Posts tagged ‘climate science’

Great Moments in "Science"

You know that relative of yours, who last Thanksgiving called you anti-science because you had not fully bought into global warming alarm?

Well, it appears that the reason we keep getting called "anti-science" is because climate scientists have a really funny idea of what exactly "science" is.

Apparently, a number of folks have been trying for years to get articles published in peer reviewed journals comparing the IPCC temperature models to actual measurements, and in the process highlighting the divergence of the two.  And they keep getting rejected.

Now, the publisher of Environmental Research Letters has explained why.  Apparently, in climate science it is "an error" to attempt to compare computer temperature forecasts with the temperatures that actually occurred.  In fact, he says that trying to do so "is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of 'errors' and worse from the climate sceptics media side".  Apparently, the purpose of scientific inquiry is to win media wars, and not necessarily to discover truth.

Here is something everyone in climate should remember:  The output of models merely represents a hypothesis.  When we have complicated hypotheses in complicated systems, and where such hypotheses may encompass many interrelated assumptions, computer models are an important tool for playing out, computationally, what results those hypotheses might translate to in the physical world.  It is no different than if Newton had had a computer and took his equation Gmm/R^2 and used the computer to project future orbits for the Earth and other planets (which he and others did, but by hand).   But these projections would have no value until they were checked against actual observations.  That is how we knew we liked Newton's models better than Ptolemy's -- because they checked out better against actual measurements.

But climate scientists are trying to create some kind of weird world where model results have some sort of independent reality, where in fact the model results should be trusted over measurements when the two diverge.  If this is science -- which it is not -- but if it were, then I would be anti-science.

Want to Make Your Reputation in Academia? Here is an Important Class of Problem For Which We Have No Solution Approach

Here is the problem:  There exists a highly dynamic, multi- multi- variable system.  One input is changed.  How much, and in what ways, did that change affect the system?

Here are two examples:

  • The government makes a trillion dollars in deficit spending to try to boost the economy.  Did it do so?  By how much? (This Reason article got me thinking about it)
  • Man's actions increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.  We are fairly confident that this has some warming effect, but how how much?  There are big policy differences between the response to a lot and a little.

The difficulty, of course, is that there is no way to do a controlled study, and while one's studied variable is changing, so are thousands, even millions of others.  These two examples have a number of things in common:

  • We know feedbacks play a large role in the answer, but the system is so hard to pin down that we are not even sure of the sign, much less the magnitude, of the feedback.  Do positive feedbacks such as ice melting and cloud formation multiply CO2 warming many times, or is warming offset by negative feedback from things like cloud formation?  Similarly in the economy, does deficit spending get multiplied many times as the money gets respent over and over, or is it offset by declines in other categories of spending like business investment?
  • In both examples, we have recent cases where the system has not behaved as expected (at least by some).  The economy remained at best flat after the recent stimulus.  We have not seen global temperatures increase for 15-20 years despite a lot of CO2 prodcution.  Are these evidence that the hypothesized relationship between cause and effect does not exist (or is small), or simply evidence that other effects independently drove the system in the opposite direction such that, for example, the economy would have been even worse without the stimulus or the world would have cooled without CO2 additions.
  • In both examples, we use computer models not only to predict the future, but to explain the past.  When the government said that the stimulus had worked, they did so based on a computer model whose core assumptions were that stimulus works.  In both fields, we get this sort of circular proof, with the output of computer models that assume a causal relationship being used to prove the causal relationship

So, for those of you who may think that we are at the end of math (or science), here is a class of problem that is clearly, just from these two examples, enormously important.  And we cannot solve it -- we can't even come close, despite the hubris of Paul Krugman or Michael Mann who may argue differently.    We are explaining fire with Phlogiston.

I have no idea where the solution lies.  Perhaps all we can hope for is a Goedel to tell us the problem is impossible to solve so stop trying.  Perhaps the seeds of a solution exist but they are buried in another discipline (God knows the climate science field often lacks even the most basic connection to math and statistics knowledge).

Maybe I am missing something, but who is even working on this?  By "working on it" I do not mean trying to build incrementally "better" economics or climate models.  Plenty of folks doing that.  But who is working on new approaches to tease out relationships in complex multi-variable systems?

Ugh -- Krugman Bringing Climate-Style Argument by Marginalization to Economics

Climate alarmists have mastered the trick of portraying opposition to their theories as not just being wrong, but being anti-science.  For years many scientists who have not looked into climate science at all have reflexively signed petitions supporting the alarmists, in the belief they were supporting science against anti-science. (By the way, time and again when these physicists and Earth scientists have actually later looked at the quality of climate science work, they have been astounded at the really poor quality garbage they were implicitly supporting -- I know, I am in that camp myself).

It looks like Paul Krugman, the most politicized economist ever(TM), is trying to bring the same style argumentation to economics.  If you don't agree with him, you are not just wrong, you are anti-science.  He is Galileo, and you are the ill-informed mystic.

So let me summarize: we had a scientific revolution in economics, one that dramatically increased our comprehension of the world and also gave us crucial practical guidance about what to do in the face of depressions. The broad outlines of the theory devised during that revolution have held up extremely well in the face of experience, while those rejecting the theory because it doesn’t correspond to their notion of common sense have been wrong every step of the way.

Yet a large part of both the political establishment and the economics establishment rejects the whole thing out of hand, because they don’t like the conclusions.

Galileo wept.

There are two other similarities between economics and climate that support this kind of blind (but unwarranted) certainty:

  1. There are few if any opportunities for controlled experiments to truly test cause and effect
  2. There are near infinite numbers of moving parts and variables, such that one can almost always find an analysis that shows your favored variable correlated to something good or bad -- as long, of course, as you are willing to pretend that a zillion other variables weren't changing at the same time which could have equally likely been part of the causation.

If You Don't Like People Saying That Climate Science is Absurd, Stop Publishing Absurd Un-Scientific Charts

Kevin Drum can't believe the folks at the National Review are still calling global warming science a "myth".  As is usual for global warming supporters, he wraps himself in the mantle of science while implying that those who don't toe the line on the declared consensus are somehow anti-science.

Readers will know that as a lukewarmer, I have as little patience with outright CO2 warming deniers as I do with those declaring a catastrophe  (for my views read this and this).  But if you are going to simply be thunderstruck that some people don't trust climate scientists, then don't post a chart that is a great example of why people think that a lot of global warming science is garbage.  Here is Drum's chart:

la-sci-climate-warming

 

The problem is that his chart is a splice of multiple data series with very different time resolutions.  The series up to about 1850 has data points taken at best every 50 years and likely at 100-200 year or more intervals.  It is smoothed so that temperature shifts less than 200 years or so in length won't show up and are smoothed out.

In contrast, the data series after 1850 has data sampled every day or even hour.  It has a sampling interval 6 orders of magnitude (over a million times) more frequent.  It by definition is smoothed on a time scale substantially shorter than the rest of the data.

In addition, these two data sets use entirely different measurement techniques.  The modern data comes from thermometers and satellites, measurement approaches that we understand fairly well.  The earlier data comes from some sort of proxy analysis (ice cores, tree rings, sediments, etc.)  While we know these proxies generally change with temperature, there are still a lot of questions as to their accuracy and, perhaps more importantly for us here, whether they vary linearly or have any sort of attenuation of the peaks.  For example, recent warming has not shown up as strongly in tree ring proxies, raising the question of whether they may also be missing rapid temperature changes or peaks in earlier data for which we don't have thermometers to back-check them (this is an oft-discussed problem called proxy divergence).

The problem is not the accuracy of the data for the last 100 years, though we could quibble this it is perhaps exaggerated by a few tenths of a degree.  The problem is with the historic data and using it as a valid comparison to recent data.  Even a 100 year increase of about a degree would, in the data series before 1850, be at most a single data point.  If the sampling is on 200 year intervals, there is a 50-50 chance a 100 year spike would be missed entirely in the historic data.  And even if it were in the data as a single data point, it would be smoothed out at this data scale.

Do you really think that there was never a 100-year period in those last 10,000 years where the temperatures varied by more than 0.1F, as implied by this chart?  This chart has a data set that is smoothed to signals no finer than about 200 years and compares it to recent data with no such filter.  It is like comparing the annualized GDP increase for the last quarter to the average annual GDP increase for the entire 19th century.   It is easy to demonstrate how silly this is.  If you cut the chart off at say 1950, before much anthropogenic effect will have occurred, it would still look like this, with an anomalous spike at the right (just a bit shorter).  If you believe this analysis, you have to believe that there is an unprecedented spike at the end even without anthropogenic effects.

There are several other issues with this chart that makes it laughably bad for someone to use in the context of arguing that he is the true defender of scientific integrity

  • The grey range band is if anything an even bigger scientific absurdity than the main data line.  Are they really trying to argue that there were no years, or decades, or even whole centuries that never deviated from a 0.7F baseline anomaly by more than 0.3F for the entire 4000 year period from 7500 years ago to 3500 years ago?  I will bet just about anything that the error bars on this analysis should be more than 0.3F, much less the range of variability around the mean.  Any natural scientist worth his or her salt would laugh this out of the room.  It is absurd.  But here it is presented as climate science in the exact same article that the author expresses dismay that anyone would distrust climate science.
  • A more minor point, but one that disguises the sampling frequency problem a bit, is that the last dark brown shaded area on the right that is labelled "the last 100 years" is actually at least 300 years wide.  Based on the scale, a hundred years should be about one dot on the x axis.  This means that 100 years is less than the width of the red line, and the last 60 years or the real anthropogenic period is less than half the width of the red line.  We are talking about a temperature change whose duration is half the width of the red line, which hopefully gives you some idea why I say the data sampling and smoothing processes would disguise any past periods similar to the most recent one.

Update:  Kevin Drum posted a defense of this chart on Twitter.  Here it is:  "It was published in Science."   Well folks, there is climate debate in a nutshell.   An 1000-word dissection of what appears to be wrong with a particular analysis retorted by a five-word appeal to authority.

Update #2:  I have explained the issue with a parallel flawed analysis from politics where Drum is more likely to see the flaws.

I Am Starting To Believe Most Studies Are Crap

I spent years, before I burned out on the task, picking over bad climate studies, and at the time reached the conclusion that there was something about the climate science field that was anomalous,  tolerating so much bad science, bad sampling methodology, and bad statistical approaches.

However, now I am coming to the conclusion that perhaps most studies in every field are dominated by this same crap.  Here is an example, from the NTSB on busses.

Enshrining Peer Review as Part of the Scientific Method

I have written a lot about problems with over-emphasis on peer review and problems in scientific publishing.  This is from a press release by the CRU quoting the highly flawed Muir-Russel review / whitewash of the Climategate emails.

We note that much of the challenge to CRU’s work has not always followed the conventional scientific method of checking and seeking to falsify conclusions or offering alternative hypotheses for peer review and publication. We believe this is necessary if science is to move on, and we hope that all those involved on all sides of the climate science debate will adopt this approach.

Because methodological challenges to scientists work that don't appear in Climate Journals controlled by the scientists in question are not part of the scientific method.

By the way, the statement that "The raw tree-ring data used in our published work are available; anyone is free to use them in any way they wish" is absolutely hilarious for anyone who has followed this saga over the years.  To the extent they are available "freely," it is only because Steve McIntyre and other challengers of CRU's work engaged in a decade long legal campaign to get this publicly-funded data (necessary to verify and/or replicate the CRU's published work) released.  Here is the McIntyre post to which CRU was responding, though they bend over backwards not to actually mention him.

 

A Guide to the Global Warming Debate

My new column at Forbes is a post I have been thinking about and working on for quite a while, trying to refine over time a simple explanation of what is and is not understood in climate science.  This is how it begins, but I hope you will read it all

Likely you have heard the sound bite that “97% of climate scientists” accept the global warming “consensus”.  Which is what gives global warming advocates the confidence to call climate skeptics “deniers,” hoping to evoke a parallel with “Holocaust Deniers,” a case where most of us would agree that a small group are denying a well-accepted reality.  So why do these “deniers” stand athwart of the 97%?  Is it just politics?  Oil money? Perversity? Ignorance?

We are going to cover a lot of ground, but let me start with a hint.

In the early 1980′s I saw Ayn Rand speak at Northeastern University.  In the Q&A period afterwards, a woman asked Ms. Rand, “Why don’t you believe in housewives?”  And Ms. Rand responded, “I did not know housewives were a matter of belief.”  In this snarky way, Ms. Rand was telling the questioner that she had not been given a valid proposition to which she could agree or disagree.  What the questioner likely should have asked was, “Do you believe that being a housewife is a morally valid pursuit for a woman.”  That would have been an interesting question (and one that Rand wrote about a number of times).

In a similar way, we need to ask ourselves what actual proposition do the 97% of climate scientists agree with.  And, we need to understand what it is, exactly,  that the deniers are denying.   (I personally have fun echoing Ms. Rand’s answer every time someone calls me a climate denier — is the climate really a matter of belief?)

It turns out that the propositions that are “settled” and the propositions to which some like me are skeptical are NOT the same propositions.  Understanding that mismatch will help explain a lot of the climate debate.

More Great Moments in Climate Science

We lost track of a caribou herd, so since we can't find it, we will just tell the press it was destroyed by climate change.   (Happily the herd has been found, right where it always was, so we won't have to see caribou heads on our diet coke bottles).

I joke about this but it is really a serious statement about the quality of science and science journalism that there was really a big climate-related panic over the disappearing caribou a couple of years ago.   This is climate science in a nutshell - make a measurement error, assume the faulty data is real, and then without evidence blame the changing data on climate change.

(Update:  Yes, I actually spelled caribou herd "heard" in the original.  I am a big believer there is no such thing as a single metric for intelligence, but that there are multiple intelligences of various sorts.    We can argue about the other kinds, but I clearly did not get much of the spelling and proof-reading sort.

Well, It's Good to Have That Settled

Via Junk Science

In “Capitalism vs. the Climate“, [Naomi] Klein rants against “the deniers” but makes this admission:

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. [Emphasis added]

I Don't Think This is Settled

For those who have read my climate work or seen the video, the key question in climate science revolves around the feedback effects in the climate system to Co2 warming.

Skeptics, like alarmists, generally agree that a doubling of Co2 concentrations might warm the Earth about a degree Celsius, absent any other effects.  But we can imagine all sorts of feedback effects, the most important of which are in water vapor and cloud formation.  Warming that forms more clouds might have negative feedback, as clouds offset some of the warming.  Warming that increases humidity could lead to more warming, as water vapor is a strong greenhouse gas.

The difference, then, between minor warming and catastrophe is in the feedbacks, and most importantly in clouds and water vapor.  All the research the government is funding on whether warming will cause sterility in tree frogs is tangential to this key question.

And this question is far from decided.  I won't get into all the arguments here, but to the extent there is any consensus, it is that man' CO2 is probably causing some warming.  Whether this is a catastrophe or a nuisance depends on feedbacks which are not well understood.

This week there has been a lot of interesting back and forth over a paper by Roy Spencer several months ago arguing that cloud feedback was negative and would serve to limit the total amount of man-made warming.  Just how central this issue is can be seen in the fuss this paper has caused, including editors forced to resign for even daring to publish such heresy, and the speed with which a counter-paper flew through peer review.

I won't get into the depths of this, except to show two charts.  The first is from Dessler in the alarmist camp, the second is the same chart but using a different data series.  I won't explain the axes,  just trust the relationship between these two variables is key to diagnosing the size and direction of feedback.

So we get opposite results (the slope of the regression) simply by using temperature and radiative flux data from to different agencies.  And note how thin the fit is in both -- basically drawing a line through a cloud.  Neither of these likely has an R-squared higher than about .05.

So there you have it, the most important question in climate - really, the only important question associated with anthropogenic global warming.  Settled science, indeed.

Krugman Unintended Irony: Anyone Who Does Not Unquestioningly Believe Authorities is Anti-Science

here.

It's a wonder how, when over "97 percent to 98 percent" of scientific authorities accepted the Ptolomeic view of the solar system that we ever got past that.  Though I could certainly understand why in the current economy a die-hard Keynesian might be urging an appeal to authority rather than thinking for oneself.

When, by the way, did the children of the sixties not only lose, but reverse their anti-authoritarian streak?

Postscript:  I have always really hated the nose-counting approach to measuring the accuracy of a scientific hypothesis.  If we want to label something as anti-science, how about using straw polls of scientists as a substitute for fact-based arguments?

Yes indeed, the number of people in the newly made-up profession of "climate science" that are allowed by the UN control the content of the IPCC reports and whose funding is dependent on global warming being scary probably is very high.  The number of people in traditional scientific fields like physics, geology, chemistry, oceanography and meteorology who never-the-less study climate related topics that wholeheartedly are all-in for catastrophic man-made global warming theory would be very different

 Decide for yourself - see my video on global warming.  Am I anti-science?

Assuming Your Conclusion

The latest stimulus analysis out of the Administration is yet another crock.  It claims 2+ million jobs created, but has absolutely no evidence for this.  All it does is take the same hypothetical Keynesian multipliers it used when it proposed the stimulus, and reapply them.  In other words, the models basically say X jobs should have been created per billion dollars spent, so they run the models that then announce that X jobs must have been created per billion dollars spent.  Surely.  Somewhere.  We swear.

This notion of confirming your original predictive model runs with new runs of the same model is the same kind of BS that has become so popular in climate science.  The fact is, the net effect of the stimulus is almost impossible to measure in a complex economy where so much is changing.  It's possible, perhaps  (though this is surprisingly difficult to do right) to measure each person employed in a stimulus project, but this does not answer the question of how many jobs would have been created if the $800 billion had been left in the hands of private actors rather than spent by the government.

 

Climate Updates

I have posted a number of updates on climate science here.

Science and Complexity: The Convergence of Climate and Economics

I continue to be fascinated by the similarity between climate science and macro-economics.  Both study unbelievably complex multi-variable systems where we would really like to isolate the effect of one variable.  Because we only have one each of climates and economies  (we can define smaller subsets, but they are always going to be subject to boundary effects from the larger system) it is really hard to define good controlled experiments to isolate single variables.  And all of this is done in a highly charged political environment where certain groups are predisposed to believe their variable is the key element.

In this post by Russ Roberts, one could easily substitute "climate" for "economy" and "temperature" for "unemployment."

Suppose the economy does well this year–growth is robust and unemployment falls. What is the reason for the improvement? Will it be because of the natural rebound of an economy after a downturn that has lasted longer than people thought? The impact of the stimulus finally kicking in? The psychological or real impact of extending the Bush tax cuts? The psychological or real impact of the November election results? The steady hand of Obama at the tiller? All of the above? Can any model of the economy pass the test and answer these questions?

The reason macroeconomics is not a science and not even scientific is that the question I pose above is not answerable. If the economy improves, there will be much talk about the reason. Data and evidence will be trotted out in support of the speaker’s viewpoint. But that is not science. We don’t have a way of distinguishing between those different theories or of giving them weights to measure their independent contribution.

I’m with Arnold Kling. This is a time for humility. It should be at the heart of our discipline. The people who yell the loudest and with the most certainty are the least trustworthy. And the reason for that goes back to Hayek. We can’t measure many of the things we would have to measure to have any reasonable amount of certainty about the chains of connection and causation.

I have heard it said that the only way nowadays to advance pure science is to be working on arcana like the first microsecond of the universe or behavior of the 9th dimension in string theory.   There is still room for a ton of useful work on the analysis, solution, and forecasting of complex multi-variable systems, even if it is just a Goedel-like proof of where the boundaries of our potential understanding can be drawn.

By the way, I wrote my own piece about the limits of macroeconomics here.

But I Am Sure This Would Never Happen in Climate

Wow, suddenly skepticism, and even outright harsh criticism, of peer-reviewed work is OK, as long as it is not in climate I suppose.

On Thursday, Dec. 2, Rosie Redfield sat down to read a new paper called "A Bacterium That Can Grow by Using Arsenic Instead of Phosphorus." Despite its innocuous title, the paper had great ambitions. Every living thing that scientists have ever studied uses phosphorus to build the backbone of its DNA. In the new paper, NASA-funded scientists described a microbe that could use arsenic instead. If the authors of the paper were right, we would have to expand our....

As soon Redfield started to read the paper, she was shocked. "I was outraged at how bad the science was," she told me.

Redfield blogged a scathing attack on Saturday. Over the weekend, a few other scientists took to the Internet as well. Was this merely a case of a few isolated cranks? To find out, I reached out to a dozen experts on Monday. Almost unanimously, they think the NASA scientists have failed to make their case. "It would be really cool if such a bug existed," said San Diego State University's Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist who looks for new species of bacteria and viruses in coral reefs. But, he added, "none of the arguments are very convincing on their own." That was about as positive as the critics could get. "This paper should not have been published," said Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado.

The article goes on to describe many potential failures in the methodology.  None of this should be surprising -- I have written for years that peer-review is by no means proof against bad science or incorrect findings.  It is more of an  extended editorial process.  The real test of published science comes later, when the broader community attempts to replicate results.

The problem in climate science has been that its proponents want to claim that having research performed by a small group of scientists that is peer-reviewed by the same small group is sufficient to making the results "settled science."  Once published, they argue, no one (certainly not laymen on blogs) has the right to criticize it, and the researchers don't (as revealed in the Climategate emails) have any obligations to release their data or code to allow replication.   This is just fresh proof that this position is nuts.

The broken climate science process is especially troubling given the budgetary and reputational incentives to come out with the most dramatic possible results, something NASA's James Hansen has been accused of doing by many climate skeptics.  To this end, consider this from the bacteria brouhaha.  First, we see the same resistance to criticism, trying to deflect any critiques outside of peer-reviewed journals

"Any discourse will have to be peer-reviewed in the same manner as our paper was, and go through a vetting process so that all discussion is properly moderated," wrote Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. "The items you are presenting do not represent the proper way to engage in a scientific discourse and we will not respond in this manner."

WTF?  How, then, did we ever have scientific process before peer-reviewed journals appeared on the scene?

But Jonathan Eisen of UC-Davis doesn't let the scientists off so easily. "If they say they will not address the responses except in journals, that is absurd," he said. "They carried out science by press release and press conference. Whether they were right or not in their claims, they are now hypocritical if they say that the only response should be in the scientific literature."

Wow, that could be verbatim from a climate skeptic in the climate debate.

And finally, this on incentives and scientific process:

Some scientists are left wondering why NASA made such a big deal over a paper with so many flaws. "I suspect that NASA may be so desperate for a positive story that they didn't look for any serious advice from DNA or even microbiology people," says John Rothof UC-Davis.

Incentives and Conspiracies

I am sort of the anti-conspiracy theorist.  I have written a number of times that events people sometimes explain as orchestrated conspiracies often can be explained just as well by assuming that people with similar preferences and similar information and similar incentives will respond to these incentives in similar ways.

I think the great herd-think around climate alarmism is a good example, and the Bishop Hill blog brings us a specific illustration from the comment section of Watts Up With That.  A commenter observed that it was pretty hard to believe that thousands of scientists could be participating in a conspiracy.  Another commenter wrote back:

Actually not so hard.

Personal anecdote:
Last spring when I was shopping around for a new source of funding, after having my funding slashed to zero 15 days after going public with a finding about natural climate variations, I kept running into funding application instructions of the following variety:

Successful candidates will:
1) Demonstrate AGW [ed:  Anthropogenic Global Warming]
2) Demonstrate the catastrophic consequences of AGW.
3) Explore policy implications stemming from 1 & 2.

Follow the money "” perhaps a conspiracy is unnecessary where a carrot will suffice.

If only alarmist results are funded, then it should not be surprising that only alarmist studies are produced.

By the way, it is probably incorrect to think of climate science really being driven by 2500 scientists.  Here is an analogy:  Strategy at General Motors is in some sense driven by thousands of workers - salesmen who know the market, channel managers who know their distribution partners, planners who watch econometric trends, manufacturers who know what can and can't be done with costs, engineers who see what the next technological opportunities, etc. -- you get the idea.

But realistically, there are probably 20-25 people who are really setting and driving and communicating the corporate strategy for GM.  And those 20-25 people will likely say to the public that their strategy is supported by all those 200,000 workers.  But in fact there are thousands, maybe even a majority, that would say that they don't support the strategy and don't think that strategy is consistent with their bit of knowlege.

I think climate science works roughly the same way.  The same 20-25 people are lead authors on the IPCC, write key reports, contribute to Al Gore's movie, get quoted in the NY Times, run the Realclimate web site, and, of course, feature prominently in the CRU emails.  And while these 25 may claim thousands of scientists support their conclusions based on the mere fact that these other scientists contributed to an IPCC report that had these conclusions, many of these scientists, when actually asked, will disagree.

Here is one thing that is never mentioned -- most of the scientists outside of climate science who have gone on the record somewhere as supporting catastrophic man-made global warming theory, if you really talked to them, would say they made their statement in support of science, not global warming theory.  Most of these folks really haven't dug into the details, but the problem was presented to them as one of science vs. anti-science.  They are told by their peers and the media that AGW skeptics are all fundamentalist super right-wing anti-science evolution deniers who think the Earth is 4000 years old.

By saying they support AGW, these scientists are really trying to make the statement that they support science.  The bitter irony is that they are doing the opposite, enabling those in the core of the climate community who are trying to duck criticism and replication by demanding unquestioning respect for their authority.  The fact is that nearly every time one of these outsider scientists - a physicist or a geologist or a statistician, say - digs into the science, they are appalled at what they find and how bad the science behind catastrophic AGW theory really is.

Dangers of a Monoculture -- Reactions to the CRU Emails

Cross-posted from Climate Skeptic:

I am disappointed to see folks like Lord Monkton calling for scientists to go to jail over what has been discovered in the Hadley CRU emails.  No one is going to jail, at least based on what we know so far.  Laws were broken, but of the type that perhaps people lose their jobs but not their freedom.  And demanding that people go to jail just paints skeptics as opportunistic, over-the-top and vindictive.   We sound like the looniest of the alarmists when we say stuff like this.

This is not to say that the emails (as well as the source code, which Steve McIntyre and his readers are starting to dig into) don't give us useful insights about the climate science process.  And what they really point to for me is the danger of a monoculture.

For years, with the media's active participation, criticism of the mainstream scientific position on global warming has been painted as somehow outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.  Skeptics are called "deniers," with the intent to equate them with those who deny the Holocaust.  At every turn, global warming activists with the help of the media, have tried to make it uncomfortable, even impossible, to criticize the science of catastrophic man-made global warming.  In the extreme, this has degenerated into outright threats.

NASA's James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for "high crimes against humanity." Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors" In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies "criminal enterprises" and declared CEO's 'should be in jail"¦ for all of eternity."

In June 2009, former Clinton Administration official Joe Romm defended a comment on his Climate Progress website warning skeptics would be strangled in their beds. "An entire generation will soon be ready to strangle you and your kind while you sleep in your beds," stated the remarks, which Romm defended by calling them "not a threat, but a prediction."

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown "into jail." In 2007, The Weather Channel's climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

The examples go on ad infinitum.  Several folks have emailed me and asked why I have not joined the feeding frenzy over the "climategate."  In part, this is because I don't think there is anything in the emails that is a whole lot worse than what many of the actors have been saying publicly.  The media has played along not only because many of its members were sympathetic to the message, but because the catastrophe played well into the "if it bleeds, it leads" culture.  Even when the media was not "picking a winner" in the science, it supported the catastrophist message in its editorial decisions, choosing to cover (for example) ad nauseum a 30-year low in Arctic sea ice but failing to even mention a 30-year high in Antarctic sea ice which occurred on nearly the same day (more here).  Ditto hurricanes, tornadoes, floods droughts, etc "” only events and records in one particular tail of the normal distribution were covered.  Even when they worked to be fair,  the media were frequently criticized by alarmists for  allowing even a mention of the skeptic position in an article otherwise generally supporting the orthodoxy.  The term "false balance" was coined.

The result was a group who were effectively exempt from criticism "” and knew it.

The most amazing thing to watch has been the absolute scorn and obstructionism piled on Steve McIntyre and his readers and partners.  I  have read Steve's work for years, and find it to be incredibly fair and deeply analytical.  I took as one of my early roles at my climate site the explanation to laymen of exactly what McIntyre was talking about in his posts.  He often challenged the climate orthodoxy - which in most scientific disciplines is highly valued, but in climate science is a crime.  In the emails we even see scientists within the monoculture raising the exact same issues that they have blasted McIntyre for "” apparently it is OK to raise such issues as long as 1) you are an insider and 2) such concerns are suppressed in any public document.

Perhaps the single most abusive part of the monoculture has been its misrepresentation of peer review.  Peer review was never meant as a sort of good housekeeping seal of approval on scientific work.  It is not a guarantee of correctness.  It is really an extension of the editorial process "” bringing scientists from relevant fields to vet whether work is really new and different and worthy of publication, to make sure the actual article communicates the work and its findings clearly, and to probe for obvious errors or logical fallacies.

Climate scientists have tried to portray peer review as the end of the process"“  ie, once one of their works shows up in a peer-reviewed journal, the question addressed is "settled."  But his is never how science has worked.  Publication in a peer-reviewed journal is the beginning, not the end.  Once published, scientists attempt alternatively to tear it down or replicate its conclusions.  Only work that has survived years of such torture testing starts to become "settled."

The emails help to shed light on some aspects of peer review that skeptics have suspected for years.  It is increasingly clear that climate scientists in the monoculture have been using peer review to enforce the orthodoxy.  Peer review panels are stacked with members of the club, and authors who challenge the orthodoxy are shut out of publication, while authors within the monoculture use peer review as a shield against future criticism.  We see in the emails members of the monoculture actually working to force editors who have the temerity to publish work critical of the orthodoxy out of their jobs.  We are now learning that when alarmist scientists claim that there is little peer-reviewed science on the skeptic's side, this is like the Catholic Church enforcing a banned books list and then claiming that everything in print supports the Church's position.

History teaches us that whenever we allow a monoculture - whether is be totalitarian one-party rule or enforcing a single state religion, corruption follows.  Without scrutiny of their actions, actors in such monocultures have few checks and little accountability.  Worse, those at the center of such monocultures can become convinced of their own righteousness, such that any action they take in support of the orthodoxy is by definition ethically justified.

This, I think, is exactly what we see at work in the Hadley CRU emails.

Fake but Accurate -- Now Coming to the Hard Sciences

Most of us remember the famous "fake but accurate" defense of Dan Rather's story on GWB using forged National Guard documents.  If the post-modernism movement were to have an insignia, their tag line  (their "E. Pluribus Unum') could well be "fake but accurate." 

I have written for a while that post-modernism seems to be coming to the hard sciences (I differentiate the hard sciences, because the soft sciences like sociology or women's studies are already dominated by post-modernist thinking).  For example, I quoted this:

For
those of you who cling to scientific method, this is pretty bizarre
stuff. But she, and many others, are dead serious about it. If a
research finding could harm a class of persons, the theory is that
scientists should change the way they talk about that finding. Since scientific method is a way of building a body of knowledge based on skeptical testing, replication, and publication, this is a problem.The tight framework of scientific method mandates figuring out what would disprove the theory being tested and then looking for the disproof.
The thought process that spawned the scientific revolution was
inherently skeptical, which is why disciples of scientific method say
that no theory can be definitively and absolutely proved, but only
disproved (falsified). Hypotheses are elevated to the status of
theories largely as a result of continued failures to disprove the
theory and continued conformity of experimentation and observation with
the theory, and such efforts should be conducted by diverse parties.Needless to say postmodernist schools of thought and scientific method are almost polar opposites.

So here is today's example of fake but accurate in the sciences, not surprisingly also from climate science:

While the critic's advice - to use trained statisticians in studies
reliant on statistics - may seem too obvious to need stating, the
"science is settled" camp resists it. Mann's hockey-stick graph may be
wrong, many experts now acknowledge, but they assert that he
nevertheless came to the right conclusion.

To which the critics,
and doubtless others who want more rigourous science, shake their heads
in disbelief. They are baffled by the claim that the incorrect method
doesn't matter because the answer is correct anyway. With bad science, only true believers can assert that they nevertheless obtained the right answer.

A huge number of physicists and geologists who actually take the time to look into the details of climate science come away being shocked at the scholarship.  Take a world class physicist, drop him into a discussion of the details of the Mann hockey stick analysis, and in an hour you will have a skeptic.

Crazy?  Remember the words of from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter, Steven Schneider:

We
have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide
what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Some Thoughts on Peer Review

Some thoughts on the obsession with peer review as the gold standard guarantee of climate science goodness, from Climate Skeptic:



One of the weird aspects of climate science is the over-emphasis on peer
review as the ne plus ultra guarantor of believable results.  This is absurd. 
At best, peer review is a screen for whether a study is worthy of occupying
limited publication space, not for whether it is correct.  Peer review, again at
best, focuses on whether a study has some minimum level of rigor and coherence
and whether it offers up findings that are new or somehow advance the ball on an
important topic. 

In "big
boy sciences
" like physics, study findings are not considered vetted simply
because they are peer-reviewed.  They are vetted only after numerous other
scientists have been able to replicate the results, or have at least failed to
tear the original results down.  Often, this vetting process is undertaken by
people who may even be openly hostile to the original study group.  For some
reason, climate scientists cry foul when this occurs in their profession, but
mathematicians and physicists accept it, because they know that findings need to
be able to survive the scrutiny of enemies, not just of friends.  To this end,
an important part of peer review is to make sure the publication of the study
includes all the detail on methodology and data that others might need to
replicate the results  (which is something climate reviewers are particularly bad at).

In fact, there are good arguments to be made that strong peer review may even
be counter-productive to scientific advancement.  The reason is that peer
review, by the nature of human beings and the incentives they tend to have, is
often inherently conservative.  Studies that produce results the community
expects often receive only cursory scrutiny doled out by insiders chummy with
the authors.  Studies that show wildly unexpected results sometimes have trouble
getting published at all.


 As I read this, it strikes me that one way to describe
climate is that it acts like a social science, like sociology or gender studies,
rather than like a physical science.  I will ahve to think about this -- it
would be an interesting hypothesis to expand on in more depth.  Some quick
parallels of why I think it is more like a social science:

  • Bad statistical methodology  (a hallmark, unfortunately, of much of social
    science)
  • Emphasis on peer review over replication
  • Reliance on computer models rather than observation
  • Belief there is a "right" answer for society with subsequent bias to study
    results towards that answer  (example,
    and another
    example
    )

No Bias Here

Via Tom Nelson comes this interview with climate "scientist" Dr. Kate Rawles:

Greenbang: What do you think is wrong with the debate on climate change?

Dr Kate: It hasn't really got to grips with the fundamental problem,
which is that Western, industrialised lifestyles are literally
unsustainable. Climate change is just one symptom of this. WWF famously
calculated that if everyone on earth were to enjoy the lifestyle of an
average Western European, we would need three planet earths.

Not even the most optimistic believers in technology think that we
can technofix this problem so that 6 billion people (let alone the
projected 9 billion) can enjoy a western lifestyle without ecological
meltdown. It follows that we urgently need to rethink what we currently
mean by a "˜high standard of living' and move away from materialistic
versions of this to an understanding of quality of life that could be
enjoyed by everyone, without causing environmental mayhem. This is
about values, not just about technology.

To a large extent, understanding the passion of climate alarmists is a chicken and egg problem.  Normally, scientists identify a problem and then we seek to solve it.  But, as you can see with this woman, climate science works in reverse.  The debate began with people who believed that technology and economic growth needed to be diminished, and then found global warming as a conveniently manufactured "problem" that pointed to their already preferred solution. 

This, by the way, is her complete answer to the question about what is wrong with climate debate.  You can see her answer to this climate science question has nothing to do with climate, but everything to do with her pro-poverty position.  She actually states her position as anti-western-standard-of-living, because that plays better with the soccer moms, but this is exactly the same as pro-poverty.  And get a load of this great scientist quoting WWF advocacy press releases as if they were peer-reviewed science.

By the way, I personally believe that the world could easily sustain 6 billion people in a western standard of living, and love humanity enough to root for this to occur, so here statement is untrue  (by the way, why are people who advocate for universal poverty like this person considered "sensitive" while folks like me who would love to see all the world wealthy considered evil and cold-hearted?)  I don't know exactly how this will happen, but if I stood in the year 1908 I would not know how (or probably believe) even a single person could  enjoy what we call a western standard of living today, but billions do.  The human mind is a wonderful thing, and can achieve a lot, at least when scientists pursue new possibilities rather than simply shrieking that we need to turn the clock back.

Update:  Here is one faulty assumption she is making:

Current levels of consumption in industrialised societies are too high
- as the three planet earth analysis clearly shows. This presents a
major problem for current economic thinking, which is premised on
growth, and which requires us all to keep consuming more, not less.
Clearly we can't grow infinitely, and consume infinitely, on a finite
planet.

Her assumption is that the Earth is somehow at capacity.  How do we know that?  If a scientist bases all of her beliefs on an assumption like this that has never been proven and the scientist is perfectly comfortable taking on faith, can we really call her a scientist?  Or do we call her a religionist? 

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You -- The Environmentalist Case for Fascism

Our (mostly free) society has survived many challenges.  But will it be able to withstand gentlemen like this waving around immensely flawed climate science:

Liberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most
extreme case, the USA, unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of
the collective needs of the citizens. The subject is almost sacrosanct
and those who indulge in criticism are labeled as Marxists, socialists,
fundamentalists and worse. These labels are used because alternatives
to democracy cannot be perceived! Support for Western democracy is
messianic as proselytised by a President leading a flawed democracy

There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy.
Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly
regardless of some perceived liberties. ...

We are going to have to look how authoritarian decisions
based on consensus science can be implemented to contain greenhouse
emissions. It is not that we do not tolerate such decisions in the very
heart of our society, in wide range of enterprises from corporate
empires to emergency and intensive care units. If we do not act
urgently we may find we have chosen total liberty rather than life.

He has great admiration for how China does things

The [plastic shopping bag] ban in China will save importation and use of five million tons of
oil used in plastic bag manufacture, only a drop in the ocean of the
world oil well. But the importance in the decision lies in the fact
that China can do it by edict and close the factories. They don't have
to worry about loss of political donations or temporarily unemployed
workers. They have made a judgment that their action favours the needs
of Chinese society as a whole.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

By the way, here is a little "tip."  The author says this:

Unfortunately it seems increasingly likely that the IPCC underestimated
the speed of climate change and failed to recognise the likely effect
of a range of tipping points which may now be acting in concert.

I believe that man is having a warming effect on the earth, but that effect is small and non-catastrophic.  There are reasons I may be wrong.  BUT, you should immediately laugh out of the room anyone who talk about "a range of tipping points" in a system like the earth's climate that has been reasonably stable for tens of millions of years.  When used by climate catastrophists, the word "tipping point" means:  Yeah, we are kind of upset the world is not warming nearly as fast as our computer models say it should, so we will build an inflection point about 10 years out into the forecast where the slope of change really ramps up and we will call it a "tipping point" because, um, that is kindof a cool hip phrase right now and make us sound sophisticated and stuff.

Postscript:  Anyone who makes this statement is WELL grounded in reality:

All this suggests that the savvy Chinese rulers may be first out of the blocks to assuage greenhouse emissions

LOLOLOL.  They are building a new coal plant, what, every three days or so in China?

Postscript #2: Quiz for older folks out there:  How long ago was it that environmentalists were encouraging us to use plastic bags over paper because it saved a tree?

HT:  Tom Nelson

Anatomy of A False Panic

I am trying to keep most of my long climate posts off this site and over at Climate Skeptic.  However, I have cross-posted this one because it is a good example for laymen of just what crap gets put forward in the media today about global warming.  It demonstrates the gullibility of the media, the gross exaggerations that exist in nearly every climate catastrophe article, and, as an added bonus, demonstrates the scientific incompetence of the man who leads the UN, the organization that has taken onto itself the role of summarizing the state of climate science. 

OK, here is a great example of the media blithely accepting panicky catsrophism where none is warranted (Link HT to Maggies Farm)

Scientists
welcomed Ban Ki Moon to Antarctica with a glass of Johnny Walker Black
Label served "on the rocks" with 40,000-year-old polar ice. But the
researchers delivered an alarming message to the UN Secretary-General
about a potential environmental catastrophe that could raise sea levels
by six metres if an ice sheet covering a fifth of the continent
crumbles.

The polar experts, studying the effects of global warming on the icy
continent that is devoted to science, fear a repeat of the 2002
collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf. The 12,000-year-old shelf was 220
metres (720ft) thick and almost the size of Yorkshire.

"I was told by scientists that the entire Western Antarctica is now
floating. That is a fifth of the continent. If it broke up, sea levels
may rise as much as six metres," Mr Ban said after being briefed at the
Chilean, Uruguayan and South Korean bases during a day trip to King
George Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. ...

Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Force Base, a year-round settlement of
corrugated-iron cabins belonging to Chile, lies in one of the world's
worst "hot spots" "“ temperatures have been rising 0.5C (0.9F) a decade
since the 1940s.

I don't even know where to start with this.  So I will just fire off some bullets:

  • Over the last 30 years, satellites have found absolutely no warming trend in Antarctica  (from UAH via Steven Milloy):

South_pole_temperatures

  • The tail is measuring the dog.  The Korean station
    couldn't possibly be more irrelevent to measuring Antarctic
    temperatures.  It is on an island labelled 26-34 north of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the map below.  One might as well declare she is measuring temperatures in the continental US from Key West.

Antarcticastationsmap1s

  • It is well known that the Antarctic Penninsula,
    representing 2% of Antactica's area, is warming while the other 98% is
    cooling.  I discussed this more here.
    Al Gore took the same disingenuous step in his movie of showing only
    the anomolous 2%.  The Antarctic Penninsula in the first graph below shows
    warming.  The rest of Antarctica shows none  (click to enlarge)

Antarc35_2 Antarc34 Antarc33_2

  • The IPCC (run by the Secretary General and his organization) predicts that with global warming, the
    Antarctic penninsula will see net melting while the rest of Antarctica
    will see net increases in ice.  The penninsula is affected more by the
    changing temperatures of sea currents in the surrounding seas than in
    global climate effects.  For most of Antarctica, temperatures will
    never concieveably warm enough to melt the ice sheets, since it is so
    cold even in the summer, and ice sheets are expected to expand as
    warming increases precipitation on the continent.
  • Scientists studying Antarctica have been there at most a few
    decades.  We know almost nothing about it or its histroy.  We certainly
    don't know enough about "what is normal" to have any clue if activities
    on the Larson B ice shelf are anomolous or not.
  • The UN Sec-gen said that this ice shelf represented a fifth of
    the continent.  Here, in actuality, is the Larsen ice shelf.  The red
    box below greatly exaggerates Larsen's size, and Larsen-B is only a portion
    of the entire Larsen shelf.

Antarctic_map_larson_b

  • The statement that the entire Western Antarctic is floating is
    just absurd.  God knows what that is supposed to mean, but even if we
    ignore the word "floating", we can see from the map above we aren't
    even talking about a significant portion of the Antarctic Pennninsula,
    much less of Western Antarctica.  Here are actual pictures of the 2002 event.  (by the way, if ice is really "floating", presumably in sea water, then it's melting will have zero effect on ocean levels)
  • Such a feared collapse already happened 5 years ago, and sea levels did not budge.  But
    the next time it happens, sea levels are going to rise 20 feet??  Even
    the UN's IPCC does not think sea levels will rise more than 8-12 inches
    in the next century due to their overblown temperature forecasts.

As always, you can consult my my book and my movie (both free online) for more details on all these topics.

Video Release

Please check back Monday morning, as I will be releasing my new video, "What is Normal:  A Critique of Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming Theory."  As with my global warming book, which began as a ten page summary and ended up as an 85-page manuscript, the video started at a goal of 15 minutes and eventually ended up at 50 minutes.  However, unlike other global warming-related videos I will not name, it is all climate science, with no self-congratulatory segments on my childhood.

Anthony Watts Discovers a New Element

From Watts Up With That:

The discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively  named Governmentium.

Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant  neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it  an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces  called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like  particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is  inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes one  reaction to take over four days to complete when
it w ould normally take less  than a second.

Of course, there is much more.  Enjoy.

And, don't miss the chance to contribute to Watt's grass roots climate project / scavenger hunt.  Its fun and it contributes a lot to climate science.  I have contributed two sites so far -- I wrote about the first one here.

Climate Scavenger Hunt (No Climate Expertise Required)

Anthony Watts is offering an opportunity to help out climate science and participate in something of a climate scavenger hunt.  What is considered the most "trustworthy" temperature history of the US comes from a series of temperature measurement points called the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN).  There are perhaps 20-25 such measurement points in each state, usually in smaller towns and more remote spots.  Some of these stations are well-located, while others are not - having been encroached by urban heat islands of growing towns or having been placed carelessly (see here and here for examples of  inexcusably bad installations that are currently part of the US historical temperature record).

Historically, climate scientists have applied statistical corrections to try to take into account these biasing effects.  Unfortunately, these statistical methods are blind to installation quality.  Watt is trying to correct that, by creating a photo database of these installations, with comments by reviewers about the installation and potential local biases. 

He has created an online database at surfacestations.org, which he explains here.  Your faithful blogger Coyote actually contributed one of the early entries, and it was fun  -- a lot like geocaching but with more of a sense of accomplishment, because it was contributing to science.

So why is it a scavenger hunt?  Well, my son had a double header in Prescott, AZ, which I saw was near the Prescott USHCN station.  Here is what I began with, from the official listing: 

PRESCOTT (34.57°N, 112.44°W; 1586 m)

That looks easy -- latitude and longitude.  Well, I stuck it in Google maps and found this.  Turns out on satellite view that there is nothing there.  So I then asked around to the state climatologist's office - do you know the address of this station.  Nope.  So I zoomed out a bit, and started doing some local business searches in Google maps around the original Lat/Long.  I was looking for government property - fire stations, ranger stations, airports, etc.  These are typically the location of such stations.  The municipal water treatment plant to the east looked good.  So we drove by, and found it in about ten minutes and took our pictures.  My entry is here.

Not only was it fun, but this is important work.  In trying to find some stations in several states, I actually called the offices of the local state climatologist (most states have one).  I have yet to find one that had any idea where these installations were beyond the lat-long points in the data base.  If we are going to make trillion dollar political choices based on the output of this network, it is probably a good idea to understand it better.