To compare Environmentalists to Baptists is to insult Baptists

The THES, directed at a British audience, compares BP and environmentalists to bootleggers and Baptists – they have common cause.

However, some British Baptists may take deep offence at environmentalists being likened to them as (from the mainstream viewpoint of the Baptist Union of Great Britain) the following tends to be true.

1)      Each person should read the Bible (their data) and come to their own conclusions. They try not to overstate their case, but to come to conclusions after reflection and prayer.

2)      They are proud of their history as non-conformists and dissenters. As such they believe in religious liberty.

3)      The understanding of theology is not settled, and there are quite valid differences of opinion. There is room for doubt.

4)      Resolution of debate is not by a few experts handing down an opinion. It is from discussion and mutual understanding at the local level, to which all believers can contribute.

5)      You will not find these British Baptists looking for signs of the end times in every minor event, or proclaiming that those of other denominations or faiths are agents of the Devil.

6)      When studying their religion, contemporary theology tries to put meaning of the text in the context of what has gone before and after. Also, they look in the context of the time and place when the passage was written. Further, they would look at the original text in Hebrew or Greek. The antithesis would be to cherry-pick a few juicy quotes, mistranslate from the Hebrew and Greek, add in some unsupported assertions, add a good dash of sensationalism and proclaim loudly.

Found via Bishop Hill

A few Baptist blogs to demonstrate the point are Baptist Bookworm, Nah then, Andy Goodliff and Sean the Baptist.

The Hockey Stick and Climate Science

Posted Yesterday to the discussion at Climate Audit on the topic of “The Team Defends Paleo-Phrenology”

It may help …. to understand the nature of the science. It relies on statistical techniques to establish results. These, crucially, depend for their validity on the elimination of bias. If a researcher has faulty data, then the results are undermined. If the researcher is selective in the data, then the results are undermined. It outliers are not eliminated then the results are undermined. This all means that where there is extremely complex data, and problems of measurement, it is extremely difficult to establish conclusions that cannot be overturned. This is both true of economics and of paleoclimate.

I would contend that climate scientists, as a junior scientists, need to learn from other disciplines.
– From accountancy, about sense-checking the data (see link below)
– From research into new drugs, about the necessity for more technicians to collect and collate data, and to experiance dead-ends.
– From law, to distinguish between levels of evidence and distinguish baseless rhetoric from cogent arguement
– Most of all from statistical theory, where you will find you results will have no validity unless you take active steps to eliminate bias. Even then, with complex data, your results may still be later undermined, despite passing a battery of tests.

For all of these reasons, we should accept that the results of research are tentative. We should recognise the limits of our knowledge. In recognising the boundaries, and establishing procedures to quickly identify error, paleoclimate may be able to move forward.

 

The whole hockey stick issue, brought to a head with the Tamino posting, shows the problem of bias. To obtain a temperature reconstruction requires using data that usually gives a very weak signal indeed. Therefore any data needs to be carefully collected and every conceivable bias removed. It is only by eliminating bias that the statistical analysis can begin. In many cases there will be no significant results. Much painstaking work will achieve a dead end. And there is the rub. Careers are not made by failing to get a result. In this arena phenomenal fame and prestige can come to those who produce results that fortify the consensus. And there is plenty of recognition to those with supporting roles as well.

The original MBH98 may never have emerged in a more muted form if an expert reviewer had asked how such a novel result could be reconciled with the existing view that there was a medieval warm period. Hence my point about sense-checking in the previous blog posting. Similarly the comment that the 20th century warming was unprecedented should be answered with how do you know that? Read the Hockey Stick Illusion and you will find that the claim lacks scientific validity.  

If climate science it to mature it needs more painstaking data collection and analysis. As a science, it needs to find the current boundaries and limits of our current knowledge.

For those who believe that the Hockey Stick Team still have something worthwhile to say, should start with Steve McIntyres repost of “Tamino and the Magic Flute“. Compare that with Tamino’s posting “The Montford Delusion”.

Look at

1. Who gives the fullest answers?

2. Which side evades the points, or attempts sleight of hand?

3. How are contrary or neutral points treated. Clue – look at how Judith Curry (who is trying to remain neutral) is treated. Further, look at how contrary opinions are treated.

4. Finally who are the real deniers in all of this?

Tamino v. Montford – A Sense-Check

Clarification – This post is an attempt to say two things – but badly.

First, a simplistic verification of a global temperature reconstruction is to cross-check against local temperature reconstructions from around the world. These, on average, strongly contradict the hockey stick.

Second, Tamino’s claim is essentially McIntyre has just been taking pot-shots at sound science. Instead McIntyre has looked at all the steps in making a reconstruction, and found all wanting.

So what of a neutral lay-person trying to compare the Montford’s Hockey Stick Illusion and Tamino’s debunking? From my accountancy experience, it is normal to try to get a sense-check. What is the expected result? If the actual is different from the expected, then difference needs to be reconciled. The MBH98, MBH99, and the subsequent reconstructions in the book, completely overturned perceived thinking, so there needs to be a sense-check to make sure the results are valid. 

 The sense-check for the global temperature reconstructions can be from localized reconstructions from around the world, to see if the global reconstruction replicates the typical pattern. A website, CO2science.org, documents peer-reviewed articles estimating temperatures in the medieval warm period. For those that have a temperature estimate, those that agree with the hockey stick – that temperatures were lower than today – are out-numbered 5 to 1 by those that say temperatures were higher in the MWP. The raw median, median, and mode values are that temperatures were about 0.75oC warmer than today. The weaker, qualitative, studies have a similar picture. Those that suggest that temperatures in the MWP were similar to or lower than today are outnumbered more than 4 to 1 by those that suggest temperatures were higher. So when the more scientific, global, reconstructions come up with a novel, contrary, result, there needs to a full reconciliation to explain why. Without such an explanation, we just have McIntyre’s multi-layered* findings that the global reconstructions are critically flawed stands.

*McIntyre’s findings are multi-layered, including.

a)      Hockey Stick shapes were given undue weighting by the short-centering of the PC analysis. For instance, McIntyre calculated that Sheep Mountain had 390 times the weighting of Mayberry Slough (p113-114). Of the 112 original proxies in MBH9, just 13 had a hockey stick shape. Tamino does not counter this, only looking at the 22 longer hockey stick series, made up of individual series, such as Gaspe, along with regional combinations such as NOAMERPC1.

b)      Dodgy data and infilling. Looking across the columns of data, McIntyre noticed identical data in adjacent columns, as though infilling had taken place. (p78-81)

c)      Many of these series were based on old data. If Mann had used the most recent data available in 1998, could the final Hockey Stick have been less pronounced? (p83-84)

d)      Some of the most important original proxies were flawed.

  1.  
    1. Gaspé has better data, but was unpublished. (p174) It also had an alternative proxy with better data in Alaska. (More here)
    2. Sheep mountain had updated proxies that fails to show an HS (p 357-361)
    3. The Graybill bristlecone series had a number of flaws (e.g. p121-125 & p353-357)

e)      The failure of alternative reconstructions. (Chapter 10).

f)        There was considerable evidence of biases in the data selection in the proxies (along with small sample sizes); the selection of the proxies in the reconstruction; and the short-centring which gave rise to hockey sticks on random data 99% of the time. Given this, any measure of correlation statistic was rendered largely meaningless. McIntyre did not explore this. However, Montford provides evidence that the verification statistic used was highly irregular in the disciplines outside of climate science. (e.g. p156-164)  Latest – McIntyre shows the evidence that to suggest verification statistic was cherry-picked.

That is, the selection of data in the proxies, the proxy selection, the bias by short-centering, and the selection of verification statistic are all different levels in establishing a reconstruction, and all shown by McIntyre to have failed.

For a different take – which side pursues scientific understanding, see the follow-up http://manicbeancounter.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/the-hockey-stick-and-climate-science/

Climate Change – Evaluating the Evidence

Roger Pielke Jr. reports here that the Australian Prime Minister proposes to form a citizens’s assembly on climate change. She says

And so today I announce that if we are re-elected, I will develop a dedicated process – a Citizens’ Assembly – to examine over 12 months the evidence on climate change, the case for action and the possible consequences of introducing a market-based approach to limiting and reducing carbon emissions.

 

Pielke finds problems with the last part. My problem is with examining the evidence on climate change. Given that the climate science is highly polarised, with a lot of complex arguments, this is not something that your average citizen can pronounce upon. Also, given that on one side you have a consensus of experts pronouncing the science is settled, with it being widely promoted that the opposition are just spokespeople for the fossil fuel lobby, there will be a vast majority in support of action and a small minority of dogged skeptics.

The only way for a consensus to be formed objectively is for the panel to act as a jury, with

  1. Clear guidelines as to what constitutes evidence, and levels of evidence to sort out the facts and strongly-verified science, from the, weak circumstantial evidence, and hearsay.*
  2. For a clearly defined barrier to establish the need for action. Like in a criminal trial under English common law, where you have to establish beyond reasonable doubt. The barrier may be set lower (like in civil cases), but it still needs to be there.
  3. To clearly separate the science from the policy. That is to clearly take into account the costs, benefits and risks of policy changes.

 

*To be clearer, the levels of evidence in decreasing order are.

  1. Facts
  2. Established or independently verified (& not rebutted) science.
  3. Peer-reviewed statistically verified science.
  4. Other peer-reviewed science based on circumstantial evidence.
  5. Papers by advocacy groups.
  6. Hearsay. E.g. “The vast majority accept…..”

Tamino v Montford on the Gaspé series

Have just finished reading A.W. Montford’s (alias Bishop Hill) The Hockey Stick Illusion. Although I thought it excellent, and agree with the reviews (e.g. Air Vent), I thought I would look for contrary opinions, to allow me to compare and contrast the different sides. It just so happens that Tamino has posted a critical review at Real Climate blog on July 22nd. Bishop Hill has responded.

In the spirit of allowing you to make up your own mind, let me present one aspect, which does not need a scientific background to evaluate.

Tamino claims that McIntyre rejects Gaspé because

 “This particular series doesn’t extend all the way back to the year 1400, it doesn’t start until 1404, so MBH98 had extended the series back four years by persistence — taking the earliest value and repeating it for the preceding four years. This is not at all an unusual practice, and — let’s face facts folks — extending 4 years out of a nearly 600-year record on one out of 22 proxies isn’t going to change things much.”

 

I would agree with Tamino, if that was the only problem with Gaspé. But other problems Montford recounts.

  1. It had the biggest hockey stick of any of the 112 series. 1975 was 3.05 standard deviations from the series mean. Only 12 others had any sort of hockey stick shape. (p.75)
  2. It was included twice in the proxies – once as part of the North American PC series and once on its own. (p.140).
  3. It did start in 1404, but until 1421 relied on a single tree, and two up to 1447. The original authors “had not used the early portion of the series at all in their own reconstruction”, but Mann had. (p165.)
  4. Mann’s own claim for its’ inclusion was that the study represented the northern treeline. But Gaspé was well south of the treeline. As a sensitivity analysis, McIntyre replaced Gaspé with the Sheenjek River Series in Mid-Alaska. It was further north and had more trees. When this was replaced, the medieval warm period re-appeared. (p.166).*
  5. McIntyre showed “that you could only get rid of the Medieval Warm Period by using the Gaspé series twice and by including the unreliable early portion, and by extending this highly dubious data back to the start of the fifteenth century.”
  6. An updated study was done taking the data to 1991, instead of 1982. There was nothing like the same growth spurt in recent times. The data went unpublished, and the author claiming to have lost the location. So the results could not be independently replicated. (p.174).
  7. Montford says in reply to Tamino

“The observation that “McIntyre argued that the entire Gaspe series should be eliminated because it didn’t extend all the way back to 1400″ is wrong. MBH had its steps starting at 50-year intervals. Gaspe should therefore have been in the 1450 step not the 1400 one.”

 

From my simple view, the criticism of the Gaspé proxy series is multilayered. It was used inappropriately; there was a better proxy available (or an update); it was clearly an outlier; and was used twice.

Finally, Steve McIntyre has already criticised Tamino on Gaspé here. McIntyre makes the additional point

“The Gaspé series is a cedar chronology. There is no botanical evidence that cedars respond linearly to warmer temperatures. World experts on cedar are located at the University of Guelph, Ross McKitrick’s university. Ross and I had lengthy discussions with these cedar experts about this chronology – they said that cedars like cool and moist climate.”

 

* Gaspé is around 49o North (same as Paris), Sheenjek River 65o North. (same as Iceland).

Tackling Fuel Poverty OR Tackling Climate Change

John Leech, MP for Manchester Withington makes a valiant, but failed, attempt to reconcile tackling fuel poverty with combating climate change. The reason’s why such an attempt will always fail are as follows:-

  1. Reducing carbon emissions by 80% will mean moving into zero-carbon fuels. Nuclear power is the cheapest alternative, but still more expensive than fossil fuels, especially when decommissioning at the end in taken into account. Other alternatives – wind and solar – are not only astronomically more expensive per unit produced, but also increase the unit cost of back-up fossil fuel power stations.
  2. Then we have the carbon trading schemes. These act as a cost to pollute. They will only become effective if they are made much scarcer and therefore much more expensive.
  3. For the poor, we could then give them huge grants to insulate their homes and get more fuel-efficient heating systems. However, although some gains can be relatively cheap (loft insulation and thermostatic controls on radiators), the costs mount steeply to gain large reductions. Replacing boilers and radiators, putting in new doors and windows, or cavity wall insulation, are all highly expensive. The payback period is many years, or in some cases not at all (with interest costs taken into account).
  4. The elderly are disincentivised to reduce consumption by the winter fuel allowance. Yet rising fuel costs will lead to calls to increase this subsidy as well.
  5. Whilst in the UK we pay through the nose for non-fossil fuels, oil prices will continue to rise as demand from developing countries continues to increase.

 

Fuel poverty will only reduce substantially if fuel costs come down. That will only happen if someone comes up with a cheaper, clean alternative to fossil fuels. That will not happen for a generation or more. Subsidising alternative energy sources that will always be much more expensive than oil is currently may divert attention away from that search. It is the poor who will suffer from most.

Muir Russell & unpicking Global Warming

If you believe that the science is settled on Global Warming is settled, listen to Roger Harrabin’s comment at the end of this clip from Radio 4 this morning on 7th July. To Quote

“98% of scientists believe that humans are warming the planet, the question is by how much”

The is a distinct change from just 9 months ago, pre ClimateGate. Is it a case of “We are all Skeptics Now?”.

Following on on from Tim Worstall’s recommendation of the Stoat’s summary of the Global Warming case.

For an empirical science, maybe a distinction between science and non-science is to admit to the limits of the certainties, something that the IPCC consensus has been at pains to avoid.

Global Warming – a simple summary unpicked

Tim Worstall points readers to a moderate view of global warming from the Stoat at scienceblogs.com.

Unlike most libertarians, Worstall accepts the basic science behind global warming, but disagrees with the policy implications.

William Connolly (Stoat) quotes a list of the main points he made in 2004.

The main points that most would agree on as “the consensus” are:

1. The earth is getting warmer (0.6 +/- 0.2 oC in the past century; 0.1 0.17 oC /decade over the last 30 years (see update)) [ch 2]
2. People are causing this [ch 12] (see update)
3. If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate [ch 9]
4. (This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)

These are in descending order of certainty. Further

 

In the years since I wrote that nothing has come along to overturn any of that, and much has come in to buttress it. 1, 2 and 3 are now strong enough to be considered “essentially true”; the arguments that claim any of them are false are now dull and uninteresting and without scientific validity. Pretty well all of the meaningful scientific skeptics have now given up trying to argue that.  

 

Let me get really dull and uninteresting, and try to access the scope of scientific validity.

  1. The earth got warmer in the last century. It got warmer in spurts, followed by periods of stability.
  2. People are highly likely to be contributing this to some extent. It could account (though unlikely) account for greater than 100% of the warming. Certainly, the planet is over 30oC warmer than it would have been without the natural greenhouse effect, consisting mostly of water vapour. However,

-                 The recent rise in the total level of anthropogenic greenhouse gases has probably added less than 2% to the total, for a 2% rise in temperature. A physicist would expect diminishing temperature rises for incremental rise in the greenhouse blanket, not increasing ones.

-                 Furthermore, then temperature rises have been in spurts – from 1914 to 1940 and from 1977 to 2000. In between global temperatures did not rise. If you look at global growth rates, there was low growth in the inter-war period (with the Great Depression in the middle), high growth from 1945 to 1973 (the year of the oil crisis) and lower growth to 1998, then the greatest level of growth in world history for the next decade. If there is any correlation, it is negative.

-                 The Hockey Stick episode. The great effort that has been put into eliminating the medieval warm period, to demonstrate that the twentieth century warming is unprecedented, should provide strong circumstantial evidence of the doubt that the data engenders. Compare the arguments of the climate sceptic Steve McIntyre (McIntyre S, 2008b is a readable introduction.) with a 2005 consensus view. This is basically a cross-check. If there have been large fluctuations in recent, pre-industrial history. In particular, higher temperatures a few hundred years ago, and an unusually cold period in the 17th to early 19th centuries, then it would be more likely that the most of the 20th century warming was natural.

3. If greenhouse gases keep increasing, then temperatures will, ceteris paribus, also increase. However, that they will accelerate because of positive feedbacks (water vapour – the principle greenhouse gas – is forecast to rise as a result of the temperature rise brought about by the rise in CO2) may contradict, the limited, observed data (Lindzen and Choi 2009 pdf).

 

The science is much more nuanced. There are large uncertainties in the data and still bigger ones in the forecasts. So a huge range of conclusions is valid. The appointed leaders cover this with dogmatic certainties and untenable forecasts, along with being quick to doubt the motives, competence or even sanity of anyone who stands in their way. Further they still do not see a problem when biased analysis and broken procedures are revealed. Nor manipulation of the data to get the desired results. Nor attempts to block adverse science from being published. Their very lack of humility and dogma is opening the door to those who say it is all a conspiracy or a scam.

Towards Public Consensus on Climate Change

 

John Redwood posted the following under heading “How a Prime Minister Loses his Job

The outgoing PM in Australia serves as a warning to incumbents. If you combine unpopular climate change legislation with a big tax increase, you lose your job. The legislation was defeated, and the tax increase on mining has now been abated.

Just posted on  blog comments

This illustrates the importance of carrying people with you through difficult and necessary decisions. On tackling the problem of the deficit the government is being brave and honest about the gravity of the problem. The Coalition is also making attempts to minimise the impact on service provision.

On climate change, we have had many dogmatic statements about the collective opinions of experts and the science being settled. This is accompanied with wild allegations on the motives of critics (in the pay of oil companies) or their very sanity (flat-earthers, or equivalent to holocaust deniers). To carry the majority forward, the scientific case needs to be made more clearly. That means opening up the black box of climate models to independent investigation and subjecting empirical studies to full statistical tests. Conflicts of interest should be stated and recognised. Like in a court of law, when people can see the robustness of the case, then the doubters will be the silenced and sacrifices willing made for the sake of our descendant’s futures.

We have been delivered with a fait accompli, with no reasonable person being able to question. It is not just the basic science that we are unable to question, but also the policy perscriptions. This is alien to an open society.

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