Interpreters of Interpreters to the nth degree

James Delingpole has attracted some ire for saying he is an “interpreter of interpreters”. I commented on Bishop Hill’s Blog

Wasn’t the original hockey stick paper an “interpreter of interpretations”? That is it gathered together a selection of data studies of past climate proxies and tried to give an interpretation – with some elements of bias. The IPCC, liking this paper’s conclusion then interpreted this as being definitive, despite its conclusions being contrary to many other studies. Learned societies, not least the Royal Society then interpret this as being the final argument, being the opinion of 2500 leading scientists. With learned pronouncements from the leading scientific organizations, the BBC, Guardian etc interprets that the science is settled, so the subject is closed. James Delingpole, in putting himself as a second tier interpreter, might be over-reaching himself in the ranking. However, he actually considers the arguments, unlike those who rely on multi-layered interpretations.

But more important than lowly a person is in the interpretation chain, is the reliability of that opinion compared with the ultimate reality that we are interpreting. Scientific enquiry must positively endeavour to free itself from biases. That was part of Popper’s injunction to make hypotheses capable of falsification. But with climate science

In the Hockey Stick Studies you will find (See “The Hockey Stick Illusion”)

  • Positive efforts to choose the limited number of data interpretations that suite the conclusion desired (with some having their own strong biases)
  • Giving these favourable studies an undue statistical bias against those that come to no, or contrary, conclusions.
  • Choosing the statistical tests that give favourable results.
  • A clique of people providing similar results through using similar methods around a core group of papers.
  • Peer review being used as a means of peer pressure in promoting favourable comments and papers, whilst obstructing contrary views.

The IPCC has been set up to act as a biased interpreter. It is there to argue the case for action on global warming climate change, not to arrive at a balanced opinion on the science.

The bias is upon interpretation in one direction is at every level of science and opinion.

  • Funding of research is based on conformity.
  • Pressure groups exist to “out” the non-conformists, like the McCarthyists of two generations ago.
  • There is also pressure on scientific organizations to declare unequivocal support.
  • There is severe censure and libelous statements made against any who dissent.

     

So, however much Delingpole may provide interpretations of interpretations without reading all the original literature, his opinions might be more valuable than those prestigious scientists who conform.


 

Bishop Hill and Comment Moderation

BishopHill has been having problems with comment moderation.

The comments are getting completely out of hand. Once again, please do not call people names. Stay on topic. I’m simply snipping whole comments now, because I do not have time to edit our people’s poor behaviour.

 

Perhaps if people would have more courtesy towards their opponents they would start to understand the opposing arguments. Then they may contrast it with their own and moderate their views.

Dogmatically assuming that your side is right and by implication that the opposition are either betrays our own fallibility. It is only by demonstrating an overwhelming and coherent case that one can legitimately use this in current debates without appearing out of touch with reality.

We must remember that the burden of presenting the case is on the side those who say we must act to prevent catastrophic global warming
climate change climate disruption. That just not just mean showing the case for the science is, on balance, correct. Simplified it means

First to demonstrate that CO2 and other greenhouse gases can cause a bit of warming, and how much
AND THEN
Show that this small temperature rise will lead to an increase in water vapour at high level to cause massive positive feedbacks (despite negative feedbacks being the norm in science)
AND THEN
Show that this warming will be of massive net harm to humanity and the planet (and that neither human society, nor the other creatures, nor plants will be able to adapt – despite much evidence to the contrary).
AND THEN
Show that mitigation policies – carbon taxes, cap n’ trade, subsidies to “clean” energy – will reduce greenhouse gases in THEORY, so long as all countries participate.
AND THEN
Show that when most of the emerging nations, particularly China and India, do nothing to curb emissions, that curbing emissions in theory will still work for the OECD countries.
AND THEN
Show that the governments pursuing the policies are capable of delivering the theoretical results. That is only taking on policies that meet the cost criteria laid down by the IPCC or Stern. Then project managing in fine detail and quickly ending failing projects.

As well as making the case for each of Forecast, Consequences, Policy theory and policy Implementation (FCPI), it must be combined together to show that, on balance, there is an expectation that the policy outcome will be better than if nothing was done. I believe that it is only on the basis of extreme and untenable assumptions in ALL of these four areas that the current policies can be justified.

My concern is that the “consensus” quickly grasps onto obscure bits of detail, or fine points of theory, or relies on prestige and opinion when challanged. Alternatively they question the motives of the critics.


Strong Deficit Reduction is the Prudent Approach

Today the last quarter’s economic growth estimate was published. Should the shrinkage of the economy of 0.5% be replicated in the current quarter, we will have a double-dip recession. New shadow chancellor Ed Balls and others will be quick to say that the cuts are too steep and should be reigned in. Even the consensus of the economists thing this is a bad thing.

My belief is out of kilter with the consensus. The primary responsibility of Government is to avert the biggest risks over smoothing out fluctuations. As a result of the last Labour government and the recession, the British government has a huge structural deficit. It means that if there are shocks to the economy before that deficit eliminated, then the Government could face the stark choice of slashing expenditure and raising taxes on the downturn, or default on its debt. This could occur if more European nations need bailouts. It could also occur if the Government loses the political impetus and resorts to higher spending. Or it could occur if, like the last Labour government, the decisions are put off until the conditions are correct all the way through the current weak economic cycle.

Remember that the deficit problem is so large because Labour built up a structural deficit in the good years, and ducked doing anything about it. Then they ducked tackling the deficit earlier as a general election loomed and they had a leader who did not like to make tough decisions. They put spin before the good of the country and now we are paying the price.

If they a better model of the economy than anyone else, and a policy that does not have the contingent risks, then they should tell us. But they had no gumption to make the right and prudent decisions when in government. No gumption to own up now to their wrong decisions. They will have no gumption to enact the corrective policies if they were back in government.

The current Government may need to make even bigger cuts now, not less. The reason is that most of the deficit reduction relies on strong economic growth assumptions

See my earlier blog postings on the issue

The Impact of Labour on the Current Crisis

The Economic Legacy of Labour – A Summary for the Tories

GM Food can prevent Global Hunger – but not as part of a Global Plan

According to the Telegraph today, Professor Sir John Beddington, the Government’s recognizes that genetically modified foods are part of the solution to growing population and climate change. He has a point, but only if Government’s do not create a plan. If climate change happens, it will happen in ways that we have not predicted. It will not be in more frequent category five hurricanes in the Caribbean, nor the sudden disappearance of the Amazon through a dramatic drop in precipitation, nor the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melting one summer (causing a four metre rise in sea levels), nor permanent drought in Eastern Australia, nor the shrinkage of water supplies in Northern India through the rapid disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. If it does happen, the form of rapid climate change will probably have not been predicted. We could develop drought resistant crops for areas that get higher rainfall, or disease resistant crops where we get drought. The best policy to alleviate hunger is to stop doing anything that may cause it. There are two things that have caused hunger in the last century.

  1. Collectivization and State Planning. The vast majority of deaths through starvation in the twentieth century were due to this cause, including 5 million under Lenin’s Soviet Union, 8 million under Stalin, 1-3 million under the current North Korean dictatorship in the 1990s and 20 million plus as a result of Mao’s Great Leap Forward
  2. War such as the Second World War, or the war in Congo in the 1990s have lead to mass hunger as well.

The best way to prevent famine is to have a peaceful, integrated world economy, where every nation has developed far enough for only a small proportion of the national output to be devoted to food production for consumption within the nation. In consumption terms it means a small proportion of average disposable incomes being spent on food. That implies globalization and free trade to foster economic growth.

Government’s and International Agencies, in meeting future needs, should first aim to do no harm. In the last few years world food prices have more than doubled, adversely affecting the non-farming world’s poor. A contributing factor is the impact is the competition from bio fuels, especially ethanol. This could become more significant if rapid climate change reduces global food production capacity.

Update – on a similar theme, Haunting the Library takes George Monbiot to task in a 2002 prophecy that there would be starving inten years if we did not all become vegans.

 

Boris Johnson spoils a good polemic on Fuel Costs

Boris Johnson is in great form in today’s Telegraph on the escalating cost of fuel. However, he is wide of the mark on the costs side.

The cost of the fuel for deliveries does not impact not through greatly price of goods in the shops. Our distribution systems are fairly efficient – though the low volumes to small shops proportionately big impact than deliveries to Tescos or Sainsburys.

It is on the consumer that this pays a larger impact, but less than you might think. Take somebody with a 1995 petrol Toyota Previa living in London and doing 5000 miles per year at around 18mpg. That is 278 gallons per annum, or 1264 litres. With petrol at £1.29 per litre, that is £1630 per year. That seems a lot. But add in £1000+ for maintenance and the MOT, £1000+ for insurance (if a VIP it gets quite steep), £200 tax, and £200 for depreciation, then it is not a huge cost. Trading in for a more modern monster could make out jolly Mayor worse off. Spending £15,000 on a secondhand Galaxy Diesel will save on fuel, the occasional big maintenance bills, maybe nothing on the insurance, but will cost £2000+ more on depreciation.

Consider also

The electric revolution is happening, but it will not be overnight. The up-front cost of the vehicles remains high, and there is still no electric people carrier. For the foreseeable future, millions of people will have to invest not just in a car but in an overpriced lagoon of fossil fuel.

The reason that the costs of fuelling electric cars are so much cheaper is that the only taxes for domestic customers are the additional 5% VAT.  The excise duty and petrol, plus the 20% VAT add more than 100% to the cost. They may be more fuel efficient because they are so much lighter. Furthermore, a new electric car can only have a comparable cost to an efficient diesel with huge subsidies. If you look at the true cost per mile excluding tax and subsidies, then it would be twice the cost. And the cost distinction will get worse not better. The chemicals in the batteries are scarce, so the phenomenal push for electric cars will push up the costs of the chemicals exponentially. And this government does not help – the ConLib Coalition one. The government’s plans for new “alternative” electricity supplies will push up real costs by at least 30% in coming years and even more when it cannot keep up with the extra demand.

       The worst part is the government finances. When Mayor Johnson gets his electric people carrier, he will deny his government £800 a year in taxes, have a subsidy of £5,000 from the worse off to help pay for it and still be out of pocket. Oh – and the people carrier will be more Meriva than Previa in size.

Extremist Global Warming Paper Taken Down

The Guardian reports that a paper that report predicting that global temperatures would rise by 2.4oC or more by 2020, has now been dropped from the
Eurekalert!, a news service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). It was checked by Osvaldo Canziani, Nobel-prize winner and a former co-chair of the UNIPCC.

Problems with the report are

Expert Review

The report was meant to have been checked by Canziani. At a minimum that means that the reports major prediction is validated. As it was based upon the UNIPCC climate assessment report of 2007, then any figures that were substantially out of line should have been carefully justified. Instead, the author, Ms Liliana Hisas, says that instead of withdrawing the report

We are just going to go ahead with it. I don’t have a choice now. The scientist I have been working with checked everything and according to him it’s not wrong.

Therefore, the report is correct because a distinguished person put their name to it. However, they appear not have done basic checks, so the validation process has failed. Very much like the peer review

Ignoring Adaptation

The claim that the 900 million people extra people by 2020 will go hungry relies on some ignoring some basic adaptive facts.

  1. Changes in climate can be partly met by changes in crops. A slightly warmer climate in Europe can be met be changes in crop varieties.
  2. One of the countries with lower yields across crop varieties is Brazil. Having visited Brazil a number of times, I have observed vast tracts of farm land that are underutilized. I have picked oranges from trees that act as wind breaks, and where most of the fruit rots. I have sampled star fruit and large avocados from trees where the fruit is never commercially harvested. Similarly for large papaya, watermelons, bananas and cassava. Increased food prices have been, and will continue to increase outputs. It is not just in Brazil, but in the Russian Steppes, much of Africa and the plains of Canada that agricultural productivity can be increased.
  3. Low productivity is more often due to poor economic policies than natural factors. In the extreme, the greatest famines of the twentieth century are due to the collectivization of agriculture. Even the lesser famine of Ethiopia in 1984, where “only” 500,000 died was partly due to the collectivization policies of the communist government, and the need to feed the city populations where disaffection was centred.

Ignoring the Burden of Government

The claim that the 900 million people extra people by 2020 will go hungry relies not only on the rapid warming claim, but also upon no change in government policy. World food prices have doubled in the last few years due to vast areas being given over to growing fuel for cars. Repealing the subsidies and ethanol content regulations in fuel will release vast acres for food production. Back to Brazil, there are thousands of square miles given over to sugar cane production for ethanol production. Growing food instead in Brazil would probably close half the global gap. In Europe, where the less productive sugar beet is grown for ethanol (or USA where maize is used), then switch to food production could have similar dramatic impacts on food production. A lesser increase in productivity could be made from abandoning organic farming for more intensive varieties. Most studies have shown no difference in quality, or health effects with artificially-fertilized production. Also, by adapting more GM crops, which can vastly increase productivity and provide greater resistance to extreme weather.

Extreme position also requires Extreme Climate Disruption

The claim that the 900 million people extra people by 2020 will go hungry relies is based not only on the rapid warming claim, but also that this results in extreme weather and changed climate patterns. Even if we accept that the 2.4oC+ of warming is likely, the forecast changes in the weather as a result are speculative. Any mitigation policy should cost these as a risk, not as a certainty. The likely cost therefore should be weighted downwards by a risk factor.

Alarmist Policies Discriminate Against the Poor

The report is from a group trying to justify more intensive mitigation policies, whilst believing “in the need for a more equitable society, especially for those living under underprivileged circumstances.” That means that they should consider whether the policies will leave the poor in a worse position than if nothing was done at all. But the main policies of Cap-n-Trade or a Carbon Tax are highly regressive. It is those on the margin who will have to give up their cars and central heating, or hundreds of millions in developing countries who will be denied the opportunities to every obtain what is viewed as the staples of life in Europe. To work, both must impose economic pain, and that pain is greatest for the poor. Furthermore, if policies are imposed that are ineffective in controlling CO2, (such as windmills) then society as a whole will be made poorer for no benefit.

 

The Universal Ecological Fund (Fundación Ecológica Universal FEU-US) has produced an extremist report in more ways than just having a silly forecast. In failing to consider the wider adaptive ability of the human race, it is overstates both the likely consequences, whilst understating the harm to the poor of the policies it advocates. The author states

“Scientific information is usually not easy to understand. Communicating climate change is often also complicated. As a result, the understanding of climate change has led to misconceptions.”

 

A report that spreads undue alarmism is the enemy of true science, and will entrench the misconceptions.

 

 

Donna Laframboise at

Why China will not Constrain it’s CO2 Emissions

There is an interesting and simple explanation of why it is not possible for the West to emulate China’s growth rates at the ASI Blog. This is basically Robert Solow’s exogenous growth model – that is explained graphically at Wikipedia. China is increasing it’s output per capita by increasing it’s capital per worker on by moving up the current technological production frontier. They are still on the lower part of the curve, so the returns to substituting capital goods for labour are quite large. The western countries are at the top end, so returns can only come from moving to a higher technological boundary.

This does not explain all of the phenomenally high growth rates of China against the West. A clue is that it is not the traditional manufacturing industries that China is entering, such as steel, shipbuilding and textiles. It is also the production of the latest high-tech gadgets invented in the West. The reason is that the time taken in turning prototype to mass production is much quicker in China, due to a lack of regulations and statutory planning consents. Yet most of the profits from the last innovations come before anyone can replicate them. A saving of a few months or weeks for the latest mobile phone or digital camera can mean the difference between millions sold at very high margin and tens of thousands sold at a much lower margin.

China’s high growth rates are also accompanied by a rapid increase in energy production. Much of this comes from coal and oil. The advantage of fossil fuel over clean energy is primarily one of cost, but there is time and convenience as well. Coal is based on well-established technologies and China has large reserves of its own, as well as cheap and reliable supplies from elsewhere. Oil-fired power stations are easy to turn on and off. Against this nuclear power stations take a long time to build (and longer to de-commission), along with higher unit costs. Wind power and solar power are highly expensive, and have an extreme mismatch between the timing of the power supply and power demand. Hydro is limited in availability, takes a long time to build, and (like the Three Gorges or the Itaipu dams) cause environmental damage and the displacement of large numbers of people. To constrain China’s growth in energy will create a slowing down in the ability of China’s entrepreneurs to create new output, and therefore constrain a major advantage of manufacturing in China. The Chinese officials will attend the Climate Summits, smile politely and undermine any binding global commission agreements. It is not out of obstinacy that they do it. Rather they understand that the potential costs of constraint far outweigh any benefits.

The Full Case for Climate Change Action

Have just reposted a posting by Willis Eschenbach at “Watts up with That”. Eschenbach contends what is lacking in the AGW argument is not just a coherent scientific case. It is also the proper verification and defence of the science. Predictive failures are ignored, and critics vilified.

I made the following comment on the blog.

Might I point out that you have left out a couple of stages?

It is necessary and but not sufficient to

1. Show a strong probability that extra-normal global warming will occur.

2. That if such warming occurs, that it will have catastrophic consequences – with likely impacts in extent and in place.

At this point the Climate Scientists pass the problem over to the economists.

3. Even, if you accept the disaster scenarios, there is no policy available that will contain CO2 at 2 or 3 degrees of further warming, without imposing greater costs on humanity that impose greater costs on humanity than the worst case scenarios. However, some will say that Stern solved this problem and showed this was theoretically possible. However, it was one that would work by hitting the poorest hardest.

4. Even if you accept that a mitigation policy is theoretically possible, it will only work if every country contains their emissions. If the rapidly growing countries, especially China and India, do not contain their emissions then the emissions- cutting of the West will be of no effect. Further, if the policies to not fall into Stern’s maximum cost of $80 per tonne of CO2 saved (The IPCC’s is much lower), then the policies are doing more harm than good.

So there are four stages of this justification – Forecast, consequences, policy and implementation. It is only the first two that the climate scientists have some competency.

Just because a doctor diagnoses a new condition does not give him the instant insight into the cure, nor the ability to know the dosage or the side-effects of any new medicine.

I hope to post a graphical explanation of the AGW case in the coming days or weeks.

 

Unequivocal Equivocation – an open letter to Dr. Trenberth (via Watts Up With That?)

This is a hard-hitting post that shows the Global Warming Catastrophy does not rely 1) on a simplistic analysis of warming in the past thirty years or so. 2) A demonstration in a lab that CO2 can cause a greenhouse effect. 3) That all extreme weather is attributable to the climate disruption caused by this warming.
Instead it relies on verifying a number of hypotheses, and sustaining them against criticism. Please see the following post as to what it leaves out.

Unequivocal Equivocation - an open letter to Dr. Trenberth New articles appear below this one, which is top posted for a few days. This essay from Willis appeared on WUWT overnight Saturday while I slept. After reading it this morning, I decided to make it a sticky at the top of WUWT (I also added the open letter reference) because it says everything that needs to be said about the current state of affairs in climate science and the skeptic position. I ask readers not only to read it, but to disseminate … Read More

via Watts Up With That?

BBC Horizon gives a one-sided explanation of temperature

I saw the Horizon programme last night on “What is One Degree?” Ben Miller returned to his physicist routes to explain why a small rise in global temperatures is significant. There was some interesting science, but it fell apart towards the end when it came to explaining how one degree is significant. Using shifts in a binomial distribution curve it was explained that

“You only have to move the average temperature up a bit for the number of stinking hot days to become much more frequent.”


What was not explained was the implication for the other end of the distribution. The number of extremely cold days will become much rarer. For Britain, where snow is fairly infrequent, it could easily become a thing of the past. The cold spell twelve months ago, and December being the coldest in the 352 years that the Central England Temperature Record has been in existence are simply not possible. Especially at the Met Office were repeating this forecast just twelve months ago.

Before you get all skeptical, there is something that salvages the global warming case. The scientific consensus has long stated that climate change will disrupt the planetary weather systems. Therefore, the distribution of temperature will not just have a peak that will shift to the right, the distribution will also broaden. It may broaden sufficiently that there could be more extreme cold weather than extreme hot weather events. Along with this there will be more extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornados, flooding and droughts.

The problem with this is that the prediction of more hurricanes has not occurred. The 2010 season was one of the quietest on record. The forecast drier climate in Queensland seems to have gone a bit adrift as well.

In analyzing our extremely varied climate, whether British or Global, one has to look for instances that contradict out hypotheses as well as confirming instances. Otherwise you get a distorted picture of what is actually happening, and an exaggerated view of the human influences.

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