Climate codes

Since its inception, I’ve been a fan of Clear Climate Code, a project that tries to rewrite the rather messy NASA GISS temperature code into clear python (not that I would understand a lot about programming, but I admire the effort). So far, they’ve been quite successful and able to perfectly reproduce the steps done to create the GISTEMP global average surface temperature curve.

Among the most fascinating aspects is the amount of constructive skepticism the CCC people show. When they found a bug in GISTEMP, they sent the information to NASA who fixed it. Ultimately, GISS may take over the new code when it’s finished, and that would be a marvellous success story for citizen science. What CCC does is simply the opposite of what many contrarians do: Improving science, not seeding doubt about its validity.

And they’ve got more plans. Just a few days ago, Nick Barnes, the head behind CCC, announced the creation of the Climate Code Foundation (h/t Stoat). It’s supposed to act as an umbrella for projects related to temperature code, so far CCC and open climate code (though I can’t tell how much work, if any, has been done through the latter initiative). One project Barnes had already thought about loudly was the creation of clear code for paleo temperature reconstructions. Whether that’s going to be the next thing remains to be seen.

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Posted in climate science, IPCC, skepticism, Temperature record | 2 Comments

Distinguishing deniers from skeptics

A lot of people have found it useful to distinguish between different kinds of climate skepticism. In the current edition of Skeptic Magazine, David Brin makes this point and distinguishes climate denialists from climate skeptics. Keith Kloor adds some useful comments. Bart Verheggen likewise discovered various shades of grey in climate skepticism, and it is very worthwile thinking about those shades in more depth.

Not everyone who doubts scientific details about global warming is a climate denier. There’s an actually not so subtle difference between laypeople who put a lot of time and effort into vindicating or vitiating climate science, and paid professionals who seed doubt ordered by corporate players whose profits are endangered by climate policy or connected with personal ideologies opposed to anything green.

The latter group truly deserves the title “professional denialists”. They do not care about advancing science at all, they are not interested in honest debate, and they do everything to disturb the work of scientists working in the field. This sort of people is mostly absent from Europe, they appear to be largely constrained to the US and other anglosaxon countries. Their impact there, however, may be significant, according to the accounts of James Hoggan, and Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway. Admittedly, the field of denialists can’t be reduced only to PR people, but let’s keep it like this for a minute.

Civic skeptics, however, have been met with a lot of hostility on the web, while their contributions to the climate debate can – and should – be seen in a more positive light. Yet it’s also up to them to present their case in a more digestible way.

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Refurbishing the UNFCCC

Currently, the UNFCCC gets a new building in Bonn. The secretariat is going to move from the Langer Eugen (the tall building to the right) to the Altes Abgeordnetenhaus. Work is pretty well under way, as you can see, and it should be finished by the end of 2011.

Also in 2011, we expect another large climate conference to be held in South Africa, after this years’ COP16 will take place in Cancun, Mexico. Many observers have noted that the sheer size of UNFCCC conferences has gotten out of control, and some suggested to shrink their scale in order to improve matters. While this proposition certainly makes for a good discussion, here’s why I think it’s not going to happen.

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Posted in Climate governance, COP16, UNFCCC | Tagged , , | Leave a comment