The Logic and Boundaries of Scepticism

In response to a couple of my recent postings, William Connolley has made what I consider to be some pretty absurd statements. The lack of logic and the imprecision of language he uses have elements in common with the more mainstream believers in “climate science”. I consider some of these below, along with other statements.

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Consider the statement

You’ve failed to realise that using the label “skeptic” doesn’t actually make you a skeptic.

Equally it does not mean that a person is wrong in using the label. Given the word has multiple broad definitions, demonstrating that another is not a genuinely a sceptic1 is extremely difficult.

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I am sceptical of the statement “the majority of twentieth century warming was caused by the increase in GHGs“. In a respected dictionary I find two definitions that both apply to my scepticism

  1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
  2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.

If someone states a different definition of “sceptic“, (which they may have made up) it does not mean I am not sceptical. It just means that they are playing with words.

If someone says the statement is proven by scientific evidence they are wrong. Scientific statements are never proven, just failed to be falsified by the evidence.

If someone says that there is overwhelming scientific evidence in support of the above statement then they are wrong. There is insufficient data to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt at the moment. There may never be the evidence, as much of stored heat energy of the climate is in the oceans. Most of the twentieth century data necessary to establish the hypothesis is missing.

If someone says of the statement I am not sceptical, but instead denying the scientific consensus they would be wrong. Firstly, the consensus IPCC does exclude the possibility that a minority of the warming was increased by greenhouse gases. Check out the 2013 AR5 WG1 SPM to verify. Secondly, even if they did make the claim, given that the IPCC has in the past made knowledge claims that it no longer holds to (e.g. radiative forcing components and the hockey stick), I am justified in being sceptical of their abilities to get it right this time.

Further, if someone says of the statement I am not sceptical due denying the scientific consensus, they are using an evaluation criteria that I reject. They are free to believe it is a valid criteria, but I believe it is equivalent to “hearsay” evidence in law.

My rejection of the claim that the statement “twentieth century warming was human caused” as being essentially true does not make me unsceptical of the weaker first statement. Nor is it sufficient to claim that I reject the IPCC Consensus, as they make even weaker statements.

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If someone were to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that a statement were true, then I would cease being sceptical. Personally I would accept the scientific evidence at a much lower level than that in support of the statements “smoking causes lung cancer”2 or “HIV causes AIDS”3.

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On reflection the last statement is not quite correct when applied to climatology. In the past I would have accepted a scientific statement based on expert opinion, or reasonable scientific evidence. But on many levels the climate community have breached the trust which any reasonable member of the public might bestow on an expert. They have failed to draw upon the accumulated wisdom of other areas, such as philosophy of science, decision theory, diplomacy or public choice economics. They have rejected things I value, such as comparing and contrasting different viewpoints, recognizing one’s own bias and listening to others. They have embraced principles I dislike, such as marginalizing opponents, and censoring of opposing opinions. But most of all many will never countenance the possibility of their own fallibility.

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If someone does not reject out of hand statements of Murray Salby (who rejects the notion that the rise in CO2 levels is human caused), it does automatically mean they accept wholeheartedly what he says. Neither does posting articles on their blog mean they believe in what Salby says. There are a number of reasons of alternative reasons. For instance, they could feel that his sacking was not justified. Or they could mean the website owner is a pluralist in science, who believes that you should not reject new ideas out of hand. Or they could believe in academic freedom. Or they could be trying to act as a forum for different ideas. Instead, using that, or similar arguments shows an inability to consider other possibilities, or to countenance that those you oppose may have equally valid positions. It is a normal human failing to deny the humanity of others, and one that I believe we should strive to counter. Further, those with high intelligence, coupled with dogmatic beliefs, are often those most guilty of casting those with opposing beliefs as being incapable of understanding their viewpoint.

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Claims that doctorates in climatology (or related subjects) confer special skills or abilities, that non-scientists do not possess is just bluster. The subject has no established track record of understanding the climate system, but has plenty of excuses for failure. It ignores many distinctions learnt in other empirically-based subjects. But most of all, the subject demands belief in a particular scientific hypothesis. Any criticism of that hypothesis, or contradictory evidence, undermines their core beliefs. Thus being too close to the subject may be a positive disability in engagement. To counter this more traditional sciences have promoted belief in the scientific method rather than belief in the scientific hypothesis. Those areas with strong ideological beliefs, such as economics and politics, have in free societies recognized the values of pluralism.

 

Kevin Marshall

  1. In Britain, “skeptic” is spelt “sceptic”. So I use that spelling, except when quoting others.
  2. I discussed the evidence from Cancer Research UK here following an article at “The Conversation“.
  3. AVERT, an HIV and AIDS Charity based in the UK, gives a long and through article on the case for “HIV causes AIDS“. In terms of communication of their case, there is a lot that the climate community could learn from.

William Connolley’s “correction” of the dictionary

William Connolley, at Roy Spencer’s blog, claims that those who disagree with him are not skeptics.

He hyperlinks to his 2004 posting “Septics and skeptics; denialists and contrarians

Consider his definition of the word “skeptic”

the true definition of skeptic in this context is something like: 

skeptic [Gr. skeptiko`s thoughtful, reflective, fr. ske`ptesqai to look carefully or about, to view, consider] 1. One who is yet undecided as to what is true; one who is looking or inquiring for what is true; an inquirer after facts or reasons. 

(I got that from here and edited it lightly (update 2004/12/11: but! they’ve changed the page. Argh. OK, so for the moment you can get the version I saw from googles cache, and if that fails, the original source is Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. I’ve also created an entry atwictionary in frustration; and the same defn is also available from BrainyDictionaryAnyway you know what I mean…)). 

I got that from here and edited it lightly” is a confession that he manipulated the definition to suit his purposes.

The “light editing is from to dictionary.com, whose current definition is.

1. a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.

2. a person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.

3. a person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.

4. (initial capital letter) Philosophy.

a. a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece, the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible.

b. any later thinker who doubts or questions the possibility of real knowledge of any kind.

The first definition is about questioning something “purporting” to be factual. If somebody makes a claim that they earnestly believe to be true, they may not comprehend how anybody can be somewhat sceptical (or even incredulous) about those claims. Those who believe in alien abductions, for instance, may present “overwhelming” evidence to support that belief. If you try to convince them otherwise, you will be called stupid, or even as part of the conspiracy to discredit the truth.

The second definition is about a doubting attitude. There is nothing in those definitions that demarcates between good and bad scepticism. There can be a huge number of reasons for the doubt. For instance, a good marriage depends on trust. If one party has an affair, there will likely be a breakdown in that trust. The betrayed will now questions every statement and every motive. Once lost, that trust, it is very hard to regain – a point that Dale Carnegie makes in “How To Win Friends And Influence People“. Shifting blame, or failing to acknowledge fault, will only make matters worse.

However, given that it is worth having a healthy scepticism to any claims on the internet, a more reliable source is the printed word. My dictionary is a Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 1983 reprint edition. William Connolley, with a Dhil from Oxford, can hardly dispute its authority. This is what I wrote a couple of years ago:-

Definition 1 pertains to a school of philosophy after the Greek Pyrrho, which doubts the possibility of knowledge of any kind.

Definition 2 is someone who doubts the validity of knowledge claims in a particular area of inquiry. This includes, but is not confined to the natural sciences.

Definition 2.1 is “one who maintains a doubting attitude with reference to a particular question or statement”. The OED has this as the popular definition.

Definition 3 is one who doubts the truth of Christianity.

Definition 4 is one who is seeking the truth. That is “an inquirer who has not arrived at definite convictions”. This is only occasionally used, at least in the late 20th century.

Like with the dictionary.com definitions, there is no implied demarcation, between scepticism and denial of the truth. William Connolley’s definition is nearest to 4, implying that scepticism is transitional stage on the road to enlightenment or denial. But the oldest definition is denial of knowledge in general, and doubts of the truth of Christianity, can be a static state.

There are a huge number of possible reasons for the doubt that is scepticism. For instance, a good marriage depends on trust. If one party has an affair, there will likely be a breakdown in that trust. The betrayed will now question every statement and every action. Once lost, that trust it is very hard to regain – a point that Dale Carnegie makes in “How To Win Friends And Influence People“, although mostly with business relationships in mind. Shifting blame, or failing to acknowledge fault, will only make matters worse. William Connolley has helped betray the trust that people bestow on the authority of Wikipedia and in the authority of science. Rather than trying to restore that trust, he just makes comments that confirm people’s scepticism.

Kevin Marshall

 

 

Michael Mann and John Cook at Bristol University

Lucia at The Blackboard last month publicized that the John Cook is to speak at Bristol University on Dogma vs. consensus: Letting the evidence speak on climate change on Friday 19th September. There are still 395 free tickets left for the event.

Stephen Lewandowsky also notes that Michael Mann is to lecture at the same event on Tuesday 23rd September on The Hockey Stick and the climate wars – the battle continues. Just 102 free tickets left for this event.

Given the Mann’s belief that the continued climate denial is due to “massive funding of climate change denial by monied interests” (HuffPo), it might provide some light entertainment for the students.

William Connolley supports the climate faith against expert opinions

Of the current litigation by Prof. Michael Mann against The National Review and Mark Steyn, William Connolley (the Stoat) states:-

By supporting the SLAPP filing, Steyn is running away.

My reply is

You are wrong.

Steyn’s Amicus Curiae states

In particular, Steyn supports the use of the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act to combat attempts by Plaintiff-Appellee and others to stifle public debate via the threat of protracted and inevitably expensive litigation. But in this case the anti-SLAPP process itself ……… has been manipulated by plaintiff-appellee Mann to become merely an additional phase of protracted procedural punishment.

Steyn further accuses Mann of “venue shopping” (as neither party has any connection with D.C.) and of delaying trial. He also ups the ante by accusing Mann of fraudulent claims, including that Mann was a Nobel Laureate, and that he was “exonerated” by a British Climategate Enquiry that never even mentioned him.

Steyn added:

It is clear from the ease with which Mann lies about things that would not withstand ten minutes of scrutiny in a courtroom that he has no intention of proceeding to trial.

Steyn is supported in his appeal by a separate brief undersigned by numerous organisations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Time Inc, The National Press Association, and Bloomberg.

To cap it all, Steyn is further supported by another brief from the District of Columbia, who view Mann’s case as being the opposite of what their anti-SLAPP legislation intended.

So there seems to be a choice here:-

Either

You view that acceptance into the consensus cult of climatology gives you superior insights into everything, including statistics, philosophy of science, economics, public policy making, evidence evaluation, etymology and ethics.

Or

You believe that by specializing in particular applied subject area; and comparing and contrasting views within that area; and learning from what others say in areas that impinge upon the applied specialism; and by having a wider understanding of other areas – that you may through study and application possibly gain both a deep understanding of that specialism and be able to assess the specialism in the wider context of other academic subjects and extent of knowledge and boundaries of the specialism.

 

The Lewandowsky Smooth

Summary

Risbey at al. 2014 has already been criticism of its claim that some climate models can still take account of actual temperature trends. However, those criticisms did not take into account the “actual” data used, nor did they account for why Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor of psychology, should be a co-author of a climate science paper. I construct Excel simple model of surface temperature trends to replicate the smoothed temperature data in Risbey et al. 2014. The starting point of a recent cooling trend in HADCRUT4 is smoothed away to show minimal downturn in the warming trend. As Stephan Lewandowsky was responsible for the “analysis of models and observations” this piece of misinformation must be attributed to him.

 

Introduction

Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky has previously claimed that “inexpert mouths” should not be heard. He is a first a psychologist, cum statistician; then a specialist on ethics, and peer review; then on the maths of uncertainty. Now Lewandowsky re-emerges as a Climate Scientist, in

Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase” James S. Risbey, Stephan Lewandowsky, Clothilde Langlais, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane & Naomi Oreskes Nature Climate Change (Risbey et al. 2014)

Why the involvement?

Risbey et al. 2014 was the subject of a long post at WUWT by Bob Tisdale. That long post was concerned with the claim that the projections of some climate models could replicate surface temperature data.

Towards the end Tisdale notes

The only parts of the paper that Stephan Lewandowsky was not involved in were writing it and the analysis of NINO3.4 sea surface temperature data in the models. But, and this is extremely curious, psychology professor Stephan Lewandowsky was solely responsible for the “analysis of models and observations”.

Lewandowsky summarizes his contribution at shapingtomorrowsworld. The following is based on that commentary.

Use of Cowtan and Way 2013

Lewandowsky asks “Has global warming “stopped”?” To answer in the negative he uses Cowtan and Way 2013. This was an attempt to correct the coverage biases in the HADCRUT4 data set by infilling through modelling where the temperature series lacked data. Principally real temperature data was lacking at the poles and in parts of Africa. However, the authors first removed some of the HADCRUT4 data, stating reasons for doing so. In total Roman M found it was just 3.34% of the filled-in grid cells, but was strongly biased towards the poles. That is exactly where the HADCRUT4 data was lacking. A computer model was not just infilling for where data was absent, but replacing sparse data with modelled data.

Steve McIntyre plotted the differences between CW2013 and HADCRUT4.

Stephan Lewandowsky should have acknowledged that, through the greater use of modelling techniques, Cowtan and Way was a more circumstantial estimate of global average surface temperature trends than HADCRUT4. This aspect would be the case even if results were achieved by robust methods.

Modelling the smoothing methods

The Cowtan and Way modelled temperature series was smoothed to create the following series in red.

The smoothing was achieved by employing two methods. First was to look at decadal changes rather than use temperature anomalies – the difference from a fixed point in time. Second was to use 15 year centred moving averages.

To help understand the impact these methods to the observations had on the data I have constructed a simple model of the major HADCRUT4 temperature changes. The skepticalscience.com website very usefully has a temperature trends calculator.

The phases I use in degrees Kelvin per decade are

The Cowtan and Way trend is simply HADCRUT4 with a trend of 0.120 Kelvin per decade for the 2005-2013 period. This simply coverts a cooling trend since 2005 into a warming one, illustrated below.

The next step is to make the trends into decadal trends, by finding the difference with between the current month figure and the one 120 months previous. This derives the following for the Cowtan and Way trend data.

Applying decadal trends spreads the impact of changes in trend over ten years following the change. Using HADCRUT4 would mean decadal trends are now zero.

The next step is to apply 15 year centred moving averages.

The centred moving average spreads the impact of a change in trend to before the change occurred. So warming starts in 1967 instead of 1973. This partly offsets the impact of decadal changes, but further smothers any step changes. The two elements also create a nice smoothing of the data. The difference of Cowtan and Way is to help future-proof this conclusion.

Comparison of modelled trend with the “Lewandowsky Smooth”

Despite dividing up over sixty years of data into just 5 periods, I have managed to replicate the essentially features of the decadal trend data.

  1. Switch from slight cooling to warming trend in late 1960s, some years before the switch occurred.
  2. Double peaks in warming trend, the first below 0.2 degrees per decade, the second slightly above.
  3. The smoothed graph ending with warming not far off the peak, obliterating the recent cooling in the HADCRUT4 data.

Lewandowsky may not have used the decadal change as the extra smoothing technique, but whichever technique that was used achieved similar results to my simple Excel effort. So the answer to Lewandowsky’s question “Has global warming “stopped”?” the answer is “Yes”, but Lewandowsky has manipulated the data to smooth the problem away. The significance is in a quote from “the DEBUNKING Handbook“.

It’s self-evident that democratic societies should base their decisions on accurate information. On many issues, however, misinformation can become entrenched in parts of the community, particularly when vested interests are involved. Reducing the influence of misinformation is a difficult and complex challenge.

Lewandowsky is providing misinformation, and has an expert understanding of its pernicious effects.

Kevin Marshall

Myths and Reality of Polar Bears

There is the Greenpeace view.

The noble beast is brought low by pollution, rubbish, and CO2 emissions. The huge white beast passes unnoticed through the bleakest parts of London. Unnoticed by homeless people, people in parks and people sitting in their cars. Only a young girl sees the beast, and then with sympathy. It is meant to be a metaphor for the Greenpeace “reality”. The collective callousness of the British people, with their comfortable lifestyles are destroying the pristine Arctic, just as grasping capitalistic societies have polluted the atmosphere, potentially destroying the climate for future generations. For them, it is a truth so obvious even this cuddly beast knows all about it. These falsities are used to gain support and money.

Then there is the Reality

For human beings, polar bears are one of the most dangerous carnivores on earth. There are many thousands, each  roaming huge areas. There are many cases where they have attacked people. We also know, from this David Attenborough clip, that when polar bears are particularly dangerous when hungry.

In 2011 Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple was tragically killed when camping on Svarlbard island. Any human responsibility for this tragedy has yet to be decided by an inquest. However, what is clear is that the proximate cause of death was by a polar bear attack.

If a polar bear ever got loose in London, it would have to be shot on sight. It would likely be highly stressed. It would certainly not be calmly wandering around taking no notice of people and cars. There would be no reasoning with the beast for it’s behavior is wired in. In a similar way there is no reasoning with those who run Greenpeace, for the false view of the world portrayed  in this clip encapsulates their core  belief system. Yet they would impose this on others, and protest against those who act contrary to their codes. Such views were common in the days of established religion – although their methods of imposing those religious codes were far more gruesome that the noisy eco-warriors. The solution to this imposition of beliefs on others was worked out over two centuries ago, and stated in the US First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

The Greenpeace video accessed at http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/climate July 2014

Using 15 year trends to replicate GISTEMP average surface temperature anomalies

At Jo Nova’s Unthreaded on 22/06/14, Philip Shehan posted some GISTEMP temperature trend figures that caused a good deal of controversy.

In 15 year steps they are

1924/39 Trend: 0.142 ±0.148 °C/decade (2σ)

1939/54 Trend: -0.088 ±0.144 °C/decade (2σ)

1954/69 Trend: 0.024 ±0.151 °C/decade (2σ)

1969/84 Trend: 0.165 ±0.162 °C/decade (2σ)

1984/99 Trend: 0.234 ±0.167 °C/decade (2σ)

1999- Trend: 0.099 ±0.138 °C/decade (2σ)

Two issues with the trends are

1. They do not really capture the trends in the data.

2. They slope of the 15 year OLS lines is sensitive to shifting the period by one year – for instance replacing 1999-2013 with 1998-2012.

I replicated Philip Shehan’s data (or a least tried to – he does not use J-D years) on a graph, along with shifting the periods a year backwards. Compare these slopes to the 5 year centred moving average curve in light blue.

NASA corrects errors in the GISTEMP data

In estimating global average temperatures there are a number of different measures to choose from. The UNIPCC tends to favour the British Hadley Centre HADCRUT data. Many of those who believe in the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis have a propensity to believe in the alternative NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies data. Sceptics criticize GISTEMP due to its continual changes, often in the direction of supporting climate alarmism.

I had downloaded both sets of annual data in April 2011, and also last week. In comparing the two sets of data I noticed something remarkable. Over the last three years the two data sets have converged. The two most significant areas of convergence are in the early twentieth century warming phase (roughly 1910-1944) and the period 1998 to 2010. This convergence is mostly GISTEMP coming into line with HADCRUT. In doing so, it now diverges more from the rise in CO2.

In April 2011 I downloaded the HACRUT3 data, along with GISTEMP. The GISTEMP data carries the same name, but the Hadley centre now has replaced the HADCRUT3 data set with HADCRUT4. Between the two data sets and over just three years, one would expect the four sets of data to be broadly in agreement. To check this I plotted the annual average anomalies figures below.

The GISTEMP 2011 annual mean data, (in light blue) appears to be an outlier of the four data sets. This is especially for the periods 1890-1940 and post 2000.

To emphasise this, I found the difference between data sets, then plotted the five tear centred moving average of the data.

The light green dotted line shows the divergence in data sets three years ago. From 1890 to 1910 the divergence goes from zero to 0.3 degrees. This reduces to almost zero in the early 1940s, increases to 1950, reduces to the late 1960s. From 2000 to 2010 the divergence increases markedly. The current difference, shown by the dark green dotted line shows much greater similarities. The spike around 1910 has disappeared, as has the divergence in the last decade. These changes are more due to changes in GISTEMP (solid blue line) that HADCRUT (solid orange).

To see these changes more clearly, I applied OLS to the warming periods. The start of the period I took as the lowest year at the start, and the end point as the peak. The results of the early twentieth century were as follows:-

GISTEMP 2011 is the clear outlier for three reasons. First it has the most inconsistent measured warming, just 60-70% of the other figures. Second is that the beginning low point is the most inconsistent. Third is the only data set not to have 1944 as the peak of the warming cycle. The anomalies are below.

There were no such issues of start and end of the late twentieth century warming periods, shown below.

There is a great deal of conformity between these data sets. This is not the case for 1998-2010.

The GISTEMP 2011 figures seemed oblivious to the sharp deceleration in warming that occurred post 1998, which was also showing in satellite data. This has now been corrected in the latest figures.

The combined warming from 1976 to 2010 reported by the four data sets is as follows.

GISTEMP 2011 is the clear outlier here, this time being the highest of the four data sets. Different messages from the two warming periods can be gleaned by looking across the four data sets.

GISTEMP 2011 gives the impression of accelerating warming, consistent with the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels. HADCRUT3 suggests that rising CO2 has little influence on temperature, at least without demonstrating another warming element that was present in early part of the twentieth century and not in the latter part. The current data sets lean more towards HADCRUT3 2011 than GISTEMP 2011. Along with the clear pause from 1944 to 1976, it could explain why this is not examined too closely by the climate alarmists. The exception is by DANA1981 at Skepticalscience.com, who tries to account for the early twentieth century warming by natural factors. As it is three years old, it would be interesting to see an update based on more recent data.

What is strongly apparent from recent changes, is that the GISTEMP global surface temperature record contained errors, or inferior methods, that have now been corrected. That does not necessarily mean that it is a more accurate representation of the real world, but that it is more consistent with the British data sets, and less consistent strong forms of the global warming hypothesis.

Kevin Marshall

How Skeptical Science maintains the 97% Consensus fallacy

Richard Tol has at last published a rebuttal of the Cook et al 97% consensus paper. So naturally Skeptical Science, run by John Cook publishes a rebuttal by Dana Nuccitelli. It is cross-posted at the Guardian Climate Consensus – the 97%, that is authored by Dana Nuccitelli. I strongly believe in comparing and contrasting different points of view, and winning an argument on its merits. Here are some techniques that Dana1981 employ that go counter to my view. That is discouraging the reader from looking at the other side by failing to link to opposing views, denigrating the opponents, and distorting the arguments.

Refusing to acknowledge the opponents credentials

Dana says

…… economist and Global Warming Policy Foundation advisor Richard Tol

These are extracts from Tol’s own biography, with my underlines

Richard S.J. Tol is a Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Sussex and the Professor of the Economics of Climate Change…. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Formerly, he was a Research Professor (in), Dublin, the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University …..He has had visiting appointments at ……. University of Victoria, British Colombia (&)University College London, and at the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of Economics…….. He is ranked among the top 100 economists in the world, and has over 200 publications in learned journals (with 100+ co-authors), 3 books, 5 major reports, 37 book chapters, and many minor publications. He specialises in the economics of energy, environment, and climate, and is interested in integrated assessment modelling. He is an editor for Energy Economics, and an associate editor of economics the e-journal. He is advisor and referee of national and international policy and research. He is an author (contributing, lead, principal and convening) of Working Groups I, II and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…..

Dana and Cook can’t even get close – so they hide it.

Refusing to link the Global Warming Policy Foundation

There is a link to the words. It goes to a desmogblog article which begins with the words

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a United Kingdom think tank founded by climate change denialist Nigel Lawson.

The description is the GWPF’s website is

We are an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity which, while open-minded on the contested science of global warming, is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated.

Failing to allow reader to understand the alternative view for themselves

The Guardian does not link to Tol’s article. The SkS article links to the peer-reviewed paper, which costs $19.95. Bishop Hill blog also links you to Tol’s own blog, where he discusses in layman’s terms the article. There is also a 3 minute presentation video, created by the paper’s publishers, where Tol explains the findings.

Distorted evidence on data access

Dana says

The crux of Tol’s paper is that he would have conducted a survey of the climate literature in a slightly different way than our approach. He’s certainly welcome to do just that – as soon as we published our paper, we also launched a webpage to make it as easy as possible for anyone to read the same scientific abstracts that we looked at and test the consensus for themselves.

Tol says

So I asked for the data to run some tests myself. I got a fraction, and over the course of the next four months I got a bit more – but still less than half of all data are available for inspection. Now Cook’s university is sending legal threats to a researcher who found yet another chunk of data.

The Mystery, threatened, researcher

The researcher is Brandon Shollenberger.

Dana says

In addition to making several basic errors, Tol cited numerous denialist and GWPF blog posts, including several about material stolen from our team’s private discussion forum during a hacking.

Brandon gives a description of how obtained the data at “wanna be hackers?“. It was not hacking, in the sense of by-passing passwords and other security, but following the links left around on unprotected sites. What is more, he used similar methods to those used before to get access to a “secret” discussion forum. This forum included some disturbing Photoshop images, including this one of John Cook, complete with insignia of the Sks website.

A glowing endorsement of counter critiques

Dana says

An anonymous individual has also published an elegant analysis
showing that Tol’s method will decrease the consensus no matter what data are put into it. In other words, his 91% consensus result is an artifact of his flawed methodology.

So it must be right then, and also the last word?

Failing to look at the counter-counter critique

Dana, like other fellow believers, does not look at the rebuttal.

Bishop Hill says

This has prompted a remarkable rapid response from an anonymous author here, which says that Tol has it all wrong. If I understand it correctly, Tol has corrected Cook’s results. The critic claims to have worked back from Tol’s results to what should have been Cook’s original results and got a nonsense result, thus demonstrating that Tol’s method is nonsense.

Tol’s reply today equally quickfire and says that his critic, who he has dubbed “Junior” has not used the correct data at all.

Junior did not reconstruct the [matrix] T that I used. This is unfortunate as my T is online…

Junior thus made an error and blamed it on me.

Demonstration of climate science as a belief system

This is my personal view, not of Tol’s, nor of Sks.

Tol in his short presentation, includes this slide as a better categorization of the reviewed papers.

My take on these figures is that 8% give an explicit endorsement, and two-thirds take no position. Taking out the 7970 with no position gives 98.0%. Looking at just those 1010 that take an explicit position gives a “97.6% consensus”.

I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, but I would declare as bunkum any similar survey that scanned New Testament theology peer-reviewed journals to demonstrate the divinity of Christ from the position taken by the authors. People study theology because they are fellow Christians. Atheists or agnostics reject it out of hand. Many scholars are employed by theological colleges, that exit to train people for ministry. Theological journals would be unlikely to accept articles that openly questioned the central tenets of Christianity. If they did many seminaries (but not many Universities) would not subscribe to the publication. In the case of climatology, publishing a paper openly critical of climatology gets a similar reaction to publishing views that some gay people might be so out of choice, rather than discovering their true nature, or that Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is not dissimilar to Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland in 1938.

The lack of disagreement and the reactions to objections, I would interpret as “climate science” being an alternative belief system. People with a superior understanding of their subject area have nothing to fear from allowing comparison with alternative and inferior views.

 Kevin Marshall

 

 

Sea Level rise extremism of Professor Wanless and possible consequences for Miami-Dade

This article is written out of concern. A senior geology professor in Miami, who also chairs the science committee for the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force, has views on future sea level rise that are way more extreme than the available evidence. As a result, Southeast Florida Regional Plans could have been affected, with public money wasted, unnecessary stress caused to home owners, and land devalued.

Summary

The claim by Professor Wanless at the Conversation that sea levels could rise by 1.25 to 2m by 2100 is way too extreme it is based on top-slicing the estimates on a NOAA 2012 report. The top-end estimates were not included by the UNIPCC in its AR5 Sept 2013 report. In fact, the UNIPCC report stated it had low-confidence in estimates of sea level rise above its top-end 0.82m. The source of NOAA’s higher estimate might be from extrapolating from a 2011 paper on 1992-2010 ice-melt . The two leading authors of this paper also contributed to a much less extreme paper that formed the basis of the UNIPCC report. High estimates of ice melt have been effectively been repudiated by their authors. Further, even the UNIPCC’s estimates for 2100 could be extreme, as they are based on climate models. These climate models have all over-estimated the actual surface temperature rise of the last thirty years. On the basis of the warm bias, the projected consequential sea level rise is most likely much too high.

Professor Wanless has slightly moderated his views from 2008, but still maintains the same reasons for disagreeing with scientific consensus. A consequence of this sea level rise extremism might have been to influence the projected sea level rise in a Southeast Florida Regional Plan of 2012.

 

Introduction

At “The Conversation” Geology Professor Harold R. Wanless has posted an article “Rising sea levels will be too much, too fast for Florida“. The article is way too extreme on a number of levels. These views are similar to, but slightly moderated from views held in 2008. The consequences on this extremism might have been to adversely affect Southeast Florida Regional Planning.

 

An extreme Misquote

Professor Wanless says

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published its assessment of sea level rise in 2012 as part of the
National Climate Assessment. Including estimates based on limited and maximum melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, it anticipated a raise of 4.1 to 6.6ft (1.25 to 2m) by 2100, reaching 2ft (0.6m) by around 2050 and 3ft (0.9m) by around 2075.

Follow the link and the introduction says

Global sea level rise has been a persistent trend for decades. It is expected to continue beyond the end of this century, which will cause significant impacts in the United States. Scientists have very high confidence (greater than 90% chance) that global mean sea level will rise at least 8 inches (0.2 meter) and no more than 6.6 feet (2.0 meters) by 2100.

Professor Wanless relies upon the more extreme range of estimates, failing to mention that they require some very unlikely scenarios.

A quote from an extreme paper

A more authoritative and recent source than the NOAA report is the UNIPCC AR5 Working Group II (the Physical Science Basis) Summary for Policymakers. Page 23 has the following diagram

The likely range of sea level rise based on four climate models is 0.26 to 0.82 metres.

 

Extreme through looking at scientifically weak and unsupported data

But maybe there are factors that the UNIPCC did not take into account? On page 26 there is the following comment:-

The basis for higher projections of global mean sea level rise in the 21st century has been considered and it has been concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to evaluate the probability of specific levels above the assessed likely range. Many semi-empirical model projections of global mean sea level rise are higher than process-based model projections (up to about twice as large), but there is no consensus in the scientific community about their reliability and there is thus low confidence in their projections.

In the coded language of the UNIPCC, to have low confidence in something that would support the alarmist cause means they think it is a load of rubbish.

 

The extreme estimates of ice melt acceleration

The reason Professor Wanless uses NOAAs top end estimate is due to believing in a much accelerated disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. By looking at recent data a different picture could emerge from the consensus view.

The following from the UNIPCC gives some estimates of the rate of polar ice melt. In page 9

• The average rate of ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet has very likely substantially increased from 34 [–6 to 74] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992 to 2001 to 215 [157 to 274] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011.

• The average rate of ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet has likely increased from 30 [–37 to 97] Gt yr–1 over the period 1992–2001 to 147 [72 to 221] Gt yr–1 over the period 2002 to 2011. There is very high confidence that these losses are mainly from the northern Antarctic Peninsula and the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica.

Further, on page 11 is stated

Over the period 1993 to 2010, global mean sea level rise is, with high confidence, consistent with the sum of the observed contributions from ocean thermal expansion due to warming (1.1 [0.8 to 1.4] mm yr–1), from changes in glaciers (0.76 [0.39 to 1.13] mm yr–1), Greenland ice sheet (0.33 [0.25 to 0.41] mm yr–1), Antarctic ice sheet (0.27 [0.16 to 0.38] mm yr–1), and land water storage (0.38 [0.26 to 0.49] mm yr–1). The sum of these contributions is 2.8 [2.3 to 3.4] mm yr–1.

These estimates are much lower than previous estimates, particularly on the implied acceleration. For instance Rignot et al 2011 looking at the period calculated polar ice melt contribution to sea levels of 0.91 mm yr–1, 50% higher than the UNIPCC. Further the acceleration on this paper from polar ice melt was 0.1 mm yr–21 mm yr–2and 0. 133 mm yr–2 including non-polar ice melt. Even at this rate of acceleration ice melt would only contribute 6 inches (150mm) to sea level rise. The upper NOAA estimates seem to be based upon taking this extreme figures and doubling them.

But less than two years later lead authors Eric Rignot and Isabella Velicogna were also amongst the 50 who wrote Sheppard et al 2012, which seems to have formed the basis for the UNIPCC report, as the figures are pretty much the same. Professor Wanless appears to be backing out of date science that the authors have effectively repudiated.

 

The climate models are extreme

The climate models that the UNIPCC relies upon for temperature and sea rise levels are themselves extreme. Last year Dr Roy Spencer charted 73 climate model predictions of temperature rise against the actual data for over the last 30 years.

Every single one of the climate models is running too hot.

On that basis, the even the mid-point predicted temperature rise of the weakest of the above models – the 1.0 degree of warming from RCP2.6 – appears too extreme. As a consequence the predicted 40cm mid-point range for sea-level rise to 2100 as a consequence of this temperature rise also appears extreme.

 

Possible consequences of the extremism

Professor Wanless is chairs the science committee for the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force. At the website is a 2008 presentation from him on expected sea level rise. Here Professor Wanless used the 2007 UNIPCC projection of 20cm to 50cm sea level rise by 2100, and then said (due to unaccounted for ice melt) he expected that rise to be at least 3-5 feet (0.9-1.5m) and possibly 7-9 feet (2.1-2.7m). Six years later he has moderated his views, but still believes sea levels will rise by at least twice the scientific consensus. The 2012 “Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Action Plan” appears to reflect these views extremist views. Figure 1 on page 7 has projections for sea level rise.

Above the UNIPCC estimated sea levels rises of 17cm to 38cm by 2046-65 compared with 1986-2005. Eye-balling to the graph shows a range of 18-38 cm in 2045 and 28-75cm by 2065. It appears to be way out of line. Please note that the caption is for “Regional Planning Purposes”.

Personal Note

I do not believe that the responsibility for extreme views gaining currency lies with individuals who promote them, but with the abandonment of pluralism in favour of institutionalised dogma. The view that human-caused catastrophic global warming is either extremely likely or certain is accepted without question. Any questioning of the scientific authority has been treated as equivalent to denial of established fact, and with a manufactured moralistic contempt akin to that meted out to those who question the truth of the holocaust. As a result, the extremist and ill-supported pronouncements of scientific “experts” are not questioned. Instead they made headlines throughout the world. The solution is to actively promote pluralism and questioning in science.

Finally, all first time comments are moderated. Please use the comments as a point of contact. If you request for it not to be published, I will not do so provided it is not openly abusive.

I work hard to be accurate. If you can demonstrate that any of the above is inaccurate, I will correct it. If you disagree, I will publish the comment, though I reserve the right to edit out abuse and may respond. It is important that others can compare and contrast the arguments.

 

Kevin VS Marshall

 

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