Back from Erice

Got back from the annual WFS conference at Erice, Sicily a couple of days ago. It is an interdisciplinary conference on world issues, in which climate is only a part, but an important part. As in previous visits, it was a very enjoyable visit – the conference attracts a lot of spouses, resulting in more mixing between disciplines than would occur otherwise as the spouses create their own mixing.

Antonino Zichichi, who organizes the conference, is not convinced that climate sensitivity is very great and the climate invitees had a much stronger “skeptical” bent than previous years. I ended up as a panelist in a discussion on climate with Richard Lindzen, Will Happer and Richard Wilson (of Harvard, another prominent nuclear physicist who’s taken an interest in climate.) I spent quite a bit of time with all three.

The conference had interesting presentations on science issues related to the BP oil spill – a discharge estimate of about 70,000 bbl/day seems to be the final number.

The conference always has interesting presentations from nuclear scientists and engineers and this year was no exception. I find the discussions of designs and design improvements fascinating and reassuring.

While climate sensitivity was the large scientific issue, Climategate was on a lot of people’s minds – both for its fallout on climate science and science more generally. I ended up focusing my presentation on Climategate and the inquiries, neither of which made people very comfortable.

Obviously, the tide of climate news continues. I haven’t parsed McShane and Wyner yet and need to do so. As a relaxation when I got home a couple of days ago, I spent some time looking at Steve Mosher’s recent blog – Steve has done some slick applications of R packages raster and zoo (which I haven’t explored) to the analysis of data sets. I see that the IAC report is out today and is one more thing to read – I hope that it’s less bad than the others.


  1. Stan Plamer
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

    The Globe and Mail inidcates that the IAC report has strong citicism of the IPCC. These were related to the too lengthy term limit for the IPCC chair, scientifically unsupported statemetns in the ARs and straying into policy

  2. Joe Crawford
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 11:33 AM | Permalink

    Welcome back Steve. Andy Revkin had an article at The New York Time on August 23rd on the conference (here). I find it interesting that he only mentions climate in the first paragraph: “…a conference on global risks like cyberterrorism, climate change, nuclear weapons and the world’s lagging energy supply.”

    Steve – the article is on the 2008 conference (where I met Revkin).

  3. Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 12:14 PM | Permalink

    Good to here you are well, Steve. When you have time, it would be great if you could tell us more details about what went down at Erice. Last time I know that it was rapidly overshadowed by other issues like Climategate.

    But you should rest up for the moment, and I’ll understand if you have quite a lot else to get to before telling us more about Erice. It’s just something I would relish the opportunity to hear about personally.

    One of these days I’ll have to start going to all these big events personally so I can stop bugging people to tell me about them. Sorry if I am being to eager.

  4. Bernie
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 12:44 PM | Permalink

    Welcome back. What about those Sicilian wine recommendations?

  5. pesadilla
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

    Welcome back
    Sounds as though you really enjoyed yourself. I would be interested to know if liquid floride thoreum neuclear power formed any part of the discussions?

  6. Phillip Bratby
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 1:47 PM | Permalink

    Welcome home. It must be a blessed relief to hear real issues discussed in presentations from nuclear scientists and engineers.

  7. 2dogs
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 3:25 PM | Permalink

    The IAC has quite a few good points:

    – “The IPCC should encourage Review Editors to fully exercise their
    authority to ensure that reviewers’ comments are adequately considered by the authors
    and that genuine controversies are adequately reflected in the report.”

    – “The IPCC should adopt a more targeted and effective process for
    responding to reviewer comments. In such a process, Review Editors would prepare a
    written summary of the most significant issues raised by reviewers shortly after review
    comments have been received. Authors would be required to provide detailed written
    responses to the most significant review issues identified by the Review Editors,
    abbreviated responses to all non-editorial comments, and no written responses to editorial

    It will be very interesting to see the Hockey Team’s response to this. Their usual approach of discrediting the messenger won’t work here.

    • Posted Aug 31, 2010 at 10:26 PM | Permalink

      How does one convince a Review Editor that you have a genuine controversy?

  8. David Weisman
    Posted Aug 30, 2010 at 6:29 PM | Permalink

    I’m not sure I understand the debate about climate sensitivity. There have been ice ages and periods much warmer than ours, so the climate is sensitive to something – the orbital variations which most scientists now think cause ice ages are tiny. Do the people who think climate sensitivity is low criticize those who say solar changes which cause only a small net difference in solar radiant energy can affect our climate?

  9. Posted Aug 31, 2010 at 10:33 AM | Permalink

    Was my reply to David Weisman above also over the line into trying to “solve the big picture in one paragraph”? I did not intend to convey such a thing. I think it is merely a point worth making that there is a range of opinion on the effects of solar variations on climate and some, but not all, who think that the climate is not very sensitive are also skeptical that small solar variations would cause any significant changes in the climate. Those who disagree with this appeal to various indirect mechanisms. There is a discussion to be had about those, but let’s not get into it here (which is why I’m not naming any of them! I hope that keeps the Zamboni of my back 🙂 ) There is no unified opinion of “those who think sensitivity is low” on this matter.

    With regard to the glaciations, again, good discussion to have, but perhaps not here and now. Is that better than the statement I made before?

    • David Weisman
      Posted Sep 1, 2010 at 12:33 AM | Permalink

      My question is allowed, but not the answers? I had thought they would be on topic since climate sensitivity is in the original post twice. For all I know Dave Dardinger was snipped for reproducing a standard rant of the sort seen all over, since I never saw it – but I came back to reread your reply and was disappointed to find it gone. I guess I can’t ask you for detail on something snipped without both of us getting resnipped.

      If Steve permits, should we move this to the discussion of Lindzen and Choi 2009? It’s gotta be on topic there!

      • Posted Sep 1, 2010 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

        Or move it to Unthreaded…

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Sep 1, 2010 at 2:54 PM | Permalink

          Re: Jeff Alberts (Sep 1 09:53),

          But how does one get to unthreaded under normal circumstances? At the moment it’s on the recent comments list, but it’s so long and far back that getting to it is a problem. I suggested to Steve a while back that he make a link to Unthreaded in the Pages section on the left sidebar, but it’s not been done so far.

        • Stan Plamer
          Posted Sep 1, 2010 at 4:23 PM | Permalink

          Just search for Unthreadd from the Search box

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Sep 1, 2010 at 10:50 PM | Permalink

          Re: Stan Plamer (Sep 1 16:23),

          Actually I knew you could search for unthreaded, but didn’t remember how well it worked so didn’t mention it until I’d checked. True it’s pretty easy that way, but really that’s not a very professional way to do things. You should be able to click a button or link and be done with it. Also note that if i searched for “Unthreadd” if probably wouldn’t work very well.

        • Posted Sep 2, 2010 at 12:09 AM | Permalink

          There’s a Categories drop-down on the left side under the pages section. Unthreaded is at the bottom of the drop-down list.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Sep 2, 2010 at 8:30 AM | Permalink

          Re: Jeff Alberts (Sep 2 00:09),

          Ok, that will work. Has that been there long? It’s not exactly the obvious place to look, but a couple of clicks and a drag is better than having to type in “unthreaded” at least.

        • Posted Sep 2, 2010 at 9:50 AM | Permalink

          Not sure how long it’s been there. I’ve used it a few times recently. Glad I could help. 😉

        • David Weisman
          Posted Sep 1, 2010 at 11:10 PM | Permalink

          Also, this isn’t really an unthreaded random discussion. If this blog is about auditing climate science, asking if ‘climate sensitivity’ is used coherently in Lindzen and Choi 2009 is as relevant as you can get. While Steve’s main focus is studying the statistics in IPCC and other realclimate type studies, he has posted on other climate science as well, such as Lindzen and Choi 2009. I read Andrew’s deleted comment before it got snipped, and I’m still puzzling how it fit into the category he ascribed it to, so perhaps I just don’t understand his policy, and it really would be snipped even there, but by that logic it could be snipped from unthreaded too.

          Steve- editorially, I’ve found that every thread tends to turn into an argument about the “big picture” in the absence of an editorial policy asking readers to discuss a thread topic. I welcome readers locating an older thread that is relevant to their concern – I don’t recall whether I posted onn Lindzen and Choi _ I meant to, but got overtaken by Yamal and Climategate and will perhaps return to it. Editorially, I particularly dislike attempts to prove or disprove the importance of AGW in one paragraph. I understand people’s concern and interest, but editorially they seldom offer anything of interest to the larger audience. There are many blogs that welcome such exchange of opinion; I don’t see much point in such exchanges and would prefer to maintain this space.

        • Dave Dardinger
          Posted Sep 2, 2010 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

          Re: David Weisman (Sep 1 23:10),

          Hey, it’s your blog. I was expecting my remarks to be snipped, which is why I didn’t complain. I just hoped Mr. Weisman would have a chance to read it before it hit the bit bucket. Next time though, I’ll just link to one of Willis’ articles on WUWT.

  10. Daniel
    Posted Aug 31, 2010 at 4:57 PM | Permalink

    Hi Steve

    One point of interest is the ITER project for nuclear fusion in France. Was it discussed at Erice ? Here in France, we heard some prominent scientists in physics (Charpak as an exemple) advising to stop the project due to a lack of maturity of many critical technologies, and to high risk of huge cost inflation ..


  11. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Aug 31, 2010 at 6:19 PM | Permalink

    no discussion of fusion. But the ideas behind “advanced” reactor systems (i.e. improved since the 1970s) seemed very sensible.

  12. dahuang
    Posted Sep 3, 2010 at 5:00 PM | Permalink

    Steve, do you know the current status of this paper by Drs. Lindzen and Choi (2010) since you met Lindzen in person in Italy and climate sensitivity becomes a central issue these days.

    [QUOTE]Richard S. Lindzen, Yong-Sang Choi, On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications, (Submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research, February 2010). PDF:

    Recently Drs. Spencer and Braswell’s paper on climate sensitivity was accepted by JGR, so the fate of Lindzen and Choi (2010) manuscript becomes my serious concern.

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