A (weak) case against the Sceptics weakens the AGW Case

Deutsche Bank tries to answer the sceptics by attempting to demonstrate the the AGW is not completely refuted.

The sceptics arguments do indeed fail to amount to a complete refutation of the AGW case. Most of the “sceptic” arguments are against the idea that there has been no anthropogenic warming at all and that there is no evidence at all for the case. This would be hard to establish, and most “sceptic” scientists would never make this case. But almost equally hard to establish is the case that there will be extreme warming in the future, with likely catestrophic and irreversible consequences. At the very least there must be a clear demonstration that the likely economic impact (valuing the flaura and fauna as well), will be greater than the economic impact on human society of reducing CO2 emissions. Being able to demonstrate that the extreme opposite is implausible (in the vaguest terms) does not establish a position without unambiguous evidence and relying on unstated assumptions. There are some analogies that might highlight my perspective.
1. In medicine to have a reasonable expectation that the “treatment” will leave the patient better off than the cure. Simply showing that a few patients survived the treatment and recovered from the illness does not mean that the treatment worked. Nor does showing that some patients suffered adverse (non-fatal, but painful) side effects from a generally successful treatment to a condition that is 100% fatal without this treatment mean, that the treatment should not be used.

2. In considering a loan to finance a new business venture, the lending bank would want to see more in the plan tham that revenues will be generated. It would want to see a reasonable expectation that even with some set-backs, it could both deliver an income to the borrowers and sufficient surplus to repay the loan.
3. In a criminal case, if all the prosecution had to do was
   (a) present a case, that could not be challanged by the defence no matter how weak.
   (b) demonstrate that the defence had not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt, whilst being able to dismiss any evidence they presented on the flimsiest of evidence, including that defence counsel are paid to be biased.

4. A child caught smoking behind the bike-sheds is told that they have shortened their life by up to a decade. This will happen on average if they smoke heavily throughout their adult lives, but will not happen, on average, if it is ten cigarettes a week for five teenage years. They may have minor health issues, such as less ability to fight off the common cold.

What they have missing here is the huge middle ground – not of some truth on either side – but the middle ground where there is a an insufficient case established and / or, an insuffiently coherant plan, and demonstrated capability to carry out the plan, to gain a signficantly positive outcome. That is to give a reasonable expectation that the solution will leave the planet and the human race the better off for having acted.

Put another way, without a clear-cut case that an imminent, catestrophic disaster can be averted with a clear-cut plan, that has little adverse consequences, then there is ground to be made in actively trying to clarifying the extent of our collective scientific knowledge and the improving on the solutions.

Hatip BishopHill

The Myths of Green Jobs – from the Classical Economists and a Beancounter

The Adam Smith blog posts (here) on the seven myths of green jobs (by the Policy Network). They are useful as a criticism, but more fundamentally the classical economists gave a rebuttal over a century ago.

From Adam Smith, you get increased prosperity from division of labour. Localism reduces the division of labour, thus reduces the wealth of nations

From David Ricardo this is augmented with the idea of comparative advantage. Trading nations gain advantage by specialisation in areas where they have a comparative advantage. Green economics ignores this. (Mises applies this concept to the labour markets. Low productivity, green, jobs will be created at  the expense of high productivity, conventional jobs.)

From Alfred Marshall there is concept of opportunity costs. In evaluating a measure you should not only look at the benefits of a choice, but the alternatives forgone. Green jobs will be creating, but at the expense of conventional, higher productivity jobs along with higher taxes.

From Karl Marx, you should look at the distribution of the national pie. Green jobs will only be created by forcibly reducing non-green industries. This enforced tendency towards monopoly will increase the profits accruing to the bourgeoisie, at the expense of the working classes. Given that the rate of return on Capital has fallen dramatically over the past two decades, is the Green Movement just a puppet of a degenerate Capitalist Class?

But as a (slightly manic) Beancounter, the economist’s arguments pale into insignificance beside a project management issue. In a major project, if you have no dynamic concept of how to control and continually reduce costs, or a clear idea of how to achieve objectives, along with ridiculing of any questioning of the attainability of the objectives –  then you have a recipe for massive cost overruns, and benefits failing to be achieved on a massive scale.  In the UK, the NHS computer system, the Scottish Parliament and the New Deal for jobs were all massive policy failures for these reasons. But they all pale into insignificance beside the global attempt to stop global warming by reducing CO2 emissions. Not just the scale, but also the lack of clarity as well.

(Roger Pielke Jnr’s recent talk is instructive on the perspective here)

The Division of Labour & Climate Science Part 1

Bishop Hill displays to an excellent short video at TED by Matt Ridley, encapsulating the concepts of the division of labour and comparative advantage. One thing that Matt Ridley leaves out is the creative destructiveness of competition through supplanting the existing order. Specialisation leads to new products and processes. By implication, the established processes and products are overturned. (Joseph Schumpeter needs to be added to the list of Adam Smith and David Ricardo)

It is not just in the sphere of production that these concepts apply. It is also with empirical science, be it economics, medical research or climatology. With complex data and many facets to the subject, there is scope for division of labour into

–         Data collectors,

–         Data analysts & measurers,

–         Statisticians to validate the analysis,

–         Theoreticians to innovate or create new ideas.

–         Mathematicians, to provide tools for analysis.

–         Methodologists, to provide structures of meaning and assess the boundaries of science.

–         This is alongside the general sub-divisions of the subject, which may change over time.

–         Alongside greater specialists there is also scope for generalist assessors who get a total perspective of the corpus of knowledge, weighing up the status of competing ideas.

–         Academic competition (to gain status) leads to improvements, but can also lead to diversity in conclusions. It also tends to blunt the conclusions where data is ambiguous or fuzzy.

This makes things a bit messy. In economics there has ceased to be any dominant schools of thought or policy prescriptions. But in climatology we are lucky to have the IPCC, which divides the world into a small group of generalist experts (who agree their main conclusions) and the masses, who accept the wisdom handed down. A bit like the guild system, that kept England in the Dark Ages.

The Hockey Stick and Climate Science

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Look at

1. Who gives the fullest answers?

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

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

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

Tamino v. Montford – A Sense-Check

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate Change – New Scientist puts smears before science

The latest issue of the New Scientist features a series of articles on climate change deniers (see below). The second – “Living in denial: When a sceptic isn’t a scepticcompares “climate” deniers with deniers of the holocaust, 9/11, Aids, vaccine, evolution and the harmful effects of tobacco. It is this last that I have just posted a fuller analysis.

Alternatively consider these two arguments.

1. The proposition that smoking is harmful to health was initially based on a study of 34,000 British Doctors. The study itself was “heralded a new type of scientific research”. The results have been replicated, refined and further issues identified. To deny that smoking is harmful  to health is equivalent to denying a simple fact. By implication you are going against science, so must either have an ulterior motive or be a crank.

2. The proposition that the climate system will be changed catastrophically is agreed upon by a very large number of scientists, as a result of a huge numbers published papers, using similar empirical methods to that used in medical research. So those who oppose the AGW consensus, must be equivalent to those who oppose the medical consensus on smoking.

This is bad science seeking to piggy-back on the reputation of good science. If the results of climate change science were so clearly unambiguous, then the counter-arguments would be easily dismissed by clear presentation of that science. But there are deep flaws in the science, so smears are necessary.  

 

 Hatip wattsupwiththat From their article is the following:-

 
Here’s links to all the New Scientist articles on “denial”. They did include one article from Michael Fitzpatrick that is a 
feeble attempt at balance,but even it too strays into the ugly territory of comparing climate skeptics with AIDS deniers.

Big Tobacco and Climate Change Deniers

NB – an article I wrote last year – slightly updated and posted here for the first time.

See also following post; “Climate Change – New Scientist puts smears before science

A comment thrown at the “skeptics” or “deniers” is that they use a similar tactics to Big Tobacco in the fight against the harm that tobacco does to health (1). That is they issue false data and research to throw policy makers off the scent. Further, it is claimed they use similar arguments as Big Tobacco in opposing the climate change science.

This is a misleading analogy in four areas.

  1. On the tobacco issue, the first major study on the link between lung cancer, heart attacks and smoking was ground-breaking research based on questionnaires returned from over 34000 British doctors. This study was continued for 50 years, reinforcing the original findings. Further, independent studies not only corroborated these initial findings, but enhanced the detail. Much of the initial temperature data for AGW studies were more ambiguous, reliant on a loose correspondence between the rise in greenhouse gases and average global temperatures. Moreover, data is often not properly archived, whether early studies (eg. Jones et al 1990), or later ones (e.g. Kaufman et al 2009)
  2. On tobacco issues, it is possible to have a control group. That is, you can follow the health of a large representative group of people who smoke, and follow a similar cross-section of society group who do not smoke. The control for anthropogenic warming is temperature histories. That is, if recent warming is unprecedented in a thousand years or more, it can only be explained by anthropogenic factors. If however, the 20th century warming was no bigger than similar warmings at 1,000 and 2,000 years ago, then the anthropogenic element is likely to be small. Not only has the two most influential past temperatures reconstructions showing the former case have been rebutted (MBH 1998 – see especially Mcintyre 2008b and Briffa 2000), but also the total temperature reconstructions that show the medieval period was at least as warm as currently outnumber 7 to 1 that show the it was cooler.
  3. The selection criteria on medical research is published, along with sample sizes and the statistical tests on the results. Therefore, statisticians can check the results. The statistician and climate skeptic Steve McIntyre has his work cut out to get similar information from the climate scientists. See for instance the battle for the Briffa’s Yamal data or the Jones data that underpins the temperature reconstructions of the IPCC.
  4. In general, the vast majority of medical research published in peer-reviewed journals is later refuted, or at least undermined. It is often of poor quality. Therefore in medicine, a peer reviewed research is but the first stage in getting an idea established. It needs to be replicated by other studies and cross-checked. Climate science is summarized by the UN IPCC is a form that reinforces a partisan viewpoint, rather than drawing conclusions through comparing and contrasting. For instance Steve McIntyre has posted his reviewer’s objections to the analysis of past temperatures in the 2007 assessment report, and the rejections. In the light of his subsequent exposure if the Yamal paper, these turn out to be entirely valid.

 

For the analogy to be upheld, climatologists need to show that their research programme is comparable in robustness and replication as the medical research was in the 1970s. My contention is that it falls far short. By implication, those who are either skeptical of the robustness of the results, or who deny completely the validity of the research programme, have much surer foundations for their doubts, even before presenting any research to the contrary.

1.See, for instance, Thomas Fuller (who, seeks communication between the opposing sides) at examiner.com

The fact that for many of the staunchest activists any bending is tantamount to surrender makes compromise difficult. They take their lessons from what happened with Big Tobacco, where the strategy of introducing doubt into the science allowed them to postpone accountability for their actions. They must take a blood oath or something to never admit error and never back down. I don’t admire them for that–they should trust the power of the truth.

Medical papers from sloppy analysis http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118972683557627104.html

(Hattip Anthony Watts blog http://www.norcalblogs.com/watts/2007/09/maybe_they_need_a_statistical.html#comments)

The argument of big tobacco and anti-AGW is backed by a BBC Newsnight on Phillip Morris funding one of the 1st anti-AGW groups. http://thinkprogress.org/2006/09/21/bbc-global-warming/

Risk, Volcanic Ash, Regulation and the Leaders debate 2

John Redwood today makes some brilliant observations on “Bash the banks and Praise the Regulators”. His comparison with the ash cloud and the banking regulation is particularly apt. But it is not just the cost of inappropriate regulation that there is a similarity. The leaders’ debate of tonight showed crystallised the issue for me. It is how do the authorities deal with an unprecedented situation? The risk-averse say let us do nothing until there is full information. On the financial system, nothing was done to control the excesses. On the ash cloud everything was stopped until the scope of the problem could be assessed by the experts.

There is a way of going into the unknown without full information. You set general rules and assess the magnitude of any problem.

–         On the ash cloud, you compare the risk with the size of the eruption, the size of the particles and the distance from the volcano. From this, you would have found no evidence of large jet aircraft getting into emergency situations 1,000 miles from an eruption, in an ash cloud that is hardly visible.

–         From the financial system, the situation was evident that house prices and consumer borrowing was going to unsustainable levels on an unprecedented scale from 2003 onwards. The 0% interest credit cards and the large discounts for changing mortgages were evidence of this in the UK. The sub-prime boom, with mortgages deals agreed whereby in 3 years the borrowers could not meet their repayments was evidence of this in the USA. It was the very magnitude of the problem that should have merited special attention. The action should have been to raise interest rates and increase cash requirements for banks.

On the surface the action was the opposite – One to stop what was already happening, the other that immediately stopped anything from happening. But the cause is the same – by requiring detailed rules and acting on how others will perceive our actions, the authorities took wrong course of action.

 The Leader’s debate crystallised it for me. There was one leader who stood out. His reaction to any problem is not to take any risks.

–         He will not risk safety by letting planes fly.

–         He will not start cuts now to risk the recovery.

–         He will not risk banks ever getting into trouble again.

–         He will not risk a foreigner being unidentified.

–         He will not risk existing jobs.

–         He will not risk offending our European neighbours by disagreeing with them.

–         He will not risk independent MPs, by banning them from second jobs and monitoring every penny they spend.

–         He will not risk independent thought, by stipulating what religions should believe.

–         He will not risk diversity in education by allowing independent schools to be formed in the state sector.

 In so doing, after another 5 years of his leadership we will have no recovery; we will have no decision-makers in government – just be taking orders from Brussels and the IMF; we will have no risk-takers in business as most will not want to overcome the ever-higher regulatory hurdles for achievements that are taxed away and vilified.

We will also have no future.

Icelandic Volcanoes – Climate Change in Proportion

Climate Change is not completely wrong. It simply exaggerates the impact rising temperatures, the greenhouse effect on those changes and then ability of human beings to change that.

An (extreme) example is the attempt to link the frequency of volcanic eruptions in Iceland due to the thinning ice caps.

This proposition is “As the ice melts the rock can melt because the pressure decreases,”

Wattsupwiththat try to put this in perspective through a two-step process.

1. Estimate the change in rock temperature melt point as the pressure decreases. This is estimated at 0.0013°C per metre of ice, so the disappearance of the entire 500m thick ice sheet would decrease the melting point of the magma beneath by around 0.5°C, or less than 0.05%. The actual loss is estimated at 10%.

2. In terms  of pressure, 500m of ice is equivalent to 20m or less of rock. However, volcanic eruptions are caused by magma rising to the surface from many kilometres down. 20m of rock is hardly significant in this.

However, the current problem of steam/ash clouds is caused by the magma being rapidly cooled by the ice. So without glaciers we would not have the current problem of planes being grounded.

What is important is the lack of perspective that the researchers have shown.  

Using a research

Himalayan Glaciers, the UNIPCC response and an Inquiry

The response of the UNIPCC to the revelation that its 2007 prediction that the Himalayan Glaciers would disappear by 2035 has been

  1. To claim the allegations are voodoo science.
  2. To apologize, but say it is a one-off and insignificant.

 

Most reporters accept this response. For instance The Economist.

Let up put this into context.

Consider three (hypothetical) scenarios form the UK.

1. The police investigation into a (possibly) racially-motivated murder is flawed, leading to the acquittal of the accused. The Chief Superintendant blames it on lack of funds for staff training, having previously said race was not a motive.

2. A profitable, listed company goes bust as a result of long-term massaging of the figures. This occurs three months after a respected accountancy firm signs off the annual accountants with no adverse comments. A senior partner says that the auditors were denied access to certain data, but had a signed note from the CFO that another accountancy firm had reviewed that data as part of a management-consultancy exercise. The CFO claims that the company was sound, and has an independent audit to prove it.

3. A highly-rated hospital turns out to have significantly higher death-rates than the average. The hospital chief executive says that it is due to having to cut back on the cleaning, having previously stated that the figures were flawed and politically biased.

In every case, the press and opposition politicians, would be asking for independent enquires (to assess the extent of the problem and to make preventative recommendations for the future), the suspensions of those involved and the sacking of the top person in the organization. So why no such questions, when there is a serious procedural failing in (probably) the most important scientific report of all time? A report that could adversely impact the living standards of billions of people should be to the highest scientific standards ever achieved.

It is not a minor mistake to misquote and embellish a tract from a campaigning group – and then say the forecast is highly likely, without any statistical analysis. This report is written by top Phd’s in their field, not first-year undergraduates. They should know how to assess reports, and draw accurate conclusions based on the evidence.

Further, whilst it is right for the UN IPCC to recognize the error and apologize, it is not for that organization to say, without internal investigation, that this is an isolated incident.

There should be an independent audit of all the report, to make sure that it is uniformly based on clearly-defined scientific standards. The starting point of an audit should be an evaluation of the laid-down scientific standards, and the documented internal control procedures for evaluating the adherence to those standards.

Areas of a full audit might include:-

  1. That the report is a balanced assessment of the current state of the science, at least noting competing views where it comes down on one side.
  2. Any statistical probabilities to be verified by trained statisticians.
  3. Assumptions, where made, should be identified.
  4. Measurement errors compared to the changes measured.
  5. The robustness of conclusions over differing timescales. For instance the correlations between increase in CO2 and temperature changes should not be over a defined period, but should test for a decade
  6. Gaps in the knowledge identified and put into the context of known factors and measurement errors.
  7. To note the relative standpoints of lead authors of parts of the report in respect to the established science. That is to whether they have recent, novel or controversial standpoints. And to the extent to which this influenced their review comments.
  8. For recently published peer-reviewed articles central to the aspect, whether it firmly establishes new ground in the debate.