ATTP on Lomberg’s Australian Funding

Blogger …and then there’s physics (ATTP) joins in the hullabaloo about Bjorn Lomberg’s Consensus Centre is getting A$4m of funding to set up a branch at the University of Western Australia. He says

However, ignoring that Lomborg appears to have a rather tenuous grasp on the basics of climate science, my main issue with what he says is its simplicity. Take all the problems in the world, determine some kind of priority ordering, and then start at the top and work your way down – climate change, obviously, being well down the list. It’s as if Lomborg doesn’t realise that the world is a complex place and that many of the problems we face are related. We can’t necessarily solve something if we don’t also try to address many of the other issues at the same time. It’s this kind of simplistic linear thinking – and that some seem to take it seriously – that irritates me most.

The comment about climatology is just a lead in. ATTP is expressing a normative view about the interrelationship of problems, along with beliefs about the solution. What he is rejecting as simplistic is the method of identifying the interrelated issues separately, understanding the relative size of the problems along with the effectiveness and availability of possible solutions and then prioritizing them.

This this errant notion is exacerbated when ATTP implies that Lomborg has received the funding. Lomborg heads up the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and it is they who have received the funding to set up a branch in Australia. This description is from their website

We work with some of the world’s top economists (including 7 Nobel Laureates) to research and publish the smartest solutions to global challenges. Through social, economic and environmental benefit-cost research, we show policymakers and philanthropists how to do the most good for each dollar spent.

It is about bringing together some of the best minds available to understand the problems of the world. It is then to persuade those who are able to do something about the issues. It is not Lomborg’s personal views that are present here, but people with different views and from different specialisms coming together to argue and debate. Anyone who has properly studied economics will soon learn that there are a whole range of different views, many of them plausible. Some glimpse that economic systems are highly interrelated in ways that cannot be remotely specified, leading to the conclusion that any attempt to create a computer model of an economic system will be a highly distorted simplification. At a more basic level they will have learnt that in the real world there are 200 separate countries, all with different priorities. In many there is a whole range of different voiced opinions about what the priorities should be at national, regional and local levels. To address all these interrelated issues together would require the modeller of be omniscient and omnipresent. To actually enact the modeller’s preferred policies over seven billion people would require a level of omnipotence that Stalin could only dream of.

This lack of understanding of economics and policy making is symptomatic of those who believe in climate science. They fail to realize that models are only an attempted abstraction of the real world. Academic economists have long recognized the abstract nature of the subject along with the presence of strong beliefs about the subject. As a result, in the last century many drew upon the rapidly developing philosophy of science to distinguish whether theories were imparting knowledge about the world or confirming beliefs. The most influential by some distance was Milton Friedman. In his seminal essay The Methodology of Positive Economics he suggested the way round this problem was to develop bold yet simple predictions from the theory that, despite being unlikely, are nevertheless come true. I would suggest that you do not need to be too dogmatic in the application. The bold predictions do not need to be right 100% of the time, but an entire research programme should be establishing a good track record over a sustained period. In climatology the bold predictions, that would show a large and increasing problem, have been almost uniformly wrong. For instance:-

  • The rate of melting of the polar ice caps has not accelerated.
  • The rate of sea level rise has not accelerated in the era of satellite measurements.
  • Arctic sea ice did not disappear in the summer of 2013.
  • Hurricanes did not get worse following Katrina. Instead there followed the quietest period on record.
  • Snow has not become a thing of the past in England, nor in Germany.

Other examples have been compiled by Pierre Gosselin at Notrickszone, as part of his list of climate scandals.

Maybe it is different in climatology. The standard response is that the reliability of the models is based on the strength of the consensus in support. This view is not proclaimed by ATTP. Instead from the name it would appear he believes the reliability can be obtained from the basic physics. I have not done any physics since high school and have forgotten most of what I learnt. So in discerning what is reality in that area I have to rely on the opinions of physicists themselves. One of the greatest physicists since Einstein was Richard Feynman. He said fifty years ago in a lecture on the Scientific Method

You cannot prove a vague theory wrong. If the guess that you make is poorly expressed and the method you have for computing the consequences is a little vague then ….. you see that the theory is good as it can’t be proved wrong. If the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental result can be made to look like an expected consequence.

Climate models, like economic models, will always be vague. This is not due to being poorly expressed (though they often are) but due to the nature of the subject. Short of rejecting climate models as utter nonsense, I would suggest the major way of evaluating whether they say something distinctive about the real world is on the predictive ability. But a consequence of theories always being vague in both economics and climate is you will not be able to use the models as a forecasting tool. As Freeman Dyson (who narrowly missed sharing a Nobel Prize with Feynman) recently said of climate models:-

These climate models are excellent tools for understanding climate, but that they are very bad tools for predicting climate. The reason is simple – that they are models which have very few of the factors that may be important, so you can vary one thing at a time ……. to see what happens – particularly carbon dioxide. But there are a whole lot of things that they leave out. ….. The real world is far more complicated than the models.

This implies that when ATTP is criticizing somebody else’s work with a simple model, or a third person’s work, he is likely criticizing them for looking at a highly complex issue in another way. Whether his way is better, worse or just different we have no way of knowing. All we can infer from his total rejection of ideas of experts in a field to which he lacks even a basic understanding, is that he has no basis of knowing either.

To be fair, I have not looked at the earlier part of ATTP’s article. For instance he says:-

If you want to read a defense of Lomborg, you could read Roger Pielke Jr’s. Roger’s article makes the perfectly reasonable suggestion that we shouldn’t demonise academics, but fails to acknowledge that Lomborg is not an academic by any standard definition…….

The place to look for a “standard definition” of a word is a dictionary. The noun definitions are

noun

8. a student or teacher at a college or university.

9. a person who is academic in background, attitudes, methods, etc.:

He was by temperament an academic, concerned with books and the arts.

10. (initial capital letter) a person who supports or advocates the Platonic school of philosophy.

This is Bjorn Lomborg’s biography from the Copenhagen Consensus website:-

Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Adjunct Professor at University of Western Australia and Visiting Professor at Copenhagen Business School. He researches the smartest ways to help the world, for which he was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. His numerous books include The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place and The Nobel Laureates’ Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World 2016-2030.

Lomborg meets both definitions 8 & 9, which seem to be pretty standard. Like with John Cook and William Connolley defining the word sceptic, it would appear that ATTP rejects the authority of those who write the dictionary. Or more accurately does not even to bother to look. Like with rejecting the authority of those who understand economics it suggests ATTP uses the authority of his own dogmatic beliefs as the standard by which to evaluate others.

Kevin Marshall

Freeman Dyson on Climate Models

One of the leading physicists on the planet, Freeman Dyson, has given a video interview to the Vancouver Sun. Whilst the paper emphasizes Dyson’s statements about the impact of more CO2 greening the Earth, there is something more fundamental that can be gleaned.

Referring to a friend who constructed the first climate models, Dyson says at about 10.45

These climate models are excellent tools for understanding climate, but that they are very bad tools for predicting climate. The reason is simple – that they are models which have very few of the factors that may be important, so you can vary one thing at a time ……. to see what happens – particularly carbon dioxide. But there are a whole lot of things that they leave out. ….. The real world is far more complicated than the models.

I believe that Climate Science has lost sight of what this understanding of what their climate models actually are literally attempts to understand the real world, but are not the real world at all. It reminds me of something another physicist spoke about fifty years ago. Richard Feynman, a contemporary that Dyson got to know well in the late 1940s and early 1950s said of theories:-

You cannot prove a vague theory wrong. If the guess that you make is poorly expressed and the method you have for computing the consequences is a little vague then ….. you see that the theory is good as it can’t be proved wrong. If the process of computing the consequences is indefinite, then with a little skill any experimental result can be made to look like an expected consequence.

Complex mathematical models suffer from this vagueness in abundance. When I see supporters of climate arguing the critics of the models are wrong by stating some simple model, and using selective data they are doing what lesser scientists and pseudo-scientists have been doing for decades. How do you confront this problem? Climate is hugely complex, so simple models will always fail on the predictive front. However, unlike Dyson I do not think that all is lost. The climate models have had a very bad track record due to climatologists not being able to relate their models to the real world. There are a number of ways they could do this. A good starting point is to learn from others. Climatologists could draw upon the insights from varied sources. With respect to the complexity of the subject matter, the lack of detailed, accurate data and the problems of prediction, climate science has much in common with economics. There are insights that can be drawn on prediction. One of the first empirical methodologists was the preeminent (or notorious) economist of the late twentieth century – Milton Friedman. Even without his monetarism and free-market economics, he would be known for his 1953 Essay “The Methodology of Positive Economics”. Whilst not agreeing with the entirety of the views expressed (there is no satisfactory methodology of economics) Friedman does lay emphasis on making simple, precise and bold predictions. It is the exact opposite of the Cook et al. survey which claims a 97% consensus on climate, implying that it relates to a massive and strong relationship between greenhouse gases and catastrophic global warming when in fact it relates to circumstantial evidence for a minimal belief in (or assumption of) the most trivial form of human-caused global warming. In relation to climate science, Friedman would say that it does not matter about consistency with the basic physics, nor how elegantly the physics is stated. It could be you believe that the cause of warming comes from the hot air produced by the political classes. What matters that you make bold predictions based on the models that despite being simple and improbable to the non-expert, nevertheless turn out to be true. However, where bold predictions have been made that appear to be improbable (such as worsening hurricanes after Katrina or the effective disappearance of Arctic Sea ice in late 2013) they have turned out to be false.

Climatologists could also draw upon another insight, held by Friedman, but first clearly stated by John Neville Keynes (father of John Maynard Keynes). That is on the need to clearly distinguish between the positive (what is) and the normative (what ought to be). But that distinction was alienate the funders and political hangers-on. It would also mean a clear split of the science and policy.

Hattips to Hilary Ostrov, Bishop Hill, and Watts up with that.

 

Kevin Marshall

Dixon and Jones confirm a result on the Stephan Lewandowsky Surveys

Congratulations to Ruth Dixon and Jonathan Jones on managing to get a commentary on the two Stephan Lewandowsky, Gilles Gignac & Klaus Oberauer surveys published in Psychological Science. Entitled “Conspiracist Ideation as a Predictor of Climate Science Rejection: An Alternative Analysis” it took two years to get published. Ruth Dixon gives a fuller description on her blog, My Garden Pond. It confirms something that I have stated independently, with the use of pivot tables instead of advanced statistical techniques. In April last year I compared the two surveys in a couple of posts – Conspiracist Ideation Falsified? (CIF) & Extreme Socialist-Environmentalist Ideation as Motivation for belief in “Climate Science” (ESEI).

The major conclusion through their analysis of the survey

All the data really shows is that people who have no opinion about one fairly technical matter (conspiracy theories) also have no opinion about another fairly technical matter (climate change). Complex models mask this obvious (and trivial) finding.

In CIF my summary was

A recent paper, based on an internet survey of American people, claimed that “conspiracist ideation, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested“. Analysis of the data reveals something quite different. Strong opinions with regard to conspiracy theories, whether for or against, suggest strong support for strongly-supported scientific hypotheses, and strong, but divided, opinions on climate science.

In the concluding comments I said

The results of the internet survey confirm something about people in the United States that I and many others have suspected – they are a substantial minority who love their conspiracy theories. For me, it seemed quite a reasonable hypothesis that these conspiracy lovers should be both suspicious of science and have a propensity to reject climate science. Analysis of the survey results has over-turned those views. Instead I propose something more mundane – that people with strong opinions in one area are very likely to have strong opinions in others. (Italics added)

Dixon and Jones have a far superior means of getting to the results. My method is to input the data into a table, find groupings or classifications, then analyse the results via pivot tables or graphs. This mostly leads up blind alleys, but can develop further ideas. For every graph or table in my posts, there can be a number of others stashed on my hard drive. To call it “trial and error” misses out the understanding to be gained from analysis. Their method (through rejecting linear OLS) is loess local regression. They derive the following plot.

This compares with my pivot table for the same data.

The shows in the Grand Total row that the strongest Climate (band 5) comprise 12% of the total responses. For the smallest group of beliefs about conspiracy theories with just 60/5005 responses, 27% had the strongest beliefs in about climate. The biggest percentage figure is the group who averaged a middle “3” score on both climate and conspiracy theories. That is those with no opinion on either subject.

The more fundamental area that I found is that in the blog survey between strong beliefs in climate science and extreme left-environmentalist political views. It is a separate topic, and its inclusion by Dixon and Jones would have both left much less space for the above insight in 1,000 words, and been much more difficult to publish. The survey data is clear.

The blog survey (which was held on strongly alarmist blogs) shows that most of the responses were highly skewed to anti-free market views (that is lower response score) along with being strongly pro-climate.

The internet survey of the US population allowed 5 responses instead of 4. The fifth was a neutral. This shows a more normal distribution of political beliefs, with over half of the responses in the middle ground.

This shows what many sceptics have long suspected, but I resisted. Belief in “climate science” is driven by leftish world views. Stephan Lewandowsky can only see the link between the “climate denial” beliefs and free-market, because he views left-environmentalist perspectives and “climate science” as a priori truths. This is the reality that everything is to be measured. From this perspective climate science has not failed due to being falsified by the evidence, but because scientists have yet to find the evidence; the models need refining; and there is a motivated PR campaign to undermine these efforts.

Kevin Marshall

 

 

 

 

 

Feynman on Communist Science

I am currently engrossed in GENIUS: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick

In July 1962 Feynman went behind the Iron Curtain to attend a conference on gravitation in Warsaw. He was exasperated at the state of Soviet science. He wrote to his wife Gweneth:-

The “work” is always: (1) completely un-understandable, (2) vague and indefinite, (3) something correct that is obvious and self-evident, worked out by long and difficult analysis, and presented as an important discovery, or (4) a claim based on stupidity of the author that some obvious and correct fact, accepted and checked for years is, in fact, false (these are the worst: no argument will convince the idiot), (5) an attempt to do something, probably impossible, but certainly of no utility, which, it is finally revealed at the end, fails or (6) just plain wrong. There is a great deal of “activity in the field” these days, but this “activity” is mainly in showing that the previous “activity” of somebody else resulted in an error or in nothing useful or in something promising. (Page 353)

The failings of Government-backed science are nothing new.

AndThenTheresPhysics on Paraguayan Temperature Data

The blog andthentheresphysics is a particularly dogmatic and extremist website. Most of the time it provides extremely partisan opinion pieces on climate science, but last week the anonymous blogger had a post “Puerto Casado” concerning an article in the Telegraph about Paraguayan temperature by Christopher Booker. I posted the following comment

The post only looks at one station in isolation, and does not reference original source of the claims.

Paul Homewood at notalotofpeopleknowthat looked at all three available rural stations in Paraguay. The data from Mariscal and San Jan Buatista/Misiones had the same pattern of homogenization adjustments as Puerto Casado. That is, cooling of the past, so that instead of the raw data showing the 1960s being warmer than today, it was cooler.

Using his accountancy mind set, Homewood then (after Booker’s article was published) checked the six available urban sites in Paraguay. His conclusion was that

warming adjustments have taken place at every single, currently operational site in Paraguay.

Then he looked at all 14 available stations in neighbouring Bolivia. His conclusion

At every station, bar one, we find the ….. past is cooled and the present warmed.”

(The exception was La Paz, where the cooling trend in the raw data had been reduced.)

Homogenization of data means correcting for biases. For a 580,000 sq mile area of Central South America it would appears strong adjustment biases to have been introduced in a single direction.

Homewood references every single site. Anyone can easily debunk my summary by searching the following:-

Jan-20 Massive Tampering With Temperatures In South America

Jan-26 All Of Paraguay’s Temperature Record Has Been Tampered With

Jan-30 Cooling The Past In Bolivia

My comment did not contain the hyperlinks or italics. It has been deleted without passing through moderation. The only bit of the moderation policy I believe that I fall foul of is the last.

This blog is also turning out to be both more time consuming and more stressful than anticipated. Some moderation may be based purely on whether or not I/we can face dealing with how a particular comment thread is evolving. This is not a public service and so, in general, any moderation decision is final.

The counter-argument from ATTP is

If you look again at the information for this station the trend before adjustments was -1.37oC per century, after quality control it was -0.89 oC per century, and after adjusting for the station moves was +1.36 oC per century. Also, if you consider the same region for the same months, the trend is +1.37 oC per century, and for the country for the same months it is +1.28 oC per century. So, not only can one justify the adjustments, the result of the adjustments is consistent with what would be expected for that region and for the country.

Paul Homewood has investigated all the other stations in Paraguay or in neighbouring Bolivia and found similar ad hoc adjustments. It completely undermines ATTP’s arguments. This anonymous individual is wrong. Rather than face dealing that he is wrong, ATTP has deleted my comment. He is entitled to his beliefs, and in a free society can proselytize to his heart’s content. But there are boundaries. One of them is in suppressing evidence that undermines the justification for costly and harmful public policies. That is policies that are harming the poor here in Britain, but (and more importantly) can only be remotely successful by destroying the prospect of increasing living standards for over half the world’s population. Paul Homewood and others are increasingly uncovering similar biases in the temperature record in other parts of the world. The underlying data for the global surface temperature sets is in need of a proper, independent audit, to determine the extent of the biases within it. But when the accusation that the Paraguayan temperature data set is corrupted, people will point to ATTP’s blog post as evidence that there is but a single instance, and that instance has been debunked. Another boundary is a value that that many in the criminal justice system also hold dear. The more emotive the subject, the greater all concerned must go out of their way to compare and contrast the arguments. That way, the influence of our very human prejudices will be minimized. Again, independent audits will help eliminate this. If ATTP thinks he has all the answers then he will not be afraid to encourage people to look at both sides, evaluate by independent standards, and make up their own minds.

Kevin Marshall

Comment ATTP 310115

Instances of biases in the temperature sets

This will be added to when I get time.

Paul Homewood on San Diego data 30-01-15

Shub Niggareth looks into the Puerto Casado story 29-01-15

Paul Homewood on Reykjavik, Iceland 30-01-15

Jennifer Marohasy letter on Australian data 15-01-15

Update 01-02-15

I have invited a response from ATTP, by posting #comment-46021.

ATTP

You have deleted two of my comments in the last 24 hours that meet all of your moderation criteria except one – that you cannot face dealing with a challenge. That is your prerogative. However, the first comment, (now posted on my blog) I believe completely undermines your argument. Paul Homewood has shown that the Puerto Casado dataset homogenization did not make it consistent with neighbouring non-homogenized surface temperature stations, but that all the Paraguayan and neighbouring Bolivian surface temperature stations were “homogenized” in the same way. That is, rather than eliminating the biases that local factors can create, the homogenizations, by people far removed from the local situations, effectively corrupted the data set, in a way that fits reality to the data.

I might be wrong in this. But based on your arguments so far I believe that my analysis is better than yours. I also believe that who has the better argument will only be resolved by an independent audit of the adjustments. If you are on the side of truth you would welcome that, just as a prosecutor would welcome the chance to prove their case in court, or a pharmaceutical company would welcome independent testing of their new wonder-drug that could save millions of lives. Even if I am wrong, I will be glad at being refuted by superior arguments, as I will know that to refute my claims will require you to up your game. Humanity will be served by my challenging a weak case and making it stronger. You have generated over 500 comments to your post, so an appeal for help via email should generate some response. If that does not work there are many well-funded organisations that I am sure will rush to your assistance.

There are at least seven options I think you can take.

  1. Ignore me, and pretend nothing has happened. Bad idea. I will start analysing your posts, as you did with Wattsupwiththat, only rather than your pea-shooters firing blanks, I have the heavy artillery with HE shells.
  2. Do an attack post – like desmogblog or Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute might do. Bad idea, I will take that as perverting or suppressing the evidence, and things will get rather rough. After all, I am but a (slightly) manic ex-beancounter, and you have the consensus of science on your side, so why is should sending in the PR thugs be necessary unless you are on the losing side?
  3. Get together a response that genuinely ups the game. Win or lose you will have served humanity as I and others will have to rebut you. Engage and all will gain through greater understanding.
  4. Admit that there are other valid points of view. A start would be to release this comment, which will get posted on my blog anyway. I quite accept that you cannot come up with a rebuttal at the drop-of-a-hat. A simple comment that a response will be made sometime this year is fine by me.
  5. Also call for a truly independent audit of the surface temperature set. It could be for your own reasons, and if truly independent, I will support it. If a whitewash, like the enquiries that Gordon Brown ordered into Climategate, an audit will do more harm than good.
  6. Close down your blog and do something else instead. You choose to be anonymous, and I respect that. Walking away is easy.
  7. Admit that you got this one wrong. You will take some flack, but not from me.

Climategate : The greatest quote is from Kevin Trenberth

As Paul Matthews at IPCC Report and Anthony Watts at Wattsupwiththat are pointing out, 17th November marked the 5th Anniversary of Climategate1. Paul Matthews has his pick of the most significant quotes. But I believe he misses the most important. Kevin Trenberth to Micheal Mann on Mon, 12 Oct 2009 and copied to most of the leading academics2

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate. (emphasis mine)

The first sentence is the mostly widely quoted. It is an admission that we, the experts, cannot explain what is happening. The end of the quote is even more important. There is a clear divergence between the predictions from the climate models – the theoretical understanding of the world – and the real world data. Trenberth’s reaction is that the data is wrong, not the theory. His later excuse for continuing belief in the climate models was coined a few months later. The truth is lurking in the murky depths. As with the mythical Loch Ness Monster, the believers in climate catastrophism hold that the evidence will be found, but we are not able to access it yet. This has created a new branch of climatology – the excuses for the pause. At the time of writing there are 65 excuses and new cases are appearing at more than two a week.

Kevin Marshall

Notes

  1. The term Climategate was coined by James Delingpole on 20th November 2009.
  2. Cc: Stephen H Schneider , Myles Allen , peter stott , “Philip D. Jones” , Benjamin Santer , Tom Wigley , Thomas R Karl , Gavin Schmidt , James Hansen , Michael Oppenheimer. This was an email between the high priests of the global warming movement.

Prof Lewandowsky – Where is the overwhelming evidence of climate change?

On Stephan Lewandowsky’s blog (funded by the Australian people) he claims that there is overwhelming evidence of climate change. My question is as follows

You claim that there is “overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change”. Does this apply to:-

  1. The trivial proposition that there is a greenhouse effect, so a rise in GHG levels will cause some rise in temperature?

    OR

  2. The non-trivial proposition that the unmitigated increase in GHG levels will lead to significant warming with catastrophic consequences?

The trivial proposition is something for a few academics to ponder. It is only when there is reasonable scientific evidence for the non-trivial proposition that a global policy to mitigate could be seriously contemplated.

Having attended John Cook’s lecture at Bristol University a few days ago, I found out that the vast survey of academic papers found a 97% consensus was about belief in the trivial proposition, and some of the papers were authored by non-scientists. That is, Cook presented weak, secondary, evidence of the trivial proposition.

Cook’s lecture also mentioned the four Hiroshima bombs a second of heat accumulation in the climate system since 1998, the widget for which you have on the left-hand side of this blog. Stated this way, there appears to be a non-trivial amount of warming, that anybody can perceive. It is equivalent to the average temperature of the ocean’s increasing at a rate less than 0.0018oC per annum. That is weak evidence for the trivial proposition.

So where is the overwhelming evidence that can justify policy?


This gives rise to a question that Australian citizen’s may one to raise with their elected representatives.

Should Australian taxpayers be funding a partisan blog that is strongly critical of mainstream political opinion, whose sole current contributor is a non-Australian working outside of Australia?

Kevin Marshall

Michael Mann’s bias on Hockey Sticks

Two major gripes of mine with the “Climate Consensus” are their making unsubstantiated claims from authority, and a total failure to acknowledge when one of their own makes stupid, alarmist comments that contradict the peer-reviewed consensus.

An example is from Professor Michael Mann commenting on his specialist subject of temperature reconstructions of the past for a Skeptical science “97% Consensus” spin-off campaign.


I will break this statement down.

“There are now dozens of hockey sticks and they all come to the same basic conclusion”

His view is that warming is unprecedented, shown by dozens of hockey sticks that replicate his famous graph in the UNIPCC Third Assessment Report of 2001.

Rather than look at the broader picture warming being unprecedented on any time scale1, I will concentrate on this one thousand year period. If a global reconstruction shows a hockey stick, then (without strong reasoned arguments to the contrary) one would expect the vast majority of temperature reconstructions from actual sites by various methods to also show hockey sticks

CO2Science.com, in their Medieval Warm Period Project, have catalogued loads of these reconstructions from all over the world. They split them into two categories – quantitative and qualitative differentials in the average temperature estimates between the peak of the medieval warm period and now.

It would seem to me that Mann is contradicted by the evidence of dozens of studies, but corroborated by only a few. Mann’s statement of dozens of hockey sticks reaching the same basic conclusion ignores the considerable evidence to the contrary.

“The recent warming does appear to be unprecedented as far back as we can go”

Maybe, as Mann and his fellow “scientists” like to claim, that the people behind this website are in “denial” of the science. Maybe they have just cherry-picked a few studies from a much greater number of reconstructions. So let us look at the evidence the SkS team provide. After all, it is they who are running the show. Under their article on the medieval warm period, there is the following graph of more recent climate reconstructions.


It would seem the “Mann EIV” reconstruction in green does not show a hockey stick, but flat (or gently rising) temperatures from 500-1000 AD; falling temperatures to around 1800; then an uptick starting decades before the major rise in CO2 levels post 1945. The twentieth century rise in temperatures appears to be about half the 0.7oC recorded by the thermometers, leading one to suspect that reconstructions understate past fluctuations in temperature as well. The later Ljungqvist reconstructions shows a more pronounced medieval warm period and a much earlier start of the current warming phase, in around 1700. This is in agreement with the Moberg and Hegerl reconstructions. Further the Moberg reconstruction has a small decline in temperatures post 1950.

Even worse, the graphic was from the Pages2K site. On temperature reconstructions of the last two millennia Pages2K state:-

Despite significant progress over the last few decades, we still do not sufficiently understand the precise sequence of changes related to regional climate forcings, internal variability, system feedbacks, and the responses of surface climate, land-cover, and bio- and hydro-sphere.

Furthermore, at the decadal-to-centennial timescale we do not understand how sensitive the climate is to changes in solar activity, frequency of volcanic eruptions, greenhouse gas and aerosol concentration, and land cover.

So Michael Mann’s statement if warming being unprecedented is contradicted by peer-reviewed science. Skeptical Science published this statement when it was falsified by Mann’s own published research and that of others.

“But even if we didn’t have that evidence, we would still know that humans are warming the planet, changing the climate and that represent a threat if we don’t do something about it”

There is no corroborating evidence to the climate models from temperature reconstructions. In fact, empirical data shows that the models may be claiming as human-caused temperature increases that are naturally-caused, but for reasons not fully understood. So the “knowing” must be assumed to be from belief, just as the threat and the ability of the seven billion “us” to counter that threat are beliefs as well.

Kevin Marshall

 

Notes

  1. The emergence from the Younger Dryas cooling period 11,500 years ago was at least 10 times the warming of the past 100 years, and was maybe in a period of less than 300 years. See WUWT article here, or the emerging story on the causes here.

Theconsensusproject – unskeptical misinformation on Global Warming

Summary

Following the publication of a survey finding a 97% consensus on global warming in the peer-reviewed literature the team at “skepticalscience.com” launched theconsensusproject.com website. Here I evaluate the claims using two of website owner John Cook’s own terms. First, that “genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth”. Second is that misinformation is highly damaging to democratic societies, and reducing its effects a difficult and complex challenge.

Applying these standards, I find that

  • The 97% consensus paper is very weak evidence to back global warming. Stronger evidence, such as predictive skill and increasing refinement of the human-caused warming hypothesis, are entirely lacking.
  • The claim that “warming is human caused” has been contradicted at the Sks website. Statements about catastrophic consequences are unsupported.
  • The prediction of 8oF of warming this century without policy is contradicted by the UNIPCC reference.
  • The prediction of 4oF of warming with policy fails to state this is contingent on successful implementation by all countires.
  • The costs of unmitigated warming and the costs of policy and residual warming are from cherry-picking from two 2005 sources. Neither source makes the total claim. The claims of the Stern Review, and its critics, are ignored.

Overall, by his own standards, John Cook’s Consensus Project website is a source of extreme unskeptical misinformation.

 

Introduction

Last year, following the successful publication of their study on “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature“, the team at skepticalscience.com (Sks) created the spinoff website theconsensusproject.com.

I could set some standards of evaluation of my own. But the best way to evaluate this website is by Sks owner and leader, John Cook’s, own standards.

First, he has a rather odd definition of what skeptic. In an opinion piece in 2011 Cook stated:-

Genuine skeptics consider all the evidence in their search for the truth. Deniers, on the other hand, refuse to accept any evidence that conflicts with their pre-determined views.

This definition might be totally at odds with the world’s greatest dictionary in any language, but it is the standard Cook sets.

Also Cook co-wrote a short opinion pamphlet with Stephan Lewandowsky called The Debunking Handbook. It begins

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.

Cook fully believes that accuracy is hugely important. Therefore we should see evidence great care in ensuring the accuracy of anything that he or his followers promote.

 

The Scientific Consensus

The first page is based on the paper

Cooks definition of a skeptic considering “all the evidence” is technically not breached. With over abstracts 12,000 papers evaluated it is a lot of evidence. The problem is nicely explained by Andrew Montford in the GWPF note “FRAUD, BIAS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS – The 97% ‘consensus’ and its critics“.

The formulation ‘that humans are causing global warming’ could have two different meanings. A ‘deep’ consensus reading would take it as all or most of the warming is caused by humans. A ‘shallow’ consensus reading would imply only that some unspecified proportion of the warming observed is attributable to mankind.

It is the shallow consensus that the paper followed, as found by a leaked email from John Cook that Montford quotes.

Okay, so we’ve ruled out a definition of AGW being ‘any amount of human influence’ or ‘more than 50% human influence’. We’re basically going with Ari’s porno approach (I probably should stop calling it that) which is AGW= ‘humans are causing global warming’. e.g. – no specific quantification which is the only way we can do it considering the breadth of papers we’re surveying.

There is another aspect. A similar methodology applied to social science papers produced in the USSR would probably produce an overwhelming consensus supporting the statement “communism is superior to capitalism”. Most papers would now be considered worthless.

There is another aspect is the quality of that evidence. Surveying the abstracts of peer-reviewed papers is a very roundabout way of taking an opinion poll. It is basically some people’s opinions of others implied opinions from short statements on tangentially related issues. In legal terms it is an extreme form of hearsay.

More important still is whether as a true “skeptic” all the evidence (or at least the most important parts) has been considered. Where is the actual evidence that humans cause significant warming? That is beyond the weak correlation between rising greenhouse gas levels and rising average temperatures. Where is the evidence that the huge numbers of climate scientists have understanding of their subject, demonstrated by track record of successful short predictions and increasing refinement of the human-caused warming hypothesis? Where is the evidence that they are true scientists following in the traditions of Newton, Einstein, Curie and Feynman, and not the followers of Comte, Marx and Freud? If John Cook is a true “skeptic”, and is presenting the most substantial evidence, then climate catastrophism is finished. But if Cook leaves out much better evidence then his survey is misinformation, undermining the case for necessary action.

 

Causes of global warming

The next page is headed.

There is no exclusion of other causes of the global warming since around 1800. But, with respect to the early twentieth century warming Dana Nuccitelli said

CO2 and the Sun played the largest roles in the early century warming, but other factors played a part as well.

However, there is no clear way of sorting out the contribution of the relative components. The statement “the causes of global warming are clear” is false.

On the same page there is this.

This is a series of truth statements about the full-blown catastrophic anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. Regardless of the strength of the evidence in support it is still a hypothesis. One could treat some scientific hypotheses as being essentially truth statements, such as that “smoking causes lung cancer” and “HIV causes AIDS”, as they are so very strongly-supported by the multiple lines of evidence1. There is no scientific evidence provided to substantiate the claim that global warming is harmful, just the shallow 97% consensus belief that humans cause some warming.

This core “global warming is harmful” statement is clear misinformation. It is extremely unskeptical, as it is arrived at by not considering any evidence.

 

Predictions and Policy

The final page is in three parts – warming prediction without policy; warming prediction with policy; and the benefits and costs of policy.

Warming prediction without policy

The source info for the prediction of 8oF (4.4oC) warming by 2100 without policy is from the 2007 UNIPCC AR4 report. It is now seven years out of date. The relevant table linked to is this:-

There are a whole range of estimates here, all with uncertainty bands. The highest has a best estimate of 4.0oC or 7.2oF. They seem to have taken the highest best estimate and rounded up. But this scenario is strictly for the temperature change at 2090-2099 relative to 1980-1999. This is for a 105 year period, against an 87 year period on the graph. Pro-rata the best estimate for A1F1 scenario is 3.3oC or 6oF.

But a genuine “skeptic” considers all the evidence, not cherry-picks the evidence which suit their arguments. If there is a best estimate to be chosen, which one of the various models should it be? In other areas of science, when faced with a number of models to use for future predictions the one chosen is the one that performs best. Leading climatologist, Dr Roy Spencer, has provided us with such a comparison. Last year he ran 73 of the latest climate CIMP5 models. Compared to actual data every single one was running too hot.

A best estimate on the basis of all the evidence would be somewhere between zero and 1.1oC, the lowest figure available from any of the climate models. To claim a higher figure than the best estimate of the most extreme of the models is not only dismissing reality, but denying the scientific consensus.

But maybe this hiatus in warming of the last 16-26 years is just an anomaly? There are at possibly 52 explanations of this hiatus, with more coming along all the time. However, given that they allow for natural factors and/or undermine the case for climate models accurately describing climate, the case for a single extreme prediction of warming to 2100 is further undermined. To maintain that 8oF of warming is – by Cook’s own definition – an extreme case of climate denial.

Warming prediction with policy

If the 8oF of predicted human-caused warming is extreme, then a policy that successfully halves that potential warming is not 4oF, but half of whatever the accurate prediction would be. But there are further problems. To be successful, that policy involves every major Government of developed countries reducing emissions by 80% (least including USA, Russia, EU, and Japan) by around 2050, and every other major country (at least including Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Ukraine) constraining emissions at current levels for ever. To get all countries to sign-up to such a policy combatting global warming over all other commitments is near impossible. Then take a look at the world map in 1925-1930 and see if you could reasonably have expected those Governments to have signed commitments binding on the Governments of 1945, let alone today. To omit policy considerations is an act of gross naivety, and clear misinformation.

The benefits and costs of policy

The benefits and costs of policy is the realm of economics, not of climatology. Here Cook’s definition of skeptic does not apply. There is no consensus in economics. However, there are general principles that are applied, or at least were applied when I studied the subject in the 1980s.

  • Modelled projections are contingent on assumptions, and are adjusted for new data.
  • Any competent student must be aware of the latest developments in the field.
  • Evaluation of competing theories is by comparing and contrasting.
  • If you are referencing a paper in support of your arguments, at least check that it does just that.

The graphic claims that the “total costs by 2100” of action are $10 trillion, as against $20 trillion of inaction. The costs of action are made up of more limited damages costs. There are two sources for this claim, both from 2005. The first is from “The Impacts and Costs of Climate Change”, a report commissioned by the EU. In the Executive Summary is stated:-

Given that €1.00 ≈ $1.20, the costs of inaction are $89 trillion and of reducing to 550ppm CO2 equivalent (the often quoted crucial level of 2-3 degrees of warming from a doubling of CO2 levels above pre-industrial levels) $38 trillion, the costs do not add up. However, the average of 43 and 32 is 37.5, or about half of 74. This gives the halving of total costs.

The second is from the German Institute for Economic Research. They state:-

If climate policy measures are not introduced, global climate change damages amounting to up to 20 trillion US dollars can be expected in the year 2100.

This gives the $20 trillion.

The costs of an active climate protection policy implemented today would reach globally around 430 billion US dollars in 2050 and around 3 trillion US dollars in 2100.

This gives the low policy costs of combatting global warming.

It is only by this arbitrary sampling of figures from the two papers that the websites figures can be established. But there is a problem in reconciling the two papers. The first paper has cumulative figures up to 2100. The shorthand for this is “total costs by 2100“. The $20 trillion figure is an estimate for the year 2100. The statement about the policy costs confirms this. This confusion leads the policy costs to be less than 0.1% of global output, instead of around 1% or more.

Further the figures are contradicted by the Stern Review of 2006, which was widely quoted in the UNIPCC AR4. In the summary of conclusions, Stern stated.

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

The benefit/cost ratio is dramatically different. Tol and Yohe provided a criticism of Stern, showing he used the most extreme estimates available. A much fuller criticism is provided by Peter Lilley in 2012. The upshot is that even with a single prediction of the amount and effects of warming, there is a huge range of cost impacts. Cook is truly out of his depth when stating single outcomes. What is worse is that the costs and effectiveness of policy to greenhouse emissions is far greater than benefit-cost analyses allow.

 

Conclusion

To take all the evidence into account and to present the conclusions in a way that clearly presents the information available, are extremely high standards to adhere to. But theconsensusproject.com does not just fail to get close to these benchmarks, it does the opposite. It totally fails to consider all the evidence. Even the sources it cites are grossly misinterpreted. The conclusion that I draw is that the benchmarks that Cook and the skepticalscience.com team have set are just weapons to shut down opponents, leaving the field clear for their shallow, dogmatic and unsubstantiated beliefs.

Kevin Marshall

 

Notes

  1. The evidence for “smoking causes lung cancer” I discuss here. The evidence for “HIV causes AIDS” is very ably considered by the AIDS charity AVERT at this page. AVERT is an international HIV and AIDS charity, based in the UK, working to avert HIV and AIDS worldwide, through education, treatment and care. – See more here.
  2. Jose Duarte has examples here.

Hiroshima Bombs of Heat Accumulation – Skeptical Science reversing scientific reality

Skeptical Science blog has a little widget that counts the heat the climate has accumulated since 1998 in terms of Hiroshima Atomic Bombs.

One the first uses of the Hiroshima bomb analogy was by skepticalscience.com stalwart Dana Nuccitelli, in the Guardian.

The rate of heat building up on Earth over the past decade is equivalent to detonating about 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs per second. Take a moment to visualize 4 atomic bomb detonations happening every single second.

But what does this mean in actual heat energy? I did a search, and found out the estimated heat generated by the Hiroshima bomb was about 63TJ, or terra joules, or 63 x 1012 joules. A quick calculation reveals the widget actually uses 62TJ, so I will use that lower value. It is a huge number. The energy was sufficient to kill over 100,000 people, cause horrific injuries to many more, and destroying every building within a large radius of the blast site. Yet in the last 17 years the climate system has accumulated over two billion times that energy.

Most of that energy goes into the oceans, so I was curious to estimate the impact that phenomenal heat accumulation would have on the average temperature of the oceans. Specifically, how long would it take to heat the oceans by 1oC.

The beauty of metric measurements is that weight and volume are combined all around the unit of water. I will ignore the slight differences due to the impurities of sea water for this exercise.

The metric unit of energy, a joule, is not quite so easy to relate to water. The old British thermal unit is better, being the quantity of energy sufficient to raise a pound of water through 1oF. Knowing that 1lb=454g, 1.8oF = 1oC and 1btu ≈ 1055J, means that about 4.2 joules is the energy sufficient to raise 1 gram of water the one degree.

So the Hiroshima bomb had the energy to raise (62 x 1012)/4.2 ≈ 15 x 1012 grams of water through one degree.

That is 15 x 109 kilos (litres) of water, or 15 x 106 tonnes (cubic metres) of water. That is the volume of a lake of 1 kilometre in area, with an average depth of 15 metres.

The largest lake in England is Lake Windermere, which has approximately a volume of 1 cubic kilometre of water, or 1 billion tonnes of water. (The biggest freshwater lake in the United Kingdom by volume is Loch Ness, with about 9 km3 of water.)

It would take the power of 67 Hiroshima bombs to heat Lake Windermere by 1 degree. Or the oceans are accumulating heat at a rate that would the temperature of this lake by one degree in 16.67 seconds.

Although Lake Windermere can look quite large when standing on its shoreline, it is tiny in relative to the Great Lakes, let alone the oceans of the world. With a total area of about 360,000,000 km2, and an average depth of at least 3000 metres, the oceans have a volume of about 1,080,000,000 km3, or contain 108 x 1018 tonnes of water. If all the heat absorbed by the global climate system since 1998 went into the oceans, it would about 18 billion seconds to raise average ocean temperature by 1oC. That is 5,000,000 hours or 208,600 days or 570 years.

Here I am slightly exaggerating the warming rate. The UNIPCC estimates that only 93% of the warming from extra heat absorbed by the climate system was absorbed by the oceans.

But have I got this wrong by a huge margin? The standard way of stating the warming rates – used by the UNIPCC – is in degrees centigrade per decade. This is the same metric that is used for average surface temperatures. Warming of one degree in 570 years becomes 0.0175°C/decade. In Chapter 3 of the UNIPCC AR5 Working Group 1 Report, Figure 3.3 (a) on page 263 is the following.

The ocean below about 1000 metres, or more than two-thirds of the water volume, is warming at a rate less than 0.0175°C/decade. This may be an overstatement. Below 2000 metres, average water temperature rise is around 0.005°C/decade, or 1oC of temperature rise every 2000 years.

The energy of four Hiroshima bombs a second is trivial on a global scale. It causes an amount of temperature change that is barely measurable on a year-on-year basis.

There are two objectives that I believe Skeptical Science team try achieving with their little widget.

The first objective is to reverse people’s perception of reality. Nuclear explosions are clearly seen by everybody. You do not have to be an expert to detect it if you are within a thousand miles of the detonation. Set one off anywhere in the world, even deep underground, and sensitive seismic detectors will register the event from the other side of the globe. Rejection of the evidence of a blast can only be on the basis of clear bias or lying.

But trying to measure changes of thousands of a degree in the unimaginable vastness of the oceans, with changes in the currents and seasonal changes as well is not detectable with a single instrument, or even thousands of such instruments. It requires careful collation and aggregation of the data, with computer modelling filling in the gaps. Small biases in the modelling techniques, whether known or unknown, due to technical reasons or through desiring to get a particular result, will be more crucial than accuracy of the instruments. Even without these issues, there is the small matter of using ten years of good quality data, and longer periods of sparser and lower quality data, to determine underlying trends and the causes of it. Understanding of the nature of the data measurement issue puts the onus on anyone claiming the only possible answer to substantiate those claims.

The second objective is to replace a very tiny change in the very short period for which we have data, into a perception of a scientifically-validated catastrophic problem in the present. Whether it is a catastrophic problem relies on the projections of climate models.

It is easy to see why Skeptical Science needs this switch in the public perception of reality. True understanding of climate heat accumulation means awareness of the limits and the boundaries of our current knowledge. That requires a measure of humility and recognition of when existing knowledge is undermined. It is an inter-disciplinary subject that could result in a whole range of results of equal merit. It does not accord with their polarized vision of infallible enlightened scientists against a bunch of liars and ignoramuses who get nothing right.

Kevin Marshall

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