Posts tagged ‘Science’
This is hilarious. Apparently the polar vortex proves whatever hypothesis you are trying to prove, either cooling or warming:
Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been anoticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds —the so-calledcircumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world.
And guess what Time is saying this week? Yup:
But not only does the cold spell not disprove climate change, it may well be that global warming could be making the occasional bout of extreme cold weather in the U.S. even more likely. Right now much of the U.S. is in the grip of a polar vortex, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a whirlwind of extremely cold, extremely dense air that forms near the poles. Usually the fast winds in the vortex—which can top 100 mph (161 k/h)—keep that cold air locked up in the Arctic. But when the winds weaken, the vortex can begin to wobble like a drunk on his fourth martini, and the Arctic air can escape and spill southward, bringing Arctic weather with it. In this case, nearly the entire polar vortex has tumbled southward, leading to record-breaking cold.
I won't repeat the analysis, you need to see it here. Here is the chart in question:
My argument is that the smoothing and relatively low sampling intervals in the early data very likely mask variations similar to what we are seeing in the last 100 years -- ie they greatly exaggerate the smoothness of history and create a false impression that recent temperature changes are unprecedented (also the grey range bands are self-evidently garbage, but that is another story).
Drum's response was that "it was published in Science." Apparently, this sort of appeal to authority is what passes for data analysis in the climate world.
Well, maybe I did not explain the issue well. So I found a political analysis that may help Kevin Drum see the problem. This is from an actual blog post by Dave Manuel (this seems to be such a common data analysis fallacy that I found an example on the first page of my first Google search). It is an analysis of average GDP growth by President. I don't know this Dave Manuel guy and can't comment on the data quality, but let's assume the data is correct for a moment. Quoting from his post:
Here are the individual performances of each president since 1948:
1948-1952 (Harry S. Truman, Democrat), +4.82%
1953-1960 (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican), +3%
1961-1964 (John F. Kennedy / Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat), +4.65%
1965-1968 (Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat), +5.05%
1969-1972 (Richard Nixon, Republican), +3%
1973-1976 (Richard Nixon / Gerald Ford, Republican), +2.6%
1977-1980 (Jimmy Carter, Democrat), +3.25%
1981-1988 (Ronald Reagan, Republican), 3.4%
1989-1992 (George H. W. Bush, Republican), 2.17%
1993-2000 (Bill Clinton, Democrat), 3.88%
2001-2008 (George W. Bush, Republican), +2.09%
2009 (Barack Obama, Democrat), -2.6%
Let's put this data in a chart:
Look, a hockey stick , right? Obama is the worst, right?
In fact there is a big problem with this analysis, even if the data is correct. And I bet Kevin Drum can get it right away, even though it is the exact same problem as on his climate chart.
The problem is that a single year of Obama's is compared to four or eight years for other presidents. These earlier presidents may well have had individual down economic years - in fact, Reagan's first year was almost certainly a down year for GDP. But that kind of volatility is masked because the data points for the other presidents represent much more time, effectively smoothing variability.
Now, this chart has a difference in sampling frequency of 4-8x between the previous presidents and Obama. This made a huge difference here, but it is a trivial difference compared to the 1 million times greater sampling frequency of modern temperature data vs. historical data obtained by looking at proxies (such as ice cores and tree rings). And, unlike this chart, the method of sampling is very different across time with temperature - thermometers today are far more reliable and linear measurement devices than trees or ice. In our GDP example, this problem roughly equates to trying to compare the GDP under Obama (with all the economic data we collate today) to, say, the economic growth rate under Henry the VIII. Or perhaps under Ramses II. If I showed that GDP growth in a single month under Obama was less than the average over 66 years under Ramses II, and tried to draw some conclusion from that, I think someone might challenge my analysis. Unless of course it appears in Science, then it must be beyond question.
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:
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.
If the Left is really as passionate as they say they are about taking on people and institutions who are anti-science, then they should be dedicating themselves to rethinking the current tort system. Toyota may be facing $5 billion in settlements due to a defect that government reports and independent studies say is not there.
And recall NHTSA's performance during the furor almost four years ago over alleged runaway Toyotas. Its then-overseer, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, happily participated in congressional hearings designed to flog for the benefit of trial lawyers the idea of a hidden bug in Toyota's electronic throttle control.
When the agency much more quietly came out with a report a year later debunking the idea of an electronic defect, notice how little good it did Toyota. The car maker still found it necessary to cough up $1.2 billion to satisfy owners who claimed their cars lost value in the media frenzy over a non-defect. Toyota has also seen the tide turning against it lately as it resists a deluge of accident claims.
At first, opposing lawyers were hesitant to emphasize an invisible defect that government research suggested didn't exist. That was a tactical error on their part. In an Oklahoma trial last month involving an 82-year-old woman driver, jurors awarded $3 million in compensatory damages and were ready to assign punitive damages in a complaint focused on a hypothetical bug when Toyota abruptly settled on undisclosed terms.
In another closely-watched trial set to begin in California in March, an 83-year-old female driver (who has since died from unrelated causes) testified in a deposition that she stepped on the brake instead of the gas. The judge has already ruled that if the jury decides to believe her testimony, it is entitled to infer the existence of a defect that nobody can find.
These cases, out of some 300 pending, were chosen for a reason. Study after study, including one last year by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, finds that elderly female drivers are inordinately prone to "pedal misapplication." If Toyota can't prevail in these cases, the company might be wise to run up the white flag and seek a global settlement that some estimate at upwards of $5 billion—quite a sum for a non-defect.
Apparently a very likely left-of-center faculty have run a study that found Conservatives get more worked-up about Internet insults than do Liberals. Seriously, who the hell takes this kind of crap seriously, much less devote a whole column to it? This is in the same genre as: one party is smarter, or gives more to charity, or whatever BS. There is about a 100% chance these studies are all garbage, and what would average tendencies have to do with any individual person or his arguments anyway?
PS- libertarians kick ass on all these things
Give me a quick answer - are forest fires above average this year? Is this an unusually bad fire season?
You could be forgiven for saying "yes". In fact, it is an unusually quiet fire season. Via Real Science
source: National Interagency Fire Center
It is such a disconnect with news reporting that you may have to click the source link yourself just to make sure I am not having you on, but 2013 is an unusually quiet fire season (2012 was worse but still under the 10 year average). This tendency to judge trends by frequency of the media coverage rather than frequency of the underlying phenomenon is one I have written about before.
let’s take a step back to 2001 and the “Summer of the Shark.” The media hysteria began in early July, when a young boy was bitten by a shark on a beach in Florida. Subsequent attacks received breathless media coverage, up to and including near-nightly footage from TV helicopters of swimming sharks. Until the 9/11 attacks, sharks were the third biggest story of the year as measured by the time dedicated to it on the three major broadcast networks’ news shows.
Through this coverage, Americans were left with a strong impression that something unusual was happening — that an unprecedented number of shark attacks were occurring in that year, and the media dedicated endless coverage to speculation by various “experts” as to the cause of this sharp increase in attacks.
Except there was one problem — there was no sharp increase in attacks. In the year 2001, five people died in 76 shark attacks. However, just a year earlier, 12 people had died in 85 attacks. The data showed that 2001 actually was a down year for shark attacks.
I have written before of my believe that climate has become the first post-modern science. This time, I will yield the floor to Garth Paltridge to make the same point:
But the real worry with climate research is that it is on the very edge of what is called postmodern science. This is a counterpart of the relativist world of postmodern art and design. It is a much more dangerous beast, whose results are valid only in the context of society’s beliefs and where the very existence of scientific truth can be denied. Postmodern science envisages a sort of political nirvana in which scientific theory and results can be consciously and legitimately manipulated to suit either the dictates of political correctness or the policies of the government of the day.
There is little doubt that some players in the climate game – not a lot, but enough to have severely damaged the reputation of climate scientists in general – have stepped across the boundary into postmodern science. The Climategate scandal of 2009, wherein thousands of emails were leaked from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England, showed that certain senior members of the research community were, and presumably still are, quite capable of deliberately selecting data in order to overstate the evidence for dangerous climate change. The emails showed as well that these senior members were quite happy to discuss ways and means of controlling the research journals so as to deny publication of any material that goes against the orthodox dogma. The ways and means included the sacking of recalcitrant editors.
Whatever the reason, it is indeed vastly more difficult to publish results in climate research journals if they run against the tide of politically correct opinion. Which is why most of the sceptic literature on the subject has been forced onto the web, and particularly onto web-logs devoted to the sceptic view of things. Which, in turn, is why the more fanatical of the believers in anthropogenic global warming insist that only peer-reviewed literature should be accepted as an indication of the real state of affairs. They argue that the sceptic web-logs should never be taken seriously by “real” scientists, and certainly should never be quoted. Which is a great pity. Some of the sceptics are extremely productive as far as critical analysis of climate science is concerned. Names like Judith Curry (chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta), Steve McIntyre (a Canadian geologist-statistician) and blogger Willis Eschenbach come to mind. These three in particular provide a balance and maturity in public discussion that puts many players in the global warming movement to shame, and as a consequence their outreach to the scientifically inclined general public is highly effective. Their output, together with that of other sceptics on the web, is fast becoming a practical and stringent substitute for peer review.
Update: The IPCC does not seem to be on a path to building the credibility of climate science. In their last report, the IPCC was rightly criticized for using "grey" literature as a source for their findings, against their own rules. Grey literature encompasses about anything that is not published peer-reviewed literature, including, from the last report, sources that were essentially press releases from advocacy groups like the IPCC. They even use a travel brochure as a source.
This time, to avoid this criticism, the IPCC is ... changing their rules to allow such grey literature citations. I am pretty sure that this was NOT passed in order to get more material from Steve McIntyre's blog. In related news, the IPCC also changed the makeup of its scientific panel, putting geographical and gender diversity over scientific qualifications as a criteria. The quota for African climate scientists will, for example, be higher than that of North America. See the whole story here.
Though this was all presented with pious words, my guess is that it was felt by the political leaders of the IPCC in the UN that the last report was not socialist or totalitarian enough and that more of such content was necessary. We'll see.
My new column is up this week, and is a response to the July 2012 issue of Popular Science which includes a long, unbalanced attack on skeptics, without once addressing their scientific arguments.
I thought I knew what “science” was about: the crafting of hypotheses that could be tested and refined through observation via studies that were challenged and replicated by the broader community until the hypothesis is generally accepted or rejected by the broader community.
But apparently “popular science” works differently, if the July 2012 article by Tom Clynes in the periodical of that name is any guide [I will link the article when it is online]. In an article called “the Battle,” Clynes serves up an amazing skewering of skeptics that the most extreme environmental group might have blushed at publishing. After reading this article, it seems that “popular science” consists mainly of initiating a sufficient number of ad hominem attacks against those with whom one disagrees such that one is no longer required to even answer their scientific criticisms.
The article is a sort of hall-of-fame of every ad hominem attack made on skeptics – tobacco lawyers, Holocaust Deniers, the Flat Earth Society, oil company funding, and the Koch Brothers all make an appearance.
Thousands of words about critical issues like Heartland Institute's funding, but less than two dozen dedicated to dismissing skeptic's scientific concerns. And that is before we get to outright journalistic fraud, as the author attempts, for example, to lay blame for Obama Administration financial audits of climate scientists on, you guessed it, skeptics. Read it all
I wonder if its because companies have to beg for government permission, and then pay a hefty bribe, to get permission to hire more employees:
The city council in Menlo Park, Calif., is set to approve a deal that will let Facebook employ thousands more people at its headquarters there.
Mayor Kirsten Keith says officials are expected to green light the environmental impact report and the development agreement at a meeting Tuesday night. City staff has recommended the city approve the deal.
That means Facebook employees, currently numbering about 2,200 in Menlo Park, will soon be able to stretch out. If the deal is approved, Facebook will be able to employ about 6,600 workers in Menlo Park, up from its current limit of 3,600. That was the constraint on Sun Microsystems, which previously occupied the campus.
Facebook will pay Menlo Park an average of $850,000 a year over 10 years to compensate for the additional load on the city. It will also make a one-time payment of more than $1 million for capital improvements and set up community services such as high school internship and job training programs. Facebook is also creating a $500,000 local community fund that will dole out grants and charitable contributions to communities surrounding Facebook's campus.
Facebook is making the payments because Menlo Park can’t collect sales taxes from Facebook.
The last is a dodge - this is a protection racket, pure and simple. Presumably Facebook pays property taxes on its corporate offices, as do its employees who live nearby. Also, these new employees will all spend money in the local economy that will generate sales taxes. Facebook presumably pays for water, sewer, trash and other utilities, and their employees are paying gas taxes as they drive that pay for the roads. Facebook pays California income taxes, as do their employees. What are these mystery costs that are not getting covered? The community services bit is a hint that this is a stick-up, with Menlo Park demanding its cut of the recent IPO.
The truth is that cities and counties in California see business expansion plans the same way that Tony Soprano looks at the Museum of Science and Trucking -- as a way to maximize their skim. I operate a campground in Ventura County that DOES pay sales taxes the County so far will not let me increase my live-in staff without making a big payment. Even the remodeling of our store required 7 separate checks written to Ventura County agencies.
Update: Minutes after I posted this, I see this at Reason about Ventura County's efforts to use zoning laws to shut down businesses. Another Ventura story -- we tried to put a small trailer, really just a booth, in a large asphalt parking lot so my employee there could get out of the sun. Putting a portable shed on a parking lot apparently required permits - lots of them. At one point we were asked to get a soil sample, meaning they were asking us to cut through the paving and sample the dirt underneath. Eventually we just gave up.
Great idea, and consistent with my growing skepticism of all published research given a general bias towards positive results.
If you’re a psychologist, the news has to make you a little nervous—particularly if you’re a psychologist who published an article in 2008 in any of these three journals:Psychological Science, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,or the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.
Because, if you did, someone is going to check your work. A group of researchers have already begun what they’ve dubbedthe Reproducibility Project, which aims to replicate every study from those three journals for that one year. The project is part of Open Science Framework, a group interested in scientific values, and its stated mission is to “estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies from the scientific literature.” This is a more polite way of saying “We want to see how much of what gets published turns out to be bunk.”
I don't often defend Conservatives but I will say that there is nothing much more useless to the public discourse that bullsh*t sociology studies trying to show that Conservatives are dumber or whatever (and remember, those same studies show libertarians the smartest, so ha ha).
In this general category of schadenfreude masquerading as academics is the recent "finding" that conservatives are increasingly anti-science or have lost trust in science. But here is the actual interview question:
166. I am going to name some institutions in this country. Some people have complete confidence in the people running these institutions. Suppose these people are at one end of the scale at point number 1. Other people have no confidence at all in teh people running these institutions. Suppose these people are at the other end, at point 7. Where would you place yourself on this scale for: k. Scientific community?
A loss of trust in the scientific community is way, way different than a loss of trust in science. Confusing these two is roughly like equating a loss in trust of Con Edison to not believing in electricity. Here is an example from Kevin Drum describing this study's results
In other words, this decline in trust in science has been led by the most educated, most engaged segment of conservatism. Conservative elites have led the anti-science charge and the rank-and-file has followed.
There are a lot of very good reasons to have lost some trust in our scientific institutions, in part due to non-science that gets labeled as real science today. I don't think that makes me anti-science. This sloppy mis-labeling of conclusions in ways that don't match the data, which Drum is ironically engaging in, is one reason may very scientific-minded people like myself are turned off by much of the public discourse on science. The irony here is that while deriding skepticism in the scientific community, Drum provides a perfect case example of why this skepticism has grown.
Would Copernicus and Galileo have been right to lie about the nature of the solar system if that lie prevented the undermining of the Catholic Church, which most everyone at the time felt to have substantial positive benefits?
I think the answer for most of us is "no." Science is about finding the truth, and the effects of those truths on social and political institutions are what they are.
But we have now entered the era of post-modern science, where writers on scientific ethics now conclude that its OK for scientists to lie as long as they are on the right team
What Heartland is doing is harmful, because it gets in the way of public consensus and action. Was Gleick right to lie to expose Heartland and maybe stop it from causing further delay to action on climate change? If his lie has good effects overall – if those who take Heartland's money to push scepticism are dismissed as shills, if donors pull funding after being exposed in the press – then perhaps on balance he did the right thing. It could go the other way too – maybe he's undermined confidence in climate scientists. It depends on how this plays out.
Post-modernism has been quite fashionable in the social sciences for decades, but this entry into the hard sciences is new and disturbing. For reference, here is the Wikipedia entry on post-modernism
In its most basic form, postmodernism is an intentional departure from the previously dominant modernist approaches such as scientific positivism, realism, constructivism, formalism, metaphysics and so forth. In a sense, the "postmodernist" approach continues the critique of the Enlightenment legacy, fundamentally seeking to challenge the traditional practices and intellectual pillars of western civilization just as the Enlightenment challenged tradition, theology and the authority of religion before it.
Postmodernism postulates that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs and are therefore subject to change. It emphasises the role of language, power relations, and motivations in the formation of ideas and beliefs. In particular it attacks the use of sharp binary classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial; it holds realities to be plural and relative, and to be dependent on who the interested parties are and the nature of these interests. It claims that there is no absolute truth and that the way people perceive the world is subjective.
"Fake but accurate" is a good example of post-modernist thinking.
Even more interesting than the soft consensus in favor of government intervention was a strong undercurrent that those who disagreed with it were guilty of denying basic truths. One of the questions from an audience full of Senate staffers, policy wonks, and journalists was how can we even have a rational policy discussion with all these denialist Republicans who disregarded Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous maxim that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts”? Jared Bernstein couldn’t have been more pleased.
“I feel like we’re in a climate in which facts just aren’t welcome,” he said. “I think the facts of the case are that we know what we can do to nudge the unemployment rate down.…I think the consensus among economists is that this is a good time to implement fiscal stimulus that would help create jobs and make the unemployment rate go down. I consider that a fact.”
In science, you insist most loudly on a fact based on how much it has withstood independent peer review. In politics, it’s closer to the opposite—the more debatable a point is, the more it becomes necessary to insist (often in the face of contrary evidence) that the conclusion is backed by scientific consensus
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.
EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration...
EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.
Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.
For three years a group of government employees actually got paid to come to the conclusion that drinking water does not prevent dehydration. Congrats.
If you want an explanation, my guess is that this is part of the Left's war on bottled water. For some bizarre reason, bottled water has been singled out as one of the evils of modern technology that will drive us into a carbon dioxide-induced climate disaster. So I don't think the EU would have approved any label claim for water. Since this is such an absurdly obvious claim that most consumers would just chuckle at (yes, consumers can be trusted to parse product claims), I almost wonder if some water company didn't just float this to make the point that no claim could be approved in the EU system.
I often raise the issue of "What is Normal" when discussing climate. The media frequently declares certain weather events as so "abnormal" that they must be due to man-made factors. A great example is the current Texas drought, which is somehow unprecedented and thus caused by CO2 despite the fact that the great dust bowl drought of the 1930's was many times larger in area and years in duration.
The EPA has a new slideshow purporting to aggregate these "abnormalities." While I could spend all year going through each slide, I want to focus on just one.
Now we all know that the EPA is just full of sciency goodness and so everything they say is based on science and not, say, some political agenda. And the statement and the pictures above are absolutely correct, as far as they go. But they are missing a teeny tiny bit of context. Here is a longer history of that same glacier (thanks to the Real Science blog for the pointer, this is a much better map than the one I have used in the past).
The 1948 position is way up at the top. You can see that the melting since 1966, which according to the EPA is an "acceleration," is trivial compared to the melting since 1760. Basically, this glacier has been retreating since at least the end of the little ice age.
Those who want to attribute the recent retreat to CO2 have to explain what drove the glacier to retreat all that way from 1760 to 1960, and why that factor stopped in 1960 at exactly the time Co2 supposedly took over.
By the way, this same exact story can be seen in glaciers around the world. Glaciers began retreating at the end of the little ice age, and if anything that pace of retreat has slowed somewhat over the last few decades.
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]
Al Gore is doing his best Jerry Lewis imitation by holding an all day climate telethon today. In honor of this, let me repost my climate video for those who have not seen it.
Other viewing options, as well as links to download the powerpoint presentation, are here.
The European Union is overestimating the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions achieved through reliance on biofuels as a result of a “serious accounting error,” according to a draft opinion by an influential committee of 19 scientists and academics.
The European Environment Agency Scientific Committee writes that the role of energy from crops like biofuels in curbing warming gases should be measured by how much additional carbon dioxide such crops absorb beyond what would have been absorbed anyway by existing fields, forests and grasslands.
Instead, the European Union has been “double counting” some of the savings, according to the draft opinion, which was prepared by the committee in May and viewed this week by The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times.
The committee said that the error had crept into European Union regulations because of a “misapplication of the original guidance” under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense since it assumes that all burning of biomass does not add carbon to the air,” the committee wrote.
Duh. This has been a known fact to about everyone else, as most independent studies not done by a corn-state university have found ethanol to have, at best, zero utility in reducing atmospheric CO2.
It is worth noting that the EU would likely have never made this admission had it solely been under the pressure of skeptics, for whom this is just one of a long list of fairly obvious errors in climate-related science. But several years ago, environmental groups jumped on the skeptic bandwagon opposing ethanol, both for its lack of efficacy in reducing emissions as well as the impact of increasing ethanol product on land use and food prices.
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
Scientists studying Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in the field are still deeply divided about whether BSE can be transmitted to humans, and about the potentially terrifying consequences for the population.
"It's too late for adults, but children should not be fed beef. It is as simple as that," said Stephen Dealler, consultant medical microbiologist at Burnley General Hospital, who has studied the epidemic nature of BSE and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, since 1988.
He believes that the infectious agent would incubate in children and lead to an epidemic sometime in the next decade.
"Any epidemic in humans would start about 15 years after that in cattle, and about 250,000 BSE-infected cows were eaten in 1990. There could be an epidemic of this new form in the year 2005. These 10 cases were probably infected sometime before the BSE epidemic started."
His worst case scenario, assuming a high level of infection, would be 10 million people struck down by CJD by 2010. He thought it was now "too late" to assume the most optimistic scenario of only about 100 cases.
One of the great things about the Internet is that it is going to be much easier to hold alarmists accountable for wild scare-mongering predictions that prove to be absurd. Though, I suppose Paul Ehrlich still gets respect in some quarters despite being 0-for-every-prediction-he-has-ever-made, so maybe its too much to hope for accountability.
This is the whole history of the climate debate, with alarmists trying one technique after another to avoid engagement. Skeptics are funded by Exxon — Don’t listen to them, they are just shills! The science is settled — No need for debate! Skeptics are violent and helped kill Gabriella Giffords — everything they say is hate speech and must be ignored!
... I left one off the list -- that rather than disputing a particular scientific hypothesis, alarmists like to claim that skeptics are engaging in a "war on science." I suppose I could ask the author, as she tries to shift the debate from science to politics, exactly who is politicizing science. Certainly there are skeptical morons in the Republican party who understand none of the issues and knee-jerk oppose the alarmist position. Just as there are numerous progressive morons who claim to be all about the science while signing petitions to ban dihydrogen monoxide. When Judith Warner chooses to focus on the morons, rather than the skeptics making scientific arguments, what is she telling us by this choice? In fact, she tries to take the very existence of the morons as evidence no one is doing fact-based science on the skeptic side, a proposition absurd not only by its tortured logic but also because its so easy to disprove by example.
This anti-science meme has, until recently, actually been a powerful argument in the alarmist arsenal. Not particularly for its effect on the voters at large, though it certainly helps support the in-group progressive mythology about themselves and their enemies that helps confirm their own smugness. No, I think for years this has had an effect on scientists outside of the climate community. Normally such scientists would not wade in to a field they know little about to express an opinion, or, God forbid, sign a petition on issues in that field. But so many academics were fooled into believing that skeptics were actually engaging in a war on science (a la evolution denying) that they felt the need to support climate alarmists. Their signatures on petitions did not necesarily mean they agreed with the science, but represented for them a plea of support of science itself.
As scientists from outside the climate community have begun actually looking at the science, or observing the science via the climategate emails, they are horrified by what they see, e.g. the secretiveness, the resistance to replication, and the flat out shoddy science. Many of them are starting to understand that when they signed these petitions supporting alarmists in the name of science, they were in fact supporting Jenna Jamison in the name of chastity.
By the way, lets not forget which side of this argument began the politicization and ad hominem attacks. I will offer just this one example, from the Economist way back in 2002 (eight years before the tea party -- and note the key quote is over 20 years old)
Stephen Schneider, [who ironically has the famously corrupt "hide the decline" chart on his personal web page] spoke we suspect not just for himself when he told Discover in 1989: “[We] are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place...To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have...Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” In other words, save science for other scientists, in peer-reviewed journals and other sanctified places. In public, strike a balance between telling the truth and telling necessary lies.
One of the key selling points of Obamacare was that it would reduce cost, in large part through smart public-spirited people making optimized decisions from the top in Washington. Ignoring the fact that no other agency that has promised such angels of public service has ever delivered them, we discussed in the last few weeks how this task is impossible. But we should have known that already through our past experience with the political process. Political decisions are made politically, not by optimizing some public good equation. Does anyone believe that come election time, Congress won’t vote to add mandates to procedures to placate powerful groups in their base, irrespective of the future costs this would incur?
Need an example?
In 2007 breast cancer was the third leading source of cancer mortality in the US, but it was by far the largest recipient of government cancer research dollars, nearly double that spent on any other type of cancer. In 2009, out of hundreds of medical procedures, only two procedureswere on the mandated must-carry list of all fifty states – mammography and breast reconstruction. It is no accident that both of these are related to breast cancer. With its links to women’s groups and potent advocacy organizations, breast cancer is a disease that has a particularly powerful political lobby. Similarly, we should expect that, at the end of the day, pricing and coverage decisions under Obamacare will be made politically. Not because anyone in this Administration is particularly bad or good, but because that is what always happens.
This post from Q&O is a tad old but gets at just this point with a real-life Obamacare example
The opening line in a New York Times piece caught my attention. It is typical of how government, once it gets control of something, then begins to expand it (and make it more costly for everyone) as it sees fit. Note the key falsehood in the sentence:
The Obama administration is examining whether the new health care law can be used to require insurance plans to offer contraceptives and other family planning services to women free of charge.
Yup, you caught it – nothing involved in such a change would be “free of charge”. Instead others would be taxed or charged in order for women to not have to pay at the point of service. That’s it. Those who don’t have any need of contraception will subsidize those who do. And the argument, of course, will be the “common good”. The other argument will be that many women can’t afford “family planning services” or “contraception”.
But the assumption is the rest of you can afford to part with a little more of your hard earned cash in order to subsidize this effort (it is similar to other mandated care coverage you pay for but don’t need). Oh, and while reading that sentence, make sure you understand that the administration claims it has not taken over health care in this country.
The next sentence is just as offensive:
Such a requirement could remove cost as a barrier to birth control, a longtime goal of advocates for women’s rights and experts on women’s health.
So now “women’s rights” include access to subsidies from others who have no necessity or desire to pay for those services? What right does anyone have to the earnings of another simply because government declares that necessary?
It is another example of a profound misunderstanding of what constitutes a “right” and how it has been perverted over the years to become a claim on “free” stuff paid for by others.
Administration officials said they expected the list to include contraception and family planning because a large body of scientific evidence showed the effectiveness of those services. But the officials said they preferred to have the panel of independent experts make the initial recommendations so the public would see them as based on science, not politics.
Really? This is all about politics. The fact that the services may be “effective” is irrelevant to the political questions and objections raised above. This is science being used to justify taking from some to give to others – nothing more.
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.