s removed the uncertainty, and it’s looking decidedly flat.

And there is this big spike in 2003 between the old measurements when the high quality Argo floats came in; they say might not be real, just a calibration error. Remove that spike and the big acceleration in the OHC fades by 40%.

Those American right-wing climate scientists who are really physicists not climate scientists don’t appreciate the Integrated Human-Climate Dimension are funded secretly by Big-Oil. They deny it of course. They say ocean heating is a fraction of what the models say it should be, because the feed-backs are negative and sensitivity to CO2 is very low, less than 1 degree C for doubling, and CO2 is beneficial to plants anyway.

I don’t think it’s a good research direction to reduce the uncertainties about climate sensitivity, and the role of aerosols, clouds, and indirect solar effects. It’s complicated and satellites involve rocket science.

Climate adaptation is a much better direction, as there are lots of government jobs in improving storm-water systems to reduce flooding, dealing with community coastal issues and agricultural pests. Always has been, always will be.

We went to a top secret meeting with the senior scientists at CSIRO the other day and they told us that the main thing holding back a flood of research funding that will flow from the introduction of a carbon tax is poor communication, not the widening gap between the models and reality. As I say, I am starting to wonder, but I trust them, they are the experts. After all, I only just got my name on my first
peer-reviewed publication.

They stressed that we should have nothing to do with those deniers at blogs like ClimateAudit that will only try to confuse us.

The 10:10 video got a lot of attention so some of my friends got together and made this one. Deniers – take that!


0 thoughts on “From a Bright Young Climate Scientist

    • If the career prospects outside of academia depend on the ongoing AGW scare and the passage of government legislation then it should be a concern to CS graduates.

      In general I think universities do students a disservice with flashy integrative courses that tend to produce masters of nothing. They have their place I suppose but I would advise students to do a double degree so they are strong in chemistry, physics, or maths, etc. else they can find themselves without many options when the fad runs out.

  1. If the career prospects outside of academia depend on the ongoing AGW
    scare and the passage of government legislation then it would be a
    concern to CS graduates.

    In general I think universities do students a disservice with
    flashy integrative courses that tend to produce masters of nothing. 
    They have their place I suppose but I would advise students to do a
    double degree so they are strong in chemistry, physics, or maths, etc. 
    else they can find themselves without many options when the fad runs

    • Better yet Rebel against low expectations!
      Go for a BSc with a double major Physics and Chemistry and a full minor in Math. No sweat.

      Better yet, Chemical Engineering & Petroleum Engineering with nonlinear math/statistics.

      See “Do Hard Things” Alex & Brett Harris ISBN 1601421125

      The real challenge is replacing rapidly depleting light oil with interim and sustainable fuels.
      See Robert L. Hirsch, The Impending World Energy Mess. ISBN 1601421125
      and conference presentations.

      That meets the real needs and will guarantee life long employment.

      The greatest benefit to the 3 billion living on less than $2.5/day would be inexpensive fuel for < $1/gallon or < $25/bbl. Go for it.

  2. Sorry about your job prospects.
    Actually if you had studied economics, you might realise that job prospects, should governments try to reduce CO2 emissions to the recommended 70%, will be exceedingly poor. Possibly your chance of actually getting a full meal will be poor as well. Except if you are a politician or a climate scientist of course.

    Pity you didn’t think of the medieval warm period before you signed up though.



  3. Anders94, I guess the issue is whether the career in meteorology or climatology is dealing with real climate as opposed to made up, ideologically conceived climate.

  4. What a strange post! In my days, one chose a future career path by succesive failure of the harder choices, ending up with something at your level of intelligence. I don’t recall a colleague ever knowing  before graduation precisely what he/she wanted to do, except for a guy into theology and he wanted to save the World from Sin (when he was sober).
    There is a very serious question as to why you were determined to enrol in Integrated Climate Change Studies (a vague sort of semi-science that does not stand alongside the classics of physics, math, chemistry – the “hard” sciences). It is important because it is a measure of your juvenile preconditioning. By this I mean the extent and efficacy of propaganda fed to you in your formative years. Did you feel that you were receiving propaganda? Did people turn up to sell you the idea that the chemistry of polychlorinated hydrocarbons was sexy?
    Who gave you the idea that James Hansen was the defender of creation as we have grown to love it? That’s not a widely-held view among experienced scientists.
    Did you ever wonder about turning yourself into a person with a reputation that would go down in history with a good mark? Many scientists strive for that. For some, it is their main motivation, allied with the comfort that comes with age of knowing that you have given to the world more than you will ever take. That inter-generational equity type of thing. Climate studies would be a poor choice to make a name in history, because it rains, it stops, it gets hot, it gets cold, it gets cloudy, it gets clear … there is a limit to the discovery of new information and even if you do find something importantly new, chances are you can do bugger all about it.
    The sheer boredom of the limited parameters set might explain the need to make 10:10 and that rap thing about sunglasses. Was it sponsored by RayBan?
    It’s so 1980s, but get a Life, mate.

  5. I’m glad reality is alive down under. It’s gaining currency here as well. FREE THE CARBON!
    MW, Sandy, Utah, USA 

  6.  Did you not once even glance at single tide gauge records that carry back a century to look for confirmation of surging seas? Or at multiple century single site thermometer records to confirm hockey stick claims? You got caught up in a green bubble, with dreams of massive status and funding. You followed the money instead of followed a passion. Your interest in the field was attached to one very extreme and highly speculative hypothesis, merely. At least you sound smart enough to end up where you belong and will be appreciated and highly rewarded instead of utterly despised now that you have kissed the death of an academic career by hinting of heretical views: Wall Street firms love computer modelers!

    I present The Quick Glance Guide to Global Warming:

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